Quotulatiousness

October 24, 2017

Why Women Fainted So Much in the 19th Century

Filed under: Health, History — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Today I Found Out
Published on 8 Oct 2016

In this video:

Dropping like flies (or at least as far as many stories indicate), it seems as if well-bred ladies in the 1800s struggled to maintain consciousness when faced with even the slightest emotional or physical shock. Over the years there have been several theories as to why this seemed to happen, from the women’s garb to simply conforming to societal expectations.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2015/05/women-fainted-much-19th-century/

April 24, 2017

Today’s study in “problematic” issues for Teen Vogue

Amy Alkon fisks a recent Teen Vogue piece on soi-disant “cultural appropriation”:

Silly Teen Vogue-ers, Fashion *Is* Appropriation

This bit — from Teen Vogue — is hilariously sad and sadly hilarious:

    In our new column Don’t Do It Girl, Jessica Andrews explores the cultural appropriation epidemic at Coachella.

EPIDEMIC! Like AIDS, Zika, or Ebola!

Fashion always has been about appropriation. Appropriating style and appropriating culture. Those lace-up-the-ankle sandals? Ancient Rome!

Yet, do you see Italian kids mewling that you stole their culture? Of course not, because Italians, generally speaking, are exuberant people who really know how to live life.

Meanwhile, back here in America…

The kids growing up now, especially in the United States, are the freest people in human history — both as individuals and through the technology that removes the drudgery that’s been a constant companion for humans throughout the ages.

Naturally, their response to all this unparalleled freedom is to try to control other people’s behavior.

Fashion policing, in this case. Here, from Andrews story on that EPIDEMIC of appreciation:

    Even when people feign ignorance, there’s little excuse. In the past, I’ve worn a Pocahontas costume for Halloween. It’s a mistake I regret, and I’ll never do it again knowing how hurtful it is.

Oh, please. I grew up Jewish. If you pretend to be a character from Fiddler on the Roof, should I take to bed and cry for a few days?

    With appropriation being such a huge conversation these days…

So much talk…so little reasoning

    Like fashion, appropriative hairstyles are now ubiquitous at Coachella. Cornrows or box braids are not a “hot new festival trend”; black women have been wearing them for centuries. When outlets cover the hairstyle as if it started with Kylie Jenner, it’s not appreciation; it’s erasure. Those celebratory headlines are yet another reminder that black hairstyles are only acceptable when they’re removed from actual black people.

Do you need to be high to write for Teen Vogue? It’s a fucking hairstyle. Women wear it because they think it will look good on them. If they’re white with dark hair, they’re probably wrong (nothing like rows of scalpage showing through to make a woman’s head remind us of freshly plowed fields). Women with big honking faces like mine don’t look so hot in them, either.

    Unbeknownst to some Coachella attendees, there’s a stigma associated with cornrows and braids when black people wear them.

Unbeknownst to a fucking lot of us, I’d guess.

January 28, 2016

QotD: George Orwell on American fashion magazines of the 1940s

Filed under: History, Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Someone has just sent me a copy of an American fashion magazine which shall be nameless. It consists of 325 large quarto pages, of which no less than 15 are given up to articles on world politics, literature, etc. The rest consists entirely of pictures with a little letterpress creeping round their edges: pictures of ball dresses, mink coats, step-ins, panties, brassières, silk stockings, slippers, perfumes, lipsticks, nail polish — and, of course, of the women, unrelievedly beautiful, who wear them or make use of them.

One striking thing when one looks at these pictures is the overbred, exhausted, even decadent style of beauty that now seems to be striven after. Nearly all of these women are immensely elongated. A thin-boned, ancient-Egyptian type of face seems to predominate: narrow hips are general, and slender, non-prehensile hands like those of a lizard are quite universal. Evidently it is a real physical type, for it occurs as much in the photographs as in the drawings. Another striking thing is the prose style of the advertisements, an extraordinary mixture of sheer lushness with clipped and sometimes very expensive technical jargon. Words like suave-mannered, custom-finished, contour-conforming, mitt-back, inner-sole, backdip, midriff, swoosh, swash, curvaceous, slenderize and pet-smooth are flung about with evident full expectation that the reader will understand them at a glance. Here are a few sample sentences taken at random:

“A new Shimmer Sheen color that sets your hands and his head in a whirl.” “Bared and beautifully bosomy.” “Feathery-light Milliken Fleece to keep her kitten-snug!” “Others see you through a veil of sheer beauty, and they wonder why!” “An exclamation point of a dress that depends on fluid fabric for much of its drama.” “The miracle of figure flattery!” “Molds your bosom into proud feminine lines.” “Isn’t it wonderful to know that Corsets wash and wear and whittle you down… even though they weigh only four ounces!” “The distilled witchery of one woman who was forever desirable… forever beloved… Forever Amber.” And so on and so on and so on.

A fairly diligent search through the magazine reveals two discreet allusions to gray hair, but if there is anywhere a direct mention of fatness or middle-age I have not found it. Birth and death are not mentioned either: nor is work, except that a few recipes for breakfast dishes are given. The male sex enters directly or indirectly into perhaps one advertisement in twenty, and photographs of dogs or kittens appear here and there. In only two pictures, out of about three hundred, is a child represented.

On the front cover there is a colored photograph of the usual elegant female, standing on a chair while a gray-haired, spectacled, crushed-looking man in shirtsleeves kneels at her feet, doing something to the edge of her skirt. If one looks closely one finds that actually he is about to take a measurement with a yardstick. But to a casual glance he looks as though he were kissing the hem of the woman’s garment — not a bad symbolical picture of American civilization, or at least of one important side of it.

George Orwell, retitled as “George Orwell Wrote One of the Most Incensed Takedowns of American Fashion Magazines”, The New Republic, 1946-12-02.

May 6, 2015

The “salted caramel inquisition”

Filed under: Business, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Food fashions and the current tyranny of the salted caramel inquisition, by Megan McArdle:

I don’t need to tell you that food has fashions. Remember when every restaurant with any ambition had a spinach salad with pecans, goat cheese and some sort of onion shaving? That’s now passé even in its last refuge, the twee cafes of Rust Belt suburbs. Or when truffles seemed to sprout from menus like, er, mushrooms, only to disappear almost as quickly, presumably off to hibernate in some subterranean darkness?

We are currently living through what I like to call the salted caramel inquisition, with every perfectly law-abiding caramelized dish in the land, however perfect in its simple sweetness, assaulted and forcibly converted to its more aggressive modern version.

For the last 5 to 10 years, the most notable fashion has been for the complex, spicy and exotic. Foodies exchange worried tips for storing the “basic” spices now grown too numerous for any sort of conventional cupboard. Bitter supertasters exchange angry polemics on the snobs who don’t seem to realize that those of us with less blunted palates might not want every alcoholic beverage well fortified with hops, Campari and an extra-strong helping of Angosturas. Those whose sensitive or aging gastrointestinal tracts cannot cope with all that glorious capsaicin sigh, and order the roasted chicken. Again.

History is reaction and counterreaction. The pendulum is swinging back, as gravity says it must, and I detect a new movement afoot: KISS. Which means, yes: Keep it simple, stupid. And I have to say, I like it.

March 21, 2015

QotD: The modern snob

Filed under: Europe, Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Walking through Amsterdam recently, a paradox that I had long noticed in an inchoate way formulated itself clearly in my mind. It was this: A century ago, there would have been one clothes shop for every hundred well-dressed people. Nowadays there is one well-dressed person (if that) for every hundred clothes shops. What accounts for this strange reversal of ratios?

Beyond the fact that clothes are now mass-produced rather than made individually, there is an act of will involved. Practically everyone now dresses not merely in a casual way, but with studied slovenliness for fear of being thought elegant, as elegance is a metonym for undemocratic sentiment or belief. You can dress as expensively as you like, indeed expensive scruffiness is a form of chic, but on no account must you dress with taste and discrimination. To do so might be to draw hostile attention to yourself. Who on Earth do you think you are to dress like that?

[…]

Modern scruffiness, then, is a manifestation of egotism. Outside one of the shops in Amsterdam was a large plasma screen showing models wearing the kind of clothes to be had within. They were precisely the insolently ragged clothes that the great majority of people in the street were wearing anyway. This was a form of flattery of the public, for it implied that its members had nothing to aspire to in the matter of dress higher than that which they themselves were already wearing — that in the matter of appearance they had already reached acme of the possible.

There was yet more. The models, in their T-shirts, baseball caps, sneakers, and so forth, as uniform as any army, walked with the kind of vulpine lope that one associates with the less law-abiding young males of the American ghettoes. But even more striking was the expression on their faces, which were cachectic in the case of the women, androgynous in the case of men: a fixed, determined, humorless stare that indicated a hatred of the world and all that was in it, including their fellow-beings. If one saw such a person at a social event, one would go to some effort to avoid or to flee or not to talk to him or her. The models’ faces were vacantly earnest, as if they wished for annihilation of everything around them for some personal reason, no doubt trifling.

This is the first age in which people do not dress to please others, but dress to displease others, to make sure that everyone knows that I’m not going to make any effort just for you. And this, no doubt, is because I am as good as anyone in the world, bar none: His Majesty, myself. And what starts out as an attitude becomes an unexamined and ingrained habit.

Theodore Dalrymple, “Slobbery as Snobbery”, Taki’s Magazine, 2014-06-15.

December 13, 2014

Science shows the amazing power of … the high heel

Filed under: Media, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

Many of you think that high-heeled shoes for women are sexist and explotiative. On first blush, I mostly agree with you … but we may all be wrong:

The allure of high-heeled shoes is no secret among women, who have used them to entice men from the streets of Ancient Rome to the New York City sidewalks of Carrie Bradshaw. Heels have also been a controversial symbol in the battleground of sexual politics.

Now a scientific study in France has measured their power.

Scientists from the Universite de Bretagne-Sud conducted experiments that showed that men behave very differently toward high-heeled women. The results, published online in the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour, may please the purveyors of Christian Louboutin or Jimmy Choo shoes — yet frustrate those who think stilettos encourage sexism.

The study found if a woman drops a glove on the street while wearing heels, she’s almost 50 percent more likely to have a man fetch it for her than if she’s wearing flats.

Another finding: A woman wearing heels is twice as likely to persuade men to stop and answer survey questions on the street. And a high-heeled woman in a bar waits half the time to get picked up by a man, compared to when her heel is nearer to the ground.

“Women’s shoe heel size exerts a powerful effect on men’s behavior,” says the study’s author, Nicolas Gueguen, a behavioral science researcher. “Simply put, they make women more beautiful.”

October 27, 2014

The invention of the suit

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:02

A.A. Gill had an unplanned meeting with British Labour Party leader, but the article isn’t about the politician himself, it’s about his suit:

Suits are malevolent magicians’ sleeves for socialists, full of patrician loops and tricks, small, embroidered, cryptic messages of deference and privilege. They are ever the uniform of the enemy. They are also the greatest British invention ever. That’s not hyperbole or jingotastic boasting. It’s the plain, double-breasted truth. Nothing else that comes from this pathetically stunted island has had anything like the universal acceptance, reach or influence of the suit.

Look at it as if you’d never seen one before. Nothing about it makes sense. It’s not practical; it’s not particularly comfortable; it doesn’t work; it’s not decorative; and it doesn’t make us look good, rather like the establishment it represents. And, like most things in this place, it arrived through a series of accidents, mistakes, misinterpretations, good intentions, conventions and slovenliness, all of it growing out of radicalism.

The suit is the polite taming, the socialising, the neutering, of riding and military kit. Those pointless buttons on the cuff were moved from lateral to vertical. You used to be able to fold the end of your sleeve over and forward and button it like a mitten, for riding in the cold. Incidentally, the buttons on the cuff should correspond to the number of buttons on the front, not for any practical reason, but just because that’s what they should do. The vents at the back are made for sitting on a horse. The slanting pockets are for easy access when mounted. The suit that we wear was, in essence, invented by Beau Brummell – an obsessive, highly strung, socially insecure, thin-skinned aesthete, snob and genius. And, of course, an Etonian. He wanted to simplify the extraordinarily otiose decorative court dress to give men an elegant line. When the bailiffs finally broke into his rooms, they found only a simple deal table with a note that said, archly, “Starch is everything.” Beau escaped to France, where people said he looked like an Englishman and he died in an asylum.

We have to thank the members of the Romantic movement for the sober colours of suits. It was their love of the Gothic that put us in grey and black but the suit stuck. It said something and it meant something to men around the world; it said and meant so much that they would discard their local dress, the costumes of millennia, their culture and their link to their ancestors, to dress up like English insurance brokers. There is not a corner of the world where the suit is not the default clobber of power, authority, knowledge, judgement, trust and, most importantly, continuity. The curtained changing rooms of Savile Row welcome the naked knees of the most despotic and murderous, immoral and venal dictators and kleptocrats, who are turned out looking benignly conservative, their sins carefully and expertly hidden, like the little hangman’s loops under their lapels.

October 22, 2014

“Will the American fashion industry ever tolerate another de la Renta?”

Filed under: Business, Media, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 06:57

I don’t follow fashion at all, so it hadn’t occurred to me that the recent death of Oscar de la Renta would be much more than a footnote, but Virginia Postrel would disagree:

When fashion designer Oscar de la Renta died Monday, he left neatly resolved two issues that might have otherwise marred his legacy.

The first was the question of who would succeed him. Many a fashion house has been thrown into chaos by the death of its founder. But last week, Oscar de la Renta LLC, the privately held company headed by de la Renta’s stepson-in-law Alex Bolen, said it was appointing Peter Copping, the former artistic director of Nina Ricci, as its creative director. There will be no messy crisis this time.

The second was a matter of state. De la Renta had dressed every first lady since Jacqueline Kennedy — except Michelle Obama. To have the stylish first lady shun the dean of American fashion was tantamount to a public feud. Two weeks ago, the conflict ended when Mrs. Obama wore an Oscar de la Renta dress to a White House cocktail party filled with fashion insiders. Her appearance in the crisply tailored black cocktail dress embellished with silver and blue flowers — a quintessential de la Renta balance of precise lines with ornamentation and color — preserved the designer’s White House legacy.

The clean resolution of these two issues shortly before de la Renta’s passing befits the grace of his life’s work.

But a cultural question remains: Will the American fashion industry ever tolerate another de la Renta? His brand will continue, but the classic elegance for which he was known is as old-fashioned as it is beloved. It defies the prestige accorded to innovators who “move fashion forward” rather than simply creating fresh collections. Michelle Obama wouldn’t have won all those plaudits as a fashion leader if she’d worn his dresses and followed his rules. She would have merely been another tastefully attired Hillary Clinton or Laura Bush.

October 20, 2014

QotD: Sexual differentiation

Filed under: Quotations, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Our sexual differences can be more or less general, or more or less individual i.e. they may be typical for the whole sex or for only an individual member of that sex. Men with a vigorous growth of beard, hairy chests broad shoulders narrow hips, big penises, for example, are generally more in demand as are, conversely, women with delicate skin, big breasts, wide hips. The more individual polarity exists in any given case, the more ideal the sexual relationship is likely to become. We all do what we can to emphasize our sexual differentiation from the opposite sex — or with respect to a specific member of the opposite sex — as skillfully as possible. Whoever is not strikingly male or female will do everything possible to seem so by, for example, developing his biceps through gymnastics, pad her bra, style the hairdo, etc.

The same motivation also underlies the so-called ‘typically masculine’ and ‘typically feminine’ kinds of behavior: it is always a conscious or unconscious parading of sex-specific characteristics. To smile rarely or often, talk much or little, swing the hips or not in walking, makes people ‘more manly’ or ‘more womanly.’ This kind of behavior is simulated, as shown by the fact that it is subject to fashion and can be dropped at will. The ‘womanly’ mannerisms of the stars in the old movies are markedly different from those we see in films by Truffault or Godard. To behave like a movie vamp of the twenties today is to appear not womanly but ridiculous.

Esther Vilar, The Polygamous Sex, 1976.

October 14, 2014

A new view on cosplay – as a symptom of a seriously weakened economy

Filed under: Economics, Japan, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 15:06

A certain amount of this rings true:

Imagine you’re a college graduate stuck in a perpetually lousy economy. That’s a problem Japanese twenty-somethings have faced for more than 20 years. Two decades of stagnation after the collapse of the 1980s real-estate and stock bubbles — combined with labor laws making it tough to fire older workers — have relegated vast numbers of Japanese young adults to low-paying, temporary contract jobs. Many find themselves living with their parents well into their twenties and beyond, unmarried and childless.

Then again, they do have plenty of time to dress up like wand-wielding sailor girls and cybernetic alchemist soldiers from the colorful world of anime cartoons and manga comics. Indeed, Japan’s Lost Decades have coincided with a major spike in “people escaping to virtual worlds of games, animation, and costume play,” Masahiro Yamada, a sociology professor at Chuo University in Tokyo, recently told the Financial Times. “Here, even the young and poor can feel as though they are a hero.”

It’s hard to blame them. After all, it’s not that these young adults in Japan are resisting becoming productive members of the economy — it’s that there just aren’t enough opportunities for them. So an increasingly large number of them spend an increasingly large amount of time living in make-believe fantasy worlds, pretending they are someone else, somewhere else. This is a very bad thing for the Japanese economy.

And guess what: America has a growing number of make-believe “cosplay” heroes, too. Many of the 130,000 people who attend the San Diego Comic Con every year invest big bucks in elaborate outfits as a way of showing off their favorite Japanese characters, as well as those from American superhero movies, comics, and “genre” televisions shows such as Game of Thrones. And this trend is growing — the crowd at Comic Con was one-third this size in 2000. In 2013, the SyFy channel even created a reality show about the trend, Heroes of Cosplay.

H/T to Ghost of a Flea for the link.

November 9, 2013

Virginia Postrel on the persistence of glamour

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:36

At the Daily Beast, Virginia Postrel argues that far from being dead, glamour is still a powerful force in our lives:

In a world that prizes transparency, honesty, and full disclosure, the very idea seems out of place. Glamour is an illusion that conceals flaws and distractions. It requires mystery and distance, lest too much information breaks the spell. How can its magic possibly survive in a world of tweeting slobs?

But glamour does in fact endure. It is far more persistent, pervasive, and powerful than we realize. We just have trouble recognizing it, because it has so many different incarnations, many of which have nothing to do with Hollywood or fashion.

Glamour isn’t just a style of dress or a synonym for celebrity. Like humor, it’s a form of communication that triggers a distinctive emotional response: a sensation of projection and longing. What we find glamorous, like what we find funny, depends on who we are.

One person who yearns to feel special finds glamour in the image of U.S. Marines as “the few, the proud,” while another dreams of getting into the city’s hottest club and yet another imagines matriculating at Harvard. For some people, a glamorous vacation means visiting a cosmopolitan capital with lots to do and see. For others, it means a tranquil beach or mountain cabin. The first group yearns for excitement, the second for rest. All of these things are glamorous — but to different people.

October 27, 2013

Cupcakes are “butter-iced snares of self-loathing”

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

I’m not actually much of a fan of sweet concoctions, so the cupcake revolution swept past without leaving much of an impression on me, but from what I hear they’re still undeniably popular. In the Guardian, Matt Seaton isn’t impressed:

Cupcakes look absolutely fabulous, of course … in photographs, on e-commerce sites, in shop windows and in expensively beribboned boxes. But have you ever managed to eat one without either getting frosting on your nose or ending up with sticky slime between your fingers? They’re the edible equivalent of ultra-fashiony high heels: great to look at, ridiculously impractical.

And like heels, borderline masochistic. Why? Because cupcakes are very obviously a terrible food choice.

Now, anyone who knows me and my industrial-scale chocolate habit will be ready to yell “hypocrite” here. But I’m not preaching abstinence from treats. What irks me about cupcakes is that, for their implied young female, figure-conscious, on-off dieting customers, they set up this horrible dynamic of enabling indulgence in a forbidden object.

You know what cupcakes really are? — butter-iced snares of self-loathing that sell precisely because they exploit young women’s insecurity about their looks and identity, and offer a completely false and self-defeating solace of temporary gratification, almost certainly followed by remorse and disgust.

H/T to James Lileks for the link.

May 27, 2013

Recreating ancient hairstyles – the “Hairdo archaeologist”

Filed under: Europe, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:36

BBC News has an interesting short video on the intersection of hairstyles and archaeology:

Janet Stephens earns a living trimming, straightening and dyeing the hair of customers seeking the latest look.

But the stylist from the US city of Baltimore is more interested in the hairdos of the past.

Stephens is a hairstyle archaeologist who specialises in recreating how women in ancient Rome and Greece wore their hair.

She spoke to the BBC about a museum visit that marked the start of a long journey of discovery on which she solved a historical mystery and had her work published in an academic journal.

May 25, 2012

QotD: Sherlock and the fickle tide of fashion

Filed under: Books, Britain, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

[Y]ou can see why men wanted to get the look. Perhaps they noted the effect Cumberbatch, by no means your standard telly hunk, had on lady viewers […] and decided it must have something to do with the clobber. So it is that Britain’s latest men’s style icon is a fictional asexual sociopath first seen onscreen hitting a corpse with a horse whip. Surely not even the great detective himself could have deduced that was going to happen.
Alexis Petridis, “No chic, Sherlock”, The Guardian, 2010-09-04

October 7, 2011

When Apple stopped being the status indicator of choice for the “opinion leaders”

Filed under: China, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:56

In his defence of the late Steve Jobs, Brendan O’Neill pinpoints the exact moment that Apple stopped being the ne plus ultra of status signalling devices for the Guardianista set:

It is absolutely no coincidence that it became cool to hate Apple just as Apple started to make products for (whisper it) ‘the masses’. Back when Apple was largely known as the provider of smooth computers to graphic designers and Guardian columnists, there was nothing cooler than being an Applehead. But then it made the iPod and the iPhone, which you can now see everyone from paint-covered builders to Romanian au pairs tapping away on, and that meant it was just another engine of ‘mass consumerism’, the thing the chattering classes hate most. So where in the Nineties, people who used Apple products were presumed to be erudite and tasteful, now people who use Apple products are ‘iZombies’ or ‘hostages’, as one columnist calls them. In the eyes of the opinion-forming classes, Jobs’ great crime was to include the little people in his techno-revolution, to give glossy gadgets to the masses as well as the intellectuals, since that robbed these gadgets of the special symbolism that allowed their users to declare: ‘I am above the crowd.’

As to the idea that Jobs was the killer of Chinese people, this, too, is fuelled by the perverse fantasies of the uncomfortable-with-capitalism cultural elite. Following some suicides at the factories in China in which Apple stuff is put together, it became fashionable here in the West to indulge in orgies of iGuilt, to whip both yourself and everyone else for wanting gadgets so badly that we’re willing to turn a blind eye to ‘enslavement’ in China. The deaths in China were referred to as ‘The iPad suicides’, with journalists saying: ‘Should you blame yourself for all those deaths at the Chinese electronics factory? Yes.’

Yet as I argued on spiked last year, anyone who looked at the number of suicides in these vast factories, which can employ up to 400,000 people, would have realised that the suicide rate was lower in these places than it was in China as a whole. The self-flagellation of iPad-using hacks in the West merely revealed how shallow and moralistic so-called anti-capitalism is these days, where the aim is not to analyse social relations, all the better to overhaul them, but rather to partake in a borderline Catholic guilt trip about the impact of our greed on their lives. In one fell swoop, Jobs-bashers manage to criminalise the material aspirations of Western consumers, the iZombies whose desires are apparently dangerous, and to infantilise Chinese workers, who are depicted as hapless victims, in need of rescue by that super-super-cool tribe of East Coast and Shoreditch hipsters who now actually boycott Apple products. Rad, man.

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