Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Uglification of Fashion

When Yves Saint Laurent showed his Spring/Summer collection in 1971,  an uproar ensued.  YSL had had some big shoes to fill some years earlier, taking over designing for the House of Dior after the death of Christian Dior.  He had created some beautiful looks before branching off on his own, with a successful house that created the iconic Mondrian look.  By the time 1971 had come around, people were believers in the designer, who was still the youngest couturier showing in Paris.  But disaster hit with the spring collection.  One French critic called it Une Grande Farce -- pretty harsh criticism, coming from a countryman.  American papers called it "hideous," proclaiming it to be the start of the "uglification of fashion."


What set them off?  Europeans, especially the French, were upset at the fact that it was inspired by the 40s.  They felt that he was romanticing the occupation of France by Germany -- it was, after all, only 25 years or so after it had happened.  Too soon?  Think about it.  What if an American designer had been inspired by Pearl Harbor, or by the events of 9/11?  Granted, YSL had chosen an era in fashion, but the outcry showed just how emotional fashion can be.

American critics hated the clunky shoes, the over-sized revers, and even the chunkier than normal models he used.  They noted that the huge shoes - designed by Vivier -- sported platform soles, four inch heels and T-straps, which thrust the model's posture into an odd forward posture.  One fashion critic called the shoes "repellent," and said that the model's could barely walk in them.
Critics noted that younger girls could get away with his mini skirts, which were noted to be the shortest in Paris, and that they'd have fun playing dress up in the campy couture he showed.  Mature ladies?  Not so much.  They, in fact, called the entire European couture trend "suicidal," saying that the thought of the Paris designers was that they wanted to focus on the ready to wear arm of their business -- where the real money was made -- rather than the couture.

Whether this was truth or not, it was somewhat prophetic.  Some time later, YSL -- who was the first couturier to put out a ready to wear collection --  cracked under the pressure of creating 2 couture and 2 ready to wear collections a year, and handed the ready to wear off to his assistants.  It died a fairly quick death after that, and he eventually closed his couture house as well.  He died in 2008 as a result of brain cancer.

(Photo, courtesy of AspenPeak magazine.)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Wherein, I Fail as a Wife

Excerpts from "How to Help Your Husband Succeed, from Modern Bride Magazine, 1956:

....helping your husband to succeed at his job is an important part of being a wife....Just as your husband's personality will influence the emotional climate of your home, so will your attitudes and behavior be vitally responsible for his success on the job.

Obvious though it may seem, a man's good work depends in large measure upon his good health.  That's why a wife who is doing her part as a helpmate keeps an orderly house and provides appetitizing and nourishing meals two or three times a day.  No man who goes off to work without an adequate breakfast can put forth his best efforts.  And that's why, too, there are occasions when a wife sees to it that her husband doesn't overeat or take one drink too many if he has to go to work the next day.

Besides making a point of being understanding, wives can save their husbands' time.  A husband hard at work on his job has little time for running necessary errands so a wife who combines his shopping with ehr own performs a valuable servce and permits him the needed respite of an unrushed lunch hour.

...Once your husband has his wardrobe in order, it will be largely up to you to keep it that way.  The cleaning, the laundry, the mending of socks and the turning of shirt collars---these are your responsibilities.

The point is, quite simply: while a husband concentrates on his job, a wife can concentrate on helping him.  By keeping things where he can easily find them, by having his raingear and muffler handy when the weather threatens, by tactfully showing him when to be formal and when to wear spots clothes, a wife displays the tenderness of her concern, as well as her ambition for her mate.

Let's just say this:  I don't cook, my organizational skills are non-existent (unless you are talking about work, and then it's totally different), my cleaning skills are marginal at my husband would obviously be a dismal failure in life, and it would be all my fault.  We would probably sit around in wrinkled clothes, eat junk food, and drink too much.  And be perfectly happy.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What Were They Thinking?

Here's another ad from 1906.  This was an era where corsets were though to promote health, despite the pigeon breast styles that misshaped the spine.  Sure, it supported the back and bust, but at what cost?  These types of corsets make me shiver.

And notice it is "perfect for bathing" -- meaning swimming, I presume.  Can you imagine getting into the water with this on?  That is even more punishment.  And it holds the bust either high or low.  I am wondering when one would want the girls held low?  I'm wondering if something is lost in the verbiage here, and if they mean flatness as opposed to gravitational pull, because I can't imagine anyone wanting a saggy look.  Perhaps it just means high, to enhance decolletage, and low means a more natural look, like a day look where you aren't putting the girls on display.  I'm flummoxed.

Either way, I am certain that men came up with these corsets, because no woman in her right mind would subject herself to this.  But maybe that's just me.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Without Prejudice

I found this ad for corsets in a 1906 Delineator Magazine.  "It weighs nothing and outweighs prejudice."

That quote stopped me in my tracks, and made me wonder what in the world they were punishing women with now.  Body shaming has been around since Eve ate the apple.  From what I read in the details of the ad, I think it means that no matter how rolypoly/curvaceous/Rubenesque/curvy/fluffy/whatever adjective you want to use, this corset will take care of it.  (Add to the list, of course, skinny/beanpole/whatever thin adjectives you want to add, too.  No prejudice, after all.)

What  find interesting is that this is an ad from 1906.  This was not only time for the S-bend corset, but was also nearing the end of the corset era, period.  The corset shown is a more traditional Victorian, late 1800s one.  Interesting ad, considering that the magazine is one for the newest sewing patterns of that month.  It also shows just how important Paris was, even then, and even in random places such as Cleveland, Ohio.  My (new) husband is from Cleveland.  I can't speak for all of Cleveland, of course, but there is a large population of immigrant families there, and even more so in the early 1900s.  My husband's family came there right around this time, as did his mother's.

I need to do some more research on corset history, to see how the working class women's corset use may have varied from upper class, and how American vs immigrants may have used foundation garments.  But that will have to wait, as I'm doing some very in depth study of Ceil Chapman right now.  So for now, feast on this website, which is a veritable feast of corset history, photos, and trivia.  I may or may not have been known to browse it for long periods of time during work. Don't say you weren't warned.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

1960, in Feathers, Sequins and Spangles.

And now, for some Norman Norell awesomeness.  This is from the September 26, 1960 issue of Life Magazine. In case you can't see the details here, the dress on the left is a yellow plaid wool skirt that is topped with a purple sequined bodice.  That's some 80's color realness, in a 50's-60's style.  Hidden in the corner is a red ostrick coat.  WOWZA!  Next is the more expected sequin top with red skirt.  Moving to the right, an iconic look: a slim sheath dress with a fox hem, and dig those Breakfast at Tiffany's opera gloves.  LOVE that look.  The barfly to the right has a jacket that is lined with sequins.  Next up, fully sequined white sheath and a spangled black knit dress.

Apparently, Mr Norell had a shiny year n 1960.  LOVE the art direction in these photos.  It's old school Vogue, but in Life.  It's the kind of stuff that you just don't see in Vogue anymore (::cough:: Anna Wintour needs to retire ::cough::) unless Grace Coddington is involved.  She is an artistic genius.  Mental note: still haven't read her book.  Need to.

1960 meant that Mr Norell was feeling strong colors.  These pictures show lots of purples, reds, and this fabulous yellow trapeze coat that I just love.  He was clearly also inspired by the 20s, with a side of Gigi thrown in.  Notice the raccoon eye look he favors.  Both the colors and the heavy eye makeup are revisited in the 80s.  (Think Robert Palmer videos.)  Alas, not the gloves and hats.  We need to bring back gloves and hats.  Seriously.

An $850 outfit that today would cost you just shy of $6600.  Mr. Norell was so adamant about not having bad copies made of his garments that he actually offered to give the pattern away -- free -- to any manufacturer who wanted it.  I find that fascinating, and wonder what the caveats were.  I will try to dig and find more on that.  Remember, this is an era where designers were just starting to figure out licensing of their fashions.  Christian Dior sent his models out on the street covered in muslin sheets when they did photo shoots, so that no one could steal the designs before they were presented.  These guys were SERIOUS about protecting their designs. 

And lastly, the ostrich coat.  Because everyone needs a red ostrich coat in their life, yes?

Friday, June 13, 2014


I've been working on expanding the Ceil Chapman Wikipedia page, because it just didn't do justice to her talents.  Don't judge -- it's the first time I've edited in Wikipedia, and the original page was a mess.  It's now a work in progress, but at least it has more than minor details.

While I was reading about her, I came across an interesting article that spoke about her providing dresses for a fashion show in Baton Rouge.  Another designer who was supplying dresses was Robert Darieux, who I had never heard of before.  He's an interesting character.

Apparently, he was born in France, to a family of Colombian diplomats -- doesn't that sound so mysterious -- but was an admirer of American woman, who he designed for.  His love for fashion came from attending social functions around the world, so he decided to become a designer.  He was known for clean lines with intricate details, and superb workmanship.  He also built foundations into his garments, so that bras and corselettes weren't necessary. He had a boutique in New York, and designed for a number of stars (unnamed) as well as well dressed women from the U.S., Europe, and South America.

A quote I found really funny, but a sign of the times:  "I believe that women dress to please the men -- and the men definitely do NOT admire many of the freakish European styles."  The article, written in 1962's Baton Rouge Advocate, made me wonder what in the world was freakish about European styles?  True, by then, Christian Dior had died, Fath was gone, and the love of French fashion was fading -- soon to be replaced by love for British fashion, but to call it "freakish" seems a bit harsh.

In searching, I've thus far only come across this Darieux creation, which apparently has already been sold from the Ruby Lane store where it was listed.

It's very early Betty Draper, isn't it?  It's very pretty but simple, but I'm pretty sure that that collar would drive me nuts.  I will have to be on the hunt for other non-freakish Darieux, moving forward.

Once I'm done with my Ceil Chapman research, that is.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


My friend Sally takes Ambien.  As a result, she has some crazy weird dreams, many of which she blogs.  I can't find the link right now, but trust me, they are weirder dreams than mine, and that's saying something.  She also has some of the other side effects of Ambien, like eating in the middle of the night, and doing other things that she doesn't remember.  She woke up one morning with burs stuck all over her nightgown.  She still isnt' sure what happened there, but her husband started trying to be more cautious about keeping an eye on her, especially when they are camping.

For some reason, the internet has a draw after she's taken her Ambien.  Like the time she ordered 50 pounds of gluten free pasta in her sleep.  I mean, she likes pasta, but 50 pounds? She also posts a lot on Facebook after Ambien, which is pretty random, as well as hilarious.  I'm not sure that this exchange between herself and her daughter could be blamed on the Ambien, but it's a small example of why I love her so much.

Sally:  Laying here worrying for more than an hor.  Can't turn my brain off.  Isn't the Ambien supposed to turn that off?
Sally:  Things to worry about: Josh, the flower beds, should we buy new furniture, who's going to take care of the pets next weekend, why didn't we ever move Jewel downstairs, if I go to the sofa now Ebby will want out of the mudroom, that sofa is uncomfortable to sleep on.  I hate that sofa; we need a new one........and the beat goes on!
Sally:  Corri, why I'm not worried about her, Chad, while I'm at it, vacation, why am I so itchy...
Sally:  Chad's dentist apt.  I'm hungry, but I'm not supposed to snack after I take Ambien, but I know what's going on, but I'm not supposed to be on FB after I take Ambien - because I do crazy shit......Maybe I should delete this whole post!
Corri:  Uh....Josh is ok.
The flower beds are fine for now.
What's next weekend?
Jewel came and went over a decade ago.
Yes, Ebby wants to be near you.
I'm sorry, you can sleep on our couch if you want to, or our bed.
Not sure why you're not worried about me.
Dunno why you're worried about Chad.
Vacation will be awesome!
Because we are itchy people.
His appointment will go great.
Don't eat.
Go to sleep.
I love you <3 span="">
Sally:  What do you mean his appointment will go great?  He has one?  I suck.  It took me more than a week to check in on him. No what?  SHOULD I be worried about you?
Sally:  Uh, Father's Day and race at France Park?
Corri: All of the answers go with each question you asked.
In order.
You don't suck.
You're sleepy.
Sally:  I'm still awake and downstairs now.  You didn't answer me.  SHOULD I be worried about you?  Did you know about the race next weekend?
Corri:  No.
And yes.

For the record, Josh and Corri are her kids.  Chad is Corri's boyfriend.  Jewel was their rabbit, and Ebby is one of their dogs.

Love. These. People. SO. Much.  It's like Sethanese on drugs. I deemed it Ambien-head sometime back, and some of the best late-night entertainment out there.