No White After Labor Day Origins


women in white dresses showing their ankles, Pensacola, Florida, 1905, from State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Today is the day after U.S. Labor Day, which unofficially marks the end of summer. The rules of fashion say that one shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day. Personally, I don’t subscribe much to rules like this, but it is a curious mystery as to how it started.

Few academic texts explain how the no-white-after-Labor-Day rule began. Some historians believe it arose because the wealthy would wear light colors to keep cool in the hottest months when they summered in the country. Labor Day indicated their return to the city. In turn, the wealthy stopped wearing white to prevent the dirty city streets from marring their clothes. Darker colors don’t show dirt easily and were more appropriate for urban living.

But fashion historian and director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology Valerie Steele disagrees. In an interview for TIME she said, “very rarely is there actually a functional reason for a fashion rule.” Instead, Steele believes that it could have been symbolic and “insiders trying to keep other people out.” Fashion rules, such as no white after Labor Day, attempted to prevent new money from passing as old money.

I think it’s likely a mix of the two — a little function, a little elitism. The rule reached its climax in the mid 20th century with a huge popularity in etiquette manuals and columns, which spread the rule far and wide beyond the well off.

After the youthquake of the 60s, fashion rules mattered less and less. Nowadays we don’t have to look far to see women wearing white whenever it suits them.

Friday File

Happy Friday! I signed up for a week of unlimited pilates this week at a little local studio, and I am definitely feeling it today. But I need the push because I haven’t gotten much exercise in the last couple months because of life’s various detours. I’ve been sampling all the different options the studio offers. So far the barre class is my favorite. This weekend I’ll try out two more types of classes, and then relax at the beach. What are you up to?

Here are some great links to check out:

Lou Stoppard analyzes fun fur and its contradictions between fad, luxury, throwaway, and timelessness.

This is an interesting story of one woman’s quest to find Bing Crosby’s Levi’s denim tuxedo.

Before her death last week, the Museum at FIT was developing an exhibition of Lauren Bacall’s wardrobe. This week the museum announced that the show will open next spring.

Ok, so yesterday I mentioned that I didn’t want to start thinking about fall fashion yet. But, I admit, there is some cute stuff coming in Asos’ holiday collection.

Even though this is a few weeks old, this tell-all by Alexander McQueen’s long-time partner is a must read. Don’t miss it if you haven’t already read it.

Have a great weekend!

Friday File

Today is my last day of work of the year! I have two weeks off to spend with family for Christmas and recuperate from a busy semester. I’m also going to take some time off of the blog, but I’ll be back on January 6. I hope you get a little time off yourself, and I’ll meet you back here in the new year!

Here are a few extra links (than normal) from the past week:

photo of art collectors Herb and Dorothy Vogel, from the National Gallery of Art, Gallery Archives

I’m so inspired by this couple and the priceless art collection they amassed.

Meet the newest designer to join the haute-couture ranks in Paris.

Dressing a mannequin in historical clothing is no easy feat. See how the V&A mounted an 18th-century bridal gown. Bet you won’t guess how a pruning hand saw is a necessary tool!

Historians are pumped that the British Library recently put 1,000,000 images into the public domain with a crowd-sourcing invitation to help it learn more about them. In fact, these are the fashion and costume images that have already been tagged by the public.

On Christmas Day, fashion designer J.W. Anderson will offer downloadable patterns of a leather top and balloon skirt from his autumn/winter 2013 collection. I’m thinking about trying my hand at sewing the avant-garde ensemble.

Jayne Shrimpton dates and analyzes a family photo from the 1860s.

Wishing I had found this gift guide for avocado lovers weeks ago so I could add it to my wishlist. Thanks for tweeting about it Emilia!

Happy holidays!

2013 Gift Guide – Clothes Brush

This year, I want to share some products that I use and love as present ideas. There are a myriad of gift guides out there on the internet, but some can seem rather impersonal, as if the intention is just to push sales rather than help you find something special. I’m not selling anything here, nor making money off any links, and I’d like to think I have an interesting angle because of my background. I hope my suggestions are helpful for someone on your list!

My first gift idea is a clothes brush. Have you ever heard of it? Clothes brushes are used to care for your wardrobe and can extend the life of your clothing. Brilliant, right?

Before the invention of the washing machine or dry cleaning, clothes laundering was all done by hand. To reduce the amount of washings a garment required, clothes brushes were used to remove dirt. Think about the times you’ve seen Bates and O’Brien cleaning their masters’ clothes on Downton Abbey. While washing machines require less hands-on action, they definitely decrease the life of a garment because they can wear out a garment quickly. Plus, clothing detergent is filled with chemicals that can also fade and break down a piece of clothing. Same with dry cleaning.

A clothes brush will decrease the amount of times you have to wet wash a garment. Let’s be honest, unless you are seriously sweating most of our clothing doesn’t need to be washed after every wear, especially those garments that don’t touch the skin directly. Suits, dress pants or skirts, blazers, and jeans are all good candidates for the clothes brush. I don’t suggest you use a clothes brush with underwear, knit fabrics, or woven garments with a lot of texture.

To use one, brush against the nap of the material or the direction the fabric lies. This removes dust and dirt. Never use a scrubbing motion, but instead use short and quick strokes. Then you reverse the direction and brush gently along the nap to create a smooth finish.

For further instructions, check out The Butler’s Closet. It has a great guide to using a clothes brush with specific directions for wool clothing, jackets, trousers, skirts, and hats based on The Butler’s Guide to Clothes Care, Managing the Table, Running the Home & Other Graces from 1892.

If you want to buy a clothes brush for someone on your holiday list (or even yourself), look for one with natural bristles. Mine is made from goat hair, but you can also get quality brushes made of boar bristles.

I bought my brush from a Chicago-area boutique called the Careful Peach, but here are a few online:
English Horn Clothes Brush from The Butler’s Closet
Clothes brushes from Kent.
Redecker Clothes Brush with Handle from Crate & Barrel

P.S. Bonus tip — a clothes brush is good for the environment too!
P.P.S. More gift ideas on my Pinterest board!

Holly and ivy graphic by MyCuteGraphics.

The Easter Bonnet Chronicles

Until the 20th century, people did not buy a lot new clothing from year to year, but instead updated what they owned with new trims, collars, buttons, etc. A new dress was a big purchase for most women and, therefore, rare. Perhaps a woman would only buy one, maybe two, new dresses per year.

bonnet, 1800-1810, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

But a new accessory, like a hat, cost much less than a new dress. Spring hats were a more common purchase for women transitioning from winter attire to summer clothes. But even old hats could be made like new with new ribbons and silk flowers. Remember, before the 20th century, it was rare for a woman to leave the house without some kind of head covering.

bonnet, c. 1830, from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

bonnet, c. 1840, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the 1800s, much of life revolved around religion, so it might be no surprise that Easter was the date to unveil a new spring hat. By the late Victorian era, the term Easter bonnet had been coined.

Old European superstitions supported wearing new clothes and hats on the holiday. A column titled “Your Easter Clothes,” in the March 27, 1900, issue of the New York Times read, “At Easter let your clothes be new, or this be sure you it will rue. This is an old fifteenth century couplet proving that the Easter bonnet necessity was not invented by the rapacious milliner, but is simply a survival of an ancient superstition.”

bonnet, 1853-57, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

A poem by Tom Hall published in Vogue‘s April 2, 1896, issue captures the author’s pleasure at seeing the woman he fancies in a new Easter bonnet:

To Her Easter Bonnet

Ah, me! It is a wondrous thing,
That little Easter bonnet.
Why, all the flowers of joyous spring
Are fastened there upon it.

Just what the name of each may be
I do not know at all.
But I would call the whole — let’s see —
Well — Horticultural Hall.

But let me stop. It pleases her,
And see this kiss she tossed me.
It’s worth ten thousand bonnets, sir,
No matter what they cost me.

bonnet, c. 1865, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Likewise, a short story from Vogue‘s April 5, 1900, issue told, “Only that morning Mrs. Hunter entered a millinery shop to order a bonnet for Easter, for not being a follower of the very latest fashions, Mrs. Hunter felt that every woman should have a new bonnet for that day. It encouraged the minister, and it showed a proper respect for the occasion.”

This passage shows us that people believed that fashion and religion could go together, and that wearing fashionable attire was actually a way of showing reverence at church. Since church life was so important to society at the turn of the century, perhaps this attitude makes sense.

bonnet, c. 1880, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Celebrations for Easter grew bigger than ever before during the Victorian era. By the 1880s, New York City was known for its Easter parade, and many other major U.S. cities followed suit with their own. Everyone would turn out to the parade in their newest and finest frippery. The Easter parade solidified the tradition of dressing up in one’s new spring attire.

bonnet, 1887, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Then Irving Berlin commemorated the Easter bonnet through his 1933 song “Easter Parade.” He sang:

In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.
I’ll be all in clover and when they look you over,
I’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter parade.
On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us,
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure.
Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet,
And of the girl I’m taking to the Easter parade.

bonnet, c. 1890, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

And so, through both religious life and pop culture the Easter bonnet became the item every woman and young girl needed for Easter Sunday. While bonnets themselves fell out of fashion in the 20th century, we still call any spring hat worn that day an Easter bonnet.

I’m curious, did any of you wear an Easter bonnet when you were a kid? Or maybe you still do! Please tell!

Plans in Motion

Happy New Year!

Today is my first day back at work after taking a nice, long, relaxing holiday. It feels a little weird to get back to the grind, but I need some motivation to be productive again. Near the end of my vacation I didn’t end up accomplishing much. In fact, yesterday was spent on the couch because I overdid it in the gym and injured my legs.

I’m looking forward to 2013. I have a long list of goals to accomplish and plans to carry out in the new year.

One of which is to read more books. I’m going to dive further into the Hemingways’ lives. I’ve made a list of books that include a biography on Ernest’s second wife Pauline, his official biography, a fictionalized account of his relationship with his first wife Hadley, and a book about all of his wives. Also on it are a number of Hemingway’s novels (I just finished The Sun Also Rises over break) and his memoir. After Hemingway, I’m thinking about tackling the Fitzgeralds. Zelda seems incredibly interesting, and many suspect that F. Scott plagiarized his work from his wife’s writings. I want to try to read a number of F. Scott’s novels as well because I haven’t read anything other than The Great Gatsby in high school. It looks like I’m infatuated with the Lost Generation. I plan to punctuate the novels and historical books with things on fashion theory and history.

Some of my plans involve this blog. I’ve actually created a more detailed and longer-term calendar about what I’m going to write about. I have left room to react to current events or new things I find though. I will be making some tweaks to the design as well — or at least Liz and Josh from Pink Slip Industries are!

I have some travel plans in sight for 2013. Near the end of January I will be going to Alt Summit, a blogging conference, in Salt Lake City. I’m really hoping to see the punk exhibition at the Met in New York, and I’ll be accompanying my husband to Mexico to shoot a wedding. I’ve never been to Mexico so I’m very excited, especially about the ruins.

So here’s to a fruitful 2013!

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas everyone!

I’m enjoying a week off of work and resting. I’ll also be working behind the scenes to make The Hourglass Files even better. I’ll be back on Thursday for an Exhibition File post and then back to normal next week.

Also, I have an exciting announcement that you may have seen on Twitter last week. I have just joined Design for Mankind as Research Editor. Erin Loechner started the art and design blog back in 2006, and I have admired it for a long time. She is taking a new more thoughtful and purposeful direction in the new year with more richly researched posts. Erin calls it Slow Blogging. I’m thrilled to be part of it!

I hope you all have great holiday!

Holiday Minted Review

A few weeks ago, Minted sent samples of some of their Christmas cards to me. I’ve always been curious about the quality of the paper products themselves, having admired many of the designs online.

I like Minted’s business model. It is an online store that sells the work of independent graphic designers all over the world. Designers receive cash prizes when they win submission contests and a commission on all sales of their designs.

I am impressed by the quality of the card stock. It isn’t flimsy, and the print quality is nice as well. The designs sent to me are cute — my favorite being the Overflowing Joy Holiday Photo card. Its simplicity is elegant.

My only disappointment is with the back of the cards. The design on the back is cute, but the placement of the Minted logo seems like an ill-placed afterthought.

If you are still in need of holiday cards, Minted seems like a good way to go if want something personalized. But you may need to get rush shipping at this point.

This is not a sponsored post. I did not receive money or products for personal use for this review.

Online Collaboration

Getting involved in social media, such as blogging and twitter, has enabled me to develop really great friendships with people I would never meet otherwise. One such person is my friend Liz Moorhead. You might remember her from this post on her Betsy Ann Paper workspace.

These online friendships can lead to collaborations. Recently Liz, her husband Josh, my husband Travis, and I decided to partner. The four of us are creative individuals with our own talents and skills — Liz obviously is very talented at illustration and watercolor, Josh is an amazing graphic designer, my husband takes fantastic photos, and I hope I have a good eye for design and styling.

I proposed the idea of a skills trade. Travis and I would photograph Liz’s cards and stationary for Betsy Ann Paper, and Liz and Josh would lend their creative skills in illustration and graphic design for small projects Travis and I might need.

I love the fact that the internet allows me to connect with people like Liz and Josh. And there’s something to be said for using a new medium like the internet for an old-fashioned labor trade.

The photos throughout this post are all of Liz’s cards — for everyday notes, thank yous, birthdays, and the holidays. I was especially giddy because I got to see Liz’s entire Christmas line before anyone else (well other than her family). And of course I squealed when I saw them because they are so freaking good.

In fact, we are using the printed frosty white winter assorted set for our own cards.

I’m grateful for this chance to work with Liz and Josh, and I can’t wait to do it again (Valentine’s?!). I hope they feel the same way.

P.S. Liz has New Years cards in case you don’t quite get around to sending out Christmas ones in time or want to be memorable. So clever!

all photos by Travis Haughton – Wasabi Photography

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Autumn, 1896, by Alphonse Mucha

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are having a good day and will get a chance to relax a little and reflect a bit on what you are thankful for.

I have to say that I am really thankful for this blog. The Hourglass Files has been a great outlet for me during the last eight months. I am so grateful that there are so many of you who enjoy my writing and keep coming back. I really appreciate all your comments, encouragement, support, and emails. Thank you!