Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Working Girl.

Okay, so... I know I've taken a little bit of a hiatus from blogging, a month to be exact, but the "moving back to Memphis, new job, and trying to settle" madness is behind me I promise I will be more diligent. Besides blogging, other things that I need to tend to are studying for the GRE (yuck....) and getting on top of editing my paper that will be submitted with my grad school apps in the fall. I thought bringing the topic of this paper into today's blog post would be a nice way to kick start everything :]

Working girls..
In today's society working women are more than common place. In fact if a woman isn't working it's usually because she married wealthy, is retired, or is under 15. Before the late 1800s, however, a woman's "sphere" was restricted to domestic settings. As the Industrial Revolution took off in America during the late 19th century, work opportunities for women outside of the home also rose. Factories and shops needed cheap labor and there were plenty of single, immigrant women in the urban communities across the east that needed to support themselves.

Most commonly these women are known for the hardships they experienced such as dire working conditions, meager pay, long work hours, and the danger they encountered in the factories, like the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911.* Historians like Kathy Peiss and Nan Enstad, however, have presented a different side of the story for these young women.

These young, single women made up a demographic that this country had never encountered before. The garment factories in which they worked were producing ready-to-wear fashions that they could afford to purchase in the department shops popping up in shopping districts across the metropolis's of America. Dance halls in which men and women intermingled were breaking down the Victorian concept of separate spheres for the sexes. In part, these women laid the foundation for the social revolutions of the 1920s and the middle class flapper girls.

The image of young working women in the early 1900s may look very different from my comrades and I running around bringing you your food and drinks in our Blue Monkey shirts, shorts, and tennis shoes, but essentially the ideals of making a living and taking steps toward bettering ourselves are there for the young working woman of 1911 as well as 2011.

*146 women perished in this industrial disaster due to locked doors and no fire exits in the factory.

Images from Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York by Kathy Peiss and Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure: Working Women, Popular Culture, and Labor Politics at the Turn of the Twentieth Century by Nan Enstad.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Gala's, Weddings, and McQueen...O My!

Sorry for the hiatus this past week, folks. It's moving time for me. I am leaving my sweet home Chicago and going back to my other sweet home, Memphis, Tennessee. So with all my stuff packed away and ready for the big haul down south tomorrow morning, I, of course, can't sleep...
What better time to blog :)

A lot has been going on in the world of historic dress in the last week. So I thought I'd give a little synopsis of the main events.

Today was the ever-so-elegant and celebrity-attracting Costume Institute Gala. An event put on every May at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. This event is sponsored by many of fashion's "higher-ups," but most notably Vogue and Anna Wintour. The event draws every notable celebrity, designer, model, etc. etc. from around the globe and the reason they come is to lend support (and by support, I mean $dollars$) for the Met's Costume Institute. This year's gala marks the opening of an exhibition featuring the designs of the late (and great) Alexander McQueen, titled "Savage Beauty." This exhibition chronicles the masterpiece creations of McQueen and includes approximately 100 pieces from throughout his career from 1994 to 2010.
Pieces that are to be included in the exhibition were shown at a press preview.

And, of course, there's the Royal Wedding.

Which, ironically, also brings up the name of Alexander McQueen. The best kept secret of the RW was the designer of Kate's dress. As Kate stepped out of the car at Westminster Abbey, the world learned that it was in fact Sarah Burton, creative director at Alexander McQueen, that Kate collaborated with on the design and aesthetic of the dress. And may I say....flawless. Classic. Elegant. Perfection. Of course, the hype surrounding Kate's dress intrigue's one to look back at royal wedding dresses of the past. Historic Royal Palaces released the video below last week displaying some of the rarest royal wedding dresses, including the infamous "first" ivory gown that Queen Victoria wore when she wed Prince Albert in 1840. With all this wedding buzz, I wish that Chicago History Museum's own exhibition of wedding dresses("I Do: Chicago Ties the Knot"), which ran from May of last year until this past January, was still on display. If you missed it, however, the catalog can still be purchased at chicagohistory.org.

Senior curator, Dr. Joanna Marschner, discusses the six dresses on display at Historic Royal Palaces.

Kate's dress has been rightfully compared to Grace Kelly's wedding dress with it's long lace sleeves, high neck, and sweetheart neckline. The choosing a widely-celebrated, contemporary British design house by Kate is not only another example of why she is truly a modern day princess.

Kate's second dress worn at the festivities after the ceremony was also designed by Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton. (Stunning!!)

Just one last look at the happy couple...everybody together now...awwwwww!!