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As mentioned previously, due to thievery I’m no longer sharing patterns from my personal stash. Fortunately for all of us, we live in a magical world of instant availability, where entire archives mouldering in damp basements dying unmourned deaths now get to see the light of day! I can just picture these anthropomorphized little booklets, rubbing their wee squinted eyes at the blinding sunlight shining down upon them, a joyous smile breaking across their faces as a new day dawns and they can finally reveal their particular brand of weird to the world.

The designs and cuts below come from that awkward period in the late teens – not yet a flapper, but no longer wasp-waisted. The overall shape has moved away from the Gibson Girl’s poofiness and fluff towards the tubular androgyny soon to be everywhere, yet retains the length and excessive decor of the previous years. These patterns could work well in a modern wardrobe if done in the spirit of androgyny coming from a number of Japanese designers (like Arts and Science) or by going extra-bright and bold with color for a Finnish style (a la Marimekko).

NEEDS MORE BUTTONS

dangly sides

dotty

These three patterns, along with many others, can be found in the Utopia Yarn Book, available free online.

…and then there’s this hat. The kid’s expression speaks for itself, but should you find your wardrobe missing some crocheted Dutch elf bonnet flair, you can always turn to the Columbia Book of Yarns.
that hat

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Handsome Is coat

Stuck on a 5-hour bicoastal plane ride, I indulged in something unavailable to me here in NYC – watching TV. Laziness and the switch to digital has cut me off from ‘normal’ TV watching, in that without a converter box the only input I get is from whatever Netflix decides to stream. This eliminates a good part of the ‘normal TV’ watching experience, including exposure to reality shows, local news, and especially commercials. I was annoyed to see commercials targeting young people heading back to school, attempting to convince them they required a wardrobe overhaul to appear sophisticated and cool in the eyes of their peers. The commercials assume these children have autonomy over their clothing at a younger age, that there is spare income to spend on a new wardrobe, and that new outfits will somehow circumvent the cruel stratifying and sorting the first few weeks of school bring, forget sever the baggage of past years.

Of course, every magazine currently touting the ‘hot new trends’ of fall is doing the same thing to an older crowd. As a brisk tonic to pages and pages of ‘what’s in and what’s out!’ for the brief window of three months before the entire merry-go-round starts up again for a new season, I highly recommend reading Elizabeth Hawes’ Fashion Is Spinach. Written in 1938, the young designer’s tale of making it in the fashion industry is a delicious tell-all told with the dry wit of Dorothy Parker. Her opinions on the state of ‘fast fashion’ and the difference between ‘fashion’ and ‘style holds as true today as ever.

Moonstone dress

Elizabeth Hawes’ first foray into fashion was as New York Times’ Paris fashion correspondent, under the pen name ‘Parasite’. She was later one of the first designers to establish a made-to-order boutique in New York, instead of Paris, and with a combination of business acumen and creativity it survived the Great Depression. Her aim was to promote a uniquely American fashion style and teach women to wear what suited them and their life, instead of trying to emulate ‘Parisian Glamour’. She successfully promoted her ready-to-wear items through the 30s and 40s, and in the spirit of comfort and practicality debuted a colorful line of men’s clothing in 1937. During the war years she published a book on women in the workplace called Why Women Cry, and remained vocal about women’s equality and rights for the rest of her life. She was raked over the coals during the McCarthy years for her outspoken support of unions and feminism, and for a time lived in the Virgin Islands where she penned Anything But Love: A Complete Digest of the Rules for Feminine Behavior from Birth to Death; Given out in Print, on Film, and Over the Air; Seen, Listened to Monthly by Some 340,000,000 American Women  an early critique of media representation of women. She wrote a sequel to Fashion Is Spinach called It’s Still Spinach  in 1954, and passed away in NYC’s Hotel Chelsea in 1971.

 

It Is My Own Invitation Dress

I’ve excerpted some of my favorite quotes from Fashion Is Spinach below – the full text is available on the Internet Archive to download or read in whatever format suits you best.

On travel and education:

“After having my appendix out that summer, 1922, I went back (to Vassar) for sophomore year and discovered economics…Senior year I spent four long months in the library reading every word ever spoken or written by Ramsay MacDonald and rewrote it all into a thesis on which I did not one ray of individual thinking—but I got an A.”

“I was not seasick and learned to do my first drinking on that voyage [to France]. I had three hundred dollars and a diamond ring. It had been one of my grandmother’s earrings. The family had it set and said I could always pawn it to get home. I still have it.”    (Note: SO BALLER)

“Cheap American food was disheartening, but there wasn’t much time for eating it anyway. Bathtub gin after French wine was fortunately disagreeable enough to my palate to save me a good many headaches.”

The Tarts dress

On the fashion industry overall:

“The proudly American clothing boast is that all American women can have beautiful clothes. It goes along with the other legends such as that all boys can get to be President, all children get a good education, and everyone in the United States has “an American standard of living”.

“The passion which has been created for being chic leads to almost any thing, probably including murder.”

“Style doesn’t change every month or year. It only changes as often as there is a real change in the point of view and the lives of the people for whom it is produced.”

“One big difference between a specialty shop and a department store is that the former has carpets on the floor and the latter has none.”

“Being chic was not only created “on the Continent” but it fundamentally can only flourish in that unhurried atmosphere. It takes a background of leisured people with secure bankrolls who don’t have or want to worry about what’s going on at the office, to produce chic and keep it alive. It takes large houses, in town and in country, with plenty of servants who run everything smoothly, without requiring too many orders.”

“I’ve seen some quite good designers come and go because they couldn’t scream loud enough to attract attention, and had no money to pay someone else to do it for them.”

Evening Dress

On Fashion vs. Style:

“Fashion is a mystery because it’s something which developed with no relation to the public taste or need. Sometimes, if it is highly enough promoted, a fashion gets by for a short time. Sometimes a fashion turns out to be amusing, like tying a handkerchief around your head instead of wearing a hat. That, in fact, threatens to become a style. It is so simple and practical.”

“We have an assortment of stylish women and girls in America and are developing more…They are perfectly sure of themselves and their positions, their clothes and their friends. They are not often photographed or written about.”

“[the fashionable woman] is a large part of the middle class with some money to spend on clothes, and most of the nouveau riche with plenty of money to throw around. She tries to be chic and misses. Nobody ever told her about style. She’s fashionable, God help her.”

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This month Spectacle theater is showing both parts of Fritz Lang’s epic epic Die Nibelungen - Part I: Siegfried, full of dwarf treasure, heros and dragons, and the very aptly named Part II – Kriemhild’s Revenge, in which you get exactly what the title promises. Both halves are visually gorgeous, with vast sets recreating Iceland’s sunny midnights, deep caves filled with treasure, and the roving kingdom of the Mongol hordes. Add on top of that dazzling costumes done in full-on German Expressionist style with a hint of Medieval modeling, and you have what I want to wear the rest of my life. Behold the glory that is the outfits in Die Nibelungen!

If the name sounds familiar, Die Nibelungen is based on the same source material Wagner’s Ring Cycle operas came from, the epic poem Nibelungenlied. The basic gist of the movie is hunky and surprisingly shirtless hero, Siegfried, goes around being boss at everything and winning kingdoms and treasures left and right. And yet, he still wants more. Hearing tales of the beauty of Burgundian princess Kriemhild, he vows to marry her. En route to Burgundy he incurs the wrath of the dwarf king, who promises Siegfried his vast treasure trove in exchange for not being slain, then gets slain anyway when he tries to kill Siegfried while Siegfried’s distracted by shiny things. As he dies the dwarf king curses his treasure to bring woe and death to whoever has it (this theme was emphasized more heavily by Wagner). Still, Siegfried gets a treasure (cursed or no) and the dwarf king’s magic veil that turns you into whatever you want, or invisible. It’s magic; it can do what it wants.

Siegfried shows up at the castle and declares his intent to the Burgundians. What a coincidence, he wants to marry the King’s sister, King Gunter wants to marry Brunhild, the Icelandic warrior queen whose hand must be won by beating her at three challenges, if you can even manage to get to her stone fortress in the middle of her fire field. Siegfried’s great at that stuff! So, off they go to win the queen. Brunhild is a clear favorite of mine and not just because of her amazing headgear:

Picture 2

 (SO RAD.)

…but also because she takes no guff. Her challenge is to THE DEATH, so if suitors show up they best come correct.  Unfortunately King Gunther’s as hard as Haagen Daas on a hot day, so he has Siegfried turn invisible and win the challenges for him. Brunhild rightly suspects foul play, but they’re already on the amazing swan-ship back to King Gunther’s court, so too late!

wedding inspo

 Siegfried and Kriemhild all lovey-dovey in amazing white tunics and zig-zag accessories.

A double-wedding takes place, but King Gunther’s having trouble in the bedroom. In that whenever he steps in his wife easily beats the crap out of him. He asks Siegfried if he could be a pal and beat Brunhild into submission. Siegfried dons the magic veil and, in the guise of the King subdues her, accidentally snagging her bracelet on his cloak in the process. Later, Kriemhild finds the bracelet and pops it on.
awesome necklace

 Plotting never looked so good. Check out that metal necklace.

Brunhild, still suspicious about the king and Siegfried, decides to pull rank at church. Donning the Queen’s Jewels (which, as new queen she has a right to wear) she marches in looking amaaaaaaaazing and blocks Kriemhild from going in before her since she thinks Siegfried’s just a lowly vassal. SHE IS QUEEEEEEEN!

amazing jewelry

BAM. Also: those earrings.

 Kriemhild’s not about to take this lying down; Siegfried’s got about 12 kingdoms at this point and no way this outlander’s going to push her around. Things reach a boiling point and then…Brunhild sees her bracelet on Kriemhild’s arm. ABSOLUTE PROOF it was Siegfried and not her husband who subdued her. Brunhild flips out and DEMANDS REVENGE. When her wuss of a husband’s all ‘eeeehhhh…’ she says Siegfried didn’t just subdue her, he deflowered her. Shit just got real.

 

queen rage This. Entire. Outfit.

Various shenanigans result in Siegfried getting killed by the King and his bird-hatted Man-At-Arms Hagen.

that hat

insert your own Freebird joke here.

A shocked vassal sees Siegfried’s body and runs to tell Kriemhild. She immediately realizes Hagen’s responsible and demands retribution.

gasp i look greatShocked…at how good-looking that tunic is?

Unfortunately Gunther decides now is the time for honor and defending friends, and refuses to turn Hagen over.  Brunhild laughingly telling the king she lied so he’d kill his best friend, then runs off to commit suicide next to Siegfried’s body. THAT IS WHAT YOU GET FOR MESSING WITH BRUNHILD. And that’s not even the worst of the womanly wrath in this tale, no.  Now it’s time for….KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE!

queen ice grill

YESSSS.

wedding inspo 1

The movie opens with Kriemhild mourning her husband’s death, spending all day looking absolutely fabulous in his tomb and giving away the Nibelungen treasure begging her people not to forget her husband was murdered by a man still walking free. Rightly angry her entire family’s defending her husband’s murderer, Kriemheld sees the perfect opportunity for revenge when Attila the Hun proposes to her. She says yes, on the condition he help her kill Hagen.

 wedding realness

Note she’s gone from white to black, from  simple, light, and open crown to a heavy, weighty chunk of metal. Even her braids are wrapped in black! Kriemhild is all set for VENGEANCE!

 

work it girlsLooking fabulous, ladies.

Her brother the King’s nervous about her impending nuptials, suspecting it probably has something to do with her blinding, all-consuming need for avenging her husband’s wrongful death. Kriemhild joins Attila in his distant kingdom, and so begins her long-term plan to exact revenge. Also look at that outfit. Damn right those two guys bow down to her.

damn right you bow before me

 

There’s plenty of plotting, planning, promises held to and broken, all leading to an epic, fiery vengeance in which none are spared, but LOOK AT THAT CROWN/NECKLACE. That thing must weigh 50lbs and looks absolutely worth the slipped discs!

queenly jewels

 

If you like Metropolis, or Lord of the Ring, I cannot recommend either movie enough. They’re lush, beautiful fantasies, with the latter a bitter meditation on vengeance destroying the avenger as well as their targets. Spectacle is showing both movies back to back in an operatic-style screening (with intermission) Sunday, July 28th. Read more about it here. 

 

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Sites like Pinterest and Polyvore mostly bore me because pretty things bore me. Scary things? Gory things? Things so gloriously beauteous they’re painful to behold? Great! Sign me up. But ‘cute’ and ‘pretty’ are often synonyms for ‘safe’ and ‘inoffensive’, and after scrolling through pages of babies or puppies or cupcakes trying to find something of interest, everything blurs into a dull pastel smear and I just can’t pay attention. Polyvore’s even duller because the focus is fashion, wearable objects, and mostly ones from established designers. They’ve tricked the consumer into doing the heavy lifting of advertising, for nothing more than the possibility of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ that just further advertise. I’m sure it’s lots of fun rearranging outfits; it’s the modern paper doll, but the only thing more boring than puppies is fashion, unless you’re reaching for Leigh Bowery levels of wearable art.

AND SO IT IS! A very small segment of Polyvore does indeed seem less interested in Kate Spade bags and cool points and far more interested in messing with the very concept of fashion as passive consumer purchase. Rebecca Jane Stokes’ ‘Get This Look’ series for The Hairpin is the ne plus ultra, with concepts outside the realm of ‘traditional’ inspiration which still lend themselves to some amazing outfits (the Hamburglar and Swans are two favorites).

GTL - Swan

Amazing, not just ‘pretty’.
 
Then there’s sets like this Itchy and Scratchy ‘outfit’, capturing inspiration without a single wearable item and completely circumventing Polyvore’s intended use:

itchy and scratchy

 

…Or this collage of ‘babies’:

All Babies Look Alike

 

User Frank Ocean’s turned arbitration of taste via outfit into personal confession with their sets:

sold my house todai ? ? ?

 

anger fucking management

 

eW MERLIN

 
Then there’s turning away from fashion as constant reinvention of self and embracing it as embodiment of beloved personality. Sort of similar to how fans of anime draw any/every character/historical figure/inanimate object into anime style, but less irritating. And how could you stay mad at these?
 

Untitled #653

 

Untitled #660

 

FCDC 12/50- Joel Robinson

 

FCDC 4/50- Mike Nelson

 
(That they made a set for both Joel and Mike made my week.)
 

Riff On This: The TORGO Collection

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Of the last few crops of Youth it’s been lamented their plundering of the increasingly immediate past for inspiration paints a grim future where we simply run out of ideas. The 80s took from the 50s. The 90s looked to the 70s. The 00s referenced the 80s. And now in the Teens, kids born after 9/11 wear Nevermind shirts and ‘The Mind’s Eye’ is cutting edge design. Remember ‘The Mind’s Eye’? You might have seen it playing behind Rihanna’s SNL performance recently:


(kidding, but man, this and MYST – is your bran reeling with dissonance remembering this as ULTRA CUTTING EDGE! and seeing it now? If so, congratulations- you’re over 30.)

There is a corresponding positive view that once the snake finally eats itself into nothingness, once we completely mine our immediate past, we’ll be left with nothing but the present and from there, off to a bright and shiny future. Well, perhaps not so bright and shiny; if Disney’s current ‘House of Tomorrow’ teaches anything, it’s that past optimism about the amazing potential of the future has been replaced by a desperate vision of ‘the present plus unasked-for electronics’. From plastic houses on Mars to talking picture frames and presetting music to blast on whenever you enter a room.

The current crop seems to take only optimism from the early 90s, which seems strange only in hindsight. Grunge may have just hit the public consciousness, but the music was the product of late 80s job stagnation and political frustration brewing in a scene for years, then finally breaking through. Bright colors, goofiness, naïvete – the early 90s saw the beginning of the dotcom boom and innovation in every artistic field, especially television and music. What better icon to epitomize the era than Bart Simpson,a mix of irreverence, bravado and hidden insecurity?

Current young designers like ALL Knitwear and Dusen Dusen fully embrace this eye-bright style- late 80s garish excessiveness transmuted by genuine energy and talent into something at once more playful and subversive. Think ‘Pee-Wee’s Playhouse’, ‘The Simpsons’, ‘Sam and Max’, and ‘ToeJam & Earl’.

I’ve written about ‘Toejam & Earl’ before, and realize it’s a bit out of its league in terms of changing the visual landscape for future generations like the other examples, but still- here is a game with little violence, lots of goofiness, and very low stakes. Perhaps a generation’s desire to return to the false idyll of childhood, where stakes felt lower, motivates the current interest in these visuals.

And so, once again taking the extremely scenic route, here sampled are some of those bright and happy images calling up the hopeful future the original generation is currently living (in all its mixed results), and the younger generation still reaching for.

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