My annual hodge podge of things from the past year that made me go UNHHHHH:
In the Lucy episode “Lucy Gets a Paris Gown” the gang is in Paris. Lucy and Ethel are enchanted by the work of French fashion designer Jacques Marcel and Lucy pretends to go on a hunger strike until Ricky buys her a Marcel original. Of course Ricky finds out she is pretending, so he and Fred play a trick on them. They make their own fashionable frocks out of potato sacks that Lucy and Ethel wear with pride until they realize the outfits are not real. The episode ends when the four are sitting in a cafe and see two models wearing Jacques Marcel creations that knock-off the burlap originals Lucy and Ethel wore the previous day.
One of those models, wearing the Marcel version is Georgia Holt, born Jackie Jean Crouch in 1926, but best known as Cher’s mother! Holt worked as a model in the 1940s and ’50s and did a few uncredited appearances in movies and TV shows in the 1950s.
I totally stole this story from METV if you want to check out the original.
Other than for artistic merit I have never been a fan of statues because it literally puts someone on a pedestal. I have been thinking a lot about the recent removal of statues of famous men who are now seen as offensive or represent a troubled past. It began with the toppling of Samuel Colston who the people of 17th century Bristol saw as a benevolent philanthropist, but who made his fortune from trafficking slaves. Statues of Confederate Civil War generals then came under fire, followed by former presidents and fathers of the American constitution who owned slaves, like Thomas Jefferson. In Canada, Prime Minister John A. MacDonald has been held responsible for his government allowing the creation of residential schools to assimilate indigenous youth into Canadian society – an act that is now being called a cultural genocide.
We may agree these are troubling issues that don’t represent a rosy past but where do we stop? The axe is now falling on corporate leaders who exhibit bad behaviour in the office and, having experienced a toxic boss, perhaps that is warranted, but some recent events include a San Francisco Museum art curator who used a PC-inappropriate phrase which undid years of his work acquiring art from under-represented contemporary artists in the BIPoC and LGBTQ communities. Nobody is perfect, we have all sinned, but where does the line get drawn between being human and being inhumane? Like Robespierre’s reign of terror in Revolutionary France, when does cutting the heads off of those responsible become just a spectacle to watch heads roll?
I have not been a fan of the ‘Great Man’ theory that history progresses because of individual accomplishments. Some historical figures are remembered for their contributions but history is complicated and progress and change is most often the culmination of many hands – it’s just the one who gets the patent is remembered best.
In fashion, we hold names like Dior and Chanel in high regard but Dior’s New Look wasn’t really new at all – he picked up where fashion left off before World War II began in the autumn of 1939. Much of his debut collection in 1947 didn’t use the ‘New Look’ silhouette, and he wasn’t the only designer who did that silhouette. Chanel was a bully, a fascist, and a traitor. She used and manipulated others and was an opportunist who tried to take advantage of anti-Jewish laws in Nazi occupied France to claw back the rights to her perfume. These two designers made beautiful clothes but should they be held in such high regard?
A couple of years ago we received a donation of some clothes at the museum that had belonged to A.R. Kaufmann, a businessman who ran a rubber company in Kitchener, Ontario. He is remembered as a pioneering industrialist and his huge factory, famous for making galoshes, is now known as the Kaufmann Lofts. He was also an advocate for reproduction rights that, like Margaret Sanger, included eugenics – sterilizing the poor and working class from having too many babies – a popular notion in the 1920s and 1930s that many praised Hitler for practicing at the time.
We don’t have to look the other way when it comes to imperfect behaviour, but maybe we should avoid putting anyone on a pedestal.
I have this file where I throw in pictures that aren’t about fashion but that amuse or amaze me. It’s time to clean out that file, so here are some my OT images:
International Safety Pin day is observed on April 10 every year to mark the date Walter Hunt patented his safety pin. He called his invention a “dress pin” for the purpose of using it for dressing where previously a straight pin had been used.
Among Hunt’s many inventions and improvements to existing inventions were designs for a repeating rifle, flax spinner, knife sharpener, bullet casings, fountain pens., rope making machine, and many more.
International Safety Pin day is April 10, because, on that date in1849, Walter Hunt received a patent for his invention of the safety pin. Legend says he invented it in about three hours after he was pressured to repay a $15.00 debt or about $400 in today’s dollars. He patented it and sold the patent for $154 and paid off his debt.