Posts Tagged ‘fashion’

Did anyone else do this/have this done to them as a kid? Let me paint you a picture. Shy-ish first grader is sitting against the bookshelf in the first grade classroom reading, when the boy who eats glue comes over and asks, “what are you eating under there?” And since the girl isn’t actually sitting under anything, she says, “under where?” and then of course, the boy shrieks with laughter and shouts, “she’s eating underwear!” Fun times in first grade..

Anyways, underwear is on the forefront of my mind recently, because I continually commit the grave panty line fashion faux pas. I think I’ve figured out why this keeps happening to me, and I believe it’s because I’m not used to wearing dress pants. Mind you, in my mind any pant this is not made of denim is a dress pant. The obvious solution is to wear a thong, but I hate thongs. Who wants a piece of dental floss riding up their lady parts? Besides, it’s been proven that continual thong wearing increases your chance of yeast infections. No fun. On another, yet related note, women who wear tight pants (i.e. jeggings, leggings, too-tight trousers) are more likely to have ingrown hairs and other irritations in the bikini area.

I don't know why the other two stewardesses were cut out when I pasted the URL and I don't know who this pilot is, because he isn't cute Dean. But it still shows the glamour of the show.

Due to these negative side effects of today’s stylish clothing I find myself fantasizing about the day when flowy skirts were de rigor. Or even when skirts in general were common place, preferably with supportive undergarments which might mask any lingering panty lines, like in the 1960s. My new mother-daughter ritual is watching Pan Am, and a girdle check is part of the standard  beauty inspection. Perhaps modern ideals took over, but the characters wear pretty tight skirts and there are no lines, so I must conclude that the actresses cheat with anachronistic thongs or girdles actually decrease those embarrassing lines.

I digress. The history of underwear is fascinating. How civilizations went from wearing loincloths to layers upon layers of garments–chemise, petticoats, corsets–just to name a few. I suppose the change in our undergarments, as well as the change in our outergarments has a lot to do with society’s view on what is appropriate. Back in the day, a woman couldn’t show her ankles yet, today, we see much more. Just watch an episode of Jersey Shore for proof. However, while today’s short hemlines are new, in certain eras, showing an expanse of bosom was all the rage. Personally, I don’t mind showing off a bit of cleavage (or a lot if you’re my mother), but even these grand ladies show more skin than I am comfortable with. Men also, went through a phase, thanks to King Henry, of stuffing their codpieces*. Perhaps this is why men have such issues with size of their penises?

Anyway, underwear changes with the socially acceptable outerwear of the time. For example, by the middle ages the loin cloth served only as a genital cover, while new pants or, chausses covered the legs(1). Women and men wore other undergarments to protect their outerwear from their dirty skin, while women wore petticoats for warmth and protection. Men wore something similar to the modern shirt(2), while women wore chemises(3). Fun, or not so fun, fact, women menstruated right into their chemises(4). There was no device or special garment to protect their clothing. It wasn’t until Bloomers entered the fashion world in the 1850s that female undergarments as we know them today came into existence(5).

After the sexualization of the 1920s and the flapper, lingerie entered the fashion world(1). I remember reading and watching Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and being astounded by the existence of a lingerie fashion show. Looking back, it was probably in the early years of undergarment acceptance. Previously corsets and bloomers and whatever else fell under the “unmentionable” category. And, by the 196os the bikini underwear hit stores and the thong in the late 1980s-early 90s(1).

While I have no desire to wear a corset I do sometimes wish we could go back to the days of girdles. I suppose I could wear little girl’s bike shorts under my clothing like Zooey Deschanel in The New Girl.* I tried really hard to find a clip with this specific part, but unfortunately the only way I can post it is through not-so-legal channels. So check out Hulu or hope a family member DVRd The New Girl!


* What’s your new favorite TV show? I just mentioned mine!


1. http://www.amazing-planet.net/history-of-underwear.php

2. http://www.maletribe.com/mensunderwear/historyofmensunderwear.html (renaissance)

3. http://elizabethcbunce.wordpress.com/historical-costuming/18th-century-middle-class-ensemble/shift-undergarments/

4. http://www.mum.org/underhis.htm

5. http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=42

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Fashion update

Remember a while back when I looked at Disney Princesses and their costumes?

Well, I stumbled upon this picture today, and obviously someone thinks in the same vein as me.

Historically Accurate Snow White By Shoomlah at deviantart.com (http://shoomlah.deviantart.com/#/d3ds8iu)

Check out Shoomlah’s deviantart page! There’s a whole sideshow of historically accurate Disney reinterpretations including Pocahontas, who I didn’t include (oops). Although, I have to say, I’m not sure I agree with Shoomlah’s interpretation of Belle’s costume.

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This is the last installment of my pieces on the history of fashion and physical attraction. If you don’t remember the previous, you can find them here and here.

Shortly after my visit to the MFA, I had an assignment for school. When I found the book Dressed for the Occasion: What Americans wore 1620-1970 by Brandon Marie Miller, I knew it was the book for me and my assignment. Don’t judge this book by its call number. Yes, it’s a children’s book, but it has a lot of great information. Not only about general trends, but also about society.

Just looking at these gives me a headache.

In the chapter on early 18th century fashion, Miller includes a quote from Dr. Benjamin Rush* who said, “I…ascribe the invention of ridiculous and expensive fashions in female dress entirely to the gentlemen…to divert the ladies from improving their minds…and to secure more arbitrary and unlimited authority over them”. Later, the text includes quote from a magazine writer: “we can expect but small achievement from women, so long as it is the labor of their lives to carry about their own clothing” (Miller 30). I would also include keeping their heads up to that sentence. Just look at those ‘dos!

While I sometimes complain about the tightness of clothing or the highness of my heels, at least I don’t have to wear a corset. I also don’t have to wear a twenty pounds worth of crinolines and petticoats, not to mention bustles or panniers (depending on your era), which basically restricts all forms of movement, as a sign of wealth. Before the invention of the spring bustle, women could not sit down comfortably. Sometimes they couldn’t even fit through doors because their panniers were so wide. And remember how Jo March had to stand against the wall because she scorched the back of her dress? Well she was lucky, some woman actually burned to death when their dresses caught on fire.

While I admit, I love the look of bustles and corsets (I did not want to get out of the Southern Belle costume at a Dollywood old-time photograph booth), I had never really thought of the consequences. Not only are there physical problems with corsets (organs getting all smushed around or ribs curving in and puncturing lungs*), but the inability to move or do anything must have been excruciating. No wonder women in the past had hysterics or constantly complained of their nerves. Boredom, continual conversations about delicate natures and daintiness, combined with the lack (or inability) of exercise would convince anyone to take to their beds.

Will we eventually move past the double standard? Will there eventually be a Spanx for men? A regular addition to the male wardrobe? There are support briefs, but I highly doubt they will catch on. At one point in time men stuffed their calves to “make a leg” but as far as I’m aware, that kind of universal self-consciousness has disappeared, at least in men’s fashion.

I leave you with this quote from Godey’s*, “in skirts only can they maintain… in the eyes of men their womanliness.”

*I will admit this is not great academic writing. Honestly, while I appreciate good nonfiction writing, I don’t have the time to find the sources from which these quotes come. For my purposes, these quotes within a quote will suffice. If you are interested, I will give you further reading.

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After writing The Zsa Zsa Zsu, I started thinking about fashion and to what extent the role clothing and costume play in attraction.  Again, I use my love of women’s magazines.  Glamour.com has a column called “guy pretty vs. girl pretty,” which brings up the old question—do women dress to impress men or other women?  I often lean towards impressing other women and I remember asking a guy in truth or dare in high school what kind of girl he liked, fashion wise; he said a laid back girl in sweats.  Yet, women all around the world, past and present, don crazy outfits to fit in with current fashions.

While I don’t actively dress based on what I think guys like on a regular basis, I have been known to wear low-cut shirts while seeing a “boob guy.”  Especially when feeling frisky.  But I frequently see other women wearing short skirts or low-cut tops, sometimes both, and often times in inappropriate settings (i.e. museum on a Sunday afternoon).  I’m assuming this style of dress is to attract men, because the amount of cleavage on display is distracting even to me!

I was at the MFA when I started thinking about the history of fashion.  At the time, I was pretty convinced man-attracting-fashion was a modern phenomenon.  After watching The Importance of Being Earnest and looking at portraits in the museum, I thought to myself, “no man could consider that sexy!”  Clothing covered everything and was incredibly intricate and fussy.  It gives me a headache thinking of how women got their clothing on everyday.  The women looked stiff and hard; if you tried to hug or touch them, you’d get hurt.

Then, after reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and using my brain, I realized, “duh,” Indigo, “corsets!”  A conversation between Calpurnia and her grandfather explains it all: “’It’s funny,’ I said, ‘that girls have to be pretty.  It’s the boys that have to be pretty in Nature.  Look at the cardinal.  Look at the peacock.  Why is it so different with us? Because in nature it is generally the female who chooses,’ he said, ‘so the male must clothe himself in his finest feathers to attract her attention.  Whereas your brother gets to choose from the young ladies, so they have to do their best to catch his eye’” (Kelly, 366).

Apparently men have always had a thing for women’s curves.  A friend of mine once said women’s chests remind men of buttocks, and it is a sign of fertility; hence their attraction.  I suppose it’s also what distinguishes male from female on the most primitive level.  The twenties are the only era, to my knowledge, that women attempted to de-emphasize their bits and bobs.  Think about it, corsets push everything up, while simultaneously making bottoms look bigger by comparison to the teeny tiny waist.

So, even though women were covered from head to toe, they used fashion to draw attention to themselves—to make them stand out from the crowd.  Just as women do today.

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My cohorts wrote equally lovely and interesting posts on Disney princesses and their relationship to our lives and romances. I wish I had something as interesting to share!  But, when I tried to write my follow-up, I started to get angry. I love Disney. I own many Disney princess movies (ahem, family and friends, Tangled is coming out soon and my birthday is near), but I don’t like to think about them too critically. Inevitably I start to wonder about the message the movie is sending, the subtle (sometimes not so subtle) racist undertones, or how Disney butchered the original stories.

Instead I like to focus on the beautiful animation, funny animal sidekicks and fantastic songs. I have an iPod playlist dedicated specifically to Disney music. It motivates me while working out and cleaning my apartment.

One of my all time favorite Disney movie is Sleeping Beauty, solely for the animation. It is unbelievable. For those of you who are not Disney fanatics, medieval European tapestries inspired the animation design. Sleeping Beauty is one of those rare Disney movies that give us a time period, or at least a slightly more obvious one. Cinderella on the other hand always baffled me.

So, let’s play a little game.  What time period do I take place in?

Snow White:

Snow White’s high starched collar is reminiscent of 16th century ruffs and collars, but the rest of the dress is too simple. There are no crazy hoops or panniers that were so common in 1500s. Nor, did women wear bows, but I’m assuming that was based on fashion of the 1930s (time of animation).

However, the prince’s outfit does seem to fit the standard men’s wear of the time. The sleeves are puffed, the tunic covers the split between the legs (the codpiece was just coming into fashion and before that, there was just a hole, covered by the tunic; wardrobe malfunction heaven). And, he carries a sword, a very important sign of nobility.


Mostly I’m basing my theory on the stepsister’s clothing choices and Cinderella’s ball gown. Check out those bustles! And panniers! Looking solely at the fashions, I’d guess late 1800s. Most likely 1880s based on research I did for this article on a wedding dress (here are some other examples). Yet, the rest of the movie doesn’t seem to fit this time period.

I also imagine it’s supposed to take place in Germany. Especially since Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle in the movie and Disney World, is in Bavaria. However, nothing in the movie looks German. This is most likely since Disney based the movie on Charles Perrault’s version. AKA the French version. Yet, things don’t seem French either… but that could just be me.

The Little Mermaid:

Apparently, Ariel is 16. If you ask me, that is faaaar to young. But, in our past, 16 was a perfectly acceptable age to think of marriage and love.

Anyway, I don’t think Ariel’s age is apparent until she becomes a “human,” with legs. On land, with that huge bow she looks young, but underwater she looks very mature (and developed) for a 16-year-old. I think this is the most ambiguous Disney time period. I can’t place any of Ariel’s clothing. And, as far as I know, there are no time periods where men, especially princes, could run around in just their shirtsleeves. What are your thoughts?

Sapphire thinks it takes place in some Mediterranean setting–South of France, Spain, Greece, etc. But as far as eras go, I’m not sure.

Beauty and the Beast:

Beauty and the Beast gives us a setting–France–but the era is still uncertain. The Beast’s clothing looks very post-French Revolution. In France, at the time, no one wanted to look like an aristocrat and strayed from the lush velvets and brocades, while in England, Beau Brummel introduced crisp, white linens and simple, tightly tailored pieces. However, Belle’s clothing does not fit this time period (picture any Jane Austen adaptation and that is what she should be wearing if she were to match the Beast).

Belle’s clothing is all over the place. The gold dress looks like an 1860s ball gown, but the blue and white day outfit… I have no idea.


I’m not a big Aladdin fan and I don’t know much about Middle Eastern culture, so I don’t even have a guess as to the era. What about you? Do you have any guesses? I do know that no woman would run around with their midriff showing in the Middle East at any time period.

One thing I noticed during my “research” (movie watching) is that all the day dresses worn by the characters show ankles. Is this to further enforce their age? In Victorian times anyway, girls wore shorter skirts and letting them out as they mature. Wearing long skirts and putting your hair up was a sign of maturity; finally reaching womanhood. However, I think, in most other time periods, all females wore long skirts. Including children. Maybe it’s a subtle sex symbol; a view of a woman’s ankle was just as titillating as cleavage in the past.

Or maybe I’m thinking about this far too much.

Do you agree with my guesses?  Have any other ideas?

For further reading on fashion through history check out “Dressed for the Occasion: What Americans Wore 1620-1970” by Brandon Marie Miller and/or “How Underwear Got Under There” by Kathy Shaskan.  Yes, these are both children’s nonfiction, but they have lots of good information!

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