Fashion week in NYC wrapped up a couple of weeks ago on Sept. 14, London ended its shows last week, followed by Milan, and Paris Fashion Week ends this Tuesday, Oct. 2. Fashion week has become systematized with a specific calendar of designers showing in different cities at different times so that buyers and influencers can potentially go to the maximum number of shows and prepare for the coming season. Granted, this system has become less centralized in recent years, but for the most part, high-end designers will follow this time-tested formula for showcasing their work. This had me thinking about the origins of the fashion show and how it became such an organized mechanism.
In my research, I concentrate on the first locations used to show designs with live models in the early 1900s-19-teens, both the cities and specific place or event, who was modeling the clothing, and the perception of this evolving business scheme. In the early 1900s, the idea to show clothing on a living person had taken off and was more than just a one-off by a few trailblazing designers. Yet, it was still so new and not yet formulated into the system we recognize today.
First Things First
Charles Frederick Worth, 1887, French (English born) silk evening ensemble, MET Museum, 2009.300.1094a–g
It’s the right time of year to dive into Sarah Josepha Hale’s (1788-1879) story, considering she was one of the people most responsible for making Thanksgiving a national holiday, among her many other accomplishments. This article will highlight 6 other facts that you may not have known about Godey’s Lady’s Book’s formidable former female editor.
Cosmopolitan Magazine, August 1895
Much of Western society found they could accept skirts adapted for riding, but knickers, bloomers, and trouser variations worn without a skirt over top proved to be much more controversial. The construction of these ensembles was based on loose trousers, but they were typically so voluminous that they would often look like a skirt while the woman was standing next to her bicycle. This aided in conforming the look to societal standards. Lady’s magazines like Cosmopolitan, featured images of bloomer cycling costumes, thus propelling its familiarity and acceptance, yet sometimes featuring articles with conflicting opinions on the ensemble. The Western world was intrigued by this new form of dress for women, but not everyone was ready to adopt or accept its integration.
This beautifully illustrated cover of The Ladies’ Home Journal from January 1897, by Alice Barber Stephens, offers a complex take on the female gaze. We see women on the right, presumable servants and members of the lower class in simpler dark dress looking on at the society women ascending the staircase. We see the society women eyeing up one another, and we see the woman in the foreground staring at the reader. The men in this illustration are insignificant viewers. This illustration is important because there are many arguments for the male gaze in art and film and women viewing other women through a male lens, and this provides an early example of the female gaze. The illustrator of the image is a woman, the magazine is created for a female audience, and the subjects of the image are primarily female.