Friday File

Happy Friday! What are you up to this weekend? We are moving tomorrow, and I can’t wait. We’ve been living among boxes for the past week, which has not been easy. The movers are coming in the late afternoon. Wish us luck!

And now some interesting links.

I need to add this book on the history of manicures to my bookshelf.

The August cover of Marie Claire is too cool. I kind of want to get my hands on an issue.

Some Ikea stores are advertising rescue dogs throughout their showrooms with life-size cardboard models. Such a cute idea.

This survey of scientists, most of whom work in the field, shows a high percentage of sexual abuse, especially for female students or postdocs. #yesallwomen

Back in the 19th century, doctors warned women about the dangers of “bicycle face.” Seriously.

I’m looking forward to exploring The Museum at FIT’s new website for its current exhibition Exposed: A History of Lingerie.

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!

New Issue of Dress

One of the best perks to membership in the Costume Society of America is a subscription to the journal Dress. It comes out twice per year, and this year’s first issue arrived at my office about a month ago. Since life has been so busy, I was finally able to sit down with it yesterday.

This issue is dedicated to Charlotte Jirousek, who was to be the new editor of Dress. Sadly she passed away before the publication went to print. Charlotte was an expert of Turkish dress and textiles, and she leaves a great legacy in this area of research. Following Charlotte, Christina Bates, curator at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, will take over as editor.

This issue is fabulous. I already read a piece about Grace Coolidge and her wardrobe by Valija Evalds and one about fashion exhibition by my good friend Michal Lynn Shumate. There are still articles about the Panama’s Kuna women’s mola blouses, gypsy or gitana dress, the evolution of midriff exposure in the early 20th century, and a number of book and exhibition reviews to read.

I know a few of my readers are Costume Society of America members, so have you read the new issue yet? Any favorite articles?

Fall Fashion Exhibition at the Met

Exciting news came out of the Metropolitan Museum of Art yesterday. Its Costume Institute announced that it will offer the first fall fashion exhibition in seven years in the new Anna Wintour Costume Center!


mourning ensemble, 1870-1872 and veil, c. 1875, photo by Karin Willis, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

The exhibition is called Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire, and will focus on on women’s mourning fashions of the 19th and early 20th centuries. About 30 ensembles are expected to be on exhibit contextualized with fashion plates, jewelry, accessories, photographs, and daguerreotypes. The show will run October 21, 2014 through February 1, 2015.

It’s exciting news that the Met is returning to a two-exhibition-a-year schedule. Also, this show, which will be thematic and organized chronologically, sounds as if it may be more scholarly in nature than the blockbuster summer exhibitions the Costume Institute normally produces. Can’t wait to hear more about it!

Friday File

Happy Friday! My apologies for writing here less often lately. My evenings have become a bit busier. Also, I’m rededicating myself to exercising regularly — I signed up for Zumba and am getting back into strength training. This means I have less time to write after work, or I collapse in exhaustion when I get home.

On Monday I attended a documentary screening that I co-organized. If you have the opportunity to see “Men of the Cloth,” don’t miss it. It’s a captivating look at the lives of master tailors and their dedication to the craft.

Also, last night I got a haircut with a new stylist, Dae. He didn’t do anything dramatic to my hair, but I really liked what he had to say about developing a relationship with his clients. I felt like he really listened to me and that my hair was in good hands.

And now for some great links:

gowns by Charles James at the Met’s exhibition preview, photo by Hannah Thomson, from Vogue.com

Are you ready for Monday’s Met Gala 2014, which celebrates the opening of “Charles James: Beyond Fashion?” I’ll be watching online.

Fashion designer Patrick Kelly is the subject of a retrospective exhibition opening at the Philadelphia Museum of Art this Sunday.

Great news!

I don’t follow celebrity relationships, but I greatly enjoyed this open letter to George Clooney’s fiancée. She is one accomplished woman.

Do you read The Gentlewoman? I’ve been meaning to subscribe since it launched in 2010.

Just discovered The Courtauld Institute of Art’s new fashion history blog.

The Calash


calash, 18th century, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the second half of the 1700s, women’s hairstyles grew to be very elaborate in extreme sizes. The most fashionable and wealthy women were known to sport extravagant coifs. But women were still expected to wear hats for protection and modesty. For outdoor use, the calash was introduced.

The calash was a style of bonnet or hood designed to accommodate the large hairdos, without damaging them. Supported by semi-hoops, the calash was made of fabric and looked like a French carriage. It was worn through the mid 19th century.


calash, 19th century, from Museum of Fine Arts Boston


calash, c. 1820, from Metropolitan Museum of Art


calash, mid 19th century, from Museum of Fine Arts Boston

As you might expect with such an odd-looking, oversized accessory, the calash was ripe for satire. Cartoonists took aim in their illustrations.




The cartoons were exaggerations, meant to mock women for their fashionable choices in hairstyles and hats. But what did the calash actually look like in real life? The photos below reveal a more accurate proportion.


The above photos were taken in the late 19th century, many decades after the calash went out of fashion. The best guess is that the woman pictured is dressed up in historical 1820s fashions, specifically for the photograph. Even though the hat and dress are in essence a costume, it is still a great look at what the calash actually looked like on a woman.

Clovers in Fashion

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! In honor of the holiday, I rounded up some cool examples of clovers in fashion design. Enjoy and Erin go Bragh!








Friday File

My parents are coming into town this weekend, and I’m looking forward to their visit. I’m taking them to Publican, a meat-centric restaurant with communal tables. All week I’ve been excited to get oysters!

I’m trying to fend off getting sick too. This has been a bad winter for my health. Stay warm, healthy, and have a great weekend!

And now here are this week’s links:


Solon and Emma Borglum in the Artist's Paris Studio, c. 1899, from Metropolitan Museum of Art, courtesy of Peter H. Hassrick

I had no idea cowboy artists in Paris were a thing during the late Victorian era.

Great blog post by the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection on the shirt-waist, a blouse women wore at the turn of the century.

I think libraries are awesome, and so is this piece proclaiming their hipness.

My colleague and former boss, Karen Herbaugh of the American Textile History Museum, was interviewed about wearing pajamas in public alongside Clinton Kelly. Karen shared her historical point of view, while Clinton brought his What Not To Wear-trademark assessment.

I was fascinated by this piece in The Atlantic called “The Death of the Cool Feminist Smoker.”

I’m not sure I understand normcore. Do you get it?

I’m trying to figure out how I can see the traveling exhibition of Dr. Seuss’ hats.

A Century of Party Dresses

A few months ago, I was interviewed by Collectors Weekly about party dresses throughout the 20th century. We covered almost every decade, defining what looks were predominant. The interview was posted on Monday, and I wanted to share it with you. I had a lot of fun talking about party dresses!

It’s kind of funny to read a transcription of the way you talk, but this is my voice through and through. I only went on a handful of tangents, which as my interviewer Hunter said, “that’s often when you get to the most fascinating tidbits.”

I hope you enjoy!

The 1870s Lobster Bustle


evening dress, about 1873, from McCord Museum

In the 1870s, dresses shifted in shape dramatically. Instead of a full circle encompassing the wearer as was worn throughout most of the 19th century to this point, the skirt took the shape of an ellipse. The skirt was narrow over the hips; instead the fullness moved to the back. By 1873, this new shape was pronounced, and by 1875, it was often referred to as a mermaid’s tail.

Have you ever wondered how this shape was accomplished? How did they support all the volume at the back of the skirt?

To fill out this shape, a new bustle combined the crinolines of earlier decades with structural support in the rear. Sometimes called a lobster bustle, the structure is accomplished with exaggerated horizontal wire ribs or horsehair padding in a crinoline skirt that is slim at the front and sides.

Take a look at these great examples!

bustle, 1870s, from American Textile History Museum

bustle, 1873, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

bustle, 1870s, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

bustle, 1870s, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

I really love the lobster bustles from 1870s. Such a cool shape. Like architecture underneath a dress. And they do remind me of lobster tails!