by admin on September 18, 2011

parachute silk wedding dress from the 1940's

monterey peninsula college historic costume collection

another fabulous guest speaker who appeared in esme’s fashion class was mary nelson, a retired mpc prof.  mr. noir and i had just been chatting about her, as she had taught an interior design class attended by mr. noir……small world and all that!

anyway, mrs. nelson knew her fashion history inside and out.  she came with an amazing collection of vintage clothing to illustrate her talk.  these were american gowns, blouses, skirts, aprons, etc. dating from just after the civil war to the present day.  mrs. nelson wore the cutest little white gloves to handle the clothes, which were carefully folded in tissue and layered in boxes.

esme picked up several fashion history gems from the talk.  one that particularly stuck in her mind was mrs. nelson’s assertion that “the 1930’s was the original green era”.  esme had never quite thought of things this way, but it seemed spot on.

of course you recall the stock market crash of 1929.  and all the suddenly poor rich people who jumped out the windows of high-rises.  most of the remaining citizens had no choice but to re-use, re-cycle and….uh…what’s the third one??  for instance, women would save cotton flour sacks to make calico house dresses.  interestingly enough, the american depression had little effect on europe.  wealthy americans whose fortunes had survived the crash intact often sailed to europe to shop.

then of course came WW II.  fabric was rationed:  no one could buy more than 3 yards of fabric.  naturally, silhouettes became slimmer, and people continued to recycle and reuse.   our teacher’s grandmother made her wedding dress out of parachute silk, as all silk was requisitioned for the military.  any of you who have relatives who lived through this era will probably recall their dislike of throwing things away, and a tendency to hoard.  oddly, even though esme was not even a twinkle in her father’s eye in the ’30’s and ’40’s, and in fact her parents were just children at the time, she has somehow picked up this ’30’s era saving tendency.  she really does have trouble parting with her old clothes, and you should see what she does with left-overs!

in fact, just this morning, esme was thinking that perhaps she should save little fabric samples from her discarded clothing….maybe make a quilt, or…..hmmm, but then no one could even think of wearing them again…..dear me!  or perhaps one day esme will donate her favorites to the mpc fashion collection.  now there’s an idea for you.

still saving,




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