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Posts Tagged ‘fashion

“When you put on a uniform, there are certain inhibitions that you accept”*…

 

What do Catholic school girls and Joseph Stalin have in common? They’ve worn a uniform to conserve their mental energy for a higher purpose than just fashion. Lately, this utopian ideal of dress has become trendy among busy and thrifty women in the rise of the work uniform. After all, sartorial sameness conveys gravitas in the office.

In theory, we should all be wearing uniforms. Fashion is one of the world’s nastiest polluters, second only to oil. The rich wear intricate clothing to peacock their wealth, depleting the lower classes of their innate power and self-esteem. High fashion favors taut, unrealistic figures, leaving the rest of us with emotional complexes about our bodies. Uniforms could alleviate many of these problems.

And yet, any attempt to standardize dress across an entire culture has failed…

What does it mean to all dress alike? “A Brief Cultural History of Uniforms.”

* Dwight D. Eisenhower

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As we straighten our ties, we might spare a thought for Francis Scott Key; he died on this date in 1843. A lawyer, author, and amateur poet, he wrote the lyrics to the United States’ national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  Indeed, he wrote lyrics beyond those most of us have heard:  a pro-slavery, anti-abolitionist campaigner, Key wrote a (now mostly omitted) third stanza that promises that “No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.”

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Written by LW

January 11, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Fashion changes, but style endures”*…

 

Once upon a time, spotted prints went by a host of other names. Slate’s Jude Stewart provides an overview: in the 19th century, “Dotted-Swiss referred to raised dots on transparent tulle,” and in France, “quinconce described the diagonal arrangement of dots seen on the 5-side of dice.” Meanwhile, “[t]he large coin-sized dots on fabric, called Thalertupfen in German, got their name from Thaler, the currency of German-speaking Europe until the late 1800s.”

But then came the polka, the dance so popular that mid-19th century Europe came up with the word “polkamania” to describe its own excitement. As the polka craze swept west across the continent, enthusiasts claimed the polka jacket, then the polka hat (neither of them spotted), and finally, the polka dot. There is only a tenuous connection between dot and dance, yet surely the two are linked—it’s possible that polka dots reflect the same regulated, short bursts of energy that inflect the polka itself. Regardless, we know that the American women’s magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book was the first to print the term, in an 1857 description of a “scarf of muslin, for light summer wear, surrounded by a scalloped edge, embroidered in rows of round polka dots”…

More fashionable fun at “A Brief History of Polka Dots.”

* Coco Chanel

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As we avoid pairing with plaids, we might send elegant but perky birthday greetings to Sonja de Lennart; she was born on this date in 1920.  A fashion designer who began her career at the close of World War II, she created a wide-swinging skirt with a wide belt (which, as readers can see below, she modeled herself), a blouse, and hat–a collection that became known as the Capri Collection.  A couple of years later, in a move away from the wide and rather masculine trouser profile being worn by women of the day, she added a tighter, three-quarter length pant to the collection, the Capri pant.  Audrey Hepburn made the slacks famous, wearing them first in Roman Holiday, then Sabrina.  As a result, Edith Head embraced the entire Capri line’s look, and so they adorned Doris Day, Jane Russell, Katharine Hepburn, Gina Lollobrigida, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Sophia Loren, Anita Ekberg, and Mary Tyler Moore… along with black turtleneck-wearing Existentialists in Paris.

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Written by LW

May 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most”*…

 

 click here for larger version

For Lapham’s Quarterly‘s fashion issue, designer Haisam Hussein reinvents the color wheel to show where various shades of colors were invented—from Int’l Klein Blue (Paris) to Scheele’s Green (Sweden), Turmeric (India), and Mauve (London).

Alongside the graphic itself are the origin stories for each color, which, as we’ve seen before, can be less than appetizing. White Lead, for instance, was created in Japan circa the year 700 by exposing lead sheets to vinegar and fermenting horse manure—then used by the elite class as face powder. Tyrian purple is derived from the secretions of sea snails, and Orchil (Florence) dye is made from dried and ground lichen that is activated with ammonia, such as that from urine.

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Explore here.

And on a related note: “Pantone: How the world authority on color became a pop culture icon.”

* John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice

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As we tackle tints, we might spare a thought for Alexander Calder; he died on this date in 1976.  A sculptor known for monumental stationary works called stabiles, he is also considered the father of the mobile (a type of moving sculpture made with delicately balanced or suspended shapes that respond to touch or air currents).

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Written by LW

November 11, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it”*…

 

email readers click here for video

“Fabulously glamorous puppets model fashions and bewitch men at The Cypress Club in London, 1960”

Part of Vintage Fashion, a subset of the 85,000 historical films available from British Pathé.

* Yves Saint-Laurent

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As we canter down the catwalk, we might send elegant birthday greetings to Giorgio Armani; he was born on this date in 1934.  A fashion designer probably best known for his mens line, Armani brought clean, tailored lines, natural fit, and subtle colors to his work.  While he was warmly received from his first collection (in 1975), Armani became a sensation in the 80s when his clothes were worn by Richard Gere in American Gigolo and by the protagonists of Miami Vice.  By the late 80s, his “power suits” had become a symbol of success.  Today, Armani’s brand adorns home goods, books, and hotels in addition to clothing; he’s widely regarded as the most successful Italian designer ever.

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Written by LW

July 11, 2015 at 1:01 am

“In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking but now, Heaven knows, anything goes”*…

 

The first pair of experimental nylon stockings made by Union Hosiery Company for Du Pont in 1937. (National Museum of American History)

 

The quest to replace natural silk led to the very first fully-synthetic fiber– and revolutionized an extraordinary range of products on which we now depend: “How 75 Years Ago Nylon Stockings Changed the World.”

* Cole Porter

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As we adjust our seams, we might spare a thought for Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent; he died on this date in 2008.  Caroline Rennolds Milbank wrote, “The most consistently celebrated and influential designer of the past twenty-five years, Yves Saint Laurent can be credited with both spurring the couture’s rise from its sixties ashes and with finally rendering ready-to-wear reputable.”  From early in his career, he was known for his use of non-European cultural references and non-white models.  In 1983, Saint Laurent became the first living fashion designer to be honored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a solo exhibition.

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Written by LW

June 1, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I think it’s cool to wear roadkill”*…

Anna Paquin, modeling a piece from her line of “found fur” clothing and accessories

Approximately 50 million animals are killed every year for their fur; by comparison, 1 million animals a day— 365 million a year– are killed on the roads of America.  As Culture Change puts it, “only meat-eaters take a larger toll than its motorists.”

Where many animal lovers see, simply, tragedy, Anna Paquin sees opportunity as well.  Determined to create a clothing category that might sound oxymoronic– “ethical fur”– Paquin has founded Petit Mort, a company that recycles roadkill into fashionable clothing and accessories.

Wrap yourself in Anna’s story at “One Woman Is Revolutionizing the Fur Industry. By Using Roadkill.”

* Ke$ha

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As we bundle up, we might spare a thought for Hypatia; she was killed on this date in 370 CE.  A mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher, she was the head of the Neoplatonic school at Alexandria.  She was murdered by a mob of Christian anti-pagan fanatics on the steps of an Alexandria church called The Caesarium– as a result of which, she has become a symbol of martyred Reason and of feminism. Stephen Greenblatt suggests that her murder “effectively marked the downfall of Alexandrian intellectual life”; Kathleen Wider proposes that her murder marked the end of Classical antiquity.

Neo-platonism is a progressive philosophy, and does not expect to state final conditions to men whose minds are finite. Life is an unfoldment, and the further we travel the more truth we can comprehend. To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those that lie beyond.

–Hypatia

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Written by LW

March 3, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The ludicrous element in our feelings does not make them any less authentic”*…

 

A Chinese photographer is making counterfeit luxury goods and knock-off designs look good. With a budget of just $9 per item, Quentin Shih, a photographer from Tianjin, held a fashion shoot in a small coal-producing city in Shanxi province that is best known for its choking air pollution.

Counterfeit goods have been the focus of the government’s recent criticism of Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce retailer. And China leads the world in the sale of counterfeit goods—also known as shanzhai, meaning imitated or pirated brands—with its factories producing almost 70% of the world’s total supply, according to the United Nations.

Shih takes a more positive look on these goods. His motive was to “explore typical small city lives” in central, poorer China. “I want to create some humor using fake luxury goods, and the vivid color of these goods is also what interested me, ” he told Quartz. “But the fake stuff is not the whole topic I want to explore—young people, life, portraits are what I’m looking for in this project,” he said….

Read– and see- more at “A $9 fashion shoot in a Chinese coal town shows how beautiful counterfeit clothes can be,” and at Shih’s own site.

* Milan Kundera

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As we clear out our closets, we might send stylish birthday greetings to Sarah-Jane “Trinny” Duncanson Woodall; she was born on this date in 1964.  A fashion guru in the UK, she is best-known as the co-originator and co-star (with Susannah Constantine) of the television and print juggernaut What Not to Wear, a huge success first in the U.K., then in the U.S. and elsewhere.

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Written by LW

February 8, 2015 at 1:01 am

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