Healthy Fashion

The most recent concern over man-made fabrics vs. animal or plant based fabrics, cheap fashion and slow fashion are not “new” concepts. Have you ever heard of the Rational Dress Exhibition at Kensington Town Hall in 1883, or the Health Exhibition in London during the Spring of 1884?

At the Rational Dress Exhibition, Liberty’s fabrics were described as,

“Playing an essentially prominent part in connection with Rational and Healthy dress.”  The healthiness of the fabrics came from “their purity, their natural dyes, their unadulterated by any finish or dressing, their freedom from any of the usual processes resorted to in order to impart a meretricious appearance of value to worthless materials.”

For the organizers of the Health Exhibition of 1884, Edward William Godwin wrote a handbook where he pointed out, “Some modification to the Greek costume was perfectly applicable to the British climate if it was worn over a sub-stratum of pure wool, such supplied by Dr. Jaeger under the modern German system, explaining,

“The principle was to suspend all apparel from the shoulders and rely for beauty not on the stiff, ready-made ornaments of the modern milliner, bows where there should be no bows, flounces where there should be no flounces, but on the exquisite play of light and line that one gets from rich and rippling folds.”

Was this the beginning of the end of the corset?

English architect Edward William Godwin (May 26, 1833 Bristol – October 6, 1886 London), was best known for his Ruskinian Gothic style of architecture, evidenced in the Guild Hall Northampton.

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Guild Hall Northampton

Starting in the 1870’s through the 1880’s, Godwin was associated with Liberty’s.  He designed wallpaper, printed textiles, tiles, “art furniture” or metal work set the tone in houses of those of an artistic and progressive attitude.  Oscar Wilde said, “Godwin was  one of the most artistic spirits of the century.”  In 1884,  Liberty appointed Godwin to supervise the Costume Department.

Dr. Gustav Jaeger, (June 23, 1832 – May 13, 1917), German naturalist and scientist, gustav-jger-1832-1917-german-zoologist-and-biologist-who-gave-his-jj83bc

believed wearing  wool “close to the skin,” was healthy.  Jaeger began creating wool suits, around the same time he cut ties with Germany around the start of World War I, and became a British brand.  Long johns were the beginning leading to an established clientele looking for British made garments at a reasonable price.  Jaeger’s branded his fashions with wool and exotic fibers such as cashmere, angora and alpaca.  Jaeger’s yarns are also used by the hand knitter.

vintage organge jaeger jacket
Photo from Poshmark

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Here’s a photo of camel hair fabric, natural cashmere yarn undyed and brush tail possum from New Zealand.

We still have the same concerns of those living in the 1800’s, consider the research expressed by Elizabeth L. Cline, in her book Over-Dressed, page 84, “The production of man-made fibers has doubled over the last 15 years…”  How many of your garments are 100% wool?  Do you recognize the fiber content on your garment labels?  Check out the New York Times T Magazine, dated August 19, 2018 and explore, The Shape of Things to Come, pages 168-177.  A visual commentary on fashion with “voluminous proportions layered for maximal impact.”

(I used Wikipedia and Liberty’s A Biography of a Shop by Alison Adburgham for this blog post.  Photographs have been cited above.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading in My Backyard

This summer, after the removal of a vinyl pool and redwood deck that pretty much encompassed my backyard for the last 23 years, I’ve been able to plant flowers and vegetables.  I purchased tomato plants and bell pepper plants from the nursery, and the zucchini, sunflowers and zinnias were planted by seed.  It’s been a challenge keeping the birds, squirrels, raccoons and skunks from either eating the seeds or digging the plants up looking for grubs.  As of today, I’ve been quite successful in my quest…

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Zinnias
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Zinnia and Butterfly

I enjoy the process of regeneration beginning with the planting, stages of growth and the blooming of nature.  I try to focus on flowers that attract birds, bees and butterflies.

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Orange Bell Pepper

With all the physical work that goes along with planting and maintaining a garden, I decided to reap the benefits by reading a book surrounded by the ever-changing daily beauty of my garden.

Recently, in a knitting class at A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland, CA I overheard a conversation about slow fashion in comparison to cheap fashion.  A few weeks ago, I came across a blog post discussing a book written by Elizabeth L. Cline, entitled “Over-Dressed The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.”

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Elizabeth L. Cline

I immediately ordered the book online because I wanted to know what was going on.  So far, I’ve read the first three chapters where Cline discusses the effects of global trade agreements on the garment industry beginning in the 1990s.  In today’s world it’s chic, practical and democratic to buy cheap fashion.  Cheap fashion fashionistas post their “shopping hauls” on YouTube and have thousands of followers.  It’s a quantity versus quality culture…a garment expected to only last a couple of times through the wash becomes “disposable.”  Cline mentions, “The wastefulness encouraged by buying cheap and chasing trends is obvious, but the hidden costs are even more galling. Disposable clothing is damaging the environment, the economy, and even our souls.”

I respect Elizabeth Cline’s non-judgmental discussion on the attraction of cheap fashion and its consumer, and she even admits to owning 354 pieces of cheap fashion clothing. After publishing the book in 2012, Cline owned 90 pieces of clothing.

As I progress through the book, I’m reminded why I began to sew again.  I grew impatient with the lack of quality fabric, zippers and buttons along with shoddy garment construction used in ready to wear garments.  At the time, I became increasingly aware of the relationship between ethical fashion, and the culture of “slow fashion” (which refers to sewing your own clothes with sustainable fabrics like wool and cotton).

I look forward to the reading the remaining chapters of this interesting book, while I enjoy communing with the many bees, butterflies and hummingbirds that visit my backyard.

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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall
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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall
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Photo credit: Mary Lou Fall