Saturday, May 14, 2016

Scatter #103

    Here we go, again!  Back to the recesses of my cluttered brain, searching through the detritus for things that are worth sharing with you all.  Here are this week's gleanings.
    The design house Celine is noted for its clean structural clothing, and this effort stuck out for me.  Why, you might ask?  Well, it's the subtlety of the jacket's shape that struck me.  It's a sly manipulation of existing forms into something that speaks differently.  And it's the totality that makes it work.  By that I mean, the cut, scale of pockets, placement of waistline, and textile choice are all contributing equally to this. What emerges is something that feels nearly Sci FI in its modernity, without veering into costumery. Side note.  I will always be in favor of panne' velvet.  And I love that intense green in the velvet pants.
    One of the advantages of living in a cold climate, like Labrador, is that for a significant part of the year there is little to be done but stay indoors. So what often comes of that fact in such places is that apparel reaches an amazing level of artistry, since there is ample time to devote to it.  This coat is of caribou hide and it was made by a Naskapi woman of Labrador in the 1700s.  The hide has been well tended, and the surface extensively embroidered in many colors of wool thread.  When you look at the clothing of many of the people who live in difficult climates, you will find a similar level of stylistic elevation, and attention to embellishment.  We are, after all, endlessly creative.
    The wrapped skirt is one of the oldest and simplest garments we have.  It is also only one name for such an article.  It is simply a length of cloth that is wrapped around and knotted or tucked to stay in place.  There are a wide variety of ways this knotting is done and they express regionally, as well as from nation to nation.  As a article of practical use it is without peer.  It can be worn long, or short, adjusted to allow greater movement, or narrowed for heightened formality.  I would love to see this spread to the western world as a regular choice for anyone.  Having walked the streets of India, I can tell you there is no reason it cannot coexist with modern urban life.  And yes, he is lovely, isn't he?
    Five house models show off the latest in daytime wear for 1925.  Though most women were still wearing multiple layers underneath, those layers were simpler, lighter and not nearly as restrictive.  I can only imagine the feeling of relief it must have been for women who had been adults in the previous few decades.  And for the younger women It must have been a subtle but important boost to their growing feelings of independence.  With the skirts shortened to this level, nearly any activity became possible, and the looseness of the cut through the torso only added to that literal flexibility.  We are fickle creatures, even in the face of such good ideas, and in 20 years women will be torturing themselves into corsets and girdles again to get that waspish waistline that will be the rage.
    I really appreciate it when a set of differing textures is rendered in the same color for an ensemble.  This is just such an instance.  What really makes this sing, though, is the gentle drape of the knit over the shirt, and perfectly rendered choice of decoration on the top.  We have smooth worsted, knit, satin, and cotton sateen all in play here. The juxtapositions are subtle and effective. What we as viewers get is a complex and quiet set of messages conveying intellect, education, and oddly, a willingness to think outside the lines.  Bravo.
    This should be a poster used for a discussion of why editing is so important in design.  There are so many players on this field we can't tell who is on what team.  the skirt has pale pink silhouettes of flying birds.  The sleeves have line drawings of nude women in various poses, filled in in pink, while the collar and bust wrap have light blue cats.  Then there is the smocking detail which is mysteriously rendered in three different colors.  And finally the over scaled and completely jarring introduction of all that rhinestone jewel embellishment.  Color me confounded.
    The gentleman's chamber robe, most often referred to as a banyan, began to be supplanted by the mid 1800s by a shorter version, which we have come to call a smoking jacket.  This example is from about 1870 and shows us a few things.  One is the passion for Orientalia that had swept Europe and America. The pronounced Indian paisley pattern is mixed with Chinese style frog closures.  The other is the coloration.  Though dyes that achieved similar hues existed before 1860, it is clear from the intensity of the colors that this is the product of aniline dyes.  So the gent who owned this was quite a stylish fellow, keeping abreast of the latest fashions in apparel and popular culture.
    It is not often that you see sequins worked in this way, completely flat and edge to edge. The fact that they are square adds to the unique quality of this work.  It begins to look like a small scale mosaic, which is, doubtless, part of the intent here.  What is not readily apparent is that this sort of work must be done in the le main style, because each sequin must be threaded twice so that it stays flat.  So you cannot use a tambour hook as you can with  a lot of other work.  So, though this appears to be a pretty simple thing to accomplish, it's actually quite labor intensive.  Twice the time at least.  Tadashi Shoji, Fall/Winter 2016.
    This suit is from 1792 and is a wonderful look at how societal change can and does affect the Attire language.  Just a few years earlier suits were decorated heavily and materials were more visibly ostentatious. With revolution abrew, obvious wealth became a serious problem for personal safety, so it became a good idea to imply one's democratic views by wearing simpler clothing that was of more sober colors.  This suit is also a harbinger of the sobriety that will take over menswear entirely in a few years.  Darker colors, devoid of decoration will become the norm.  So, strange as it might seem, this simple suit tells us quite a lot.
    Speaking of Attire items that communicate things,...  This handbag is meant to relate one important message. I have money, lots and lots of money. I have so much money that I can afford to have ermine tails dripping from my bag,  (which is by the way stuffed with more money).  During the 1800s, especially the latter half, the conspicuous display of wealth was not considered a bad thing.  Now, if the lady in question was also wearing a huge ermine coat, with a matching hat, and muff, she would have been thought vulgar, but inserting an accessory like this into an ensemble was a clear message to all who saw it.
    Cultural appropriation happens within cultures as well as from country to country.  We routinely pull ideas from various segments of society, and change them up. We don't think of it as appropriation, because it's within our own borders, but it is a form of it.  The vogue in the 1980s for cowboy gear that swept the country creating mock cowboys in Manhattan.  The current lumbersexual thing making men look like they chop trees who have never handled an axe in their lives. And here this re-imagining of hippie apparel for the high end market of the 1960s, so that wealthy women could feel counter culture when it suited them.  Bottom line is, we take inspiration and ideas from everything we see, all the time, and we always have.
    For my final treat this week this amazing headdress from Uzbekistan from the 1800s.  To me, when I see things of this sort, I find myself smiling inside about our endless desire to trick ourselves out in fantasy.  We are never fully satisfied with anything for long. We want to reach further, be more amazing, more beautified, more idealized.  This silver and turquoise headdress is designed with all those feeling taken into account.  It is evidently luxurious. The shape of it is carefully crafted to be an enhancement to the face.  It also elevates a person, in a literal sense by making them appear taller.  And the shimmer of the silver and stones would be beguiling in motion.  Along with all this, it is a lovely example of human craft.

    So that is the bundle for this week, I hope you enjoyed it.  Have a great weekend, my friends!


  1. Much fun. I wonder about the little blobs on the ermine handbag, where the tails meet the body of the thing; are they bits of crochet?

  2. It does look to be. Something perhaps to mask the less than lovely intersection between severed animal tail and handbag?