"I somehow or somewhere got the idea," wrote Lucy Larcom in the 18th century, "when I was a small child, that the chief end of woman was to make clothing for mankind."
"In reconsidering the metrosexual, we must first distinguish between the metrosexual’s imagined and actual properties. Like hipsterism, metrosexuality is an insult more readily slung than substantiated. According to canon, David Beckham is the ur-metro. Although Beckham initially goes unmentioned in the word’s first printing (in 1994), the word’s progenitor, Mark Simpson, introduced American readers to metrosexuality through the British football star in 2002, when he called Beckham a "screaming, shrieking, flaming, freaking metrosexual…famous for wearing sarongs and pink nail polish and panties…and posing naked and oiled up on the cover of Esquire." " - Johannah King-Slutzky for The Awl on the 'Metrosexual' situation a decade later
Margaret Perry's review of Women in Pants provides an interesting overview of those women (in the Western world) who chose to wore pants in the 19th and early 20th centuries when the standard gender norm dictated dresses for girls and women. R.S. Fleming has a great collection of Victorian women-in-pants images, particularly in non-American military garb. See also: Welsh pit miners, women fighting in the US Civil War (and support-staff), this cattle thief/gunfighter, some cowgirls, and Dr. Mary Walker - here she is in more traditionally masculine dress (second picture). In France, the artist Rosa Bonheur had to get permission from the police to wear pants (picture) while sketching in public (her license), while adventurer/archaeologist Jane Dieulafoy got a lifetime exemption to wear pants from France. [more inside]
With the recent discovery of the world's oldest known trousers in China, it may be time to look at the history of that two legged garment invented in response to a specific need: to make travel by horseback far more comfortable. [more inside]
The Bicycle Craze of the 1890s had a significant impact upon women's lives. Leaders of the women's movement saw bike riding as a path to freedom. Many women cyclists enjoyed the freedoms and experiences bikes gave them. Although many health experts recommended biking to women for its health effects, other health experts and some moralists saw dangers in letting women venture off into the wild blue yonder with and without men, danger in potential physical damage to women's bodies, disaster in letting them adopt "unfeminine garb" - and of course, they might enjoy it TOO much. [more inside]
Historically, the city states of the Malay Peninsula often paid tribute to regional kingdoms such as those of China and Siam. Closer relations with China were established in the early 15th century during the reign of Parameswara, founder of Melaka, when Admiral Zheng He (Cheng Ho) sailed through the Straits of Malacca. Impressed by the tribute, the Yongle Emperor of China is said to have presented Princess Hang Li Po* as a gift to Mansur Shah, then Sultan of Malacca (+/-1459 AD). Tradition claims the courtiers and servants who accompanied the princess settled in Bukit Cina, intermarried with the locals and grew into a community known as the Peranakan. Colloquially known as Baba-Nyonya, the Peranakan or Straits Chinese, they retained many of their ethnic and religious customs, but assimilated the language and clothing of the Malays. They developed a unique culture and distinct foods. Nyonya cuisine is one of the most highly rated in the South East Asian region, considered some of the most difficult to master but very easy to love and enjoy.
Tweedland has some interesting stories and characters. Here's two to get you started:
Robert de Montesquiou - "Tall, black-haired, rouged, Kaiser-moustached, he cackled and screamed in weird attitudes, giggling in high soprano, hiding his little black teeth behind an exquisitely gloved hand – the poseur absolute. He was said to have slept with Sarah Bernhardt and vomited for a week afterwards."
Lord Berners - "As a child, having heard that if you throw a dog into water it will learn how to swim, he threw his mother's canine companion out of the window on the grounds that if one applies the same logic it should learn how to fly. (The dog was unharmed, and he was "thrashed" by his mother.)"
The early '90's t-shirt merchandising hysteria that accompanied The Simpsons' series premiere ignited an even larger bootleg "black Bart" social response that continues to resonate.
A team of Austrian archaeologists has discovered four bras from the 1400s. It reveals that women wore the garment some 500 years before fashion historians thought it was invented.
Old Rags is a collection of photographs of beautiful antique, historic and vintage clothing from Europe and North America. A feast of fashion history images from the 17th century to the 1920’s with a brief FAQ page here.
What kind of uniform did prisoners transported to Australia in the 19th century wear? How did you keep yourself in underwear despite WWII rationing? Check out the Australian Dress Register--it's more than just dresses!
Of Another Fashion: An alternative archive of the not-quite-hidden but too often ignored fashion histories of U.S. women of color.
"Imagine, amid the grey serge of wartime France, a tribe of youngsters with all the colourful decadence of punks or teddy boys. Wearing zoot suits cut off at the knee (the better to show off their brightly coloured socks), with hair sculpted into grand quiffs, and shoes with triple-height soles - looking like glam-rock footwear 30 years early - these were the kids who would lay the foundations of nightclubbing. Ladies and gentlemen, les Zazous." [more inside]
The cult of fashion; the fashion of cults.
Puzzled about what to get the history buff, throwback or Luddite on your holiday shopping list? Explore the sutler's wares in the world of historic reproduction clothing! Strut your eighteenth-century style with Jas. Townsend & Son, or dress for the Lewis & Clark expedition with Smoke & Fire. USHist.com provides the finest in Mexican War and Cavalry/Indian War apparel, as well as fashion to end all wars in theWWI collection. Don't forget the ladies (and weak-minded gents) left at home - Blockade Runner offers fine Civil War civvies. [more inside]
The Rålamb Costume Book. Illustrations of Turkish officials, various important occupations and just plain folks, obtained by Claes Rålamb, Swedish ambassador to the Ottoman Court, in 1657. More about Rålamb and Sultan Mehmet IV.
A Loosening of Ties by Willy J Spat. "For over two thousand years... the necktie... has been the most widely used, and the most multicultural of all phallic symbols." Neckties throughout the ages from invention to rebellion.
Everybody has a hobby. Mine is collecting images of pantyhose packages, as well as pantyhose ads from magazines and catalogs. (geocities, NSFW? Guess.) We've previously discussed vintage skivvies for men here, but the gallery of packages is kind of interesting. Or maybe you just Hate Pantyhose.
The shoestring (string and shoe holes) was first invented in England in 1790. But there is nothing so simple that man cannot complicate, and so some calculate the optimal way to tie a shoe, some seek zen enlightenment through shoe-tying, and others craft Shoelace Parables to improve psychological health. Contrarians find their peace by eschewing the tying altogether.