Archive for the ‘Sociology of Fashion’ Category

Rebellious Carnival Costumes

June 4th, 2013 10:00 am

The very cool website Public Domain Review published these illustrations from a 16th century manuscript detailing the phenomenon of Nuremberg’s Schembart Carnival. Literally translated as “bearded-mask” carnival, the event was popular from 1449 to 1539. It ended because of the complaints of the influential preacher Osiander, who was offended by parodies of him included in the parades.

**BTW: those are not artichokes being carried by revelers. They are bunches of leaves – called Lebensrute—that hid fireworks.

Legend has it that the carnival had its roots in a dance (a “Zämertanz”), which the butchers of Nuremberg were permitted to hold by the Emperor as a reward for their loyalty to him during an earlier trade guild rebellion. Over the years the event grew more subversive in nature, with participants wearing elaborate costumes and riding through the streets on floats called “Hells”.  After the carnival’s end, many lovely illustrated manuscripts known as “Schembartbücher” were created to document the ceremony’s 90-year existence.

To see more illustrations, visit the Public Domain Review.

What’s the Deal with Heels?

May 31st, 2013 10:00 am

High heels look fabulous. They always add polish and sex appeal to an outfit. So why do they have to be so impossibly uncomfortable? As much as we want to wear them, the hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute logistical reality is just too painful. It must be this way for most women. And, yet, the shops and magazines are always full of sky-high heels. How have vertiginous heels (seemingly) become the norm?

Fashion historian Amber Jane Butchart told Emerald Street that the recent influence of the Seventies on fashion is largely responsible. But she also believes that the allure of heels also comes from their historical associations with power. High heels are far from being a 20th century invention, Butchart says. “Early Greek actors wore platforms of varying heights to denote the social status of their character, Louis XIV wore high-heeled shoes in the 1600s, while chopines were worn by aristocratic European women in the 15th-17th centuries. These women would lean on their servants and the platform ensured their clothes didn’t get dirty. Things aren’t as black and white today but I think that on some level, we’ve retained the illusion that the higher the heel, the more power a woman wields.”

Shonagh Marshall, executive curator at Somerset House, says our attraction to heels is all about aesthetics. “When we wear heels we arch our back and they transform the way we walk into a swagger. They’re the ultimate in glamour,” she says.

Not only that, but heels also heighten a woman’s sexual assets. They bring out attractive  musculature in the legs and elongate them. They also tip the body so that the breasts and bum stick out. They may be symbols of power in some respects, but perhaps on some evolutionary level they also appeal to a man’s  masculinity because they make a woman more vulnerable. Heels slow her down and decrease her mobility; they make her quite decorative – like a pretty bird that must be protected. Evolutionarily, it has always been in the female’s interest to seek protection by males.

These are just a few thoughts on the reasons behind heels’ enduring popularity. They certainly are open to multiple interpretations. Though Butchart and Kitty McGee, Stylist’s executive fashion editor, believe the current shift toward flatter styles (ballet flats, loafers, brogues) will continue, heels will always be a style that women fall back on (literally!).

Read more about the history and evolution of high heels here.

Bags of Weekend Fun!

May 24th, 2013 4:41 pm

Looking for fun and enlightenment this bank holiday weekend? Then head over to London’s Saatchi Gallery and witness the magic of Hermès artisans at their crafts.

From May 21-27, the Festival de Métiers exhibition at the gallery will feature a selection of Hermès artisans demonstrating how they make luxury products in their workshops in France. Visitors will see the famous Hermès silk scarves printed right before their eyes. Demonstrations of the creation of the much-coveted Kelly bag will also take place. Visitors will be able to interact with the craftspeople as they bring to life watches, jewellery, handbags, scarves and other iconic Hermès objects.

Admission is free, which helps towards the cost of a Kelly bag, right? (A girl can but dream.) Maybe we’ll just try chatting up an artisan…


© Anne Kroul, 2013.