fashion

Most people, men anyway, think that it is only women who are fashion conscious to a fault. While many women are very fashion conscious, so are many men, and the fashions that some of the men wore can be just as dangerous. When fashion consists of the wearing of articles of clothing or accessories that have the ability to cause death or injury, we are in danger of sacrificing too much in the name of fashion.

Some fashions do no harm, but looking back on them, we can see just how silly they looked. Nevertheless, powdered wigs were in fashion for men in several different centuries. Long hair was considered a show of status, for both men and women over the years. In ancient Greece, long male hair was a symbol of wealth and power, while a shaven head was appropriate for a slave. The problem occurred when the person, usually the men, but women too, had thinning hair. If their social status depended on that hair, they would need a way to fix the problem when it did not exist. The powdered wig helped with that, and some men wore their wigs in very elaborate styles. In the 1760s, aristocratic British men donned large wigs with a small hat or feather at the top. The young men who took up this fashion trend reportedly brought it back from their “Grand Tour” across Continental Europe in which they intended to “deepen cultural knowledge.” The style is, in fact, named after the Italian pasta dish…macaroni, signifying sophistication and worldliness. It is here that we get the song many of us have wondered about called, “Yankee Doodle,” the lyrics of which pointed out that the feather on top was supposedly called macaroni.

The shoes of the men have taken some strange turns as well. Known as the Poulaine, this super long shoe reigned supreme with men across Europe in the late 14th century. The shoes, called Crakow were named after Krákow, Poland because they were introduced to England by the Polish nobles. Once the shoes were seen at court, they became all the rage…even though the shoes were six to twenty four inches long. I’m sure you are thinking to yourself, “Who would be crazy enough to wear these?” Well, I’ll tell you that current styles (or maybe just a year or so in the past) saw women, and men too, wearing shoes that had an extra long pointed toe, so it isn’t just an oddity of 14th century Britain. The shoes were a quick indicator of social status…the longer the shoe, the higher the wearer’s station. Some of these shoes were so long that chains were sometimes strung from the toe of the Crakow to the knee to allow the wearer to walk. Other times the toes were stuffed with material for the same reason, making the toes stiff. The strange shoes were considered ridiculous, vain, and dangerous by many conservatives and church leaders, who called them “devil’s fingers.”

In the 19th century, men began wearing detachable collars, that were heavily starched until they were quite stiff. While the collars didn’t look all that odd, they could be deadly. Because they were so heavily starched, taken to the extreme of the collar being nearly unbendable, and because they were attached with a singular or pair of studs, the collar could slowly asphyxiate a man, if he fell asleep or passed out while drinking. It had a similar effect to a cord being wrapped tightly around the poor man’s neck. Another dangerous aspect of the collar was its pointed corners. A Saint Louis man, wearing one of these collars, tripped in the street and the pointed corners of the collar jabbed into this throat, “making two ugly gashes.” If the gash happened to be in the vicinity of the Jugular vein, death could come quite quickly. These collars were so lethal, in fact, that they were known as “the father killer.” I can only imagine how many women and children pleaded with their husbands or fathers not to wear the collar, which maybe should have been called the choker.

I can understand the need of people to have a certain fashion sense, as I am also one who likes to look up to date and to have a good fashion sense too, but people really need to also consider their own safety when it comes to style. It pays to listen to others who might know something about this certain idea of fashion, that could not only benefit you, but possibly save your life.

Women have always had an eye for fashion, but I can’t say that having an “eye” for fashion, is the same as having common sense for fashion. In the Victorian era, Bottle-green dresses were all the rage. I understand the love of the color green, and how a beautiful emerald green might be a coveted color. The problem occurs with the process of obtaining that color. The process used to achieve this lovely shade of green involved the fabric being dyed using large amounts of arsenic…yes, rat poison!! Some women suffered nausea, impaired vision, and skin reactions to the dye. They endured the suffering because the dresses were only worn on special occasions, thereby limiting exposure to the arsenic in the fabric. By contrast, it was the garment makers were the real sufferers. Many of them became very ill and even died to bring this trend to the fashionable set.

Another crazy style was known as Panniers, which comes from the French word “panier,” meaning “basket.” These were popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. The look involved a boxed petticoat to expanded the width of skirts and dresses. The contraption stood out on either side of the waistline…straight out!! Panniers varied in size and were made of whalebone, wood, metal, and sometimes reeds. Extremely large panniers were worn mostly on special occasions and reflected the wearer’s social status. Even the servants wore them, though in a much smaller version. Two women couldn’t walk through an entrance at the same time or sit on a couch together, because their panniers took up an entire extra seat or more. The device was also uncomfortable, limiting movement and activity.

In the 1910s, French designer Paul Poiret, who was well known as “The King of Fashion” in America, debuted the hobble skirt. The long, close-fitting skirts forced women who wore them to adopt mincing, tiny steps. True, Poiret’s design liberated women from heavy petticoats and constricting corsets. But as he said, “Yes, I freed the bust. But I shackled the legs.” This makes me wonder why women allow their fashion ideas to come from men…who don’t have to wear the clothes they design. Some of these “fashions” were enough to make a woman faint, because her corset was too tight, and she could not get sufficient air.

During the Roaring ’20s, women no longer wanted the hourglass shape. Now the style was the boyish flapper figure. Underwear had to change to assist in this new look, and women who were “busty,” had a big problem and the underwear needed a big overhaul. The goal of every undergarment was to flatten the breasts and torso, so that flapper dresses could hang straight down without any curvaceous interruptions. Corset-makers R. and W.H. Symington invented a garment, the Symington Side Lacer, that would flatten the breasts. The wearer would slip the garment over her head and pull the straps and side laces tight to smooth out curves. Other manufacturers designed similar devices. The Miracle Reducing Rubber Brassiere was “scientifically designed without bones or lacings,” while the Bramley Corsele combined the brassiere and corset into one piece that easily layered under dresses. I wonder how anyone could breathe in these prisons known as underwear.

The Crinoline, also known as the hoop skirt, was a bell-shaped device that pushed the volume of skirts to an extreme degree. Worn in the 1800s by Victorian women, Crinolines were originally petticoats made of linen stiffened with horsehair. Wonderful…now we are wearing horsehair under our skirts. This created a big problem. It was just too hot with so many petticoats. Later, the invention of the steel cage crinoline offered the same voluminous look without the extra heat and bulk of thick petticoats. These undergarments were clumsy and hard to control, but they were also dangerous. In 1858, a young woman in Boston died when her large skirt caught embers from a fireplace in her parlor and went up in flames. It all happened to fast to save her. Nineteen such deaths occurred in a two-month period. That is a heavy price to pay in the name of fashion.

And then, there was the “Grecian bend,” the Victorian bustle. It arrived on the scene in the 1870s. The earliest version of this trend simply featured excess fabric gathered and draped at the back of a dress. Eventually, though, skirts were puffed up with large cushions filled with straw. Ladies who wore them ended up with exaggerated figures with outthrust hindquarters. The bustle was frequently a target of ridicule. This style reminds me of the “padded seat” of modern day leggings, though the modern day version isn’t quite so exaggerated. In 1868, Laura Redden Searing, using the pen name Howard Glyndon, wrote about the agony young women put themselves through for fashion in the New York Times, “If you knew the Spartan courage which is required to go through an ordeal of this sort for two or three hours at a time, you would not wonder that she has not an idea left in her head after her daily display is over,” she said. Hahahaha!! That sounds reasonable to me.

My niece, Jenny Spethman is a sweet lady with a heart of gold. She is always kind to others and always wears a smile. This mom of four (plus one baby in Heaven) just never loses her hopeful joyous attitude. She greets each day…very early, often before the sunrise, so she can commune with God before the rush of activity that goes along with four active children and a busy husband. She relishes the beauty that God has created for those whose will rise up early. She looks for the beautiful things in God’s nature, in her family, and in her own heart, and she always finds them.

Jenny has such a flair for style, and she can see an outfit where the rest of us see a dud. She mixes a little of this style with a little of that style, and it comes out stunning…always stunning. Maybe it’s the girl wearing the outfit that makes the outfit, in fact, I believe that is the true fact of the matter. I wish I had her flair for putting things together, because no one ever has the same outfit as Jenny does, and yet she is always in style. Her little girl, Aleesia has also benefitted from her mom’s great style, because she always looks so cute in her outfits, and she is always in style too.

Jenny is a true blue friend. No matter what her friends might need, they can count on Jenny to be there…through the good, bad, and the ugly. And because she is a true friend, Jenny has ben blessed with some really good friends too. Jenny’s personality draws people to her and everyone wants to be Jenny’s friend. That is a gift. I think people can see kindness in a person, and that makes that person someone they want to be around. I think that is really what drew her husband, Steve Spethman to her in the first place. They were friends before anything else, and they remain best friends to this day. Of course, for anyone who has been married a long time, you know that friendship is the cornerstone of a good marriage…and without it, the marriage is already on shaky ground.

Jenny has been so blessed with three wonderful sons, who are growing up to be good young men. She was also blessed with two daughters, one of which is in Heaven waiting for the day she can see her mom and dad again, and the other is a source of laughter and joy to them every day on this Earth. For Jenny, everyday is another day in a wonderful life. Today is Jenny’s birthday. Happy birthday Jenny!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Alice GreenLove my little sisterMy great grand niece, Alice Green is a delightful little girl with a variety of things that capture her interest. As a little girl of just four years, life is just now unfolding for Alice, and she finds most of it exciting. This past year found Alice attending preschool. Alice totally blossomed during her time in preschool. She loves to count, and making new friends is a big plus too. I think sending Alice to preschool might have been hard on her mom, Melanie Harman though. It’s hard to let your little one head out into the world, I know, because it was hard for me. You just can’t believe that they are old enough to go somewhere without you, but Alice showed her mom that she was ready, and preschool has been great fun for Alice.

This last year also found Alice getting ready for some big changes in her life. Her mom married my grand nephew, Jake Harman, and they gave Alice something she has totally loved…her little sister, Izabella. Alice loves being a big sister. I think having a sibling is something Alice has wanted for quite some time. She mostly likes to entertain her little sister, but there will come a day, when Alice is more than just a playmate for Izabella. Older sisters are the role model for their younger sisters. They are looked at for everything from fashion style to makeup to boys. It’s a big job, but I think Alice will be up to the task.

In fact, Alice has been practicing her superhero skills already. She absolutely loves Superman. Alice doesn’t Patriotic GirlAlice & Izabellecare about being Superman’s girlfriend either, because in reality, while Lois Lane was pretty and all, she was not the superhero…Superman was. That just isn’t what Alice has in mind. She wants to be superman. I suppose that some people would say that she can’t, but in years gone by, girls weren’t allowed to play certain sports, and now they can. So, I can say if Alice wants to be Superman, I think she can do it. Today is Alice’s 4th birthday…one she shares with her new grandpa, Dave Balcerzak, and Alice thinks that’s just perfect. Happy birthday Alice!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Mindy GrosvenorA couple of years ago, I friended Mindy and Missy Grosvenor on Facebook. They are my  first cousins once removed, but I didn’t know them very well, because I didn’t see them very often. Over the past couple of years, however, the relationship I have with the twins has completely changed. I have been treated to their special kind of humor and their wonderful personalities. The girls love kids, and they work in their mom’s daycare, babysitting, among others, their nieces and nephew…the children of their sister, Melodie and her husband, Brian. These girls have such a sweetness about them, that I can imagine that they are wonderful with the children. The girls are very kindhearted, and they have a great sense of humor. While they are a little shy, they get over that once they get to know you…and since I’m shy too, I can fully relate to shyness. Nevertheless, I doubt that they are shy around the children.

When they aren’t taking care of children, Mindy and Missy like to spend time at the mall, shopping and people watching, which is a pastime many of us like. You can get great fashion ideas, as well as seeing bad fashion things to laugh about, at the mall, and then find the very store to buy what you saw. Of course, there are very few places where you can go and have your face painted, but Mindy and Missy are young at heart, so they found a place recently, and had beautiful butterflies painted on their cheek. I like butterflies too, so I especially like that. The girls like to go to the movies too, and my mom; sister, Cheryl; niece, Jessi; and I recently ran into them when we were all going to see “The Christmas Candle” at Studio City. We all Missy Grovenorenjoyed the movie very much, and it was very nice to see the girls.

Missy and Mindy are the first of several sets of twins in our family, and so were a novelty for a while. It would be a number of years before another set of twins arrived. I always thought twins was such a cool thing…like twice as nice, I guess. I often thought it would have been cool to have a set of my own, but that was not to be, so I’m glad that I have been able to get to know these girls. That way I can share in the whole twin thing…a little bit anyway. Today is Mindy and Missy’s birthday. Happy birthday girls!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

I love looking at my family’s old pictures. It makes me  wonder about the way things were in years past. One of the things that stands out to me is the clothing. Kids of all generations think that the clothes they wear are totally new fashion, and I suppose some of it was, but like it or not, there really is no new thing under the sun. The styles of today, were once the styles of yesteryear. Everything from long skirts, to pants, to mini skirts, to shorts has been worn before. It is so strange to look back, and see styles that girls have worn in the very recent past or even today, showing up in the 1800’s or the early 1900’s. In fact, I was amazed to see girls in either a mini skirt or a skirted bathing suit, with heels on. Now is the 1800’s, there would have been a name for girls like that, but in the 1920’s, after World War I ended, and the flapper came into being, the attitude in this country was so festive, that things were allowed that had not been very acceptable in times past.

When I think back on my own fashion statements as a kid, the jeans went from straight legged to bells, to big bells. They went from tight, to skinny, to bells that started at the top of the tight. We also went from Capri’s to shorts, to never wearing shorts, and from never wearing plaid to plaid was totally in style. Skirts went from long to midi to mini. And with each change, we were certain that we had started a totally new trend. Even some of the really outlandish trends of today are not originals. The really low cut pants the boys wear today, were actually started in men’s prisons, to let the other prisoners know that the convict was “open for business” if you can believe it. That in itself would make me refuse to wear that style…how about you? And of course, what girl hasn’t been told that she needs to leave something to the imagination, and yet in some of the eras of the past, showing more than half of the bosom was not only accepted, but the only fashion there was for women to wear!!

So, would we be shocked if someone came into a room is a style from the past, or would we not even notice, because they fit right in. I like to think that showing half of the bosom would shock us, but then we are used to men showing half of the butt these days. So, would we be surprised? I think we might not. In my opinion, the only thing that might surprise anyone, would be if the person was dressed up too much, not how much they were showing. A girl in high school wearing a lacy dress, with a high collar, and mid-length skirt would undoubtedly bring stares from all those around her. Styles do change, and we must change with them to a degree, or at the very least, learn to live with the latest fashion statements that each new generations is bound to come up with…or resurrect.

Long before there was such a thing as a Diva, my niece Chantel was one. That little girl posed for every shot of the camera, and even if no one was taking a picture. It was just second nature to her. She was posing before she could walk. Chantel was a teeny little girl, who still only stands 4’10” and she is a mom. So those days she was just the cutest little Diva there ever was.

It’s funny how some people are just born with style, and they really don’t worry about the current trends, they just wear what they like. That was and always has been how Chantel is, and since she is a fashionista, she need not worry about it anyway. I must admit, however, that when she was younger, her idea of fashion was a little different than what I would have worn, but that is probably pretty normal, considering that I am her aunt, and not the same age or even close.

There was also the whole game of dress up, which we all know little girls love to play, and those outfits, like this one, can be pretty comical…especially the wearing of the adults glasses or sunglasses. They look for funny on those little teeny faces, but as we all know, they are the finishing touch to the whole ensemble!! And what outfit is complete without the heels. I mean really, a girl has to look amazing for her adoring fans…right!! And if you are liked Chantel, who is very short, those heels help put you in the height category of the big kids…very important, you know!!

Chantel will always be one of those people who doesn’t even have to try to take a great picture. It all just comes naturally to her. She is very photogenic, and enjoys having her picture taken too. Yes, Chantel always was and always will be a fashion diva, and that’s ok with us.

So many things that were popular items when I was young and when my kids were young, are now coming back into style. When you are young, you think that the things that are the “newest and hottest” of the day have never been seen before, and sometimes that is true. Computer technology and other such technological items, are probably totally new and your grandparents or more likely your great grandparents had no idea they could exist.

Other things don’t work quite the same way. Fashion is something that really is a “what goes around comes around” item. In my lifetime I have seen the mini, midi, and maxi skirts. I’ve worn big bell, boot cut, straight leg and skinny jeans. Of course, there are hot pants, short shorts, knee length shorts, and Capris, or as we called them when I was little…Petal Pushers. Many of these items will sound familiar to you, as they are still in style or back in style. I suppose it would be hard to continually come up with clothing styles that have never been used before. So they add new prints or colors and present as new, an old style, and every young person thinks, “Wow, this is totally cool and unique!!” But, we know that they are simply recycled, and I remember the days.

This recycling of the old that is presented as new doesn’t stop with fashion. Toys seem to have the same life cycle. Remember the Cabbage Patch Dolls and Strawberry Shortcake. Some toys are always in style, like GI Joe, and Hot Wheels, but some like Cabbage Patch Dolls and Strawberry Shortcake have been archived for a time, only to be pulled out of the box, dusted off, and presented to a whole new group of excited kids. I remember Corrie and Amy and their Cabbage Patch Dolls. They were delighted with them, so when they came back, it was even exciting to me! It doesn’t get better than that for a toy…does it?

Everyone who has been around a while can say that they have seen or used something that went out of style, and now has come back. We know the excitement in the eyes of our kids, while being able to think, “Oh yes, I remember the days!”

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