Fashion in Song – Mr. Zoot Suit (1999)

This 1940s style song was written and performed by the Flying Neutrinos for the 1999 film Blast From the Past:

He’s got great big feet, he’s jumping to the beat
He’s been dancing in the street
He’s dressed so fine, got lots of loot
We like to call him Mr Zoot Suit

He drives a great big car, smokes a big cigar
Looks like a king and he acts like a star
When we see him drive by he goes, “Toot, toot”
We all shout, “Hey, Mr Zoot Suit”

He’s got a purple suspenders and a yellow tie
(Say what?)
Come on boys, I tell you no lie
He’s got all those hats, funky spats
He is the hippest cat

No, no, he can’t be beat
Wherever he goes he turns up the heat
So when you see him drive by with that big cheroot
Don’t forget to shout, “Hey, Mr Zoot Suit”

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Fashion in Song – Harajuku Girls (2004)

Apparently the ‘Harajuku’ trend (the colourful artsy way of dressing that grew out of the Japanese take on Goth in the 1990s and was named after a fashionable part of Tokyo) is beginning to fade in Japan. When the trend was on the upswing in 2004 Gwen Stefani wrote this song:

“Harajuku Girls”
Wa mono – there’s me, there’s you (hoko-ten)
In a pedestrian paradise
Where the catwalk got its claws (meow)
A subculture in a kaleidoscope of fashion
Prowl the streets of Harajuku (irasshaimase)
Super lovers, tell me where you got yours
(at the super lovers store)
Yoji Yamamoto, I’m hanging with the locals
Where the catwalk got its claws, all you fashion know-it-alls
With your underground malls in the world of Harajuku
Putting on a show, when you dress up in your clothes
Wild hair color and cell phones
Your accessories are dead on

Harajuku Girls you got the wicked style
I like the way that you are, I am your biggest fan
Harajuku Girls you got the wicked style
I like the way that you are, I am your biggest fan

Harajuku girls, I’m looking at you girls
You’re so original girls
You got the look that makes you stand out
Harajuku Girls, I’m looking at you girls
You mix and match it girls
You dress so fly and just parade around (arigato)

I’m fascinated by the Japanese fashion scene
Just an American girl, in the Tokyo streets
My boyfriend bought me a Hysteric Glamour shirt
They’re hard to find in the states, got me feeling couture (it’s really cool)
What’s that you got on? Is it Comme des Garcons?
Vivienne Westwood can’t go wrong, mixed up with second hand clothes
(Let’s not forget about John Galliano) (no)
Flipped the landscape when Nigo made A Bathing Ape
I got expensive taste (oh, well) guess I better save up (cho takai)

Harajuku Girls you got the wicked style
I like the way that you are, I am your biggest fan

Work it, express it, live it, command your style
Create it, design it
Now let me see you work it
Create it, design it
Now let me see you work it

You bring style and color all around the world. (You Harajuku Girls)
You bring style and color all around the world. (You Harajuku Girls)

You’re looking so distinctive like D.N.A., like nothing I’ve ever seen in the U.S.A.
Your underground culture, visual grammar
The language of your clothing is something to encounter
A Ping-Pong match between eastern and western
Did you see your inspiration in my latest collection?
Just wait ’til you get your little hands on L.A.M.B.,
‘Cause it’s (super kawaii), that means (super cute in Japanese)
The streets of Harajuku are your catwalk (bishoujo you’re so vogue)
That’s what you drop

Cho saikou – Harajuku Girls
And that’s what you drop, that’s what you drop
Cho saikou – Harajuku Girls
And that’s what you drop, that’s what you drop
(I don’t think you understand I’m your biggest fan)
(Gwen Stefani – you like me?)

Style detached from content
A fatal attraction to cuteness
Style is style
Fashion is fashion
Girl, you got style.

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Anne Cole, 1927 – 2017

I missed this in January: Anne Cole, the California swimwear maker died Jan. 10, 2017 in Beverly Hills at the age of 90.

Her father, Fred Cole, founded Cole of California in 1925 – a swimwear division of the family-owned knitted underwear business West Coast Manchester Knitting Mills. Cole of California swimwear took off in 1950 when Hollywood actress and swimmer Esther Williams became the brand’s spokesmodel.

Anne Cole graduated from college and dabbled in theater before joining the family business. She became the company’s top seller, handling accounts for Saks, Macy’s, and Bloomingdales. In 1960 Cole of California was sold to Kayser-Roth; a number of owners followed until it was acquired by Authentic Fitness Corporation in 1990 when Cole of California was merged with Catalina to form Catalina-Cole.

In 1982 Anne stepped out on her own, creating the first Anne Cole Collection. Anne was a marketer not a designer. She employed young designers to create swimwear she knew would sell well. The line’s best seller was the tankini. The design which debuted in 1998 was based on what many California women were already wearing in the 90s to go swimming – tank tops and bikini bottoms.

In 2008 Anne Cole was sold to the In Mocean Group for $26 million.

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Fashionista – Count Alfred d’Orsay (1801-1852)

1834 lithograph by Irish portrait artist Daniel Maclise of Count D’Orsay

There have been many fashion leaders who never designed: Kim Kardashian, Twiggy, Madame de Pompadour, Jenny Lind, Lily Langtry, Beau Brummel, and Alfred Guillaume Gabriel – the Count d’Orsay.

D’Orsay (1801 – 1852) was a French gentleman who married into British aristocracy. He was Beau Brummel’s successor as a dandy in all manners of taste, vanity, dress, style and wit – In early Victorian England, the term ‘dossy’ (someone who is elegant) was probably derived from his name.

D’Orsay’s portrait became the model for the New Yorker magazine’s mascot renamed in 1925 by humourist Corey Ford as ‘Eustace Tilley’

D’Orsay was a painter, and a diarist, and a professional society party-goer but he was not a designer and did not invent any styles of clothing. However, as a leader of fashion his name became attached to three trends that became fashions in the 1830s:

D’Orsay pump: Shoe with cutaway sides. Some references to the style being first used as military footwear in 1838 are wrong, it was originally an indoor slipper aka: opera slipper.

D’Orsay coat: Man’s overcoat fitted through the waist with a dart (princess line), with knee length skirts without pleats and minimal decoration to best show off the figure. Illustration at right shows an 1870s version of the tightly fitted D’Orsay coat.

D’Orsay roll: A British term for high hat with full rolling brim, like the one that appears in his 1834 portrait.

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1961 Fadshion – matching cars and clothes

Although these never went into production, someone thought it was a good idea to match your wardrobe to these Buick Electra 225 1961 convertible tops!

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Canadian Fashion Connection – H.W. Brethour, Brantford

We were just offered some clothes from an old Brantford, Ontario family. One of the garments has the label ‘From H.W. Brethour, Brantford, Ont.’ so I looked it up and I was amazed what I found online — twenty years ago it would have taken me a couple of trips to various libraries and archives and two or three days to find out what I did in an hour of googling. Here is what I found:

H.W. Brethour (H. is for Henry), was born in about 1830.  In 1859 he built a dry goods store at the present address of 94 Colborne Street in Brantford, Ontario (it was 80 Colborne street at the time). In the 1862 directory, which was based on the 1861 census, H.W. Brethour was listed as one of 13 dry goods stores in Brantford (the town also listed 9 boot and shoe stores, 7 clothiers, 2 hatters, and 9 tailors) for a population of around 7,000. In the 1869-1870 Gazetteer, the store is listed as a wholesaler and retailer of dry goods, millinery, ready-made clothing etc. I also found his name listed on several ship passenger lists from the early 1860s to 1890, so he travelled to Europe on buying trips.

Advertisement for H.W. Brethour dating from December 1884

In 1868 he hired local architect John Turner to do extensive alterations to the store, and the next year also had Turner build his new house at 88 Brant Avenue – the posh street where city businessmen and leaders were building their grand homes. His house cost $7,000 and was designed in the Italianate style with stained glass windows, gas, hot and cold water, and a hot air furnace. The house still stands and is currently the Beckett-Glaves Family Funeral Centre.

He was also proud of his garden and had a gardener’s cottage built to the south of the house for a cost of $500. He won various prizes at local fairs for his red onions, pippin apples, and grapes. Brethour was also noted for his philanthropy and was a founder of the Brantford Ladies College in 1874. He also offered various educational scholarships and sat on many public civic boards. In 1887, a township in the district of Temiskaming was surveyed along the Ontario/Quebec border and was named for H.W. Brethour “a prominent business man from Brantford, Ontario.”

Advertisement for H.W. Brethour from May 1887

In 1888 H.W. retired and sold his business to Edward Blackburn Crompton, who had already established a successful dry goods store in Barrie, Ont. Brethour’s wife died at the age of 66 in 1891 and 5 years later H.W. also died at the age of 66. He had at least two children, a son Edward who died at the age of 4 in 1865, and a daughter Charlotte who married W.C. Livingston, a local magistrate. He died in 1926 leaving Charlotte with huge debts. By 1933 ‘Lottie’ had lost the family home and moved into the YWCA where she lived until her death in 1949. She also lost three children, a two year old son in 1891, and two adult sons during the First World War.

On March 3, 1915 a fire razed the former store to the ground, and also caused extensive damage to the adjoining stores. E.B. Crompton’s losses mounted to around $200,000. A new four storey building was erected on the site, but the building was sold when Crompton retired in 1920.

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Myth Information: It took hours to get dressed…

Great video by Priorattire that shows how long it took to get dressed in the 19th century – about 10 minutes…


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The Squaw Dress

The term ‘Squaw dress’ is used to describe a two-piece dress with an aesthetic borrowed from the Southwest Apache, Navajo and Pueblo Native cultures that stretch between Tucson, Arizona and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Similar styles known as Fiesta dresses borrowed styling from further south, in Mexico. The rickrack trimmed tiered skirt style of a squaw dress was also known as a “broomstick skirt,” because the fabric was wrapped around a broomstick to create creases.

The style was originally a regional style of dress that became defined in the late 1940s, but as they were sold through department stores across the U.S. the style exploded in popularity in the 1950s, only losing popularity when the fashion for full skirts fell from favour in the mid 1960s. Some of the earliest makers of these dresses include Tucson’s Dolores Gonzales, Cele Peterson, George Fine, and Lloyd Kiva New, but it was Albuquerque’s Jeanette Pave that was probably the most prolific manufacturer. Polish born Henry Pave and his wife Jeanette opened a store in Albuquerque in 1945. Between 1950 and 1968 Jeanette manufactured and distributed a line of squaw dresses sold under the label ‘Jeanette’s Originals’.

The term ‘squaw dress’ makes some people shudder at the thought of its political incorrectness, however, there has been no official determination from the Native community as to whether the term is considered offensive or not. Historically, the word comes from the Algonquian Native dialect and was used to simply denote female gender, the way the word ‘she’ is used in English, or ‘la’ versus ‘le’ in French. Some consider the word disrespectful, but it’s not the word itself as how it is used that is the issue. When ‘gay’ or ‘jew’ are spoken respectfully there is nothing derogatory about either word, but when spoken with derision or hate, the words take on a different connotation. As it stands, squaw is an acceptable word, when spoken with respect, let’s keep it that way. I would hate to have to refer to the ‘s’ word dress.

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British Wartime Fashion – Make Do and Mend

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Fashion Faux Pas – Leggings

I’m weighing in on the prudish site – leggings are not pants – they are footless tights and inappropriate for wearing outside in daylight unless the crotch and buttocks are covered by a top. 550 years ago, it was men who were wearing tight-fitting legging-like garments that did little to cover their assets. It was hard not to look when the tunic didn’t cover the buttocks or bulge. An English law enacted in 1463 asserted short tunics that revealed the male buttocks could be worn only by the upper classes. At first this appears to be elitist, but it is also a passive-aggressive way to use peasants, who have no power to push back, as a way to set a standard of decorum.

These are not pants.

Skip forward 550 years, and United Airlines bans two teenaged girls from boarding a Minneapolis-bound flight last week for wearing leggings, citing a company dress code that bans form-fitting Lycra tops, dresses or pants, mini-skirts or shorts shorter than 3 inches above the knee when in a standing position, any clothing that is considered provocative by being see-through or revealing the midriff or undergarments, any attire that is designated as sleepwear, underwear or swimwear, anything that has offensive graphics or is excessively dirty or worn, and flip flops or bare feet. Other major airlines have similar guidelines. American Airlines doesn’t allow workout clothes or beach attire which includes leggings and shorts, and Delta defines customers can’t wear clothing that is “excessively dirty, vulgar” or “violates public decency laws and community standards.”

We used to call these nude pantyhose…

I don’t have a problem with most of these rules, although the 3 inches above the knee rule is a bit archaic sounding. The problem is not so much the rules as much as their erratic interpretation by control-freak peons. A dress code has to be logical, clearly stated, and enforced, not brought up on a whim referencing rules you aren’t aware of or can not rationally interpret. Otherwise you get instances like the two visitors to Butchart Gardens last spring who were turned away for wearing Victorian-inspired garb. The broken rule Butchart Gardens cited was that their ‘costumes’ could confuse visitors who might mistake them for park uniforms, but the two visitors were then offered park uniforms to wear instead of what they had on… If the visitors had been Amish, would the same kerfuffle ensued?

Nothing to say

United Airlines tried to get around the flak about their legging rule by saying it was a dress code required of pass travellers (friends and family of United Airline employees.) Jonathan Guerin, spokesman for United said “The passengers this morning were United pass riders and not in compliance with our dress code for company benefit travel. We regularly remind our employees that when they place a family member or friend on a flight for free as a standby passenger, they need to follow our dress code. To our regular customers, your leggings are welcome.” In other words, because United is paying all or part of their ticket, they have the power to say what you can or cannot wear – some call this the power of Capitalism – ‘My company, my rules’. Sounds a lot like the powerless peasants from 1463 with no recourse but to do as they were told as an example for all to follow. I feel that either leggings are or are not offensive and nobody on the plane will guess who is a pass traveler or a full-paying customer by their clothes, unless they are wearing a United Airlines uniform.

Women knew how to wear leggings in the 80s – with a LONG top – I am not offended by this outfit – it even looks like a great outfit for travelling by plane.

Worn modestly (with crotch and buttocks covered), leggings are not a bad choice for air travel. A security pat down should be unnecessary (you can’t even hide cellulite in those things), and they are apparently comfortable, which in these days of shrinking leg room and no walking about during flights allowed, unless you are heading for the bathroom, makes the trip less confining. The big problem is who decides what is and what isn’t offensive and what power do they have to embarrass, harass, and otherwise ruin someone’s trip. I personally found the recent video of a boy wearing a T-shirt and shorts being repeatedly frisked extremely offensive. This really isn’t about the rules, its about the abuse of power by little Napoleons and we are seeing more of it happening all the time.

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