Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The decline of the western hemline

Here's something I just unexpectedly ran across while looking through inter-war newspaper articles for references to Oswald Spengler: a recounting of a lecture at the Edinburgh City Business Club by Mr. R. H. Munro on the topic of fashion.

Mr Munro was dealing principally with the ever-changing fashions in women's wear. Married men profess to deplore these changes, but no man likes to see his wife fall behind in the parade. It is true that a woman who remains old-fashioned long enough may find herself again in the fashion, for as Beaumont and Fletcher observed in the Elizabethan age, "We know that what was worn some twenty years ago comes into grace again." In somewhat less that twenty years we have witnessed our womenfolk abandoning their crowning glory only to grow it again, and shortening their skirts only to lengthen them again. Yet history never repeats itself in exact detail. Women's infinite variety is never staled by custom, for custom never gets a chance.
"The Dictates of Fashion," The Scotsman, 8 May 1935, p. 12.

The Spengler reference (in case you're interested in these kinds of things) derives from his concept of "Dionysian Man", which Mr Munro uses as a description of a feature particular -- in his view -- to Western civilisation: the type of person "in a state of continual movement from one idea to another", who is "constantly on the quest for visions to guide him along untravelled roads".

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