Saturday, October 22, 2016

"80 Years of Fashion": Part Four

A gaggle of flappers
What follows is the conclusion of the complete, unexpurgated essay I wrote for English class during the school year of 1954-55, age twelve. I assume the attempts at humor were intentional, but it was too long ago to know for sure. Still concerned with "popularity", I was obviously getting tired of my subject.

1910 -1920
Women wore "hobble skirts" with wide-brimmed hats. Colors were bright, but they turned darker towards 1920. Waistlines were lower by 1920, also.

Nothing much had changed with men's clothes. The Prince Albert or Frock coat was worn. High, tight white collars were popular.

Sailor suits were popular with children. Middy blouses were also popular towards the end of the period.

Theda Bara barely influencing '20s fashion

1920-1930 is commonly known as the "Flapper Age". The movie "vamp" had a strong influence on women's clothes and styles. "Flapper" was originally a name given to girls between the ages of 14 and 20, because they were at their "awkward" age. This name originated in England.

Still stunning after all these years

Women wore low-cut hats, ropes and ropes of pearls, low-cut necklines and short, short skirts. Shoes with accommodations for the big toes only were very popular. All in all, women had no shape at all.  Longer skirts came into being towards 1930.

Straw boaters were popular with men. Tweeds were a favorite material.

 *   *   *

Future clothes? How should I know about future clothes? Maybe someday we'll wear the caveman's clothes again.

Emily Post was once asked "What makes a brilliant party?", and she answered "Clothes".

The End

Reflections from the future: Not sure why I decided to ignore the '30s and '40s (aside from having met the assignment's required length). I probably thought they were like the '90s now— just not worth talking about (though I've been hearing '90s whispers lately). How could I ever have imagined the Youthquake '60s, the Hippie '70s and the Disco '80s, all just ahead but over many mountains?

In so many ways I am indeed still that twelve-year-old girl— vocal, opinionated, wanting to share my not-always-correct grip on the facts— all while dressing for that brilliant party. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

No Debate About It

Further proof of the Power of Fashion (if you needed any): Hillary's white suit at last night's final debate. Designed by Ralph Lauren, it echoed the white theme of the suit she wore to accept the Democratic presidential nomination and completed the patriotic trio of red, blue and white worn for the debates.

I thought then— and think now— that this was a winner's choice worn by a woman with supreme purpose and confidence. You know how hard it is to wear all white (unless you're the bride). Never do I feel more conspicuous than when I wear white pants, let alone white top and bottom.

Hillary has worn Ralph Lauren throughout (but not exclusively) this campaign. He's always a woman's friend. No one, especially Hillary, should choose an outfit other than to feel wonderful and flattered. Her choice last night spoke loud and clear:
I'm Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

"80 Years of Fashion": Part Three

The Gibson Girl... and guy

What follows is part three of the complete, unexpurgated essay I wrote for English class during the school year of 1954-55, age twelve. I assume the attempts at humor were intentional, but it was too long ago to know for sure. I think I may have gotten tired of writing as everything became a popularity contest.

1890 - 1900
Tubed pants for men were very popular. Women looked much older than they really were because they wore entirely too heavy and too bulky kinds of clothes. The colors and styles that were popular definitely didn't grace the woman of the 1890s. Sewing machines were cheaperizing clothes. The poor continued to copy the rich people's clothes. The famed Ballon and Leg-of-Mutton sleeves were very popular. The bell-shape look took the place of the hour-glass. As you've probably gathered, the late Victorians were so busy with their money that they didn't have time for anything else, let alone clothes.

Legs of mutton and bells on parade

The dinner jacket was introduced at Monte Carlo because the men gambling there complained of the discomfort in wearing a stuffy Frock coat all evening. There was a complete change in men's clothes because of the artist Charles Dana Gibson. Men's clothes were becoming masculine again. Maybe you've seen some of Gibson's drawings; his men were heavy and muscular, and they had extremely square jaws.

Color harmony was popular in women's dress. Trains were worn at night. Cheapness was desired everywhere. The result was poor dyes and cheap materials. Starch was used as a face-powder.

Victim of Little Lord Fauntleroy

This was another age for boys— the ridiculous "Little Lord Fauntleroy" look. Sailor suits, the exact replica of HRM Navy were also quite popular.

1900 - 1910
The hour-glass look was back and the Gibson Girl look was still popular.  Women wore odd goggles for automobiling. Kimono gowns and other Japanese modes were popular.

Fashionable mourning dresses were popular with women. Deaths were almost pleasant because then a woman could go buy a new dress for the funeral. The soft, flowing silhouette was popular. Skirts were tight around the hips. Bolero dresses were worn at the beginning of the period. High, wired necks are characteristic of the early 1900s. 1,106 yards less material than was needed fifty years before was used.  At the death of Edward VII in 1910, the reign of lingerie and corsets came to an abrupt halt.

Evelyn Nesbit, 1900s "it" girl

Mother Hubbard dresses were introduced. These were loose-fitting house dresses— not too beautiful but very comfortable. Cartwheel hats were popular.  There was a tremendous "Merry Widow" influence. Feather boas, properly saturated with lavender were worn over dresses like stoles are today.

Red flannel undies were very popular with men. Also popular was a big, loose coat with a heavy, padded shoulder. Dark colors— mostly blues, blacks, browns and dark green were worn.

Buster and his dog Tige

This was still another age for children's clothes, however this time it affected the girls, too. This was the age of the comics character Buster Brown. Boys wore suits with wide starched collars and topped off with a "dashing" gigantic bow-tie. The girls wore low-waisted dresses which vaguely resembled a Chinaman's coat. Girls wore big bows on their hair.
Sally, Ida and Jean—my aunts and my mother (in the middle)
to be continued...

Friday, October 7, 2016

My Velvet Crush

I've predicted a few successes in my life. I knew Elvis would not be passing fad and Simon and Garfunkel had what it takes. I also think I can sniff out fashion trends. Last winter I was positively possessed to own a pair of lace-up ghillies before they were Everywhere. Ghillies are still cute, but I'm not as driven. I may not start trends, but I like to be an early adapter. This fall I'm in the velvet zone, and today's shopping excursion proved I'm not alone. There was plenty of velvet to be found.

Fortuny velvet tunic

Today's velvet is not the smooth stuff of party dresses past or Santa's suit. It's a mottled, crushy fabric that looks a bit smashed and mashed, as if it had been crammed into a trunk for 40 years. This is velvet as meticulously crafted by the Spanish master Fortuny, who worked in Italy. Today's manufacturing processes make playing with velvet a snap. Colors are softer and richer than we've seen, in somber jewel tones of teal, ochre, gray, persimmon and more.

I've already snapped up these three pieces that I look forward to mixing and switching with what's already in my closet:

Zara $49.90
Zara 22.90
Anthropologie $148

I'm hoping I can stop, but this is a serious crush.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sewing Up "The Dressmaker"

Kate and her trusty Singer
I went to see "The Dressmaker" yesterday, despite mediocre reviews and the beautiful weather. As a fashion-possessed WOACA who sewed her way through the 1950s, why wouldn't I want to see even a bodice-ripper starring Kate Winslet and a bunch of '50s frocks?

You need to know this is above all a black comedy. The characters are drawn with very bold strokes. At times the audience knows more than they do, which is less unfortunate than you may think. It allows the viewer to feel smart and in cahoots with the filmmakers. It does nothing to prepare for the twist of an ending. There's romance, pathos and Kate Winslet having a grand time filling out couture-style clothing.

We know little about her character, Tillie, between a hardscrabble childhood in the down-trodden Australian outback and her return as an adult. We know she worked for Vionnet and Balenciaga. For those of us in the know, they are credentials enough. There is a silly scene of the entranced townswomen swanning about in Tillie's creations. That's where I expected a break out in song like "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert". Coincidentally Hugo Weaving, a principal from "Priscilla", also has a major role here. Oh and some of the eye candy is Liam Hemsworth not wearing much.

Though truly not the point of "The Dressmaker"— it's more about retribution, truth and love— there is no doubt about the transformative power of clothes. That surprise ending I mentioned? Skillfully fashioned. "Nuff said.