How Women Got Dressed in the 14th & 18th Centuries: Watch the Very Painstaking Process Get Cinematically Recreated

We live in an age of convenience, and one getting more convenient all the time. Few comparisons between past and present underscore that quite so much as the morning routine. Hot and cold running water on demand, properly appreciated, can seem miraculous enough, let alone more recent developments like the availability of high-quality coffee on every city block. But consider clothing, the change in whose outward appearance over the past 700 years or so goes along with an equally dramatic change in use. We still wear clothes for all the same basic reasons we did back then, of course, but what it takes to wear them has diminished to comparative effortlessness.

These videos, one on getting dressed in the 14th century and one on getting dressed in the 18th century, offer detailed, narrated, and cinematic looks at what the process once entailed — or at least what the process entailed for English women of a certain class.




The average man in those periods, too, had to deal with much more hassle putting on his clothes in the morning that he does today, but the female case, with its shift, stays, petticoats, pockets, roll, stockings and garters, gown and stomacher, apron, and more besides, required not just a great deal of discipline and concentration on the part of the dresser but assistance from another pair of hands as well.

You can find more such videos on the finer points of women's dressing routines of yore, including further explanations of such elements as pockets and busks, on this playlist. The social, technological, and industrial stories behind why it has all become so much less complicated over the centuries has provided, and will continue to provide, the driving questions for many an academic thesis. But despite the enormous reduction in the labor-intensiveness of putting them on, clothes have not, of course, become a perfectly simple matter for we dressers of the comparatively ultra-casual 21st century. Still, after watching all it took to get dressed those hundreds and hundreds of years ago, many of us — male or female — might arrive at the thought that we could stand to put just a little more effort into the job.

via Boing Boing

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Doc Martens Boots Now Come Adorned with Traditional Japanese Art

In wake of a recent prom cheongsam dust up, it remains to be seen whether Doc Martens’ special edition Eastern Art shoes and boots will be regarded as a misstep.

Dr. Martens' Artist Series paid tribute to Western heavy hitters like Hieronymus BoschWilliam Hogarth, JMW Turner, and William Blake.

Those eye-catching kicks may have inspired more than a few fashion-conscious punks to delve into art history, but what will consumers—and more importantly activists on the alert for cultural appropriation—make of the Eastern Art line?




The company website describes the inaugural design as:

a new homage to traditional Japanese art with a fresh, contemporary … spin. Featuring detailed hand-drawn paintings, the art is digitally printed on a textured leather designed to emulate traditional Japanese parchment, while gold-tone eyelets and studding complete the look.

One wonders what led the footwear giant to go with a mishmash “inspired by” approach, when there are so many wonderful Edo period artists who merit a boot of their own?

Katsushika Hokusai’s The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife (see here) would make for an unforgettable toe cap…

Kitagawa Utamaro could shod heels and ankles with the floating world.

Tawaraya Sōtatsu’s work would easily transfer from screen to shoe.

Thus far, the lone complaints have centered on the pain of breaking in the new boots, a badge of honor among longtime wearers of the company’s best-selling 1460 Pascal style.

Asia Trend reports that Doc Martens has two shops in Japan, with plans to open more.

If you’re inclined to stomp around in a pair of Dr. Martens 1460 Pascal Eastern Art boots or 1461 Oxfords, best place your order soon, as these special editions have a way of selling out quickly.

via MyModernMet

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

100 Years of Drag Queen Fashion in 4 Minutes: An Aesthetic Journey Moving from the 1920s Through Today

Drag superstar RuPaul’s Drag Race program can be credited with bringing his subculture to a much wider audience.

For ten seasons, viewers outside the major metropolitan areas and select holiday destinations where drag has flourished have tuned in to root for their favorite competitors.

As a result, mainstream America has developed a much more nuanced appreciation for the labor and artistry behind successful drag performance and personae.




Vanity Fair’s "100 Years of Drag Queen Fashion," above, is not so much an evolutionary history of the form as a salute to some of its pioneers, practitioners, and patron saints.

Each decade opens with a Drag Race alum facing the makeup mirror in a relatively naked state.  Shangela Laquifa Wadley, Raja, and Detox all appear sans fard. Kim Chi’s heavily made up eyes are eyelash-free.

The 70’s spin on the late, great Divine is more reminiscent of cis-gender disco queen Donna Summer than the outrageous plus-sized muse director John Waters referred to as “the most beautiful woman in the world, almost.”

As portrayed in the video below, there’s a strong echo of 1930’s Pansy Performer Jean Malin in RuPaul’s glamorous presentation.

In reality, the resemblance is not quite so strong. Although Malin got dolled up in Mae West drag in 1933’s Arizona to Broadway, above, left to his own devices his stage presence was that of an openly effeminate gay man, or “pansy.” As Professor George Chauncey, director of Columbia University’s Research Initiative on the Global History of Sexualities observes in his book, Gay New York:

 His very presence on the club floor elicited the catcalls of many men in the club, but he responded to their abuse by ripping them to shreds with the drag queen's best weapon: his wit. 'He had a lisp, and an attitude, but he also had a sharp tongue,' according to one columnist. 'The wise cracks and inquiries of the men who hooted at his act found ready answer.' And if hostile spectators tried to use brute force to take him on after he had defeated them with his wit, he was prepared to humble them on those terms as well. 'He was a huge youth,' one paper reported, 'weighing 200, and a six footer. Not a few professional pugilists sighed because Jean seemed to prefer dinner rings to boxing rings.' Although Malin's act remained tame enough to safeguard its wide appeal, it nonetheless embodied the complicated relationship between pansies and 'normal' men. His behavior was consistent with their demeaning stereotype of how a pansy should behave, but he demanded their respect; he fascinated and entertained them, but he also threatened and infuriated them.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

Other legendary figures honored by Vanity Fair include Francis Renault (1893-1955), Lavern Cummings (1925-1991), and Danny LaRue (1927-2009).

Also some gender bending lad by the name David Bowie, though if Vanity Fair’s skinny Divine causes a slight sense of unease, the hideous vinyl raincoat sported by its snarling, whip-wielding Bowie facsimile may send fans scuttling for torches and pitchforks.

As to the future, Joan Jetson collars and pink wedding cake wigs appear to be part of drag’s fashion forecast.

Cis-male skeletal structures may not always lend themselves to period-appropriate female silhouettes, but the towering heels on display are faithful to the art of the drag queen, above all else.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Dress Like an Intellectual Icon with Japanese Coats Inspired by the Wardrobes of Camus, Sartre, Duchamp, Le Corbusier & Others

If you follow men's style in the 21st century, you know that the same names tend to come up as references again and again, from actors like Cary Grant and Steve McQueen to businessmen like Gianni Agnelli and royalty like Prince Charles. But what if we looked to other, less conventional realms of culture for inspiration on what to wear and, more importantly, how to wear it? Over the past few years, Japanese label Cohérence has done just that, designing coats modeled after those worn by the likes of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Marcel Duchamp, and Le Corbusier — and improving upon them with new materials and details.

“I love Dada and Surrealism, jazz music, writers connected to the Lost Generation, and New Wave cinema. Along with the art and culture, there were also the clothes – the heavier fabrics and fuller silhouettes," says Cohérence designer Kentaro Nakagomi as quoted by men's style blogger Derek Guy of Die, Workwear! "They were classic, but also modern at the same time.”




If it strikes you as odd that a Japanese operation would dedicate itself to the styles of particular cultural moments in the West, know that modern Japan has quite a history of not just replicating them but reinventing them, told most recently by W. David Marx in his book Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style. Americans, thus far, haven't constituted a major presence in Cohérence's collections, though the jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer Sidney Bechet did inspire a Balmacaan.

Though Frenchmen (also including The Little Prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and writer-artist-filmmaker Jean Cocteau) dominate the label's list of inspirations, it has also made several coats in honor of Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, the Japanese painter and printmaker who in the early 20th century brought the artistic techniques of his ancestral homeland to his adopted homeland of France. In a way, Foujita stands as a symbol of the whole project, premised as it is on the union of classicism and modernity as well as exchange between Japan and Europe. And were he around today, Foujita, like Cohérence, would surely also have made good use of Instagram.

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Vintage Literary T-Shirts

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Presents a Free Online Class on Fashion: Enroll in Fashion as Design Today

Fashion as Design, a free online course by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), beginning this coming week (11/27), may not equip you with the skills to bring a fabulous garment to fruition, but it will help you understand the context behind clothes both workaday and wild.

Led by Department of Architecture and Design Senior Curator Paola Antonelli, Curatorial Assistant Michelle Millar Fisher, and Research Assistant Stephanie Kramer—whose respective fashion heroes are actor Cate Blanchett, designer Claire McArdle, and activist Gloria Steinem—the course will consider the history and impact of 70+ individual garments.

The pieces can be examined in person through the end of January as part of MoMA’s Items: Is Fashion Modern? exhibition.

Some of the duds on the syllabus benefited from a celebrity boost, such as Bruce Lee’s iconic red track suit, recreated with its proper early 70’s cut, below.

Others, just as iconic, can be bought without fanfare in a drugstore or supermarket—witness the plain white t-shirt, introduced to MoMA’s collection when Antonelli was curating 2004’s Humble Masterpieces: Everyday Marvels of Design.

Students with no particular interest in fashion may be intrigued to consider the threads on their backs through such lenses as marketing, distribution, politics, identity, and economics.

Students will also delve into the lifecycle of clothing, fashion-related labor practices, and sustainability. The more consumers understand this side of the biz, the likelier it is that the fashion industry will be pushed toward adopting more ethical practices.

Enroll in the Museum of Modern Art’s free Fashion as Design course here or stick a toe in with the companion exhibition's Youtube playlist or the teachers’ delightfully candid first-person commentary in Surface Magazine’s behind-the-scenes coverage:

The Hoodie

The hoodie is one of those items that has had a long and multifaceted life, and one that’s become so politically charged. But this sweater, with the hood and the string, with or without the zipper, is from the 1930s, from a company that was called Knickerbocker Knitting Company, before it became Champion. Initially the hoodie was made for athletes, to keep them warm before or after training. It was immediately co-opted by construction and cold-storage workers. Then in the 1970s and ’80s it became city-dwelling kids’ garment of choice when skateboarding illegally or writing graffiti or breakdancing. There’s an aspect of the hoodie that’s become a kind of quiet defiance of the system—of wanting to be in the middle of it but somehow away from it. The hoodie gives you a false impression of being invisible. All these different histories bring us to today. The Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman incident a few years ago transformed the hoodie into this symbol of injustice. We’re going to have this red Champion hoodie from the 1980s—when it’s at the moment of transition. But it’s going to be there by itself and we’re hoping it’s going to be really resonant. It shows the power that certain garments have to become symbols for political struggle. —Paola Antonelli

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday

Browse a Collection of Over 83,500 Vintage Sewing Patterns

My costume design professor at Northwestern University, Virgil Johnson, delighted students with his formula for period clothing. I have forgotten some of the mathematic and semantic particulars—does dressing someone five years behind the times a “frumpy” character make? Or is it merely one?

I do recall some anxious hours, preparing for the school’s main stage production of the incestuous Jacobean revenge tragedy, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore. The societal corruption of the play was underscored by having the supporting characters slouch around, snorting mimed cocaine in cutting edge, mid-80s Vogue Patterns … those big unstructured jackets were very a la mode, but they gobbled up a lot of high-budget fabric, and I didn’t want to be the one to make a costly sewing mistake.

What sticks in my mind most clearly is that 20 years was the sweet spot, the appropriate amount of elapsed time to ensure that one would not appear dumpy, dowdy, or oblivious, but rather prudent and discerning. Donning a garment that was 15 years out of fashion might be daringly “retro,” but another five and that same garment could be heralded as “vintage.”

The collaborative Vintage Pattern Wiki puts the magic number at 25, requesting that contributors make sure the patterns they post are from 1992 or earlier, and also out-of-print.

The browsable collection of over 83,500 patterns runs the gamut from Dynasty-inspired pussy bow power suits to Betty Draper-esque frocks featuring models in white gloves to an 1895 boys' Reefer Suit with fly-free short trousers.

Visitors can narrow their search to focus on a particular garment, designer or decade. If you click these links, you can see patterns from the following decades: 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s1970s, and 1980s.

The movie star collection is particularly fun. (Flattering or no, I’ve always wanted a pair of Katharine Hepburn pants…)

And it goes without saying that the dog days of summer are the perfect time to get a jump on your Halloween costume.

Those who are itching to get sewing should check the links below each pattern envelope cover for vendors who have the pattern in stock and photos and posts by community members who have made that same garment.

The prices and handwritten jottings of the original owners will also put you in a vintage mood.

The hunt starts here.

via Metafilter

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Google Creates a Digital Archive of World Fashion: Features 30,000 Images, Covering 3,000 Years of Fashion History

Both the fashion and art worlds foster the creation of rarified artifacts inaccessible to the majority of people, often one-of-a-kind pieces that exist in specially-designed spaces and flourish in cosmopolitan cities. Does this mean that fashion is an art form like, say, painting or photography? Doesn’t fashion’s ephemeral nature mark it as a very different activity? We might consider that we can ask many of the same questions of haute couture as we can of fine art. What are the social consequences of taking folk art forms, for example, out of their cultural context and placing them in gallery spaces? What is the effect of tapping street fashion as inspiration for the runway, turning it into objects of consumption for the wealthy?

Such questions should remind us that fashion and the arts are embedded in human cultural and economic history in some very similar ways. But they are also very different social practices. Much like trends in food (both fine dining and cheap consumables) fashion has long been implicated in the spread of markets and industries, labor exploitation, environmental degradation, and even microbes. As Jason Daley points out at Smithsonian, “The craze for silk in ancient Rome helped spawn the Silk Road, a fashion for feathered hats contributed to the first National Wildlife Refuges. Fashion has even been wrapped up in pandemics and infectious diseases.




So how to tell the story of a human activity so deeply embedded in every facet of world history? Expansively. Google Arts & Culture has attempted to do so with its “We wear culture” project. Promising to tell “the stories behind what we wear,” the project, as you can see in the teaser video at the top, “travelled to over 40 countries, collaborating with more than 180 cultural institutions and their world-renowned historians and curators to bring their textile and fashion collections to life.” Covering 3,000 years of history, “We wear culture” uses video, historical images, short quotes and blurbs, and fashion photography to create a series of online gallery exhibits of, for example, “The Icons," profiles of designers like Oscar de la Renta, Coco Chanel, and Issey Miyake.

Another exhibit “Fashion as Art” includes a feature on Florence’s Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, a gallery dedicated to the famous designer and containing 10,000 models of shoes he created or owned. Asking the question “is fashion art?”, the exhibit “analyses the forms of dialogue between these two worlds: reciprocal inspirations, overlaps and collaborations, from the experiences of the Pre-Raphaelites to those of Futurism, and from Surrealism to Radical Fashion.” It’s a wonder they don’t mention the Bauhaus school, many of whose resident artists radicalized fashion design, though their geometric oddities seem to have had little effect on Ferragamo.

As you might expect, the emphasis here is on high fashion, primarily. When it comes to telling the stories of how most people in the world have experienced fashion, Google adopts a very European, supply side, perspective, one in which “The impact of fashion,” as one exhibit is called, spans categories “from the economy and job creation, to helping empower communities.” Non-European clothing makers generally appear as anonymous folk artisans and craftspeople who serve the larger goal of providing materials and inspiration for the big names.

Cultural historians may lament the lack of critical or scholarly perspectives on popular culture, the distinct lack of other cultural points of view, and the intense focus on trends and personalities. But perhaps to do so is to miss the point of a project like this one—or of the fashion world as a whole. As with fine art, the stories of fashion are often all about trends and personalities, and about materials and market forces.

To capitalize on that fact, “We wear culture” has a number of interactive, 360 degree videos on its YouTube page, as well as short, advertising-like videos, like that above on ripped jeans, part of a series called “Trends Decoded.” Kate Lauterbach, the program manager at Google Arts & Culture, highlights the videos below on the Google blog (be aware, the interactive feature will not work in Safari).

Does the project yet deliver on its promise, to “tell the stories behind what we wear”? That all depends, I suppose, on who “we” are. It is a very valuable resource for students of high fashion, as well as “a pleasant way to lose an afternoon,” writes Marc Bain at Quartz, one that “may give you a new understanding of what’s hanging in your own closet.”

We wear culture” features 30,000 fashion pieces and more than 450 exhibits. Start browsing here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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