Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Philosophy of Being a Woman (Vogue 1941)

.................Have I mentioned I love old fashion magazines? Love. The pictures, the fashions, the advertisements, the products I cannot have without a full scale lifetime them. When time allows, I even love the articles. This particular Vogue magazine came from Jean's estate (more on Jean HERE). Its from November of 1941, making it timely as well as fantastic. Thought I'd share an excerpt from an article I've enjoyed about and BY Miss Ilka Chase (perhaps best remembered for her role in the deliciously wicked film, "The Women"). The editor introduces her this way.....

Known as a calmly acidulous actress, a radio star who can make a program sparkle by rubbing together two wisecracks and one celebrity, Miss Chase this winter adds two new strings to her bow. She is writing a book of memoirs, and she is buckling down to a full-term lecture tour. For some lectures, Miss Chase will wear the dress from Falkenstein shown opposite- a close black jersey top, a spreading skirt of brown faille, hung with black tassels. And from this vantage point, she will utter her own light-hearted, debunked thoughts on being a woman.

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"THE PHILOSOPHY OF BEING A WOMAN A Gay and Pithy Excerpt From a Lecture" by Ilka Chase

"I think its very important to be well dressed. No matter how fancy our astral bodies, until that day when we lean them against a harp and shake the feathers out of our wings, they are invisible to the common people. We might as well make the mosta out of the besta that we got. I think its important to be well-dressed. I also think it is extremely difficult, particularly if you have the minor distractions of a husband, home, children, in-laws, possibly a job, etc. etc. it becomes a little harassing. You doubtless know better than to wear those rather fancy shoes with a sports suit, but, good Lord, you're in a hurry, and those shoes were handy.

Still, dressing well needn't be a chore; it can be great fun, but I have long contended that to be well-dressed, two of three things are essential- time, money and taste. Of course, if you have all three, you're on velvet, but you must make two points to score on all. If you're very busy, but very rich, its no problem- the hair dresser comes to your house, you go to the best shops, and, with your unerring instinct, you pick up a but of perfection for a casual two or three hundred dollars, you add a clip especially designed for you, and, in a trice, you are the ten best-dressed women.

That, however, is a dreamy kind of set-up, which few of us suffer from. Of course, if you are very poor and deperately busy, the chances are you have more pressing matters on your mind than "Are padded shoulders on the wane?"- but let us suppose for the purpose of today's lyrics that you are an average woman like the rest of us, with some time on your hands, a little money, and better-than-average taste in dress.

You can go far on a limited budget with unlimited imagination, provided you have a litte time to shop around, or to run up little marvels for yourself. We may, indeed we should, wear simple clothes, but a fresh and unexpected combination of colour, an amusing and unusual accessory, and individual manner of wearing your hair, will go a long way towards establishing your repuation for chic.

In an effort to achieve simplicity, it is, I think, important to avoid the drab. Clothes may be practical, but it is inexcusable for them to be dull. A well cut top-coat in raspberry-red will keep you just as warm and twice as chipper as one in poor-house brown.

Two articles of apparel, which, if a girl wore them, used to put her in the "poor thing" class, are now so well designed that the smartest women have adopted them. I refer to flat-heeled shoes and glasses. Some of the best cut footwear, with the smart chunky look, has low or no heels, and glasses have become great beau-catchers. Especially those tiptilted pixie ones, and those with tortoise-shell rims; the movie stars began it with their dark glasses for disguise- which had the added value of being sure to attract a good deal of attention- and now, summer and winter, women wear them against the bright sun, and, recently, glamour girls who are blind as bats without them have taken to wearing them gaily and with no self-consciousness. Joan Bennet wears them all the time, and is amazed to see what goes on, and one night at the prize-fights, I saw Miss Brenda Frazier, now Mrs. John Simms Shipwreck Kelly, who is still the Atlantic seaboard's ranking contribution to the lists of glamour, peering happily through hers at the mastadons exchanging blows.

If we are ingenious, there are all kinds of stunts we can pull in dress, which are fun and original and are still all right. I do not say "and are still in good taste", purposely. As Mr. Omar Kiam, the well-known dress designer, not the tent-maker, once remarked when I interviewed him on my radio program, "There's too much good taste in clothes these days. I'm all for a little exciting vulgarity".

I must say, in a way I agree with him. I'm against dark blue serge with a ladylike string of pearls at the throat. I think we ought to be flamboyant. We are living in dark times; we should do what we can locally to brighten the outlook, and, if we are honest, I think we will admit that today there is less excuse for being badly dressed than ever before. In spite of priorities, the quantity and quality of clothes in the market are extraordinary. I don't know how its possible, but it still is, so let us be grateful, as it may not last long, as goodness knows we are being deprived of the oddest things. False eyelashes, for instance. Would you believe it, they are at a premium. It seems they grind them into cannons or something. I wouldn't be in a position to bring you this report were it not for the fact that I need them for the theatre and was recently stymied by the short rations.

Of course, if we devote ourselves to the pursuit of beauty exclusively and really pleased the advertisers, dust would accumulate on the furniture, the jungle creep over our towns, and the children pine away from hunger, as Mummy would be so busy acquiring the smile of health, the glow of youth, combating cold-weather skin, and trying on "Clothes which express the real You" that she couldn't conceivably attend to her chores.

But there is a happy medium, and we should always have high standards. I personally don't always live up to my own. Who does? But even if you don't like clothes and fuss, I think it is every woman's duty to make herself as attractive as her time and means permit. After all, there you are, in your person- a living symbol of the progress of art, science and imagination. To be as attractive as we can be is almost a civic duty; there are so many sad and ugly things in the world that I think women should say to themselves humbly, not with vanity, "I will try to be as pretty as I can, so that when people look at me, they will feel refreshed. I will make an effort to be easy on the eye".

To be Continued, meanwhile, enjoy these QUOTES attributed to Miss Chase!.......Ang

1 comment:

Lizzie said...

Great article! I especially love that she endorsed flat shoes. I love 1940s flats, but they are so much harder to find than heels. Probably because everyone wore them to death!


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