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Monday, December 22, 2014

Entirely & Enjoyably Extra: The Holiday Hat

This time of year is filled with many festive celebrations. These various holiday parties have long been accompanied by special, and often new, ensembles - maybe a suit or evening dress. Or, as a 1951 issue of Vogue suggests: "New December Hats."

From Vogue:
It happens every year, just about now. The urge to spend just a dab of money for something new, something fetching, something entirely and enjoyably extra. So we thought - how about this? The little hat (that maybe isn't even that) with only one serious purpose: to make you look prettier (p. 141).

The cover and inside of the December 1951 issue of Vogue.

This hat might have been a subdued pillbox, like the one below (right). Black satin forms stylized flowers around its sideband. This structured, brimless style of hat was introduced in the 1920s and became particularly popular during the 1960s, being frequently worn by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Left: Turban, 1950-1959. Christian Dior [1905-1957]. Gift of Jack Morgan Wilson (1987.029.013). Right: Hat, 1950-1959. Gift of Mrs. John Gill (1984.016.004).

Or, perhaps Vogue readers would have donned a draped turban - like this black satin and fringe version from Christian Dior (center and left). The style has ancient beginning but also experienced popularity during the 1950s. A 1955 article in the Times suggests that Dior helped to incite this trend with a "Persian draped turban hat in...[a] silk brocade" (p. 10).

Hat, 1950-1959, Gift of Mrs. John Gill 1984.016.020.

More daring readers might have taken a slightly more literal approach to the holiday season - like this Christmas-tree shaped hat. While the green, Russian-net veil nods to other hats from this era, the rest of the hat certainly does not. Green leaves form the tree, which is decorated with everything from sequins to Santa, and other holiday iconography. In some respects, this hat-that's-not-shaped-like-a-hat is reminiscent of Elsa Schiaparelli's surrealist designs, especially her shoe hat (Winter 1937-38). A peek at the label inside reveals that it was sold by Harold, a former dress shop in downtown Minneapolis. One can only image what kind of party dress might have been worn with this unique hat.

New December Hats. (December, 1951). Vogue, pp. 140-141.
Picture Gallery. (September 1, 1955). Times. p. 10.
Shapiro, E. (1990). Many Small Clothiers Are Closing. The New York Times. Retrieved from

By Laureen Gibson

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Coatdress: Dressing for Success

"You can do anything you want in life if you dress for it."
- Edith Head, How to Dress for Success (1967)

The coatdress has been a staple of professional women's wardrobes since the 1960s. In fact, in the 1970s, it was often worn on-screen by Minnesota's most famous working girl, Mary Tyler Moore. While modern version of the garment emerged around 1915, it became particularly popular during the latter half of the century.

Bill Blass. Tweed Coatdress. 1960-1965. Gift of Dr. Albert J. Greenberg. 2003.052.011

The coatdress shares many features with outerwear, including front closures with buttons or zippers. While they are similar in silhouette to the shirtdress, the coatdress is generally made out of the same fabrics as outerwear - like the wool and tweed examples here. During the 1960s and 70s, the dress was often cinched at the waist with a coordinating belt, seen in the coatdress above from Bill Blass. The garment's flat, pointed collar was also a popular feature in women's wear during this period.

However, the silhouette shifted during the 1980s. The coatdress became both boxier and less tailored to the body. The noted shift is apparent in the version below from Yves Saint Laurent. The angular, padded shoulders and large notched lapels of this double-breasted dress mirror trends in contemporary blazers.

Yves Saint Laurent. Wool Coatdress. 1985-1989. Gift of Kathleen E. Campbell. 2001.056.001.

-Laureen Gibson

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Reading on Red Shoes

"And then she confessed all her sin, and the executioner struck off her feet with the red shoes; but the shoes danced away with the little feet across the field into the deep forest."

-Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes (1845)

Andersen's tale was adapted a century later into a ballet for the 1948 film The Red Shoes (shown above) and again in 2005 for a Korean horror film of the same name.

In Andersen's fairy tale, a pair of red shoes danced unrelentingly to punish a young girl for her vanity and material lust. Red shoes protected Dorothy and transported her home from Oz. There are a number of iconic red shoes in literature and film. However, their significances have differed, no doubt due to the varying meanings of the color red.

Red hearts and roses on Valentine's Day reflect its longstanding association with romantic love in Western culture. The color holds a significant place at ceremonies and celebrations around the world - from red carpets in Hollywood to red wedding ensembles for many brides in Asia. As the color of spilt blood, it also symbolizes courage and honorable sacrifice.

However, red has also been tied to the Roman god of war, Mars, signifying anger and violence. These hostile connotations persist with clich├ęs like seeing red. Red also signifies sin and seduction. The Book of Revelation foretells of the scarlet clad Whore of Babylon, "the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations of the Earth." Adulterous connotations continue with the scarlet "A" in Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel. Its association with licentious behavior endures today in red light districts.

GMD's Collection includes a number of red shoes from across numerous decades, like these 1940s pumps (1977.023.036a-b) and 1970s platforms (1978.030.010a-b).

The multifarious nature of red contributes to its recurring presence on the page and the screen, as well as in fashion. Even the shoe itself elicits multiple, often conflicting, meanings. The high heel is frequently seen as everything from an oppressive shackle, to a fetish, to a symbol of power. It is undoubtedly these complexities that entice the writer, the designer and the wearer, alike.

Laureen Gibson