Archive for September, 2016

Bonnie Cashin in 1957.I was wearing boots long before they became popular. I used to buy Haymarket boots in London, regular riding ones. Now that everyone is wearing them, I have a quarrel with the shoemakers. I love things that work but today’s boots don’t work. They let the water in. A boot should be waterproof. I keep telling them.

– Bonnie Cashin (1915-2000), American fashion designer.

Yes! Waterproof! I recall a nasty pair of boots I had as a kid (maybe 8) that let the rain water seep in. Not fun but a thing of the past. It seems the shoemakers did listen to Ms. Cashin.

She made this comment in 1970, when boots were first hitting their stride among the fashionables. Then they went out of fashion for awhile and came back to stay sometime in the 1990s.

Now that it’s officially autumn, boots are out and about. Have you noticed? It seems every style is in, but particularly ankle boots and over the knee.

By the way, September 28th would have been Ms. Cashin’s 101st birthday. Happy Birthday to the first woman of boots!

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9145a5c69bf69e4d164ad6b437442539When a man wants to send you flowers, always say, ‘My florist is Cartier.’

– Germaine Mitzah Bricard, French fashion icon of the 1950s and Christian Dior’s muse.


John Galliano design for Dior, 2010.

When John Galliano was head of Dior (1996-2011) he too was inspired by Ms. Bricard for his 2010 resort collection.

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I first heard about The Rational Dress Society in a book by Fanny Moyle –  Constance Wilde: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde. Both Oscar and Constance were supportive of the society.

Intrigued, I was happy to research the RDS for an assignment in a fashion history class I’m taking at City College of San Francisco. Now I’m sharing with my readers. Enjoy!


Lovely frocks of the 1880s but oh-so-fussy and the constraints of the undergarments were causing health problems, according to the RDS.

In the year 1881 The Rational Dress Society (RDS) was founded in London by women’s rights advocates Viscountess Harberton and Emily M. King as a push-back against the burdensome fashions of the day. The popular use of petticoats, hoops, bustles, and corsets to create unnatural shapes for the female figure was thought by some to be unhealthy. Doctors reported a connection between these fashions and health issues such as shallow breathing, crushed organs, chronic digestive problems and skin eruptions.

The mission of the RDS was to encourage a shift in women’s fashions away from unhealthy constraints and toward practical options. They sought to educate women by handing out pamphlets, holding lectures, and offering alternative dress patterns for sale. In their mission statement they said:

The Rational Dress Society protests against the introduction of any fashion dress that either deforms the figure, impedes the movement of the body, or in any way tends to injure health.


A much more comfortable frock allowing for ease of movement.

The new silhouettes put forth by the society included high and loose waistlines, voluminous sleeves and skirts allowing more freedom of movement. The fabrics used were simpler with fewer if any embellishments.

The RDS gained ground but still wasn’t a popular choice and was often mocked in the press and accused of being dictatorial. The following is a segment from an 1881 article in The Birmingham Daily Post, which addresses those assertions.

It appears from the prospectus that there is no intention on the part of the society to interfere with individual liberty; the desire is simply to release ladies from the tyranny of mere fashion, by permitting them to consult their own taste and convenience upon the sole condition that their attire shall be pleasing to the eye while conforming to consideration of health and comfort.

The society’s philosophy of more practical and comfortable clothing for women planted a seed for future movements from World War I to the 1970s – when women burned their bras and it finally made a more permanent impression.



Hennessy, Kathryn. Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style. New York: DK, 2012.

Mackenzie, Mairi. … isms: Understanding Fashion. London: Herbert Press, 2009.





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Fashion fakes, Kanye and Kim.

After years of endless marketing and promotion, American fashion is flailing in terms of prestige. At least, that’s one way to look at it. Another is that American fashion may be returning to its roots as the wellspring of commodity chic. Whom did everyone talk about last season? Jacobs’ stunning show was an outlier. Otherwise, it was all about Kanye West and Rihanna, two glossy, nondesigner marketers who get the value of tricked-out staging and how to work (work, work, work, work) a sweatshirt to maximum effect.

– Bridget Foley, executive editor of Women’s Wear Daily.

It seems the fashion press has a love/hate relationship with Kanye West and other fashion poseurs, such as the Kardashians. They don’t really like them but they won’t stop talking about them.

On the “love” side – West and his wife Kim Kardashian grace the cover of this month’s Harper’s Bazaar, feature in a photo spread by Karl Largerfeld and get a Q&A to boot! Really HB, I thought better of you.

On the “hate” side – WWD’s recent coverage of West’s spring 2017 show spent as much space commenting on his disrespect for the fashion press (inconvenient location, show started very late, uncomfortable venue) as on his “unoriginal” designs.

West is an interesting story. In reality he has no talent for design and I have read accounts that he has pushed, pushed, pushed his way onto the runways throwing around his celebrity and money and sometimes using ghost designers. Still he persists and it seems we can’t get rid of him despite his lack of fashion talent, disregard for everyone, and even poor reviews.

He’s just one example of the noise in the fashion industry these days. With spectacle shows, celebrity brands, corporate drama … the fashion part is getting lost.





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NY-BG337_SPEAKE_DV_20111017183610The messaging has changed and become all about the celebrities and not the clothes. What’s a shame is that a fashion show without celebrities is considered blah.

– Fern Mallis, former Executive Director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Why and how did this happen? Well, it might be down to the big investment companies that started gobbling up fashion houses back in the 80s.

The reason for a fashion show today is to market a brand. The bigger the spectacle a show is, the better. Celebrities are a big part of that because their brand brings attention to the fashion brands, which become globally recognized and then the stuff starts to sell. Particularly high profit items like handbags and perfume.

So, let the fashion shows begin.

New York Fashion Week is coming up September 7th -14th.

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SE14-beach-couple-romance-seasideOnce upon a time, quite recently, a couple from Washington State planned a wedding anniversary treat to visit Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C. Excited and ready to enjoy their day, the pair showed up all decked out in what they say is everyday wear for them: head-to- toe Victorian. They were abruptly told Butchart Gardens has a “no costumes” policy and unless they wanted to change into some old clothes sitting around in the back, they had to leave. According to the couple’s lengthy blog post about the incident, there was a lot of discussion, both sides rigid in their positions:

– We don’t allow costumes here.

– These aren’t costumes … this is what we wear every day.

Well, you can’t wear them here, whatever you want to call them.

The reason for the policy, explained by a manager, is that it’s confusing to other attendees who might think the costumed people are staff employees.

In the end the couple had to leave but they were (after a lot of arguing, again according to the blog post) given their money back.

This story brings up very interesting issues: What is costume? Where and when are costumes appropriate? The American College Dictionary defines costume as: dress or garb belonging to another period, place, etc. 

People who sport period clothing outfits full time, a growing trend, will argue that what they are wearing is their regular clothing and therefore not costumes. OK, from their perspective. But it seems to me that these well-dressed individuals don’t understand that to most everyone else (dressed head-to-toe in ath-leisure) they do indeed look like they’re in costume and that’s what can pose problems for museums and other attractions. The historical silhouettes of the Victorian period in particular – bustles and top hats for example – are so far from what we know and have known for nearly two centuries, of course they’re costumes. I can understand the potential for confusion and the need for policies.

I think part of the costume problem is the variety of costumes that are popping up. It’s not just period clothing but also animals, comic book characters, and masks which are a security issue.  Apparently, Butchart Gardens had a person show up in a ladybug costume. A teenage girl dressed as Tinkerbell caused all kinds of confusion at Disneyland. Venues don’t want the distractions and I don’t blame them. They have to draw a line and stick to it and … it’s not personal.

Now don’t get me wrong, I would prefer to see and be among people dressed Victorian, Edwardian, or any past era of lovely clothing. It’s a far prettier picture than shorts, jeans, tank tops, baseball caps and flip flops. But I do think that those of us who dress in period clothing, whether all the time or just occasionally, should keep in mind that actually, we live in the 21 century and it’s rude to walk around in our garb insisting that the rules/policies shouldn’t apply to us. The fact is that our clothing choices to most of the world are costumes and perhaps we should take responsibility for that by checking out various venue policies ahead of time to avoid confrontation and disappointment. (The Buchart Gardens have their policy clearly posted on their website.)

Also, perhaps staff at these venues should be trained on how to handle people who are sporting costumes. Sneering and such is unnecessary and a very bad reflection on the individual staff member as well as the place of business.

Respect on both sides will go a long way.



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