Tag Archives: Baroque

Fashion: A Bygone Era of Hats

I like hats. Hats are fun. The mad hatter loved his hat but then he was quite mad, from felting those hats. Mad as a hatter was once a popular saying. Though there is dispute as to whether it actually came from hat making, once hatters used mercury to felt the hats and that drove them quite mad as it was absorbed into their skin.

In a later era, World War II, my mother worked for a hatter in Calgary. Because so many men were on the front lines, women’s emancipation happened. Women had to work the jobs that were once held almost exclusively by men, which had left nursing, secretarial and teaching as traditional women’s jobs. My mother worked one of the machines that made or felted the hats. At one point an inspector came in and noticed she was not being paid adequately. Women were to be paid a man’s wage if they were doing a man’s job, not less because they were women. So my mother was paid more and the world changed, with women never going back  completely to the way it had been before the war.

And hats changed too. In the earlier decades of the 20th century hats were a required form of dress. This style had come up through the ages, where hats were used before central heating to keep the person warm. Headwear had, at points, indicated the marital status of a woman, with unmarried women sometimes allowed to go hatless or with hair down. And sometimes hats indicated a religious status or belief (this is still the case today).

But any well-dressed man or woman in the 40s and 50s always wore a hat. A woman’s was not as necessary but a man was rarely seen without one. And men doffed their hats to the ladies and were required to remove them when inside, or for ceremonies, to show respect. Ladies hats became small fripperies worn in various ways, as adornment to their hair. They had veils, feathers and odd decorations of flowers and birds (sometimes stuffed). In fact not much had changed in the decorations of hats since the 17th century when women went so far as to wear galleons in their hair. (The Baroque and Rococo periods saw some amazingly ornate hats of towering proportions, not to mention the hair.)

Men’s hats settled into the fedora as the most popular form in North America. A man would probably only have one hat most of his life, unless he was well-to-do. But that hat would fit well. Hats were made in sizes going up in increments so one could find a hat for any head. Women’s were too, unless they were the ornaments that sat atop the head where size mattered little.

However as time progressed through the 60s and 70s, hats were worn less and less. They were also now being made of materialsother  than straw and felt. The process of felting with mercury, for felt hats, actually involved the use of animal furs (beaver, rabbit) that were felted and blocked to make hats. They’re more durable and softer than wool. And they were expensive. I actually have one vintage pillbox hat that says it’s made of velour which is in fact felted fur, the softest type.

So hats are now mostly novelty items, at least those super duper, fancy cocktail hats that few of us wear. But people still wear them; models and stars who show up for elaborate or public functions. Royalty still wear hats. Others also wear hats but the headwear has changed in style and size. Women’s hats rarely come in sizes anymore, which is hugely annoying. I have a large head, or a small man’s size. But women, hatmakers now believe, have one size of head. I can’t buy many hats unless I go for the custom hats and although I have a couple (a tricorn and a high pillbox), they are very expensive.

The most banal or common hat in this era is the baseball cap, synonymous with every guy in jeans and T-shirt or track pants. Of course, not every guy wears these caps, which I classify as the MacDonald’s of hats. They are rarely classy (though there are designer ones) and often denote the good ole party boy from the hicks. Still there was most likely the equivalent in all eras. And hats are often functional items to keep the weather at bay, whether sun, snow or rain.

Hats do evolve and the wearing of them waxes and wanes with styles and fashion. They are fun to wear for more than just a costume. They can be functional and fancy all at once. Dressing up with a hat can make you feel like a star. I actually haven’t worn most of my hats for a while. Perhaps I’ll start again.

And for people wanting to look at hats and different styles, some reminiscent of earlier eras, here are a few sites:

http://www.berkeleyhat.com/index.html

http://ediehats.com/store-theatre

http://www.ilovehats.ca/home.html

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Sexy Cartoons: the Cutesifying of Society

In one of the many online apps that I check (Facebook, Google, Yahoo Groups, various independent websites, Wiki) there are ads. We’re all used to them and probably don’t notice most of them by now. They may be for dating or specific to what you’re looking at, or little gadget ads to lure you in so they can slap a cookie and spyware onto you. There are wallpaper and screensaver gadgets, little emoticons you can use and various avatars you can create.

There has been one, obviously geared toward girls and women where you can create an avatar/toon of yourself. Now I was pretty much like any other little girl and used to love paper dolls and plastic dolls and changing their clothes. What can I say? I still love clothes and maybe that was just the early interest manifesting. Women, generally, love color and pattern and whether it is clothing or decorating your home or painting a picture, this may come out in various ways. But over all humans are attracted to color and pattern; it’s just that men have been told they have to be more “manly.” Tell the men of the Baroque era, in their lace cravats and cuffs, brocades, powdered wigs, facial patches and high heeled shoes that they weren’t men. They were; they were just in fashion for their period.

So, back to these various ads. The one that caught my eye is this one:

cutesy

Not that there aren’t other similar ads out there but this one isn’t just taking some generic avatar. You seem to be able to supply a photo of yourself and then form a little Barbie/manga doll image. Why you need a toon version of yourself, who knows? Probably just because it’s cute and different. Let’s compare the toon to the person. It’s a little hard to tell in this picture (and I didn’t want to be spammed so I didn’t click on the icon) but under the “Draw Me” tab you can see that toon girl’s waist is smaller than real girl’s. And I’m gonna just guess that toon girl will have a bigger bust too. And skinnier arms.

Now both images are of the same height but the proportions are different. Toon girl has a head longer and wider than real girl. This fits with certain styles of cartooning but not all. She also has a cupid bow mouth that is about one quarter of the size of real girl’s. But the eyes take up nearly a third of her face. And her brows are arched high. They’re very cartoony and done in a style known as manga, or Japanese comic art, where artists have given these cutesy wide open, innocent eyes on little-girl-proportioned bodies but with the breasts of women (and often in schoolgirl outfits–you figure it out).

So what we have is a cartoon of ourselves. Harmless over all. Cartoons are done for numerous reasons–political satire, caricatures, fantasy stories, etc. However, I see some of these cartoon avatars as an indication of what society fashionistas seem to want. I  admit to a certain prejudice but we have oversexed our society in the wrong ways and objectified women as well. (Booth babes, cheerleaders, pin-ups–some are fine for admiring the art of the human body but it’s gone overboard, and often that’s all people seem to want in women.)

The image of large eyes and a cute little mouth, big breasts and a tiny waist is what men hope they’ll get. What do the Barbie doll, cosmetically enhanced, botox crowd go for? Big breasts, tiny waists, large, overly full lips (one difference from this cartoon), big eyes, long necks, arched brows. It may not be everyone’s ideal of beauty but it’s what the fashion media push, to the extreme. Surgical manipulation of the body is a big business.

What we as human beings need to keep in mind is that we are human, of flesh that changes, with birthmarks and uneven coloring. We are not all built the same, and looking at too many altered stars, cartoon images, and airbrushed and anorexic models gives a false ideal of beauty.  What is truly beautiful is our diversity, the unique combination of eyes, nose, mouth, hair color, height, movement and personality. We shouldn’t be trying to iron ourselves into sameness, nor thinking that a caricature of human proportions is what we all want to be. If people, as individuals, don’t keep a good perspective, then’ we’re closer to being Stepford wives than we thought.

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