Fashion in Song – I’m Too Sexy (for my shirt), 1991

Richard Fairbrass, lead singer for the group Right Said Fred, wrote the lyrics for the song as a sarcastic joke. One thing lead to another and in late 1991, the song was recorded, released, and peaked at number 2 on the charts.

I’m too sexy for my love
Too sexy for my love
Love’s going to leave me

I’m too sexy for my shirt 
Too sexy for my shirt
So sexy it hurts

And I’m too sexy for Milan 
Too sexy for Milan
New York, and Japan
I’m too sexy for your party
Too sexy for your party
No way I’m disco dancing’

Cause I’m a model, you know what I mean
And I do my little turn on the catwalk
Yeah, on the catwalk 
On the catwalk, yeah
I shake my little tush on the catwalk

I’m too sexy for my car 
Too sexy for my car
Too sexy by far
And I’m too sexy for my hat
Too sexy for my hat 
What do you think about that?’

Cause I’m a model, you know what I mean
And I do my little turn on the catwalk
Yeah, on the catwalk 
On the catwalk, yeah
I shake my little tush on the catwalk

Too sexy for my
Too sexy for my
Too sexy for my
‘Cause I’m a model, you know what I mean
And I do my little turn on the catwalk
Yeah, on the catwalk 
On the catwalk 
Yeah, I shake my little tush on the catwalk

Too sexy for my cat 
Too sexy for my cat
Poor pussy 
Poor pussy cat
I’m too sexy for my love 
Too sexy for my love
Love’s going to leave me

And I’m too sexy for this song

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Fashion Humour

There were many c. 1910 postcards making fun of the hobble skirt… whether warranted or not…

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Camping It Up On The First Monday In May

Last night’s Met gala event for their latest exhibition ‘camp’ was all about being ‘extra’ — tacky, over-the-top, cheesy, artificial, tasteless, ostentatious, exaggerated, and probably gender and age inappropriate… Needless to say, the fashions worn on the red carpet were not really about clothes, but costume one-offs. There was no point to judging who wore what best because everyone went campy.

However, I thought there were some looks worth noting:

Zendaya’s transformation from a dress of grey ash into a Cinderella blue ball gown – total Disney Camp!
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Canadian Fashion Connection – Backing the Bandage Dress

Hervé Peugnet was born in 1957, and after working as a hairdresser and milliner, he turned his hand to fashion. In 1981 he got the chance to work for Karl Lagerfeld at Fendi. Lagerfeld advised Peugnet to change his surname as it was too difficult for Americans to pronounce. Hervé chose Léger when he created his first collection in 1985. 

In 1986, Azzedine Alaia created a collection that used Lycra bands, spawning the age of ‘body-con’ fashion. Léger may have copied Alaia’s idea or independently developed a similar style. He said he had been inspired by seeing scraps of Lycra trim in a work room and wondered how they would work sewn together. Léger launched his ‘bender’ dresses, as he called them, made of knitted bands of Lycra in 1989, and offered them every year for the next eight years. Although he used other materials to create other fashions, it was these bandage-like dresses for which Léger became known.

The Canadian Bronfman family who owned Seagram’s Group bankrolled Léger’s business when they were diversifying their portfolio (outside of liquor) in the 1980s. However, due to the economic recession of the 1990s, over-extended projects, and many poor business decisions, like the Canary Wharf development in London, Seagram’s sold off Hervé Léger in September 1998 to BCBG Max Azria Group of Los Angeles. Not liking his new boss, Léger quit in 1999, losing the rights to his own name. Hervé took the new last name of Leroux in 2000.

Max Azria was surprised to discover that the Léger bandage dresses weren’t as simply made as they appeared. The back catalogue had been ransacked before the buy-out, so Azria had to buy back samples for the company archives, mostly on eBay, as well as from a former muse of Hervé Léger. In April 2007 Max Azria relaunched the Hervé Léger ‘bender’ or bandage dress, and the next year presented the Hervé Léger by Max Azria collection at the Fall 2008 New York Fashion Week.

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Canadian Fashion Connection – The Style

The museum recently received this rare early Canadian copy of the August 1883 edition of The Style – a 4 page flyer of dress patterns (probably from the American pattern maker Butterick) published by Mrs. E. Guthrie of St. Catharines, Ontario. I am assuming Mrs. Guthrie carried the patterns, or made up garments from the patterns at her business. I found a J.S. Guthrie, manufacturer of corsets and fancy goods in the ‘Grand Central Block’ of St. Catharines, listed in the 1884-85 Farmer’s business directory – perhaps there is a relation. Otherwise I haven’t been able to find anything more online about Mrs. E. Guthrie of St. Catharines, Ontario.

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The Leotard

Jules Léotard, 1838-1870

French acrobat Jules Léotard developed the art of trapeze when he first performed a three bar aerial performance on November 12, 1859. He wore a one-piece jersey garment for his trapeze performances that was called a maillot during his time, but that now bears his name. Jules Léotard was immortalized by George Laybourne as the subject of his 1867 popular song, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze. Leotard died in 1870 from smallpox. ‘Leotard’ entered the English vocabulary in 1886. The earlier term maillot became the French word for a one piece bathing suit.

Left: woman in leotard, c. 1885

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Victorian Fashion Tear Sheets

The museum has been given boxes of clippings and tear sheets from various donors over the years. From scrapbooks with favourite dresses cut out of Vogue magazine by an anonymous teenage girl in the 1930s to a filing cabinet of tear sheets accumulated by fashion journalist David Livingstone on topics as varied as Diana Vreeland to Punk.

Some will be kept, filed away for future research, some will be scanned and shared online, but most will be tossed. This article that appeared in the Picture Post on June 10, 1939 about women’s Victorian fashions is too friable to keep, and doesn’t offer any original information not already available in books or online, but many of the images were interesting, so I scanned it to share before recycling:

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Fashion Humour

Early 1970s cartoon by New Yorker magazine cartoonist Barney Tobey
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Fashion in Song – Yankee Doodle Dandy c. 1760

Yankee Doodle Dandy was originally sung by British soldiers during the French Indian wars (1754-1763) in mockery of unsophisticated colonials. There were many verses and different versions of lyrics over the next few decades, but the one that stuck was the one about the macaroni.

Yankee Doodle, Norman Rockwell

Yankee (American yokel), Doodle (foolish idiot), Dandy (this could be interpreted as anything from a fashion conscious fop to a derogatory reference akin to faggot) was an attack on someone’s sophistication, place of birth, intellect, looks, and even sexual orientation. It was the sort of thing that if hurled thoughtlessly in a pub could lead to fisticuffs.

The song is about one ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ who went to town on a pony (not a horse), and stuck a feather in his cap thinking it made him look très chic – like a ‘macaroni’. This pasta-inspired term was used to describe fashionable, sophisticated British gentleman who were cultured and eloquent with affected effete behaviour (aka manners). They became known for an exotic Italian pasta dish they brought back to England from their Grand Tours in Italy. This is funny considering how déclassé macaroni is considered to Italian foodies these days, however, the term was used to describe all forms of pasta not just elbows covered in yummy melted cheddar cheese (which ironically became a popular dish in 18th century America.)

Unfortunately, for the Yankee Doodle in the song, the feather in his cap only emphasized his bumpkin buffoonery. However, in a contemporary-like twist of re-appropriating slurs, Americans began singing the song themselves, reportedly after the battle of Yorktown in 1781 as a way of rubbing it in that the Yanks beat the Brits (aka Yo Mama…)

From a fashion point, what is interesting about this song is that it identifies a mistrust or dislike for overly-sophisticated and groomed males in American culture that continues to exist. Whether its feathered hats, or umbrellas, or sandals, or man-bags – many elements of men’s dress considered appropriate or fashionable on the other side of the Atlantic have been looked askance as affected and effete in the U.S.

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Canadian Fashion Connection – Rainbow Jeans

After Joe Owen finished his tour of duty in Vietnam, he was working for an American Jeans manufacturer and was in Toronto on business when he met future business partner Richard Brown. In 1975, the two were still in their mid twenties when they started their business Rainbow Jeans in Montreal. Owen handled the creative side while Brown oversaw marketing and sales.

In their first year, they saw sales of $585,000. Three years later they were selling their jeans across the country and in 1980 they sold 824,000 pairs of men’s, women’s, and children’s jeans – about $15 million in sales. The following year they began to expand their product line to include other types of clothing. In 1984 they introduced their jeans brand Steps.

Unfortunately, the rise of designer brand-name jeans in the 1980s was too much competition for the young company, and with the onset of a recession, the company ceased operating in 1990.

BTW – the rainbow motif was not associated with the gay movement when they founded their company in 1975. Rainbow striped elastic suspenders and cloth belts were popular in the late 1970s for rollerskating and disco looks. When the rainbow was first used as a symbol of the gay movement in San Francisco in 1978 the pink triangle was the established motif. However, the pink triangle had negative connotations as it had been appropriated from the Nazis to identify homosexuals, like the yellow star was used for Jews. By 1984, when Rainbow jeans created their ‘Steps’ label, the rainbow symbol was becoming the more popular and positive symbol for the gay movement, which is probably why they created the Steps label so as not to alienate potential customers. Since then, the rainbow has become associated with celebrations, like gay pride parades, but the pink triangle continues to be used as a symbol at more serious gay political events.

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