Listening to the Radio 4 programme Making History I came across the story of the Dockside Dandies, trawlermen in Lowestoft, Suffolk, in the 1960s who for some reason no one can quite fathom developed a localised craze for dressing up in the most exotic and flamboyant way. Artist Peter Wylie has been investigating the phenomenon, and the Lowestoft Journal has more on the story:
“I remember suits of red, bright yellow, lime green, tartan and one lad was said to have had one made out of curtain material (flower patterned). Collars and cuffs were often a different colour to the suit… When you include the trend for wearing earrings – some with miniature anchors or port and starboard lights hanging – you can imagine what a colourful scene when a group of these ’48-hour millionaires’ got together when they came in from sea.”
The costume collection at the Manchester Art Gallery has some nice mini online exhibitions, including one on work clothes through the ages. The overall worn by a worker in a jam factory in 1900 looks amazingly elegant:
And maids were equally well turned out:
As were poachers in 1840:
Most appealing is the country woman’s red cloak from 1800 – the hood, we are told, was used to carry shopping:
Talking of cloaks, this site has an exhaustive history of the cloak, and drawings to help you distinguish between the cape, mantelet, pelisse, paletot and pardessus. All essential knowledge for the cloak wearer.
I never knew there was any link between the Mad Monk and bugle-beaded evening dresses, but Le Style Sauvage has dug up the fascinating story of Prince Felix Yusupov, one of the assassins of Rasputin, who after the murder fled Russia with his wife, Princess Irina Romanova, niece of the tsar, and set up a fashion house, Irfé, in America. It was a big hit, partly for their elegant designs and because twenties America was thrilled at the idea of having its dresses made by a murderous foreign aristocrat. Sadly few of their designs survive; the dress above is at the Brighton and Hove Museum, which seems to have a pretty good collection of early fashion.
This Thirties prediction of what fashion will be like in the year 2000 is surprisingly accurate – the woman in the trouser suit and cantilevered heels in particular could walk about London without attracting a second look. They even predict the use of mobile phones. We’re just waiting for the electric head light and the glass wedding dress.
17th-century printmaker Wenceslaus Hollar, found at the University of Toronto and the British Museum, depicts some rather seductive winter fashions. Veils, masks and fur muffs make all the difference – I think even the houpette, that strange headpiece on a stalk, could make a comeback.
In this 1935 drawing manual L.A. Doust has stern advice for the aspiring fashion and advertising illustrator. He is particularly keen on getting to grips with types – the ‘healthy happy girl in Fig. 1 is a type constantly in demand’, as is the less wholesome girl in Fig 3., ‘a complete reversal of type, yet just as attractive, and more suitable for certain commodities’.
‘The out-of-door man, the aristocratic club man, the healthy baby, the healthy old man. These four types must be mastered.’
This site on the history of the mannequin has some interesting articles about the important if neglected subject of mannequin facial expressions through the decades. In the Twenties, popular styles were ‘a “bemused Matron,” a younger model with head tilted and lips pursed as if to say, “Kiss me you fool”, a moonstruck maiden and a woman with a slightly judgmental inhibited expression’. Men were even more striking: ‘Like Rudolph Valentino, their eyes were brought out with kohl, brows were emphasized and lips had a semi-bee-stung look. This held true for most male figures, even the faces of the more elderly.’
In which a pleasantly sturdy-waisted model demonstrates how to walk in a “walking suit” – not as easy as it sounds in this case.
This vintage fashion site gives an insight into a time when people wore properly complicated clothes, and made them themselves. It’s got everything you need to know, from how to tie an alsatian bow, rules for the wearing of veils, to decorating your hat with vulture wings, wheat and glass fruits.
A Snub-Nosed Person Should Not Wear a Turban.