Why Fashion Reality TV Needs to Be More Like The September Issue

I’m not much of one for watching television, but I’m always a sucker for anything that is related to fashion.  Project Runway is still on my list, at least until I get so frustrated by the obvious manipulations in production.  I’m still hoping that a US version of Great British Sewing Bee will appear here.

Last year designer Betsey Johnson and her daughter Lulu did eight episodes of a show called XOX Betsey Johnson.  I did not get the channel it was on so I did not see it.  According to the interviews I’ve read with the two Johnsons, the show was unscripted and they were just “living their lives.”  Somehow I don’t completely buy it, especially since the show included an “inspiration” trip to Tokyo, mother-daughter mammograms, and a retrospective fashion show complete with performance by Cyndi Lauper.

Betsey was recently on another reality show of a sort, Dancing with the Stars.  Did you recognize her in the very poor photo of my television screen, above?

Recently, two new fashion “reality programs” have hit the airways.  First up is The Fashion Fund, with is actually a showing of the proceedings behind choosing the winner of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America)/Vogue Fashion Fund.  It might be interesting except for one thing: the winner was announced before the program started.  Why would anyone care about watching a competition where the winner is already known?  It’s a mystery to me.

The other show is House of DVF, in which eight young women compete for a job as Diane von Furstenberg’s style ambassador, whatever that is.  It seems so contrived, with fake situations and anything for an excuse for Diane to walk up and down the stairway to her office.  The contestants are not likable, and they seem to be entirely clueless about what actually happens in a fashion house.

On the episode I watched the contestants were instructed to make style inspiration boards with the theme of the Côte d’Azur.  There seemed to be no instructions on what an inspiration board actually is, and several of the contestants did not even know where the Côte d’Azur is located.  I’m betting none of them gets the job.

What I really hate about this nonsense is that there is a real opportunity lost here.  Much in the way The September Issue film showed the inner workings of Vogue magazine, House of DVF should be about how a fashion house operates.  The September Issue worked because the producers saw the actual story in the day to day workings in which interesting people interact when putting together the most important issue of the fashion year.  Scenarios were not created nor were the events manipulated.  How much more interesting House of DVF would be if we were treated to how the business actually functions instead of a fabricated for TV mess.

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Veteran’s Day, 1919

Repost from 11/11/11

This ad is from 1919, a year in which Americans were seeing the return of many injured servicemen from WWI.  America had a bit of a romanticized view of the war, being so far removed from the horrors that Europe was experiencing, and even after the war ended, and many men came home with their rose-colored glasses removed, the public was pretty much unaware of the horrendous experience of it all.

This ad came form a 1919 Harper’s Bazar.  Many of the stories in the magazine, and in others from 1919, refer to returning soldiers,  and to the war, but there really is no mention of just how bad an experience it had been.  In the stories, there seems to be no “shell shock,”  no poison gas, no death.

I guess it would have been worth it had one of the names for WWI been true – “The War to End All Wars.”  But unfortunately, they were wrong in 1919.

 

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Vintage Miscellany – November 9, 2014

There’s nothing like a rousing game of croquet on a Sunday afternoon.  I cannot say why the woman in the center appears to be lifting her skirt so high.  It could be that she is just holding a cloth.  But do note the girls and the length of their dresses.  The very young girl on the right has a skirt that just skims her knees.  There are what looks to be two older girls in the background, as their skirts are just a little longer.

And now for the news…

*   The Patagonia company is getting serious about sustainability.

*   The fabric of the frontier: How textiles help us understand the American West.

*   John Galliano lost his suit against Dior for unfair dismissal.

*   There are times when I read something and I just jump up and shout, YES!”  It looks like skinny jeans may really be on their way out.

*  And even more good news: Barbara Hulaniicki is returning to designing for the label she started, Biba. Thanks to Jonathan for the link

*   What do you think happened to a woman who wore slacks to a courtroom in 1938?

*   Ann Demeulemeester discussed life after fashion: “It is the first time I don’t feel like I have a rope around my neck.”

*   I’d never heard of Maria Kipp, but her story is fascinating. Thanks to Mod Betty for the link.

*   A lot is written about how authentic – or not – movie and television costumes are, and this great post shows some examples.  It makes me wonder if all the retro sewing that is happening now will cause a lot of confusion for collectors in the future.

*   How about those matching Korean sweethearts?

*   All I can say is WHY?   The Paul Poiret name is up for sale, and a revival of Courrèges is under way.

*   Okay, this has nothing to do with fashion, but I’ve got to agree somewhat.  Twitter mourning is tacky.

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More Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation

Copyright Timberland.com

Several years ago I wrote some thoughts about cultural appropriation in fashion.  It has been the most visited post on the site.  The topic continues to be of interest even after three years, partly because new examples keep cropping up and at the same time, old ones remained unresolved.

To review, cultural appropriation is when a culture adopts or uses specific things from another culture group.  It can be music, art, food, religion, celebrations, or fashion.  That does not sound so bad, but the term cultural appropriation tends to have a negative connotation, with elements of racism and imperialism implied in the term.   Also implied is the fact that the appropriator does not acknowledge nor understand the original meaning of the item being appropriated.

As I stated in my previous post, the feathered headdress is probably the best example that most people will understand.  Some Native cultures use the headdress in certain religious ceremonies.  The wearing of the headdress is not an arbitrary thing, but is instead reserved for certain members of the tribe.  It is small wonder that the appropriation of a religious object causes outrage in Native communities, but that did not stop Karl Lagerfeld from using them in the Dallas  Metiers d’art collection, nor did it stop Pharrell Williams from wearing one on an Elle UK cover.

When called out for cultural appropriation offenses, the common justification is that the wearer is honoring the culture.  I’m quite sure that no Native American felt honored when model Karlie Kloss wore a full headdress in the Victoria’s Secret fashion show.

To me, that the wearing of a religious object that has nothing to do with your culture should not be done is a no-brainer.  Unfortunately the issue keeps reappearing, as if some people did not get the memo that it is just not the thing to do.

Other examples are a bit trickier, as the example in my original post, the “appropriation” of Pendleton blankets by “hipsters.”  Even though the blankets themselves are not Native objects, being loosely designed from Native motifs, many Native communities use the blankets as gifts to mark milestones in a person’s life.  It’s an interesting case of possible reverse-appropriation, where Pendleton took Native motifs and modified them for a product that some Native communities ended up embracing.

So is this an example of cultural appropriation?  Should Natives who use Pendleton blankets in their ceremonies be mad over the hipster use of the fabrics?

I decided a long time ago that it was not up to me to decide what other people should be upset about.  However, in the grand scheme of things, I think indignation would be better placed in fighting the obvious appropriation of the headdress, and the blatant racism of certain sports logos and team names.

Last week journalist Robin Givhan wrote an excellent piece in the Washington Post about how fashion and sports intersect when it comes to this issue.  She mentions the fact that fashion has always borrowed from other cultures and other time periods.  And that is not always a bad thing.  Givhan gives an example of what she calls “cultural authentication.”

Cultural authentication is a far more complex process. It’s taking someone else’s cultural artifact and so deeply transforming it that it becomes intrinsic to its new surroundings. The original continues to exist and retains its meaning.  Robin Givhan, Washington Post, November 2, 2014

Givhan cites the example of how hip hop kids in the 1990s “appropriated” the trappings of the preppy set: Tommy Hilfiger  and Ralph Lauren clothing, Timberland hiking boots and sailing windbreakers.  But their styling transformed the look into something entirely different, so much so that some of the items of clothing are now associated as much with hip hop as they are with preppy.  But no one would confuse the two styles, would they?

Givhan’s mentioning of the hip hop look was not a randomly chosen example.  In early October there was a style feature on the Elle magazine site saying that Timberline boots were the next big thing.  They had been spotted on various celebrities, such as Rhianna, Gwen Stefani, and little North West.

Immediately there was a huge brouhaha on twitter about how hip hop had been left out of the narrative.  After all weren’t Timberlands “theirs” first? One of the protesters was given space on Elle to write a piece explaining the uproar.  In it she alluded to this as cultural appropriation, and that it seemed like people were being left out of the narrative because they were not rich, famous and white. (No matter that many of the women and girls pictured were Black.)

I’ll say it again; it is not up to me to decide what makes another person mad.  Perhaps if I had been a Timberland wearing hip hop girl in the 90s, I’d feel the very same way.  I do tend to think that we need to take a more realistic view of how trends reference the past.  Should every article about the Breton striped tee reference everyone from Pablo Picasso to me?  (I WAS wearing them in 1995.) Should an article about the Little Black Dress reference the Goths, who were wearing black when the rest of the fashion world was into jewel tones?  Should the author of the article have referenced hip hop?  How are fashion writers to know all the fashion trends of the past?  Is it their responsibility to research and document every precedent of a current trend?

The final point is that battles ought to be chosen very carefully.  Even when one has a legitimate beef, it might be better to let it slide in difference to more pressing issues.  Otherwise it just begins to look very us against them, and at that point people stop listening.

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October in Review

October came and went so quickly that it was three days into November before I realized it was gone.  It was a full month, and a beautiful one.

We spent a few days at our favorite inn which is in the restored section of Salem, NC.  Originally a village founded by Moravian missionaries in the eighteenth century, today Salem is half of the city of Winston-Salem.

Still, one gets a feeling of being in a quiet colonial town, especially at night when the tourists and school groups have left.

I was lucky enough to find this great Scottie pillow cover at a local thrift store.

I’ve already written about helping out with an estate.  Here are some of the patterns that came with the cutting table I got.

I spent a day at the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens, Georgia.  I was there to see the Pucci exhibition I wrote about earlier, but I also spent time with the permanent collection.  This painting is Taxi! Taxi! By Eugenie McEvoy.  I love how the pair of lovers in the back are reflected in the driver’s seat.

I left enough time to go shopping in downtown Athens.  There are several vintage stores, but they have a very young clientele, being in a college town.  It’s amazing what passes as “vintage” these days.

Of course I can’t survive just on museums and vintage.  Here’s my post museum and shopping lunch: pimento cheese burger, Bell’s amber, and fries.

On Halloween I was treated to this pile of deadstock vintage at the Metrolina Antiques and Collectibles show.  There were some really nice pieces in that pile.

It was a month of beautiful sunsets, but this one was my favorite.  It almost looked as if there were a giant glowing object just over the horizon.

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Waist Management: A History of Unmentionables

The Fashion History Museum has a newly opened exhibition at the  Peel Art Gallery Museum in Brampton, Ontario,  Waist Management  It’s all about how undergarments have been used to help women achieve a fashionable silhouette, something that is apparent in just one photo from the display.

A while back I wrote about selling items from my collection and how I’d do it only if I were convinced that the person wanting an item wanted it more than I.  The truth is I’ve also been known to actually give things away if I know someone needs it.

Back in the very early days of Ebay I was smart enough (actually that would be lucky enough) to buy a bit of the lingerie line that Emilio Pucci designed for Formfit Rogers.  At the time it was considered to be a poor alternative to the wonderful silk jersey vintage Puccis that were already getting nice ending prices on the auction site, but the lingerie was cheap and so I bought a few miscellaneous pieces.

After the onslaught of fast fashion made of tissue paper thin poly, the thin nylon Formfit Puccis soared in price.  They were seen not only as wearable clothing, but gained deserved respect as a part of fashion history.

Several months ago I was mindlessly browsing the site I love to hate, Pinterest, and noticed that the Fashion History Museum had begun posting parts of the collection.  In their lingerie section was a Pucci Formfit Rogers matching bra and girdle.  I was pretty sure I had a matching piece, and a quick look through my catalog revealed that I did have a matching robe.

I emailed Jonathan at the museum to ask if he would like to have my piece for the museum’s collection, and of course he did.  I sent it off along with another donation and an ad that showed that this design dates to 1969.

I was delighted to get the photo in my inbox last night.  Knowing that something I had accumulated is now being used to educate others about fashion history is a great feeling.

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Cotton Fields

I was on the road yesterday in the North Carolina piedmont which is cotton country.  As I passed by one of the large fields it occurred to me that it was likely that many of you have never seen a cotton field.  So I decided to stop and take a few photos.

Cotton is the second most valuable crop in  North Carolina, behind tobacco.  It is too cold to grow it here in the mountains, but the southern piedmont and the coastal plain are ideal for growing the crop.  It isn’t an easy crop to grow, as weeds and insects can be major problems.  It requires a lot of water and so must often be irrigated.

When the cotton is ripe, the fields are often described as snowy.  Actually, snow in this region does look like a cotton field, as the snow often falls on ground that is not entirely frozen and so patches of the ground show through.

Cotton forms in a pod (boll) which pops open when it is ripe.  What you can’t see are the seeds, which are stuck to the fibers and are hard to remove by hand.

And speaking of snowy, this is what we woke up to this morning.  The snow had been forecast, but somehow I don’t think we really believed it until confronted with three inches of the fluffy white stuff.

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