I have been using this time at home to create order in my endless electronic archives of images and snippets. I am finding interesting things like this 1906 advert for O’Connor, manufacturer of footwear for the lame, and in another file, an extant example from, I think, the podiatric shoe museum at Temple University in Pennsylvania.
The oldest of nine siblings, Anita Chouinard was born in Quebec in 1917. Her last name was changed to Pineault when she married. When he left to serve in Europe during World War II Anita took a job with the Montreal firm Nadel Hat. Her talent was quickly realized by owner Teddy Nadel and she was soon promoted to design for the company.
Anita launched her own company in the 1950s and, with high standards, built a successful international business, exporting hats to New York and making hats for designer collections. In later years she launched a line of scarves. In the late 1980s she sold her company to European interests and retired to Kingston Ontario. She passed away at the age of 92 on January 20, 2009.
Thanks to themerchantsofvintage for finding an obit that opened research doors!
A year before the first American black model, Donyale Luna, graced the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, Johanne Harelle retired from her modelling career in Canada.
Johanne Harelle was born Joan Harell to a French Canadian mother and West Indian father in Montreal on January 29, 1930. She spoke English until her father died of tuberculosis when she was three and her mother was confined to a sanitarium for treatment of the same disease. Joan and her two younger brothers were sent to an orphanage where the nuns altered her name to a French spelling, and required her to speak French.
After finishing school, Joan worked as a maid, waitress, accountant, nightclub photographer, lab technician, and eventually, as a professional model from about 1957 to 1963. “I suffered from a little racism.” she recounted in a 1983 interview “There were a few incidents but not many.” While modelling, she met film-maker Claude Jutras and had a three year love affair with him, which also lead to some acting work. In 1963 she married a French sociologist and moved to Paris the following year. In 1981 she wrote her autobiography Un Lecon, and after a divorce, moved back to Montreal where she died on August 4, 1994.
The origin of wearing masks to protect against disease dates back to the mid 17th-century when doctors dressed against the bubonic plague in outfits that made them look like giant crows.
The original idea for the ensemble is usually credited to Charles de Lorme, physician to King Louis XIII. He described his plague outfit as a coat covered in scented wax, breeches connected to boots, a tucked-in shirt, hat and gloves of kid leather, and a mask with a beak shaped nose filled with theriac (a compound of herbs including myrrh and cinnamon), with a hole on each side so that with every breath, the sweet scent of the herbs filled the lungs.
Before germ theory, physicians thought the plague was spread through poisoned air and that sweet and pungent scents could purify plague-ridden air. The plague was actually caused by bacteria that was transmitted through flea bites or the inhalation of infectious droplets from sneezing or coughing patients. Although the science behind the beak-like mask was faulty, it would have offered some minimal protection as it stopped doctors from touching their face and the entirely covered body would reduce the possibility of flea bites.
With a better understanding of germs and disease, cloth face masks were first worn by doctors in the late 1890s to prevent surgeries from becoming infected. In the fall of 1910 a plague broke out in Manchuria that had a high and fast mortality rate. A Chinese doctor by the name of Lien-teh Wu determined that the plague was spread by air-born bacteria and developed a more sophisticated face mask consisting of many layers of gauze with a tight fit to the face — he developed a respirator that was effective against the spread of disease.
In 1918, masks were used by civilians to prevent the spread of the Spanish Influenza. However, pictorial evidence often shows that most people wore loosely fitted masks and often incorrectly, that offered little or no protection, as made evident by the flu ultimately killing an estimated 50 million people worldwide. What would have been effective were gas masks, made for soldiers on the front in World War I, as well as for civilians in World War II. Gas masks were respirators that filtered every inhalation by creating an airtight seal to the face, but they were uncomfortable to wear, and expensive to produce.
The use of face masks disappeared in the West, although in the East, masks continued to be worn in crowded urban areas out of politeness to avoid sneezing on others. In an effort to create a face mask that was more efficient at filtering air but more comfortable to wear than a gas mask, a respirator was developed for single-use occupational safety and health. The N95 was developed by 3M in 1972 primarily for coal miners and other workers who were exposed to fine dust that could lead to health issues. The respirators circled back to medical use in the 1990s to protect immunocompromised patients, and then more broadly with the the outbreak of SARS in 2002.
In the last decade face masks were used as protection from smog in cities throughout Asia. They were also adopted by pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong in 2019 as a tool for disguising identities from closed-circuit TV cameras. When the government tried to ban them, they became a political symbol.
In the last few years some brands, including Fendi and Gucci, started making designer masks. Billie Eilish wore one to the Grammys on January 26, 2020 just as the first reports of the Coronavirus were making news. Masks became the fashion accessory at the Paris and Milan fashion shows this year where they were handed out to guests, and couture versions appeared on some catwalks.
Despite the recent necessity, it will be interesting to see if mask fashions have any lasting power. The look is unsettling, reminiscent of a scene from some movie about a contagion that creates zombies. It is alienating and unsocial – the same reason many dislike the face-covering scarves intended to isolate Islamic women from attention. Time will tell but I wouldn’t buy stock…
Herb Goldsmith was the man behind the Members Only brand. Born in the Bronx on September 3, 1927, his father was a traveling salesman for the garment company Chief Apparel. Herb served in Northern Italy during World War II where he worked as a disc jockey on Armed Forces Radio. Afterwards he went to Long Island University on a G.I. bill and graduated in 1950 with a degree in marketing. He then went to work for his father who, with partner Edwin Wachtel, had founded the company Europe Craft Imports.
While working for this company, Herb came up with the idea of using celebrities to sell clothes, including Tony Curtis and Bing Crosby. In the 1970s he came up with the name ‘Members Only’ for a clothing line – the idea was borrowed from a sign he saw at the Long Island Country Club. In 1978 Herb copied the idea for a jacket with epaulets and a Nehru collar he had seen on a trip to Germany, adding a ‘member’s only’ tag below the breast pocket, and offering his version in a rainbow of colours. The line was so successful, the whole company was renamed Member’s Only.
In 1986 he felt celebrity advertising was becoming stale, so he took the company’s six million dollar advertising budget and switched to making sponsored public service announcements. The first public service campaign addressed the crack epidemic, the second urged people to vote. Some television stations refused to show the spots but they received advertising industry awards and sales climbed 25% over the next four years.
Herb sold his company and left the garment business in 1992 to become an investor and broadway producer. Members Only jackets are still being made. Herb Goldsmith died February 22.
Diaphanous cotton batiste shirtwaists, often trimmed with lace and decorated with whitework embroidery were slangily referred to as ‘pneumonia blouses’ as early as 1905. The pneumonia term is often erroneously thought to date back to the Spanish Influenza of 1918/19, but in fact, the term was falling from use around that time possibly because the term was no longer amusing in light of the severity of the Spanish Influenza.
The term shows up in the 1906 novel ‘A Waif’s Progress’, by Rhoda Broughton, the heroine gets a bad cold “The result of a pneumonia blouse, I suppose! As long as girls strip themselves naked in January they cannot be surprised at their chests and lungs resenting it.”
That same year an article appeared in the New Zealand newspaper The Evening Post referring to a backlash that had started the year before in the U.S. against the style that Americans were calling the ‘peekaboo waist’: