Tag Archives: clothing

Evolution of the Tie

ties, neckties, neckwear, scarves, fashion, clothing, accessories, men's fashion


A myriad of modern ties. From GQ.com

Ever wonder where the tie came from, that rather useless modicum of clothing that has become the standard of business attire? It actually has a long evolution from a functional item to what it is today. The tie began its life in a very different form. Imagine a frog’s egg that becomes a tadpole and eventually a frog, or a caterpillar that builds its chrysalis and turns into a butterfly. That is the range from which the tie has evolved.

In the early days of civilization and human invention, people had to discover and puzzle out everything. When they finally moved from wearing furs, skins and large leaves, they began to figure out how to make threads from plants and weave them. The first looms were not large and like looms to this day, made rectangles of fabric. Once the weaver had their rectangle of fabric, they wrapped it around themselves. Pins and stitching developed, and because making fabric was time consuming and expensive, no piece was wasted. Early clothing was made by rectangular construction, meaning that rectangles from those looms were piece together. Sometimes the fabric was cut and piece but rectangles, squares and triangles were as inventive as early clothing got.

This is a simplification, and there are areas where sophistication in patterning was more advanced. But

tie, cravat, scarf, necktie, fashion, history, clothing, accessories

Ye old cravat from the early 1800s.

let’s get back to the tie’s birth. It actually starts with the outwear that people needed to protect themselves from the elements. The earliest forms were called mantles and were rectangles of fabric, sheepskin or furs. I’m talking mostly about European origins and these were closed with large pins and clasps. The mantle developed into the cloak, with piecing of rectangles. However, hats and hoods were made separately because the ability to put the two together was not yet there.

The hoods had an overlap and sat atop the cloak. The point or tail of the hood could be different lengths and was sometimes quite long so that it could be wrapped around the neck of the hood to keep the wind and rain out. The long tail was called a liripipe and eventually that hood was worn in different ways. Plopped on top of the head with the tail wrapped to hold up the dagged edge in a cockscomb way, the fashion changed away.

ties, cravat, neckwear, fashion, clothing, history

This cravat is more of an Ascot tie.

Collars came about and had been used in other countries for a while, such as with the Chinese and Mongols. A scarf or kerchief was used selectively, such as with the Roman army, but as an actual dress item it was a slower process. But the wrapping around the throat of extra fabric came about in the 1600s. Croatian soldiers in France wore red kerchiefs around their necks and the French decided this was a cool and wonderful thing. They adopted it into fashion and the word cravat comes from Croat.

The cravat was usually white and often an elaborate affair of frills and ruffs tied in various ways. Here is where something to keep the neck warm changed to something to adorn the neck. There was also the stock in the 1700s, a piece of fabric wound around the throat. In some weird way it might have been a very shrunken version of the ruff, which was popular in the early 1600s. A long separate piece of fabric, like the scarf, was not common until the 1800s. But that cravat got a workout from the Baroque to the Rococo and beyond.

By the 1800s you have scarves and ties, and the ties begin to morph in size and shape. There’s the Ascot tie, the bow tie, the long tie and the most essentially inane tie ever, the bolo tie, created in the 1940s. Ties became part of formal dress that hasn’t changed much since Victorian times. They’ve been long and short, narrow and wide, dull and paisley, and a variety of colors. Considering the conservatism of men’s clothing I imagine we’ll have another century of ties, and while some formal dress no longer requires the tie, it seems it will stick around as male fabric adornment for a while yet.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, fashion, history

Fluevog Shoes: The Good, the Bad, the Dangerous?

slingback, pump, shoe, designer shoes, Fluevog, fashion, footwear

An early Fluevog shoe with the square heel similar to the witch boots.

John Fluevog is a local name in Vancouver. He began designing shoes in the early 70s and has gone on to international fame for avant garde designs. I used to own an early pair (80s) of Fluevog boots that I bought second hand. I called them my witch boots. They had a heel that sloped out to a square, a squared off pointy toe, a turnover cuff, and a big silver buckle on the front. Made of black suede with a thin, hard plastic sole, they weren’t the most comfortable or well made boots, and were actually a size too big but they were fun. I eventually passed them on. I also had (and still have) some Peter Fox shoes, and originally Fox and Fluevog was the name of the shoe store the two men opened up.

I’ve often gone by the Fluevog store and looked at the crazy designs. Sometimes they don’t appeal, sometimes they do but they’re not cheap shoes. You’re looking at an average price of over $200 for a shoe. I would say  a “basic shoe” but there is no such thing in Fluevogs. From sandals to boots, there are dressy and casual but always unique. I needed a new pair of boots last fall so I checked out Fluevog. Boots are never cheap and because I have large calves not easy to find ones that go above the ankle, and I hate boots that stop at the ankle.

I have bought lace up boots for years and Fluevog had a range. Unfortunately many are just too narrow for my calves. I covet tall boots but they’re rare to find. I’ve been thinking of getting into steampunk too and tried on the Monday boot. The looked great. At $299 they couldn’t be less so I bought them.

I have problem feet. They are extremely wide and I need orthotics, which never work that well. Although I have dress shoe orthotics I gave up on getting them to ever work in boots. So I wanted something that would be comfortable for a reasonable length of time. The soles on these boots are leather, with not a lot of extra padding but fairly thick as it is. The top is brushed suede with decorative silver stitching. The lower boot is of a matte style leather, slightly rough, a bit shiny.

I started wearing the boots right away and within two months the laces were being chewed to pieces by the grommet holes on the boot. While metal grommets will wear on laces eventually, these were rough enough to destroy the lace rather quickly. On top of that, putting on the boot one day, there was something bunching around the toe. The leather insole that covers the nails and stitching had come loose. Fluevog fixed this as there is an 8-month warranty, but I was still surprised it happened. On top of that, the moment you polish the boot that rough matte look tamps down to shiny black. As well, the heel has a hard plastic bottom. I have found when walking on an incline of wet pavement that this slips. I haven’t fallen yet but I have to walk carefully, putting my foot down firmly so I don’t slide. That is dangerous.

boots, lace up boots, shoe, designer shoes, John Fluevog, fashion

Made of suede and leather, the inside says “Another Day with Hope.”

The good thing about these boots is that they are extremely comfortable, even more than I expected for feet that get sore. I haven’t had any boot or shoe in years that is so well balanced that the weight is distributed along the entire foot. The weight doesn’t rest on the ball of the foot alone (the cause of my orthotics) but is carried also by the heel. This is why stilettos can be very hard to wear. Tiny pencil heels and a small sole area increase the pounds-per-square-inch pressure that your feet carry. So kudos to Fluevog for being the only shoe designer out there who seems to get it.

When I bought the boots I had tried on some not so flattering shoes and some, like the Wonder Ayers, were very cute. They came in black and olive green. I could not afford two pairs of Fluevogs and the boots were more a necessity. But I thought of the shoes for two months and when I took the boots in to be fixed they had this pinky purple color. One thing my friends know about me is that I love color. I’d just finished a freelance job and couldn’t resist. Three hundred dollars later, I had the Ayers shoe, which was not too tall in the heel and turned up at the toe. I love ankle straps and this pair has two. How could I lose? They’re also well balanced at distributing the weight and centering it along the foot.

Wonder Ayers shoe, Fluevogs, shoes, fashion, designer shoes, leather

The Wonder Ayers, fun and stylish

I didn’t wear these for the first month as it was too cold and rainy. I wore them a bit at a time to break them in and stretch them. In the first month I slipped twice on linoleum floors and went down so fast I couldn’t break the fall. Luckily my heel slipped sideways and I went down along my leg and knee, bruising the knee one time. The same material is on this heel, and the side of the plastic is actually edged to a corner halfway up the side. This is the plastic piece on the heel that protects the shoe itself from wear.

I started to get scuffs on the toes because of the style and while that’s expected I found out Fluevog does not carry the polish to match these shoes, so I’m stuck. Even the polish they gave the shoes when I took them in for repairs doesn’t quite match the original color, not to mention it would be hard to polish around the white stitching. Neither of these are the biggest problems with this shoe. At less than three months old, with less than two months of wear I noticed the leather sole pulling away from the shoe, and then I saw the leather was ripping along the inner side at the top where the shoe bends. When I took them in Fluevog should have given me a new pair, considering price and age, but they sent them off for repair. The leather soles have been replaced with Topy soles and they’ve put a fairly invisible patch on the inside of the shoe to stop the tearing.  But I’m not happy.

For comfort and style and innovation, Fluevog gets a 9-10. For customer service, a 7–each time they’ve said, oh this hasn’t happened before, so am I buying the only bad pairs out there? For materials and support items (polish) they get a 5. The colors are good, the stitching well done, the leather feels good, but rough grommet holes, hard plastic heels that are dangerous, soles the pull away and leather that splits brings Fluevog’s score down. While the materials are better than those early pair, Fluevog still has room for improvement, especially when the shoes are so pricey.  That’s 72% for shoes that should be 85% and above.

1 Comment

Filed under art, consumer affairs, Culture, fashion

Evolution of the Platform Shoe

shoes, fashion, high heels, sex appeal, platform shoes

We used to call these FM pumps (f**k me) because they weren’t meant to be walked in. Creative Commons: by extraitaly flickr phil sidek gallery.

I’ve been noticing the ultra high heels that are in fashion now; stiletto heels, with a platform front. Because I spent far too many years in four-inch heels or higher I now have to watch what I wear, though with smart shopping and choosing the time to wear my shoe I can get away with a heel if not quite that high. So, obviously the current fashion has decided women need to be uber tall or that they need to be uber sexy on super spiky heels but because many women would feel a little unbalanced, the platform has been added which takes down the overall height from your heel to your toe.

shoes, medieval shoe, heels, fashion, style, footwear

The medieval shoe never had much of a heel, except for doubled layers of leather. From: feastgarb.tumblr.com

While the hyper sexualization of our society is partly to blame for everyone having to wear FM pumps now, these are not in fact the tallest shoes in history. The history of the platform shoe begins centuries ago. Japan of course had the geta or wooden sandals but if we look at Europe, there is a wealth of information there.

pattens, platform shoes, medieval shoes, fashion, shoe evolution, footwear

This is a reproduction of the medieval shoe, with pattens. From: The Art Room Plant

To understand how a wood-based or platformed shoe came about one must  understand that early shoes throughout Europe were only made of leather. As the technology and understanding of patternmaking progressed shoes had firmer and thicker soles, usually made up of several pieces of thick leather and might also have been boiled leather, a process of penetrating the leather with liquid beeswax, which not only hardens the leather but also makes it waterproof. Remember that lanes and paths would only be of mother earth and slowly developed into wood planks and cobblestones. Even walking in Europe last year with rubber-soled shoes, I found some of those cobblestones rather hard to walk upon.

shoes, fashion, footwear, chopine, pianella

The chopine, still made for a shoe or slipper to fit into it. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

No matter how well you waterproof something, if you’re walking through sucking mud and rain a lot your shoes are going to get ruined, and unlike people today, buying a new pair from a cobbler might be a year’s worth of spare change. People preserved their clothing and wore them out, often reusing parts in a new piece. One of the answers to uncomfortable cobblestones and mud was to use the patten. This was a wooden base that you slipped the leather shoe into. Shoes would eventually develop a heel made of wood.

Fashion always played  a part and as you can see by the red shoes, color and shape were important. The points of shoes got to ridiculous lengths and had to be gartered to the calf. And of course they rose to a silly height.

chopines, shoes, platform shoes, fashion, footwear, Renaissance shoes

Chopines of the Venetian bent. From the Bata shoe museum.

Enter the Renaissance, those crazy kids who loved color and men in tights and other fun stuff like Machiavelli. The Italians invented the chopines. They didn’t just look at the utilitarian aspects of keeping out of the mud; they looked at the prestige of being able to tower over your neighbor. Consider platforms that are 30 inches tall! Yes, one could show off their wealth by walking around on these mini stilts, with the help of two assistants.

fashion, shoes, 1940, footwear, platform shoes, heels

1940 platform shoes were modest. From: the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute

Sanity and shoe heights leveled out after that but the first 20th century platform was the peekaboo toe shoe of the 1940s (my favorite). This was a shoe with a heel and a modest platform of an inch at most. Of course the Renaissance was revisited in the 1970s with the blocky platform sandal and pretty much from there we have seen every evolution of the platform (platform sports shoes) since then. Except…no one has gone back to the towering heights of the chopine, probably because in this litigious society shoe companies would be sued out of existence.

Except maybe Alexander McQueen’s frightening horse hoof shoes. They’re insanely tall (though not quite 30 inches) and are the equivalent of monster trucks for people. I can’t say I’ve seen these catch on with anyone yet, and probably with good reason. Maybe next we’ll have pogo platforms. What fun those will be.

shoe, footwear, high heels, platform shoe, alexander mcqueen, fashion

The snake had indigestion. Possibly the ugliest platform in creation, Alexander McQueen’s creation.

3 Comments

Filed under Culture, fashion, history

How to Wear Skirts and Man-Skirts

The art of wearing a skirt well is not as easy as tossing it on and just walking. In fact, different lengths have different issues.

SHORT SKIRTS

fashion, clothing, how to sit in a miniskirt, miniskirt, skirts

Be careful of the Bermuda Triangle when you sit in a miniskirt. Creative Commons: Macleans.ca

A short, micro or miniskirt takes a certain degree of elegance if you want to maintain decorum and not look like a tart. Learn how to pick something up from the floor or a table without revealing all of your underpinnings. If you have to pick up something it’s best to bend at the knees and go straight down. Bending at the waist is sure to be revealing. Oh, and wearing underwear is an absolute must with short skirts. Make sure that if a chance unveiling happens that you are okay with what’s revealed, both in flesh and in material.

Some miniskirts are fairly form fitting. If you’re buying one, trying walking around in it first and see if it rides up or pouches at the belly. The other thing to check that not many of us think about is sitting in a skirt. The butt will widen and can cause constrictions or riding up. As well, there is that triangle of revelation between skirt and legs that can introduce any viewer at the same level or lower than you to an eyeful. Think Basic Instinct here. If your skirt is that short, you may have to cross your legs or place your hands or purse in a strategic position to keep the Bermuda Triangle hidden.

Short but full skirts are better at covering the Triangle but have the same problems for bending over. And of course, you have to watch the wind. A Marilyn moment in a short flouncy skirt is going to display more than your thighs. Many women now opt for dark tights with short skirts but that’s not always going to be a choice in the summer. You definitely don’t want to be lifting boxes in this length of skirt.

MID-LENGTH SKIRTS

skirts, midi, micro, walking in skirts, tight skirts, fashion

These midlength skirts are narrow enough you might need to hitch them to walk up stairs. Creative Commons Marc Jacobs

I consider any skirt from just above the knee to mid-calf to be a mid-length skirt. You don’t have to contend with displaying intimate details as you do with the short skirt but there are other issues. The tube or stovepipe skirt can be so tight that walking becomes an art. If you try to walk or stride you’ll either rip the material or fall over. Many of these skirts have an open slit in the back that facilitates walking, but you many still have to take delicate half-steps. Think of the kimono and how Japanese women mince along on the wooden sandals, called geta. To sit in a skirt this tight (if it is not stretchy material) means you might have to hike it up and you probably don’t want to cross your legs, even if there is room to do so. It would be quite constricting. If your skirt is particularly binding, you might find it difficult to bend your knees enough to mount the stairs. In this case you actually have to hitch your hip up to accommodate, or hike your skirt to give your knees room to bend.

A full skirt gives you ease of walking, but has other issues. If it’s really full it can tend to gather between your legs until you feel like you’re wearing a diaper, not to mention it doesn’t look that great. One way to deal with this is to gather a little bit in you hands to hold it out. The other is to wear a slip. Not only does this stop the transparent effects of the sun (or particular types of artificial lighting), but it will decrease the gathering of fabric. Slips are rarely as voluminous as a skirt, unless you’re dealing with the full circle where a full and ruffled slip is required to hold it out, which also stops it from going between the legs. And again, the fuller the skirt, the more you have to watch the wind, which really loves to play with fabric. The only thing with sitting that you have to watch with this length and style  is that it doesn’t end up with someone sitting on  part of it. Sometimes wearing a coat over top with a purse can cause a skirt to ride up. You might want to test that because it could show more than you’re anticipating.

FLOOR OR ANKLE-LENGTH SKIRTS

skirts, maxi skrit, fashion, walking in skirts

This length might mean you have to develop the kick-step, depending on fabric and flow. Creative Commons: Michael Kors

Not all of these are evening gowns and I wear some ankle-length skirts from time to time. It’s rare to find fitted ones this long unless there is a slit, but a fishtail or tulip style may be fitted to the knees, then flare out. Again, you’ll probably have to practice walking elegantly. More common will be an A-line or fuller skirt. If the skirt actually touches the floor you’ll have to work out a kick-step that lets you kick the fabric out before stepping forward so you’re not tripping yourself. Going up stairs requires you to gather the fabric in a hand, but you might want to do this going down the stairs as well. Steps are strewn with garbage, or just wet, and a long skirt will trail behind. As well, anyone walking behind you might step on your skirt, resulting in tearing or worse, a fall.

Shoes and long skirts can make a dangerous combination. If you’re wearing heels, watch out. I’ve had my heel catch in the hem of a skirt that had slightly stretchy material and almost topple me down the stairs. If you’re on a chair with roller wheels, be careful that your skirt doesn’t get wound around the wheels. This has happened to me a few times.

MAN-SKIRTS OR KILTS

manskirts, kilts, men in skirts, fashion, style, dress

Fashion gone wrong. Jean Paul Gaultier’s version of a manly man skirt.

Some men like to wear skirts and they’re not all gay. Others feel more comfortable calling these kilts, and the Utilikilt has gained great popularity amongst the male set. It’s a modern version made of heavyweight canvas and lacking the plaid of yesteryear’s kilt. Whether wearing a skirt or a kilt, men especially need to learn the art of wearing the skirt. Most of these are midlength so walking isn’t an issue but sitting can be a man’s undoing. Men often sit with their legs apart and if you happen to be going regimental (naked) beneath your kilt you better keep an eye on the capricious wind. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of sitting on the ground when I guy in a kilt came up and squatted in front of me. Ding dong, I saw far too much dangling. Guys, anyone at eye level and below can see a lot and it ain’t pretty. So, men, learn to either cross your ankles, close your knees, put your hands in your lap or use a pouch. That’s what the historical sporran was for besides storing valuables; it protected and hid the family jewels.

If you’re not sure how you’re going to look walking or sitting in any skirt or kilt, practice. Get a friend to give you hints but please, keep the treasures buried except for your special someone.

14 Comments

Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, fashion, humor

Insta Fashion: Is it Art?

Fabrican, spray-on clothing, fashion, art, skin-tight clothing

Fabrican or fabric can't spray-on clothing

I recently came across a new form of art. Or is it a new fashion statement? In some cases it’s both or just one. NewScientist reports on a process of spray-on clothing. You’ll need to watch the video to get a good idea of the process. There is a second one of an artist working with cellulose as well. The problem with cellulose is that it swells or gets slimy once water is introduced.

The spray-on clothing is a mixture of cotton fibers, polymers and solvents. I can’t find what those polymers or solvents are made of and if this would even be a good thing to put on bare skin very often. While the experimentation is ongoing and researchers see the possibility of medical usages, such as spray-on bandages, the aspects of fashion are quite limited.

First, you would have to go into a shop or have a friend spray your clothing on. Otherwise, everything would be backless. I imagine that spraying this stuff on to any length of body hair could be problematic with removal. Considering that we’re living in a nearly hairless body era, that might not be an issue. The material can be washed and re-worn but it looks pretty fragile in maintaining its shape. I also noticed that the women were small breasted overall for the application. Does that mean that dealing with larger curves for breasts or buttocks could be an issue of tension for the fabric? Not to mention, if your breasts aren’t perky, your top will sag.

The models were all very slim and trim. I think that spraying on a T-shirt over a large beer gut might just be a bit more than anyone wants to see. And what about pants? This material gives a whole new meaning to skin-tight and indeed nothing would be left to the imagination. What I’ve seen of the styles so far are pretty basic and seems to be used in a very basic T-shirt or tank top style, so style still needs to develop.

While spray-on fabric might be useful for scientific applications or one of a kind art displays, I can’t see it catching on yet for fashion. Not until they solve the form-fitting aspect. But in the future, perhaps when we’ve deforested so much of the earth that the remaining stands of trees are protected as oxygen sources, maybe we’ll be recycling every fiber and spraying on our loincloths (what with global warming and all) and dissolving them when we need a new one. It might be the way of the future but I think we’re stuck for a while yet with clothes that cover us up. Which gives us time to all get in shape so we look good when the inevitable happens.

1 Comment

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, fashion, science, shopping

Fashion Goofs

I think I commented before on the silliness of the baggy pants, nearly-to-your-knees style, where young men belt up the voluminous garment but show their underwear above the belt line. This style is good for skateboarders, for movement and for keeping that tender flesh from being abraded during a fall. It’s not good for much else. But even so, that look is of a particular style that goes together in its own odd way.

Should you take five people and tell them to dress in the same style I bet that only three of those people would get it right or be able to pull it off. Some people do not have the demeanor, fashion sense or the body type for certain looks. These are the fashion goofs. We’ve all seen them; the elderly men with sagging paunches squeezed into a Speedo bathing suit, that woman psychic I saw on TV once who had to be nearing 60 wearing her hair in two ponytails and in very pink frilly dress, Donald Trump’s massively bad comb-over.

I’m going to have to start taking pictures but here are two examples of people I saw who were unable to carry off their fashion choice no matter their confidence in their attire. I was waiting at a local coffee shop for a friend, people-watching those waiting for the bus and there was this guy trying that underwear displaying look. However he had on the equivalent of Bermuda shorts, down to the knee and fairly form fitting. They sat on his hipbone but not as low as the baggy pants style. Above this, as proudly as a peacock, he displayed his version of tighty whiteys. Often worn with the baggy pants are the equally baggy boxer shorts. These were tight and bright red and up to his waist. Yikes! The picture to the left illustrates a ludicrous look with tighty whiteys, baggy pants and a garter!

The second was not eye offending but just not right and would not have even been noticeable except the person wearing the outfit proclaimed herself to be goth. What do we imagine in the realm of goth clothing? Red, black, maybe blue, sometimes white, torn, tight, bodices, laces, frills, leather, studs, Victorian…these are all gothy. This person wore her hair long and straight, with bangs. Okay, gothy…maybe. She wore, I think, some mascara and a lipstick in the darker colors but not red nor burgundy. She always wore jeans, black, straight legged with black runners (tennis shoes). Her blouses might have had a bit of ruffle to them. All of this together does not speak goth. Although her clothing was nondescript enough and didn’t look bad on her, in no way did she resemble a goth. Her work outfits differed little from her leisure wear and the only goth was in her head.

Possibly the people who proclaim loudly they are of a group, or fashionable are those who try just a bit too hard. I’ve had female friends that look terrible in dresses because the walk like men. They’ve learned not to wear those garments. On the other hand perhaps these people should be applauded for not caring what others think. Still some eye-offending outfits would be better left to nightmares than reality.

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, fashion, life, people, shopping

A Holt Renfrew Girl on a Wal-Mart Budget

Creative Commons: Avon Lady by theotherwayworks flickr

The heading is just a bit off. I don’t really shop at Wal-Mart nor at Holt Renfrew, though I once did buy my winter coat there. I don’t shop Wal-Mart (or Zellers) because the clothing is generic and, while cheap, not made that well, nor that exciting for styles. Holt Renfrew, on the other hand, might have more fashionable outfits but with highly inflated prices.

For basics, sure you can buy some of those things in the cheaper stores, but if you want something made well that will last, you have to go to a store that’s more specific, as in a clothing store for clothes or a shoe store for shoes, not always a department store. But that’s just a general thing. Many clothing stores have cheaply made clothes where the buttons are stitched on with the least amount of thread and will fall off after one wearing. Or after one washing the seams will separate so it takes a judicious eye to spot the good over the bad.

I’ve always loved clothes and jewelery and I guess I’m a typical girl that way. I wouldn’t say I’m a slave to fashion, because those people change their clothes every season depending on what the new style is. I’m more of a fashion horse, in that I have a lot of clothes, I like to buy unique items but I keep them for more than a season. So my style is individualistic and eclectic.

I don’t want to look like everyone else and I want clothes that fit well and flatter my body, so some fashions don’t work well on me. Because I don’t have the funds to buy designer clothing I tend to shop around a lot. I go into various stores and little shops and don’t frequent the chains as much because in a chain store everyone wears the same. I also wait for sales because most clothing prices are beyond the worth. I have also found good clothes in stores like Wal-Mart, (Army & Navy) but not often and again looking carefully.

This weekend I decided to shop for a new purse. Purses are like other fashions; sometimes they’re in style and sometimes the styles change but in purses (like other clothing) there is quite a range. I have a couple of purses that I use year in year out; your basic black for one. But I wanted a lighter color, for spring and summer. As I started to wander through the stores I notice that The Bay in an attempt to pop themselves up to a Holt Renfrew level of chi-chi have renovated to shiny and marble with lots of space a few stands and handbags displayed airily. Of course I could not believe the prices: $185, $395, $240. For a purse! The most expensive I’ve seen in prvious years was $120 and that was very high.

I have to say I sneered and wandered off to other stores to see similar prices. I just wanted a little purse, to bop around summer with, to

Creative Commons: Rene Ehrhardt via flickr

store a few things. Yes, most of these purses were leather but even in Sears, considered not as high-end purses were topping $100-$200, though some were in the $60-$85 range. But of course those were vinyl or some other pseudo plastic. You do sometimes get what you pay for but expensive poly plastics still tend to tear and rip faster and sometimes you pay for name (I refuse to advertise for a company so never buy anything with a very conspicuous brand labeled across the clothes). I did eventually find a purse on sale for about $40. It’s not completely ideal but it’s better than even the Winners purses that were coming in at $200.

If I won the lottery tomorrow I’m afraid I would still not be a full Holt Renfrew girl. I don’t think $400 for a blouse is reasonable, unless it was made by gnomes during the full moon and sewn with spider silk. A lot of fashion pricing is a big gouge and I just can’t participate in it when money could go to better causes. On my moderate budget that counts as rent and food. If I had my millionaire’s budget that extra money would go to charitable causes, not $500 purses.

Leave a comment

Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, fashion, shopping

The Problem With Supervillains

Earlier I talked about The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Superhero Fashion, and touched on the bad guys as well. But I think they need their equal time. Just as I listed the general aspects of the costumed hero, it applies to the villain, but there are a few more points.

  1. They have perfect or godly physiques. Even if slim, or buxom, superheros are muscular and perfect. (There are exceptions like

    Galactus, Marvel Comics (and the Silver Surfer)

    the Blob.) Villains on average might look more weaselly, be of thin or obese proportions, or not as attractive as the good guys. A sinister slant to the eyebrow and angular lines define the alien or evil.

  2. They have powers or abilities beyond the normal human.
  3. They are superbly fit and agile, as well as being able to withstand physical abuse that would disfigure, cripple or kill most other people (they never lose teeth for instance).
  4. They’re arrogant or megalomaniacs. After all, if you’re running around stealing and destroying things wearing wild colors and skintight clothing you obviously like the attention, even if it will get you caught.
  5. They rarely get paid so they steal in fantastic ways. If they have money, then they’re power mad or crazy. If they’re from another planet they may have alien concepts and like to eat worlds, as with Galactus of Fantastic Four fame.
  6. If they’re not crazy, they’re stupid or have a compulsion to be caught. After all, would you flaunt your crime wave by donning really bright tights to rob a bank? Wouldn’t stealth be better? Maybe the guys that get the powers are like the bank robbers who rob with their names on their motorcycle helmets.

Marvel's Dr. Doom

Villains might have once been good guys in the superhero world. There are often ambiguous moral lines that they cross back and forth. Those characters are less likely to look evil or bad. The X-Men’s Havok has played both sides. His costume and demeanor do not indicate bad or evil. Dr. Doom is disfigured from an experiment and he’s mad, brilliant and rich so he’s a bit like a primitive Darth Vader. The villain might be misguided by an evil leader and therefore can be swayed.

The female villains, no matter how crazy, are usually still dressed sexy. They tend to straddle those

Mystique from Marvel's X-Men

moral lines a lot more. Poison Ivy is mad but protects plants. Catwoman only steals from the rich, Harley Quinn is humorous but mad, sort of like a softer version of the Joker who is scary looking while she is cute. Mystique who is probably more right out evil than some of the others is still made to look sexy. Her dark skin and skull at the hairline are symbols of her darkness. But no matter how nasty her sneer, she is still dressed in ways that indicate eroticism, the breasts outlined through the costume, the hips bared to the waist. Godlike in her evilness.

There isn’t a female villain who is ugly that I can think of. Of course, I’m not up to date on every comic but if there is an ugly female villain she is most likely a minor character. I do recall one thin female in Mystique’s gang who was elderly, Destiny. But from time to time she is neither super thin nor old. Villains and heroes tend to morph a lot.

DC's Catwoman (from the movie) Men would love her to steal from them.

Sometimes a villain might wear something armored as does Dr. Doom or as the hero Iron Man does. When that villain is a woman the armor is decorative as opposed to functional and often exposes the stomach and/or midriff, a really soft spot on the human body. Obviously the supervillains only sometimes dress for function. Catwoman’s catsuit is suited for scuttling about and it’s black so she blends into the night. But she often wears heels and most women know how hard it is to run, jump or do other martial arts in heels, but then they are superhuman. On the whole, the reason the supervillains lose more than the heroes is because they must be stupider and crazier, which tends to affect judgment and of course heroes have justice on their side.

Still I’d love to see some common sense in costuming that’s pretty hard to duplicate and in most cases, in real life, would probably look really goofy. I suppose using sex to stun one’s victims into a stupor of immovability is one way to win but I think one might just go farther on stealth.

2 Comments

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, fantasy, fashion

The Evolution of the Suit

I noticed that there was a celebration or commiseration of the 150th anniversary of the suit recently. Well the suit did not spring full-formed from a designer’s brow a century and a half ago but was a slow evolution throughout time. In the very earliest ages of humankind people wore animal skins but learned how to weave fabric from plants and animal fur or hair.


Creative Commons--rectangular construction (Knol)

Patterning and stitching developed along the way. As you can imagine the stitch would have been pretty basic and every piece of fabric taken off the loom would have been stitched together to form a body piece and sleeves.

There were no factories and every piece had to be made from the ground up so nothing was wasted. The earliest form of sewing and patterning was called rectangular construction because it was taking all of the rectangle from the loom and using it. Men and women wore tunics. You might call them dresses today or giant T-shirts, as the T-shirt is an evolved form of rectangular construction because the sleeves are formed where they join (in some cases). Since humanity began in Africa and spread out from there the Middle East and Africa held the first developed civilizations.

By the time rectangular construction was perfected humans had been dressing themselves for thousands of years. It’s hard to say exactly when this actually started because fabric tends to rot away. Only the earliest images on stone give us an idea of what the Egyptians, Babylonians and Sumerians were wearing.


Thorsberg Tunic

For outer wear in the colder climes people wore mantles, a rectangle of wool or fur or other heavy warm fabric. This eventually evolved into the cape, a shaped half circle or full circle cloak. However, at the same time the cultures that spent a lot of time in snow or on the steppes did develop coats. The Norse had coats and pants such as the 4th  century Thorsberg coat depicted to the right. The button, as a fastening came along around the 13th century. Before that, lacing, and pins of elaborate construction were used for closings.

But these were all coats, whether Norse, Persian or Mongolian. Cutting and patterning techniques became very elaborate; weaves as well continued to become refined. There is debate that we’ve lost some of the techniques shown in paintings of the Middle Ages, such as veils so thin that they were nearly invisible. Out of the Elizabethan era of the 1600s men were wearing doublets. On colder days, capes were thrown over these. By the Baroque and Rococo periods (which refers to art more than fashion) of the late 1600s to early 1700s elaborate doublets and coats of brocade were common. Overcoats became common as the swords slimmed down to the rapier blade, and muskets came to the fore. This is probably the true beginning of the suit, a doublet with a matching coat that is longer over top.

Van Dyck--example of doublet and coat.

Slowly over the next hundred years this turned into the coat and tails with a vest beneath the coat. Although the era of Louis XIV brought the froofroo lace and brocade to a height, and ostentation was part of the game, warmth also played a part. The ostentation carried over so that class was always shown by the cut of the cloth, the expense of the material and the dyes, and the ornamentation. As the more staid Regency and Victorian eras came around men (who once had been brighter peacocks than women in fashion) still needed to show their status. The more layers to your suit, the more high up you were.

Thus was modern the suit born. So, in the essence of the modern suit consisting of jacket and matching pants, and perhaps a vest, this did begin in the 1800s but as you can see it was a long evolution from a garment worn for warmth to one of nearly pure status. Status to depict class or responsibility or competence. Lawyers rarely wear T-shirts and cowboy boots in the courtroom or to meet clients. This description here is a gloss of the history of the suit but it gives you an idea of how fashion changes. Other influences can be political, economic or geographic. But in the end, it is what humans consider fashionable that makes the trend.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, fashion, history, people

Fashion Nightmare: Plaid

We call it plaid, which is different from the historical meaning. A plaid was a piece of cloth with a certain weave. The tartan was the pattern upon the cloth and any particular pattern differed from one region to the next. This pattern was call a sett. Tartan plaids were worn as shawls or traveling garments (the great kilt) that doubled as blankets. There were a range of patterns or tartans throughout Scotland and they were not clan specific until about the late 1700s when the Stuart-Sobieski brothers decided to set the patterns for different clans. Of course some clans came from certain regions where particular dyes and patterns were used so there is some correlation to clans and regions.

I have never understood the fascination or the love of the tartan, but obviously it is a strong cultural symbol and that love may have nothing to do with taste. Most of these patterns with lines or stripes on the warp and the weft seem garish and ugly, but people identify strongly with them. So in one aspect I think the tartans are already fashion nightmares of colors that are better off left apart. As early as the 1700s and perhaps even earlier there is evidence in paintings of men wearing trews (trousers) doublet and hose, all in a different size or color of tartan. Dear ole Mungo Murray (to the left) was the height of fashion but wore a variant of European style by adding in his highland dress, the tartan. It’s hard to see in this picture but he is in fact wearing three different tartans: the hose on his legs, the kilt and the separate shoulder piece. For most trews, pants or hose of this period, you will note they are cut on the bias (the diamond as opposed to horizontal and vertical lines) because it adds stretch to the fabric.

Why the Scots were so fascinated by this pattern, I don’t know but it became a national symbol, especially after it was banned. What happens when you ban something? Well it becomes so popular that when the laws are lifted everyone wears it with pride as a symbol of the struggles. Don’t forget Scotland had lowlands and highlands and many wars with the British as to who would own the land and whose nobles were more noble. So Murray, and these laddies to the right were the epitome of Scottish fashion and nobility. They two wear three different patterns of tartan in their trews, doublets and jackets. It wasn’t really something women wore, except as a shawl. What the rest of Europe thought of these folk, I can’t imagine but their patterns were considered garish and uncouth.

And maybe just maybe that’s part of the symbol of the wild Scotsmen, running amok in a kilt (never a skirt) and slashing people with his claymore, his red beard aflying. Of course, the red hair in the Scottish and Irish heritage comes from those Viking marauders of centuries before. So really, we can blame the English for this fashion nightmare and its tenacity and anytime there is any cultural event for the Scots out come the kilts and the wretched clan tartans. And

My eyes! The colors!

even more than the British, you can blame those Stuart-Sobieski brothers for their marketing genius. I mean, seriously, what man would be caught dead in some of these colors?

And most men wouldn’t be caught dead in a skirt, unless its a tartan kilt. But plaid (as we now call it in North America) can pertain to any fabric that has lines on both the horizontal and vertical plane (warp and weft). It can be simple, like the jacket plaid here, or it can be complex with a host of colors. But it’s still plaid.

Okay, fine, I admit I once had a plaid skirt in teal, magenta, purple and blue. And I do have a vintage plaid kilt/skirt that was my mother’s. But I haven’t worn it in a long time and I certainly think men need a larger wardrobe selection than plaid shirts. And I have, like those nobles of old, seen men wearing two to three plaids together, in different colors and different patterns, widely different colors. Just because it was done long ago doesn’t mean it was tasteful even then.

Sure, a few pieces of clothing can look fine if made of tartan, but I just don’t ever think of sophisticated, upper class or elegant when I think of it.

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, fashion, history, people