Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sheer Beauty

The FiDM blog just showcased an article about sheer dresses in the 1930s, which I found really fascinating, especially in its attempt to trace the origin of the popularity of these garments back to the Hays Code.  Coincidentally, I had cached at least two images of sheer gowns that had caught my eye on eBay recently, due to their gorgeous autumnal hues, so thought I'd include these here as delicious Wednesday morning eye candy. Since the auction for the first lovely has ended, se lovelies have ended, I am not giving a link.  The second one is being sold by Curatorial Vintage. As a side note, I WILL tell you I have at least one sheer beauty in my Etsy shop.



13 comments:

chelsea said...

These are gorgeous! Reminds me of a dress that Kierra Knightly wore in Atonement.

garofit said...

i have seen these too, they are gorgeous, that's the kind of dress i dream about: vaporous, delicate , feminine beauty

Darling L said...

So romantic and feminine, I love it :)

Wearing History said...

Those are so beautiful!
I really enjoyed the article but kind of went "okkkaaaay" re:the Hays code. Sheer dresses were popular LONG before the Hays code was put in force. Think of all the pre-code sheer dresses! The decade of the 1920s was popping at the seams there were so many! Not to mention the sheers that were popular in the Edwardian era and before.
But the dresses they showed were just droolworthy- and that first frock here is stunning!

BaronessVonVintage said...

Hi, Chelsea: Yes, there's that day dress she wears which definitely has a similar look and feel to it, isn't there?

Garofit, Darling L: indeed!!!

Good point, Wearing History: Maybe if the article had emphasized that it is the particular combination of form fitting silhouettes and sheer fabric (often in boudoir lingerie and flesh tone colors) that together made the garments both appropriately feminine and yet sometimes bordering on naughty and racy? This to me would be what separates Edwardian and even many 20s sheers from 30s ones? The example garments they showed weren't even the most scandalous of the bunch! I've had a few incredibly saucy lace gowns come through my shop that would have proved their point much more visibly??

BaronessVonVintage said...

Hey, I just revisited that FiDM site. Is that correct to call that chevron printed silk chiffon number in the first image a DAY dress?? Isn't it a floor length gown? Eeeps.

Wearing History said...

Lol. No. I love the blog because of all the lovely dresses and the clear photos they share, but they're not always very accurate in their descriptions. But then again, since I'm an alumnus maybe I'm particularly picky.

I can see what you mean, regarding the clinging fabrics and textiles, but to me it just is an indication of the style of the times combined with the fabrics used in prior decades. Seems a bit of a stretch to me about the Hays code in light of the dresses shown, like you said. I can just see everyone saying "sheer dresses were popular in the 30s because of the Hays code," because they saw it in a blog once... but that's just silly.
In reality there were two different spheres that dictated 1930s fashion. We still had high society and famous couturiers, which is how lots of previous centuries dictated style, and many of the mass (especially middle and upper classes) looked to them for inspiration. Then we had Hollywood- the relative newcomer- which was the style leader in the middle and lower classes. Not saying this was the total end all argument, because I'm sure there was crossover in each mass- but each had a target market so to speak. That's why one girl will get her fashion advice from Photoplay and the other from Vogue.
So I guess what I'm saying is that I wish they'd give their sources.... if the first instance of a sheer bias cut frock was seen in Hollywood then I would give it more standing. But if if was seen in high fashion, then Hollywood just probably adapted it to their individual need.
I don't know if any of that makes any sense, but that's my thought ;)

BaronessVonVintage said...

Oh, i see what you mean...if, as the article itself even admits, designers like Vionnet and Chanel were working with (and popularizing) sheers and then this trickled down into Hollywood, bringing up the Hays code doesn't really make much sense, does it, because the couture designers were not required to bow to the rules of the movie industry (unless they were specifically working as costume designers?). In short, if I'm getting this correctly, the article is making the mistake of conflating fashion off the Hollywood lot with the costumes ON the lot? As for sources, yes, you're right, Wearing History, it seems that the designers were setting the "trend" that later moved onto the big screen. Here's what they wrong "In 1933, the Los Angeles Times suggested "tailored sheer dresses" as a good choice for "hot-weather daytime fashion."1 A 1939 article from the New York Times titled "Spring and Summer Sheers for Town Wear," detailed a variety of sheer dresses suitable for different occasions, including a "dainty peek-a-boo frock of black sheer, " with curved lines of faggoting on the bodice which provided glimpses of a pink slip.2 Haute couture designers, including Coco Chanel and Madeline Vionnet, also designed elegant sheer evening dresses." This has nothing to do with the Hays code and how it might have popularized sheer dresses and gowns off screen. I think I was so mesmerized by the dresses, I didn't really follow the problematic logic of the article. Now I think it is really poorly argued!!

BaronessVonVintage said...

So, the question remains: who or what first popularized sheer dresses and gowns? What effect DID the Hays Code have on the use/presence of this "trend," both onscreen and off? My instinct tells me that if we look at the sheer costumes appearing in pre-code film vs. the ones appearing post-Hays Code, we're going to get some much less overtly sensual gowns or gowns which attempt with much more artistry to be both concealing and revealing, appropriate and sultry, feminine yet form fitted? Just a guess...

BaronessVonVintage said...

One last note: I just read the FiDM's crochet article and commented on its inaccurate dismissal of pre-1960s crocheting as rather insignificant. Tsk tsk. ;)

Wearing History said...

Well, really, FIDM is located in Los Angeles, and has very close proximity to Hollywood as well as a connection to designers (I know when I was in the Motion Picture Design programme we had many Hollywood designers come in to speak), so they might have a slightly skewed perspective on how Hollywood affected fashion that early on. It DID affect fashion, for sure, but I see much more crossover in Hollywood with high fashion as we get into the late 1930s and 40s than, say, when the Hays code was starting.
In reality Hollywood has always pushed the envelope. Sex sells, there's no argument, and it is true they pushed it as far as they possibly could with the code, but every singe fashion design that was put in film HAD to be run through the Hays office. If they didn't like something it either got cut or got revised.
Even if some Hollywood starlets had an aversion to undergarments (I'm specifically thinking of Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight), most women on the street would hardly be "nudity in silhouette" when wearing sheer frocks. Those long line girdles made sure THAT wasn't the case- and just like we see in Regency fashion- where we get the BIG misconception that women didn't wear corsets- the fact remains that nature needs help and most had some form of foundation garment on. It's not all like Petting in the Park in Gold Diggers of '33 (which was precode, right?)
If anything, we could say that sheers were used scandalously BEFORE the code rather than after, so not really in reaction TO the code.
But heck, what do I know- I only have an AA from a school that won't allow you to teach at their campus unless you've got a B.A. they don't offer (oh, the irony!)
;)

BaronessVonVintage said...

You're awesome, WH :)

garofit said...

wow, what a lesson in fashion history, thanks gals!