The History Behind Animal Prints

Today’s post is all about animal print. It has been a staple in fashion since the early 1930s. However, before it became a fashion statement, it was a sign of power. Kings and Queens owned animal print rugs as a way to show social status, and hunters believed that the animal prints gave them the power of that animal. For example, wearing the skin of a cheetah would give them the speed of that cheetah. Even though people have decided it doesn’t give you power, fashion lovers continue to have a demand for animal print everything.

We began to see a rise in the demand for animal prints during the 1930s. One of the biggest movies at the time, Tarzan the Apeman, came out in 1932. MGM’s Johnny Weissmuller as “Tarzan”, and Maureen O’Sullivan as “Jane” wore animal print clothing. It caught the eye of the audience. For them, they saw it as adventurous, exciting, and attractive. Suddenly, manufacturers and designers came out with more and more animal print blouses, scarves, and coats than in previous decades.

Entering the 1940s, fur started to increase even more in demand after big names like Bettie Page, a model and one of the most famous pin-ups at the time, was featured in Jungle Bettie. Page dressed up in a leopard print mini dress creating an uproar for animal prints in the fashion world. The 1940s were also the early stages of the women’s movement. History was perhaps repeating itself by giving power and strength, in a sense, to the women who wore it. It created a fierce and rather risque look for many and gave a era of independence.

Then came the 1950s. A period of chic rather than risque. Christian Dior, a name still famous in 2018, opened up a whole new line all inspired by animal prints, more specifically leopard. His obsession of leopard came from Mitzah Bricard, his right hand woman. She was born in Paris, France on November 12, 1900 as Germaine Louise Neustadt. No one knew why she had changed her mind. However, she had married and divorced twice. After meeting Christian Dior, she became his personal consultant in a way. He mentioned, “Bricard is one of those people, increasingly rare, who make elegance their sole reason for being.” Dior relied on her for tips to improve outfits by adding accessories or taking pieces away. “From time to time, Madame bricard emerges from her hatboxes, sails in magnificently, gives one definitely adverse comment, condemns an unfortunate fabric with a look or suddenly plumps for a daring color.” Madame Bricards influence on Dior created a whole new era for animal print. It now became a statement piece for every woman. Beautiful yet chic. Bricard wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

The hippie movement of the 1960s created a whole new world for animal print. Prints were now exotic and “out there”. Unlike the chic and sophisticated look of the 1950s, the new style was geared towards “The concept to be wild and free, like an ‘easy rider’.”New colors were being introduced and limits were being tested.

With the 1970s came punk rock, and with punk rock came very interesting styles for animal print. Inspired by the pop hits of the 70s, animal print was taken back to the 1930s when it was used to seem more attractive and funky. Suddenly, animal print was everywhere. Jumpsuits, undergarments, shoes, and bell bottoms were all infused with the animal print style. Entering the 80s, there was an overwhelming amount of animal print, and it even came with more prints than ever before. In past decades, it was all about leopard and cheetah, especially in the days of Dior. However, zebra and snakeskin were now added. Full dresses, blouses, skirts, shoes, and more were making a statement. Today’s style of animal print is well-rounded. It takes inspiration from all the previous decades in order to make the print classy yet attractive.

SOURCES:

Foreman, Katya. “The Muse: Mitzah Bricard.” Accessed on November 16, 2018. Retrieved from https://wwd.com/business-news/retail/the-muse-mitzah-bricard-505061/

Walker, Alexis. “A Brief History of Animal Prints.” Accessed on November 11, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.nowthatslingerie.com/bradoctor/blog/blog-updates/a-brief-history-of-animal-prints/2011/04/28

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gym Wear: The late 20th Century

We have already covered gym wear in the early 20th century, so today’s post is about gym wear starting in the 1960s. As a recap, sports/gym wear used to be for very few people in the 1860s-1900s. It was mainly for boxers or gymnasts. However, today we see gym wear becoming the everyday outfit for men and women alike. From full length dresses to yoga pants and sweatshirts, the everyday streetwear has changed quite drastically in the last century.

The 1960s and 1970s were a time of progression for the gym wear and sports fashion industry. This was the time in history that introduced us to the practice of yoga and jogging. In 1970 we began to see the rise of the track suit before it entered the bright/multicolored trend of the 1980s. However, by the end of the 1970s, the merging of street wear and gym wear began. Exercise had become a part of many people’s lives. The idea of a regular exercise routine became the mainstream thing to do. As the number of people attending regular workout/dance classes grew, the demand for sports clothes/gym wear increased as well.

As the 1980s began, synthetic materials were being used more often as a way to make comfortable, yet fashionable workout gear. The synthetic materials would be died various colors, especially bright colors, that the 1980s were famous for. As a demand for comfort increased, the 1980s released the newest trend. It was the “shell suit”. Basically, the shell suit was made of nylon. It was a combination of a lightweight zippered top, which came in with elastic at the waistline, and loose matching pants cuffed at the bottom.

The shell suit became popular among all age groups. At first, however, if was just for the people who actually participated in sports. However, it soon became very affordable and cheap for almost anyone to have one. This is another example of the everyday streetwear merging with the sports world. However, as it became overly mainstream for all age groups, the fashion industry began to create tighter clothing for gym-goers. Many people wanted to be able to show off their body as weightlifting and intense exercise became popular in the 1990s.

c. 1985. Black and white sweat pant suit with shoulder pads. By Norma Kalami

The 1980s were dominated by everything “big”. From big hair to bold colors to big shoulders, the 80’s were perhaps one of the most recognizable decades in the fashion industry. One of the top designers at the time, Norma Kamali, was inspired by the retro looks of the past. She brought back the shoulder pad trend. This was known as a “power suit” and was a symbol for more women entering the workforce. Kamali was inspired by many different events in her life. After graduating from the Fashion Institute of technology in the 1960s, many of her ideas were turned away from the Seventh Avenue company. After leaving her job, she traveled to Europe in search of their fashion trends. She returned to the United States only to open up her own boutique in 1968. She grew popularity and even taught herself how to make clothing.

After she was divorced in 1977 from her husband, Eddie, she once again came out with the “sleeping bag coat” inspired by the sleeping bag she slept in after her divorce. Also in the late 70’s, she had the idea of highwaisted bathing suits that were so popular in the 80’s as well as many revealing bikini’s. Eventually, Kamali introduced an entire collection made with sweat pant material. She influenced an entire decade when oversized sweatshirts and  yoga pants were a trend. Today, Kamali is accredited with being one of the most original designers to date as we still continue to see her fashion influence everywhere.

c. 2006 gym wear

As gym fashioned from the 1980s to the 1990s, the materials used

c. 1990-1999

transitioned, too. The once popular brightly-died synthetics of the 80’s were traded for aerodynamic Lycra, which was used in cycling shorts.

Today’s gym wear is much of “athleisure”.You are able to wear it to the gym, or you may see it everywhere on the street. Most common are leggings, sweatpants, and sweatshirts.

an example off modern “Athleisure” 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

Whitley, Lauren. “Norma Kamali”.  lovetoknow. Accessed on November 14, 2018. Retrieved from https://fashion-history.lovetoknow.com/clothing-types-styles/sweatshirt

Weston, Pauline. “Fitness Fashion History After the 1960s” fashionera. Accessed on November 14, 2018. Retrieved from http://www.fashion-era.com/fitness_fashion_after_1960.htm#Sportswear%20Meets%20Mainstream%20Fashion

 

 

 

 

 

Fur vs. Faux: The History of Furs

For thousands of centuries, fur has been a material that has stood the test of time. From “contagious magic”, to a way to keep warm, to a fashion statement, to a way to show your economic status, fur has been used in a variety of ways throughout history. This blog post will explore the history behind fur from ancient Egypt to present day controversies, as well as why animal fur was seen so powerful to some.

Fur was once believed to have “contagious magic”. What does this mean? Well, hunters in early history used to believe that wearing the fur pelt or skin of a certain animal would give them a special connection to that animal.

“…that in ceremony, meditation, and dreams they ‘become’ their chosen animal.”- Graham Harvey (1997)

The early hunters truly believed this quote about animal pelts. If they were to wear the fur of a cheetah, perhaps they would gain the speed and intelligence of the cheetah. It would guide them on their journey through life.

As centuries rolled on, fur received a new type of praise. Instead of containing magical powers, fur was now seen as a determinate of your social status. In ancient Egypt, only kings and high priests were allowed to wear the fur like ermine, mink, or chinchilla. High priests would wear them during ceremonial events showing the importance of fur. Entering the 11th centuries, nobles and the rich loved to adorn themselves in the finest furs as well. After lower class husbands began to place mortgages on their homes in order to give their wives fur, the upper class was eager to place laws stating people of the lower class were prohibited to buy the best furs like ermine or vair. They wanted to be distinct from the lower class. However, they did allow the unprivileged the right to wear fox, otter, and the fur of small rodents.

The Fur Trade

Beginning in the 1500s, the fur trade sprang into action. It was most popular in North America and started with the trade between the Indians and Europeans. Beaver fur quickly became the most valued item on the list. In Europe, they would used it to make felt hats. However, in the 1800s,the number of fur-bearing animals began to dangerously decline due to the high demand for fur. By the end of the 1800s, the fur trade slowed as silk became the larger demand.

Technology’s Influence

With an increase in technology entering the 19th century, furs were able to be produced at a faster rate. It brought easier ways to create shinier, silkier furs. One woman, Yelena Yelmark, even found a way to create a leopard skin pattern, which would become highly desirable.

Black fox fur timed coat: 1989

Even though furs became lighter, easier to make, and more advanced, they were still made for the wealthy. So, in response to the less wealthy, manufacturers developed coats and dresses merely trimmed with fur in order to make it more affordable for the lower class. They used fur from animals such as raccoons, muskrats, wolves, hare, and more.

Entering the 1950s,the production of fur coats was at its peak. There was a variety of fur available. The priciest type on the market was made of mink. The full coat made of the best mink could cost up to $600. Prices varied from fur to fur, however. Red fox was always less expensive than the highly desired silver fox.

 

 

Fur Versus Faux 

1929 Vogue Magazine: “The fur you wear will reveal to everyone the kind of woman you are and the kind of life you lead.” 

The above quote above shows the pressure that society put on women. Self-worth depended on the price tag your fur coat entailed. It also shows the popularity of fur in the 20th century.

However, the idea of spending tremendous amounts of money for a coat didn’t appeal to everyone. Some companies began to produce faux fur at the beginning of the 20th century. They made it using pile fabric, more popularly used to make corduroy velvet. After a tax was put on furs during war time, the nation went crazy for faux fur. Demand increased so much that some companies had to shut down temporarily.

Arnold Scassi: Olive and Rust Feather Flower print jacquard print dress and challis with a fur trimmed jacket. Fun Fact: Arnold Scassi’s father was a furrier.

By the mid 1960’s, it became more than just a cheaper alternative to real animal fur. Members of the Audubon Society began to protest the use of endangered species, but eventually it became a fight for all animals. By the 1970s, popular celebrities joined in the movement. Mary Tyler Moore, Doris Day, and Angie Dickenson all spoke for the New York Times.

 

“Killing an animal to make a coat is a sin. A woman gains status when she refuses to see anything killed to be put on her back. Then she’s truly beautiful…”

-Doris Day, New York Times  (1971)

 

 

 

 

Versace, 1997: Brown Wool suit jacket with removable fur collar.

In more recent years, top brands such as Versace, Gucci, Givenchy, and Michael Kors have all removed themselves from the realm of real fur.

 

“Fur? I’m out of that. I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion. It doesn’t feel right.” 

-Donatella Versace (March 2018)

 

 

 

 

Despite the fight against fur, there was also a downside perspective towards faux fur. It was made with petroleum, which was taken from natural resources. Many feared and argued that the use of petroleum would cause an increase in pollution. So, the question is, do you want to save the animals or save the environment?

Conclusion

Fur was once seen as way of gaining “contagious magic”. Hunters in early history truly believed you could gain strength and guidance from wearing the fur of animals. However, perhaps the same idea was slightly twisted when we entered Ancient Egypt and early Europe and North America. Fur still gave you power, but this time the power looked like high social status. With money came the best furs, and the best furs gave you social status. In the 1930s, people believed that the fur you wore told the whole world what type of person you were and what type of life you lead. However, by the mid 1960s, the idea was morphing once again. Fur became the trade of a sinner. Wearing real fur was frowned upon by many including celebrities like Doris Day and Mary Tyler Moore. Fur has become more of a political statement in the past 40-50 years. Present day conservationists and vegans are against the killing of animals for any reason, especially to wear one on your back. However, the same thing that can save the animals could kill the environment. Who knew that fashion would cause such controversy?

SOURCES:

“The History of Fur Trade”.Montana Trappers Association. Accessed on November 9, 2018. Retrieved from http://montanatrappers.org/history/fur-trade.htm

Mahe, Yvette. “History of Fur in Fashion: Introduction”. Fashion Time. Last Modified December 4th, 2011. Accessed on November 9, 2018. Retrieved from http://www.fashionintime.org/history-fur-fashion-introduction/

Hines, Alice. “The History of Faux Fur”. “Smithsonian.com. Last Modified January 22, 2015. Accessed on November 9, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/history-faux-fur-180953984/

Early 20th Century Gym Wear

Gym wear has come a long way since he early mid 19th and entire 20th century. Today, traditional gym wear such as leggings and crop tops have become the normal, everyday street outfits for women, and loosely fitting clothing for men, like sweatpants, greatly influenced from the punk age. The first gyms were for men only. They were able to undress and exercise without the presence of women around. Also, many people did not go to a gym unless you were a gymnast or boxer. Boxing was a big deal in the early 20th century, mainly in the United States and Great Britain. Boxers like Jim Jefferies and Bob Fitzsimmons were some of the more famous boxers of the time.    

However, women and exercise became more prevalent after Catherine Beecher, an early advocate for women’s calisthenics, wrote a book about the importance of exercise. Eventually both male and female athletes caught onto the idea of calisthenics. This type of physical activity included jumping, swinging, kicking, push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, stretching, and resisting. Because of the fitness craze, women’s fashion had to be altered for the range of motion needed during calisthenics. The waist was loosely fitted and bloomers, like that of the 1850s, were added to the “workout” uniform. Their entire gym outfits consisted of full skirts that ended mid-calf with the full bloomers underneath. It took a good amount of time, but women were eventually allowed to wear the gym gear in class. Later on, it became attire for school children, but turned into a jumper.

The Historic Clothing Collection at OSU has several pieces related to workout gear and active wear from early 1900 to the late 20th century. however, today’s focus is on the early 20th century gym gear. Below are a few pieces from our current collection, “Sports and Fashion”.

This picture is a good example of what a typical gym outfit for women would look like in the 1900. It consists of the gray/blue wool blouse, bloomers, and skirt.

Next up is a man’s basketball uniform consisting of a gray wool tank top and padded shorts c. 1928-1929. The 1920s were a turning point for basketball and fashion. In earlier decades, basketball had been a simple game deserving of a simple outfit. Men would wear their street clothes. Comfortable shoes, pants, and a shirt were socially acceptable. Women would wear their full length dresses, scarves, hats, etc. and everyday shoes. However the art of basketball fashion changed everything. Wool, the most popular clothing material at the time, started a new era. The uniform had its pros and cons, however. The fabric was stretchable and breathable, but it also tended to shrink and be a burden to take care for. However, in the 1930s there was a breakthrough in material. Synthetic textiles were revolutionary for the world of basketball. New uniforms were lighter, unlike sweat-drenched wool uniforms, and were even more breathable. Influenced by a women’s basketball team, uniforms became shinier and tighter than before, up until the 70’s. It took Michael Jordan asking for longer shorts to change the style once again. Soon the baggy shirt and shorts style caught on by many teams across the world and started the newest era of basketball fashion.

Lastly, we have a blue cotton gym suit short dress with matching knit shorts from 1945. This was made by a company called Aldrich and Aldrich. Bonnie Cashin, an American known for her practical clothing and sportswear, and Vera Maxwell, a designer for sportswear nd fashion, designed for Aldrich and Aldrich in the 1940s. Cashin may have been the creator of American sportswear, according to some. She was known for being the a designer who never fully got the credit she deserved, especially as a designer for 20th Century Fox. Her work inspired many designers in years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

“Basketball Uniform History”. Epic Sports Basketball. Accessed on November 7, 2018 Retrieved from https://basketball.epicsports.com/basketball-uniform-history.html

lakephd. “Bonnie Cashin Today, History”. Cashin’s Personal Archive. Accessed on November 7, 2018. Retrieved from https://bonniecashin.org/2014/03/20/about/

The Truth About Plaid

The Truth About Plaid

Today’s plaid is influenced by the 1990s grunge movement and the 1920s lumberjack look. But what is the story behind the clothing pattern? The beginning dates back to the 1500s. In 16th century Scotland, “plaid” was the word for Celtic skirts worn to protect people against the brutal winter weather. What we call plaid, they called “tartan”. This was various  materials of different  colors woven together in a striped pattern. Today, it has lasted throughout the centuries and may be the most well known pattern to date.

In early Scotland, weavers would create different tartans for clans. Each clan had its own design. We can relate this to today’s society. Picture yourself dressing up in scarlet and grey along with thousands of other fans for an Ohio State football game. This scenario is very much what clans did. Later on, the tartan design was used for military in Scotland. The Royal Regiment of Scotland, which remained the country’s pride until 2003, wore one tartan design called “Black Watch Plaid”. It consisted of dark green, blue, and black.

How did plaid become so popular? When American and British manufacturers latched onto the design, everyone wanted to be a part of the plaid craze. However, it wasn’t until the mid 19th century in America when we first called it plaid. In the 1850s, the Woolrich Woolen Mill’s company introduced the ever-popular Buffalo plaid: red and black. This design was commonly worn by lumberjacks. Then, in 1936, plaid was changed forever. A small town called Cedar Springs manufactured “the flannel”. This revolutionary design promoted the plaid and made it a winter staple.

In he 1970s, plaid went crazy. From suits to interior design, the look became extremely popular with manufacturers everywhere. At the same time in England, plaid was becoming a symbol of rebellion. With ripped jeans and more, the look was becoming punk style. One famous British designer, Vivienne Westwood, became an outspoken leader for the rebellion. She was born in Glossop, Derbyshire, England in 1941. Her father was a cobbler, and her mother worked at a cotton mill. At 17, her family moved to Middlesex, where she started teacher training. Westwood never saw luxury in her life, and she had never seen an art book. After she was married, it seemed her life was set. She had a son and became a teacher. However ,when her marriage broke in the 60’s, she discovered a new partner, an art student. His name was Malcom McLaren, and he seemed to help her with everything she needed to do. She was brought into a whole new world when she discovered jewelry making. Now Westwood saw a world of art and freedom. She went on to become one of the more famous designers of her time due to her outspoken style and grunge look.

This is one of Westwood’s creations: A knee length cocktail dress with separated sleeves. It is made with green, red, and black plaid silk. The bodice is a one piece with a boned interior, making it much like a corset of the 18th century.

Present day, plaid is worn in a variety of ways. From chic and adorned in pearls to traditional punk and hipster, it is a staple for every style. What started with a pattern on a Celtic skirt has come so far, and what it is today is what the wearer makes of it.

 

 

 

SOURCES:

Lewis, Danny.”A Brief Story of Plaid”.Smithsonian.com.Last modified November 20, 2015. Accessed November 5, 2018.                          Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/brief-history-plaid-180957342/

Biography.com Editors.”Vivienne Westwood Biography”. The Biography.com Website. Last modified June 5, 2018. Accessed                  on November 5, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.biography.com/people/vivienne-westwood-20624587

Atwood, Tyler.”How did Plaid become Popular? A Brief and Grungy Fashion History”.Bustle. Last modified April 10, 2014.                      Accessed on November 5, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.bustle.com/articles/20343-how-did-plaid-become-popular-            a-brief-and-grungy-fashion-history

 

Ski Wear Throughout The Decades

Ski wear has changed drastically over the decades. From wool to nylon, each style is unique and truly represents the time period it was made in. The history behind the them is as intriguing as the suits themselves.

Today’s post showcases three ski suits from three separate decades. Each suit is a statement of the progression in fashion and represents what made the 40’s, 60’s, and 80’s what we know them as today.

The far left suit dates back to 1943-1944. It is a blue                                                      wool ski suit with embroidery trim. Ribbed knit cuffs at wrists and ankles, lined with cotton flannel. It was from Snow Togs by J.C. Penney Co. It is currently on loan from Smith College of Historic Clothing Collection.

Skiing became very popular in the 1940’s. This was because hundreds of Austrian skiers came to America in order to escape the German take-over. In the fashion world, the ski suit became more streamlined when the war caused a shortage in fabric. Women were able to wear ski pants with zippers on bottom portion to allow for easier movement, and the ski skirts basically ended in the 1930’s when the majority of people decided that those were for more expert skiers than your average, everyday skier.

As fashion moved into the later 1960’s, the fabric used began to change. By 1968, the idea of 100% wool ski suits dropped when synthetics were introduced. Nylon became popular. It made the suits lighter while they also became more tightly fitted.

The middle ski suit is from 1968, the turning point for wool and nylon. It is a light green nylon hooded ski ensemble with an insulated jacket and stretch nylon/wool gabardine pants. It came from Head Ski and Sportswear.

This company was formed by an Aeronautical engineer Howard Head. On a ski trip, he was astonished when he found that skies were being made with wood in an age of metals and plastics. He worked for the Glenn L. Martin Company where they used aluminum and plastic laminate to build fuselages in aircrafts, and he believed that the same material would make an excellent pair of skies. His revolutionary idea made skiing dramatically easier. He created a new company, which grew rapidly and became the leading ski manufacturer in both the U.S. and the UK. He later sold his company and took up tennis and became the head manufacturer for tennis racquets in Boulder, Colorado, and kennelbech, Austria. He also went into athletic footwear and introduced “Radial Tennis Shoes”. In 1997, he created the first titanium and graphite tennis racket, and acquired three more companies within th next two years. His brand also had clothing apparel, accessories, bicycles, skates, watches, balls, and fitness equipment.

The far right ski suit screams 1980’s. It is a pink nylon ski jumpsuit with animal print accents. We also see the high waistline affect made popular in the 80’s, and is even coming back in today’s fashion. The 80’s were all about big, bold styles. Designers went from the subdue colors of brown, tan, and grey in the 70’s to vibrant pinks and blues, and of course, cheetah print. 

At this point, the production of clothing using nylon was in full swing. The ski suits of the day were becoming more and more like everyday street wear, creating a more casual look. This particular suit is from Steinebronn Sportcouture. 

In today’s fashion, the official ski outfit is almost nonexistent. As time goes on, the fashion becomes more and more casual. We see this in more than just ski suits. From swim wear to street wear to ski wear, the looks are increasingly informal.

 

 

1935: A time of Ohio State History in Fashion

1935 was a year for Ohio State fashion and history. The 1935 sweater above was worn by Loyal Orlando “Dick” Richard. His wife, Maxine Virginia Wicker, is also pictured above. Maxine was born in 1912 to Maud Adams and Lovell J. Wicker (1869-1942). She grew up in the Detroit, Michigan area. While in high school, she met Dick Richard. He was born in Williams County, Ohio in 1907 to Jesse Richert/Richard and Jesse’s mail order bride, Frances “Fanny” Cromwell Riley Richard. The family moved to Akron, and Dick attended school until his mother died in 1921. However, he later returned to finish his degree. At his time away from school, he ended up in the Detroit, Michigan area. His older half brothers owned the Richards Brothers Co. that made parts for the auto industry. After being encouraged to go back to school, it was then he met Maxine. After high school, he went off to The Ohio State University, but he left school once again before earning a degree.

After graduation, Maxine went on to become a secretary. The two dated for a total of six years until they married on October 12, 1935 in Keego Harbor, Michigan. they had three children (William “Bill” Loyal Richard, Mary Ann Richard, and John “Jack” Charles Richard) and lived in the Detroit area until Dick’s job was transferred to Cleveland, Ohio. Then, in 1951, they moved to Bay Village, Ohio in December 1951.

Dick died in 1969 from a subdural hematoma that occurred when he bumped his head while sanding his boat. Maxine went on to live 37 more years until she died of old age in 2007.

The 1935 sweater was worn by Dick. He was an Ohio State fan for life, and both of his sons attended the university. Bill studied English while Jack chose radio technology until he transferred to Kent State.

The photo was taken in 1932 with the couple wearing their OSU gear. Perhaps they were even dressed to watch for a football game. Their outfits were spectators sportswear, which includes their sweaters, jodhpurs and knickers.

 

A special thanks to Laura Keating for the information and photo

The Fashions of Jane Austen

In honor of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s passing on July 18, 1817, the Historic Costume & Textiles Collection installed three dresses in the Thompson Library Special Collections area. Jane Austen lived from 1775 to 1817, a period marked by significant developments in politics, manufacturing and society as a whole. There was a growing interest in ancient Greek culture and ideals of democracy as opposed to monarchy due to the discovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii in the mid-18th century. This, along with the American and French Revolutions, inspired a change in fashion that reflected these new democratic ideals. Women’s dresses transitioned from the stiff artificial silhouettes popular in the French court of Louis XVI, to the light columnar silhouettes of the early 18th century. This style of gown has come to be known as the Empire silhouette, in reference to the French empire and Josephine Bonaparte who popularized this new style. Women’s gowns were primarily made of white cotton or small floral printed cottons. It was believed that the Ancient Greeks wore only white as the statues that had been discovered were white. The statues were white, of course, due to being bleached by the sun over time, but fashion is frequently inspired by idealism rather than realism so the trend for light-colored gowns continued.

Films of Jane Austen’s novels are often the entry point by which people encounter this period of fashion. Interestingly, most film adaptations dress the actors in fashions indicative of the various novel’s dates of publication rather than when the novels were originally written. For example, Pride & Prejudice was published in 1813 but Jane originally began work on the novel in 1796. Additionally, a close analysis of Pride & Prejudice reveals that the events of the novel were more than likely written to have taken place between 1793 and 1795. The 1790’s were a unique period of transition in fashion and it is much easier for a costume designer to create costumes that reflect the latter half of Jane Austen’s life. In fact, the Empire style of gown is now so intrinsically linked with Jane Austen’s characters in the public’s mind that it is almost impossible to separate the two. Three dresses dating from the time of Jane Austen’s life are on display in the Thompson Library and have been paired with first editions of her novels. Jane died on July 18, 1817 and this year marks the 200th anniversary of her passing. This exhibit invites viewers to celebrate one of Britain’s most popular authors whose novels continue to find a fresh set of devotees with each new generation.

 

“To be in company, nicely dressed herself and seeing others nicely dressed, to sit and smile and look pretty, and say nothing, was enough for the happiness of the present hour.”

                                                                                                ~Emma, 1816

Silk Day Dress
1797-1810
Historic Costume & Textiles Collection
Gift of Friends of the Historic Costume & Textiles Collection

This silk day dress is made from a heavier, stiffer silk that was more common in women’s fashion during the 18th century, but still reflects the new columnar silhouette that had become popular in the late 1790’s. While cotton had become more popular for daywear during this period, wealthier women would still have day dresses made in silk. The character of Emma is one of Jane Austen’s only protagonists that does not have to worry about money. Emma is the only child of a wealthy father and fails to understand, at several points throughout the novel, that financial limitations greatly influence the decisions of those around her.

Austen herself could be described as a member of the “pseudo-gentry”. This class of Georgian society was made up of individuals and families that did not own land but were still gentility “of a sort.” Jane’s father, George Austen, made £1,000 per year at the height of his prosperity, but with a family of eight children this was not a large sum. £500 annually was about the limit at which a family could aspire to gentility. This is the exact sum that the Dashwood women would be forced to live on in Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen, along with her mother and sister, would find herself in a similar situation after the death of her father in 1805. These three women had to subsist on slightly less than £500. The women were not firmly settled into a permanent location until 1809 when they moved to Chawton House in Hampshire. It was here that Jane was able to settle into a regular routine and devote more time to writing. Between 1811 and her death in 1817, Jane would compose Emma and Persuasion, as well as publish Pride & Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma.

 

“It would be mortifying to the feelings of many ladies, could they be made to understand how little the heart of man is affected by what is costly or new in their attire; how little it is biased by the texture of their muslin, and how unsusceptible of peculiar tenderness towards the spotted, the sprigged, the mull, or the jackonet. Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone. No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it. Neatness and fashion are enough for the former, and a something of shabbiness or impropriety will be most endearing to the latter.”                                  

Cotton Day Dress
1800-1810
Historic Costume & Textiles Collection
Gift of Friends of the Historic Costume & Textiles Collection

                                          ~Northanger Abbey, 1818

Fashion styles changed rather drastically at the end of the 18th century. The highly artificial and opulent dress of the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette transitioned to that of the Greek-inspired silhouette featured in the day dress displayed here. Unlike its predecessors, this new style of dress falls straight and flat to the floor in front, with fullness being concentrated at the center back. Day dresses were commonly made of very fine cotton muslin. While a simple, plain white was popular, floral patterned or “sprigged” muslins were equally popular. The proliferation of cotton gowns was owed in part to the success of the British East India Company which exported large amounts of cotton to British textile manufacturers.

Jane Austen, having been born in 1775, came of age when this revolution in fashion was taking place. While, she does not go into great detail when describing the clothes of her characters, her humor and wit is often on display when fashion becomes a topic of conversation. One such example is featured here. The above quotation is an aside from Jane when describing Catherine Morland’s anxiety as she tries to decide which gown to wear to a ball later in the evening. Northanger Abbey was itself a satire of the Gothic novel and so it should come as no surprise that various aspects of society are satirized within its pages.

 

“Now I must look at you, Fanny,” said Edmund, with the kind smile of an affectionate brother, “and tell you how I like you; and as well as I can judge by this light, you look very nicely indeed. What have you got on?”

“The new dress that my uncle was so good as to give me on my cousin’s marriage. I hope it is not too fine; but I thought I ought to wear it as soon as I could, and that I might not have such another opportunity all the winter. I hope you do not think me too fine.” [Fanny]

“A woman can never be too fine while she is all in white. No, I see no finery about you; nothing but what is perfectly proper. Your gown seems very pretty. I like these glossy spots. Has not Miss Crawford a gown something the same?” [Edmund]

~Mansfield Park, 1814

Silk Evening Dress
1817-1820
Historic Costume & Textiles Collection
Gift of the Friends of the Historic Costume & Textiles Collection

Evening gowns such as this would be quite like the one that was worn by Fanny Price to formal dinners or balls in Mansfield Park. For the greater part of Jane Austen’s life, evening dresses were the same tubular silhouette as dresses meant for more informal daywear, the difference being they were made of silk and could have more elaborate trimmings. Neither day nor evening dresses had trains, apart from court gowns, from about 1808 onward. This dress has design elements that put it closer to 1820 than 1810 such as its use of a band at the waist. The decoration in its short puffed sleeves mimic slashing, a design element common in garments from the Medieval period. This movement towards medieval revival would expand and continue as fashions begin to change once again in the beginning of the 1820s.

Jane Austen chose to publish her novels anonymously. The author for each book published during her lifetime was simply noted as “A Lady.” It would not be until the posthumous joint publication of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion as a four volume set, that the true identity of this “Lady” would be revealed. Northanger Abbey was actually the first manuscript that Austen sold to a publisher. She sold it under the original title, Susan, to London bookseller, Crosby & Co., for £10. Unfortunately, they decided against publishing. Henry Austen, Jane’s brother, bought the manuscript back from the publisher in 1816. Jane revised it, renaming it Catherine, with the intention of publication but passed away in 1817. Henry Austen renamed it Northanger Abbey and arranged for its publication, along with Persuasion, and penned an introduction which publicly identified Jane Austen as the author of this and previous works for the first time. A first edition of this four volume set is displayed here alongside a first edition of Mansfield Park, published May 1814, and Emma, published December 1815.  While Austen’s books went out of print for a short period of time after her death they have rarely been unavailable since.

 

 

The Color of Politics

 

Maps of the United States divided into red for Republican-won states and blue for Democrat-won states are on all television stations’ coverage of presidential campaigns these days. While it seems like this practice has been around forever, its use by news networks is actually fairly recent; first used with the presidential election of 1976.

NBC, the first all-color television network, created an illuminated map behind anchor John Chancellor to illustrate how each state’s electorate was voting. NBC chose red for Jimmy Carter (Democrat), and blue for Gerald Ford (Republican). Early on, blue was chosen for the Republican Party due to its association with the Union army during the Civil War and the fact that blue was associated with many of the conservative parties in Europe and elsewhere. As color broadcasting expanded to the other major TV networks, each news program chose its own color scheme to illustrate voting results. There was no standard among all networks, however. It was not until the highly contested election of 2000 that red states came to refer exclusively to those voting Republican and blue states to those voting Democrat. It has since become a sort of short hand for partisanship. While this color coding of American politics creates a striking visual for election results, it can have unforeseen negative psychological effects.

Conor Seyle and Matthew Newman published results which explore the ramifications of defining America in terms of red and blue states. While red and blue are meant to refer to the distribution of electoral votes between Republican and Democrat, media pundits have begun to use red and blue to refer to a broad set of differences, including membership in different groups and social categories such as religion, urban or rural living, socioeconomic status and regional culture. Seyle and Newman write that, “By showing all red states, and all blue states, as being parts of the same political cultures, the red versus blue map ignores compelling differences in regional values and concerns about issues that may lead different states to vote Democratic or Republican for different reasons.” The question posed is why does this change in labeling from Republican and Democrat to red and blue create problems? The answer is somewhat complex but can be broken down in this way. The definitions of Republican and Democratic have nothing to do with membership in other groups. They are based solely on political opinions. In contrast, red and blue are used to refer to a large set of shared opinions, group memberships and perspectives. Seyle and Newman write, “As such, describing a person or group as red implies information not only about their stance on issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and civil liberties but also about their religious memberships, educational backgrounds, and beliefs about the role of America in the world.” The effect of this paradigm is that it encourages people to see political opponents as opponents in all things, thus encouraging a winner takes all approach to public judgement, rather than working together. This often results in a destructive conflict in which people are less willing to incorporate other perspectives and compromise on a happy medium, thus reducing government efficiency and effectiveness. It would, perhaps, be in the best interest of the public for the media to refrain from utilizing the red and blue labels and simply return to referring to each state by the name of the political party who has won the majority of votes.

Working together, we are united in Red, White and Blue.

For more information about the artifacts pictured above, please visit our previous blog post Red, White, Blue and Fabulous

Sources

D. Conor Seyle and Matthew L. Newman, “A House Divided?: The Psychology of Red and Blue America,” American Psychologist 61 (2006):571-580.

First Lady Fashion: Part IV, Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush

When Barbara Bush took to the presidential campaign trail with her husband George H. W. Bush, her poof of white hair and witty personality earned her the nickname “First Grandmother.” When she wore her blue Scaasi gown to the inaugural ball in 1989, the designer deemed her “the most glamorous grandmother in the United States.”

1994-561-1-webThe gown’s long, puffed sleeves taper toward the wrists, and its royal blue skirt is asymmetrically draped below the dark blue top and gathered at a bow on the side. Scaasi sold a handful of dresses like it and, upon Mrs. Bush’s decision to wear one herself to the ball, he covertly called up the other owners to make sure none of them wore theirs there, too. Then, he discontinued it.

Over the years, the other gowns of this design either disappeared or were kept in private collections. Nowadays, there are only two available for public display. One, the gown originally worn by Barbara Bush, is housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. The other, this one, a gown first owned by New York socialite Brooke Astor, belongs to Ohio State’s Historic Costume & Textiles Collection. They differ only in size (this is 6, the other a 20) and accessibility. When the George Bush Presidential Library wanted a loan of Barbara’s inaugural gown, instead of borrowing the original from the Smithsonian, they called up the Costume Collection and had Brooke Astor’s Scaasi gown shipped to Texas in a specially built crate.

Barbara Bush wore several Scaasi gowns during the inaugural festivities. As the designer himself put it at the time, “clothes are not by any means her main priority, but I think she likes getting dressed up.” Barbara Bush was a pulled-together First Lady, but, unlike her predecessor, Nancy Reagan, not an overly fashion-conscious one.

Nevertheless, Bush and Scaasi remained a team throughout Barbara’s time in the White House. He claimed to have avoided promoting business with Hillary Clinton out of loyalty to the Bush family, and Barbara was guest of honor at the opening of a Scaasi exhibition in New York in 1996, an extravagant gathering where all attending ladies wore their own Scaasi gowns from over the years.

Canadian-born Arnold Scaasi (“Isaacs” spelled backwards) studied in Montreal, Paris, and New York before setting off on his own as a designer in 1964. He preferred to work for celebrities and individual clients, choosing not to create collections for mass-market consumers. Like Mollie Parnis and James Galanos, Scaasi acquired a circle of loyal clients. His set included six First Ladies, among them, Jackie Kennedy and Mamie Eisenhower, as well as famous movie stars of the day.

Catering to Hollywood, he was certainly theatrical; one of his best-known looks was a shockingly revealing suit that Barbra Streisand wore to the Oscars in 1969. He favored bold details paired with classic silhouettes and regularly designed for both life and the screen. Aside from his designs, Scaasi also gained attention for his clever and biting comments that playfully insulted clients and Americans in general.

The “First Grandmother” may not be known as a fashion icon, but she has certainly been a fixture in the White House. She served as the Second Lady (wife of the vice president) for eight years during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, First Lady for four years when her husband George H. W. Bush was president, and mother of the president for eight years when President George W. Bush was in office in the early 2000s. In fact, the White House was one of the homes where the Bush family lived the longest. They moved twenty-nine times in forty-four years to accommodate George H.W.’s business and political career.

She and George had been together for the majority of their lives when he was elected president. Barbara was born in 1925 and met George at a dance when she was 16. They were engaged within a couple of years and married in 1945. After serving as a pilot in WWII, George attended Yale. Together they had six children, including one, Robin, who died as a child from Leukemia. From the loss of Robin, the pair developed a new, stronger sense of empathy.

Barbara Bush and Brooke Astor both shared this empathy through philanthropy. As Second and First Lady, Barbara championed literacy, and she continues to do so through the Barbara Bush Foundation. Brooke Astor, the American socialite who died in 2007, aged 105, made a career of donating money. She inherited an enormous fortune from her third husband, Vincent Astor, heir of the famous Astor Family. By transferring the family’s Gilded Age wealth into the modern era, she transformed the role of the “old money,” ultra rich in American society. In her husband’s honor, she created the Vincent Astor Foundation and used it to give away close to $195 million. Her primary focus was improving the welfare of New York City. By day she travelled across the city, visiting the organizations she supported, and by night she attended lavish parties wearing gowns such as this.

This gown, donated to the collection in 1994, was worn to several international parties. She wore it to both the British Embassy and the French Embassy and across the pond she toted it to Hatfield House in England, which was home to several members of royalty and built in 1611. Although this gown specifically was never owned by a First Lady, never fear; Brooke Astor also wore it to the White House.

Conclusion

The designers, owners, and donors of these gowns each have had their own impact on American history, and between the politics behind them and the style of design they represent, the gowns themselves are a melding of worlds. Art meets government. Influence meets aesthetics. The same can be said for the First Ladies who wore them. Although they are not elected, First Ladies are fixtures in American politics. But instead of policymakers, they are era-definers. The causes they champion and the clothing they wear mark the culture of the country during their time in the White House.

Sources

Barbara Bush

“Arnold Scaasi dies at 85; designer to first ladies and movie stars.” Los Angeles Times. Last modified August 4, 2015. Accessed July 26, 2016. http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-arnold-scaasi-20150804-story.html

Berger, Marilyn. “Brooke Astor, 105, First Lady of Philanthropy, Dies.” The New York Times: Obituaries. Last modified August 13, 2007. Accessed July 26, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/13/obituaries/13cnd-astor.html?_r=0

Black, Allida. “Barbara Pierce Bush.” The White House. Accessed July 26, 2016. https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/first-ladies/barbarabush

Feitelberg, Rosemary and Lorna Koski. “Arnold Scaasi, American Designer and Confidant to First Ladies, Dies at 85.” Women’s Wear Daily. Last modified August 4, 2015. Accessed July 26, 2016. http://wwd.com/fashion-news/designer-luxury/arnold-scaasi-dies-at-10196546/

“The First Ladies at the Smithsonian: Barbara Bush: First Grandmother.” Smithsonian: The National Museum of American History. Accessed July 26, 2016. http://americanhistory.si.edu/first-ladies/barbara-bush

Jacobs, Alexandra. “Arnold Scaasi Dies at 85; Dressed Stars and Socialites, His ‘Scaasi Girls.’” The New York Times: N.Y./Region. Last modified August 4, 2015. Accessed July 26, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/05/fashion/arnold-scaasi-a-designer-who-dressed-generations-of-scaasi-girls-dies-at-85.html?_r=0

 Morris, Bob. “Scaasi, Scaasi, Everywhere.” The New York Times: Style. Last modified October 6, 1996. Accessed July 26, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/1996/10/06/style/scaasi-scaasi-everywhere.html

Schiro, Anne-Marie. “The 41st President: Fashion; Following a Tough Act With Impeccable Taste.” The New York Times: U.S. Last modified January 21, 1989. Accessed July 26, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/1989/01/21/us/the-41st-president-fashion-following-a-tough-act-with-impeccable-taste.html

Steinmetz, Katy. “Belles of the Ball: An Insider’s Look at Inaugural Gowns: Barbara Bush, 1989: A Close Call.” Time: Fashion & Beauty. Last modified January 18, 2013. Accessed July 26, 2016. http://style.time.com/2013/01/18/belles-of-the-ball-an-insiders-look-at-inaugural-gowns/slide/barbara-bush-1989-a-close-call/

Yaeger, Lynn. “Remembering Arnold Scaasi, Legendary Fashion Designer to the First Ladies, Barbra Streisand, and Liz Taylor.” Vogue. Last modified August 4, 2015. Accessed July 26, 2016. http://www.vogue.com/13291233/remembering-arnold-scaasi-fashion-designer/

by Kerry Ulm

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