Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fashion and Propaganda

I recently came across an excellent book called "Wearing Propaganda: Textiles on the Home Front in Japan, Britain, and the United States" by Jacqueline Atkins. Peppered with gorgeous images of fabric, clothing, and advertisements from the 30s and 40s, the author shows how fashion was used to elicit feelings of patriotism  during the Asia-Pacific War. 

My favorite examples from the book are the instances in which the patriotic elements emerge subtly from playful and dainty decorative forms. Take this printed fabric from Great Britain, for instance, on page 225:

On the left is a detail from a blouse. The print reads "The Navy's Here!" I imagine the dancing sailors from afar could be mistaken for a floral motif . On the right, parachuting soldiers land among grazing cattle in "The Home Guard." Both prints were designed by Arnold Lever and now reside in London's Target Gallery.

Here are a few more of my favorites:

In the fabric design "66 Coupons," the designer Arnold Lever lists items that were either rationed or in shortage during WWII. According to Atkins, such lighthearted allusions to wartime sacrifice was part of a larger effort to keep up morale on the Home Front.

Here, the Textile Color Association, Inc.lists colors for the 1942 fall season with patriotic names like "Independence Blue," "Valor Red," and "Victory Gold."

From Japan on page 295, a child's kimono from the 1930s, now in the collection of Mahoroba Oito Antiques, Kyushu.

I found these so interesting, and I'm trying to think of contemporary examples of fashion colliding with propaganda. Has anyone seen any such cases lately?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Valentine for You

In honor of Valentine's Day, a love story:

The noted cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, author of Cat vs. Cat, wrote that cats are much like people in the sense that inexplicably some cats like each other and others just don't. For Lucius and Dieter, it was love at first sight. From day one Lucius and Dieter were eating out of the same dish and sharing the ledge of the living room window, which seems to be a prime piece of kitty-cat real estate in our house. You can check out their affection in this video. Ah, true love.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Putting the Poodle Skirt to Sleep

 Considering that fine line between paying homage to bygone styles and looking like you are wearing a costume, I think it's safe to say that the poodle skirt crosses into the costume territory. Am I alone on this one?

Of all the lovely vintage fashions being stitched up by contemporary seamstresses- the swing skirts, the wiggle dresses, the cigarette pants- I don't think I've seen much interest in the poodle skirt, except maybe at Halloween.

That being said, my mom made me a poodle skirt when I was in a sixth grade lip syncing contest in which my two best friends and I emphatically mouthed the words to the Shangri-Las' 1964 "The Leader of the Pack." Unfortunately, we lost out to a group of girls who performed Janet Jackson's "Nasty Boys," but wearing my skirt the rest of the day, I felt like a winner.

Think it's possible to put a modern twist on the poodle? I'd love to see it. Can you think of any other vintage style garments that probably won't be making the next round of sew-alongs?

I'll leave you with the Shangri-Las in case you aren't familiar with their hit:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Applique Inspiration

Ever since finishing my first applique project, I've been itching to start another. After looking around for some inspiration, I thought I'd share some of my favorites:

An evening coat by Balenciaga from the late 50s or 60s. I love the scalloped edge. The monochromatic floral motif reminds me of wedding dresses from Alabama Chanin:

A silk sash made in 1925 by Natalia Goncharova for House of Myrbor:

An evening dress by Pierre Balmain from the 1950s:

Silk and velvet applique by Natalia Goncharova in 1923 for House of Myrbor:

All images (except the Alabama Chanin pics) are from the Victoria and Albert Museum.