Category Archives: Fashion

The fashionable history of social distancing



Crinolines, by design, made physical contact nearly impossible.
Hulton Archive/Stringer via Getty Images

Einav Rabinovitch-Fox, Case Western Reserve University

As the world grapples with the coronavirus outbreak, “social distancing” has become a buzzword of these strange times.

Instead of stockpiling food or rushing to the hospital, authorities are saying social distancing – deliberately increasing the physical space between people – is the best way ordinary people can help “flatten the curve” and stem the spread of the virus.

Fashion might not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of isolation strategies. But as a historian who writes about the political and cultural meanings of clothing, I know that fashion can play an important role in the project of social distancing, whether the space created helps solve a health crisis or keep away pesky suitors.

Clothing has long served as a useful way to mitigate close contact and unnecessary exposure. In this current crisis, face masks have become a fashion accessory that signals, “stay away.”

A copper engraving of a plague doctor in 17th-century Rome.
Wikimedia Commons

Fashion also proved to be handy during past epidemics such as the bubonic plague, when doctors wore pointed, bird-like masks as a way to keep their distance from sick patients. Some lepers were forced to wear a heart on their clothes and don bells or clappers to warn others of their presence.

However, more often than not, it doesn’t take a worldwide pandemic for people to want to keep others at arm’s length.

In the past, maintaining distance – especially between genders, classes and races – was an important aspect of social gatherings and public life. Social distancing didn’t have anything to do with isolation or health; it was about etiquette and class. And fashion was the perfect tool.

Take the Victorian-era “crinoline.” This large, voluminous skirt, which became fashionable in the mid-19th century, was used to create a barrier between the genders in social settings.

While the origins of this trend can be traced to the 15th-century Spanish court, these voluminous skirts became a marker of class in the 18th century. Only those privileged enough to avoid household chores could wear them; you needed a house with enough space to be able to comfortably move from room to room, along with a servant to help you put it on. The bigger your skirt, the higher your status.

A satirical comic pokes fun at the ballooning crinolines of the mid-19th century.
Wikimedia Commons

In the 1850s and 1860s, more middle-class women started wearing the crinoline as caged hoop skirts started being mass-produced. Soon, “Crinolinemania” swept the fashion world.

Despite critiques by dress reformers who saw it as another tool to oppress women’s mobility and freedom, the large hoop skirt was a sophisticated way of maintaining women’s social safety. The crinoline mandated that a potential suitor – or, worse yet, a stranger – would keep a safe distance from a woman’s body and cleavage.

Although these skirts probably inadvertently helped mitigate the dangers of the era’s smallpox and cholera outbreaks, crinolines could be a health hazard: Many women burned to death after their skirts caught fire. By the 1870s, the crinoline gave way to the bustle, which only emphasized the fullness of the skirt on the posterior.

Women nonetheless continued to use fashion as a weapon against unwanted male attention. As skirts got narrower in the 1890s and early 1900s, large hats – and, more importantly, hat pins, which were sharp metal needles used to fasten the hats – offered women the protection from harassers that crinolines once gave.

As for keeping healthy, germ theory and a better understanding of hygiene led to the popularization of face masks – very similar to the ones we use today – during the Spanish flu. And while the need for women to keep their distance from pesky suitors remained, hats were used more to keep masks intact than to push strangers away.

Today, it isn’t clear whether the coronavirus will lead to new styles and accessories. Perhaps we’ll see the rise of novel forms of protective outerwear, like the “wearable shield” that one Chinese company developed.

But for now, it seems most likely that we’ll all just continue wearing pajamas.

[You need to understand the coronavirus pandemic, and we can help. Read our newsletter.]The Conversation

Einav Rabinovitch-Fox, Visiting Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


The erotic theatre of the pool edge: a short history of female swimwear



Women at Brisbane’s Oasis Swimming Pool, January 1950.
Brisbane City Council, CC BY-NC

Lydia Edwards, Edith Cowan University

Human beings have a surprisingly long relationship with the concept of swimwear. After all, the first heated swimming pool is believed to have been built by Gaius Maecenas of Rome in the 1st century BC.

Before the early 1800s, it was relatively common to swim either nude or simply in your underwear. When communal swimming baths became more popular and prevalent in the mid-19th century, decorum demanded men and women cover their modesty with garments made specially for the purpose. Women covered up with cotton or wool bathing dresses, drawers, and sometimes even stockings.

A women’s swimsuit from the 1870s.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

While seeming ungainly today, these impractical garments must have been liberating for women used to corsets and long, hampering skirts worn over multiple petticoats. By their very nature these “swimming suits” also threatened entrenched ideas around feminine activity (or lack thereof), perhaps suggesting women who swam energetically could no longer be considered “the weaker sex”.

Nonetheless, modesty presided above all else during this period, and it wasn’t until women began to swim competitively that change began.

A scandalous arrest

Water, particularly the beach, has been described by fashion scholars Harold Koda and Richard Martin as the “great proscenium of twentieth-century dress” – a statement that encourages us to rethink the importance of swimwear in our everyday dress and lifestyles.

In 1907, Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman was arrested on Revere Beach, Massachusetts, for wearing a one-piece bathing suit in public. This garment was a sporting necessity, and fellow athletes successfully championed a skirtless, sleeveless one-piece for the 1912 Olympics.

Annette Kellerman demonstrating her diving skills at Adelaide’s Glenelg baths, 1905.
State Library of South Australia

Kellerman’s incredible figure was admired as much as her actions were berated, and she was known to strip down to her bathing costume in all-female public lectures, proving a healthy lifestyle (rather than a corset) was to thank for her silhouette.

“If more girls would swim and dance and care for athletics”, she commented in 1910, “instead of rushing into matrimony as the only joy in the world, there’d be fewer divorces”.

The new one-piece contributed hugely to what has been described as the “erotic theatre” of the pool edge: swimwear is an item of both form and function, and so the pool or sea is an acceptable space to bare all.

Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie

The introduction of elastic yarn in the 1930s created a fabric that clung to the body and enabled risqué designs.

The influence of the Hollywood starlet, lying immaculate (and dry) by a sparkling pool sowed the seed swimwear need have nothing to do with exercise. It could instead suggest leisure and luxury: the embodiment of a society now used to annual holidays.

The 1940s introduced what we now recognise as the bikini, and the 50s saw iconic portrayals of swimsuits worn by the likes of Esther Williams and Marilyn Monroe.

A young Marilyn Monroe.
Wikimedia Commons

The swinging 60s opened with Brian Hyland’s Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, and further promotion through the Bond franchise firmly cemented the bikini’s erotic prowess.

Soon, swimwear’s eroticism was being used by some to promote ideals of gender equality and acceptance.

In 1964, Austrian-American designer Rudi Gernreich introduced his notorious “Monokini”, a bathing suit featuring two skinny straps just grazing the breasts.

Gernreich hoped the suit would challenge existing prudishness and shame around the nude female body. His plan backfired. From its birth, the press described the monokini as controversial – and, although it sold well, it never became conventional swimwear.

The 1970s and 80s welcomed fashionable suits and bikinis with less internal structuring, fitting the silhouette of the decade. Fashionable first and practical second, they could still withstand a certain amount of sun, sand and chlorine.

A protest symbol

Swimming, fashion, and baring all are not mutually exclusive.

“Rashies” or “rash guards” (so-called because they protect the wearer from rashes and sunburn), are long-sleeved waterproof shirts that first originated as surfwear. In countries like Australia with prominent beach culture and harsh weather the garment has grown in popularity.

In 2004, Australian designer Aheda Zanetti, inspired by the increasing presence of Muslim women in Australian sports (especially swimming), created the “burkini”. Acting as a kind of lightweight wetsuit, the garment covers the entire body and comes in a variety of styles and colours.

The burkini in action.
Aheda Zanettii

The style came under intense scrutiny in 2016 when several French municipalities banned the burkini in line with the country’s secular laws (it had banned the wearing of a burqa and niqab three years earlier).

It doesn’t seem to matter whether women’s swimsuits bare-all or cover-all: those wearing them will still be judged. But much as the shift from bulky dresses to lean one-pieces opened up new opportunities for women in the water, this latest suit also makes the beach lifestyle more accessible, with wearers remaining both cool and UV-protected.

With our “house on fire”, as Thunberg eloquently put it, we may be seeing more swimsuit innovation heading our way as a matter of necessity.The Conversation

Lydia Edwards, Fashion historian, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


A brief history of briefs – and how technology is transforming underpants


File 20180712 27039 16jn52t.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Underpants have a long history and, it seems, a bold future.
shutterstock

Alana Clifton-Cunningham, University of Technology Sydney

Underpants. We tend not to talk about them but they are a fact of life (unless you go commando). Briefs have a fascinating history and are now being transformed by technology, with high-performance undies that claim to do everything from filtering flatulence to emitting soothing vibrations.

An Egyptian loincloth.
Wikimedia Commons

The first type of underpant was the loincloth worn by ancient Egyptians. Known as a schenti, it was made from woven materials, commonly cotton and flax, kept in place with a belt. The lower classes and slaves were almost naked, so technically this loincloth was often “outerwear”. But Egyptian art from 1189 BC to 1077 BC in the Valley of the Queens shows pharaohs wearing sheer outer garments, rendering the loincloth a type of underpant.

In Europe, during the Middle Ages (500-1500 AD), underwear consisted of a shirt made of fine linen or cotton for both men and women. A form of underpant returned during the 15th and 16th centuries, when men’s leg-hose were bifurcated (split in two).

To provide extra protection for the male genitalia, a padded codpiece was added. The codpiece also served as a symbol of sexual energy, designed to enhance rather than conceal the genital area.

Jakob Seisenegger’s Portrait of Emperor Charles V with Dog (1500-1558) also features a prominent codpiece.
Wikimedia Commons

The arrival of drawers

In the early to mid 19th century, both men and women wore bifurcated drawers with separate legs – a loose type of knee-length trousers suspended from the waist. This simple style of underpant made relieving oneself more manageable, especially if several layers of petticoats or breeches were worn.

Woman’s batiste lace-trimmed drawers, circa 1896.
Wikimedia Commons

Closed crotched underpants for women (pantalettes) emerged in the mid to late 19th century. In 1882, dress reformer Dr Gustave Jaeger argued that wearing natural woollen fibres next to the skin would help disperse bodily poisons by allowing the skin to breathe. He also felt the elasticised qualities of knitted garments were more likely to promote exercise.

Woollen all-in-one, cream woman’s long johns; made in England, date unknown.
Wikimedia Commons

Also in the 19th century, the popularity of long-legged trousers for men led to a change in men’s underpants, with hose (long johns) extending to the ankle. These were made of silk for the wealthy and flannel, or later wool, for the masses.

For women in the early 1900s, getting dressed involved multiple layers of undergarments including chemise and drawers followed by a constrictive corset. During the first world war more women undertook physical labour in factories, mines and farms, and thus needed utilitarian garments. The silhouette of outerwear such as loose trousers and boiler suits paved the way for knickers, which women began wearing from around 1916. From the 1920s, the corset was gradually replaced by less restrictive elasticated versions such as the girdle and “step-ins” gradually replaced the corset.

Latex, a rubber yarn introduced in 1930, allowed stretch undergarments to become more figure-hugging. These eventually evolved into underpant styles similar to those worn today. In 1938, after the invention of the synthetic fibre nylon, lightweight easy-to-launder underwear started to appear.

Shorter, crotch-length underpants or trunks for men appeared after 1945. In 1959, a new man-made elastomeric fibre called Lycra™ was invented. Combined with cotton or nylon, it was strong, stretchable and recovered well. The result was more body-conscious underpants for men and women.

Underpants have become more form-fitting.
BishopA4 XTG_Extreme_Game/Wikimedia Commons

In the more permissive 1960s, underpants became briefer for both sexes and the Y-front was largely eliminated from men’s undies. By the 1970s, underpants were virtually seamless. (The thong, or G-string, I would argue, is hard to define as an underpant – its chief popularity seems to be that it offers wearers an invisible pant line.)

Undulating futures

With advancements in fibre technologies and knitting manufacturing, underpants today can be as unassuming as a pair of Aussie Bonds briefs, or high-tech with the inclusion of haptic communication.

Union Jack briefs.
Wikimedia commons

For instance, Sydney-born, NY-based company Wearable-X has teamed with condom manufacturer Durex to create interactive underwear called Fundawear. Fundawear has a “vibrating touch” that can be transferred from anywhere in the world through a smartphone app. The underwear contains actuators (which are similar to the devices that make smart phones vibrate). Couples wearing it converse via the app, transferring sensations to each other’s undergarments.

Meanwhile, brands Modibodi and Thinx have developed reusable underpants for women menstruating or experiencing incontinence. Manufactured from bamboo, merino wool and microfibre fabrics, the breathable and moisture-wicking layers draw fluids away from the body, securing them in a waterproof outer layer. The fabric technology allows the underpants to be rinsed in cold water, machine-washed and, once dry, ready for reuse. Since launching in 2014, Modibodi has become an Australian market leader for reusable period underwear.

Shreddies’ ‘flatulence-filtering’ underpants.
https://www.myshreddies.com

UK brand Shreddies has even developed “flatulence-filtering” underwear for men and women using carbon-absorbing cloth. According to its website, the underwear uses “the same activated carbon material used in chemical warfare suits”. Which is good to know.

Medical underwear for postoperative and postnatal patients is also widely available in Western hospitals providing infection control and wound care.

Advances in material manufacturing, additive fabric coatings and body-centred smart textile applications have the ability to monitor patient physiological conditions and offer personalised care and direct user feedback to medical specialists. Researchers at the University of California have developed a textile-based, printable electrochemical sensor, which has the capacity to be used for a variety of medical and safety applications. The flexible textile sensors, for example, when printed onto the elastic waistband of underpants, can recognise chemical substances secreting from the skin.

The ConversationScience is adding functions to underwear that could scarcely have been envisaged 50 years ago. The loincloth has come a long way.

Alana Clifton-Cunningham, Lecturer in Fashion and Textile Design, University of Technology Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


How fashion adapted to climate change – in the Little Ice Age


File 20170907 9599 1hmvfjb
Hendrick Avercamp’s ‘Ice Scene’ (c. 1610).
Wikimedia Commons

Lane Eagles, University of Washington

One could say the consequences of the planet’s warming climate can be seen on fashion week runways and the shelves of Anthropologie and H&M. Silhouettes shrink as midriffs and backs open. Sheer fabrics, breathable textiles and flowy draping are in. And in response to climate change’s rapid pace, some corners of the fashion industry are moving toward implementing sustainable business practices and incorporating more flexibility within their designs.

Today people may see global warming as a modern phenomenon, but fashion has a long history of responding to worldwide climate change.

The only difference is that while we sweat, early modern Europeans froze. The Little Ice Age was an interval of erratic cooling that ravaged the Northern Hemisphere roughly between the 14th and 19th centuries. And like today’s designers, Renaissance fashion designers were forced to contend with shifting temperatures and strange weather.

A menacing chill settles on Europe

Scientists have yet to determine the primary cause of the Little Ice Age, and historians are still pinning down its exact chronological parameters. But voices from the era describe a rapidly cooling climate.

“At this time there was such a great cold that we almost froze to death in our quarters,” a soldier wrote in his diary while traveling through Germany in 1640. “And,” he continued, “on the road, three people did freeze to death: a cavalry-man, a woman, and a boy.”

The entry was from August.

Scholars do agree that the Little Ice Age impacted our shared global history in myriad traceable ways. Its unpredictable temperature fluctuations and sudden freezes devastated harvests, escalated civil unrest and left thousands to starve. It may have inspired the menacingly chilly settings of Shakespeare’s “King Lear” and Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” Darkness and clouds haunt the skies of paintings created during the period.

And the Little Ice Age also altered the history of fashion. As the cold ramped up in the 16th century, fashion championed warmer styles: Heavy drapery, multiple layers and sleeves that trailed on the floor became more common across the visual and material record, while examples of the oldest surviving European gloves, hats, capes and coats from the era populate museum costume collections today.

“No one in Egypt used to know about wearing furs,” a Turkish man traveling through northern Africa wrote in 1670. “There was no winter. But now we have severe winters and we have started wearing furs because of the cold.”

Staying fashionably warm

This change can be observed by comparing medieval and Renaissance dress.

In one French medieval manuscript (illustrated between 1115 and 1125), the knight’s skirt is slit to the hip, and his squire’s hemline stops above the knee. There are no capes, fur or headgear; the garments are light and loose – especially compared to what men wore 400 years later, when the Little Ice Age was in full swing.

Take Hans Holbien’s iconic 1553 painting “The French Ambassadors,” which depicts two courtiers to King Henry VIII. The man on the left, wearing thick, dark velvets and a heavily fur-lined overcoat, is the French ambassador to England, Jean de Dinteville. Georges de Selve, the bishop of Lavaur, stands on the right.

Hans Holbein’s ‘The Ambassadors.’
Wikimedia Commons

The cleric has donned a floor-length coat befitting his godly station. But it would have also been very effective against cold. Both men sport fashionable caps and undergarments. The laced collar of De Selve’s undershirt peaks above his robes, and those white slashes in de Dinteville shiny pink shirt show off his hidden layers.

As with all portraits from the era, these men dressed to impress for the sitting – meaning their fanciest clothes were possibly their warmest.

A c. 1545 portrait of Catherine Parr.
Wikimedia Commons

Women’s clothing also had to sustain temperature fluctuations that tended to range colder during the Little Ice Age. In a 16th-century portrait of Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII, Parr wears a headdress and a multi-layered gown with billowing sleeves.

Several petticoats would have been required to sustain the bell shape of her skirts. If you look closely, you’ll see a thin, translucent layer of fabric that shields her exposed skin where the neckline ends. Meanwhile, a large fur mantle – at the time, an essential accessory – is draped over her arms.

A removed opulence

New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has a surviving collection of clothes from the late 16th century, some of which could point to the cold’s influence on Renaissance clothing.

For example, one Spanish dress is outfitted with a cape atop the thick fabrics that make up the bodice, skirt and stacked sleeves. Beneath this densely layered gown, the wearer would have also needed to don several tiers of skirts and undergarments.

A late 16th-century Spanish ensemble features thick fabrics.
MoMA

A British lady’s jacket from around 1616 also may hint at cold weather. Tailored from linen, silk and metal, this tight bodice probably kept its wearer very warm. (Early modern clothing often featured cloth-of-gold thread, which was made from actual thin strips of gold metal and painstakingly wrapped around sewing thread.)

Portraits and preserved garments from the Little Ice Age tend to have one thing in common: They are all the pictures or products of elites who enjoyed the means to have a likeness made of themselves. Their wealth is evident in the very existence of these images and the expensive clothes they wear.

Knit wool caps are perfectly suitable for fending off freezing temperatures, but the wealthy women of the era instead opted for elaborate, pearl-lined headdresses that trailed yards of gauzy veils.

Their opulence ignores the various crises of the era. While countless peasants were displaced from their homes and died from starvation or rampant disease, the rich simply transitioned to sable-lined sleeves and mantels threaded with gold.

It’s dangerous to oversimplify historical narrative. But the parallels to our current situation are hard to ignore. Climate change is a looming threat, with deep social and political ramifications.

The ConversationYet for many, it remains a distant phenomenon, something that – beyond buying lighter, looser clothing – is easy to dismiss.

Lane Eagles, Ph.D. Candidate in Art History, University of Washington

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Article: 100 Years of the T-Shirt


The link below is to an article that celebrates 100 years of the T-Shirt.

For more visit:
http://www.kansascity.com/2013/07/19/4355124/lets-celebrate-the-100th-anniversary.html


Video: Origin of ‘Pants’



Article: Interesting Moments in Fashion History?


The link below is to an article that looks at 12 moments from the history of winter clothing.

For more visit:
http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/154766


Article: The History of High Heels


The link below is to an article that has a quick look at the history of high heels.

For more visit:
http://www.dirjournal.com/info/the-history-of-high-heels/


Article: Historical Items to Improve Looks


The link below is to an article that looks at 11 items from the past that were meant to improve a person’s looks.

For more visit:
http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/144262


Article: Beauty Tips from the Past


The link below is to an article with some questionable beauty tips from the past.

For more visit:
http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/140115


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