Primaries!

September 6th, 2012

My topic is the change in women’s identity between 1940 and 1955 via fashion. I chose to look at this social change through fashion because fashion is a great at providing a visual representation of the times and especially at how women were and forced/wanted to be viewed. I chose the 40s to the 50s because not only is the change in fashion silhouettes drastic but also the change in women’s roles was large.

My primary sources include magazine articles from Life magazine and newspaper articles from The New York Times (from approx. 1940-1955). Both publications are and were written for the general public, which includes both the average American and the wealthy “fifth avenue” class.

I also have a book (that I still need to look through more–just got in the mail yesterday) that is a collection of primaries sources (magazine articles) about gender roles and popular culture.

These articles will help me first visually see what the fashion of the day was. Second, they describe what the inspiration behind the looks were. Lastly, they help me see if women embraced any new styles that were launched.

Primaries:

“Fashion Designers Find New Style Ideas in Navy.” LIFE, October 28, 1940, 83.

  • Gives a good first look at how women’s fashion was becoming more and more inspired by war uniforms and menswear. In this article, the look is Navy based, so you see the button, and the prominent lines and corners and although the picture is black and white, the colors were most likely white and dark blue. What this also means though is that women were being seen as less inferior to men since they could dress in a similar fashion.

“Paris Makes Fashion Comeback.” LIFE, April 1, 1946, 25.

  •  Paris is and has always been one of the world’s fashion capitals so in 1946, after war ended (in 1945) they decided it was time to bring fashion back to world. Fabric, materials, and buttons has all been rationed during the war, so as Paris rebuilt itself it wanted to set the trend (and set fashion trends) towards a more luxurious lifestyle. This is how Dior came up with adding length and fullness to women’s skirts. He was able to use much more fabric since the rations had been lifted.

“Queen Elizabeth brings 2,258 here: Manuilsky, Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Other Notables Among Passengers,” New York Times, 1947.

  • This small fashion article is cited so, because it acts as a side note to a larger one about a ship coming into US port. The fashion side note is Dior response to those US women who outwardly dislike his 1947 “New Look”. They object to his longer skirt  (that comes down to the lower calf and ankle) and exaggerated hourglass figure he creates by bringing the waistline in significantly on bodices because they limit mobility, making them more dependent on the men in their lives. Furthermore, Dior’s new look is more expensive than the styles of wartime. Wartime styles had skirts that hit right below knee and gave more room in the shoulders and waist to move in. Dior, however, believes his designs make women look me feminine and that men will like that better.

“Fall Fashions.” LIFE, September 22, 1947, 115-125.

  • The fall fashion review in this issue of Life gives great explanations and pictures on what the new fashion was. The majority  of the article showcases American designers whose new lines mimic those of Dior in Paris. Following the styles are small bits that say how women on Fifth Avenue (in NYC) enjoy the new feminine look. Those women tend to be younger and wealthy and trend followers. Women over on Main Street (NYC) do not embrace the new look and criticize its price tag.

“Christian Dior Cuts Skirt Length In Move Disrupting Couture World: New Line of Paris Designer Hailed by Critics — Gowns End 14 to 15 Inches Above Floor, Barely Covering Wearer’s Calf,” New York Times 1948.

  • One year after dropping hemlines drastically, Dior, as the title states, raises the hemlines back up to 14 to 15 inches above the floor which barely covers the calf. The amount of the material did not decrease though. The skirts got shorter but also got fuller further enhancing the hourglass shape.

“Topics of The Times”. New York, N.Y., United States, 1953.

  • Dior has shorter the hemlines now up to the knee, giving women a greater sex appeal. The problem with the skirts now, at this length and still at their fullness is that women have an even harder time performing daily activities and husbands are getting tired of their wives not being able to for example, buy and cook and serve fresh produce. Cans are much easier to handle while in the clothing that is marketed for the women in the early 50s. One major difference now, as the 50s are well on their way is that women all around the US are embracing this look and following fashion more closely. Even Main Street women are replacing their old styles with new ones seasonally.

Women’s Magazines 1940-1960: Gender Roles and the Popular Press. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1998.    –(Collection of Primaries)

  • Odds and ends articles from various magazines that will provide more details about women’s sentiments toward the new fashion styles and how those styles affected the way men saw them.

 

In my presentation and paper I plan on definitely using direct quotes from these articles and connect them better with the addition of secondary sources to give a better picture and overall story to my topic.

Why am I a History major?

August 27th, 2012

I am  a history major because I enjoy analyzing progressions. The past to me is like another world that I can explore. From  the big events, to the everyday ideals and even to what the fashion was in that day and time fascinates me.

Although Iron Man has a cool suit, and although the Hulk is green, and although Thor speaks like a Shakespearean, I find myself fond of Captain America. He is a 1940’s man living in the present. He has an entirely different perspective on the world and how to save it and only understands flying monkey references.

Similarly, I often wonder what it would be like to live in different eras…so needless to say the movie, Midnight in Paris was right up my alley.

Lastly, I’m a history major because history is a bunch of stories folded up into a one huge story that keeps on going and so even if I become uninterested in a certain topic or era or place, I can switch to another era.


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