Fashion Necessities of a Bygone Era

by Dale Peers

While poking about in our massive vault of fashion reveals extraordinary design, colour and textures some of the items students fine most fascinating are items that are no longer relevant to a contemporary fashionista.

Imagine what folks 100 years from now might think of our fashionable necessities!  Here are just a few items from our fashion past which you might not recognize.

Pictured below are three versions of button hooks required to do up the multiple buttons on footwear of the 19th century.  The largest of the three has an ivory shoe horn to aid in slipping one’s foot into fancy dance slippers.

A button hook might also be used on a pair of “Spats.” Short for Spatterdashers, this accessory would be used to keep your highly polished footwear looking its best. These examples show that buttons as well as snaps, in later versions, could be used to fasten these around one’s ankle and over one’s shoes.

Keeping out of the sun to avoid skin damage is popular today but sunblock products are used. Wouldn’t a lovely little parasol such as this one be such a smart addition to one’s look? This clever example is collapsible – the shaft of the parasol folds in half and when fully extended stays in place with a small metal tube (you can see it peeking out just below the fringe) that slides over the hinge. One of the reasons such accessories as walking sticks and parasols fell out of favour was the difficulty one encountered trying to get in and out of the automobile with these.





And, if the atmosphere inside was too warm, fashionable ladies might include one of these luscious looking fans in their evening ensemble. An entire “language of the fan” might be used to flirt with a gentleman, exclaim at his brashness or entice him for a small kiss, hidden behind those lovely ostrich feathers.

Gloves were worn not just to keep hands warm on a wintry day but as an accessory for day, evening and special occasions. Gloves came in a variety of lengths and materials including delicate kid leather or silk. They might also be worn in the bright sunshine, to reduce a freckled appearance to a lady’s hands. These are examples of “Mitts,” (not to be confused with mittens)and are finger-less gloves crocheted in silk. They would have decorated the lady’s hand and arm while not being overly warm to wear.
While most people refer to their phone for the time a gentleman’s prized possession would have been one of these beautiful pocket watches. To ensure that they were safe when taken out of one’s pocket to consult the time a watch chain ending with a fob would make it possible to secure the watch to one’s suit vest. The standard horizontal bar style of fob could be replaced with something more interesting such as the tiny pocket knife found on the end of this watch chain on the right and the tiny barrel on the one in the centre.  (Was the owner a brewer or pub owner?)
The death of Queen Victoria’s consort and husband, Prince Albert made fashionable a niche market of mourning attire. Dressing in particular types of black fabrics and wearing mourning jewellery became popular. These are examples of rare mourning brooches and pendants made of Bog Oak, a fossilized wood. Their lack of shine and sombre motifs made them integral in the outward appearance of grief.
What will be thought of our fashion necessities in 100 years? Will people wonder why we needed different “skins” for our phones? Will they marvel at our obsession for handbags? Will they be unable to explain why anyone would wear Uggs and Crocs? Each generation has marveled at the “foolishness” of the generation that has come before and human behaviour is likely to continue to do just that.

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