Friday File

Happy Friday! I have the day off and am starting to packing up our apartment in anticipation of our move next weekend. Packing is far from my favorite thing, so please wish me luck.

If you are looking for something cool to do this weekend in Chicago, check out the exhibition “Field Works Gallery Extravaganza.” The show is this weekend only and features 18 emerging artists who were inspired by the Natural History Collection at the Field Museum. Tonight is the opening at Ian Sherwin Gallery from 7-11 p.m.

Hope you have a great weekend!

The Dolce & Gabbana fall 2014 Alta Moda show sounds like the most luxury fashion show possible. Christina Binkley takes us along to Capri for an insider’s look at the exclusive weekend in Capri.

Mad Men is known for being fastidious about its attention to period detail, and of course the furniture is no exception.

I have no idea if this story is true, but this craigslist post about a NYC restaurant’s turnaround issue makes you think about the effect our cell phones have on our culture.

Miss Idaho wore her insulin pump visible on her bikini during the swimsuit portion of the competition.

All about women’s knickers in the 1920s.

Vintage Bathing Caps

Bathing caps in the 1950s could be pretty whimsical, and this video clip of a swimming cap fashion show from the British Pathe is pretty amusing. Enjoy!

Late 19th Century Bathing Suits

As Labor Day weekend approaches, I’m sure many of you are planning to spend some time at the pool or beach. If you are, be glad that bathing suits have evolved into what they are today.

bathing suit, 1876-80 | bathing suit, 1878-80, both from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Both men and women used to wear wool bathing suits. Having examined many myself, let me tell you that this was not a soft wool. Unfortunately they could be made of scratchy flannel. Late nineteenth century suits were often navy blue, although suits of white, grey, and brown were worn too.

Remember, these suits weren’t really meant for actual swimming. Women could dunk themselves underwater and do a little frolicking, but women weren’t swimming laps.

bathing suit, c. 1885 | bathing suit, 1885, both from Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the late 1870s to the 1890s, bathing suits were made of two to three pieces — a dress over bloomers; a blouse, skirt, and trousers; or a unitard under a skirt. Many featured a belt at the waist. Some women wore slippers or bathing shoes.

Trousers provided modesty and greater mobility, as opposed to wearing full-length skirts in the water (which were worn for swimming prior to the 1870s). As trousers got shorter, women covered their legs with stockings.

Above you can see these bathing suits in use at the beach in Atlantic City. See the women in the water in their suits — far from the body-baring styles and modern fabrics today. Can you spot the woman trying to wring out her suit? The wool suits could get quite heavy when wet.

And below, check out similar styles worn by women at a photo tent on the beach. You can really get a good look at their trousers. It looks like the woman on the left is also wearing stockings.

Can you imagine how uncomfortable the bathing suits must have been, especially when wet?

Exhibition File – Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit

An exhibition at the Honolulu Museum of Art is perfect for anyone interested in surfing, history, art, or fashion history. The piece of clothing known as the boardshort catches the perfect wave in this show. Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit looks at where early boardshorts came from and how they evolved into a “symbol of extreme sports and a counterculture lifestyle.”

This exhibition delves into technology and aesthetics, addressing both the material used for “speed, comfort, flexibility, and durability” and the patterns — such florals, skulls, sharks, etc. — and colors used for boardshorts. This show also looks at companies such as Quicksilver, Billabong, and Hurley to see how they transformed surf culture into a mega, global industry.

Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit runs until January 13.

Address: Honolulu Museum of Art, 900 S. Beretania, Honolulu, HI
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10-4:30, Sunday 1-5
Admission: adults $10, children 4-17 $5, children 3 and under free, members free

Historic Double Take

Mazzy bathing suit from Agent Provocateur

When I saw the Agent Provocateur “Mazzy” bathing suit above, I did a double take. At first I thought I was looking at another bathing suit, created in 1970.*

The suit I was thinking of was designed by American designer Rudi Gernreich. Gernreich was a noteable and controversial designer during the 1950s to 1970s. He is best known for creating the monokini, a bathing suit that revealed a woman’s breasts. He used plastic often in his designs and played with the notion of unisex.

Below you can see Agent Provocateur’s “Mazzy” bathing suit and Gernreich’s suit from 1970-71. The thick, crisscrossing black lines are nearly identical, and the colors used on AP’s suit harken back to Gernreich’s color palette.

On further inquiry, I realized Agent Provocateur also has a two piece that also borrows heavily from one of Gernreich’s bikinis. I found an extant example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection.

Mazzy Bikini Bra and Bikini Brief from Agent Provocateur | bikini by Rudi Gernreich, 1970-71 from Metropolitan Museum of Art

I think the similarities between the shape, lines, and colors are much more than coincidence. The designers of the AP suits borrowed heavily on the historic 1970s suits by Gernreich.

I’m curious, what do you think? Is this homage to Gernreich or fashion design plagiarism?

*Also, I wanted to note that my friend and fellow fashion historian Monica Murgia noticed the similarity before me and blogged about it, but I wanted to share it with you here because this is just too good not to.

Bathing Suits of the ’50s

Swimsuits from the 1950s were incredible. Continuing the trend established in the early 20th century, more skin was displayed near the water than ever before.

These swimsuits followed the popular silhouette of the day and the fashionable shape of the body as seen above — an hourglass shape.* They mimicked undergarments from the time (like bras, waist cinches, and girdles), molding the body with bra cups, boning, control panels, and stretch fabric.

Because these bathing suits had a foundation of their own, they could be worn with or without straps.

The cut of the suit was straight across the top of the thigh creating a modesty apron. That modesty apron hid the fabric that covered the privates. Some suits had bottoms shaped liked shorts, skirts, and/or bloomers.

Two-piece suits were worn mostly by actresses or other celebrities. Few common women in the United States were willing to wear something so risqué in the 1950s.

The most common fabrics used in bathing suits were cotton, nylon, and Lastex, which is a trademarked name “used for an elastic yarn consisting of a core of latex thread wound with threads of cotton, rayon, nylon, or silk and used to give a one-way or two-way stretch to fabrics and garments.”

photo of women from Edina, MN, c. 1950s from Edina Historical Society

As a personal preference I wish I could find bathing suits just like the ones from the 1950s. I know that there are contemporary labels that make vintage-style 1950s suits, but they aren’t quite the same. The cut of the leg of the reproduction suits would have been considered high back then. I’ve never seen a recreation that incorporates boning or other foundational shaping used back then. Unfortunately everything relies solely on stretch fabrics today.

*The desired hourglass shape was created by restrictive undergarments that hadn’t been worn since before the 1920s.