Saturday, April 25, 2015

Scatter #55

    Its that time again.  Yes it is.  Its time for me to go rooting around in the discombobulated piles of ephemera that clutter my noggin and share some with you.  Its such a comfort that you all enjoy taking some of this stuff off my hands once a week.
   So, lets go for a ride!
   First up this week,  One of the only Asian models who got consistent work in the early sixties was Hiroko Matsumo.  Here she is posed in a Pierre Cardin ensemble, for whom she was a muse.  One of the things That marks any era's visual expressions is scale.  And one of the signatures of the 60s was the juxtaposition of huge scale, like the fur collar, with lean simplicity of line.  Hard to believe really, that Cardin, who started out as one of the great forward thinkers in fashion, ended up being synonymous with mediocrity, because he allowed far too many license agreements that dumbed down his brand.  But here is the clear, clean vision, that made him a superstar in his time.
   So many people I have known are in love with watches, but when I look at something like this magnificent open face pocketwatch from 1840, contemporary design seems pale and childish.  The level of workmanship and craft here is wonderful.  The gold case is almost entirely covered in multiple colors of enamel in a patterns of fruits, flowers, and musical instruments.  Even the slyly floral shape of the case itself contributes to the overall harmony of the piece.  The lady who owned this, and yes, this is a ladies watch,meant to be worn on the bodice, with a chain, was a very lucky lady indeed.
    When I found this image, it showed up with the tag, premium streetwear.  What I see here is the presence of an entirely new vision of how a man could, and may, choose to dress himself.  I suppose its logical that after 2 centuries of suit wearing, and neckties, the response to it would be this dramatic.  Everything here is about lack of confinement, lack of overt structure.  Sure, we are in a far more casual culture than ever before, so this is in part due to that overarching mindset, but there is an aspect of revolution implicit in this sort of dressing, a deliberate refusal of the more traditional methods of accoutering oneself.  The other thing that is obvious to me here is that this is a far more consciously emotional method of dressing.  And considering the changes aboil for men with regard to their willingness to engage more fully in their emotional lives, this is a logical outgrowth of that.  I think we will be seeing much, much more of this as the years roll by.
    To a significant degree, the earlier sixties was all about two things for women, Hair, and eyes.  The clothing was blocky, firm, and figure obscuring.  The legs were often meant to extend the garment by wearing tights of the same color as the dress. Even the lips were diminished by pale lipsticks.  Taking the visual focus clear to the top, with dark, and complex eye make ups, and outrageous masses of real and false hair, for the first time in a long time, the point of interest was not one of the body parts below the neck, or even the neck itself. 
    I'll admit it, I think this man is insanely hot.  But that's truly not the prime reason why he's here.  He's a model, showing a contemporary Indian wedding ensemble.  And I chose to post this because I think that this method of dress would be a terrific bridge point between the traditions of Western menswear, and the loose and casual freedom of the streetwear look above.  Plus, the variation of pattern, textile and decoration would allow a huge range of personal expression, and that's always going to be a good thing.  I could see this manner of dress taking off as an evening wear option, easily.
    This, Chillun's is how one went to the theater, back in the day.  This is a fashion image from about 1911, and shows the model dressed for the opera.  As an item that gives us a sampling of all the major ideas going on at the time, this is great.  We have the jeweled headband worn low on the brow, a concept that would carry on for another 15 years or so, before petering out.  The huge, loose cocoon coat, promoted heavily by Paul Poiret.  The massive tassel decorations were a oft used element of the time on dresses, suits and coats.  It was an early version of the relaxation of women's clothing that would continue up to the beginning of the Great Depression.
    I find that I'm falling in love with the Fenimore Museum in Cooperstown New York.  Their young curator of costume and textiles has been doing a tumblr blog where she posts some of the delightful things they have there.  Part of what I find so marvelous is that a significant chunk of their collection is children's clothing.  This is a little boy's Scottish Suit.  It was worn occasionally by the father of the donor, Anna M. McKechnie when he was a little boy.  The donation included the entire outfit, including a jacket, skirt, sash, sporran, socks, shoes, a sash pin, and a hat.  Such outfits as these became popular after Queen Victoria dressed her own boys in similar outfits.  Its also interesting to note that at this time, 1870-80, it was common for boys to wear skirted clothes.  I think this is thoroughly delightful.
    One of the first places that new versions of artistic thought express themselves within the Attire language, is in jewelry.  Its a place where experimentation can happen freely, without the result overwhelming the wearer, so more people are willing to get avant garde occasionally with a piece of bling, than they might with a more commanding, and large garment.  This ring is like a statement in small of all the differing directions we get pulled in every day.  There is the raw quality that references our growing awareness of our place within the natural system of the world, there are elements that are deliberately rectilinear, while others are more organic seeming, and the whole piece has a sense of exploding outward, like the very changes in our world culture are forcing us to do, as we find ourselves faced with more and more input, and ideas, each day.

    These images of Ethiopian tribes people reminded me of something.  Before we dressed ourselves in cloth; before we learned how to make shoes, and shirts, and hats; we were already speaking the beginnings of the language of Attire.  We took the earth we stood on and used it to adorn ourselves, and in some place in the world, like with these people, we still do.  The idea of that kind of continuity makes me very happy.
    And you thought that sheer thing we are seeing a lot of was new?  Oh, not even!  Here's the lusciously pneumatic Jayne Mansfield costumed for 1961's Playgirl After Dark.  Everything possible is being done to hyper-sexualize her, and make her into some ultimate expression of male fantasy.  Certainly its not the ultimate expression of women's fantasies on display here.  What I find curious is that there is a forbidding aspect in play here.  Its a massive display of come here, and go away.  Desire and dismissal at once.  Fascinating how the semiotics of Attire defines a great deal of what we see, and how we see it.
    This woman of Guatemala made me smile so much.  The intensity of the color and pattern here is wonderful. everything is perfectly in harmony. Its like a textbook lesson in how to make multiple patterns work together. And proof positive that style, beauty, and elegance are not the exclusive province of "developed" areas.

     For the final entry today, something special.  A gentleman's banyan was an essential part of his wardrobe, it was how he did undress at home, how he relaxed, and to a great degree how he was able to sartorially express himself.  This matching banyan and waistcoat is from the 18th century, when the banyan had its greatest popularity, and is made from a silk Chinese dragon robe. The huge pattern of the original robe has been well handled to create the two new garments.  Its interesting to see that the waistcoat is sleeved, as well as the banyan.  Sleeved waistcoats had been common, but by the time this was constructed, around the 1780s, they had fallen out of favor. The cut of the banyan sleeves and the proportion of the cuffs also indicate the timeline for this.  The only place sleeved waistcoats were still done was for ensembles like this, mostly to enhance the warmth the wearer could get out of it.  I would totally do this sort of look.  Oh wait, I have.

Well that's it for this week, my friends. Have a wonderful weekend, whatever you do!


  1. Great stuff! Interesting note about Cardin; you should do a whole post about top-flight designers whose reputations were forever tarnished by injudicious licensing.

    1. Its an interesting idea; Blass and Cardin being the most egregious.

      let me roll this around a bit.