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Vintage Miscellany – February 12, 2017

I cannot always sympathize with that demand which we hear so frequently for cheap things. Things may be too cheap. They are too cheap when the man or woman who produces them upon the farm or the man or woman who produces them in the factory does not get out of them living wages with a margin for old age and for a dowry for the incidents that are to follow. I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth or shapes it into a garment will starve in the process.

Those words have so much meaning today, but the truth is they were spoken by President Benjamin Harrison in a speech in August, 1891.  It’s important to keep this in mind when reading about the on-going abuses in the textile and clothing industries.  And thanks to Reba for sending the quote my way.

    •  Only a few months after President Harrison’s speech, the danger of working in a mill was punctuated with an explosion at the Amoskeag Mills in Manchester, NH.
    •  It would have been a highly improbable thought to President Harrison, but the problems he addressed 126 years ago in the United States have merely been transferred to Bangladesh.
    • And also in Myanmar.  (Of course neither country even existed in 1891, but that’s beside the point.)
    • Here’s another article about the importance of home sewing.
    •  According to WWD there is a rising trend in the development of designer archives.
    • There is a new online catalog of original garments and textiles belonging to costume designer and clothing collector John Bright.
    • The Fashion Museum in Bath, UK, has put on display what might be a surviving dress belonging to Queen Charlotte.  For those of us in the parts of the world that don’t know all the kings and queens of England, Charlotte was the wife of George III, and the city of Charlotte, NC was named for her.  It is not certain that the dress was actually hers, though, as it looks to be a bit young in taste for Charlotte.  It also looks to be too small, but this is partly due to the way it was mounted.
    • The  Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elégantes, or SAPE, is alive and well in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa.
    • The Smithsonian website has a really interesting article called “The Invention of Vintage Clothing.”  It really wasn’t the beginning of people wearing old clothes, of course, but it is an early example of what we now recognize as the vintage clothing industry.
    • An heirloom wedding dress was lost from the dry cleaners, social media went to work, and the dress was located.
    • Ashley Biden (yes, the former VP’s daughter) has started a hoodie line called Livelihood.  The hooded sweatshirts are made in the USA, using materials sourced in the USA. Profits from sales will go to fund projects in two communities that suffer from a lack of financial resources (In other words, they are poor).  If you are thinking that the sweatshirts are too expensive,  I want to redirect you to President Harrison’s words at the top of this post.

I  first mentioned the Grab Your Wallet boycott back in November.  It appears that the boycott is having some effect, or maybe it is just that people are too embarrassed to be associated with the brands belonging to the First Family.  At any rate, sales are down, and the boycott has been in the news.  First, department store Nordstrom dropped the Ivanka brand due to poor sales.  Daddy-in-Chief then tweeted, “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. ”  Statistics back up out Nordstrom’s claim that sales were the reason for the drop, not politics.  While sales were up overall at Nordstrom, the Ivanka products sales were down.  Then in the most unbelievable twist, presidential advisor Kellyann Conway urged the viewers of Fox News to buy Ivanka clothing.  Really.   It has since come out that other stores are either dropping, or making less visible, boycotted products.

And so now there are counter-boycotts  from people who claim the pulling of the products is politically motivated against the President.  And on and on…

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Vintage Miscellany – January 29, 2017

The study of how people dress is a serious discipline.  I’m saying this because the people who are professional dress historians and educators have, for the past thirty years or so, struggled to let that fact be known.  Pick up almost any book written about fashion studies in the twentieth century, and the introduction will stress how fashion IS a serious area of study.

Go to a conference for dress historian, and chances are good that you will stumble on this conversation. Even museum professionals continue to make this point. In The First Monday in May, Andrew Bolton spent much of his airtime lamenting his lack of respect within the Met.

What we wear, and how we wear it ARE important parts of our culture.  A garment can be a powerful symbol, as the Phrygian cap was during the French Revolution.  Even today, over 225 years later, that cap is strongly associated with the Revolution.

Garments can reflect a person’s station in life and their political views.  Black has long been a symbol of mourning in Western cultures, and even today, many people will wear black to a funeral or wake.  In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Suffragettes wore purple, white, and green, and in the USA, gold.  Today, many working for equal rights have rediscovered these symbolic colors and are using them to help make a point.

World events have gone at a crazy fast clip in the past two weeks, and it might seem that talking about fashion is a bit frivolous.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

* Will the pussy cat hat endure as a symbol of the recent women’s marches?  Museums are adding examples to their collections.

*  Hillary Clinton’s choice to wear a white pantsuit to the Inauguration was no accident.

*  The clothes we wear to work affect how others perceive the job we are doing.  Sean Spicer’s recent fashion transformation is a great example of using image to try to build credibility.

*  Kellyanne Conway defended the made in Italy Gucci coat she wore to the Inauguration by saying she was the “face of Donald Trump’s movement.”  She went on to apologize.  She was “sorry to offend the black-stretch-pants women of America with a little color.”

* After all the speculation, Melania Trump wore a Ralph Lauren coat and dress to the Inauguration.  She was stunning.

*  Not all the fashion and art news is from Washington.  First up, a lesson why you should never loan your prized possessions to friends.

I’ve been writing about the human rights and environmental issues in the garment and textile industries for almost fifteen years.  In my mind, the solution comes down to one big truth:  In order to solve the problems, people are going to have to see the benefit in paying more for their clothing. The time of spending lots of money on lots of cheap clothing needs to be replaced with spending the needed amount of money on ethically produced, well made and designed clothing.

*   An article from the UK continues to bust the myth that “garment factories exploiting workers is a problem restricted to low-wage Asian nations.”  An undercover investigation discovered that workers in UK garment factories were making as little as  £3 an hour, while the minimum wage is  £7.20.

*  A USA producer breaks down the cost of making higher quality garments.  thanks Jen for the link

*  Those campaign promises of good manufacturing jobs for the unskilled?  Easier said than done.

*  “The minimum wage in Bangladesh is 32 cents an hour.”  Those protesting for more are arrested.

*  And just to prove that I’m not completely overwhelmed with the negative, here is a nice feature on the resurgence of home sewing.

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Vintage Miscellany – January 15, 2017

Last weekend it was winter here in the South, with snow, frigid temperatures and all that.  Now we are back to that seasonless limbo in which we are forecast to have a week of 60* F plus temperatures.  If you have snow, enjoy it.

 

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Vintage Miscellany – January 1, 2017

My guess is that the photo above was taken around 1925.  I love how the standing girl’s outfit is an assemblage of the feminine and the masculine, with her stockings and fancy shoes, and the blouse that appears to be silk.  The girl in the wagon has better mastered the tomboy look, with her socks, vest, and tie.

And now for some news:

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Vintage Miscellany – December 18, 2016

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this photo before, but I couldn’t find it so here she is again.  The photo is dated February, 1952, but that’s all the information I have about this very put together woman in the snow.  From her socks to the mittens to her jacket and scarf, this woman has matching down to an art.  We miss so much with vintage photos that are black and white, that it’s a treat to see one in color.

And now for the news…

Please note that you may disagree with my reporting of the Trump family’s clothing manufacturing interests, but it will not keep me from continuing to do so as long as this is an issue within our country.  For the past month, each time I’ve reported on this issue, I’ve received criticism for doing so.   This tends to derail the conversation about other important topics.  Therefore I ask that if you have comments on the matter to please address them in an email to me.  But be advised, I will not be changing my reporting policy.

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Vintage Miscellany – December 4, 2016

I found several photos of this 1920s woman on a horse.  She’s not in typical riding attire, as she could be dressed for almost any outdoor activity with her breeches and socks, and what looks to be a sweater or knit jacket.  Click on the photo to see the details a bit clearer.

And now for the news…

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Vintage Miscellany – November 20, 2016

I found this photo of the perfectly attired beach couple along with a few others from the same roll of film.  At some point I want to show all of the photos, but for now let’s just admire them the way they are admiring each other.

And in that frame of mind, here is the news:

A few words before I post the next few links:  This blog is about fashion history and fashion issues.  I have never shied away from links to sites that might make those of us who are more privileged feel uncomfortable.  I have posted links to articles that discuss the clothing of world leaders and the wives of leaders.  I have posted about abuses within the clothing manufacturing industry, both in the past and the present.  As an historian, I know that fashion and clothing are an integral part of our culture, and should not be treated as mere fluff.

In keeping with this practice, I will be posting links to articles about the president-elect that are of interest to fashion scholars.  These links all will have to do with fashion, and are not meant as a political statement.  Each reader must take each link as it is meant – to inform about fashion issues.

That said, I want to make it clear that I am very dismayed at the way the election played out, and at the events still occurring within the presidential transition.  I will continue to ask the president-elect to bring his own family’s clothing manufacturing to the USA.  You can feel free to disagree with me or with the content of any of my links, but fair warning, this blog is a place where only civil discourse will be tolerated.

And to help us all with our own personal struggles, take a listen to the Avett Brothers’ No Hard Feelings.

 

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