from Are clothes Necessary?

a lot of people allow themselves to see the past only in the current romantic-patriotic de luxe edition of moving pictures and best-sellers. A a lot more sensible technique is needed for a true comprehension of the dress attributes of past periods. For instance, the clothing-minded must have a a lot more critical view of that period which loving nostalgia named the Gay Nineties. It was a climax of sophistication and savoir vivre, a time of prosperity and majestically sweeping female dresses. The following snapshot is handed down to us by the observer of a trifling incident: A lady, attired in a dress with a train that answered the dictum of fashion, boarded a cab after a short walk and left on the curbstone the rubbish she had collected while sweeping the street. The onlooker, without doubt an analytical-minded person, made this inventory of the refuse:

2 cigar ends

9 cigarette do

A portion of pork pie

4 toothpicks

2 hairpins

1 stem of a clay pipe

3 fragments of orange peel

1 slice of cat’s meat

Half a sole of a boot

1 plug of tobacco (chewed)

straw, mud, scraps of paper, and miscellaneous street refuse, ad.lib.

A still-life of less prosaic nature was painted by one Dr. Casagrandi in 1900. reading a paper before the medical association in Rome, he reported on his bateriological examinations of trailing skirts, for which experiments he had employed a number of women to walk for one hour through the city streets. To his fulfillment he found large colonies of germs including those of tuberculosis, typhoid fever, tetanus and influenza, not to mention lesser bacilli, all of which were represented on each skirt.

from Are clothes Necessary? by Bernard Rudofsky (Paul Theobald 1947).

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