I have been tasked to discuss Shakespeare and Fashion as the topic of my 250th Blog Post. One request came for Shakespeare, and another for Fashion, so I decided to tie the two together and think about how Literature impacts our understanding of fashion.
I’ve been to the gorgeous Fashion Museum in Bath, and have seen on display the Gloves from Shakespeare’s time. These are some of the oldest fashionable pieces in existence, as clothing does not last as long as we’d like it to. Given the tendency also to “Make Do and Mend,” it’s any wonder we have clothing left to examine at all. But these gloves, to stand and look at something 400 years old, to see something worn concurrently with Shakespeare’s existence, the Shakespeare, is to stand in greatness.
Clothing is so often dismissed as a trivial “women’s concern.” In fact, most of my work revolves around proving that “women’s concerns” are not “trivial” but are, in fact, mightily important. Further, it assumes that only women enjoy clothing and fashion, which is decidedly not true. Men have, until the nineteenth century and My Beloved Victorians, anyhow, been just as showy with fashion as women. (That is, of course, if you had the money to be showy).
Elizabethan fashion is not my favorite, it’s true. But I think it’s a start of the immense gorgeousness of fashion, the showiness of it all, of Fashion, Itself. Part of it is due to Shakespeare, with the display not only of the actors but also the audience of the plays. Part is also due to Elizabeth herself, dressed in gorgeous fabrics and embroidered silks. Dressed, as they say, to the nines.
I love clothing. I love fashion. I think that any celebration of it, whether it’s the Berkeley Hotel’s Pret-a-Portea or the Fashion Museum itself, we must strive to continue to worship fashion and enjoy its display, its beauty, and its artistic nature.