Karl Lagerfeld and His Legacy

Karl Lagerfeld could be described as a man with many talents. He was a creative director, fashion designer, photographer, artist, and self-proclaimed caricaturist. However, he may have been best known for his position in Chanel as creative director from 1983 and Fendi since 1965 until his current death. In his later years, Lagerfeld was easily recognizable with his white hair, black sunglasses, high collars, and fingerless gloves, and outspoken personality. Although he was not highly regarded by everyone, his impact on the world of luxury fashion will not be forgotten any time soon.

Karl Otto Lagerfeld was born on September 10, 1935 in Hamburg, Germany. He reportedly disliked his childhood. His father, Otto Lagerfeld, moved his family and him to a small town. He was different and didn’t to fit in a school wearing his suit and tie. His mother, Elisabeth Lagerfeld, is where he attained his quick-spoken nature. Her words and actions shaped who he would become. While answering his mothers questions, the answer “…had to be quick, and it had to be funny. If I thought of something ten minutes later she would slap me.” Because of his unsettling childhood, he fled to Paris, where he ended up winning a coat design competition that had been sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat. With this recognition, he became the assistant and apprentice of Pierre Balmain, a French fashion designer.

As Lagerfeld worked and studied even more, he became associated with names such as Jean Patou, Tiziano, Chloe, Charles Jourdan, Krizia, and Valentino. His love and expertise for high, luxury fashion flourished. He was recognized and hired by Fendi in 1967 to update their fur line, introducing rabbit, squirrel, and mole pelts. Lagerfeld was never truly admired for his own clothing line, rather, he was recognized for the improvement and modernization of already-existing lines.

About a decade after the death of Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld was hired by the near-death company. With the loss of Coco Chanel, the company had struggled to keep up with the high fashion industry, becoming quite basic and boring. However, with the help of Lagerfeld, the company revamped its way to the top. He introduced the two intertwined C’s, so easily recognizable today and created looks inspired from Coco herself.

Lagerfeld and his team would pace themselves in the shoes of Coco in order to get the best designs possible without her being there for guidance. Her signature looks consisted of simplicity, elegance, nautical, stripes, and an abundance of large faux pearls. Coco was also known as the inventor of the little black dress and made sure to follow her style and not the latest trends.

To the left is a short black wool crepe Chanel dress created by Karl Lagerfeld. Coco Chanel was known for her faux pearls and pockets in her dresses. With this dress, Lagerfeld kept her style alive by sewing pearls onto the dress and adding pockets.  To the left is another design by Lagerfeld created at the turn of the twentieth to twenty-first century. It is both a sign of the past and look to the future. The outside is has an acetate iridescent finish, a modern and futuristic look. However, on the back we see Lagerfeld uses a smocking technique. This technique was especially popular in the mid-twentieth century, specifically among young girl’s dresses. Overall, this unique trench-style coat is both leaving the past behind while saying hello to the new century.

Black History Month: Ruth Ella Moore

We are currently celebrating Black History Month. The Historic Costume & Textiles Collection was the recipient of a donation of several garments made by a talented seamstress who also had a larger claim to fame. Dr. Ruth Ella Moore was an alumna of The Ohio State University and the first African American woman to earn a PhD in the natural sciences.

Image of Ruth Ella Moore in cap and gown circa 1926

Born in 1903 in Columbus, Ohio, to William E. and Margaret Moore, Ruth Ella Moore was the daughter of an accomplished artist. Her mother had graduated from the Columbus State College of Art and Design. She had encouraged Ruth from a young age to pursue a higher degree of education. Ruth and her two older brothers, Donovan L and William E. Moore, were educated in the public schools in Columbus, Ohio. Ruth Moore attended the Ohio State University for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. In 1925, she graduated from the university and then went on to receive a Masters of Science Degree in 1927. She continued to further her education by earning her PhD in bacteriology from the Ohio State University.

After receiving her doctorate in 1933, she officially became the first African American woman to earn a graduate degree in the natural sciences. Howard University quickly hired her in 1940 as an assistant professor in the medical college, where she would stay until her retirement in 1973. Throughout her time at Howard, she managed to move up as chairperson for the Bacteriology Department, became associate professor, and conducted research in bacteriology. Moore was also a member of the American Association of Science, American Society of Immunology, American Society of Microbiology, and the American Public Health Association. She earned two additional honorary degrees as well. They included a doctorate in Literature from Oberlin College and a Doctor of Philosophy from Gettysburg University in 1973.


Besides being a well known scientist, Ruth Ella Moore was also a seamstress. She received a love of fashion and an elegant, classic style from her mother, the artist. Moore was known to sew much of what she wore. In fact, she made a great majority of her entire wardrobe without having any type of degree in clothing design and construction. Keeping with the latest style and fashion, she was known to carefully select her patterns and materials for crafting the outfits. Several of her garments were featured in The Sewer’s Art: Quality, Fashion and Economy, in 2009. Ruth Ella Moore died July 19, 1994.


Ruth Ella Moore garments from The Sewer’s Art:

Dr. Moore made her garments for all occasions, from day to evening wear, and tailored to draped constructions.


Two piece woman’s off white long sleeve jacket and black skirt, suit. The jacket has two black triangular inset sections below the shoulders and a black-notched collar. Five, large covered buttons form the front closure.

The black and white color scheme is carried over into the asymmetrical hat, pieced with black and white felt swirling shapes. It’s stand-up style is reminiscent of the crowns worn by Nefertiti in ancient Egypt.

This red-violet velvet floor length evening dress is part of an ensemble. Cut on the bias grain, it’s bodice has gathered inset sections at the side-fronts. Not shown in the picture is the second piece to the ensemble, a long green velvet jacket with padded and extended shoulders and a shaped hemline.


A long taffeta dress with pink, blue, yellow, and green floral pattern has short draped sleeves with gathering at their sides. The draped bodice molds the body to the hips where it joins the floor length circular, four-piece skirt on a shaped line. The seam below the V-shaped neckline confines the fullness at center-front.


Sports & Fashion Exhibit:

One of Ruth Ella Moore’s swimsuits is currently on display in HCTC’s Sports & Fashion exhibition. It is not certain if she crafted the bathing suit herself or if it was bought ready-made. It has no manufacturers’ labels and dates from the 1930s either during the years she was pursuing her PhD or shortly thereafter.


Ruth Ella Moore

Ruth Ella Moore

Ruth Ella Moore (1903-1994)


The Future of Fashion Told by the Past

Making predictions for the future is like trying to pierce a veil; we can keep jabbing at the possibilities, but predictions do not often yield realistic results. This can be seen in our modern age of uncertainty, as well as in the past. Such an example can be seen in the “Past Dictates of Fashion,” an article by Cromwell Q. Snyder, a “Vestamentorum Doctor,” which is a fancy man’s lingo for a “fashion doctor”. In this article written in 1893, Snyder predicts the future of fashion over the next 100 years, ending with 1990. His predictions may seem laughable, but the logic behind the influence of each decade is not as far-fetched as his designs. Perhaps he missed the mark on the streamlined designs we’ve come to know of the 20th century, but the lunacy of his designs expresses the uncertainty and evolving nature of the human condition as well as fashion.
We begin this epic with the present: 1893. Besides the cuffed pants this image is accurate of current styles. More curious is the dramatic change that will occur in the next 10 years at the turn of the century. Snyder credits his predictions through the “immutable laws of fashion.” Snyder believes fashion is a whim, a sort of shuttlecock for the weak-minded of both sexes, bound and rebound by social influence.

Certainly, all prejudice aside, this does hold some truth. We can trace the trends of fashion in the 20th century with the trends in the political, economic, and social environment. In regards to this article, people were not putting on whacky hats and adorning their pantaloons to be perceived as ridiculous, but to express the social expectations and movements of the predicted future. Additionally, Snyder thinks that fashion is cyclical in a sense, which is why most of his designs draw from earlier centuries, particularly the Renaissance and Tudor Era. According to Snyder, the new century, at its birth, saw black relegated to the past and the affection for color will return with a fierce vengeance. Men will wear purple and blues, while the women will range from pink to green to everything in between. For men, we can see a bit of gender-bending, as accessories such as silk bows can be worn on different parts of the body, such as the shoes or wrists, as flashy haberdashery becomes the new status quo.

As for women, female costume seems to have always been regulated by the same waves and rules which governed male costume, but in a different degree. Women would find new freedom of expression through hat-ware, while the accentuation of the waist remains steadfast throughout female fashion. Indeed, some of these costumes are quite scandalous, with the 1920’s presenting alarmingly short skirts that show off a woman’s calves (a trend we see in reality for 1920). The designs labeled 1920’s are embodied around the idea of novelty and the desire to find new ways to push the fashion envelope. As for the male model on the left, we are told that the upper portion was of crimson plush, and the lower part of a delicate pink, with white stockings and orange boots. Though it may seemed inspired by a French clown or a court jester, this outfit expresses the future interpretation of masculinity in fashion. Meaning, less black and more bravery when it comes to the color palette.
Moving forward, we see a cyclical revival during the 1930’s to combat the novelty of the 1920’s. Women accentuated past fashions with over-sized bonnets and bows, while crinoline is used to create large skirts. Though we still see the fashion of the future with the combination of these ageless styles with new, daring patterns such as polka dots and pin stripes. Men will look even farther back, reviving trends common for the Tudor period.
Interestingly enough, as we move towards the 1940’s, we see a revolution paralleled to that of the feminist rise during the WWII era. In Snyder’s future, trousers seem to have been adopted by the women at the same time that they were discarded by the men. The prosperity of the female cannot be defined by the rising and falling of skirts, so pants are the logical next step. Additionally, we begin to see a strong Oriental influence in Snyder’s designs, particularly in the adornment of tunics and inflated, untailored pants. However, since pushback is only natural, we see a colonial fashion revival as we move into the 1950’s.


The 1950’s sparked a revolution in fashion for both men and women, causing a throwback to the “glory days” of England. We can see influences from the Tudor and Imperialist Eras with cloaks, heeled shoes for men and women, as well as lace collars. Today we may see these items as inherently feminine, but in Snyder’s vision, the men were the only ones stern enough to enforce such a brave trend. In this society, masculinity is flaunted by the man’s ability to wear flashy clothing and still look masculine. Like a contest with oneself, it is a constant struggle to one-up yourself with even more daring and colorful clothing. It also demonstrates and equality of the sexes in a way, as competition in fashion was no longer reserved just for wealthy women, but was a possibility for the common man and woman as fashion between men and women became more similar and comparable to one another.

The examples provided for 1960 differ from previous because they depicted working men, rather than fashionistas of the future age. The policeman shown in the drawing for 1960 seems to have a very easy time of it, for no man’s person can be considered in danger from the mob with officers to protect them that habitually offer as many spikes and accessories as this policeman’s head displays. We may likewise suspect the military gentleman depicted in the image for 1965. It is not customary in the present day for army officers to affect umbrellas, but seventy years hence it may be found necessary to protect one’s head-dress. As government officials, it seems only logical to keep the trend of revival going, nodding to the renaissance era. This renaissance style is will begin trending in the 1960’s during the rebirth of society, Snyder predicts. This age of rebirth continues into the 1970’s as we see a turn for the better. Though, none of us are likely to be caught dead wearing neckties of this magnitude. We see a return to the streamlined trouser, as well as a new, feminine spin to the tail coat with its long, exaggerated train perfect for strutting it on the runway or to the grocery store. There is even a militaristic aspect to these suits, but with an edge of hilarity common of our new age.




After the 1970’s, only two images remain. Perhaps Snyder’s imagination grew tired, but this did not keep him from holding back on these last two designs. All that can be said of the male figure from 1984 is the continuation of accessories for men, which seem to grow larger and larger as the century goes on. However, the women of the 1980’s show a new kind of silhouette that contours women’s bodies, something that has been absent from the collection until now. This emergence of bodycon was seen prior to 1980 in reality, but Snyder’s expectation is still significant in his interpretation of the future of females and their rights. Additionally, we again see the common theme of revived haberdashery, combining styles from three different centuries into one grotesquely amazing hat.
The final image brings us into the 1990’s and thus, the end of the century. The male design is clearly influenced by the East, marking the beginning of the global age. Snyder predicted that as time continues, fashion will become more and more cohesive globally. Trends will go beyond the bounds of country and will be found in different corners of the world. The man in the photo is quite pensive as he thinks intensely and puffs on his pipe, but we can only guess if he knew what he looked like he might be thinking a little less about the state of the global economy and more about his reputation in fashion.
At the end of the article Snyder notes his general prediction and logic for the future of fashion: “The 17th century is famous as the brown century; the 18th is with us the yellow century; and the 19th we term the black century. I am asked my opinion of the 20th century. It is motley. It has seen the apotheosis of color. Yet in worshiping color we do not confound the order of things. As is the 20th, so was the 15th.” From a glance, Snyder’s predictions look like a French clown’s dreamscape, but in reality this circus of fashion is based on logical claims about the future. The idea that fashion is often recycled with a combination of current, revolutionary ideals is not a new one, but it goes to show the difficulty in applying theory to practice and predictions to reality.

February: The Month of Red

February is the month of red. Valentines Day, Chinese New year, and heart health month are all focused around this very particular color. Why is it so popular? What is its meaning behind each of the celebrations? How has the color impacted the fashion world as well?

Valentine’s Day is full of big red, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, stuffed bears with red and pink bows, and vibrant red roses. In the case of this holiday, red can be seen as a symbol of love and a way of expressing it. The holiday became big in the 1840s after the exchange of valentine cards and gifts began. Soon after, February 14th became a major consumer holiday. Today, over 20 million dollars is spent on Valentine’s Day alone. According to science, red has a psychological effect on our minds. It makes us appear to be more confident and happier.  The color is also associated with beating hearts and the rushing of blood. When attraction occurs, chemical reactions take place, causing the heart to pump faster and our face to turn a rosy red.

The other holiday in February is Chinese New Year. There are two color of the Chinese New Year: Red and Gold. However, today we will focus on red only. It stands for happiness and good fortune in the forth coming year. One tradition is to place red signs or paint on doors and windows before the holiday takes place. Red also helps to scare away any spirits in the Chinese culture. So, they will have fire, which color symbol is red, and dress completely in red to keep the spirits away. It is also very common to pass out red envelopes, also called “Lai See”. They are given to young single individuals, employees, and children and filled with money of an even number. An even number is for good luck, but an odd number would signify a funeral, which would not quite a symbol of good luck.

The American Heart Association created an initiative called “Go Red for Women” in order to increase the awareness of heart health in women. With this movement, it is more than wearing red or learning about heart health. It is about women taking control of their life and  health and creating an incentive for women everywhere to take their own life’s health into consideration. Why red? Well once again, red is often associated with the color of our beating heart.

Red has also made it in the heart of fashion everywhere. It is a sign of elegance and sophistication and is perhaps the largest used color in all of fashion and cinema. Unforgettable actresses like Elizabeth Taylor or Sophia Loren made it even more popular in the mid 20th century. It was even the favorite color of the ever so famous designer – Arnold Scaasi.

The Historic Clothing and Textile Collection here at Ohio State has several pieces within storage worthy of showcasing this February.

To the right a red Christian Dior wool tweed dress from 1961. Christian Dior talked about the color red. “A very energetic and beneficial color. It is the color of life. I love red and i think it suits almost every complexion. It is good for any time, too. There is definitely red for everyone.”


To the left is red polkda dot dress form 1953-1959. It is a silk shantung zip front dress with white circle dot and stiff non-woven underlying in full circle gored skirt.





1987 red Arnold Scaasi cocktail dress. Red was Scaasi’s Favorite color.


Charles Kleibacker silk taffeta dress. 1980-1984


















Manoharan, Thulaise.(2016). Retrieved from www.herculture.com

Hoylen, Julie. Retrieved from www.sensationalcolor.com