Less than a micromini: Cache-sexe Zulu

  What if you could tell your gender age and marital status just from your clothes? Well, in most cultures, you can. What we wear tells the rest of our communities what our exactly place is within it. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, modesty norms are very different to those prescribed to Western cultures. Wearing next to nothing in such a hot climate is not a sign of promiscuity, but garments like the cache-sexe or ‘modesty belt’ say a lot about the wearer’s culture. The term cache-sexe was used by the French, so it comes up in those areas of Africa colonized by the French. There are...

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Fashion for Young Ladies in 1883

  Flipping through the pages of a magazine in the grocery check-out line, you would expect to see a variety of articles, including pages about the latest fashion trends. With summer vacation coming to an end in many parts of the world, magazines for teenage girls are filled with tips for putting together back-to-school outfits. Even in the 1880s, girls sought out magazines for fashion advice. This print is from an 1883 edition of the Young Ladies’ Journal, on loan to the Rijksmuseum from the M.A. Ghering-van Ierlant Collection. The girls in the image are showing off a variety of...

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17 May 2017: Malnourished by Choice

There’s the paleo diet, the nut diet, the salad diet, the zero diet. So many diets. And while paying attention to your diet does benefit your health, our society is constantly tells people what to eat, or rather what not to eat. Nutrition is a huge topic. Malnutrition is too. And I’m not talking about sub-Saharan Africa here – I’m talking about malnutrition right on your door step. In Europe and North America alike, children, and especially girls, are increasingly malnourished. How come, in these lands of abundance, bursting with supermarkets and no natural disasters? The...

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Redesigning the high heel with rocket scientists

Many of us love high heels. They make us taller and the shoes themselves can simply be too beautiful to leave behind. It is, however, a known fact that heels are not the most comfortable of items to wear. I am glad to report that there is some good news for all high heel lovers out there. Dolly Singh, former SpaceX employee, may have found the answer to our painful problem – and managed to keep the beautiful design we girls all love. Dolly is looking to use science to reinvent the traditional steel strut running through the shoe, known as the “shank”. Together with her team, she has swapped...

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High-Heeled Shoes: a weakness or empowering?

The high-heeled shoe has been around for longer than you might think. There is evidence that depicts both the Egyptians and Romans wearing heels for various practical reasons. Nor were they restricted to one gender; both upper-class men and women wore them. The high heel remained a practical piece of clothing in the middle ages as they kept you out of the mud when walking. Fast forward slightly, and we see men wearing heels to emphasis their class, privilege, and power within society before the high heel became a feminine icon from the 1500s onwards. Women started wearing high heels for much...

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Madame Clapham’s Fashion

Emily McVitie was born in Cheltenham in 1865. She left school at a young age and went to Scarborough to serve as an apprentice dressmaker. Although starting with unimportant jobs, she learnt quickly and soon became a skilled dressmaker. Emily married Haigh Clapham in 1887 and moved to Hull, where the couple bought a dressmaking studio and began producing high quality dresses to order. She adopted the moniker ‘Madame Clapham’, probably to make herself seem a little grander, and ally herself with fashionable French dressmakers. She was known as an imposing woman and was always dressed...

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Review: Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear exhibition

I recently visited the Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London where corsets of different sizes, colours, and materials were on display. All were beautifully crafted with incredible details sewn onto the bodices. The corset that caught my attention, however, was the one you see to the left. It is made from a densely woven fabric called ‘coutille’ that was able to stand up to the tension caused when the corset was being tightened. The corset itself is light brown with the whalebone strips running from top to bottom of the bodice being...

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‘Vive la Resistance!’ : French Girls using Fashion to oppose the Nazi Occupation of France 1940-1944

The 25th August 2016 marks the 72nd anniversary of the Liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation by the joint Allied forces of the Free French, Great Britain and her colonies, and the U.S.A. Whilst this anniversary might go unmarked in most places besides Paris or France, it is worthwhile to remember that the people of France suffered great deprivation and cruelty under German occupation. French people starved and shivered whilst the Nazi’s took the majority of French’s natural resources for their own use. However, it is worthwhile noting that the German Occupation of France is controversial...

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A brief history of beachwear

As Michalina wrote in an earlier post, it’s the time of year where we can’t move for bikini articles, and her blog about the famous Bikini Girls Mosaic last week got me thinking. While the ladies in Sicily’s Roman mosaic are more ready for a workout than to lounge by the pool, what women have worn to the beach throughout history is a fascinating topic that definitely puts my struggle to find a swimsuit into perspective. Classical Roman murals depict swimming naked, and throughout the middle ages swimming was discouraged, so we know little about what was worn for outdoor bathing in the West...

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To Bra or Not to Bra

Back in June, female students at a Montana high school staged a braless protest in support of a fellow student who claims she was sent home from school for not wearing a bra. In response, these girls stripped off their own bras before going to lessons, and some of the male students wore bras outside of their shirts. They argued that a bra is not part of the school dress code, and should not be made a mandatory item of clothing. However the school principal stated that the missing bra was not the problem, but instead she was sent home after another student complained her outfit was making...

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