Women s Wardrobes, Men s Wardrobes

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ISSN: (Print) 1756-1310 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rfat20

Women’s Wardrobes, Men’s Wardrobes Irene Brin To cite this article: Irene Brin (2015) Women’s Wardrobes, Men’s Wardrobes, Art in Translation, 7:2, 254-265, DOI: 10.1080/17561310.2015.1038929 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17561310.2015.1038929

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Date: 27 January 2017, At: 00:16

Art in Translation, 2015 Vol. 7, No. 2, 254–265, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17561310.2015.1038929 © 2015 Taylor & Francis

Irene Brin

Translated by Lucinda Byatt First published in Italian as Usi et Costumi 1920–1940, 1944 (Palermo: Sellerio, 1981), pp. 75–89 and pp. 143–45.

Women’s Wardrobes, Men’s Wardrobes Abstract  Brin explores the fashion trends in the period between the two world wars. She begins by describing different styles associated with famous women during or just after the First World War. After 1921, fashion was marked by the simplicity of the robes-chemises, a sense of freedom and motifs inspired by cubism. In the post-depression period, Brin identifies a new respect for haute couture, the rise of international creative designers, and an increasing use of fur, snakeskin and crocodile skin in clothing, which signaled wealth and success. This contrasted with other

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styles that ranged from “unkempt”, via “regal”, to “literary” looks. Male fashion underwent similar transformations. KEYWORDS:  Captain Molyneux, Lanvin, Nina Ricci, Coco Chanel, Balenciaga, Mae West, Katherine Mansfield, Wallis Spencer, twentieth-century fashion, 1920s fashion, 1930s fashion, smoking jacket, tuxedo, haute couture

Introduction by Ulrich Lehmann (The New School, New York) Irene Brin, real name Maria Vittoria Rossi (Rome, June 14, 1914– Bordighera, March 31, 1969), was a fashion journalist, writer and art dealer. Rossi became Brin in April 1937 upon the invitation of publicist Leo Langanesi, who asked her to contribute to his newly founded journal Omnibus, perhaps the first truly modern weekly in Italy that was to establish the term rotocalco for publications devoted to the latest fashion, political and social life. Brin’s rapid-fire writing style was perfect for the rotocalco, which derives its name from the speedy production technique of the stereotype plate (rotocalcografia) on a rotary press (rotativa) as well as, metaphorically, from its dependence on an accelerated turnover of events. The “stereotype” and “cliché” of the printing denotes both the materialization and communication of the social appearances that Brin observed in her journalism between 1920 and 1940. Many pseudonyms for her writing were to follow (Mariù, Contessa Lara, Cecil-Wyndham Alighieri, Oriane, etc.) but “Irene Brin” was her chosen character for fashion. It was an allusion to the Viennese origins of her mother, a feminist who was passionate about literature, spoke four languages and affected a middle-European distance to the excesses of Italian lifestyle. Similarly, Brin maintained an ironic detachment that formally complemented the staccato style of her texts, where commas chased each other across the page, arrested only by the occasional semi-colon or, more rarely, by a reluctant full stop. In her essay on “Women’s Wardrobes,” the freely flowing adjectives and adverbs are distinguished by paragraph breaks, and are connected via the repeated resurfacing of the wardrobe of one particular “gold digger”—who would eventually become consort to the Prince of Wales. Brin had no time for snobbism, her sense of elegant comportment forbade ostentation or social exclusion. Her writing appeared in populist journals and newspapers and not as aspirational literature; occasional prose was preferred as an antidote to prosaic occasions. Although the wearing of fashion could not always be a serious business, the fashion business in Italy certainly mattered to Brin. She was the tireless global promoter of stilisti—the Italian term for designers as well as stylists—from Rome and Milan, as well as Paris. In the spring of 1950, Brin paraded a tailleur by Alberto Fabiani


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with a hat by Jacques Fath down Park Avenue in New York, when she was approached by an excited woman who wanted to know where one could acquire this fashion: it was Diana Vreeland, the editor of Harper’s Bazaar, who would be instrumental in reviving Italian fashion in the p ­ ost-War ­period. For her, Brin became an intellectual and artistic confidante as well as the perfect embodiment of a style that fused the expressive creativity in Italian high fashion (alta moda) with the democratizing ready-to-wear (confezionato).

Women’s Wardrobes Irene Brin Deinen Ballschuhen – nicht auszudenken! Gaben Eidechsen – vierzig – ihr Leben. Man musste sie sehr mühsam kleben. Und Selbst in den Gliedern verrenken…. [Forty lizards gave their lives to your dancing pumps—unthinkable! It was a cumbersome task to stick them together. And even to dislocate their limbs...] Alfred Richard Meyer, 1926 There was much dancing in America, in spite of the War, between 1914 and 1918: however, as a token acknowledgement of the suffering in Europe, the young debutantes declared that their ball gowns should not be extravagant, giving a domestic tone to their gatherings. At the ball organised by the Lyric Opera House, Baltimore, Miss Wallis Warfield appeared in white silk and chiffon, embroidered with pearls: “a cloud of chiffon enveloped her shoulders”, wrote Mrs Evelina Wilson, her biographer, “and out of this cloud emerged a knee-length tunic of sorts, also in chiffon, whose hemline was also bordered with pearls. The dress was inspired by an Empire line, and Wallis wore two single roses, American Beauties, as her ornament.” The same season saw Warfield in another sensational ensemble, a brocade bodice, with large multi-coloured flowers on a gold background, worn with a very wide voile skirt, “the colour of the setting sun”, to use her biographer’s poetic phrase, topped as usual by a “small monkey fur cape”. Katherine Mansfield arrived in Paris in the full dark cloak that made her look like a romantic traveller; her hair was cut with a long fringe and, as soon as she reached the Riviera, she donned her short white jacket with English embroidery. Like all women, her skirts were quite short, a working necessity, as well as being less expensive, a sign of

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independence that hinted at the complete elimination of trains; and from under these abbreviated hemlines peaked gleaming ankle boots echoing the patriotic coquetry of gold frogging and epaulettes, helmets embellished with the white feathers of some regiment. Eleonora Duse visited the troops, dressed in flowing grey veils; a stouter Tina di Lorenzo wore a round hat brimming with large roses. A girl by the name of Lily, of uncertain nationality, went swimming in a tight costume on the beach at San Sebastian, attracting the King of Spain’s admiring question: “Quien es esa damita?” [Who is this little lady?] Lily took the cue and appeared on the screens and in tabarins across half of Europe calling herself Lily Damita. Cappiello, Aleardo Terzi, Sacchetti, all made umbrella silhouettes popular, featuring broader hips (a demographic fashion, it was said, ready to make good the losses of the War). Hair was worn up, towerlike; but Miss Wallis Warfield divided hers, with a middle parting, curling over the ears. She married a naval officer, temporarily seconded to the air force, Lieutenant Spencer. White velvet embroidered with pearls, a circlet of orange blossom and veil, with a bunch of white orchids and lilies-of-the-valley. In San Diego, on honeymoon, she wore white shoes and stockings, a short white dress and blue jersey over which you could see the round collar and cuffs of her dress, a wide black suede belt, and black straw hat pulled down over her eyebrows. “Oh, mademoiselle from Amentières, parley-vooo, parley-voooo….” sang the American soldiers as the Red Cross girls, in uniform with newly bobbed hair, arrived on trucks, excited by the songs, by the novelty, by the feeling of being useful and amusing themselves at the Crillon bar and the Meurice. Their uniforms were terribly non-regulation, and Paquin created heavily embroidered dresses, Pour fêter la Victoire, Soir de gloire. They danced the foxtrot to Broken Doll. The first shawls appeared, white, black and pink, with very long fringes, and draped in them the women appeared to shiver in gardens illuminated by the lamps on dinner tables. One of D’Annunzio’s most beautiful friends became a nun and would die some years later, caught in a blizzard. Mata Hari, who in private preferred rigid, checked tailleurs, was killed on an otherwise ordinary morning; Isadora Duncan continued to hold demonstrations for the abolition of shoes; Mistinguett, the sweetheart of the French army, appeared amid flurries of plumes, and Cecile Sorel wore the red ribbon of the Légion in her buttonhole. Women were eager for honours, although a few refused to accept them on the grounds that other decorations had made the rosette unworthy. Countess de Noailles, now a muse with official status, tied a ribbon around her forehead, thus creating a false fringe without having to cut her hair. They all had gleaming silky legs and there was much talk of garters. The grand couturiers went bankrupt: after struggling against


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plant fibres and cardboard soles for shoes, Drecoll announced he had been defeated by a new and incomprehensible love of simplicity. Amalia Guglielminetti wore striped, sleeveless dresses at Santa Margherita, and Willa Cather was seen in floral cretonnes at the seaside. This put an end, lamentably, to the last dreams of these creators of elegance, who barely succeeded in imposing a low belt, the abolition of the corset, and a voluptuous informality consecrated by the novels of Guido da Verona. By 1921 the last memories of this wartime inspiration had faded, the laced boots, dustcoats, umbrella godets, cuffed gloves. Now, in summer, the predilection was for organdie, generally lilac, worn over black petticoats, with a small black straw hat, and a huge lilac silk bow. Or for white organdie, as a triple flounced skirt, edged with red trim and a red ribbon, rosette-style, this time on a white straw hat. In winter squirrel fur coat, for those who could afford them; students wore Raphael-style berets with short jackets in fake otter. In spring, a piqué gilet worn over black cloth: swallows, wrote the romantic women writers, while Pitigrilli defined these little waistcoats in far less amiable terms. Ladies returned home carrying their shorn locks in a parcel: the best compliment you could pay them was to say, “I mistook you for your daughter”, and the rage, the fury of youth erupted in every detail. Girls, on the other hand, aspired to look experienced, expert and wise. They made themselves up like their mothers, in white, red and black, using thick powders, lipsticks and solid, obvious bistres. Their hair was frizzed and thick, clinging to their cheekbones, their hats pulled very low, the high lapels of their overcoats barely revealing a dark crescent of eyes, a blood-red outline of lips. In Genoa, General Chappuis’ two daughters were regarded as models of refinement: white tennis dresses with thin blue stripes, pale furs, the first felt hats. Landru launched a trend for dark colours teamed with scarlet, with diabolical shoes. The triple gauzes were cut, sheath-like, to make evening gowns, knee-length at most, generally embroidered with pearls and often with sleeves that fluttered over the shoulders and were gathered into a velvet band at the wrist. Bare-backed, perhaps with a gem worn on the lower abdomen. Ninetta Moscatelli went to a ball dressed in gold lamé and danced with the Prince: opinion in the city was divided as to whether a young girl should wear gold lamé or not. Yes was the conclusion. Princess G wore a dress made entirely from violets for a tea dance. Another Roman princess, dancing in red chiffon, became renowned, or should that be notorious, for being described as “flaming Troy”. The factory girls, all members of the socialist party, had worn silk stockings with clogs and were now learning to use black nail varnish, both mournful and tough. Fouta appealed to both working women and their society counterparts for whom it brought a touch of the proletarian, as well as being cheap and quick, a basic fabric, just a couple of parallel seams, holes for the

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neck and arms. If required it could be dressed up by using pieces with selvedges since the edges served as embellishment. Golf clothing was copied from English magazines: the first golf clubs arrived in large bags, and people worried about providing a luxurious lining for racquets. Suzanne Lenglen preferred pleats, Elena Wills opennecked blouses, and other female champions sported knits with wide stripes, inspired perhaps by Sing-Sing uniforms. Season by season women fell in love with their freedom, their modesty. Moreover, every aspect of social life was animated by complete personal satisfaction, and the short, rudimentary dresses were emphasised by the incredible self-confidence of those who wore them. A long string of Japanese pearls, a heart-stopping blossom worn on the shoulder, a chiffon square wound around the wrist, or a silk triangle knotted over a sports jacket, these were the sole ornaments conceded by women who had sworn to liberate themselves from hats; short socks replaced silk stockings, sandals replaced shoes. Even millionairesses had plain robes-chemises run up for them by their personal maids, and Paul Poiret attempted a large, and unsuccessful, campaign for flirtatiousness: this once renowned and still inventive designer dreamt of reinventing his glorious inspirations and the style of the Ballets Russes: sleek tunics enveloped in beaded, fur-trimmed drapes, harem skirts and veils. He badly miscalculated the reaction of women who one day would accept wearing their grandmothers’ clothes, never those of their youth, and the forty-year-olds of 1925 could not forget that they had been twenty-five in 1910. Poiret’s business collapsed spectacularly and he retired to private life, amid his books bound in human skin, his coloured lovers, his pithy epigrams: “Couture is love, a mystery, a miracle.” But no one wanted mystery then, or miracles, but instead a prolix and repeated triumph over the past: ladies eagerly knitted sweaters, chequered or patterned with diamonds or cubes. Picasso would have died if he had realised his works had involuntary led to short geometric knitted dresses, featuring a narrow fake leather belt, worn very low. Humility, uncertainty, nostalgia date precisely from the period after the Wall Street Crash, yet these would not be valid reasons to explain a renewed deference to haute couture unless one also believed that women wanted to appear more beautiful to these defeated men and to deem arduous an achievement that had been so simple in the past. It should also be said that 1929 was marked by the rise of exceptionally talented and clever designers. Lanvin teamed the silvery gleam of satin with fluttering veils for the evening, a foretaste of the trains to follow, Captain Molyneux softened the tailleur, and Worth continued a refinement begun under the Second Empire with the tournures worn by Pauline de Metternich. Never again would Paris welcome and develop the taste of international designers as during the decade 1930–1940, and together with the Englishman Captain Molyneux, we will name two Italian


Irene Brin

designers, Schiaparelli and Nina Ricci; while Balenciaga arrived from Spain. These couturiers drew on poetry, painting and history: when creating the costumes for Amphitrion 38, Madeleine Vionnet introduced decorative features in the plain evening gowns, and paved the way for endless variations by imposing asymmetrical lengths. Many years later, with the same fervour, Chanel would clothe Madame de Schenneberger in the black and green tunics of Antigone, set to music by Honneger. Cocò Chanel came up with the idea of large costume jewellery worn over modest knitted jackets, stylish Tiepolo-like hats, huge glasses, and flat shoes like those worn by Carpaccio’s Saint Ursula. Ventura garnered admiration worldwide, initially limited to the quintessential models of some of Pisanello’s drawings, presented at the Italian Exhibition at the Petit Palais, by dressing the beautiful silhouette of Countess Niki Visconti in pale floral damasks that were entirely pictorial and remote. It was Madame Schiaparelli who printed cuttings from Figaro or the Daily Mail in delicate pinkish colours on a white linen background, who accepted Vertès’ drawings, who designed soft, ample garments gathered at the waist by a braided belt and accompanied by Toulouse-Lautrec hats and two-colour shoes. Through her, everything that had been bad taste in the nineteenth century acquired grace and freshness, while everything that seemed “bête comme le dixneuvième siècle” [stupid as the nineteenth century] to imaginations spoilt by reading Daudet became witty and seductive. Madame Schiaparelli made her clients wear corsets, consequently refashioning the bust, enticed by soft feathers, foamy lace. Mae West transposed herself into Schiaparelli’s sharp yet most delicate taste, and women finally put on a couple of pounds. Models were now invaluable. At the autumn, winter, spring and summer fashion shows, the capitals were thronged with anxious buyers who were tactfully searched before being allowed into the rooms where the shows were held, rooms that were usually decorated in pearl grey or ivory white. Despite all these precautions, clandestine photographers managed to conceal a camera inside a garter, a button: if discovered, they were arrested and prosecuted. The indisputable ownership of a style, an ornament, was established by law. Mrs Wallis Spencer, whom we left as a new bride in San Diego, divorced and travelled to China where Man Ray photographed her in antique Chinese pyjamas. She then married Mr Ernest Simpson. In around 1931 we find her settled in London, with frequent trips to Paris, where she patronised the couturier Mainbocher. “For the morning,” writes her biographer, “Wallis prefers dark tailleurs, with pale blouses, but it is very unusual for her to be seen in the street at this time of day. Instead Wallis always goes out after lunch, wearing trim coats, or in spring, simple black or dark blue suits, trimmed with white. When playing sports, she generally wears deep red.

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Was this perhaps a premonition? Everyone knows that purple is the colour of royalty. In the evening, black: she had a famous black dress, embellished on the back with white frills terminating in a train. Others, also black, were embroidered with brightly coloured sequins. Wallis’s favourite furs are mink and marten, fashioned into sumptuous capes for her by the furrier Révillon. Her favourite gemstones are rubies, sapphires, emeralds and aquamarines… Wallis did not want a new ensemble for her presentation at Court, so she borrowed one from a friend, hence the three feathers, court shoes and customary mantle; Wallis is too democratic to yield to spending solely for etiquette. Yet she did buy a circlet of aquamarines to wear on her head, holding the feathers, and a cross, also of aquamarines, ten centimetres long. What you might call a sensational appearance…” It is not clear whether, later, it was the Prince of Wales who gave her the large necklace of brilliants set with intersecting emeralds at the front and sides, with a matching bracelet and rings. Or the corded platinum bracelet with a rectangle of diamonds holding a miniature watch. Or the two triangular rings, in emeralds and brilliants; or the long flower-shaped earrings. It is not clear, but it seems likely. “It was easy to guess that great events were being prepared, judging by the high-soled shoes, welcomed so enthusiastically by women…” These words, which appeared in 1943 in the Italian magazine, Documento, seem extraordinary because these cork platforms, which invaded the shop windows and then the streets, homes and beaches in 1938, marked an imperious revolution in taste and a strange metamorphosis in proportions. Perugia used to make a pink model and a green one for Schiaparelli; Ferragamo, who, right or wrong, is credited with the invention, alternated gold laces on rough evening sandals with red and blue leather on so-called sports shoes, which were nonetheless equally vertiginous. Hardworking shoemakers removed spool or Louis XV heels and replaced them with fifteen centimetres of cork, giving a dazzling look to shoes that had become démodé decades earlier. First Paris then New York copied the latest fashions from Italian shoemakers, while doctors, sticklers for tradition, condemned the practice as a momentary fad and warned that, without its natural arch, the female foot would soon become flat and deformed. But for the past five years, women have become tightrope walkers, or those balancing on stilts, and show no sign of tiring of the fashion. Another important aspect is the evolution and spread of fur. If in 1932 it was fashionable to wear pale fox in springtime, in place of the traditional mole fur or stone marten wrap, or beech marten stole, soon two foxes became the norm, worn faces close, paws interlaced. In winter, squirrel fur was now utterly passé and in its place came Persian lamb, more rarely mink or chinchilla, both extremely costly. But Italian producers or those importing from the colonies sold lamb or rabbit in endless disguises: fake beaver or otter jackets or those in fake Persian


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lamb, costing on average one thousand five hundred lire, became the attire of sales assistants and maids, endowing them with false elegance, while society ladies with higher aspirations sported the first silver fox collars. These collars soon became capes, then cloaks, and lastly coats. June Knight, the actress, owned a sensational, floor-length evening coat of silver fox, and two American millionairesses travelled to Europe with six fox fur jackets apiece: every evening, they would appear, in tandem, sporting white, red or silver fox, worried by the fact that suspicious European minds might suppose they were exchanging the jackets in private. These animals were adorned with blue enamel eyes, or small golden bees. “I can’t afford fox”, “I’m going to get fox”, “I’ve got my foxes” were phrases that reflected the progressive stages of female avidity, and, in America, noble families would confirm their aristocratic status by asserting that the women in the family had worn blue fox since 1880. Then, as variety show singers, condescending typists and taxi dancers started to conquer this precious trophy, its status plummeted and was only partially replaced by that of a pair of platinum foxes, something still rare and prohibitively expensive today. Snakeskin and, better still, crocodile skin were also almost iconic attributes of success and refinement. Matching bag and shoes in first lizard, then python and then crocodile skin would soon acquire their place on the scale of values set and practised by women. The vogue for crocodile – known affectionately as “cocco” by the lucky owners – is still flourishing, moreover, and has barely been touched by the fashion for ostrich. There was the shaa…bby stile. The pronunciation must be drawled, a long “sha—bby”, the lips wide in mock disgust. It called for a deliberately unkempt look: an old macintosh, an old divided skirt, an old jumper, shoes that were scuffed and down at heel. But, what mattered was that the mac had to be Burberry, the skirt made by Ventura, the jumper by Knize, and the shoes by Hermés. “She is a young, modern person, highly photogenic in a trenchcoat…”, wrote Jean Cocteau, describing Liane, one of the heroines of Sacred Monsters: we have all known countless photogenic girls, seen almost solely in the reflection of a pretend drizzle, dressed in shiny rubber. A camelhair coat would also be suitable, but what was mandatory, always, were dark glasses and a scarf, either knotted under the chin like a babuschka or on the top of the head à la créole. There was the girr….lish style. After the so-called “dauphin” hair style gathered at the nape, en catogan, from 1937 women imagined quantities of ribbons and bows, which even Lady Mendl, with her white hair, could not resist. Neat collars, bows, very short jackets, tartan skirts, embroidered blouses completed the look: all that was missing was a hand-held hoop or ball. There was no shortage though of stammered words, diminutives, whimsical gestures, lace flounces around hemlines.

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There was the funereal style. Black hair, velvet bag, black dress, muff. A few dark jewels, a veil or two. A distrait look, a hoarse voice: for the evening, dark waves of hair hanging loose midway down the back, sometimes falling over an eye or brushed back with false impatience. This style barely lasted at all. There was the regal style. Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark married the Duke of Kent in 1935 and launched Marina blue, a particular shade that for months adorned the shop windows of Via del Tritone; the following year, to stress her relationship with Queen Alexandra, Marina relaunched small hats adorned with ostrich feathers, and, in summer, a straw Pamela. But she was forced to stop wearing Pamela hats because the public complained, in letters to The Times, of not being able to see the duchess’s beautiful face on ceremonial occasions. In 1937 Mrs Simpson married the former King of England, becoming the Duchess of Windsor and inaugurating another tone of blue, known as Wallis blue. This was the colour of her wedding dress, the fabric for which Mainbocher had had to dye seven times in order to match the exact shade of the duchess’s eyes. There was the literary style. Famous silk producers, like Bianchini, commissioned designs from even more famous artists like Marie Laurencin, Paul Klee, Dufy, Fujita, Matisse. In Milan, the jeweller Margherita created attractively clunky necklaces, inspired by those of the 1880s: her clients, previously eager for platinum settings, now bought gold filigree and diadems of bell-shaped coral. Van Cleef exhibited a solid gold pin brooch, dotted with rubies, at the World’s Fair in New York, an almost terrifying way of displaying France’s extreme splendour in 1939. In June 1939 there had been much talk about cotton ball gowns. These were not exactly a novelty, because piqué and organdie had been worn for years at garden parties, and ladies liked to complement them with a floral hair ornament: but in 1939 the fashion for false simplicity reached new levels, setting the love of the picturesque against the extraordinary pomp of the receptions given by Lady Mendl, or by Etienne de Beaumont. In Venice, the last grand season at the Lido witnessed a growing carousel of jewels, furs and expectation: Countess Marina Volpi di Misurata embellished her evening glasses with filigree gold butterflies; the Maharani processed on the terrace, enveloped in opaline gauzes worthy of The Arabian Nights. Even in the spring of 1940, the situation in France could not, according to Gertrude Stein, be considered dangerous. “There were too many pretty hats in the window displays,” she wrote, in an issue of Paris France published after the fall. “And I thought that if a country can still produce such beautiful hats, it cannot possibly be on the verge of collapse…” In France now women wear extraordinary hats of tulle over old, worn-out dresses, and they have no stockings, only leg make-up, no real shoes, only clogs lined with fur. In England there has been an official


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announcement that there will be no silk stockings until the end of the war. In Germany shoes have straw soles made by prisoners. Here is the final portrait of the gagarella [dandizette], the jeune fille swing, whom we see everywhere, all the time. “The girl swinger has blond hair, thrown back, clearly defined, exuberant lips, very long nails varnished bright red, a full, short skirt, net stockings, a simple check top and, round her neck, a family locket. She carries a large bag worn across her shoulder.” [André Coeuroy, Histoire générale du jazz].

Men’s Wardrobes They’d be ashamed to press their pants. Christopher Morley, Kitty Foyle Barely was the war over, the men donned their dinner jackets and flew towards the dance rooms: a short “smoking” jacket, single-breasted, bombé. Many wore gold wrist bracelets and crossed their legs to show off their silk socks. Alberto Rabagliati, when he heard he had won the Fox cinema competition, went for a stroll in the Galleria, dressed in his smoking even though it was daylight. Grey suits, on the other hand, were declined in the palest shades, even periwinkle blue. A single button at waist level, silk shirt, a wallet to match the tie and handkerchief peeping out of the breast pocket: the most sophisticated men explained that, while a single length of silk usually sufficed to fashion three ties, narrow ones, they would order one tie, a wallet, and with the rest, also a pocket square, called a pochette. At the seaside, dark blue shorts and jersey, quite high-necked with white and deep blue stripes. On the beach, pyjamas. Girlfriends (but never a wife) would sometimes order matching beach pyjamas. Summer shoes were white with brown tips, and very pointed. A collar pin was worn all year round. Young men would be given hand-knitted jumpers by their mothers and fiancées, always with cubist designs. These were worn over knickerbockers, said to be particularly useful for Sundays out, in the car, and for trips in general. A photograph from 1929 shows Pitigrilli and Marcello Boasso, in a street in the heart of Paris, and both are wearing short trousers, mountain hats, round-toed shoes and pullovers. Ermeto watches and the first wild boar skin gloves were signs of refined luxury. Such sporting attire ennobled its owners, even if never used. After 1929 jackets lengthened, as did hair. Charles Farrell and then Johnny Weissmüller grew luxuriant, wavy, towering heads, which in Italy became known as “alla Ghigo”, accompanied by bell bottoms and extra wide-knotted ties.

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In 1935, crewnecks sweaters arrived. At beach resorts some even attempted to wear white tails. Instead short dinner jackets, copied from the Royal Navy, made a sustained and successful offensive. Chevalier wore a straw boater with his smoking. Hints of colour: horizontally striped socks, pink shirts. A crescendo of folly at the seaside. Darkly tanned athletes, oiled and oily, in minuscule white briefs. Strolling past rows of cafés on the lungomare in faded navy blue canvas trousers, blue t-shirt and sandals: the only difference between a gentleman and a seaman is the former’s wristwatch. Myths of shapeless jackets, aged flannels, sweaters still redolent of Scottish wool, inasmuch as they were signs of comfort, indifference, age-old splendour, temporary and exquisite poverty. “Snobisme de la purée.” Everyone swore they were penniless, but their smoking accessories were, de rigueur, Dunhill. The smoking changed name and became a Tuxedo, worn with a soft-fronted shirt, simply. The dinner jacket was replaced by a white jacket, in piqué or linen. The jackets of 1939, without lapels, were called “unfinished”, and often had side vents; they were teamed with “caciottina” hats, first worn by Bob Taylor. Then army uniforms were back again. The final portrait of the dandy, the jeune homme swing, whom we see everywhere, all the time. “The young male swinger has wavy hair, broad but sloping shoulders, a long jacket, short, straight trousers; he wears braces but his trousers are impeccably pressed; his watch is turned in on its strap; he wears his hat tilted back and leans forward; he drags his feet, but his pace is long; his shoes are brown suede, but his linen socks are white, and he carries a furled umbrella.” [André Coeuroy, Histoire générale du jazz].

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