Thursday, 7 February 2019

What to Wear 9


"Sumptuary" laws forbade the wrong kind of people to wear sable or ermine, like the aristocracy. Elizabeth I proclaimed: None shall wear in his apparel: Any silk of the color of purple, cloth of gold tissued, nor fur of sables, but only the King, Queen, King's mother, children, brethren, and sisters, uncles and aunts; and except dukes, marquises, and earls, who may wear the same in doublets, jerkins, linings of cloaks, gowns, and hose; and those of the Garter, purple in mantles only. (And you couldn't wear pantofles of velvet unless you were the son and heir apparent of a Knight.)


In the medieval period,  “luxuria” – the temptation of fine clothes – was a sin. Don’t blame everything on the Puritans. Disdain of the wrong people buying too many luxury goods (materialism, consumerism, media-fuelled shopping frenzy) continues.

A lot of School of Oriental and African Studies students dress like they’re off on an episode of Time Team, fresh from private school. (Via FB)

Coco Chanel... proposed that her wealthy clients dress among other things like fishermen (in Breton tops), like male horse riders (in, shock, trousers), and like their maids (in, double shock, black dresses). Times Nov 2018 (See also espadrilles borrowed from sailors in the South of France, sailor trousers, gaucho hats, baseball caps, military caps, Baque berets, ballet skirts and ballet shoes.)

“This season’s tailoring” is always “softer”.

Judging by the Toast catalogue and others, a youngish Upward woman wears a baggy dress with a full skirt to below the knee, no tights or socks, and flat lace-up canvas shoes, probably in dark green. With it she wears no makeup, no smile, and her hair in a messy updo. If it’s cold, she puts on a droopy cardigan. The clothes are made of “good” materials like cotton, and cost rather a lot. She is trying so hard not to look as if she is trying to look sexy that she looks sexy, or that is the idea.

No Upward could wear sling-back shoes in the 60s – they were too sexy in a sluttish kind of way.

Hippy style in the 60s included necklaces made of dried melon and pumpkin seeds. You washed them in a colander, dried them in the oven and dyed them with food dye, before stringing them with a needle and thread. When times were hard, you could eat the necklace. It was a tremendous amount of work, and few people did it. The fashion came just before the full-blown hippy era – as teenagers we were desperate for finery, and our Upward parents looked down on children wearing jewellery. Fake pearls from Woolworths were beyond the pale. We learned how to make the seed necklaces from girls’ comics. It took up so much time, and you’d be doing something. And once hippy fashion got going, necklaces of dyed exotic seeds from stalls in Oxford Street were affordable, if not edible.

Blue collar, white collar – a working man couldn’t afford to wear a clean white shirt every day. Dark colours didn’t show the dirt.

Formal wear for women is physically restrictive. Wearing a skirt used to involve a tight girdle and stockings, and a tailored jacket in which you couldn't raise your arms or slump. Tailored jackets and blouses are still like this.

Samantha Upward might wear a tunic over jeans, especially if it’s flowery and from a wacky, bohemian Swedish designer. With it she wears boots over-decorated with tooling, flowers or coloured leather rosettes, that describe themselves as “vintage”. The ensemble makes her look like an elf. Mrs Definitely wears a tunic over leggings – it hides everything – but she’d look better dressed as an 1900s flower-seller in a blouse, skirt and hat.

Caro Stow-Crat only wears clothes that are recognisable garments with a long history: blouse, shirt, skirt, trousers, cardigan, jacket, jumper, coat. They may have changed their shape several times over the past century or so, but they have endured. She avoids the “detailing” that manufacturers love to add to clothes for the older lady. And she never wears a tunic.

More here, and links to the rest.

1 comment:

  1. Toast fascinates me - I'm surprised there isn't more about it. It has created its own art form in those catalogues... and some of the clothes are lovely, but some of them - not so much. Beautiful-looking sweaters in itchy harsh wool: Why?

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