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Archive for February, 2020

Image One: German Duke of Saxony sports an entire suit of Panes, which in this case there are no tufts of fabric pulled through – just the slashes. c. 1514.

Image Two: Queen Elizabeth I. c.1575. 

Image Three: A close-up of the Queen’s Panes with the added jeweled Sleeve Clasps. 

In the mid to late sixteenth century, there was a trend for Panes or Slashes – actual slashes in the fabric of an outer garment with tufts of the under-garment (chemise) pulled through. In some cases small jeweled pins called Sleeve Clasps were used to fasten the panes.

What a look! I almost like the entire suit best because the slashes don’t get lost among all the other busy embellishments the Queen’s got going on with her ensemble. (But, she IS the Queen so there’s no such thing as too much.)

If I were a fashion designer I would be inspired by panes. I envision a quilted coat – slim, not bulky – with slashes and the batting in maybe a bright color poking through. Stitching around each slash. I’m not sure that could even work, as I’m not a quilter, but anything goes in one’s imagination.

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IMG_20200220_120019Check the label for natural fibers – blended fibers break down more quickly. Check the stitching is secure and straight – holes are better avoided than repaired. Check that patterns match at the seams. Check the garment comes with spare buttons- you may be thankful for this later. Avoid over-washing and air dry rather than tumble dry, as the lint you take out of the dryer is actually your clothes disintegrating. Ask someone to teach you how to sew on a button and darn a hole to extend the life of your clothes.

Selvedge Magazine 

Selvedge Magazine is a UK publication dedicated to “exploring the culture of cloth.” Launched in 2004 by textiles enthusiast and teacher Polly Leonard, Selvedge is published bimonthly (every two months) and each issue has a theme covering international fabric topics. The current issue (#93) is all about repair, recycle, and encouraging “no waste” in fabric manufacturing.

But there’s more! The team also sponsors or organizes events, including the upcoming World Fair in September. For three days fabric artisans from around the world will gather in London to show their beautiful wares.

Back issues are often on sale so … I couldn’t resist picking up the May/June 2011 issue, which focuses on British textiles.

Even the newsletter is special. I recommend signing up for that – find the subscription box on the bottom right hand side of the main page.

 

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I was looking at press coverage of the recent Academy Awards ceremony trying to spot historical references. The Dior designed ensemble worn by Natalie Portman (pictured above) incorporated several details of the past.

  • The gold embroidery on the long gown is reminiscent of the heavily embellished fabrics that the Byzantines (AD 339 – 1453) favored.
  • The gold rope sash reminds me of Greek and Roman ties that were used with tunics.
  • The black cape echoes the Mantle from the Early Middle Ages (10th & 11th centuries).

(Ms. Portman’s cape was embroidered with the names of women directors whom she felt had been snubbed by the Academy. Her actions are apparently controversial and since I don’t really know much about it, I don’t have a comment. Except to say that I do enjoy seeing clothing used to communicate messages – as long as it’s done subtly.)

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A depiction of Byzantine Empress Theodora surrounded by her courtiers.  The men are wearing short tunics under an outer layer called the Paludamentum, as is the Empress who was the only woman allowed to wear this garment.  The other  women are wearing a long-sleeved tunic called Dalmatic, and on top a Palla (shawl).  All the fabrics used are heavy and elaborately embellished.

 

Women from the Byzantine and Middle Ages kept covered from head to toe, so hair and chest would not be revealed. In that regard Ms. Portman’s ensemble is very modern. But what an interesting mix!

 

 

 

 

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9780374719760I was 26 years old and making $90,000 a year. I went on the internet and purchased a pair of $500 boots that I knew were fashionable in New York, but, it turned out, I was embarrassed to wear in San Francisco – they looked so professional. 

Anna Weiner, author of Uncanny Valley: A Memoir (FS&G).

So, it’s a bad thing to look professional?

What a shame that Ms. Weiner was intimidated by the low fashion standards of the Bay Area. Had she just worn the boots, she could have been a standout and perhaps even a role model for others.

As long as people are afraid of not looking like everyone else, we will never shift away from athleisure.

 

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IMG_20200120_161145543Conde Nast: The Man and His Empire by biographer and historian Susan Ronald, covers Nast’s glamorous life and successful career as an American publishing giant.

There is much to cover and Ronald moves quickly over Nast’s early life from his birth in 1873 to his marriage to his initial interest in magazines. Once he enters into publishing she slows down and settles in on how Nast started with Collier’s magazine, moved on to Ladies Home Journal Patterns and eventually Vogue magazine.

Publishing Vogue and Vanity Fair are most of the story but we also read details about Nast’s famous “cafe society” parties and his grand apartment at 1040 Park Avenue in Manhattan. There are intriguing tales about fashionable characters such as Vogue fashion editor Carmel Snow, photographer Cecil Beaton, and writer Dorothy Parker.

The financial crash in 1929 hit Nast hard and he nearly lost his empire. We learn how over several years Nast fought to keep his business going by calling in favors. WWII was not an easy time either as French Vogue had to shut down and British Vogue (based in London) struggled to publish facing paper shortages and The Blitz.

But Nast and his empire did survive these challenges and that makes for great reading. Thoroughly researched with help from surviving letters and company documents, Conde Nast: The Man and His Empire is an excellent read for fashion and publishing industry history.

 

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Romance lurks in strange places, but perhaps nowhere so much as behind shop windows.

British Vogue, January 1922.

British Vogue, like Vogue in America was published by Conde Nast. In the 1920s the covers were illustrated, such as the one pictured here. I find the illustrations have a certain charm that photographs just don’t have however artistic and slick they might be.

I just finished reading Conde Nast: The Man and His Empire, by Susan Ronald (St. Martin’s Press). Check back Wednesday for my review.

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Above images are from Survey of Historic Costume, 5th edition, by Phyllis G. Tortora (Fairchild Books)

Did you know that women in Ancient Rome were not allowed to wear Togas? 

 

The Roman Toga (fabric draped and wrapped around the body) was a complex garment, a symbol of Roman citizenship made and worn a certain way to reflect different roles in Roman society.

Although initially for both men and women, by the 2nd century B.C. togas were restricted to male Roman citizens. An average male Roman citizen wore a linen tunic under a plain white Toga Virilis made of wool. Someone special like a high-ranking official wore the Toga Praetexta – a toga with a band of purple several inches wide along the edge of the fabric.

What you wore communicated who you were.

It was the same for women.

Free, married women sported a long, sleeveless dress with shoulder straps called a Stola. They wore the stola over a tunic. Topping off the outfit she might have worn a Palla, which was a draped shawl that wrapped around the body and was sometimes pulled over the head.

I’m learning all this and so much more in Fashion History, a class I’m taking this semester at City College of San Francisco taught by local costume designer Judith Jackson. This is a fast and furious course in western costume history from ancient times to present day. I have previously taken three classes in the Fashion Department at CCSF, including Fashion Icons of the 20th Century, Hot Topics in Fashion, and my favorite – Textiles Analysis also taught by Ms. Jackson who is an excellent instructor.

My fashion plate is very full with this class and every moment taking notes, reading, studying, writing is pure pleasure. Stay tuned in the coming months as I share other fashion history facts.

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