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Friday, March 14, 2008

Clothes & Culture

Yesterday I was browsing through the history and biography section of our local Hastings book store. Just as I was finishing an employee approached me and said that he was marking down all the used books with the yellow sticker to $2.99. He had not yet been through the biographies and history but if I found anything I wanted with a yellow sticker to bring it to him and he would put the reduced price on it. At that point I had not picked anything out for purchase, but this put things in a whole new light, so...... I went back through looking for yellow stickers and came away with four tomes.

A Civil War Treasury
Miracle at Philadelphia (the story of the Constitutional Convention May to September 1787)
Carrying the Flag (the story of private Charles Whilden, the Confederacy's most unlikely hero)
A Perfect Fit (clothes, character, and the promise of America)

I read the introduction and first few pages of the first chapter in the last book. Found an interesting section in the introduction. I am including it here for your reflection:

"Today, when fashion is associated with the avant-garde and the cutting edge, with the flouting of convention and the primacy of self-expression, it is hard to imagine at time when fashion had more to do with virtue than with license, with the commonweal rather than the individual. But only a half century ago Americans held fashion to a different standard. Wearing their beliefs on their sleeves, they freighted hats and suits, jewelry and shoes, outerwear and underwear with moral value. Fashion was not simply about looking good. Fashion was about being good as well.

The subject of intense debate - on the street and in the sanctuary, around the dinner table and the water cooler - fashion both registered the most pressing issues of the day and provoked them. In prewar America, the length of a dress, the color of a man's shirt, the size of a hat, the height of a pair of shoes, the sheen of a fut coat, and the glint of a gold bracelet brought to the surface the country's ongoing concern with womanliness and gentlemanliness, religiosity and simplicity, probity and perfectibility even as it focused attention on the health of the nation and the state of its soul."

I find these thoughts interesting because I have been saying this for years. The author is clearly no rabid fundamental Baptist, yet she honestly acknowledges the past reality in contrast to the present abandonment of virtue, decency, and morality in clothing choices.
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