Friday File

Happy Friday! What are you doing this weekend? I’m excited to stay home and watch the Olympics! The Opening Ceremony is tonight, which I always look forward to. And I really enjoy figure skating, which is on both Saturday and Sunday. I loved the Canadian pairs’ performance yesterday.

Do you have a favorite winter Olympic sport?

Since the 2014 winter Olympics are here, Unmaking Things has a wonderful history of skiing apparel.

I’m getting even more excited about the Charles James show this summer at the Met after reading Christina Binkley’s recent piece in the Wall Street Journal. I really hope the exhibition talks about some of the innovations and understructures he’s so famed for, instead of just being about pretty gowns.

One of the top fashion critics, Cathy Horyn of the New York Times, resigned last Friday. Many are disappointed and worried about the future of fashion criticism, and rightly so.

This story about a realistic statue of an undressed sleepwalking man on Wellesley College’s campus is one of the funniest things I’ve read all week. No matter if you think of the statue, the students’ reactions are priceless.

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
Website: honolulumuseum.org/art/exhibitions/12868-board_shorts_perfect_fit

Olympic Bling

Hopefully you will spare me one more post on the Summer Olympics and dress. Today I’d like to talk jewelry.

Maybe you noticed that runner Sanya Richards-Ross ran the 400 meter and took to the medal stand to receive her gold medal wearing double-C logo earrings by Chanel. You can see the large studs in the photo above.

And maybe you heard that swimmer Ryan Lochte has a $25,000 grill, seen above, and that he tried to wear it on the medal stand only to be told no. Some reports say that because the grill isn’t part of the U.S. uniform, he wasn’t allowed.

I’m still trying to figure out why Richards-Ross’ double-C Chanel earrings were allowed on the medal stand, but Lochte’s grill wasn’t. Both are types of jewelry — earrings are more traditional, but a grill is definitely a form of jewelry worn in the mouth over the teeth.

The double-C logo is very identifiable, and Chanel is not an Olympic sponsor. If you are going to allow such a recognizable piece of jewelry on Richards-Ross’ ears on the medal stand, then why can’t Lochte wear his grill, which has no logo, on the stand?

I do, however, think Lochte’s grill is a bit lame and would have been embarrassed to see him on the stand with it in. Could this be why he wasn’t allowed to wear it? Is there someone on Team USA determining what kind of jewelry is in good taste and what isn’t? Does it have something to with class? — Chanel is a brand that represents the upperclass, while grills are popular among rappers, many of whom have rose to fame from poor communities.

I’m still trying to sort this out, so if you have any ideas or information, please share.

Loving the Synchronized Swimmers

Dear Olympic gymnasts,

The synchronized swimmers are killing it with their costumes. Please take note of the creativity and originality.

I expect you to step it up. Enough of the leotards with abstract flames.

Sport and Dress During the Olympics

I’ve been totally absorbed by the Summer Olympics. They fascinate me, for the obvious reason of watching tests of the human body and mind.

It’s fun to learn about new sports. My husband, Travis, and I have been trying to watch some of the less popular sports through NBC’s iPad app streamed through our Apple TV to our television. We keep coming back to table tennis because the players are just so good. We’ve enjoyed learning about handball (which seems to be a crazy mix of water polo and soccer), team archery, trampoline, and indoor cycling, like team pursuit. I keep meaning to find time to watch some badminton and white water kayaking/canoeing too.

Of course we’ve been engrossed by the more popular sports like gymnastics, diving, track, and swimming. I used to be a swimmer, so those events are especially meaningful to me. It’s always fun to have insider info on how a sport works and cheer on people you’ve met on a swimming deck once a long time ago. I was a distance swimmer, so the long events like the 400, 800, and 1500 have a love/hate place in my heart.

But besides the incredible feats of strength, skill, and execution, I’m interested in what the athletes are wearing. Not just the uniforms, but the ways the athletes present themselves as individuals are intriguing to examine.

I’m always kind of amazed how much jewelry the athletes wear, especially those who complete in time-related events. One would think that necklaces or other pieces might get in the way or increase drag, but that doesn’t seem to deter the athletes.

In the photo of the men’s 100-meter semifinal above, I spot three men wearing necklaces and one with a bracelet.

Athletes express themselves through their hair, their nails, their hats. Watching all the different dress practices is entertaining and gives outsiders a look into the culture of each particular sport.

Missy Franklin’s nail art is pretty cool. I don’t know if I was unobservant during past Olympics, but it seems more female athletes are sporting nail art (pun intended) this time.

Maybe because I’ve never seen team archery before, but this sport and its dress are my favorite during this Olympics. It seemed to me that bucket hats are favored among most of the different countries, many of them with plaid lining on the upturned brim.

The South Koreans above are a great example of individuality in athletic dress. All three wear the same hat, shirt, pants, and shoes (and quite the bright green shoes they were), but look at the variety in the chest guards — one white, one pink, one patterned with little female archers. They each wear different types of jewelry such as earrings and bracelets. My uninformed assumption would be that bracelets could majorly impact the way you shoot, but obviously these are gold-medal athletes who know much better than me.

And I had to include this last photo of American high jumper Erik Kynard. This guy has quite a sense of style with those socks. No doubt that he doesn’t like to blend in with the other jumpers.

Loving Belize’s Hats

We’ve discussed the U.S. Olympics uniforms for the Opening Ceremony on this blog already, but I’d like to turn attention on the country with my favorite uniforms — Belize. Well specifically its hats.

The Belize uniforms for its eight athletes were designed by Jeff Banks. Banks said, “I used the Great Gatsby as my inspiration with a modern touch reflecting the Belize Caribbean sprit.” This is more proof how much influence on fashion the Great Gatsby movie is having even before its December 2012 release. The jackets are contemporary versions of men’s 20s-style blazers in the country’s national blue with white contrast edging. The men wore white, pleated, flannel trousers and the women wore white, flannel, pencil skirts.

The women’s hats are super chic. They were hand blocked by Yvette Jelfs in Scotland. Called “panama cloches” by Banks, they are a little too shallow to be considered true cloches, but they definitely have a similar shape of the crown. The ribbon in Belize’s colors adds a little extra flare. I want to know where I can buy one!

The men’s hats are traditional panama style with ribbon trim.

Which country had the best Opening Ceremony uniforms in your opinion?

Exhibition File – Sport and Fashion

Sport and Fashion exhibition image from the Fashion Museum

Tomorrow night is the Opening Ceremony for the summer Olympics. I’m pretty excited. If you are in England, this exhibition will help get you in the mood if Olympic fever hasn’t already gotten to you.

Sport and Fashion at the Fashion Museum in Bath “examines the close connection between active sportswear and fashion by showcasing examples of historic sportswear from the museum collection alongside modern fashions and the very best of today’s sportswear.”

You’ll get to see tennis dresses, riding habits, and historic swimsuits. Designer pieces that have been inspired by sport include those by Stella McCartney for Adidas, Vivienne Westwood, and Helmut Lang.

Sport and Fashion runs throughout 2012.

Address: Bath Assembly Rooms, Bennett St., Bath, England
Hours: Monday-Sunday 10:30-5:00
Admission: adults £7.50, seniors and students £6.75, children 6-16 £5.50, children 5 and under free
Website: www.museumofcostume.co.uk/exhibitions/future_displays/sport_and_fashion.aspx

Opening Ceremony Ensembles Revealed

2012 U.S. Opening Ceremony ensembles by Ralph Lauren, photo from Ralph Lauren via Fashionista

Preppy is the look for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. On Tuesday, the ensembles Ralph Lauren designed for our athletes were revealed. The navy blazers and white bottoms will be worn while U.S. athletes parade into the Opening Ceremony stadium.

The men will be decked out in double-breasted blazers, a red, white, and blue tie, a white button-front shirt, and white shoes. The women will be wearing a blazer, a white, button-front shirt, a white, knee-length skirt, a red, white, and blue scarf, and white shoes and socks. Both men and women will wear blue berets. The Ralph Lauren polo logo is prominent on both the blazer and the beret.

I’m not sure how I feel about these outfits. There is no doubt that Lauren was channeling East coast prep, and while the look is definitely American, I have trouble understanding how it is representative of the whole U.S.A. I feel prep constitutes a small percentage of U.S. style and insufficiently sums up the look of American sports. There is something troubling when American style is condensed into a look that originates from primarily white, wealthy elites.

I realize dressing our athletes is a huge conundrum to undertake. Do I have a better solution to what they should wear? Off the top of my head, I don’t. American style is wide ranging. There are many American looks (prep, western, Hollywood, hippie, etc.), but nothing immediately comes to mind as being representative of the whole country touching on all socio, economic, and cultural groups. But shouldn’t our best minds in fashion and apparel design be able to create something that is more inclusive than this?

However, the athletes will look sophisticated, so at least we can take solace in that even if the ensembles aren’t a good representation.

Unfortunately they put them in those silly berets again. Honestly, I’d rather they marched in wearing cowboy hats than berets. When has the beret ever been a major element of American style?

UPDATE: And then there’s all the controversy that the uniforms were made in China. Members of Congress and many critics are saying the uniforms should have been made in the United States. But those who are arguing that the uniforms could have been made in the country for the same price clearly don’t understand the status of the American textile industry. Maybe if Congress wants to ensure that manufacturing isn’t outsourced, they wouldn’t force our Olympic team to rely so heavily on corporate sponsors who do things their own way.

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.