15 November 2007

Thursday Thirteen: Scandalous Trends

By Carrie Lofty

Since we're talking this month about Standards of Beauty, I thought I'd compile a quick list of fashion trends that were considered scandalous in their day--some of which I'm displaying right now.

1. Underwear: I believe another of our contributors is covering this topic later in the month, but underwear was originally for fast women. A woman went without if she was respectable, at least until society began to make the gradual switch in the 19th century.

2. Going braless: Burning bras in the 1960s was a sign of protest in favor of feminism. I continue the tradition...because I'm still in my pajama top.

3. Short hair: As Delia mentioned last week, any woman who cut her hair in the 1920s caused a scandal. Short hair had briefly and intermittently been popular before, particularly the Titan haircut among the merveilleuses of late 18th century/early 19th century France (much like this model is wearing).

4. Pants/Trousers: Argh! Women in men's clothing! How crazy is that?

5. Stockings: Stockings have always caused a stir. From pink ones worn by the merveilleuses (beneath a pale shift, the pink made their legs show through) to flesh-colored in the 1920s to those hot 'n' sexy seamed ones from the WWII era, stockings draw attention to the leg and always have the potential to cause a stir.

6. Make-up: Can I live without foundation? Heck no, not with my skin. But then there's rouge, lipstick, etc. An ordinary girl wouldn't be caught dead in makeup in the 19th century, or more like, she'd BE dead if her family found out. And in much of the 18th century, a noblewoman wouldn't be caught dead without it. The presence or absence of make-up has always wagged tongues.

7. Athletic shoes: When Chris Evert began her ascendancy in the world of women's tennis, she not only popularized the tennis bracelet but the casual use of athletic shoes among women. Until then, women who wanted a casual shoe went for loafer or flats. Then the 80s brought us high tops and the LA Gear craze, normalizing sports shoes as a part of daily life. Now, what would I do without my Skechers? Unthinkable.

8. Dyed hair: Hair dye used to be the exclusive domain of prostitutes. But much like make-up, I'm assuming certain women cheated a bit, especially those women with more money and influence.

9. Underarm hair: Like bra burning, the choice to go without shaving was a statement in favor of feminism and remains controversial. When Julia Roberts appeared in early 2006 with obvious underarm hair, the media went wild.

10. The Mini: What would 60s fashion have been without the mini skirt? As an echo of the 1920s flapper dress, the miniskirt defined all that was groovy about the mod lifestyle. This photo is of Yves St. Laurent and his models.

11. Fur: Although fur has been an integral part of fashion since prehistoric times, it stands among one of the modern era's most controversial fashion decisions. When a woman wears fur today, she is making a statement that many find offensive.

12. The bikini: Although two-piece garments have even been depicted in ancient Greek artifacts, the modern bikini debuted in 1946, the creation of engineer Louis Reard and fashion designer Jacques Heim. They hired French nude dancer Micheline Bernardini to model the suit.

13. The Afro: The 60s were a hotbed of fashionable political statements. African Americans showed their enthusiasm for the civil rights movement and "black is beautiful" pride by letting their hair grow naturally, without the use of chemical straighteners or pomades.

Which of these trends are now normal for you? Can you think of other controversial fashion trends? What trends from today cause the biggest stir?