Clothing in America still reflected the Victorian mode. For women it meant layers of clothing, with multiple buttons, lacings, bows, ties, and buckles to attend to. It was common for women to require assistance from (another woman) to enter into and egress from her attire. There were layers of personal undergarments, including corsets, bones, crinolines, hoops and bustles, to create a silhouette described as hourglass. Sleeves of women’s dresses were described as “mutton” shaped, like a fatted leg of lamb, and sometimes described as “Bishop” sleeves like heavy draperies. The word arm and leg was considered indecent thus proper people referred to them as “limbs”. Hemlines went from the waist to the floor, and puddled on the ground so that shoes could not be seen, this meant that it was difficult to move, and that skirts needed to be lifted in order to ascend or descend stairs, therefore it was difficult for women to carry anything, a tray, a package or even a glass of water.
Shoes were pointed (a look that remains fashionable) this was meant to reference a birds foot, a species that was considered feminine and exuberant. Like birds feet, these pointy toes shoes with heels would make it difficult to walk, let alone run from the male of the species just like a common pigeon. On the Victrola, the elegiac “I’m Only A Bird In A Gilded Cage” was a common parlor song. Birds were biologically productive and women were dressed in feathers to reference the species. Also another parallel between women and adopting elements of avian species was macabre reaction to the high mortality rate. At the beginning of the 20th century, for every 1000 live births, six to nine women in the United States died of pregnancy-related complications, and approximately 100 infants (per 1,000) died before age one year. With a mill mentality, society hoped that women like birds were expected to produce children at the rate of one a year, and anticipate that only a few healthy would survive.
Clothing at the time reflected Edwardian sentiment and morality. Undergarments were not meant to be comfortable or offer support. They were meant to provide a barrier between the wearer and their clothing, absorb perspiration, reduce odor, protect the skin from body waste, and in many instances sexually confine women. Bras for instance were seldom sold, and mostly made by the wearer from men’s handkerchiefs. (see www.youtube.com “How to make a bra out of two handkerchiefs” C. 1921) The origins of words sometimes reveal great truths. The term “brassiere” had originally been used to describe a soldiers arm guard or shield, but was co-opted by Vogue in 1907 to describe this relatively novel new article of clothing. The abbreviated word “bra” enters the Oxford Dictionary around 1911.
Tiring of poorly made undergarments the first manufactured bra is made by New York Socialite, Mary Phelps Jacob, who sells her parent for 1,500.00 to The Warner Brother Corset Company in 1914. Shortly thereafter Warner Brothers sells over 15 million dollars worth of bras in a few years. However, it’s not until 1925, that Russian immigrant, Ida Rosenthal, and Enid Bisset, two enterprising women from Bayonne, NJ opened their first shop in New York City that the modern bra really comes into fashion. The idea of “cup” sizes comes from Rosenthal’s husband, who use uses actual teacups and bowls to standardize sizes.
There are many things we take for granted, like the zipper, which is a relatively recent piece of clothing technology. There were several early versions of the zipper based on the hook and eye principal, like "The Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure", patented by Elias Howe in 1851. Whitcomb L. Judson received a patent in 1891, for another version, neither caught on. They were costly to produce, and easily pulled apart, hence, social embarrassment. It wasn’t until 1914, when Gideon Sundbäck's invented the "Hookless Fastener No. 2", which was the first version of the zipper without any major design flaws, and essentially indistinguishable from modern zippers. Gideon Sundbäck was a Swedish-born engineer employed at the Automatic Hook and Eye Company, in Hoboken, NJ. At that time the company's product, still based on hooks and eyes, was called the "C-curity Fastener", which was about as successful as the prior versions. Gideon Sundbäck finally solved the pulling-apart problem in 1913, with his invention of the "Hookless Fastener No. 2, which was not based on the hook-and-eye principle. “Version 1”, had also proved a failure, Despite the devices attributes, the public was not receptive, The pulpit decried “The Hookless Fastener” as “the Devils fingers“, for it ease to remove clothing with autonomy. It was not until 1923, that the term “zipper” was coined by BF Goodrich, and the zipper didn’t fully come into vogue until the 1930’s.
Titel Chompsky was an enterprising man; he knew it paid to advertise. While most men resisted the zipper, Chompsky replaced his buttoned fly with the new technology. Neighbors clamored to see it. This amused Chompsky and garnered him quite a reputation in the Lower East Side. Chompsky bought zippers wholesale and sold them out of his pocket retail. Within a year he had sold over 500.00 worth of zippers. He was practically wealthy.
Please return in a day or two for the final installation.
Courtesy of Sensations Magazine www.freewebs.com/centclub