This will be a long post, mostly concerning the fire in 1911 and the pro-labor legislation that followed in America, but also touching on the global sweatshop problem today. Make some tea and join me for a talk.
I'm calling this project my "Red Fox Vintage" dress because I bought the original dress at Red Fox Vintage in Woodstock, Portland. I tried it on because I was intrigued by the collar, which has two long lapels that criss-cross in front and are held by a buttoned-down tab. I found it fit perfectly, and I loved the silhouette (late forties, early fifties is my guess), but not the color. Still, I brought it home, because it fit my back in a way that I have a lot of trouble getting patterns to fit my back. (I'm high-waisted with a slightly forward shoulder).
The more vintage clothes I see, the more curious I get about the labeling practices of our grandmothers' generation. Nowadays, a ready-to-wear garment usually has two labels: a brand tag that says who was responsible for its production (GAP, Lord & Taylor, or the like), and a care tag that says what it's made of and how to launder it. Sometimes they're clustered together; other times the care tag is in the side seam.
Vintage clothes, however, often have more tags, and in different places. I'll show you two examples from my own wardrobe.
In which I make a Victorian-inspired plastron or dickie... and end up looking like I work at Grace Brothers!
(Sometimes when I title my posts I amuse myself wondering what Google searches will yield these confusing word combos, and what the searchers will think...)
A "plastron" is a chest covering. If you're a turtle, it's your shell. If you're a fencer, it's your padded vest. If you're a Victorian era lady, it's a lacy faux-front that you tie around your neck to change up the look of your dress. And if you're me... well. Read on to see what I came up with!
Today, let's have some more 1920's ephemera! Catherine DeVore collected ads if she liked the pictures.
Advertising is so ubiquitous in our world that we're generally blind to its tropes and skewed priorities, because we aren't consciously processing it. But several times in my life I've taken long breaks from media (lived without a TV, moved to a wilderness area with only one radio station and no internet, traveled abroad), and when I came back, even my "own" culture felt foreign and the ads obnoxiously stupid. I noticed all kinds of implied messages beyond the simple message to buy.
When we look at the ads of a former time, those implied messages are screams rather than whispers. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I don't live in the twenties, and here are a few reasons why. For each ad, try to bear in mind that the people who made it and the people who saw it each thought it was normal, and its messages unobjectionable.
In September of 1666, the Great Fire of London burned for five days, reaching temperatures hot enough to melt pottery and completely cremate victims, destroying thousands of buildings, and leaving seven eighths of Londoners homeless. In addition to devastating the city, the disaster ignited religious and ethnic hatreds, stirring mobs to violence and politicians to a blame game, and threatening the newly restored monarchy. London had been a medieval town, outgrowing its own streets and buildings, but after the fire it was rebuilt, with much the same street plan, but wider streets, better sewage disposal, and fire lanes to the Thames.
In 2014, PBS released a four-part miniseries dramatizing the Great Fire, which is compelling as history, drama, and costume-feast-for-the-eyes. And I... I love those things!
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