Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cloche Hats, Dress Clips, and Aesthetic Escapism

Shirt: Reitmans; Cloche hat: C.C. Exclusives; White gold earrings: Sears Jessica line
This was a very bad day. A bad semester, in fact. Though I'm still not working full time, I taught more courses this past semester than I've taught since my injury. My body barely survived and, therefore, my spirit also barely survived. I had to give up my physio strength training for over a month, the first time I've done so since the very beginning. Beau and I had been finding minor disagreements turning into major arguments, for no good reason -- other than stress. On this day, all the final essays were rolling in to be marked, and I was just hanging on till it was all over. And there was still a huge batch of final exams to come, complete with essay questions. My face pretty much says it all.

Art Deco dress clip  (on hat): vintage

But, for me, there can be a little poetry in misery if I can "frame" it somehow. In this case, I was going for a 1920s, cafe-culture frame. I was escaping into the aesthetic of a previous time. This washed the painful moment with the shades of a passionate, modern gal of the 20s, having a squabble with her lover. It didn't really alleviate the pain, and I don't think any previous decade was any better than today, but escapism through outdated aesthetics has always been a thing I do. It adds both a little shine to and a little distance from the prosaic frustrations of the present. It turns them ever so slightly into art. Heck, maybe it even gives me a little perspective. If a previous decade passed, maybe, so too shall this pass.

And Beau still liked me enough to take these photos, so we weren't doing so terribly badly.

I've always been fascinated by cloche hats. I've found them unutterably beautiful and I've badly wanted one but, for a long time, no-one had ever even heard of them. The few I found were too small for my big head or made my long, curly hair stick out in all sorts of unappealing ways. After all, these hats were meant to be worn with the sleek, straight, often asymmetrical bobs of the 1920s, when women everywhere were tossing the shackles of whalebone corsets and long, complicated hairstyles, and trading them for clean lines, sporty bodies, and short cuts (in both hair and hemlines). These hats, then, are emblematic of early 20th Century women's liberation.
Louise Brooks, the archetypal 20s movie star.

But lately cloche hats are making a come back and, somehow, they're working on me now. I always feel like I'm time traveling, just a bit, when I wear one, and, yeah, I've got several already. They particularly perk up a dark, dreary, rainy day.

I've also recently discovered that sheer, patterned blouses with "scarf ruffle things" were popular in the 20s so the shirt is working here too.

Solitaire platinum ring: Deco heirloom, 1936
I got this dress clip at a garage sale and just love it. It adds great period authenticity to the hat. Dress clips were incredibly popular from about the 20s through the 30s and can be worn all over the place: on hats, lapels, shoes, belts, necklines, scarves, etc. They almost always came in pairs and could often be worn together as a single brooch, but it's very hard now to find the pairs together. I continue to be on the lookout.

From: Lisa "Lulu" Salzer's Vintage Jewelry Finds in

A pair of dress clips, sliding off their brooch base. 

Right on right: Birks.
Still, this photo really shows the difference between paste rhinestones and diamonds. Diamonds gleam and shine and play with light and colour in a way that no rhinestone can. I feel a joy in wearing them and they never fail to brighten my day. (And, as a feminist, aside from my heirloom, any diamond I own I bought with my own, hard earned money. And I never ever buy anything on credit.)


And so, even on my terrible, awful, no-good day, in a terrible, awful, no-good semester, a little aesthetic escapism drew a wan smile from an exhausted gal.