Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Sister

This weeks Sunday Sister is Elizabeth Hawes, because she was a pioneer for designing what women wanted and needed rather than dictating to them what was fashionable. Not just a designer, Hawes was a multi-tasker and was involved with several other industries within fashion, including sketcher, copyist, stylist, and journalist, as well as a designer, she was also an author, union organizer, champion of gender equality, and political activist. WOW, puts us to shame hey?!

Born in New Jersey, Elizabeth decided in the summer of 1925 that she would sail to where the fashion scene was burgeoning, Paris. Here she was introduced to Haute Couture, well kind of! She began working in a copy house that pirated designers like Lanvin, Chanel and Vionnet...I think working here obviously rattled her cage slightly because when she began writing for the New Yorker in 1927, her cynicism toward fashion had taken a firm root. In one of her columns she wrote,

"All reddish brown or black prints are smart Chanel says so it must be so"

After her stint in Paris, she sailed back to America in 1928, where she decided that there was a niche in the market for American Couture and opened a salon. Here she built a considerable reputation as a designer of 'elegant clothes that were both comfortable and flattering'. Even though she was well revered and making a comfortable living being a designer, nothing could curb her insatiable desire to criticise and direct sarcasm towards the fashion industry. In 1938, she published a book called Fashion is Spinach (which can be read by clicking the hyperlink-as it is well out of print now!) where she discussed how French Couturiers had the power to make women feel "absolutely out of fashion" if they failed to wear two silver foxes around their neck. In the book she declares the whole notion of fashion "a complete anachronism"

Hawes despaired that most men and women were clothing conformists; in her view, clothes should be the expression of personality, of fantasy, and above all of individuality.

When the War began, Hawes closed her salon and returned to journalism, where she wrote for an antti- Communist newspaper called PM. This lead to her being put under surveillance by the FBI. She also became a union organiser for the UAW, and later on she worked in an aeroplane plant to personally experience how life was for women machine operaters during the war which led to her writing Why Women Cry (read via link)

Like a lot of legends, Elizabeth Hawes became an alcoholic because of issues that materialised in her later life, and sadly died in 1971 due to alchol-related causes.


Post a Comment