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Posts Tagged ‘fashion in fiction’

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Dorothy Parker in 1935.

They looked alike, though the resemblance did not lie in their features. It was in the shape of their bodies, their movements, their style, and their adornments. Annabel and Midge did, and completely, all that young office workers are besought not to do. They painted their lips and their nails, they darkened their lashes and lightened their hair, and scent seemed to shimmer from them. They wore thin, bright dresses, tight over their breasts and high on their legs, and tilted slippers, fancifully strapped. They looked conspicuous and cheap and charming. 

Dorthy Parker (1893-1967), American author.

Quote from The Standard of Living, 1941.

Favorite words in this quote: adornments, besought, fancifully, conspicuous, charming. Stylish words that are not used much anymore.

As for the idea of not painting our lips and darkening our lashes? Perish the thought!

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IMG_20180325_113517751_HDRPeople laugh at fashion. ‘It’s just clothes,’ they say. Right. Just clothes. Except, not one of the people I’ve heard mock fashion was naked at the time. They all got dressed in the morning, picking clothes that said, ‘Hey, I’m a successful banker.’ Or, ‘I’m a tired teacher’ … a decorated soldier … a pompous judge … a cheeky barmaid … a lorry driver, a nurse … You could go on for ever. Clothes show you who you are, or who you want to be. 

Ella, 14 year-old character in the Young Adult novel, The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington.

The Red Ribbon tells the story of Ella, who as a prisoner of “Birchwood”  (a WWII concentration camp in Poland) struggles to keep hold of her dreams to become a dress designer. With her advanced skills as a seamstress she works in the camp’s sewing workshop where young women make clothing for the wives of Birchwood officials.

I heard an interview with author and costume historian Lucy Adlington on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. Promoting the book she talked about her research and the facts behind slave labor in the camps, including the making of beautiful clothing. Ms. Adlington based her novel on the true story of the Upper Tailoring Studio at Auschwitz, which was put in place by the Commandant’s wife, Hedwig Hoss. She had skilled women prisoners recruited  to make bespoke clothing for her, other officials’ wives, and female guards. Eventually there were 23 seamstresses working in the Upper Tailoring Studio, one of the better jobs to have in such a place.

This is a very interesting piece of fashion history woven into a well crafted novel of horror and hope. Although at times it’s shocking and upsetting, I highly recommend it for just that kind of truth.

I have also read Ms. Adlington’s non-fiction fashion history book, Stitches in Time: The Story of the Clothes We Wear (Random House UK, 2015). Another excellent read for those who love all things fashion history.

Check out her web-page: http://www.historywardrobe.com/index.html

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51ZtsEREqKL__SX354_BO1,204,203,200_Probably the most exasperating thing about the Fashion is its elusiveness. Even the word has a dozen definitions, and when it is pinned down and qualified as, ‘the Fashion in woman’s dress’ it becomes ridiculous and stilted and is gone again. 

– Margery Allingham (1904-1966), British author of detective fiction.

Today’s fashionable quote is the opening line from Ms. Allingham’s 1938 novel, The Fashion in Shrouds, which features that dapper detective fella Albert Campion.

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Image courtesy of University of New Orleans Press.

It was dirty. It was sloppy. Very often the manufacturers didn’t know exactly what they were doing or how to do it right, but it was a good time in New York, a good time in America. We hired people, people worked, they earned a living. It was honest and, in fairness, the wind was in our sails.

– Leonard S. Bernstein speaking about the New York Garment District of the 1950s and 1960s. Mr. Bernstein took over his family’s children’s wear business in 1953, so he knows what he’s talking about.

Just published by Mr. Bernstein is a collection of short stories – The Man Who Wanted to Buy a Heart (University of New Orleans Press). Written on Mr. Bernstein’s manual typewriter, the stories center around the business of fashion in NYC back in its heyday.

I am always looking for well written fiction that includes a bit of fashion. From what I hear this one is excellent and I’m looking forward to reading it.

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