Recently, my friend Gailynne asked me to write an article for our costumers’ guild newsletter. She knows I love mid-century fashion, and she needed someone to write a piece on “beatnik” fashion for our “On the Road” event coming up in November. I thought it would be fun, so I jumped on it! I figured it would be a good way to learn more about the “Beat Generation” and the (old school) hipster culture that inspired – and was inspired by – it.
When most people hear the word “beatnik,” they probably imagine bored-looking bohemian gals in berets and guys in turtlenecks and weird little goatees. These stereotypes are rooted in truth, but like the term “beatnik” itself, they’re not really very representative of the movement defined by the “Beat Generation” nor the people inspired by its counterculture philosophy. The reality is that the intellectuals, artists, and anti-bourgeois iconoclasts of mid-twentieth century America dressed a lot like everyone else.
Legendary San Francisco columnist Herb Caen created the term “beatnik” in 1958, a portmanteau of “beat” and “Sputnik” (as in the Soviet satellite) that – in conjunction with a short report about freeloading hep cats helping themselves to booze at a magazine party – was meant to poke fun at common perceptions of the counterculture. Namely, that the group was full of lazy opportunists with far left political leanings. According to Caen, however, Beat Generation mainstay Jack Kerouac didn’t find it very amusing. “You’re putting us down and making us sound like jerks,” Kerouac apparently told him. “I hate it. Stop using it.”
I’ve linked the newsletter .pdf below if you’d like to read the whole article!
Its slinky black stretch satin and knit fabrics and cute buckled collar make the Janelle a perfect cat costume, but it’s also wonderful cocktail wear for any fancy occasion. Drawing inspiration from the art deco and futuristic aesthetics incorporated into the science fiction/film noir classic, Blade Runner, Laura’s created a beautiful dress suitable for an impressive Halloween ensemble, holiday parties, or a special date night! For those who want a little variety in their colorways, the Janelle is also available in a vibrant red, a deep blue, and a lustrous pewter gray. Continue reading “Outfit of the Week: Easy Black Cat Halloween Costume”
Yesterday was our Greater Bay Area Costumers’ Guild Falling for Vertigo: A Toast to Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco event. We had a wonderful time attending a guided tour of the Georgian portraiture at the Legion of Honor (an iconic Vertigo filming site), a nod to the fictional “portrait of Carlotta” that appeared in the film. Afterwards, we visited historic Fort Point, the location where “Madeleine” throws herself into San Francisco Bay, to explore the Civil War-era fort and behold the spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands. Our day ended with drinks and dinner at the Presidio Social Club (and for some of us, the Top of the Mark). Continue reading “Falling for Vertigo: 1950s Fashion and Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco”
Because I love Greco-Roman antiquity, I needed to make myself a chiton. Because I’ve performed Lady Emma Hamilton’s famous, classically-inspired tableaux vivants twice in the last twelve years, I needed to make myself a chiton. Because chitons are awesome and I like them, I needed a chiton.
By this point in the blog post, you might be asking yourself, “What the heck is a chiton? Who is Lady Hamilton? And those “tableaux” thingies?” I know it sounds like a strange combination of ideas, but it’s honestly not as complicated as it seems. In fact, the chiton – a very simple women’s (and men’s!) garment originating in ancient Greece and widely used as a basic dress or underdress for women in Roman eras – is extremely easy to make and wear. But I’ll get to that in a second.
Emma, My Inspiration
First, the Lady Emma part of the explanation. Our English Regency society puts on various events dealing with events and culture from the late Georgian period of British history. In the course of preparations for a ball honoring the great naval hero Lord Horatio Nelson, I somehow got roped into playing a role. And not just any role; I would be recreating Lady Emma Hamilton’s famous “attitudes.” Lady Emma performed these silent tableaux from 1787 through the 1790s and into the early 19th century, sparking several high-profile imitations and influencing modern dance and other forms of performance art over a hundred years later. Now, this was 1999 and I was crazy busy trying to finish my last year of law school. The last thing I probably needed on my plate was a performance of some sort, but for Emma Hamilton I made an exception.