Archive for the ‘Fashion’ Category

Juxtaposing Opposites….or What a Difference 50 Years Can Make!   3 comments

As an artist, I am fond of drawing comparisons between images and the elements they contain.  On the most basic level, one can talk about the elements of color, composition, value, rhythm, lighting and on and on, but actually today my interest was sparked by taking a more philosophical look at contemporary images of women vs. what would be considered vintage images of women.

Vogue magazine has long been held up as a benchmark of what is worthwhile and exciting in the world of women’s fashion and general appearance.  It was, and probably still is,  considered to reflect the best in good taste as regards to how women should aspire to present themselves in public.  As a subscriber to Vogue, I would have to say that the magazine still has the undercurrent of its former self, but naturally as the world changes, so must Vogue in order to stay viable.

I have no problem with change, and in terms of aesthetics I believe we must always be moving forward.  But I have to say, on a non-artistic basis, it seems as if our fashions and the depiction of what is desirable in our appearance seems to still be on the fast track back in the direction of the cave man….back when woman’s primary function was sexual satisfaction of the male.  I’m not so naive nor prudish to believe that primal instincts are not important…indeed they are, but it makes me wonder who is running the show here?  Are we really dressing for ourselves anymore? Do women really want to look like the last wench off the pirate ship 24 hours a day?  Is it really that attractive to flaunt most of what you’ve got…even in daytime?   Is it somehow important to look like one has just had a tumble in the hayloft with one’s boyfriend/husband/etc. every time one steps out of the house or into the office?  Is this liberating?  I suppose the advertisers would want us to think so, and perhaps for some, it is.  But to me,  there is much more allure,  style  and mystery about a person when she is dressing with an objective other than to snag a man.  Oftentimes the men are more attracted because of what remains left to the imagination.  We all know that.  They knew it back in the 50’s and prior.  Why don’t the fashion magazines revisit that notion?  And for goodness sakes, why don’t the advertisers!  Although I see a bit of evidence that elegance is making a slow return in some of the fashion spreads, much of the advertising is still stuck on the Playboy/Playgirl channel. A little is fine, but too much gets predictable and routine, just like a bad lover.

Life is so much more fun with a bit of mystery and intrigue attached to it…and yes, elegance!  Whoops!  I said I wouldn’t give an opinion!

Oh well….let’s take a look at a few images.  See what you think…are we better off with what was considered proper and alluring dress back in the day?  Or are we better off now because we are more free to expose what we wish?   Image number one….from Vogue 1955….feminine in a refined way, the model sports a smile that indicates she is confident in herself and in her ability to attract….but in a quiet more subliminal way.

Here’s a very similar pose with the contemporary point of view….the model is confident, but obviously has only one thing on her mind….or should have only one thing on her mind according to the advertiser.  It’s the “last wench off the pirate ship” look.  As is the bottom line of most advertising, the not so hidden message is:  “If you buy this bag (or these clothes, etc.)  you’ll be this woman…and you should want to be this woman.”  Come to think of it, maybe she doesn’t look all that confident.  You decide.

OK,  here’s another interesting comparison.  Again from my vintage Vogue issue….a perfume ad for a well known vintage fragrance with a wild side connotation.

And a contemporary version of a perfume ad.  I’m sorry, this is just plain scaaarrrry…or funny…or both…lol!   This is supposed to be a vixen?   Come on, you can do better than that, Donatella (Versace)!  Ad-wise, this is just plain boring. Way too obvious.  Does it get the message across?  Of course.  But I’m very weary of so many of these poses where the model is either open-mouthed or sitting spread-eagled…or both.  It’s been the fashion for the last 15 to 20 years, but it’s old now…move on, already.  There must be a more creative way to express the “huntress” attitude…or whatever it is they want you to think you are when wearing Versus.

What a difference 50 years can make!  But I guess that’s the nature of change, right?  Personally, I think that sexuality tempered with elegance is far more attractive than outright blatant sexuality in both dressing and advertising. I’m on the bandwagon with Vogue ’55 in that regard.  I like the mystery of things.

Do you have any strong opinions one way or the other?

Enjoy your day!

Posted April 27, 2010 by freshairfour in Advertisements, Fashion, Women

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The Purple Finger Rides Again….and lands squarely in “hat-dom”.   Leave a comment

I am happy to report that the purple finger acquired on my last antiquing safari is finally starting to look and feel more like an actual human digit, rather than the multi-colored  gherkin it has resembled for the last six days.  I think there’s hope for it.

So it was with the knowledge yesterday that there was to be a large area antiques show and sale practically right around the corner from my home, and the belief that:

a.) antiquing provides a chance to see a bit of history up close,

b.) antiquing on a frequent basis is a way to train one’s eye to spot the “good” pieces from the “not-so-good” pieces,

and c.) antiquing, as proven last week, has the mysterious power to feed the soul and heal the purple fingers,

..that I set out early in the morning to visit said show.

The building that housed the event was large…very large, with another set of heavy doors.  Doors that looked as if they were lying in wait for any unsuspecting hand or finger they could grab.  Luckily, as I approached them, a gentleman old enough to be my grandfather held the dastardly doors open for me and I hastily slipped through, keeping the purple finger and all his neighbors safely inside my coat pocket.  If a finger can give “the finger”,  I’m sure the purple finger gave “it” to the door as we passed by…..but of course I wouldn’t know.  My fingers are usually quite well-behaved in public.  And I was rather more intent on seeing what treasures were on the other side of that door that would spark my enthusiasm.

Well, as it turns out, there was plenty to spark my enthusiasm, but little that was actually affordable…unless one had a couple thousand dollars worth of disposable cash floating around in one’s wallets that day.  I saw pairs of Staffordshire dogs for the mantle, beautiful burl wood chests,  genuine early 19th century portraits done by itinerant artists, antique crystal, silver, flow blue china, and plenty of large old transferware pieces, and the most gargantuan andirons I have ever seen.   Where oh where were the chickens and kitsch, I asked myself?  There appeared to be a little bit of fine costume jewelry tucked in here and there, but otherwise it was a rather “hoity-toity” affair……until I spied one forlorn old Good Housekeeping magazine under a pile of books in the corner of one of the back booths!  My interest peaked, I uncovered it to reveal the year…1952….mid-century….I knew it could hold great photos and illustrations.  I asked the price.  “Oh that?” said the boothkeeper. “That was in the bottom of one of our boxes, and I just put it there to get it out of the way.  You can have it for two dollars.”    Well, that was all I needed to hear!  I handed over my whopping two dollars and all the secrets of the mid-century good housekeeper were instantly mine!  And look…it promised a big article on hats!

That was my big purchase at the show.   While others were spending their thousands, I had my little two dollar magazine.  But it delivered on its promise…many good photos, wonderful illustrations and funny old ads…and the hat article makes you realize how much thought and attention was given to overall personal appearance back in the day. Even when one was casually dressed, one was still supposed to appear polished. I like that.  I also like those big hat boxes that apparently came with many store-bought hats!  I remember my grandmother had some, and I suspect that my mother did as well.

Here’s an example from the article about hats and face shapes, along with a rather pretty, very feminine hat.  This style is for the “pear-shaped face”.  If you can read the text, it’s interesting and at times funny….

Here’s another hat specifically for oval-shaped faces…..also very feminine with flowers.  Note the gloves too!

And this page shows the many steps to a good appearance as well as how to work with hats to fit and flatter.  Looking finished and put together was of utmost importance…..

I also came across this old clip touting the hair artistry of one of the mid-century hair stylists.  Not sure I’d have let him near my hair!  I love birds, but I’m not sure I’d love “The Parakeet”!  HA!  Here it is, just for a laugh..

Bad puns and all!!

Enjoy your day.  I think I’m going to make sure I look polished when I go out the door today…no parakeet feathers though.

Of Bonnets and Spring Hats   Leave a comment

Today’s wet and rather dreary weather is tempered with a good old-fashioned cup of tea.  In my particular case,  since I’m still sporting some battle scars from my recent digestive free fall,  I’m relying on some newly purchased chamomile  and lavender tea to soothe my soul.  Drinking herbs and flowers sounds like a good alternative right about now, since I’m certainly not seeing any of them out in the garden yet!

At any rate, as mentioned yesterday, today’s quest was to seek out some visual curiosities in the world of women’s headwear, i.e. hats.  Hats that somehow covered or enhanced all those hair extravaganzas I came upon in yesterday’s visual trip down memory lane….not my memory lane of course, but someone about a hundred years older than myself.  The little numbers below are from a slightly later date than the hairstyles previously mentioned, but as hair was still fairly complicated in the 1880’s and 1890’s, I think they will qualify.  However….they only get bigger and better after these….

Having new articles of clothing at Easter is a custom that shows up in documents from as far back as the late 16th century.  Wearing a new outfit for this important time of year symbolized a renewal, the beginning of a new year and spiritual renewal as well.  The wearing of flowers also represented Spring and the rebirth of the year, so it seems natural that flowers and bonnets would find a common home…in this case, on a lady’s head!

In fact, there is early documentation that it was even considered ill luck not to have some new clothing at Easter….so of course any self respecting lady could not possibly go without at least a small article of something new!  So why not a wonderful and gregarious (if hats can be called gregarious, which I think they can) hat!  And why not just segue right into June with the same theme!  Why..but of course mes amis!  Voila!  June 1898!

Frankly, I don’t blame the ladies at all.  I think that I would have been one of the wearers of those hats, and after seeing all the wonderful vintage millinery materials still out there on Etsy sites and the like, I might even be tempted to try to construct a hat at some point in my life.  Maybe it runs in the blood.  My father told me that we had milliners in our family a few generations ago.  Perhaps they were constructing some of these very designs.  Food for thought while I take another sip of tea….

And leave you with some  Easter postcard images….and yes indeed, a couple of Easter hats have sneaked their way in too!

Long live hats!  Even if no one wears them any more!  They still inspire me!

And many thanks to www.costumes.org for some of the neat hat images!

How’d She ‘Do That?? Interesting Hair of a Past Age   Leave a comment

Well I’m sorry to report that my blogging was temporarily snuffed out due to an unexpected (it’s Spring for goodness sakes, I thought these things were supposed to be gone!) bout with a particularly nasty germ that hijacked my digestive system over the past few days….the kind that whips you around like a giant dog shaking his toy…and you are the toy!

Needless to say, when I wasn’t lying on the bed in a stupor, I had time to peruse some interesting images from my own collection and that of others.  Victorian hairdos seemed to hold a fascination, not only for the incredible amount of hair needed to create such ‘dos, but also the extreme complexity of some of them.

I think I have the hair, but I suspect I lack the manual dexterity for most of these creations. I would have needed some kind of helper to make me look presentable!  Look at these, all from an 1868 issue of Peterson’s Magazine…

Now we get a little more complex….

My fingers are getting tired….calling for helper….!

HELP!!…

All images above come from Public Domain art, kindly scanned by karenswhimsy.com, a great site if you love old images and also need a quick smile in your day.  My quick research into hair styles of the day indicates that these multitudes of curls, braids, etc. were oftentimes partly made up of small hairpieces…and since AquaNet hairspray was not even a twinkle in its inventor’s eye, if not hairpieces, the curls were held in place with…..grease or lard….oh DEAR!

Tomorrow I think I’ll check out hats….something to cover all that hair!