Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Fashion in History

by Nancy McCammon-Hansen

For those of us living in this rainy part of the country, an umbrella is something that at certain times of the year is as much a necessity as your car keys or cell phone. Even growing up on the arid Great Plains, I was encouraged as a college freshman to own an umbrella because all the walking I would have to do, in all kinds of weather, necessitated that I purchase said item. We think of umbrellas as utility items but they were once a part of fashion and even more so when they were designed as “parasols”.

We have been photographing and moving our collection of parasols at the History Center and we thought you would like to see this fashion accessory which, I would venture to say, most women are probably glad has disappeared from view. Parasols were “light and elegant, constantly changing in style and available in a variety of materials and colours”. (A History of the Umbrella by T. S. Crawford, copyright 1970, Taplinger Publishing Co.)

Parasols had their uses as an accessory--shade from the sun and a way to either hide your face from an unwanted admirer or to flirt with someone with whom you were interested in getting to know a little better!

Note the fragility of the fabric due to time and wear.

Much of the time parasols were dangled from the wrist and handles evolved with end rings to accommodate the posture. Parasol designs came and went and “the parasol of the ‘twenties was in much the same category as the Ascot hat, deliberately intended to be outrageous, even ridiculous enough to catch the camera’s eye.” In 1922, parasols for canines became popular and were made for dogs at the Pekingese and French Bulldog Clubs’ exhibitions. Fortunately, this trend did not last long and the demise of the parasol began.
The handles of parasols were often elaborately carved.

The parasol began disappearing in countries where the sun was not excessively strong and where the item had been carried more for appearance than function. Sun tans and sun lotions were in vogue and although parasols made a short comeback in Germany in 1928, the fad was short lived. The English were the slowest to discard parasols and as late as the 1960s they could still be seen in some sections of British society. But for the most part, parasols as a fashion accessory were dead by the early 1930s.

We used to store parasols like this....

...and now they are in special cabinets designed to store delicate items.

Our event coordinator, Steve Toor, and his business partner Mary Ann Dorhman recently presented a program for the guild at my church and so we're including some photos from that presentation in this post because they too show fashion from history and a variety of items.

This particular outfit is "fashioned" from material with an Art Deco design. It is likely from sometime in the 1920s.

This parasol was from the Chicago World's Fair in the 1930s.
 Accessories are always a must have item for any fashion forward woman.

 Steve shows a dress that belonged to his mother that was purchased at Wolf and Dessauer. The dress is c. 1940s.
 This hat also came from W & D.

 Mary Ann models a dress from the 1800s that had mutton sleeves.

This dress weighs 15 pounds, in large part due to the beading on it.

An interesting necklace.

Opera glasses.

Barb Mansfield and Mary Ann stand with Steve before their fashion show. 

A closeup of the cameo Mary Ann is wearing. Note the "sparkles" on her dress....these were very fashion forward for the time.

Dressed for a night on the town in 1920s splendor, Barb models a coat with a rabbit fur collar.

1 comment:

  1. Great job, Nancy. These are such beautiful pieces and using accessories is a fine way to highlight the fashions of a century ago. Great highlight of the collections, too. Happily reminds me of an exhibition my late wife, Diana Hawfield, mounted in the 1980s entitled "More Than A Peacock", also centered on the stunning dresses in the collection. So good to see these wonderful items again. Thanks. Michael Hawfield