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Suffragette City Part Five February 23, 2012

Being ever so misty-eyed that Season 2 of Downton Abbey has wrapped here in the States doesn’t mean the story has ended but just a different king of chapter continues.

The Knitwear.

Knitwear from almost 100 years ago.

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This collection is amazing for a couple of reasons – yes, the variety and exciting modern-looking constructions but also in the fast-forward way the evolution of the clothing matched the evolution of the culture…

Women were just being more Public.

They were going Outdoors more than ever before. They were playing Sports. The popularity of tennis & golf gave rise to the need for some mobility garments, stat.

And now, sweaters and jackets appeared for women that allowed them the same range of movement that their brother golfers and swingers were enjoying.

No more Mutton Sleeves; begone Bustles, farewell hemlines that dragged in the dirt.

Hello Norfolk-style sweaters and ankles!

Now, if you’ve seen any fox hunts on film, chances are you’ll recognize the Norfolk. “It was originally designed as a shooting coat that did not bind when the elbow was raised to fire.”

Range of Motion. Mobility. Action.

From 1917:

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And something else happened that was very exciting: fashion equity.

Just like in the culture-at-large, the knitwear the Upstairs was wearing appeared Downstairs as well, almost to a T. You could make it…

 Or, from the Spokesman Review, July 29, 1912 (!), you could buy it (here at the Kemp & Herbert Dept. Store, Spokeane, WA):

Here was the birth of Casual, where formality melded most neatly into Comfort, without losing style…

And this is what I find the very most exciting about clothing from this time: women moved away from being rather strictly ornamental to being At Large.

A small step, but, indeed, the journey begins…

Cheers & see you in Season 3?

…all in the series:
– Suffragette City Part 1
– Suffragette City Part 2
– Suffragette City Part 3
– Suffragette City Part 4
– Suffragette City Part 5
– Suffragette City Part 6

Suffragette City Part Four February 9, 2012

Even though Chicago has a history of demonstrations and rallies spanning two centuries, I’m more familiar with “the whole world’s watching” than the incredible social protests that have taken place here…

Even more obscure in my history education? La Suffragettes!

A little digging around unearthed some local facts: “Jane Addams, Chicago’s premier reformer, was also a prominent figure in the women’s suffrage movement. Addams and Elizabeth Burke of the University of Chicago served as delegates to the Women’s Suffrage Legislature in 1911. British suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst, offered support to the women of Illinois during a visit to Chicago in 1913.”
Hmm. Emmeline Pankhurst?! Ah, “…a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement which helped women win the right to vote. In 1999 Time named Pankhurst as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, stating: “she shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back.” She was widely criticized for her militant tactics, and historians disagree about their effectiveness, but her work is recognized as a crucial element in achieving women’s suffrage in Britain.”

(But, interestingly enough, when she was in prison, she still was busy…)

Chic Knits Suffragette City Part 4

Emmeline and her daughters Sylvia and Christabel were front-liners in the many public demonstrations that took place in Britain during the early 20th, routinely arrested and participating in behaviors most regular, proper women were not…

Chic Knits Suffragette City Part 4

Chic Knits Suffragette City Part 4And here, in the revolution, we see the evolution.

Clothing changes as the need arises: form follows function. Look at how modern the Pankhurst sisters look – shorter hair, shorter skirts, cardigans…

This was a time when impoverished women flocked to the Big City to seek work in the bustling downtown business centers, where something like a bustle would have just been extra junk in trunk. Can’t sit, can’t move, gone.

In Chicago, all of the women working downtown were a stone’s throw away from Marshall Fields, one of the newer centers of targeted commerce whose motto: “Give the Lady What She Wants” seemed to embrace the other ideals that were percolating around, that weren’t getting met!

In London, Selfridge’s (opened by Marshall Fields’ ex-manager) catered to the Ladies of the Revolution:

“Gordon Selfridge founded his store just as the women’s suffrage movement was becoming successful and the London Underground was bring­ing respectable ladies into town. To make shop­ping easier and more pleasant for women, Selfridge opened the first in-house coffee shop, roof top restaurant and ladies bathrooms.”

From The New Humanist: “For the Suffragettes, the department stores represented both opportunity and limitation. While some more radical women disapproved of the trivial distractions they offered, they also held meetings in the stores and even used them to distribute their own propaganda.”

Chic Knits Suffragette City Part 4“Well aware that the Suffragettes represented their most important constituency of customers, the stores supported them by displaying merchandise in the famous violet, white and green colours. Selfridges even flew the Suffragette flag on its roof. There could not have been a more brazen signifier of the confidence of the department stores and their massive public influence.”

Even while others were mocking and belittling the effort (see at left: “Popular anti-suffrage postcard, depicting a wailing kitten intended to belittle women fighting for the vote.” many were seeing the continuing economic opportunity that was exploding everytime a women dressed, ate, traveled, and demonstrated. Rrrrwwwrrr!

Mind boggling: something that we take so for granted was actually something that wasn’t a part of women’s existence as we know it.

The mainstream Lady was a stay-at-home adjunct to her parents or husband; not many went a-galavanting around anywhere – either in town or out. It was those who left home and had to work who pushed the evelope further everywhere through the social fabric.

Chic Knits Suffragette City Part 4

And so, in the street and in the stores, the working class merged and crossed paths with the upper class, in ways no one had imagined before, with amazing results…

more to come

…all in the series:
– Suffragette City Part 1
– Suffragette City Part 2
– Suffragette City Part 3
– Suffragette City Part 4
– Suffragette City Part 5
– Suffragette City Part 6

Suffragette City Part Three February 3, 2012

In this French city (unknown) above, again we view the Modern combined with the Past. Our Lady of the Early 20th stands in front of a much older skyline that belongs to an different era – more Fantine, less Lady Sybil.

Chic Knits Knitting BlogWhich is one of the things I love about Fashion: its ability to move fast and yet be a cultural thermometer, standing on the timeline of all…

SO easy to change out of the bustle, the corset, the shawl and move into the freedom of the shift, the scarf, the sweater…

All decorated, all embelished in a most, to our eye, busy, still ornate way, so characteristic of late Edwardian fashion…

The dress on the left is from a 90 year old magazine I found at a flea market: the summer McCall Embroidery Book (click pic for bigger pic). The hemlines are going higher but the lovely detailing of the past remains in this Knitted Wool Dress pattern ($.25).

The book is filled with lots of looks – some patterns included, some like this one that you would receive by mail or in a local department store. Most of the patterns came in one size (36) and have a paucity of detail compared to those of the 21st.

Especially interesting to me was the inclusion of many sweaters.

Sweaters with square necklines, batwing sleeves, mostly belted (loosely) or with some type of midriff detailing…

The garment in the middle of the picture is a Pullover – long and tunic-like – worn over a silk slip.

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On the left is a lovely crocheted pullover with very interesting stitch detailing…

I’m fascinated by this as well:

Not only is this a charming little girl’s knitted dress, a darling Little Kitty is in the picture, and, just like today, enthralled with the yarn. Methinks the ‘lil cat is included in this sample as an eary SQUEEE factor to hook you into the *get it* now of everything on that page!

Gone (although I’m sure still being worn) are Shawls. In their place: scarves & hats galore! The prequel to Vamp was all about the accessories…

I’m thinking you could wear this one today, February 3, 2012.

These: not so much but

still they have a contemporary feel, and I especially like the belted stole. Not really sure what those aprony-like collar combinations are for (utility? decoration?) but then again Les Hommes were wearing disposable collars like mad back in that day.

If one had less wardrobe, one could freshen it with some layering!

But the most interesting to me, having just released a shaped headband pattern, is the Embroidered Headbands that were surely the after-dark, dinner-set don’t leave home without it must. Lady Sybil was certainly emboldened by her Paul Poiret-inspired outfit!

I bid you TGIF! (Wear a headband this weekend and REBEL!)

>>> the winner of the Sweet Shawlette book: the lovely Patty D — a big thank you to everyone! We’ll post about the beauty and fun of little projects in the near future… <<< …all in the series:
– Suffragette City Part 1
– Suffragette City Part 2
– Suffragette City Part 3
– Suffragette City Part 4
– Suffragette City Part 5
– Suffragette City Part 6

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