Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Tango Collection, Outfits #1 and #2

Here, finally, are some photos of my first two tango outfits inspired by the Vanity Fair covers dating from 1915 and 1916. This first one is the black dress from the July 1916 cover. I modified several features of the dress - instead of three bands at the side I've replaced these by one wider band at the top of the side section - this is designed to cover the bra strap. I also worked out a system of snaps and eyelet fastenings to allow the dress to be put on and taken off. I am VERY happy with the results - shown here on my young woman friend Myriam who was my model at the tango conference as well. The design is quite unusual because it is strongly asymetrical front and back, even at the lower hem area. It reminds me a little of a French maid's uniform.

You can also see how the side slits function in this second photo. The dress as a whole was made using black rayon with a jacquard type floral motif embedded within it, and accessorized with a black and white striped cotton scarf I found at a local import boutique.

A second outfit, shown below, consists of a variation on the harem pants showcased on the January 1915 Vanity Fair cover, along with a blouse I designed to go with the pants. I made these fall to midcalf, and gave them cuffs out of silk charmeuse that make them very elegant. The pants themselves were made from silk organza, and the top from silk charmeuse. Note the sleeves which are left more or less open, another feature that makes this outfit interesting for tango dancing. I bought another cotton scarf used here around the waist to finsih the overall look of the outfit.

Has Corsetry Really Disappeared?

I have been reading an absolutely fascinating account about the history of corsetry : "The Corset, A Cultural History" by Valerie Steele. Ms. Steele argues that the corset was a primary foundation garment for women's fashion (although also for men to some extent) for over 400 years until its apparent disappearance at the beginning of the 20th century, despite controversy that existed almost from its beginnings. The corset did not "disappear" because of arguments over health, since such arguments were present almost from the time of its introduction in the late 15th century, nor because of the feminist movement per se. Therefore, she suggests that corsets served a range of needs for it to have survived so long.

She further argues that the corset, or the needs it served, hasn't really disappeared. We've replaced the "answer" to these needs in other ways - through plastic surgery, diets and a focus on exercise, all aimed to "trim" the figure towards our cultural ideals of beauty, and through a range of bras including the reintroduction in the 1960s of the "push-up bra", which filled a function formally served by the corset. In some ways, plastic surgery is as draconian a response (and as controversial!) as was the tight-laced corset, not to speak of the pain and sacrifice that result from many dieting regimes. She notes that if the corset itself was less present in the 20th century, the girdle was still a main shape-influencing element until the 1950s and 1960s, and following the decline of the girdle, the corset has begun to enter into fashion again, both as an outer and an inner garment, and to some extent also for men.

If the corset is controversial today, this is in line with its long history of controversy. Fascinating!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Twitter World

I've just ventured into the world of Twitter, finally, after having heard about it for many months (my handle is "gedwoods" if you're interested). Any new environment always takes time and energy to learn, and Twitter is no exception. However, having been through several such learning cycles on Web2.0 (or is it 3.0 now?) - mySpace, Facebook, Second Life, flickr, BurdaStyle, etc., this one was not as difficult as I expected. I do find both a charm to Twitter, and a certain level of utility. Following some individuals as they recount their experiences over a day has a certain level of fascination, as does sharing some of my own. In addition, I can keep better track of fashion trends, technology trends, and certain socio-economic trends that interest me than I can via other means - who has time to read through more than a few blogs at any one time? Somehow, Twitter seems to offer a way of accessing and filtering the blogosphere... in a contextually interesting way.

I'm now thinking through next steps for my sewing projects. I have to organize a photo shoot for my tango clothes. I've some projects to finish, but also several new ones I'd like to start (sigh). I need to balance old and new, otherwise I get stuck and lose interest. Finding the right balance is not particularly easy!