Canoeing Fashion in 1903 and the United States Postal Service

At the end of March this year, the USPS made an announcement about a forthcoming stamp featuring American author Henry James (1843–1916). What you might not know is that the USPS hired me to consult on the accuracy of the fashion depicted on the stamp.

1904 Boating party (note hats and dress styles)

The stamp features a profile of the author in later life in the foreground, with a scene from his The Ambassadors (1903) in the background. It was the depiction of the two characters in a canoe that were of concern, so I focused my efforts on boating attire in and around 1903 (as the author did not provide very detailed description of their clothing). (Fascinating side note, Boston outlawed kissing in canoes in 1903)

Society in general was much more formal at this time. From what I understand of the female character, ironically named Madame de Vionnet, she was beautiful and somewhat refined.

She would have more likely been wearing a hat – a straw boater or a picture hat (especially as James included a mention of a hat). She would have been wearing wrist-length puffed sleeves, had a defined/corseted waist, and a pigeon or bloused top (yes, much more formal, even for a ride in a boat). She may have been dressed in all white, or she may have had on a dark skirt with a white blouse (aka shirt and waist). Her blouse would more than likely have been high-necked.

Note style of women’s dresses: high necked, long sleeves, bloused shirt over defined waist (also hats):

The man’s attire would also have been more formal – with a stiffened arrow collar and bow-tie, and with the addition of hat. This image of photographer Edward Steichen on his honeymoon in 1903 suggests the style I mean:

Unfortunately, I was contacted to review the stamp fairly late in the process, and so despite the information I provided, no alterations were made to the stamp (pictured below). Nonetheless, it was still an interesting excuse for research and learning more about the connection(s) between fashion and literature. (For those who want more, there is Henry James and the Art of Dress)

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New Fashion Encyclopedia (Vol. 3 edited by yours truly!)

 Clothing and Fashion-19935376

I’m thrilled to share that a project I have been working on since 2012 has finally come to fruition (that is three years people!). Now available, Clothing and Fashion: American Fashion from Head to Toe is a four-volume encyclopedia edited by Mary D. Doering, Patricia Hunt-Hurst, and (myself) Heather Vaughan Lee, along with General Editor,  José Blanco F.

I wrote about 10% of volume 3 (1900-1945), and served as the volume editor. I was honored to work with an amazing group of historians, curators, collection managers, writers, and friends and I sincerely thank all of them for their contributions to this project.

While I don’t expect that very many individuals will buy this book, I do hope that it is picked up by libraries and university fashion departments. If you think your library/institution/department might be interested, you can print the flyer or you can now buy it directly from Amazon (at a slightly discounted price).

2015-12-14 16.57.31 12366263_10103698058592813_2693048397538750191_nContributors to Volume 3, 1900-1945 include

Shelley Foote
Katherine Hill Winters
Melinda Webber Kerstein
Brenna Barks
Arianna Funk
Tove Hermanson
Clarissa Esquerra
Priscilla Chung
Nadine Stewart
JoAnn Stabb
Lisa Santandrea
Marcella Millio
Patricia Cunningham
Inez Brooks-Myers
Monica D. Murgia
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Fashion History for the Holidays: Fashion A Timeline in Photographs: 1850 to Today

Milbanks

Recently released from Rizzoli, is a new gigantic visual reference for fashion history from expert Caroline Rennolds Milbank titled Fashion: A Timeline in Photographs: 1850 to Today (October 27, 2015). The forward from Harold Koda is overshadowed by the wealth of images: 1400 images on 320 pages. While the text is minimal, it is informative and interesting. Not your typical fashion history book, it explores a number of trends, types of clothing, and designers in not often seen images (those well versed in fashion history will present the ‘newness’ of this approach).

photoFor example, the spread on page 32 includes 10 photographs of fashions from 1867 with the text noting:

Two views of a Mrs. Bates show her seated in a black silk dress with jet embroidery and also standing dressed for an outing in a short paletot jacked and flat hat worn low on her forehead. A white cotton or linen waist with ribbon and other trimming, worn with a solid or plaid skirt makes an appearance. Christine Nilsson, the blonde and blue-eyed Swedish singing sensation, wears what is being called a suit, a fitted paletot and matching skirt in striped silk.”

The uncluttered design presents beautifully on the page, though historians may find it frustrating to have to flip back and forth to the end notes for citation information for all the photographs. Admittedly, however, the endnotes DO provide a wealth of fascinating information.

I think it would make a wonderful coffee table book – and it makes me wish I had a coffee table!

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#Fashionbooks: The History of Modern Fashion by Daniel James Cole and Nancy Deihl

Daniel James Cole and Nancy Deihl are the authors of the new book, The History of Modern Fashion (September 2015), and they were gracious enough to answer a few questions about their new publication from Laurence King, the publishing process, and their vision for the book. Nancy Deihl was my advisor in graduate school at NYU’s program in Visual Culture Costume Studies and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share her work. This new book covers the history of fashion from 1850-2010 and is lavishly illustrated. It’s a must have for fashion historians, students, and enthusiasts (and with the holiday’s approaching would make a great gift!)

How did the book, as a project begin, and develop? How long did it take to research, write and publish?

The publisher, Laurence King, based in London, approached the fashion design department at FIT about the possibility of a fashion history book. Daniel teaches in that department and was definitely interested in the opportunity and asked me to join him.  It took us over six years to research and write and have it brought to print.”

My assumption is that you intend it to be used as a fashion history textbook with some cross over appeal to the general market. How do you see it’s ‘place’ in the world? Especially in comparison to other fashion history survey’s out there (such as Tortora or Mendes/de la Haye)?

The History of Modern Fashion works well for textbook use. We organized the book using a decades approach, knowing that that’s how many (if not most) instructors organize the material for a course on modern fashion.  And we start with 1850 because that’s also a typical marker for a class.  The 1850s and 60s were notable in terms of developments of the designer system and also technologies, both important for laying the groundwork for 20th century fashion.

We also made sure to include subheadings, a glossary, and really explicit captions so every word is an opportunity to inform!  We feel – and the feedback we’ve gotten so far backs this up – that it fills a niche for lots of different levels of instruction.  The general public seems to be enthusiastic as well.  I spoke at an NYU alumni event last week – and as you know Steinhardt alums range from musicians to physical therapists – and there was a fantastic response to the book!”

Six hundred images is a LOT! How did the image selection/research/publication process go?

Yes, 600 images is a lot.  Images are crucial to this project so we are grateful that everyone at LK understood that.  We were very lucky that the picture editor, Heather Vickers, who has done a number of books for LK, was extremely imaginative and just wonderful to work with.  We did lots of sleuthing and had a wish list and although not every picture we wanted was traceable (or affordable) the results are extremely satisfying! And the Special Collections department at FIT was instrumental in helping with images – making many, many available to us.”

Anything in particular you’d like your fellow historians to know about this book, the process, or the research?

This was a big project.  We learned so much along the way – not just about fashion history but about research and collaboration and communication. We certainly got to know each other very well through this collaborative process.  At the beginning we were colleagues who were only slightly acquainted; by the end of the process we could finish each others’ sentences!!

One of our favorite aspects of the writing is the ‘sidebars’ that are part of each chapter – self-contained, fun (we hope!) profiles of memorable characters and fashion ‘stories.’”

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Help save the Helen Larson Costume Collection @FIDMMuseum with #4for400

4for400-corset

Today, the FIDM Museum launches the #4for400 project, a fundraising campaign for the acquisition of the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection. If successful, this remarkable collection will be kept in tact and available for research, exhibition, and inspiration.

The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection ranges from gowns worn by Queen Victoria (along with the clothing of 3 Empresses and 10 Princesses) to stunning couture creations of the twentieth century. It includes 22 haute couture designers including Paquin, Doucet, Chanel, Callot Soeurs, House of Worth, Fortuny, Lucile, Felix, Beer, and Lanvin.

These pieces were collected by Helen Larson, a successful Southern California collector and entrepreneur who understood the importance of fashion history. It is the only collection of this caliber in the world. The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection encompasses more than 1,400 pieces and represents 400 years of history (A man’s red velvet jerkin is the earliest piece, dating to 1600)– but this critically important collection could be broken up and lost forever. The Museum has until the end of 2015 to raise the remaining $2 million needed to purchase the collection for our institution. Without these funds, the collection will be dispersed or absorbed into another private collection, inaccessible to students, researchers, and the general public.

Here is how you can help:

  • Follow the FIDM Museum on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for details.
  • On 8/4 (TODAY!), donate $4, $40, $400, or $4,000 (or more!) by texting “MUSEUM” to 243-725.
  • Share, Like, Re-Gram, and Re-Tweet #4for400 posts from the FIDM Museum.
  • Forward this post to friends who are also interested in preserving fashion history.
  • Ask your favorite celebrities/politicians/persons of interest to support #4for400 on social media.
  • Join the #4for400 Open House (Today!) at the FIDM Museum, Los Angeles from 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. (with refreshments, raffles, music, and gallery tours).

All donations to the FIDM Museum are tax-deductible. If you would like to donate by check, make it out to “FIDM Museum and Library, Inc.” and mail it to

FIDM Museum #4for400

919 S. Grand Ave, Suite 250

Los Angeles, CA 90015

 

P.S. Follow the Twitter action here.

PSS: To the folks at FIDM Museum, I say “May the 4th be with you” 🙂

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25th Anniversary of Tortora and Marcketti’s Survey of Historic Costume

First published in 1989, Survey of Historic Costume by Phyllis G. Tortora would become a best-selling Fashion history textbook. For the 25th Anniversary edition, Tortora is joined by  a new co-author, Sara B. Marcketti, an Associate Professor at Iowa State University.

But, after 25 years, what could really be that different? It seems the publisher has been listening to professors feedback about the volume, and now authors have “decreased the length of part openers and made chapters a more manageable length.” In addition to adding a new Chapter 20, “The New Millennium,” which “places greater emphasis on major fashion events of this century, making this book as current as possible and more relevant to the study of fashion today.”

Additionally, the book comes with a new online student resource, “Survey of Historic Costume STUDIO.” It includes chapter videos, self-quizzes, flashcards, maps, a Fashion Designer index, and links to fashion museums, costume collections, and online resources. For the professor, STUIDO includes an image library, PowerPoint slides for each chapter, a test bank, and an instructors guide (including sample Syllabi).

More information on this resource (available to students in July 2015) is provided in this video :

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Guest Book Review: Fashion Victims

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Way back in February, Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell kindly provided a guest post on Fashion Historia (“When Redskin Was the New Black”). Now, Mark Hutter has generously provided a review Chrisman-Cambell’s book Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (Yale University Press, 2015). Hutter is the Senior Tailor in the Department of Historic Trades at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. His studies focus upon the social, political, industrial, and economic contexts of 17th and 18th century clothing. Hutter is a long time member and officer of the Costume Society of America. Enjoy!

Discussions and depictions of fashion in France on the eve of the Revolution have long focused on the visible extremes of the era and have often heaped blame for the extravagances directly on the ill-fated head of the Queen. In folklore and many traditional histories, the fashions, particularly those of the court, are dismissed as excessive frivolities, the Queen as vain, and the Revolution is justified as the inevitable means of righting these wrongs amongst others. Only in recent decades has an academic approach been applied to better understand the extraordinary complexities of the relationships between fashion, politics, economics, industry, media, celebrity and the makers, wearers, and observers of la mode Ancien and le mode Révolutionnaire. In her new book, Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie Anoinette, Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell masterfully discusses and explains these complexities with the familiarity of an eyewitness and the hindsight of the best of historians.

Some authors have undertaken broad studies the immense subject of this revolution in fashion and politics. Daniel Roche’s Culture and Clothing: Dress and Fashion in the ancient régime (1994) and Madeleine Delpierre’s Dress in France in the Eighteenth Century (1998) have served as the best introductions to the age. Other scholars have provided deeper analysis of certain aspects of the tumultuous era: Richard Wrigley, Politics of Appearance: Representations of Dress in Revolutionary France (2002); Clare Crowston, Fabricating Women: The Seamstresses of Old Regime France, 1765-1791 (2001); Jennifer Jones, Sexing “La Mode”: Gender, Fashion, and Commercial Culture in Old Regime France (2004); Caroline Weber, The Queen of Fashion, What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution (2006). The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s tremendously successful Dangerous Liaisons exhibit and catalogue (2006), sensuously illustrated the seductive relationship between Ancien Régime literature and fashion.

In Fashion Victims, Chrisman-Campbell seamlessly reconstructs the most complete depiction of the glitter before the gore, but she is not blinded by it. Fashion, both the manufacture and the consumption of it, is proven to be a powerful political machine. La mode was simultaneously reflective of and influential upon the shifting morals, philosophies, and alliances that resulted in the great social and governmental changes of the Revolution. The changes in French fashion- sartorial, ideological, and political- resonated globally. Chrisman-Campbell does not rely on her own words to convince the reader of the scale and importance of fashion, but draws from an impressive array of period authors, including many original manuscripts, as well as works unpublished since the eighteenth century. Her depth of understanding adds new insight to more familiar sources. Chrisman-Campbell skillfully translates old French, maintaining the nuance of the original commentators, and adds to these a compelling narrative and analysis of her own. The result is unrivaled.

The depth and quality of Chrisman-Campbell’s research and the intelligence of her interpretation is exemplified by her sustained discussions of particular phenomena and influences within fashion. The chapters on à l’Américaine and Anglomania, prove these trends to not be quaint mimicry but reflections of France’s international dialogue. Chrisman-Campbell teases-out the origins and importance of the coiffeur confections known as poufs, and the overt fashion victims who were les petite-mâitresses, and shows them not as mere fancies and faddist but as three-dimensional commentaries on the age, as timely, ephemeral, yet influential as the modern magazine cover and celebrity. The chapter on Figaro brilliantly demonstrates the circular relationship between fashion in media and fashion in reality.

Fashion Victims is as elegantly illustrated as it is written. The author tirelessly sought out every garment and scattered fragment purported to have association with Marie Antoinette; the best documented pieces are shown. The cast of the Court and the Revolution are introduced in countless portraits, some familiar and many not. The careful pairing of period prints with images of related extant objects and contemporaneous descriptions adds greatly to the reader’s ability to visualize the detailed styles…and the personalities, discussed. It is Chrisman-Campbell’s intimacy with these personalities, politics, and fashions that enables her to make them again understandable, and perhaps even desirable.” — Mark Hutter,

 

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A True #ThrowbackThursday: CSA Western Region Archives

Costume Society of America. Go to home page.

When I became the Archivist for CSA Western Region, I inherited seven boxes of files on our region’s 39 years of history and activities. These boxes have been added to and passed along to each successive Past President/Archivist for many years, and I thought it was high time we digitized them. The board agreed, and I have begun the long scanning process. I’ve just started on “Book 1” (a large three-ring binder), and I’m learning so much.

Here are five fun facts from the Archives:

  • The Western Region was established as the first region of CSA in 1976.
  • Mary Hunt Kalenberg, curator of Costumes and Textiles at LACMA was along with Jack Handford were co-chairmen of the board set in place prior to the first Western Region election. Kalenberg, “was instrumental in the organization of CSA and one of its 15 charter members. She served on the original National Board of Directors.” (CSA-WR Archives, Folder one, “Founding of CSA and the Early Years of Region V—Phylis Specht”). LACMA was generously supportive of the region during this period.
  • During the first 10 years (1976-86), the region hosted a whopping 66 programs. Subjects included:
    Folk/Ethnic (18); Art & Fashion (13); Western History (17), Theatre & Film (10); Conservation (1); Academic (4); and Miscellaneous (3).
  • The region operated solely as a Los Angeles chapter, with programs held bi-monthly, until 1981 when Inez Brooks-Myers was elected to the board and membership expanded to all the western states.
  • The first Symposium was Fashion and the Doll, held in November of 1985 at the Manhattan Country Club in Manhattan Beach. A ‘mini-symposium’ on costume for work and travel was held in February of the following year at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. An impressive number of these kinds of events were held over the next several years.

As I go through more of the material, I plan to share more information about the impressive history of
the Western Region.

This article was first published in the Newsletter of the Costume Society of America Western Region, Spring 2015 issue. Click here to read the full issue: Spring+2015+CSA-WR.

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Fashion History Primary Sources: Les Modes Online

Les Modes Nov 1909
Vicomtesse De Fontenay (Nee Pichon) in Les Modes, November 1909

For some research I’m doing, it has become incredibly helpful to have access to the National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France). They have a vast online collection, including searchable Les Modes (where the above image came from). It’s a marvelous resource for anyone doing research on Haute Couture. Happy Hunting!

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