Beautiful People: The Boutique in 1960s Counterculture

Beautiful People: The Boutique in 1960s Counterculture, exhibiting at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey (until 13 March 2022), unites over one hundred garments, worn by stars belonging to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and others which were sold at the likes of Biba and Granny Takes A Trip. The exhibition details this truly electrifying decade, one which was home to creativity, angst and rebellion alike.

To honour the occasion, I chose to wear a floor-length Biba coat, in a tiger-print no less, which I had initially ‘borrowed’ from my mother as part of a Cruella de Vil Halloween costume some years ago. A dramatic piece which isn’t exactly an everyday item, it felt like the perfect time to bring it out ahead of our much-anticipated MA Documenting Fashion outing.

While the first time at the exhibition for most, it marked the second visit for Susanna, Claudia and I who had each planned a respective visit almost as soon as it had opened in the beginning of October. Providing a fascinating combination of insights into the 60s, this exhibition explored the impact of cultural, social and economic change within the context of fashion and its design. Indeed, it could easily warrant a second or even third visit as there is a considerable amount of information to digest and, with such well-preserved garments, a desire to focus on each and every minute detail on any one jacket or dress.

Beautiful People
Author’s Own Image.

At the beginning of the exhibition, a timeline situates key moments within the 1960s, where bullet points were replaced with the flower power emblem of the sixties, serving as one of many examples of the care and consideration which went into curating this exhibition. Outlining dates and information relating to the opening of boutiques along the King’s Road and throughout London, it also hinted at the importance and impact of the introduction of oral contraception on the NHS (National Health Service), which played a part in cementing this decade as the ‘swinging sixties’.

Further highlights included a recreation of some of the most iconic boutiques, signposted with the company’s logo, including both menswear and womenswear that were relevant to the boutique. The upstairs part of the exhibition was home to yet more clothes, and a few of us took it in turns to pick out our favourite pieces and note the occasion we’d like to wear them to. Jazzy jackets and flared two-piece suits proved to be our top picks.

 

Beautiful People
Author’s Own Image.
Beautiful People
Author’s Own Image.

As we made our way to the photography gallery, I was drawn to the article ‘Qui sont les filles anglaises? [Who are the English girls?]’ and a quote from Jenny Boyd outlining ‘Elles me ressemblent [They look just like me]’ for the 1966 December issue of Mademoiselle Âge Tendre. To me, it highlighted the ongoing fascination, or perhaps more accurately obsession, with being seen as ‘fashionable’ both at home and across The Channel, which is an idea that is ever-present today.

Beautiful people.
Author’s Own Image.

From there, we were delighted to receive a presentation from Photography Curator and Instagram-enthusiast Terence Pepper and former MA Documenting Fashion student Grace Lee who individually boast a huge wealth of knowledge about all-things sixties. Terence ran us through each photo, advertisement and magazine in such detail that for a brief moment we too were transported to the photoshoot, soirée or city being discussed. What’s more, we had the unexpected pleasure of meeting Pattie Boyd, whose sister Jenny Boyd was mentioned above, and who had an incredibly successful modelling career, gracing countless covers of Vogue and inspiring many a Beatles song with her then-beau George Harrison.

Situated à deux pas from London Bridge Station and Borough Market, it makes for a wonderful mid-morning viewing before a spot of lunch at one of the many fabulous food stalls and restaurants nearby.

During the exhibition, be sure to activate the nifty QR-code which links to a virtual exhibition catalogue! Further details on opening hours and tickets to the exhibition can be found here: https://www.ftmlondon.org/ftm-exhibitions/beautiful-people-the-boutique-in-1960s-counterculture/

Beautiful People
Our MA Documenting Fashion Cohort (not pictured: Rosie) with Susanna Brown and Terence Pepper.

By Georgina Johnston-Watt

The Stylish Armour of 1940s New York Fashion

Helen Levitt’s (1913-2009) photography presents life on the streets of her native New York from the 1930s to 1990s. The current exhibition of her work at The Photographers’ Gallery in London gives insight on a world of charm and character often overlooked in a time and place associated with hardship.

What struck me about many of the photographs in the exhibition was the street style they showed, particularly of 1940s New York, and how this style seemed to embody the ease and coolness of residents whilst also creating a protective armour that shielded them from potential harm.

illustration
Figure 1. New York, c.1940. Silver Gelatin Print. Courtesy of Film Documents LLC and Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne.

The first image I have featured exudes glamour (Fig. 1). The woman stands powerfully in the centre of the frame, her large hairdo and statement fur coat making her appear more a fashion model than everyday resident. She turns her head away from the camera, nonchalant despite her bold presence. The photograph might be a snapshot, but something in the woman’s pose implies a knowledge that she is being photographed. She wants to appear powerfully glamourous. Behind her, in a storefront window, is a sign for spaghetti being sold for 25 cents. The spaghetti sign grounds the image. The woman is in her local area, and Levitt chooses to show us those surroundings rather than strategically shooting a more glamourous background to suit the look of the woman.

In this image I see optimism for the beginning of a new decade that this woman seems determined to succeed in. However, the fur coat with its strong shoulder pads also suggests protection, as if the woman is cocooning herself in a thick wall of fur to defend herself from the harsh realities of the world she faces. We lose all sense of the woman’s proportions beneath the heavy coat. She is emboldened by the layers of clothing she has ensconced herself in.

illustration
Figure 2. New York, 1944. Silver Gelatin Print. Private collection. Courtesy of Film Documents LLC and Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne.

The second photograph is as glamourous as the first (Fig. 2). A couple stand together, woman leaning on man, both impeccably dressed. Levitt has captured the woman mid-speech, and two more women are walking across the scene from the left-hand side. This all comes together to present a far more snapshot-like image than the first.

The man’s oversized zoot suit, paired with hat, sunglasses, and loosely held cigarette, all contribute to create an image of effortlessness but also serve as a kind of armour, similar to the fur coat of the woman in the first image. The shoulder pads and loose suit trousers conceal the shape of his body, and the sunglasses restrict the expression that can be gleaned from his facial features.

The woman’s casual pose leaning against the man at first suggests ease and comfort. However, a layer of defence can also be seen in the sharp angle of her elbow, pointed out towards the street on her exposed side.

illustration
Figure 3. New York, 1945. Silver Gelatin Print. Courtesy of Film Documents LLC and Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne.

The final image I would like to discuss perhaps best highlights the way fashion served as protective armour in 1940s New York (Fig. 3). The man facing the camera stands in a striped suit, hands clasped in front of him, fedora casting a shadow across his forehead. What is most notable about the man’s outfit is its bold use of pattern. A striped suit is paired with a checked shirt and graphic tie. The clash of patterns reveals the man’s confidence styling himself, and his confidence asserting his place with striking visual presence.

Beside the man stands a far less extravagantly dressed individual. We only see his back, but can see he has removed his jacket and stands in a t-shirt, the shape of his shoulder blades showing through the fabric. This figure, next to the powerful stance of the suited man, becomes a figure of vulnerability. The composition almost gives the impression we are seeing two sides of the same man; the confident figure who faces the world, and the softer side of himself that cannot be fully revealed to the camera. A child in the window of the building looks down on the man who faces away from us, adding to the sense that this lack of layers of clothing is a childlike kind of vulnerability.

‘Helen Levitt: In The Street’ is on show at The Photographers’ Gallery until 13th Feb 2022.

By Megan Stevenson

YSL: The Muses

Whilst it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when high-profile fashion muses became widespread, the concept has been around for centuries. In Greek mythology, the Muses are goddesses of the arts who ruled over ‘the Inspiration’ and are famously beautiful and alluring. The myth suggests that poets and other artists would attempt to summon the Muses in the hope that they would provide them with inspiration for their work.

Muses
The Muses and Minerva by Hendrick van Balen the Elder.

 

In fashion, one of the most famous muse and designer pairings was that of Audrey Hepburn and Givenchy, which was immortalised by the Breakfast at Tiffany’s LBD. For a designer, a muse is someone who inspires creativity within the designer, and embodies what the brand is about and the type of consumer they are hoping to attract.

Audrey
Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy at the Academy Awards, 1954.

YSL’s most iconic muses:

Betty Catroux

Betty
Betty Catroux and Yves Saint Laurent, Paris, 1970s, Droits réservés

Betty Catroux and Yves Saint Laurent met at a Parisian nightclub in 1967 and their close professional and personal relationship remained consistent for over 50 years until Saint Laurent’s death in 2008. This relationship is recognised as so influential to YSL’s creative process that the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris held an exhibition surrounding Betty Catroux’s status as Saint Laurent’s ‘female double’. It was through Catroux’s androgynous look and the mixing of masculine and feminine elements, that YSL defined ‘the unusual codes of femininity and seductiveness’ that remain central to the brand and can be clearly seen in the exquisite tailoring that the brand is known for. The essence of what it means to be a muse is perfectly captured by current director Anthony Vaccarello, who states, ‘She lives and breathes Saint Laurent. An allure, a mystery, an almost nefarious aspect, an elusive yet desirable nature, all that underlies the house’s aura, and you understand the magnitude of it when you meet Betty.’

 

Paloma Picasso

Paloma
Paloma Picasso and Yves Saint Laurent, photographed by Jean Luce Huré.

Paloma Picasso has remained a muse for the YSL brand from Yves Saint Laurent himself to current director Anthony Vaccarello. Vaccarello claims that ‘Paloma Picasso was the only woman who inspired a collection for Yves Saint Laurent’. Before going on to state, ‘Paloma was the only one who really changed Yves Saint Laurent’s perception of fashion… Before, he was really into couture – really into this cute, very perfect silhouette – and when he met her, with her huge red lips, dressed in vintage, she was really new for him. It changed his own style.’ It was this unique vintage style that Paloma wore in the early 70s that inspired the 1971 Scandal collection. By mixing past and present fashions, and masculine and feminine styles, YSL made fashion into a spectacle.

 

This iconic 1971 Scandal collection was referenced in the brand’s SS22 collection in which Vaccarello stated he wanted to recreate that exciting, fresh feeling associated with the original collection and Paloma herself, in his collection which marked the, hoped or perceived, end of the pandemic.

YSL
Saint Laurent’s SS22 collection.

 

Mounia

Mounia
Mounia and Yves Saint Laurent on the runway, 1980s.

Mounia made history as the first black model to walk a Haute Couture catwalk in 1978. However, before this, Yves Saint Laurent was drawn to Mounia’s ‘rich complexion and unparalleled grace’ and throughout their collaboration, he drew upon her for friendship, inspiration and creativity. Saint Laurent was committed to showcasing the diversity within his models, and through his continued support, the fashion world as a whole fell in love with Mounia’s elegance. Throughout her career, Mounia wore YSL on the cover of many major magazines and consistently appeared in his collections throughout the 70s and 80s.

 

Rosé

Rose
Rose and Anthony Vaccarello at the 2021 Met Gala.

Blackpink’s Rosé was announced as global brand ambassador for Saint Laurent in 2020, and since then she’s become close friends with Anthony Vaccarello. Vaccarello said of Rosé, ‘She is Saint Laurent in the way she lives, in the way she takes charge of how she dresses, in her way of liberating herself from the crowd… She is someone who represents today’s society.’ In response, Rosé said, ‘I hope I am a muse to him and that he does get a lot of ideas from me…I have very strong opinions, and I think Anthony noticed that.’ So far the duo have most notably appeared side-by-side at the 2021 Met Gala, with Rosé wearing a ready-to-wear black mini dress with an oversized white bow.

 

It will be interesting to see where this partnership goes next!

 

By Rosie Dyer

Sources:

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/blackpink-rose-met-gala-2021

https://www.wmagazine.com/fashion/rose-blackpink-interview-saint-laurent

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/blackpink-rose-saint-laurent-paris-fashion-week

https://www.lofficielusa.com/fashion/who-is-mounia-model-yves-saint-laurent-haute-couture

https://agnautacouture.com/2014/06/29/paloma-picasso-the-seventies-it-girl-inspired-ysl-scandal-collection/

https://museeyslparis.com/en/exhibitions/betty-catroux-yves-saint-laurent

https://fashionista.com/2019/07/fashion-designers-muses-inspiration

https://www.prestigeonline.com/id/style/fashion/the-relationships-between-fashion-designers-and-their-muses/

https://www.greekmythology.com/Other_Gods/The_Muses/the_muses.html

Shoe Fetish: The Glorification of Female Discomfort

ShoesMaddy Plimmer, No Romance on the Pedestal, 2021, Goldsmiths MFA Degree Show, London

 

On a recent visit to the ‘London Grads Now’ exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, showcasing the works of recent art school graduates, I was magnetised towards a towering pair of heels (above). Created by Goldsmiths graduate Maddy Plimmer, these heels, at a metre tall, are not for the faint-hearted or weak-ankled. Plimmer explains that the inspiration behind these art objects was a mobile game featuring a female avatar whose heels grow in height as she navigates a progressively challenging obstacle course. The precariousness of women’s existence through self-elevation, literal or metaphorical, is evidently a topic of fascination. I couldn’t help but imagine how painful the experience of standing, let alone attempting to walk, in these shoes would be.

 

The obsession with shoe-related female discomfort is by no means a new concept. Footbinding, a practice enforcing the beauty standard of delicately small feet, is a global phenomenon throughout dress history. Not only did binding stunt foot growth, it also debilitated women’s ability to stand, walk and exist. The historic desirability of women’s tiny feet and dainty little shoes makes the female foot an eroticised object that warrants regulation. For example in China during the Ming dynasty, if a woman revealed a barefoot in public, she would be committing an indecent assault. The air of secrecy that feet acquired through centuries of being hidden away is what made them so controversial. Shoes, hinting at what lies within, have thus become objects of Freudian fetish fascination.

 

Foot

Foot reliquary of Saint Blaise, c. 1260, Musée provincial des Arts anciens, Belgium

 

In its purest form, ‘fetish’ defines objects that have religious or spiritual significance, such as reliquaries. Saint Blaise, a fourth-century physician and healer, was beheaded for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. The above reliquary, supposedly containing authentic relics of his foot bones, served a practical function of directing prayer, as well as embodying and inspiring fervent Christian dedication. Comprised of oak, stone and precious metals, each individually crafted toe hints at the holy bones contained within without revealing them. However, the hinged door detail implies that the reliquary could be opened to witness the relics.

 

From a dress historical point of view, the reliquary calls to mind Maison Margiela’s iconic Tabi boot (below). Like the medieval reliquary, the Tabi draws attention to the separation of the toes, connoting the foot within without directly showing it. The almost hoof-like appearance of the foot takes on a fetish significance, but not in religious terms. The statement shoe draws the eye down the length of the body to be affronted by a yonic slit in the usual place of a modestly covered foot. While heels are usually regarded as phallic objects to elongate and accentuate the sexualised female form, the Tabi boot subverts this, and is particularly potent when worn by a man.

 

 

Tabis

Maison Margiela, Mens Painted Calfskin Tabi Boots. maisonmargiela.com

 

 

Appropriated from Japanese tabi that date back to the fifteenth century, Margiela’s boot continues a long history of the regulation of women through their footwear. Tabi were originally leather shoes made from a single piece of animal skin, later evolving into split-toe socks to be worn with thong shoes, such as geta.

 

Tabi

Koma geta, second half on 19th century / Edo period, Japan, Tokyo, Musée de Quai Branley, Paris

 

This pair of geta, nearly 30 centimetres high and weighing over 2.5 kilograms, belonged to a courtesan in the Yoshiwara pleasure district of Edo, modern-day Tokyo. The two wooden ‘teeth’ platforms are ornately decorated in guided floral motifs, whilst the straps are wrapped in now faded velvet. Both connote a degree of luxury, suggesting the status of the courtesan. The woodblock print below depicts a procession of richly-dressed courtesans, all in geta and ornate kimonos, accompanied by attendants. However, this is not an accurate depiction of the realities of the sex district. By physically elevating the female wearer, geta were utilised as a way of identifying courtesans within the district, especially to make sure they weren’t running away. Furthermore, some geta also bore the mark of the courtesan’s owner, revealing that these shoes were a way of binding courtesans to their life within the sex district, thus denying female empowerment or freedom.

 

Image 5

Utagawa Hiroshige II, Nakano Street in Yoshiawa district in Edo, 1857, woodblock print, Japan, V&A, London

Restrictive footwear, in every sense of the word, is also evidenced throughout Europe. For example, chopines were highly popular throughout Renaissance Europe, in particular Venice. These stilt-like shoes served the practical function of elevating the wearer above flooded streets to prevent their expensive garments from being dirtied. However the chopines below, at around a staggering 55 centimetres tall, offer an entirely impractical degree of elevation.

 

Image 6

Chopine, Italy, circa 1600. wood and leather. Royal Armoury, Stockholm

This suggests that chopines also served the symbolic function of displaying status, as they literally showcased women of higher standing. Additionally, chopines create a phallic image of the female form – transforming her into an erect column-like structure. According to Freud, it is not simply the fact that the shoe imitates the form of a phallus that justifies fetishists’ appreciation of footwear. It is also the positioning of the shoe in relation to the body, creating a link up to the leg towards the genitals. Freud argues that young boys, from their low vantage point, make this link in relation to their mother and their mother’s absent penis. The materials of heavy skirts that shield the female body from prying eyes add an erotic level of mystery to this.

 

Image 7

Ferrando Bertelli, Venetian Woman with Moveable Skirt (with flap lifted to reveal her chopines), 1563. Engraving, 14 x 18.9 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

The above image depicts a respectable sixteenth-century woman who is reduced to ridicule as her skirt can be lifted up to expose her chopines as well as her breeches. At the time, breeches, a masculine undergarment, were often adopted by prostitutes. The hovering cupid, once her skirt is lifted, crudely points his arrow directly at her covered genitals. Her chopines are not as grand as other examples. She is neither elevated through her rank nor her footwear, making her lowered status as a prostitute a possibility.

 

 

Image 8

Mule, circa 1900, Vienna, Austria, International Shoe Museum, Romans.

 

Excessive heel height is not only about displaying women’s aspirational status but also about diminishing and controlling them through severe discomfort. The above fetish mule, made of black kidskin, represents female discomfort for male gratification. The severe point of the toes, combined with the flared and precariously narrow 20-centimetre heel, reveal that it would be impossible to stand in these delicate shoes. They could only be worn sitting or lying down. Yet these mules would have enhanced the curvature of the arch of the foot to an extreme degree, creating a graceful silhouette. The intricate ruffled detail and the bow adorned with a cabochon set in porcelain demonstrate that this is a valuable object. Hence, this shoe is not about diminishing a woman’s social standing, but about reducing her to an immobile, passive object of desire.

 

 

Image 9

Fetish boots, c. 1900, Vienna, Austria, International Shoe Museum, Romans

 

Similarly, the 28-centimetre heel of the above fetish boot creates an unnatural curvature of the female foot. The point of the shoe and the heel sit at different heights, again showing that these boots were not made for walking. The length of the boot, extending up the entire calf, evokes the physical proximity of the leather to the female skin, which adds a layer of fetishism to the object. The thirty two intricate button fastenings up the length of the boot enhance this, creating a sense of longing for what the boot encapsulates but is unwilling to surrender. In this way, it is not entirely dissimilar to the foot reliquary.

 

 

 

 

Image 10

Christian Louboutin, Pumps, 2007, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Louboutin’s 2007 ‘Fetish’ collection brings the themes of early twentieth-century fetishism into the present day. Louboutin takes the humble flat ballet pump, a staple of contemporary women’s wardrobes, and morphs it into something that looks like an instrument of torture. In the campaign shoot, photographer David Lynch stressed this element of eroticised female suffering.

 

 

Image 11

David Lynch, Fetish, 2007. Courtesy of Christian Louboutin

 

In keeping with the ballet pump, Lynch requested dancers instead of models for the shoot. This also tied in with Louboutin’s origins as a shoe designer for showgirls at the infamous Paris cabaret music hall, the Folies Bergère. Thus dance and movement (or a lack of movement) have always been taken into consideration in his designs. Moreover, Louboutin prioritises his imagination over technical elements and natural proportions, and this is certainly the case here. The strong, athletic legs of the dancer tower over her tiny delicate feet that are hardly visible in their contortion. The harsh light projects a shadow of the extreme, sensuous curvature of the dancer’s feet, teetering precariously en pointe. Lynch has created an atmosphere shrouded in secrecy through these chiaroscuro light effects, forcing the viewer into the role of the voyeur. The dancer’s naked body is fragmented as we can only see her bare legs. Her arms are out of shot and supposedly holding onto supports. The blurred image evokes a sense of panicked movement, as if she is in the process of falling. In this instance, it is the delicate vulnerability of a woman wearing such torturous shoes that renders her an object of spectacle and thus of erotic fascination.

 

There is something inherently powerful about employing footwear, something that was originally designed to root you to the ground and facilitate walking, as a means of self-elevation through tolerated agony. Yet if such an accessory is forced onto unwilling feet, it denies selfhood, and objectifies the wearer as a passive mannequin-like static form.

 

By Claudia Stanley

 

Sources:

 

Apter, Emily. Feminizing the Fetish: Psychoanalysis and Narrative Obsession in Turn-of-the Century France. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2018.

 

Bossan, Marie-Josèphe. The Art of the Shoe. New York: Parkstone, 2004.

 

Croizat-Glazer, Yassana. Historical Shoe Trends, Sexual Contrasts and the Need to Take Up Space. 15th July 2021: https://awomensthing.org/blog/historical-shoe-trends-chopines-crakows/

 

Furiassi, Cristiano Gino. Chronicling a Global Fetish: A Linguistic Analysis of the Pseudo-Italian Internationalism Stiletto. ZoneModa Journal 9, no. 2, 2019. pp. 103–121.

 

Hamlyn, Anne, Freud, Fabric, Fetish, Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, vol.1, no. 1, March 2003. pp. 8-26.

 

Jacobs, Fredrika H. Shoes. Res (Cambridge, Mass.) 71-72, no. 1, 2019. pp. 284–294.

 

Jacques M. Chevalier. “Foot and Shoe Fetishes: The Bright Side.” In Corpus and the Cortex, 109–. MQUP, 2002.

 

Stephens, Sonya. Sex and Spleen: Fetish in Baudelaire’s ‘les Bijoux.’ South Central review 29, no. 3, 2012. pp. 63–79.

 

V&A. Christian Louboutin interview, 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrH4JlyW5zo

COP26: A Sobering Message for the Fashion Industry and its Consumers

Inside COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Getty Images.

As I dressed for an exceptionally cold day in London this morning, I took the time to read the label inside the jumper that would keep me warm for the day ahead. The care label read:

 

Made in China

42% Cotton

26% Acrylic

25% Polyamide

4% Wool

3% Elastane

Handwash at 30 degrees

Do not tumble-dry

 

I’m ashamed to say that it was the first time I read such a label and considered what it really meant, besides how to wash my beloved cosy jumper without shrinking it. Many questions came to mind. Where in China was it made? Who worked the sewing machine that put it together? How old were they? How much were they paid? What were the conditions of the factory in which it was made? Where did all these raw materials come from? And how did it travel from China to the UK? The questions go on and on.

These were just some of the questions explored last week in Glasgow at COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Countries present at the conference, and their industries, were expected to ‘show up with something to offer’ to the global pursuit of combatting the climate crisis (Rachel Cernansky, 2021). The fashion industry was not exempt from scrutiny. During the week, the UN Fashion Charter updated their climate commitment, with an aim to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030. British fashion houses (including Stella McCartney and Burberry, among high-street labels like H&M) participated in talks and shows to signal their allegiance to the cause. However, with the latest national pledges only estimated to achieve one-seventh of emissions cuts necessary, we must ask not only if brands are doing enough, but ourselves as consumers.

 

Image from the Fashion Revolution Instagram page (@fash_rev). Caption: Polyester = plastic = oil. But fossil fuels are part of our wardrobes even if there aren’t synthetics on the label. 27 October 2021.

Posters carried by attendees of the Climate Conference read: ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ and ‘What’s in My Clothes?’. These are the slogans of Fashion Revolution, a non-profit organisation and global movement that participated in discussions at COP26. The Fashion Revolution Manifesto calls for an environmentally sustainable and ethical fashion industry; dignified work, equal and fair pay, and conservation and restoration of the environment are just some of their global aims. Ciara Barry, Policy and Research Coordinator at Fashion Revolution, remarked that the organisation was ‘disappointed that fashion isn’t further up the agenda’ of discussions surrounding the climate crisis. Fashion Revolution reported that if fashion were a nation state, it would be the seventh-largest in the world, showing the magnitude of the industry and its contributions to global pollution. The global industry was in fact responsible for about 4% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, which is ‘comparable to the combined emissions of France, Germany and the UK’ (Madeline Speed, 2021).

In their panel discussion with questions from Scarlett Conlon of The Guardian at COP26, Fashion Revolution reminded members of the conference that these environmental issues are never divorced from ethical consequences. It was noted that ‘the global north is responsible for 92% of emissions while the global south bears the burden of harm’. Factory flooding, the pollution to local water sources, and – in the case of the 2013 Dhaka factory collapse in Bangladesh – disastrous damage to industrial regions is all too common in the areas that mass-produce garments for the global north. It is not the responsibility of workers to address these issues, but the ‘brands and retailers who must take a more active role in addressing these risks’. More than this, it is our responsibility as consumers to rethink our overconsumption of fast fashion goods which encourages overproduction, and inevitably leads to these dangerous worker conditions. Fashion Revolution prompt us, not only at COP26 but in their widespread campaigning for economic and social justice in fashion, that we consumers must rethink our out of sight, out of mind approach to fashion.

 

After the Rana Plaza collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 2013. Getty Images.

So, what can we do to rethink our consumption of fashion and combat these environmental and social issues? One place to start is addressing our relationship with fashion in social media, which largely feeds into our desire to consume more and more without considering the unseen consequences. In recent years especially, popular trend videos on platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram have encouraged ‘haul videos’ from high-street brands, where consumers show off their latest purchases. The garments in these ‘hauls’ usually fall into the ‘micro-trend’ category; made at a speedy rate to be enjoyed for the season, and probably discarded afterwards. Likewise, in the run-up to ‘Black Friday’ sales happening next week, many retailers engage in the social media frenzy of promising heavily discounted prices for end-of-season stock, which only encourages further overproduction at the beginning of the season. By taking the time to think about what garments we really need, rather than buying for the sake of buying, we can begin to curb the thoughtless shopping habits which lead to dangerous working environments and environmental pollution overseas. Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index is also a useful tool for consumers to research further into their favourite brands, with a breakdown of their sustainability in terms of shipping and raw materials, and socio-economic issues like worker wages and conditions.

COP26 brought a sobering message for the fashion industry, but it is also one of hopeful ambition towards the future. Indeed, brands must be held accountable for the environmental and ethical oversights of their suppliers, but it is we as consumers who must change our outlook on our speedy and thoughtless consumption of garments. If action is taken now, we might contribute to a future of fashion which is sustainable, ethical and considerate. Now is the time to ask: ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ and ‘What’s in My Clothes?’

 

The Fashion Transparency Index for 2021 by Fashion Revolution can be downloaded following this link: https://www.fashionrevolution.org/about/transparency/

Fashion Revolution Instagram handle: @fash_rev

 

By Erin-Atlanta Argun

 

References:

Barry, Ciara. Fashion Revolution at COP26, 15 November 2021.

Cernansky, Rachel. ‘What Fashion Should Expect at COP26’. Vogue Business, 28 October 2021. https://www.voguebusiness.com/sustainability/what-fashion-should-expect-at-cop26.

Chan, Emily. ‘How Fashion Is Ramping Up Its Climate Efforts At Cop26’. Vogue, 9 November 2021. https://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/article/un-fashion-charter-cop26.

Conlon, Scarlett, and Fashion Revolution. COP26: Questions from Scarlett Conlon at the Guardian, 2021.

Entwistle, Joanne. ‘The Fashion Industry’. In The Fashioned Body: Fashion, Dress and Modern Social Theory. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000.

Fashion Revolution. ‘COP26: Why Fashion Needs a Seat at the Table’, November 2021. https://www.fashionrevolution.org/cop26-why-fashion-needs-a-seat-at-the-table/.

Godley, Andrew, Anna Kersher, and Raphael Schapiro. ‘Fashion and Its Impact on the Economic Development of London’s East End Womenswear Industry, 1929–62: The Case of Ellis and Goldstein’. Textile History 34, no. 2 (November 2003).

Speed, Madeline. ‘Fashion Industry to Miss Emissions Target despite COP26 Pledge’. Financial Times, 9 November 2021. https://www.ft.com/content/92d64022-415c-4fa2-93a7-bc277c417544.

Party frock or military uniform?: Mick Jagger performing gender at Hyde Park, London, 5th July 1969.

On a summer’s afternoon in 1969, Mick Jagger bounds onto the stage set up in Hyde Park with characteristic explosive energy. He swaggers across the stage, donning a white dress designed by Michael Fish, paired with white flared trousers and clutching a battered book of poetry. Bowing and blowing kisses to adoring fans, he oozes an aura of masculine self-assurance as his balloon sleeves and gathered skirt waft around him.

Figure 1: Mick Jagger reading an excerpt from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s elegy Adonais in memory of Brian Jones, 5th July 1969, Robert Hunt Library/Shutterstock

Their first performance in two years, what the Rolling Stones had intended as a free concert to give back to the fans they had somewhat abandoned during this time, as well as to introduce their new band member, Mick Taylor, as Brian Jones’ replacement, ended up as a more sombre affair. Jones had been dismissed from the band in June that year due to his struggle with addiction, resulting in the multifaceted musician and originally integral element to The Stones becoming a liability not only to the band’s recording sessions and success, but also to himself. Brian Jones was found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool on 2nd July, three days before the concert.

Jagger attempts to calm the crowd with the fragile authority of a substitute teacher struggling to tame a classroom of hormone-fuelled teenagers. But, because he’s Mick Jagger, he (just about) pulls it off.

‘OOOOWWRRIGHT! Okay now listen! Will you just cool it for just a minute because I really would like to say something for Brian.’ He resorts to ‘OKAY ARE YOU GOING TO BE QUIET OR NOT?’, which seemingly settles the gathered spectators. Jagger proceeds to recite a few verses from Shelley’s poem Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats. The touching words of Shelley honouring a fellow artist struck down in his youth feel hauntingly relevant. Despite Jagger’s slightly wooden recital, it is a moving and fitting tribute. Hundreds of white butterflies were then shaken out of cardboard boxes, fluttering above the stage and crowd in dizzy liberation. Yet what is most memorable about this iconic performance is that dress. Not many men could wield the same degree of authority over a crowd of 250,000 to 500,000 people whilst wearing a dress that was compared to a ‘little girl’s white party frock’ by the British press. Jagger, luckily, is one of them.

There is undeniable androgynous hybridity to Jagger’s ensemble. The white dress is ornately decorated with a ruffled collar and cuffs which mirror the pleated skirt, billowing full sleeves, and individual bow fastenings down the fitted bodice. All of these intricate details do evoke a young girl’s frock. The dress-making pattern image from the 1950s below exhibits the femininity and girlishness of puff sleeves, delicate collars and bows, and full skirts, which are arguably paralleled, or parodied, by Jagger’s garment.

Figure 2: Girl’s One-Piece Vintage Dress Sewing Pattern: Flower Girl, Party Dress, 1st Communion, 1950’s, Simplicity Pattern Co.

Designer Michael Fish was a pioneer of the ‘Peacock Revolution’. The evolution of menswear shifted drastically throughout the 1960s, prioritising rich fabrics, extravagant colours and more effeminate silhouettes over traditional tailoring. Mr Fish, a boutique in Mayfair, stocked and sold his flamboyant garments, from frilled silk shirts to men’s caftans, to the emerging demographic of the London dandy. Below, we see Michael Fish wearing one of his designs, with almost identical ornate details of ruffled collar and bow fastenings to Jagger’s dress. The context of the sexual revolution, triggered by the circulation of the contraceptive pill in Britain from 1963, brought in an era of sexual liberation, meaning that men could challenge traditional notions of masculinity and indulge in androgynous ways of dress.

Figure 3: Michael Fish and Barry Sainsbury, 1968, Courtesy of Mason & Sons

Jagger did not stop at dressing in a feminine manner. He went as far as adopting the female gender signifiers of long hair and makeup in a convincing performance of gender play. His eyes are shrouded in mysterious smokiness and his infamous pout is accentuated by lipstick as his hair sweeps down past his shoulders. Having said this, Jagger’s dress can also be read as a display of masculinity. The full, pleated skirt arguably evokes the fustanella – a skirt-like garment worn throughout South East Europe, but in particular by the Evzone elite ceremonial unit of the Greek Royal Guard (below, left).

Figure 4: The Archbishop Regent Damaskinos of Greece with an Evzone Guard at the Regency in Athens, 15 February 1945, Capt. Tanner War Office official photographer, Imperial War Museum

The dramatic flare of the Evzone Guard’s sleeve combined with the fullness of the kilt-like skirt both hint at the yards of fabric that have gone into the construction of this garment, whilst simultaneously providing a prototype for the defining features of Jagger’s frock. Origins on the fustanella date back to the nineteenth century, but the garment is also perhaps a continuation of men’s short tunics from Ancient Greece. Looking back to another time or another country became an increasingly important source of fashion influence throughout the 1960s.  Arguably Jagger was drawn to Michael Fish’s garment as it takes inspiration from then and there to challenge the gender divide of here and now.

Figure 5: Mick Jagger performing at Hyde Park in 1969, Ray Stevenson/Shutterstock

Later on in the performance, as the afternoon heat descends, Jagger removes his smock, untying each individual bow to release himself from his effeminate exterior. Beneath, he is wearing a simple vest which exposes his slender but undeniably masculine frame. Therefore in its fluid state, gender, like clothing, can be tried on, worn, taken off and worn again. Such was the case for Jagger. Not only was he rumoured to have worn this same dress to his financial adviser’s white-themed party two days before, but he also revisited this look forty four years later with a strikingly similar white smock garment during The Rolling Stones’ return to Hyde Park in 2013.

Figure 6: Mick Jagger performing at Hyde Park in 2013, Roger Tooth for the Guardian

 By Claudia Stanley

 

 

Sources:

 

The Rolling Stones – Tribute to Brian Jones / I’m Yours and I’m Hers (Hyde Park 1969)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQ5VhQMgjYw

Costantino, Maria. Men’s Fashion in the Twentieth Century: from frock coats to intelligent fibres. London: B. T. Batsford LTD, 1997.

Langkjær, Michael A. A case of misconstrued Rock Military Style: Mick Jagger and his Evzone “little girl’s party frock” fustanella, Hyde Park, July 5, 1969. Historical, sociological and methodological approaches. Conference Proceedings, Athens, 9-11 April 2010. Nafplion: Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation, 2012.

Langkjær, Michael A. ‘Then how can you explain Sgt. Pompous and the Fancy Pants Club Band?’ Utilization of Military Uniforms and Other Paraphernalia by Pop Groups and the Youth Counterculture in the 1960s and Subsequent Periods. Textile history, Vol. 41, no. 1. Published online 19 Jul 2013.

https://doi.org/10.1179/174329510X12646114289824

Lester, Richard. Boutique London, A History: King’s Road to Carnaby Street. Suffolk: ACC Editions, 2010.

Luther Hillman, Betty. Dressing for the Culture Wars: Style and the Politics of Self-Presentation in the 1960s and 1970s. Lincoln, Nebraska : University of Nebraska Press, 2015.

Morgen, Brett. Crossfire Hurricane: The Rise of the Stones. London: Milkwood Films, Los Angeles: Tremolo Productions, 18th October 2012.

Sims, Joshua. Rock Fashion, London and New York: Omnibus Press, 1999.

Performing Gender Through Costume in the Takarazuka Revue

The Takarazuka Revue is an all-female performance troupe, formed in 1914. Now one of the biggest theatre companies in the world, the group is known for its spectacular performances with highly trained female actors playing male and female roles.

The leading actors of the Takarazuka Revue are celebrities. Today, they have a global fanbase and entire Wikipedia dedicated to documenting all past and current performances and trivia about the troupe (www.takawiki.com). Yet, before the internet and the increasingly connected world of the post-war era, fans had to find another outlet for their eager engagement with the Revue.

The British Museum has in its collection an incredible example of such engagement: an album of 200 postcard photographs, some signed, of the performers in the Takarazuka Revue, dating to the late 1930s.

Figure 1: Album of 200 postcard photographs of actresses in the Takarazuka revue, with covers in textile. Six of them signed. © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Figure 2: Album of 200 postcard photographs of actresses in the Takarazuka revue, with covers in textile. Six of them signed. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

In these photographs we see the range of characters, periods and styles used by the group. Costuming alone tells us that there were military figures from a range of historic periods, gentlemen, geisha, dancers, swooning young women and the epitome of a 1920s gangster.

This remnant of a bygone age gives us a beautiful insight to the world of Japanese theatre in the 1930s. The highly decorative costumes would have immediately expressed a character’s identity to a theatre audience. The jacket of the figure in the top right corner of the first image is so reflective is can barely be photographed, and the feathered headdress in the image below is so grand it is having to be held upright by its wearer.

These photographs also reveal the visual markers used to denote gender on stage. Beyond the outfits, the actors’ hair is modelled in short, slicked back styles for male characters. Eyebrows are also styled differently, the female characters have longer, thinner brows while their male counterparts style thicker and far straighter brows.

Photographs can tell us about what these actors wore, how they used their faces to convey their characters, and that they were revered enough to be immortalised in an album. However, there are things these photographs lack. Colour, for instance. Staging or the style of the performance too. That is where I bring in this ticket for comparison.

Figure 3: A ¥2 ticket to the Tokyo Takarazuka theater performance on July 17, 1937. www.oldtokyo.com.

This ticket, saved from a Takarazuka theatre performance in Tokyo on the 17th July, 1937, is a drawing. It can therefore can give us a completely different range of insights into the 1930s performances for the Takarazuka Revue.

I must firstly point out the similarity between the figure on this ticket and the actor in the top left corner of the second album page. The resemblance is uncanny and given the similar time period the ticket must either be a representation of that exact actor or at least of the character they were playing in a show at the time.

Gender is expressed in a greater variety of ways through the drawn figure on the ticket. We can see their masculine posture, laid back and confident, dominating the space they stand in with ease. But we also see now what we could not in the photograph, the makeup on their face. The pale skin, rouged cheeks and red lip remind us that this is a female actor playing a male role. There is a sense that, no matter how convincing of a performance the actor could give, the audience must always be reminded that it is not a man they are seeing, but a male-role played by a woman.

The performances of masculinity and femininity in the Takarazuka Revue are exaggerated. The Revue presents a heightened version of femininity and a particularly elegant version of masculinity. In this sense, the Revue exposes the constructed nature of gender but also remains rigidly within the confines of a binary gender system. You are either male or female. At no point does the performance wish to the leave audiences uncertain as to the gender they are seeing performed, or the true gender of the actor in the performance.

The images in this blog post reveal to us the ways that dress and embodied behaviour were used by the Takarazuka Revue to present a strong sense of gender whilst paradoxically also highlighting the fact that gender is indeed a performance.

By Megan Stevenson

 

Sources:

Stickland, Leonie R. 2008. Gender Gymnastics: performing and consuming Japan’s Takarazuka Revue. Melbourne: Trans Pacific Press.

Yamanashi, Makiko. 2012. A History of the Takarazuka Revue Since 1914: Modernity, Girls’ Culture, Japan Pop. Boston: Global Oriental.

“Album of 200 postcard photographs of actresses in the Takarazuka revue, with covers in textile. Six of them signed.” – https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/A_2006-0113-0-1-1-200

“A ¥2 ticket to the Tokyo Takarazuka theater performance on July 17, 1937.” – http://www.oldtokyo.com/takarazuka-gekijo/

The Gucci Love Parade…

On November 2 2021, the Gucci Love Parade took over Hollywood Boulevard. The show drew on Creative Director Alessandro Michele’s childhood and paid homage to the glamour of Old Hollywood. Michele’s mother worked in the film industry, and it was the stories that she told him that acted as an escape for Michele. This infatuation lasted throughout adulthood with Michele stating that:

“Hollywood is… a Greek temple…actors and actresses are acknowledged as heroes of the myth: hybrid creatures with the power to hold divine transcendence and mortal existence at the same time”.

Journalist Nicole Phelps also notes how Michele’s Love Parade “absorbed all manner of Hollywood tropes” from Old Hollywood glamour to more everyday looks too.

Let’s look at some of the favourites…

Elizabeth Taylor, ranked seventh in the list of the greatest female screen legends in Hollywood Cinema, is perhaps best known for her eponymous role of Cleopatra in the 1963 Walter Wanger film.

 

Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 film Cleopatra

 

Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 film Cleopatra

 

Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 film Cleopatra

Gucci’s pre-fall’22 collection featured this inspired look:

Gucci Love Parade, 2 November 2021. Source: Vogue Runway

Another cult classic film is featured in the form of the 1976 rendition of Stephen King’s Carrie. The title role was played by Sissy Spacek, who won an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Sissy Spacek in the 1976 film Carrie

 

Sissy Spacek in the 1976 film Carrie

 

Sissy Spacek in the 1976 film Carrie

Gucci Love Parade:

Gucci Love Parade, 2 November 2021. Source: Vogue Runway

And finally, we have a reference to Anna May Wong’s Tu Tuan in the 1934 film Limehouse Blues. Wong is an important figure in Hollywood as she is considered to be the first Chinese-American movie star.

Anna May Wong in the 1934 film Limehouse Blues

 

Anna May Wong in the 1934 film Limehouse Blues

 

Anna May Wong in the 1934 film Limehouse Blues

Gucci Love Parade:

Gucci Love Parade, 2 November 2021. Source: Vogue Runway

So, what do you think? Do you think Gucci successfully paid homage to some of the most iconic Hollywood fashion moments and the starlets that wore them? Or do you think they verge too much on Halloween costumes for a November 2nd show?

 

By Rosie Dyer

 

Sources:

 

https://fashionista.com/2021/11/gucci-spring-2022-collection

 

https://www.harpersbazaar.com/fashion/fashion-week/a38148413/gucci-love-parade/

 

https://www.gucci.com/uk/en_gb/st/stories/runway/article/love-parade-fashion-show-looks-gallery

 

https://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2022-ready-to-wear/gucci

 

https://www.afi.com/afis-100-years-100-stars/

 

https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/anna-may-wong

The Spectacle of Fashion

Complete with allure, sophistication and sparkle, jewellery has continued to captivate and spark people’s interest, be it in a tiara, a ring or as an uncut gem. It is perhaps of little surprise therefore that a pair of seventeenth-century Mughal spectacles, with diamonds and emeralds as their central lenses, originally conceived from substantial stones weighing at least 200 and 300 carats respectively, became the headline act for Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic World and India auction held in London on the 27 October 2021. What may be of surprise, however, is that they remain unsold, having failed to reach their combined £3 million estimate, despite the fact that no other examples are believed to exist.

 

Seventeenth-century Mughal Glasses nicknamed Halo of Light. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

 

In the run up to the event, these highly unusual and rare spectacles attracted international media attention, including writeups in news outlets such as BBC and CNN Style, hinting at a potential bidding war and expectation that these glasses were likely to exceed their £1.5-2.5m respective estimates. Comparisons were made to Kylie Jenner’s 2018 MET Gala outfit or Cartier’s diamond glasses as seen at the 2019 Billboard awards, highlighting how all things bling are forevermore in fashion.

 

Seventeenth-century Mughal Glasses nicknamed Gate of Paradise. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

 

I’d also like to throw another comparison into the mix: that of the infamous Rothschild Surrealist Ball of 1972. It was an event which saw fancy dress and opulence operating at new extremes, with costumes designed by the likes of Salvador Dalí himself and well attended by the crème de la crème in society at that time. What’s more, these glasses were created to be worn not simply admired, an impressive and audacious feat in itself. As such and notwithstanding their original provenance, these spectacles once again seem to maintain a contemporary feel despite their seventeenth-century origins, suggesting a continued appetite for lavishness and all that *glitters*, supporting the theory that a diamond (or emerald!) continues to operate at the height of fashion.

 

Two attendees at the Rothschild Surrealist Ball, 1972.

 

This opens up the discussion towards the continued historical and academic research, in part, because the provenance of these glasses is still somewhat contested but also because of the absolute technical prowess they exhibit. Research has concluded that these glasses were conceived in the seventeenth century in India, with the frames developed at a later stage during the nineteenth century. The first pair presented by Sotheby’s is aptly named Emeralds for Paradise (or nicknamed Gate of Paradise) and its central gems can be traced back to the Muzo mines of Colombia; conversely, the diamond lenses forming Diamonds for Light (dubbed Halo of Light) likely came from the Golconda mines of Southern India, but this is still under review.

 

What can be ascertained, however, is that these glasses are exemplary in demonstrating the fusion between science with beauty and tradition, with each pair believed to possess unique healing properties – emeralds have been used as early as 1CE as a means of combating strained eyes but were also seen as a key aid in warding off evil. On the other hand, diamonds were considered to have illuminating properties, and the skilful cut of the flat-cut diamonds ensures that transparency is retained when the glasses are worn, thereby offering enlightenment to its wearer.

 

One of the rumoured owners of these extraordinary glasses is emperor Jahangir who was the fourth Mughal Emperor, ruling from 1605 to 1627. At a time where the monarchy set the standard (and boundaries, legal or otherwise) as definers of elegance and sophistication, it seems fitting that an emperor would have guaranteed – the implicit or explicit – exclusive ownership of such elaborate pieces. This can be partly determined by a willingness to sacrifice the majority of a 200-carat diamond to make two flat-cut diamonds, totalling a comparatively modest 25 carats for the Halo of Light spectacles, with the same process being repeated to provide the two flat-cut emeralds for the Gate of Paradise spectacles.

 

Painting of the Peacock Throne, commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan in early 17th Century India.

Perhaps adding credibility to such a theory is the fact that Jahangir (in his twelfth year as ruler) gifted himself an article of clothing in the form of a sleeveless over-tunic (named the nadiri) that he alone could wear, only ever extending this to his inner circle. Indeed, one of the recipients was his son and successor Shah Jahan who ruled from 1628 to 1658. During his reign, Shah Jahan commissioned the famous and hugely opulent ‘Peacock Throne’, which featured the 186-carat diamond named Koh-i-Noor (now part of the British Crown Jewels). He too is rumoured to be the original owner of these glasses, with the central emeralds believed to have offered aid to soothe his eyes, following an extended period of mourning after the loss of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

 

While there is plenty left to say about these extraordinary glasses, I shall conclude with this: should bling be your thing, and if you can afford to splash the cash, then I hope they’ll be back up for auction ASAP. But in the meantime, if you want to feel like royalty on a budget, then why not try this great alternative: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Princess-Glasses-1-Pc-Apparel-Accessories-1-Piece-/164141097819

 

By Georgina Johnston-Watt

 

Sources:

 

Belfanti, Carlo Marco, ‘Was Fashion a European Invention?’ in Journal of Global History, no. 3 (2008), pp. 419-43

 

https://www.sothebys.com/en/buy/auction/2021/arts-of-the-islamic-world-india-including-fine-rugs-and-carpets-2/a-pair-of-mughal-spectacles-set-with-emerald?locale=en

 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-58825741

 

https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/diamond-glasses-emerald-mughal-auction/index.html

 

https://therake.com/stories/icons/party-animals-the-rothschild-surrealist-ball/

Pampooties and Brogues: A Folkloric History

It was during my undergraduate degree when I first came across the word Pampootie in environs outside of my own home. It was discussed during a lesson centered around a study of Jack B. Yeats and his illustrations for William M. Synge’s book The Aran Islands. My professor began to describe the dress of The Aran Man (below) when she referred to his light leather shoes as Pampooties. Growing up my mother had always called our children’s shoes Pampooties, which lead me to think of it as nothing more than a made-up word which my family used. Clearly, I was wrong. This initial introduction to the Pampootie in the wider world typifies the myth and dynamism which animates the shoe’s history.

Figure 1: An Island Man, Jack B. Yeats, Sligo County Library and Museum

The pampootie is the traditional shoe of the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway in the west of Ireland. The shoe consists of a flat piece of cow hide punctured with holes around its edges which are laced with leather thong and tightly wrapped around the foot. This basic attempt towards the fashioning of a protective foot covering stands as the common ancestor to the modern brogue shoe, as a derivative of the Irish word Bróg (meaning shoe). Yet the humble pampootie style still exists as a more historically modern version of the shoe, as the brogue style can be traced back to prehistoric times. In 1967 a horde of exquisitely preserved brogues were discovered in a bog in County Mayo which were dated back to the year 1965BC. In many ways these shoes may be considered more artistically advanced than the pampootie, as the ornamental holes characteristic of the modern brogue can be identified. Thus, despite the pampootie’s modern use the silhouette of the classic brogue which one may recognize today is far older.

Figure 2: Peter Phatch Faherty lacing his Pampooties, 1952. Getty Images

Here the mythology of the pampootie and the brogue must be addressed. In 1992 artist Brad Legg wrote his “avowedly populist” The Stars and the Brogue: Ancient Astronomy and Footwear in Ireland in which he compares the hole designs of brogues to the star patterns of the spring equinox of 1800BC. Similarly, this explanation for the shoe design was widely popular throughout the Victorian era. It can be argued that the discovery of such a bountiful horde of ornamented brogues in 1967 drives home this assertion as they were possibly gathered as a sacred offering to the pagan gods.

Figure 3: A selection of Celtic and Viking Ornaments which Victorian Scholars compared to Brogue patterns.

However, other interpretations of the holes have become more widely accepted. Many believe that the brogue’s punctures serve an entirely functional purpose, as the holes provided drainage whilst walking along the often damp and waterlogged ground of rural Ireland. Others attest that the shoes were fitted to the wearer a size too big so they may be filled with straw to absorb the wet.

Additional speculation surrounds the name of the ‘pampootie’ and where it converges with the brogue.  No one is quite sure where the seemingly exotic sounding ‘pampootie’ finds its origins, yet some have hypothesized that it is perhaps an alteration of the Turkish word ‘papoosh’ or slipper. Irrespective of that correlation, it is most likely that the brogue and the pampootie later became united through the shortening of the word pampootie to the Irish word Bróg or shoe, as aforementioned.

Nonetheless, the necessity of function over form replaced the decorative and descriptive qualities of the early pampootie, and only remerged through the revival of the shoe in the twentieth century. No conclusion can ever be outrightly drawn from many of these notions, yet it is through the mysticism surrounding the design of the shoe which we may examine its modern interpretation as it finds a secure home in the contemporary wardrobe.

In the early twentieth century the brogue’s functional and formal characteristics finally harmoniously merged in the modern variation of the shoe. The dual inclusion of a sturdy leather construction alongside the ornamental hole patterns poised the brogue as a classic country walking shoe for the twentieth century gentleman. Advertisements emphasize the traditional nature of the shoe and use its historical precedent to sell ideas of reliability and comfort.

Figure 4: Abbot & Sons “Super Brogues” Advertisement, 1919. Shutterstock

Thus, throughout the twentieth century the brogue form underwent many iterations and alterations as the traditional holed pattern took on new silhouettes as the century progressed. As made clear by the Cosmopolitan article below, by the mid century the brogue had been translated to walk the pavements of the burgeoning cityscape.

Figure 5: Cosmopolitan Article “Shoe Talk”, 1968, ProQuest

Later brogues became an iconic symbol within artistic and cultural movements, as evidenced by the iconic image of Twiggy below. This photograph taken in 1972 features a pair of brogues made by renowned British shoemaker George Cleverley. Cleverley exclusively made shoes for men but was convinced to make an exception in this case for Twiggy.

Figure 6: Twiggy in George Cleverley Brogues, 1972, Getty Images

Thus, both the brogue and the pampootie occupy a fascinatingly ambiguous space within the lexicon of modern dress. The myriad of myths surrounding the footwear informs the modern understanding of the shoes as both contemporarily relevant and deeply historical.

By Victoria FitzGerald

 

Sources:

“Brogue – Word History”. Word-Origins .com. Last modified July 18, 2011. https://web.archive.org/web/20110718083106/http://www.word-origins.com/definition/brogue.html

Hall, Joseph Sparks. The Book of the Feet: A History of Boots and Shoes. Second Edition. London: Read Books, 2017.

Hall, Michael. “Brogues and the Stars: on an Archaeological Controversy.” Country Life 187, no. 13 (1993): 94. https://www.proquest.com/magazines/brogues-stars/docview/1521579963/se-2?accountid=10277.

“Pampootie”. Merriam-Webster.com. Last modified October 24 2021. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pampootie

“Shoe Talk: A new Kind of Brogue.” Cosmopolitan 165, no. 5 (11, 1968): 54. https://www.proquest.com/magazines/shoe-talk-new-kind-brogue/docview/2007367987/se-2?accountid=10277.

“Twiggy in Cleverley”.  Iconic Images.net. Last modified 24 October 2021. https://iconicimages.net/photo/jdv-tw018-twiggy-in-cleverley/