Fashion Photos from 1907

Detail of fashion photograph from Delineator, December 1907. The original photo was probably hand tinted.

Fashion plate, Delineator, Dec. 1907. Left, Butterick dress 1610; right, bodice/waist 1646 with skirt 1660.

Dress 1610 was described as “elephant gray” in this picture, but the line drawings suggested other versions.

Detail of dress 1610, bodice/waist.

The face and the feather boa confirm that this is a photo, not a drawing.

The detail of feathers and lace confirm that this is a tinted photo, not a drawing.

Skirt detail, Butterick dress 1610.

The pattern included the waist (blouse,) over-blouse, and skirt.

Pattern 1610 description, Dec. Page 874.

The drawing of dress 1610 on page 874 shows very different options, and suggests two other color and fabric suggestions as well:

Left, 1610 in “amethyst chiffon velvet” with ruffled sleeves; Right, in “sherry-color crepe meteor with blue and gold embroidery.”

The tiny waist and extreme posture shown in the drawn illustration are exaggerations, as we see from the photograph of the same dress on a normal woman:

Butterick 1610, photo and fashion drawing.

The ensemble on the right, which was shown in a photo in the color plate, must have had fewer pattern variations, because the drawings on page 874 only illustrate back and side views.

Fashion plate, Delineator, Dec. 1907. Right, bodice/waist 1646 with skirt 1660.

Detail of Butterick skirt 1660, Dec. 1907. Delineator.

Side view drawing of skirt 1660.

Back view of skirt 1660.

Pattern description of Butterick skirt 1660. Delineator, Dec.1907, page 876.

Detail of fashion photograph from Delineator, December 1907. Waist 1646.

Back view drawing of waist 1646.

Waist 1646 description p. 876

I was hoping to show a few examples and then just give you a link to some 1907 Delineators, but…. Sadly, not all issues of Butterick’s Delineator from 1907 are available on Googles’ Hathi Trust site. This link will take you to the Hathi search page.

(Maddeningly, Google has assigned its own page numbers rather than the original page numbers, which is a problem because, in 1907, Delineator didn’t put the month of the issue on the pages, and Delineator did number its volumes (six months per volume) with consecutive page numbers (e.g., page 1 on January 1, and page 998 in June.) Figuring out which month you are reading requires you to search the little dark box at the top left for the table of contents for each month. On the other hand, I found photos of some dresses in the August issue, but the pattern information for them was in the March (?) issue. I simply typed the pattern number (e.g., 9909) into the text search box for Volume 69, and “Bingo!”

More color photos from Delineator at Hathi Trust.

More about these later….

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The Pledge

https://rememberedsummers.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/flag-float-1960ish060.jpg

Fourth of July Float, Redwood City parade. Early 1960s.

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Fourth of July Float made by the Foresters Lodge. Redwood City, CA late 1940s.

My father helped to build this float, so I got to sit front and center:https://rememberedsummers.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/foresters-bklt-col-rest500-float-with-star-group.jpg

If you’re not in your seventies, you may not remember when the Pledge of Allegiance was changed. I was in first grade when I first memorized it, and the word “indivisible” was quite a big one for a first grader. On Flag Day, June 14th, 1954, two new words were introduced into the pledge. When we started school that September, our teacher told us that we would now be saying “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

To this day, when I say the Pledge of Allegiance I have to give some thought to whether the words “under God” come before or after the word “indivisible.” The wonderful thing about putting hand on heart and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is the reminder that we Americans stand for “liberty and justice for all.” For all. 

Fourth of July Float, Redwood City, CA, early 1960s.

The other wonderful thing I learned in first grade was how to read. As I grew older, I read a lot of books and articles that were not part of our normal high school curriculum. I became aware that our behavior as a nation didn’t always match our stated principles. In college I was assigned a speech on the topic of the Vietnam War. My college library had a collection of Department of State bulletins, and what I read there was shocking to me. It turns out that we believed in free elections in other countries — unless they’re not going to turn out the way we want them to turn out. That was pretty disillusioning. Later, I Iearned that the passage of fair housing laws didn’t immediately translate into fair housing practices.  And I learned that that US policy in South America was also occasionally far from the ideals stated in our Pledge of Allegiance. 

That doesn’t mean the ideals have anything wrong with them. It doesn’t mean they are unattainable. The United States is still a work in progress. Maybe I’m still naive, but when I say the words “with liberty and justice for all,” I mean them. I still think that’s a pretty good idea.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
It’s election day. Please, can we all say those words today and mean them?

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October Treats (Videos)

I didn’t intend this picture to look menacing. I just needed to balance the interesting curved stem with something, and my mother’s old knife was handy. Besides, it was fun to paint.

For those interested primarily in fashion, I recommend two YouTube videos to watch:

Doris Raymond (her store is The Way We Wore) shares close-up details of Paco Rabanne garments (and look-alikes) from her collection. She also has videos of some YSL for Dior pieces and many other designer pieces including jewelry and accessories. I didn’t know that Rabanne sold kits for those disc dresses!

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco have kindly put an 18 minute tour of the Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving exhibit online.

Photograph of Frida Kahlo by Edward Weston, part of the FAMSF Kahlo exhibit.

Some rooms of Frieda Kahlo’s Blue House (La Casa Azul /Frida Kahlo Museum) were kept sealed until 50 years after her death. They contained thousands of photographs and much of her clothing, which has generously been on loan to the De Young Museum in San Francisco until February 7, 2021. COVID restrictions have been eased, and it is now possible to visit the exhibit. But, if you can’t travel to San Francisco, you can enjoy the virtual tour (and perhaps some museum publications.) Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived in San Francisco in the 1930s, and she was often photographed there.

Other YouTube Videos that have cheered me in October:

I’ve been interested in art for a long time, and because I physically can’t do many of the things that used to fill my days — like walking or research or writing — I’ve been watching three specific young artists on YouTube. Now that I’m no longer teaching or working in costume shops, I miss the company of people in their twenties.  Besides, it’s much easier (but not as satisfying) to watch other people painting for forty hours — especially when the painting process can be speeded up into a neat ten or twenty minutes!

So I began watching these three inspiring young men, whom I found by chance, and watching them in no particular order: Ten Hundred (aka TENHUN), SLEW, and STRUTHLESS.

Why would a seventy-five year old woman choose to spend hours and days with three guys who love graffiti, wear their baseball caps** backwards, and are lavishly tattooed?

Because they are very skilled, very serious about their work, incredibly hard-working, and good teachers.

SLEW (Samuel Lewis) dresses like he just jumped off a skateboard, and half his art doesn’t appeal to me at all — but the other half documents his progress in fine art drawing and oil painting. (You can skip the ads to see the videos.) He is very serious about improving his art. Also, like my other two recommendations, he is serious about making good videos — and like them, he understands that the ability to organize information is essential to a good teacher.

Ten Hundred (Peter Robinson) is a muralist, but also an entrepreneur. He paints, he teaches, he sells a line of merchandise,  he makes well-produced videos, and, by working very hard, he is making a living as an artist. Besides, I do enjoy his use of color — his murals have a joyful quality not always found in street art. The line between graffiti and urban art is sometimes a little blurry — but I learned (from his European mural painting tour) ( get past the ads….) that there is an organization (Global Street Art) which seeks to find legitimate places for outdoor art, where the murals are wanted and appreciated; it also connects muralists so they can collaborate on public pieces. Anyone who thinks being an artist doesn’t require “real” work or self-discipline should watch Ten Hun painting a commissioned mural or seeing how hard he worked to earn an extra $5000 to pay a medical bill: “90+ Art Pieces in 4 Days.”

Ten Hun and SLEW collaborated on a joint portrait mural here.

STRUTHLESS (Campbell Walker) is an Aussie cartoonist and — perhaps oddly — his videos are more about self-improvement than his own art process, although his series of cartoon characters drawn in the styles of ten different artists are quite amusing. He is a born teacher — producing  well thought out videos, sharing good advice about art and life with candor and a sense of humor. One video (“The drawing advice that changed my life”) convinced this white-haired old lady that I could learn a lot from this under-thirty guy in the ball cap and colorful tattoos. Any writer or creative artist should watch this video. (Besides, have you ever heard of a  “bin chicken?”) If you find that your perfectionism or procrastination keep you from starting to write or draw, STRUTHLESS gives very good advice. Really serious advice, given with tremendous honesty but no self-pity, can be found in “The Five Questions the Changed My Life.” (Trigger warning for abuse survivors like STRUTHLESS….) This is a human being trying to help others, and I admire him very much. Plus, he is entertaining….

I spent many hours over the past week watching these three very young men (SLEW is 24) giving advice, sharing what they’ve learned, working very hard, using exceptional self-discipline to carve out a living by making the art they want to make.

It was only by chance, as I watched video after video, that I realized: at least two of these admirable young men are recovering addicts. They turned their lives around.  They are doing good and doing well.

EDIT Oct.31, 2020: I forgot to include a link to How Art Saved My Life.

If you’re feeling desperate for good news, maybe spending time with them will cheer you up as it did me.

**STRUTHLESS wears his cap with the bill in front. He humorously explains why in “How to Go Bald in Your Twenties.”

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Workhouse Fashion

Clothing ad for Gudrun Sjoden catalog, from New Yorker magazine, October 12, 2020.

I know this has been a horrible year — worldwide. But, in the category of WTF (“What the Fashion? ! ?”) ideas, this one struck me as inexplicable. Fashion takes its inspiration from strange sources, but do we really want to dress like the children in a Victorian workhouse?

Is that the zeitgeist for 2020? The Daily Mail posted a slideshow of “Evocative Pictures” from the Crumpsall Workhouse in Manchester, circa 1897. This how the old, the destitute, the orphans and the sick were housed and dressed 120 years ago. One reason aged couples and families avoided the relative safety of the workhouse was that they would be separated — men and boys from women and girls.

The 21st century hasn’t offered much improvement for the destitute, but our times are sufficiently depressing without dressing like Victorian orphans….

Victorian workhouses cropped children’s hair to prevent lice from spreading. Nice detail, photo stylists!

Time for me to get out of these gray pajamas and into the brightest clothes in my closet!

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Recommended Reading: Mysteries for Armchair Travelers

Me, years ago. I was perfectly happy at this moment: so many possibilities for walking in England. I don’t get around much any more….

This isn’t about fashion history. It’s about some books that opened new parts of the world to me. They are “light” reading — mystery novels set in parts of the world I will probably never visit. Usually, I don’t even try to “solve” the mystery (and I’m annoyed if I do guess who-dunnit without even trying.)
On my first trip to England, I was thrilled to find place names I knew from reading mysteries. (Norwood! “The Norwood Builder!”) I realized that, much as I love Sherlock Holmes for the characters, it was England — how it was different from California, what it was like in a different century, how people behaved in a different time and place — that I loved learning about.
In other words, I read mysteries for the local color and insights, rather than the plots.

I enjoy reading books about Australia. But I hate being plagued by insects (lethal or not,) I lived for years in a place with very high summer temperatures and am glad I left it, and I can’t go anywhere outdoors without sunscreen, hat, and gloves, so “Armchair Australia” suits me fine!

Armchair Detection in AustraliaMysteries by Arthur Upfield. Death of a Lake is a good place to start. You can listen to it on YouTube. Click here for all his titles.

Upfield was a Brit whose family was probably glad to see him off to Australia. Born in 1890, he served in WW I and then spent years odd-jobbing around Australia. When he describes miners or camels or back country sheep stations or swagmen or bush pilots or small town policemen, you know he is writing from experience (although I suspect he is also repeating stories he heard in drinking establishments….) His prose style is basic, but it gets the job done. In Death of a Lake he describes the last months of a lake which evaporates every twenty years or so; the effect on the people and wildlife, the twilights when the workmen wade into the water and struggle through a concentration of fish which are daily confined to ever smaller waters; the piling up of thousands of drought-starved rabbits against a rabbit-proof fence; the isolated shepherds, the hardship and opportunity of the outback, the toughness of the men and women who survive there. The mystery and cardboard characters hardly matter to me!

Upfield has great respect for the aboriginal peoples he met, and, although he does sometimes seem patronizing (he is a well-intentioned white man from a typical 19th century English background, writing in the 1930s and later,) he intends to present native Australians as worthy of respect. His detective is a half-aboriginal foundling who was given the unfortunate name of Napoleon Bonaparte (“Boney” to those he meets.) Boney has superior tracking skills and can easily pose as an itinerant swagman or horse–breaker, but he is highly educated and sometime poses as a businessman or successful rancher. However, it’s not Boney the detective that keeps me reading. It’s the details of life in the back country almost 100 years ago that fascinates me. (In one novel, Boney is riding to escape a wildfire; drops of  flaming alcohol drip off the tips of gum tree leaves….) There are vast salt-pans, flocks of parrots, rivers that dry up and then flood…. and the ability of tribal elders to communicate over vast distances, apparently by telepathy, which Upfield reports as fact. I believed him.

Armchair Travel to China and Tibet

I read a lot of non-fiction about China. Peter Hessler’s River Town is a good starting place. Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuschia Dunlop may change the way you think about food (Is texture as important as taste?) Dunlop is a chef who spent years in China learning to cook and to eat….) Foreign Babes in Beijing by Rachael DeWoskin is fun and offers cultural insights. For proof that an entire nation can slip into mass insanity, see Red Scarf Girl, a memoir about Mao’s Cultural Revolution. (None of these books is new.)

My Favorite Armchair Detection in China/Tibet: The Skull Mantra, by Elliot Pattison. The Skull Mantra (1999) is the first in a series, and it would be difficult to start with a later book, because there are many continuing characters. This series takes on the cultural conflicts between the ruling Communist Party and the Buddhist Tibetans, (and in other novels, with the Uighur Muslim people of the Urumchi/ Taklamakan desert regions.) These mysteries are well written, long and very dense, and will transport you to another world. Pattison respects the religious beliefs of his characters. His detective is ethnically Chinese, a policeman of integrity who was sentenced to a remote labor camp when he got too close to exposing a corrupt party official in Beijing. In Tibet, he is immersed in Buddhist culture — and required to solve a murder mystery without making his own situation worse by exposing unpleasant truths. Detection, compassion, and courage — extraordinary characters in an extraordinary Himalayan setting. Pattison is not kind to Chinese government policies towards ethnic minorities, but non-fiction histories (and current news reports) suggest he is not writing pure fiction. As in the Upfield books, there is an acceptance of spiritual events not usually found in conventional mysteries.

Armchair Detection in the America Southwest:  Mysteries by James D. Doss, beginning with The Shaman Sings. The Shaman is Southern Ute tribal member Daisy Perika, and in the early novels the central detective is non-native police chief Scott Parris.  However, Daisy’s nephew, (and Scott’s friend) Charlie Moon, former tribal policeman and eventual rancher, gradually came to dominate the books, which are often referred to as “the Charlie Moon series.”  Doss presents Daisy Perika’s supernatural abilities in a matter-of-fact way. She’s a complicated character — a devout Catholic, a shrewd survivor, a Ute shaman, and a crochety old lady who sometimes gets annoyed with the dead people who visit her asking for favors. These books often make me smile or laugh out loud. The humor is character-driven.  (Charlie Moon may be a great detective, but he doesn’t understand women, so his love life provides a few laughs.) The mysteries are satisfying, and if you enjoy Tony Hillerman’s Southwestern characters and settings, Doss’ books may be a very pleasant discovery for you — because Doss can be funny. And Daisy is a great character.

I didn’t read this series in order at first. I first got hooked by a novel in which a small-time crook is running from the teenage native girl he has seduced and from his no-longer loving ex-wife; forgetting how much money he has borrowed from his mother’s social security, he takes refuge at her house — where the three women tie him up and play poker to decide who will have the privilege of shooting  him…. (My kind of humor.) Doss’ style is quirky: Sometimes, trying to figure out exactly what’s going on is part of a Doss mystery. Quirky, but addictive.

Armchair Mysteries set in Apartheid-Era South Africa: Author: James H. McClure. Long before Trevor Noah wrote Born a Crime (highly recommended) these mysteries set in late 20th century South Africa presented the absurdist situation of two police detectives, partners who trust and respect each other, who have to conceal the equality they feel because their team might be broken up if their superiors discover it. The detective of Boer ancestry is paid a living wage and lives in a nice house in a white neighborhood; his partner’s family lives in a township with no running water, little electricity, sharing a tiny house with a dirt floor. He is insulted, callously disrespected, and has to be careful not to arrest a white woman…. but he carries a gun and is expected to put his life on the line like any other cop. I barely remember the mysteries — it was the mind-boggling circumstances of these men’s lives (and the bizarre South African culture revealed during their investigations) that I remember. Of course, much has changed since then….

Final mention: Botswana. The No. One Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith keeps on coming, thank heavens! I read these books for the pleasure of spending time with people I have come to care about. The cast of characters continues to grow, and most of them are memorable. If you can get this series in audiobook  format, they are read by an actress who knows the correct sounds and rhythms of Botswanan speech, which makes them a pleasure to listen to. One thing that used to get me out of my armchair for a walk (or on to a treadmill) is looking forward to the next chapter in a good book.  So, although not “armchair travel,” a walk with Precious Ramotswe as she seeks to restore balance to to her clients’ lives (while solving their mysteries) is always refreshing.

If there’s a mystery lover on your shopping list, they might enjoy some armchair travel mysteries. If you just need to get away from 2020 for a few hours, try them yourself.

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Mutton Dressed as Lamb?

Youthful puffed sleeves, McCall’s pattern 4547 circa 1975.

Last month, I received a letter which posed some interesting questions about fashion and age:

“I would like to ask you a question: In which era did the idea develop
that women after a certain age are not supposed to wear very feminine
designs such as puffed sleeves, slim waists, lots of lace, pastel
colours or patterns with flowers? As far as I know, there have almost in
every era been ideas about what women are supposed to wear at which age.
I know designs from the 1930s and 1940s showing dresses for different
ages, with wider waists for elder ladies. But I guess this just
corresponds to larger sizes, and probably a slim lady of 70 years could
then have worn dresses with slim waists.

“Anyway, it must have been an era when feminine designs were considered
attractive and youthful – perhaps the 1950s?

“I am 39 years old and I cannot imagine myself not wanting to wear these
designs anymore, when I will be older….”

Well, I can start by noting that men have been making fun of older women who didn’t dress their age for a long time.

Padded bottoms from Pinterest. 18th c. cartoon.

Historically, and in cartoons and literature (mostly made by men,) older women who dress as if they were sexy young things are ridiculed. The British expression (going back at least 200 years) for such a woman is “Mutton dressed as lamb.”

(A mutton is a fully mature sheep. Mutton chops have a strong, gamy taste and smell that lamb chops do not have. On the day when Lizzie Borden did or did not murder her parents, her breakfast was cold mutton soup….)

I.e., mutton dressed as lamb is not a good thing to be.

The old woman at left is ridiculed for attempting to dress as a young woman. Note the old man with a young beauty at far right….

The blog “Americanagefashion” is devoted to the topic of clothing for American women over 55.

“Dressing your age” is a thorny problem. The goal of using makeup and dressing to express your personality is always to look like your current self at your best. If we cling to the fashions and hair and makeup styles that made us look our best when we were 18 or 25, eventually we will look ridiculous to people who are actually that age.

Do Adjust Your Makeup

The idea is NOT to look like Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Maybelline ad, April 1929. My Aunt Dot still had a marcel wave in 1980.

In the 1980s, I used to see women on the bus who were still applying their makeup as they did in 1929.

Maybelline ad, December 1929.

Thinly penciled dark eyebrows (unrelated to hair color,) coal black eyeliner and tons of mascara (often applied badly, because they couldn’t see well without glasses [I now have this problem, myself,] dark red lips in a Cupid’s bow (extending far above their upper lip line) — these were women who were living in the past, and sadly oblivious to the changes in their faces and to the fact that “the fashion in faces” changes, too.

After teaching so many actors how to do an “age makeup” (including one actor in his 60s who was playing a 90 year old man,) I’m all too aware of the changes that come with age.  Cartilage continues to grow, so old people’s noses are often larger than they once were. Our lips tend to turn in with age, making them appear thinner. The space between the nose and upper lip may seem longer, and our eyebrows get closer to our eyes. The flesh above the eyes gets puffy and sometimes sags until it touches our eyelashes. In some cases, it impairs our vision. Some of us get under-eye bags or dark areas. Uneven skin tones and blotches may appear. (And I haven’t even mentioned how hard it is to apply eye makeup to wrinkled skin….) At 75, I currently need a 15X magnifying mirror to see what I’m doing, and that means I won’t see both eyes at the same time until I finish and put on my glasses. Often, I have to do some correcting to make both eyes look symmetrical!)

In short, we have to take a fresh look at ourselves every few years, and learn to apply makeup to the face we have now, not the face we remember.

Do Rethink Your Wardrobe Occasionally

As for dressing at sixty as you dressed at 27, well, if you always preferred classic styles and modest hemlines, you’ll probably be fine. (And I do consider jeans and shirts or knit tops to be as classic as suits and dresses.) However, extreme fashions don’t always age well.

Really wide padded shoulders from Givenchy. Vogue 2303, 1989.

I had some really flattering clothes in the 1980s & early 90s. But I gained 12 lbs one year, and by the time those clothes fit again, their huge shoulder pads were laughable. I could not possibly wear them to work — not when my job was telling other people —  actors — what to wear!

On the Other Hand

We’re probably lucky to be in an almost-anything-goes fashion era now, when hem length is not rigidly fixed, and mixing vintage and new is OK. Also, a woman with confidence and joie de vivre can often break the rules and look fabulous.

Twenty years ago, I was was waiting for a light to change when I saw a man and a woman walking together with their backs to me. She was wearing a black, brimmed hat (maybe crocheted?) with a black mini-dress, black hose, and knee high black suede boots. Her shining platinum blonde hair hung half-way to her waist. She was the embodiment of prosperous Hippie chic, circa 1967 -68. Suddenly she took a few dance steps, flung out her arms and twirled around. When I saw her face, I realized that her hair was not platinum. It was silver-white. She was a happy, smiling woman in her sixties. She was lively, flirtatious, and beautiful. She was breaking some of the “rules:” ‘dress your age, not younger’ and ‘don’t wear the styles that you wore when you were young.’ She was very attractive — because she was confident and joyous. Ari Seth Cohen would have photographed her if he saw her.

When and Why Dress in Black?

But to get back to the “when” part of the question, I have a lot of conjectures, and allowance for different cultural attitudes must be made. (E.g., are widows allowed to remarry in your culture? Is wearing trousers modest or immodest behavior in your country? Etc.) Also, many people are uncomfortable thinking of their parents and grandparents as sexually active….

Discouraging older women from wearing pastel colors or brightly flowered textiles may go back to Victorian/Edwardian mourning customs. By the time a woman was fifty, there was a very good chance that someone in her immediate family had died within the year. Grandparents, parents, aunt & uncles, possibly her husband…. Since wearing plain, black clothing for a year after the death of a close relative was customary, some women never got out of mourning. First a grandparent, then a parent, perhaps a sister or a child, …. Consequently, many older women just wore black all the time. I attended a church-sponsored Greek Picnic in the 1960s, and all the older women were wearing black. So were some teenagers.

[Lavender was the one pastel worn by Victorians and Edwardians while transitioning from black mourning to normal dress. But “lavender and old lace” were associated with age.]

Poor women don’t have a lot of clothing, so once they dyed all their clothes black after a death, they wore them until they wore out.

As for slim waists, I don’t think older women ever padded them! However, our bodies do change, and a thickening of the waist and loss of height are common. Multiple childbirths will also change a woman’s figure. Lynn Mally at Americanagefashion.com has written a lot about “half sizes” for aging female bodies.

When you’re older and you lose weight, it may come off in unexpected places. Even though I dropped many pounds a few years ago, my formerly hourglass waist is now bigger in relation to my hips and bust than it ever was before age 60 — but I had to alter some sagging trousers in back because my butt had disappeared!

Short puffy sleeves from Woman’s Home Companion, March 1936.

As for sleeves, many older women are self-conscious about our “bat wings:” just read a bit of this blog and you’ll know why older women prefer longer sleeves to sleeves that show our upper arms. When I lost 40 pounds at age 13, my skin shrank to fit immediately. Ditto when I lost weight at 40. But after a lifetime of gaining and losing weight, we can’t expect that automatic skin shrinkage in our 60s and 70s.  Now, if I want to fill out the loose skin on my arms, I need to build some muscles! So — short puffy sleeves lose their appeal. And elbow length puffy sleeves just remind me of the 1980s….

Laura Ashley pattern 8432 for McCall’s, dated 1983.  Been there, done that….

Of course, sex appeal comes into this problem. I’m old, now; but I have never consciously dressed with the hope of picking up a stranger and having sex with him that night. In fact, whenever a clearly intoxicated man “hit on me” at a party or in public, I usually wondered what I had done to send the wrong signal. (I usually concluded that he must have been wearing “Beer Goggles,” because I generally wore clothes that were entirely appropriate for office work or teaching school. My rare low-cut dress was strictly for parties at friends’ houses.)  So, how does a woman in her 60s or 70s dress “sexy” without seeming ridiculous? Well, I didn’t try to dress sexy in my 20s, so I’m not qualified to tell you how to do it at 75!  That said, good grooming, a positive attitude, and a sincere interest in the other person are always attractive…. but those qualities attract friends. Sexual attraction may be a different problem.

A book that helped me adjust to my changing role was Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style. I loved the first book he did, although by the time he made the film, some of his favorites (women with plenty of money) became stars who started to overshadow the many women who looked fabulous on a limited budget. Wearing fabulous and massive jewelry isn’t an option for most of us.

But a positive attitude doesn’t cost a cent.

 

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Filed under 1700s, 1800s-1830s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Edwardian fashions, Late Victorian fashions, Makeup & Lipstick, Musings

Thinking About Bad Apples

“Argy-Bargy,” watercolor by Susan Grote.

When I was making this painting, years ago, I was concentrating on choosing the right paint colors to layer to capture the green of the apples. But another part of my mind was thinking, “That apple in the corner is in BIG trouble.”

Recently, we’ve seen people on TV talking about “a few bad apples,” as if they were nothing to worry about. And that got me thinking about the origin of the expression, and about the importance of apples in the past.

I’m old enough to remember when fresh fruit was seasonal. We didn’t have fruits raised on the other side of the equator flown in to our local supermarket. Ordinary families didn’t get to eat strawberries in the fall, or tomatoes and melons in the dead of winter.

Back in the fifties, strawberries marked the coming of summer for me. In May, some gardeners we knew proudly offered me the chance to pick a few ripe ones, and my parents often drove fifteen or twenty miles to a “pick your own” strawberry farm. We picked a couple of lugs. because strawberries were only available for a few weeks. If you wanted that delicious, summery taste later in the year, you ate the strawberry jams or preserves that you had made in early summer.

What we now call “stone fruits” were also available, each in turn, during the summer. Peaches and apricots, easily bruised, were gorged on, then canned or made into jam and jelly. We canned cherries, too. We ate juicy plums while they were in season. (A dried prune is delicious, but nothing like the plum it came from.) Supermarket pears are now bred (like tomatoes) to survive shipping and storage, but pears used to be so delicate that each was wrapped in tissue paper and cradled in a special cardboard box, every pear in its own little nest.

Freezers were small in the fifties — big enough to hold two trays of ice cubes, a quart of ice cream, and eventually, a few “TV Dinners” — the first popular frozen meals for home consumption. But frozen fruit? Not really.

There were times, in the winter and early spring, when you might long for a fresh peach — but there weren’t any. The gift of a “Christmas orange” was special, because in relatively frost-free states like California and Florida, oranges ripened in December, and were shipped all over the States by train and truck. Fresh fruit in December! It was a rare, special treat.

Which brings me to the importance of apples. There were thousands of apple varieties, many with special properties. People ate Macintosh and Red Delicious; sour green “Pippin” apples were prized for baking into pies because they had a low water content (and the pie wouldn’t shrink much or get soggy.) Golden Delicious were good for making baked apples, and Granny Smiths were not too tart to be “eating apples,” but also good in pies. Those were just the popular supermarket apples. Gravensteins made excellent cider and applesauce. Other apples were valued because they lasted! Unlike the soft fruits (peaches, apricots, etc.) some apple varieties could be stored and eaten for months! Fresh fruit you could eat all winter! (The BBC gardening channel says that apple species which ripen in November may last though March if properly stored.)

People might store their apples in attics or cellars or barns: cool, dry, dark places. If you stored them properly, by the end of February when you got tired of eating meat, bread, and root vegetables, you could have a fresh apple  —  even apple pies! Apples were shipped all over the world in barrels — a treatment that no peach would survive!

And this is where we come to the old expression, “One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel.”

People noticed that one rotten apple would spread the rot to every apple touching it. If you didn’t find the rotting apple and get it — and the other apples contaminated by mold spores — out of your stored apples in time, the rot would eventually ruin them all.

That is why the apples chosen to be put into winter storage had to be carefully examined first; any flaw, like a bruise or a bird-peck, disqualified the apple, because it would rot and contaminate the others. (The BBC recommends storing apples with space between them so they don’t touch, or wrapping each apple in newspaper.)

And you couldn’t just store your apples, close the attic door, and expect to find them perfect when you needed one. Your stored apples had to be examined carefully every ten days or so.** Each apple was looked at, handled gently to avoid bruising, and any sign of “going bad” — damage or a rotten spot — meant that apple had to be removed immediately. (You could use it for some other purpose, but you couldn’t leave it to contaminate others.)

So, anyone who says “just a few rotten apples,” meaning “there’s no big problem” simply doesn’t understand the metaphor.

I don’t know how anyone can watch the slow death of George Floyd at the hands of four policemen and not admit that our police need to be better trained, and more accountable to civilian review boards. How many “excessive use of force” complaints have to accumulate before the officer is removed from public contact and given better training?  I have served on juries several times, and each time I was inspired by how hard a disparate *** group of people — none of whom wanted to be there — strove to render a fair judgment. If civilians can be trusted to do justice in civil and criminal trials, they can be trusted to do justice to our peace officers, most of whom are routinely asked to work overtime to the point of exhaustion, often for pay that doesn’t even allow them to live in the community they police. American police rarely get training in de-escalating a bad situation. They are expected to deal with the mentally ill — but without medical training. They are expected to resolve domestic disputes — but without special training. This is not necessarily the case in other countries. Heavily armed police are also not the norm everywhere. Of course, the United States has more guns than citizens — no wonder our police have to wear bulletproof vests.

But there is growing evidence that Black and other non- white Americans are more likely to end up dead after a police encounter than I am. And their lives matter. We are “equal under the law.” I’m a non-religious person living in a secular country, but passages of the Bible leap into my mind as often as passages of Shakespeare. Every time I see a photo of a group “taking a knee” in support of Black Lives Matter, I half expect the photo to be captioned “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice.” ****

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” — First Amendment, U.S. Constitution

Peaceable assembly, seeking redress for grievances — that’s as American as…. Apple pie.

Watercolor by Susan Grote.

 

** I believe I first read this in a book from the library — and no search has enabled me to find it again! I think it was a book written, by a woman then in her eighties, about ordinary life in the early 20th century. She explained things like how they dried laundry indoors in wet winter weather. One memory was that she would be scolded as a lazy and wasteful girl if she ever broke open an egg for cooking and neglected to run her finger around inside the shell to get every last drop of albumin out of it. I, too, was taught to do that — and only broke the habit when American eggs began to harbor salmonella.

*** American juries are not diverse enough, but we can fix that….

**** I studied the Douay-Rheims Bible rather than the King James translation, which uses the word “righteousness” instead of “justice”.

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Birth of the Three Piece Suit: October, 1666

How did men go from wearing suits like this:

Petticoat breeches, British, 1660. Victoria and Albert Museum; image from Boucher, 20,000 Years of Fashion.

… to wearing suits like this?

Man’s three piece suit illustrated in Esquire, Autumn, 1933.

Suit with petticoat breeches, from Boucher; 1666. You couldn’t have too many ribbons….

There aren’t many changes in fashion which can be dated to a specific moment, but the change from petticoat breeches to the trio of coat/jacket, matching breeches, and a matching or coordinating vest was inaugurated in England on Monday, October 15, 1666. It is considered to be the birth of the Three Piece Suit.

When Charles II was restored to the throne of England after years of Puritanical rule, the king brought with him the extravagant styles worn in European courts.

English King Charles II with his queen, 1662. Source: Cunnington: Costume in Pictures.

In October, 1666, Charles declared his intention to start a new fashion for men. Diarist Samuel Pepys held an official position in government and was present at the court of King Charles II on that day. When Pepys went home, he wrote in his diary for October 8:

“The King hath yesterday in Council declared his resolution of setting a fashion for clothes, which he will never alter. It will be a vest, I know not well how; but it is to teach the nobility thrift, and will do good.”

NOTE: About the word “vest:” The gulf between British and American English may be more confusing than usual, because clothing vocabulary is very subject to change. (For example, a “bodice,” i.e., the top section of a dress, began as “a pair of bodies,” meaning the two sides of a corset.) In 20th c. England, “vest” came to mean a sleeveless undergarment worn by men, while they called the garment which goes over the shirt but under the coat a “weskit” or “waistcoat.” However, in 1666, even in England, although the vest was worn under a coat, a “vest” was meant to be seen, and through the 18th century, a vest might even have sleeves. Perhaps we should think of Charles II’s “Persian vest” as a “vestment” or “clothing” rather than the waist-length garment the “vest” later became, especially in America.

 After a few years in England (and perhaps in a spirit of competition) Charles decided to break with the distinctly un-thrifty French fashions of Louis XIV’s court. (One way Louis kept his nobles from becoming too powerful was by forcing them to live at court and spend lavishly….) Here is King Louis in his petticoat breeches and cropped top:

King Louis XIV receiving Swiss Ambassadors, 1663 painting by Van Meulen. From Boucher’s 20,000 Years of Fashion.

Why a “Persian vest?” The English writer (and courtier) John Evelyn had returned from travels in the East in 1666, filled with enthusiasm for the men’s clothing he saw there. (See Barton’s Historic Costume for the Stage.)

Once King Charles II had declared his intention of starting a new fashion for men, his courtiers literally tried to “follow suit.” On Saturday, October 13, Pepys visited the Duke of York, who had just returned from hunting and was changing his clothes. “So I stood and saw him dress himself, and try on his vest, which is the King’s new fashion, and will be in it for good and all on Monday next, and the whole Court: it is a fashion, the King says; he will never change.”

On Monday, October 15, Pepys recorded “This day the King begins to put on his vest, and I did see several persons of the House of Lords and Commons too, great courtiers, who are in it; being a long cassocke close to the body, of black cloth, and pinked with white silke under it, and a coat over it, and the legs ruffled with black riband like a pigeon’s leg; and, upon the whole, I wish the King may keep it, for it is a very fine and handsome garment.

A gentleman in knee-length coat, long vest, and breeches, 1670. Source: Cunnington.

Fashion — even by royal decree — doesn’t change instantly, but after about 1670, petticoat breeches and short jackets were being replaced by the knee length coat, less voluminous breeches, and a waistcoat or vest that gradually got shorter — in relation to the coat — over the 18th century.

King Louis XIV and Family, painted in 1711. From Boucher: 20,000 Years of Fashion. The King’s vest matches his brown coat and breeches; the man at right wears a brocade vest with a red coat and matching red breeches.

“Attempts have been made to trace to Persia the origin of the coat which about 1670 ousted the short doublet from fashionable wardrobes. It is true that the first coats closely resembled the contemporary Persian garment, which in its turn had not changed much from the ancient Persian coat …. It is true also that Sir John Evelyn returned from Persia in 1666 enthusiastic about the native costume. (Pepys made an entry about it in that year.) Nevertheless it was four years after that date when the new garment actually replaced the short doublet at both French and English courts…. Be that as it may, here was a coat, and the history of masculine dress from that day to this is largely a record of the changes rung up on that essentially unchanged garment.” — Lucy Barton, Historic Costume for the Stage, page 276.

The progress of the three piece suit introduced by Charles II in 1666 is a gradual evolution. The vest gradually got shorter:

The vest or waistcoat of 1735 was still quite long, although not nearly as long as the coat. Cunnington.

This gentleman’s vest is still thigh length in 1785. (Boucher.)

During the French Revolution and the Directory, vests approached the waist. (Kybalova et al: Encyclopedie illustree du Costume and de la Mode.)

In the drawing above, the coat is cut away to show more of the legs — still in knee breeches. But the radical Revolutionaries were called thesans culottes,” because they didn’t wear breeches. They wore long trousers (pantalons.)

A “sans culotte” revolutionary drawn in 1793. Note his wooden shoes, or “sabots.” Source: Kybalovna, et al.

An actor dressed as a revolutionary, dated 1792 by Kybalova.

The coat is cut away to show just a bit of vest (stopping at the waist) and to expose tight, pale-colored breeches. (Cunnington) This is the ancestor of the modern “White Tie and Tails” formal wear.

After the revolution, when there was once again a French court, a gentleman might wear knee breeches for formal occasions and pantalons for more casual dress.

Two gentlemen, circa 1810 1811, from Kybalova’s Enc. illustree du Costume. The vest/waistcoat at right just reaches the waist. The pantalons are very tight.

In this illustration from 1872, Charles Dickens (left) wears a short frock coat with a waistcoat of different fabric and long trousers. Benjamin Disraeli (right) is wearing a suit of “dittoes:” a three piece suit made from one fabric.

Victorian gentlemen. The “suit” could be all one fabric (right) or two or three different fabrics. 1872. Cunnington.

These suits from 1933 came with matching vests. Esquire magazine.

But, for less formal or country occasions, a contrasting vest could be worn:

Gray suit worn with contrasting vest. Esquire, April 1934.

The King of Denmark also wore a contrasting vest — in 1785. (Styles worn at royal courts tended to be slow to change. Knee breeches were still worn at the British court in the 1900s, as this cigarette card from 1911 shows.

Clothing actually worn by King Frederick of Denmark, 1785. From Boucher. (museum photo, Rosenborg Castle.)

There’s a very good article about King Charles II and the introduction of the “Persian vest” here.

Sources for images in this blog post: 

Francois Boucher: 20,000 Years of Fashion

Phyllis Cunnington: Costume in Pictures

Lucy Barton, Historic Costume for the Stage

Ludmila Kybalova et al, Encyclopedie illustree du Costume et de la Mode (1970)

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Filed under 1700s, 1800s-1830s, 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Costumes for the 17th Century, Costumes for the 18th Century, Costumes for the 19th century, Menswear, Suits for Men

A Few Words on Fashion from Jane Austen

Public domain image courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

This passage about fashion is from Northanger Abbey. First published in 1811, it was written in 1798. I bolded the “quotable bits.”

“[Catherine] went home very happy. The morning had answered all her hopes, and the evening of the following day was now the object of expectation, the future good. What gown and what head-dress she should wear on the occasion became her chief concern. She cannot be justified in it. Dress is at all times a frivolous distinction, and excessive solicitude about it often destroys its own aim. Catherine knew all this very well; her great aunt had read her a lecture on the subject only the Christmas before; and yet she lay awake ten minutes on Wednesday night debating between her spotted and her tamboured muslin, and nothing but the shortness of time prevented her from buying a new one for the evening. This would have been an error in judgment, great though not uncommon, from which one of the other sex rather than her own, a brother rather than a great aunt, might have warned her, for man only can be aware of the insensibility of man toward a new gown. 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 something of shabbiness or impropriety will be most endearing to the latter. But not one of these grave reflections troubled the tranquillity of Catherine.”

This 1790s evening dress in the Met collection has delicate beading and sequin embroidery. Follow this link for several views.

Late 1790 dress embroidered with beads and sequins. Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

The embroidered hem. Later 1790s.

This British dress circa 1796 to 1798 is in the Metropolitan museum collection. You can see several views, all large scale-able. Follow this link and click on the small images to see front, back, side, and bodice details.

British dress in Met collection. Circa 1798.

Bodice details, British dress in Met collection.

This French dress of 1797-98 is a printed muslin. Does it have a separate bodice? Visit the Met Collection to see bigger images.

French dress in collection of the Metropolitan Museum, dated 1797-98.

A closer view of the printed fabric on the French dress from 1797-98.

For more about Muslin dresses and other things “Austen,” I recommend the blog, Jane Austen’s World. Click here for the post showing various muslin dresses.

What I learned today: This empire dress, embroidered with a wool chain stitch, is a “tamboured muslin!”

Empire dress, early 1800’s, with wool embroidery at hem in three shades of brown. Private collection. Sadly, moths have eaten some of the wool.

The Met also has a great collection of fashion plates, and you can zoom in for the details. Here’s a link to the ones from 1790-1799.

 

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Why I Haven’t Been Witnessing Much Fashion Lately….

Collage art by my friend Karen.

I have not been posting nearly as often as I used to — not because I’m losing interest, or because of quarantine, but because I’m having trouble with my hands. I love this collage that Karen sent me — the vintage athletic gear, the “bird-brained” woman, and especially the boxing gloves. She is undefeated by those clumsy gloves, so she’s a role model for me. I don’t have carpal tunnel problems, I have severe osteo-arthritis. I am currently wearing a brace on both hands!

What I’m wearing: A hand and wrist brace, a cane, and my new microphone headset. I need to learn to talk to my computer.

I “got old” very suddenly in the past year. The arthritis in my knees, which was not a real problem before, went from “living with it” to “severe.” For the first time, I need a cane to walk, and stairs are very difficult, which made it nearly impossible to take public transportation to the Main Library, even while it was still open. I have notebooks full of Delineator pages I want to photograph, but, by October, I could no longer spend hours standing near the window and photographing them in natural light. I have plenty of images I took before, still waiting to be posted and enjoyed; and for a few months I was able to sit in the recliner or at the kitchen table and work on them. I’m currently on track for a knee replacement (COVID permitting,) but the greatest impact on my life has been the fact that using a cane in my right hand triggered arthritis there, too. Right-clicking the mouse (which I do hundreds of times while preparing and resizing images for this blog) has to be limited.

My friend Sharon lives in the Napa valley wine country, where one tourist attraction was a train that served gourmet meals and wines while traveling past the vineyards. Whenever we exchange letters about our problems and annoyances, she says we are “taking a ride on the Whine Train.”

I’m a very fortunate person, with the freedom to read and write and research whatever takes my fancy, so I don’t want to ride the Whine Train today. Let’s just say I want to explain why I haven’t been posting regularly, and to say I will learn how to work around these inconveniences.

I need to learn to use dictation to write posts, (see the microphone image above) and I’ll need to be disciplined about the number of images I use. I used to format a collection of images with a common theme and write the post “around” them. I always found more images than I expected, so my posts were always longer than recommended. Being forced to be more selective may improve the blog quite a lot! (I’ve always said, “Writing is easy. Editing is hard!”)

Thank you to all my readers and commenters: I learn so much from you, and you are always kind. Please bear with me as I figure out some new strategies, and if I accidentally dictate a few swear words — apologies in advance.

Meanwhile: I highly recommend a visit to A la Recherche des Modes Perdues. Her most recent post covers some French fashion magazines from the years 1895 to 1899, with many wonderful illustrations. I copied the link after turning on the English translation; if  the post comes up in French, you should have a translation option at the top of your screen. This was a period of very rapid fashion change, from the extreme “leg of mutton” sleeves of 1895 to the softer, flowing Art Nouveau styles of the turn of the century. Notice the lily or trumpet-vine skirts of 1898.  Bathing suits 1895 to 1899 are included. You’ll find a change from the usual English-language blog images in this fashion history blog!

 

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