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.

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

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.

Friday File

Happy Friday! I admit I am ready for Spring Break next week, even if it means I still have to work. I had a lot of class visits in the Fashion Study Collection this week plus a donor visit. I need a rest from lecturing, even if that means getting some monotonous cataloging done at my desk. Is there something you do at work that is commonly thought of as boring but you actually enjoy (at least from time to time)?

Aside from work, I’m looking forward to the Marc Le Bihan trunk show at Robin Richman this weekend. His spring/summer collection and pre-sale fall/winter collection will be 15% off, and there is a cocktail reception tonight.

Now, the best links of the week:

Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has smart, funny, and compelling thoughts on gender, feminism, and Africa and she’s stylish as all heck. Her Ted talk is incredible. I need to get my hands on her books. Someone get this woman a bigger platform immediately!

My good friend Liz is headed to the National Stationary Show. And her business, Betsy Ann Paper, needs a little help with a Kickstarter. If you love beautifully crafted stationary, you will want to back this. The rewards are stellar!

I’m planning to sit down with my iPad this weekend and read through the New York Times special section on Museums, which was published earlier in the week.

We need to do something to better support female fashion designers in the United States. The following section, reported as industry culture, makes me rage: “Over the past six months, I’d estimate that nearly a dozen publicists and designers have mentioned to me that it’s more difficult to sell an editor on a female designer. To them, the hierarchy goes like this: straight men first, gay men second, women third.”

I would visit a Museum of Food and Drinks.

I can’t wait until the Yves Saint Laurent movie comes out (June 25)! Also, I’m clutching my pearls over so many original garments worn in the film.

Rena Tom wrote a great piece that muses over handcraft versus machine craft.

Designer L’Wren Scott was found dead on Monday, which was ruled a suicide. Cathy Horyn wrote a personal reflection about Scott’s life and her relationship with the deceased designer.

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.

Friday File – Fashion Week

gown by Oscar de la Renta fall/winter 2013, photo by NOWFASHION, from SHOWstudio

New York Fashion Week is finally over and my twitter feed is relieved. Of course we still have London, Milan, and Paris to go, but I find that the reports and tweets from the international fashion weeks aren’t quite so overwhelming.

A friend posted this piece on feminism and fashion week and it’s spot on:

Aesthetics aren’t the enemy of feminism; social codes that require women to meet certain aesthetic principles, and to be constantly putting in time, effort and money in the service of femininity, are the enemy. Fight the system, not the people who do their best to operate in it, or, God forbid, take a little pleasure where they can find it. Gendered fashion requirements are bad. Enjoying the self-expression and aesthetic appeal of clothing? Girl, go ahead and enjoy your new shoes.

Amen! Man, I just want to quote the whole thing.

I’ve also been searching for flights to New York this summer in order to see Punk: Chaos to Couture at the Met. On Monday, curator Andrew Bolton and others involved in the exhibition (you bet Anna Wintour was there) hosted a media preview that was covered by the New York Times, Vogue, and Fashionista. Fashionista has a really good slide show of musicians in their punk attire next to the high-end designer looks they inspired. If you only check out one of those links, take a look at that.

I was mesmerized by this 1922 footage of actresses on film in color striking poses. It’s kind of amazing. You have to see it for yourself.

This hairstylist turned archaeologist has spent more than 10 years trying to figure out how ancient Greeks and Romans styled their hair. Her theory based on experiential research is gaining a following among scholars who study ancient times.

One of my favorite fashion writers, Raquel Laneri, compiled a slideshow of fashion shoots inspired by fine art paintings. I think my favorite was the shot by Joel-Peter Witkin for The New York Times in 2006 made to look like Edward Hopper’s The Automat.

My mom will be in town this weekend, I am hoping to see Picasso and Chicago at the Art Institute of Chicago. This weekend is just a members’ preview (another good benefit to becoming a member of a museum), but it opens to the general audience on Wednesday. I’m excited about this new take on Picasso. Have a great weekend!

Friday File — A New Series

Today I’m going to try something new on the blog — a series of interesting links found around the web. I know link roundups aren’t anything new in the blog world, but I’ve never done one, and I thought maybe you guys might appreciate my finds every Friday.

I often tweet links to interesting articles, but tweets have such a short shelf life. Within twitter’s 140 character confines, I can’t reflect much on them either.

So let me know what you think!

Threaded, the Smithsonian’s fashion blog is running a series on the flapper. Part 1 details how freedom motivated the flapper and part 2 discusses the rising popularity of makeup. I hope they will continue the series.

Are you a woman and have been to Paris? If so and you wore pants in the City of Lights, you were probably breaking the law! Just last month, a 200-year-old law banning women from wearing pants was finally repealed. Crazy!

New York City gets so many good designer sales. Living in the midwest for the most of my adult life I’ve never been able to experience the rush of a sample or warehouse sale. But Barneys is moving its legendary, yearly warehouse sale online. This past Monday, it launched Barneys Warehouse. So far it looks pretty similar to NET-A-PORTER’S discount site, THE OUTNET.

This roundup of newspaper headlines frowning on women’s fashions throughout the ages had me chuckling a bunch.

This New York Times sketch about a menswear designer looking for runway models on the streets of New York is amusing. I have a friend whose husband has walked twice during fashion week — both times scouted off the street in the same way.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend! And if you are in Chicago, don’t forget to take advantage of Restaurant Week, which runs until Sunday! I’m going out to lunch today with a friend and colleague at a much fancier and pricey place than normal. Gotta love a good prix fixe!

Bike Week – Historic Bicycle Fashion

Women on bicycles, 1898 from Victoria and Albert Museum

Today, Bike Week continues with a look at historic bicycle fashion. But first, I want to welcome any new readers who have come over from The Vintage Traveler. Hello!

I met Lizzie, who blogs at The Vintage Traveler, in Atlanta at the Costume Society of America symposium. I’m guest blogging on her site today, and Lizzie will be appearing here next Monday. I’m sharing what it’s like to be a historic costume collection manager on The Vintage Traveler. Please check it out.

And now, back to Bike Week!

Bicycling was a growing trend in the 1890s. According to the Survey of Historic Costume, by 1896, 10 million Americans were cycling.

The craze for bicycles was part of an upswing in women’s activity in sports, along with tennis, golf, crew, baseball, and basketball. But for the most part, women’s sports made due with few alterations to women’s clothing.

Bicycles presented more challenges to Victorian women’s wardrobes. At this time a woman wore many layers — a pair of drawers, a chemise or combination directly next to the body, then a corset, a camisole on top, and one or two petticoats. That was just the undergarments!

Then there was a dress or bodice/shirtwaist and skirt. The silhouette of women’s clothing in the 1890s was hourglass shaped.

With long, bell-shaped skirts, riding a bike was not the easiest feat. To accommodate straddling a bike, some changes needed to be made. And so the bicycle suit was born.

According to Cynthia Cooper in The Fashion Reader, the avant-garde bicycle suit was “based on the tailor-made suit, these cycling outfits had fitted jackets and the first accepted form of trousers for women, which covered the knee. A skirt may nonetheless have hidden these trousers.”

Jacket and Bloomers, c. 1895 from Kyoto Costume Institute, photo by Takashi Hatakeyama

Many women’s bloomers were so full that they passed as skirts when a lady wasn’t riding. In the example above from the Kyoto Costume Institute, the bloomers have so much volume that a passerby might not notice at a glance that they are actually not a skirt.

Not all women wore bicycle trousers. Most women made do with jackets or shirtwaists, a type of fitted blouse with varying degree of lace and ruffles, and simple skirts. Some skirts were a bit shorter than a typical daytime skirt to accommodate swinging the leg over the bike’s frame. Others were bifurcated in the rear as to allow more range of motion and prevent the skirt from getting caught in the chain or spokes of the rear tire.

Below is an example of a bifurcated skirt from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Note that from the front it looks like a regular skirt, but from behind the division into separate pant legs is evident.

Suit, Cycling, 1896 from Metropolitan Museum of Art

In both the images above, women pose for photographers in studio settings. These photographs allow us to note the detail of the rear wheel. You can see that these women have not chosen to modify their dress. Instead they have wheel cages to prevent their skirts from getting caught in the spokes.

Biking continued to gain popularity, giving women more freedom to travel short distances without the accompaniment of a man and normalizing less restrictive dress practices. About 30 years separate the image above with the image below, but the fashions have changed considerably. It may not seem radical to us now, but in a short period of time, the bicycle helped usher pants into the modern woman’s wardrobe.

Feminine Lingerie Dresses

As spring transitions toward warm summer weather, our wardrobes shift to accommodate. I can imagine the same type of change happening around the turn of the 20th century; women updating their wardrobes with new dresses or making adjustments to the dresses they already owned.

White cotton or linen dresses were fashionable during late spring and summer in the late 1890s all the way to the late 1910s. These dresses were made of gauzy muslin and decorated with a lot of embroidery and lace to create a frilly look. They were called lingerie dresses, and, according to Survey of Historic Costume, were called that because the “fabric and decoration so much resembled women’s undergarments of lingerie of the period.”

Lingerie dresses have always fascinated me. A delicate dress of white would be hard to keep clean, so lingerie dresses were worn by those who did not have to engage in daily labor, mostly the upperclass. Lingerie dresses were intended to be day dresses — worn to garden parties, while promenading, or other social events.

Stripping the color allows me to show students how the silhouette subtly changed during this time. To the untrained eye, maybe these dresses all look the same. But if you look closely, you can see that the volume of the skirt, particularly at the back of the skirt, minimized gradually. The silhouette changed from an S-like shape, to more upright and tubular (which leads into the boxy cut of the 1920s). The decoration moves from a ruffly, Art Nouveau style to something more akin to the sleekness of the Art Deco.

dress, 1902-4 from Metropolitan Museum of Art | dress, 1903 from Metropolitan Museum of Art

dress, ca. 1905 from Metropolitan Museum of Art | dress, ca. 1905 from Metropolitan Museum of Art

detail of back of dress, 1907-8 from Metropolitan Museum of Art | dress, 1908-10 from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Lingerie dresses evoke romanticism and femininity. And so they were adopted by suffragists campaigning for the right to vote in the 1910s. Suffragists wore lingerie dresses in order to show that women did not want to shed their role as feminine nurturers even though they desired voting rights.

Women were encouraged to wear lingerie dresses while marching in parades to create unifying visual appeal. They must have looked beautiful and impressive marching together in a sea of white. This is probably my favorite element of lingerie dresses — their relationship with feminism.

Suffrage Romance

I just about squealed (OK, that’s a lie, I squealed a lot) when I watched this Lady Gaga parody video a fellow fashion historian sent to me. It pays homage to suffragists from the 1910s who fought for women’s right to vote.

Created by Soomo Publishing, it spoofs Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video. If you haven’t seen the original, watch it first, and then rush back here to watch the suffrage parody.

Some things to watch for: yellow roses which were symbols of suffrage, the colors yellow, white and purple of the National Women’s Party, women being force fed — this really happened when suffragists in prison went on hunger strikes, women protesting in front of the White House during World War I, and the color red which represented the antisuffragists. Many arguments against women’s suffrage centered around the idea that giving women the right to vote would restrict men’s rights, which the lyrics in the video refute. There are also allusions to hobble skirts that limited women’s gait, the marches and parades suffragists held to draw attention to the cause, and Abigail Adams’ letter to her husband.

The fashion historian nerd in me loves the period costume adaptations. And the Gaga fan loves the music and Bad Romance video references.