Fashion and the rural community.

Rural community Finland.

Vörå, near the eastern coast of Gulf of Bothnia in Finland is the subject of an academic study entitled ‘Dress and Fashion In A Rural Community 1870 – 1920′. Written in 1972 by Bo Lönnqvist the content is based on recordings of old women telling about the usage of dress, collection of old photographs where dress is pictured on its wearers, photographing in detail all varieties of dress.

Chapter IV deals with dress and fashion. An isolated rural community comprising largely farmers – does fashion come into the equation? Actually, yes.  This ethnological study gives fascinating insights into the arrival of a modern sense of fashion in a time of change from a natural economy to a money economy.

Lönnqvist argues that the most resistant forms of dress are connected with everyday life, having a high practical function. Almost medieval patterns can be found in women’s shifts, headscarves, leather footware and babies’ clothing.

The impulse to introduce new forms of clothing can be traced to:

  • introducers of new clothes: pedlars, village shopkeepers etc, ie all people who brought in new materials and clothes for economic reasons.
  • introducers of new ideas about clothes; schoolteachers, doctors and mid-wives, clergymen and their wives, founders of youth associations, temperance movements and other social organisations.

Participants in the study claim that people react to dress if someone differs in his clothes a) from the rest of his reference group b) from established, traditional dress. By extension fashion is viewed as some kind of changing force in the system of dress.

A person becomes conscious about dress as soon as he enters his first reference group (playmates, schoolmates, confirmants, unmarried youth etc). The reference group is the authority in matters of dress. Participants note that dress changed more slowly in the time of their parents, and that they themselves became conscious about “fashion” in their youth (through journals kept by the local seamstress – which they were able to read after having attended school not necessarily something their parents had done).

Essentially it’s established that in the relevant community fashion appears in the following way:

  • all members of the group dress in the same way
  • some form of dress is accepted simultaneously by all
  • the form is of foreign (non-local) origin, it’s generally introduced by the local seamstress and thus depends on her taste and talent
  • the conception of fashion is constantly influenced by the reactions of other members of the community (family, village etc). Their reactions and attitudes are decisive in the process of acceptance or rejection of new forms of dress.

On a final note these processes should be viewed against the change in garment making. In older times, fabric was woven at home, clothes were made at home. Then people started buying fabric but still made clothes at home. Eventually, all making was “outsourced” to the local seamstress (es). And then one day bought ready-to-wear.



Dream teams.

Jeanette Johansson

In a dispute with an obnoxious person the other day relayed that a member of my dream team the person wasn’t.  Was that nice?

Dream team. How lovely it would be to be a member thereof. But do dream teams remain constant? Not so sure about that.

The Chelsea football club had a dream team thing going on with Adidas. Worth in the region of £30m a year. Then Nike came around and offered £60 million a year and the dream team thing was no more. Or at least had changed constellation.


A Cristóbal Balenciaga museum.

Cristóbal Balenciaga.

“I’m going to Santander in a couple of weeks’ time”, I told a friend at a recent dinner party. A blank look appeared on her face, obviously thinking hard then asking “oh, where’s that again?”.

Been contemplating a visit to Santander and northern Spain for a while. Now it’s all happening. San Sebastian and Biarritz are also on the agenda. Crossing my fingers weather is still decent.

If not and even so. Part of my plans include a visit to the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum. This influential Spanish couturier died in 1972, having closed his fashion house four years earlier. In 1986 the Balenciaga label was resurrected, this time with sole focus on ready-to-wear.

The museum, as I understand it, focuses only on the era when Balenciaga himself was at the creative helm. And not to wonder, he was a Basque man. It makes sense. It’s my hope I’ll get to see some of his more offbeat designs. In my eyes they share traits with output by Dalí and Gaudí – wacky-ish but standing the test of time.




Riviera swimwear.

Riviera swimwear. Fashion and Textiles museum.

And then Nice became the latest French city to introduce a burkini ban. We live in a diverse world. But when in Rome do what the Romans do. Is one perspective.

Last year the Fashion and Textile Museum in London held an exhibition entitled ‘Riviera Style: Resort and Swimwear since 1900′ guiding visitors through wear worn in and by the sea for the last 100 years or so. Change has definitely taken place. Including the arrival of the burkini, also featured.

Me, myself and I missed that exhibition. Fortunately there is info to be had online.


Fabergé: A life of its own.

Jeanette Johansson.  Fabergé: A life of its own.

There is a cultural festival in town. Loads of cultural things going on. Such as eating, drinking, activitating kiddies with stuff stimulating the grey matter. Not to mention taking in 50 shades of music. Action all around.

A tad different was a cinema showing the documentary ‘Fabergé: A life of its own‘. What an intriguing piece of interest that was. Not to be missed for those with an enthusiasm for art history.


Platform status.

Jeanette Johansson.

Ah, them platform shoes. Kinky some reckon. Associations with a certain industry, you know what I mean?

But also rather practical. Possible to pump up the volume on those heels without being too uncomfortable. A good balance is crucial, however. And better not hit any uneven spot on that path ahead of you or you might have a Naomi Campbell catwalk moment. And break a leg or two. Not in a good luck sense.

Platform shoes, clogs to be more specific, came my way when I was a younger person in the 1970s. I loved them. The second time around I somewhat more hesitantly embraced the platform vogue. Before I was again hooked.

Are platforms a newish fashion? Of course not. This Venetian lady was galavanting around stilts (chopines) in 1529. That’s almost five hundred years ago … Before chopines there were pattens.

Ladies elevating themselves with these sort of footwear initially did it for practical purposes. It prevented dresses from being dragged in dirt and effluent when out and about. Then they became trendy. And taken to extremes. How about heights around 50 cm? Not surprisingly how far you dared to go turned into a status symbol. Needless to say, wealthy ladies came out on top (ha ha). They didn’t have to do any work, did they?

Elche shoes.

Jeanette Johansson.

A friend of mine has just spent two weeks in the Alicante/Murcia region. She had a fab time apparently. Sun, bathing, food, accommodation. Nothing at all to complain about. Doesn’t sound like a bad holiday destination then.

If I’d go, I’d made sure to add a visit to Elche. As an explorer of fashion history I know Elche is the shoe capital of Spain – a whooping 42% of all Spanish shoes are made there. Has been for a long time.

Such history deserves a museum. And a museum there is. A corporate one. Located on the 2nd floor of the Calzado Picolino footwear shop in Elche Business Park.

Considering the economic importance of shoes to Elche, I would have expected the City Council to play a role in shoe museum management …


Hat associations.

Jeanette Johansson

Ate the first this season’s blackberries from my garden today. Yum, yum, YUM! Never as good as the first time.

These blokes are relatives of mine. Or more likely friends of relatives. No one in the know is left to enlighten me … Being farmer boys I am sure blackberries were common delicacies to them.

But let’s talk about their wear. Interesting clothes considering they are standing in a country field in the middle of nowhere. The boy looks like he’s about to board some kind of boat … They are all wearing headgear. Have a number of old family photos where everyone wear headgear. Read usually men.

Reasons to wear headgear range from protection, keeping hair tidy, fashion, religion, social convention, medical purposes to distinction (think military).

In the last couple of decades it seems one or several of these reasons have faded in importance. Headgear is not as common as it used to be.

But how interesting. There’s an Association out there. A Headwear Association – based in New York. Which I understand started out as a US labour union. Focusing on the East Coast. It’s the oldest in the world apparently – blimey, 106 years old!

These days the Association’s mission is to:

To promote hats and the headwear industry throughout the world, and to foster goodwill and fellowship among those engaged in the headwear industry.

How to interpret this? Amount of headgear users shrink  – DRASTICALLY – to retain a certain volume of members global geographic expansion is necessary?

Who am I to say? Like the vibe of their website, it looks fun.






Peasant wedding.

peasant wedding

A Flemish peasant wedding. Painted by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in 1569.

It’s easy to see that these are simple people. Simple in the sense they lack substantial financial resources. Decor, food and clothing all point in this direction. Adornment is kept to a minimum, even non-existing.

Focusing on outfit, the cuts of garments and footwear are austere. Women wear dresses with pleated skirts and headgear. Most men wear snug hoses, a jacket/bolero and headgear. Footwear comprises loose cloth coverings. Children look like mini-mes depending on gender. I assume fabric is of a woollen nature, garment assembly made at home.

Fabric colours are mainly earth inspired with various shades of oatmeal predominating. Dashes of green, red and white raise the mellow colour palette.

A man to the right stands out. He’s the only one with a beard. You can tell his clothes are made to a higher standard than the others; the fabric, the style. There are glimpses of a fancy white shirt. He’s wearing a weapon.

The painter himself? Possibly. A man most likely belonging to the bourgeoisie. Originally a title given to residents living inside walled market towns.

As the economic managers of the (raw) materials, the goods, and the services, and thus the capital (money) produced by the feudal economy, the term “bourgeoisie” evolved to also denote the middle class – the businessmen and businesswomen who accumulated, administered, and controlled the capital that made possible the development of the bourgs into cities.

Controlling the capital. A powerful role. Gotta dress for the part.

A zipper story.

jeanette johansson

Hookless #2. Was trying to fix a broken one of those the other day. Failed. How can something that looks so easy be so amazingly difficult?

I think that’s something Gideon Sundback, a Swedish engineer working in the United States should have thought about when he submitted a patent for his innovation on April 29, 1913. Apart from that he had done a rather good job evolving the idea of a slide fastener shown by Whitcomb L. Judson at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago as early as 1893.

Today we commonly think of this device as a zipper. The US Navy rather quickly picked up on the zipper’s usefulness. It wasn’t until around 1933, however, that it was introduced as a fastening option for home sewers.

Source: Britannica Academic