Advertisements

The Collection

I gave Masterpiece’s The Collection a try when it premiered on Sunday. It didn’t take long for me to grow tired of a program where the characters all seemed dark, greedy and selfish. I confess after 10 minutes or so I changed the channel.

The show is about a struggling fashion house in Paris after WWII. The man in the center of the video’s first frame is the jaded, selfish owner of a fashion house is asked by a government official to help France’s fashion industry rise again to its former zenith.  To his left is his reprobate brother who’s a talented designer who’s got substance abuse problems.

I’d much rather PBS brought back The Paradise, where the characters were flawed and faced obstacles, but the heroine was good, though not at all boring. Dark characters like those in House of Cards or The Collection aren’t necessarily fascinating.

If I got the show wrong, and should give it a chance by catching up online, let me know.

Advertisements

Homme Less

 

This documentary follows the life of a fashionable, savvy New York model/photographer who has become homeless. Though he does photo shoots for international fashion magazines, rubs shoulders with the beau monde, and seems to have a fair amount of connections, this middle-aged man has no home. Unbeknownst to his friend who gave him an apartment key, the film’s hero sleeps on his friend’s rooftop. He has a locker at the Y, uses coffee shops as offices (not a bad thing), and somehow manages to look well heeled and even entice young 20-something women into bed. (He’s not mentioning that he’s homeless.)

The film was unique as is the subject, Mark, who had a lot of bravado, and was able to publish photos in a lot of publications. It wasn’t clear why he was homeless. He got checks and made deposits of $50,000 or more. I know that doesn’t go far in New York, but sleeping under a tarp and using an old gallon milk jug for a toilet in January in New York sounds like a horrid way to live. The hero alternated between being interesting, annoying and perplexing. He hasn’t figured out why he’s homeless and I couldn’t either.

The film’s website and promotional materials allude to how this film shows how poverty is encroaching on the middle class. Yet Mark is a talented and resourceful enough guy to have taken a different, less dreamy career path. He could live elsewhere and make enough money to put a roof over his head.

I’m glad I saw the film, but I can’t say it’s a “Must-See.” If you run across it, give it a watch, but don’t go to a lot of trouble to see it.

What to Wear, Teachers

As the new school season approaches, teachers, especially new ones may wonder what to wear to work. I’ve noticed a lot depends on the context. Yet overall, I tend to believe in looking professional. We’re not paid highly in most places so you don’t want to rack up dry cleaning bills so I’d go with pants, skirts and dresses (the last two for women) that are washable cottons or synthetics. I’m also conscious of the weather. Air conditioning isn’t a given everywhere and you don’t want to melt in August. The first week play it safe by going with short sleeves and skirts or dresses that go to the knee. Once you’ve seen how the other teachers dress and note any negative comments made about other teachers, you’ll figure out the norm.

You want the administrators to have a good impression of you so don’t be too rebellious.

If you’re teaching overseas note what the local teachers wear and be as or a little more formal than they are. While in North America some professors wear jeans, in Korea suits and outfits you’d see bankers wear was the norm. In China they’re less formal. Some men wear a nice shirt and pants, while women can wear dresses and skirts. A few would wear athletic clothes, but I would avoid that. We did have some foreign teachers who dressed like they were going to do chores, i.e. they wore an oversized t-shirt and shorts. None of them got a whole lot of respect.

Jeans are popular and can be dressed up. It all depends on what you wear with them. Still I’ve avoided jeans. Gossip is part of teaching and when someone’s writing an evaluation or criticizing they’ll say, “the teacher wears jeans all the time,” not “the teacher wears dark blue jeans with tops from Ann Taylor all the time.” I also figure if I want the profession to earn the sort of salaries business people and lawyers make, why not dress accordingly?

In Muslim countries women’ll probably be told what’s acceptable. Always ask first. In Indonesia most settings are pretty open, but cover your shoulders and knees. At my last setting we sometimes were asked to wear veils. It didn’t seem to be worth the fight for a three week stint, but we were told that the faculty was debating whether or not non-Muslim visitors from overseas should have to cover their hair. Thus a respectful conversation would be fine. What are the guidelines in the Middle East? Comment below if you know.

Below is a fashion take from an American Middle School teacher, who does go more casual some days than I would.

How to Put on Headscarves

As I’ve been in Indonesia for almost two weeks and surrounded by women in hajibs (i.e. headscarves) I wanted to learn more about them. So I found a Dina Tokio tutorial on how they put them on. I never knew about the fabric they use to control their hair under the scarf or the ways they make a bigger bump in the back of their heads.

There’s a seemingly unlimited number of ways to wear them.

Dressing Downton

DSCN5483

The Dressing Downton exhibit has opened in Chicago at the Driehaus Museum. I’d never been to the Driehaus, but the exhibit drew me. In this restored mansion once owned by the Nickerson Family, there’s an exhibit of the costumes featured in PBS’ Masterpiece’s lavish drama Downton Abbey.

This Gilded Age mansion was the perfect venue to see costumes of the same era. With your $25 admission, you get a free audio tour, which enables you to hear not only the descriptions of the rooms, but the stories behind the costumes from the early 20th century. In several cases the costumers would find a vintage dress and embellish or restore what remained of it, which gives the clothes more authenticity.

DSCN5514

My friend and I savoured both the costumes and the house itself so it took about 2 hours to get through the three story house. If you drive down, you can get your parking validated so you wind up paying just $14 for 12 hours parking, which is a real deal in Chicago. The museum is holding several events such as author talks and a viewing party for the series’ finalé. I wish I could attend, but I leave for China tomorrow. Alas.

DSCN5481

 

 

Travel Theme: Inviting

Come in with your platinum card

Come in with your platinum card

Come buy something

Come buy something

Come inside

Come inside

Try some (pork & Chinese crepes)

Try some (pork & Chinese crepes)

Each week Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack? challenges bloggers with a creative word. This week we’re to post photos inspired by “Inviting.” That took me in a few directions as we’re invited by advertisement, friends, temptations, and commerce. I hit a few of these possibilities with the photos above.

What do you find inviting? If you want to join the fun, follow these steps:

  • Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Inviting
  • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  • Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!
  • Check out Where’s My Backpack for more inviting photos.

Sepia Saturday

2014.08W.26

 

This week we’re to dig around the archives for images of fans. I first found a fan from the Cornell University Library showing Spanish War heroes with President McKinley in 1898.

4360059598_b7a461547c_z

Flickr Commons: Cornell University

 

Irish students (and teachers) decked out in Japanese costumes.

Source: Flickr Commons, National Library of Ireland

Source: Flickr Commons, National Library of Ireland

 

It seems no debutante worth her salt was without a fan in Queensland.

9306553096_f49b4d50a8_z

Flickr Commons: State Library of Queensland, 1929

For more interpretations of the fan prompt, go to Sepia Saturday.

1914 Background for Mr. Selfridge

Today I was wondering a bit about how women felt about fashion in 1914. I found a column from Illustrated London News. The columnist Filomena (no last name given) writes about wedding ceremonies and fashion. In a March 1914 column, she begins by explaining that the Bishop of London was personally in favor of removing the world “obey” from the English wedding ceremony. Only the bride made a vow of obedience and the reason “obey” was inserted into the ceremony doesn’t pass mustard. The bishop didn’t bring this to a church vote because he thought it would lose. Ah, why can’t we have braver men, in women’s corners?

How did “obey get into the ceremony? When the Church of England broke from the Roman Catholic church, they needed English versions for all the ceremonies. For reasons Filomena doesn’t explain, no English clerics seemed up to the job, so two Germans were brought in. They added “obey” from the Middle Ages English brides had to vow to be “bonnaire and buxom.” Anglo Saxon word geeks of 1914 assert that this meant women had to be 1) amiable, kind and true and 2) yielding and pliable. Well, if you switch pliable and yielding for obedient, have you gained all that much?

Filomena goes on to share her thoughts on fashion. I rather like her writing style. My comments are in parentheses.

As the Spring fashions come more and more into the public view, the dislike and they cause amongst women themselves increase. Evening gowns are desirable and beautiful enough but the day frocks are so ugly and ungraceful to eyes habituated to the long elegant lines of the past few years. There are some model gowns (I suppose model gowns because few women wore dresses off the rack) made with material heavily bunched up behind, as if to reintroduce the bustle (Horrors!)Others are trimmed with three short, full frills round the waist and hips. Some again, are pulled up from behind to the front of the figure and caught together more or less clumpishly, held as often as not by a beed or other showy and tawdry ornament, from which long strands fall to below the knee (not the best sentence, Filomena, but I can imagine Mr. Thackery saying this). All kinds of inchoate drapings appear devoid of reason or grace. Anything whatsoever worn by graceful and beautiful women passes muster, and as soon as the eye is  accustomed to it seems part of the living grace and magnetic charm that is clothes. But the vast majority that is humankind are neither beautiful nor  charmingly graceful (true, despite our wishes,  I suppose)and to the average women such [indecipherable ] arbitrarily draped and puffed clothing with frills here breaking the frills here breaking the line and turned-under puffings there disturbing flow of drapery must be more of a disfigurement than an aid.

She goes on and it showed me that while I appreciate some old gowns, there’s a lot I don’t even notice.

Reference

Filomena. “Ladies’ Page.” Illustrated London News [London, England] 14 Mar. 1914: 426. Illustrated London News. Web. 4 May 2014.

Word of the Week

cravateer n.
A person employed to tie cravats or neckties. Brit. /ˌkravəˈtɪə/, /ˌkrævəˈtɪ(ə)r/ Forms:cravatteer, cravattier, cravatier

Etymology: <  cravat n. + -eer suffix1. Compare French cravatier person employed to tie cravats or neckties (1712 or earlier).
 rare.

 1.  A person employed to tie cravats or neckties.

1838  W. J. Thoms Bk. of Court Introd. Ess. 28 If, however, when the cravat was put on, the Cravatier discovered that any part of it did not set well, the Cravatier could touch it, und himself put on the King’s cravat in the absence of the superior officer.
1859 Chambers’s Jrnl. 11 319 The master of the wardrobe put the cravat round the royal neck, while the ‘cravatteer’ tied it.
1967 Jrnl. Amer. Soc. Safety Engineers Oct. 13 The Sun King himself was..complimented for the appointment of a court cravateer, whose sole employment consisted of correctly arranging Louis’ cravat.
 2.  A designer or producer of cravats or neckties.

1949 New Yorker 26 Feb. 34/1 Mrs. Whitman, who incorporated herself as a cravateer, and a countess, in 1938, has produced and sold more than a million ties, many of them designed by herself.
1953 Men’s Wear 6 Feb. 137/1 In neckwear, the city’s largest producer (Superba) has come out with its greatest color selection… The same cravateer has gone in heavily for 100 per cent Dacron polyester fiber promotions.

Mr. Selfridge: Background

Source: ITV Studio's Mr. Selfridge

Source: ITV Studio’s Mr. Selfridge

Sharing more research from Gale’s Virtual Reference. (See if your library has this great database.)

The Department Store

The birthplace of the department store was Paris. The Bon Marché opened in 1852, soon followed by Printemps (1865) and the Samaritaine (1869). Existing shops in the United States— Stewart in New York, Wanamaker in Philadelphia and Marshall Field in Chicago—adopted the format during the 1870s. The department store brought together a series of retail methods tested out in smaller European and American shops earlier in the century, for example, the proto-department stores in industrial cities in the north of Britain (Lancaster, chapter 1). The department store proper was distinctive from previous experiments in its scale, lavishness, and resonance with the society that spawned it. The early Parisian stores were hugely influential models for subsequent stores springing up all over the world. The history of the department store has been largely located in Western Europe and North America. The arrival of the format in East Asian cities such as Shanghai and Tokyo in the early twentieth century has been associated with westernization, but the stores were often locally owned and managed, creating complex issues surrounding their identity.

The conditions for the rise of the department store lay in late-eighteenth-and early-nineteenth-century industrialization and urbanization, which led to the growth of prosperous, urban, middle-class populations and the ready availability of mass-produced consumer goods, along with an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the pleasurable rather than merely utilitarian possibilities of consuming them. Important department stores were situated in urban centers, on principal shopping streets, working in conjunction with other shops, entertainment venues, and transport networks. However, well-heeled suburbs also had department stores in their high streets. By the late nineteenth century, considered the hey-day of the department store, these shops had become emblematic of metropolitan modernity and were famously made the backdrop of Émile Zola’s novel The Ladies’ Paradise.

The major department stores of each important city— for example, Harrods, Liberty’s and Selfridges in London— quickly became urban landmarks and cultural institutions, cited in guide books as tourist attractions. During the early twentieth century, American stores took the lead as innovators, becoming increasingly influential on their European counterparts. During the interwar and early postwar periods, while alternative shopping sites were developing, fashion magazines such as Vogue show that the big department stores retained their central position within urban consumption practices in many cities.

Stock Diversity and New Selling Methods

An important innovation of department stores was their wide variety of merchandise, breaching the boundaries of previously largely trade-specific shop-keeping. Many of the early department stores actually developed from smaller existing shops, most commonly drapers. Theygrew department by department, taking over neighboring properties to house the expanding businesses, until it was necessary to provide a new building or reface the existing ones to provide coherence. Department store pioneer William Whiteley famously boasted that he sold “everything from a pin to an elephant.” The system worked on a basis of low margins and high turnover. The stores were certainly a place for the sale of mass-produced goods and have been associated with the rise of ready-to-wear clothing. However, most stores continued to provide traditional tailoring and drapery well into the twentieth century. The diversity of stock was matched by an array of amenities and entertainments, including banks, restaurants, travel agents, fashion shows and live music, and services such as free delivery and alteration of garments.

Store histories are entwined with those of their owning dynasties, who usually gave their name to their stores, for example, the Wertheims and Schockens in Germany and the Lewises in England. Stores often merged with or were taken over by other stores, for example, the evolving nature of Britain’s House of Fraser described by Moss and Turton. The business was organized in a hierarchical, rational, and paternalistic manner. Strict control of the workforce was balanced with benefits such as health-care, pensions, and social clubs. Indeed during the early days many of the employees lived in the upper stories of the building. This practice faded out following several high profile, devastating fires caused by gas lighting and poor fire-proofing of buildings. The stores required vast staffs; for example, Harrods of London had 4,000 employees in 1914. For nineteenth-and early twentieth-century social commentators and novelists, the figure of the young female shop assistant symbolized the dubious respectability, moral ambiguity, and blurring of class boundaries they found so disturbing about the department store. However, until the interwar period, the majority of employees were actually male and lower middle class. Positions were sought after, although salaries were low.

Customers and a New Kind of Shopping

From the beginning, the department store was associated with bourgeois consumers. As Miller has argued, “The department store was … a bourgeois celebration, an expression of what its culture stood for and where it had come over the past century” (Miller, p. 3). It was also initially seen as the exclusive province of women. The stores’ provision of basic amenities such as lavatories and refreshment rooms made a day trip to town newly accessible for suburban and provincial middle-class women, enabling them to take advantage of improved public transport networks. Early department store owners, such as William Whiteley of Bayswater in London, were vocal in their claims to make shopping in the city a safe and respectable activity for unchaperoned women (Rappaport). However, they also attempted to exploit feminine desires using new ideas about consumer psychology.

The distinctiveness of the department store model lay as much in the presentation of shopping as a pleasurable leisure activity as with the nature or number of goods available. Previously, shopping models had largely favored counter service and the acknowledgment of an obligation to buy once the shop was entered. In the new stores, the role of the retail staff was redefined and a different kind of shopping was encouraged, characterized by window shopping and browsing through displays of goods with fixed and ticketed prices. These practices drew on the cultures of the international exhibitions that followed London’s Great Exhibition of 1851. All this, it was believed, would encourage impulse buying.

During the early twentieth century, department stores began to cater to men with dedicated departments. In 1936 Simpson Piccadilly opened in London’s West End, claiming to be the first department store entirely for men. The lower ground floor alone was designed to house a barber’s shop, soda fountain, gun shop, shoe shop, chemists, florist, fishing shop, wine and spirit shop, luggage shop, snack bar, dog shop, sports shop, cigar and tobacconists, gift shop, saddlery shop, theater agent, and travel agent. During the opening months the aviation department even exhibited full-sized airplanes. The opening of the store coincided with new ideas about masculinity, which allowed for the adoption of shopping methods previously labeled feminine. The Lady (7 May 1936) commented on this, “It is amusing to find that the man’s shop is designed and set out with all the allure of one devoted to women’s luxuries. Shopkeepers, evidently, do not share that masculine theory that a man always knows just what he wants and so is immune from display or advertisement.”

Design, Display, and Advertising

Zola called the department stores “cathedrals of commerce” and they were certainly associated with lavish, striking, and fashionable architecture, acting as an advertisement for the goods inside. Famous and innovative architects were often employed: Victor Horta designed Innovation in Brussels (1901), Louis Sullivan designed Carson Pirie Scott in Chicago (1899–1904), and Erich Mendelsohn designed the Schocken store in Stuttgart (1926-1928). . . . But the buildings were not just fashionable shells. The latest technological advances were used to assist the retail process. Iron then steel frames created vast uninterrupted expanses of floor space and plate glass technology facilitated story-high bands of display windows flanking the shopping street. Inside, escalators and lifts were installed, helping to sustain a continuous flow of customers between the street and the upper echelons of the building. Pneumatic tube systems were provided for communication placing orders. Tiers of galleries allowed light from the roof to penetrate the shop floor, assisted by the pioneering use of first gas then electric lighting. Lighting was also used on the facade of the building— floodlighting, lit signage, and window illumination—so that the stores had a nighttime presence in the city, catching the eye of revellers.

Department stores led the way with developments in retail display, with opulent displays of goods inside the stores, in the shop windows, and sometimes spilling onto the streets. Displays were often themed in relation with events being held in the stores or national celebrations. It was the shop window in particular that became emblematic of the department store’s contribution to the urban spectacle and seduction of customers. The early department stores had a particularly sophisticated understanding of the power of advertising. To the consternation of traditional smaller-scale retailers, significant amounts were spent on newspaper and magazine advertisements, and on regular publishing of catalogs, the Bon Marché in Paris distributed 1.5 million catalogs. In 1894 (Crossick and Jaumain p. 12). This emphasis on design, display, and advertising was integral to the new kind of shopping promoted in the department store, encouraging consumption through the exploitation of visual pleasures.

 

Source Citation 

Edwards, Bronwen. “Department Store.” Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. Ed. Valerie Steele. Vol. 1. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons,

 

Previous Older Entries

Disclaimer

Dear Fellows, The State Department has requested that any Fellows who maintain their own blog or website please post the following disclaimer on your site: "This website is not an official U.S. Department of State website. The views and information presented are the English Language Fellows' own and do not represent the English Language Fellow Program or the U.S. Department of State." We appreciate your cooperation. Site Meter
%d bloggers like this: