Tag: popular culture
Socio economic changes that occurred during the First World War 1914-18 and became accepted, changed the role of women in a way that no amount of campaigning by a few liberated ladies could have achieved. High fashion until the twenties had been for the richer women of society. Poiret had commissioned leading avant-garde photographers to photograph his work in the early 1920s; however, until after World War II fashion magazines and store catalogs most often used line drawings in iliustrations.
Illustrators such as Patou and Erte produced highly stylized work; Benito, Christian Berard and the American artist Eric provided an image of the clothes themselves, and their designers’ intended style, elegantly and economically.
In the twenties and thirties, however, black-and-white photography was becoming an important art form and photo portraits of famous personalities of the day highlighted their clothes as well as their looks (for example, Cecil Beaton’s photographs of Nancy Cunard wearing an armful of ivory and ebony bracelets). The Hollywood portrait publicity still in the 1930s added to the association between photography and glamor.
From the 1940s, photography came completely to dominate the fashion magazine although illustration was still common into the 1960s. Initially prized for its “truthfulness”, it is often less informative than line drawing, and can be just as mannered. Irving Penn in the United States, and Anthony Annstrong-Jones in Britain moved fashion photography towards a new informality and movement in the 1950s.
Chanel’s collaboration with the Parisian artistic avant garde had been much more successful. As early as 1922 she worked with Jean Codeau, Picasso and the composer Arthur Honegger on a production of the classical Greek play Antigone; and from 1923 to 1927 she worked with Sergei Diaghilev and Codeau on ballet designs.
For the first of their joint works, Le Train Bleu, a fantasy about the Riviera, the dancers were costumed in bathing suits, pullovers and tennis or golf shoes, and the leading female role was a tennis player. So fashion, sport and the artistic avant-garde united to celebrate the modernity of modem life, and Chanel’s little black dress (American Vogue called it the “Ford of fashion”) became the epitome of modernist style.
The modernist movement in art transcended both national boundaries and those of artistic form, influencing all the arts from architecture to the novel. Visually, it was the embodiment of the ideal of speed, science and the machine. It was a love affair with a rationalist, utopian future, and in architecture and design this led to an ascetic functionalism that considered houses and flats as machines for living, fumiture and household artefacts as items for use, not ornament, and even human beings as machines.
More than almost any other aspect of mass culture, high fashion acted as a conduit for this esthetic, translating it into a popular language of pared-down design and understated chic. In architecture, the Bauhaus movement created buildings that used glass to reveal the inner workings of the design. They stripped away the superfluous ornament that had cluttered 19th-century architecture with what was now regarded as the sentimental idealization of a past recreated in pastiche.
In dress, too, the watchword was now functionalism; clothing was simply an envelope for the body, which it impeded as little as possible. If there was to be adornment of any kind, it was to be of the art deco variety. Art deco was so called after the Exhibition des Arts Decoratifs, held in Paris in 1925. This exhibition had in a sense inaugurated the idea of a lifestyle, though the expression was not then used. It included a Pavilion of Elegance, in which the fashion designs of Chanel and Poiret, among others, were displayed. They complemented the furniture, ceramics and architecture – throughout, the few ornamental motifs and bright colors permitted were definite, clean-cut and jazzy.
In literature and painting, part of the modernism of modem art had been that the work of art interrogated its own intentions and questioned its own form. Perhaps what Cecil Beaton was to describe as the “nihilism” of the Chanel look was modernist too: it not only mocked the vulgarity of conspicuous consumption but, in inventing a look that was universal, international and reduced to the minimum, it almost sought to abolish fashion itself, creating instead a classic look that defied the one essential of fashion – change. At the same time the geometric, angular design of women’s clothing imitated the clean, spare lines of modern abstract art and design. Woman was no longer treated as a voluptuous animal; she had become a futurist machine.
Fashion thus disseminated the new esthetic of the modernist avant garde across two continents, and radically altered the way in which erotic beauty was conceived. Fashion became, superfiicially at least, classIess, and the great thing for a woman was no longer to look grand, but simply to look modem.
For the first time the New World and the Old engaged in a mutual cultural exchange of style and imagery. Although Paris stillled the way, the vamps and innocents of Hollywood – Theda Bara, Gloria Swanson, Mary Pickford, Louise Brooks constructed new tastes in beauty, while the “lost generation” of American expatriates settled in Paris and the south of France. Some of these hoped to create a new art and a literature that would reflect the often excessive and even tragic pleasure-seeking of the postwar generation.
Emest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and many others tried to be as well as to describe a modern breed of sexually free beings, women and men whose minds, hearts and bodies were as untrammeled by traditional nations of morality as their bodies were by constricting clothes. Fitzgerald’s characters “discovered” the Riviera in summer until then it had been only a winter resort – and the suntan became another sign of working-class toil to migrate up the social scale. It became the status symbol of the globetrotter, who need never work and whose wealth permitted this inversion of established tastes. Society ladies took care to become brown as navvies, and Fitzgerald’ s heroine wore only pearls and a low-backed white bathing suit to set off her iodine-colored skin as she lay on the Mediterranean sands.
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The ways in which society may amuse itself around, in any country and at any time, an exceptional opportunity for the display of wealth and the assertion of social importance. Thorstein Veblen has graphically demonstrated this conscious or unconscious motivation in many forms of recreation.
It is clearly evident throughout American social history. The worthy citizens of eighteenth-century Philadelphia vied with each other in the magnificence of their banquets, loading their tables with massive silver plate and serving such a choice selection of imported wines that the visiting John Adams stood amazed at the “sinful feasts.”
The planters of Virginia rode to hounds in close imitation of the English country squires whose social status they sought to emulate in every possible way. Merchants of New York and Boston were already aspiring to yachts in the 1850’s, their sons to membership in the exclusive boating clubs, while all the fashionable world sought out Saratoga or Newport as a step upward on the social ladder.
It was in the latter half of the 19th century, however, the Gilded Age of American civilization, that society most flagrantly bent its pleasures to display. The newly rich born of industry’s great advance since the Civil War-owners of railways, coppermines, textile-mills, steel-plants, packing-houses, and cattle ranches.
A little band of idle rich held the final redoubt in the fashionable world of the 1880’s and 1890’s, and the families of the new plutocracy felt it essential to prove beyond shadow of doubt that they too were idle and rich. It was not in the American tradition, which esteemed riches and abhorred idleness, but urban society was running after strange gods. And, in any event, the new plutocrats generally supplied the riches and left it to willing wives and a younger generation to demonstrate the idleness.
Concert singing, visits by foreign musicians, and orchestral playing also revealed a growing taste among the sophisticated for more serious music. Jenny Lind had paved the way for the tours of European artists in the middle of the century, and Ole Bull had made two memorable visits. In the 1890’s Ysaye, Paderewski, Fritz Kreisler, Adelina Patti, Melba, Calvéé, and Madame Schumann-Heink were all on tour. Symphonic music had had its start with the organization of the New York Philharmonic as early as 1842, but it was not until 1878 that this orchestra had any real rival. In that year the New York Symphony Orchestra was established, to be followed in another three years by the Boston Symphony, and in 1891 by the Chicago Orchestra. Walter Damrosch and Theodore Thomas were adding a new interest to the musical scene.
Grand opera also had become firmly established. It had long been a distinctive feature of the social life of New Orleans, and there had been various attempts to introduce it in New York and other cities. Troupes of Italian singers had come and gone; elaborate opera houses had been opened-usually to fail after one or two seasons. “Will this splendid and refined amusement be supported in New York?” we find Philip Hone asking in 1833. “I am doubtful.” And for almost half a century his doubts were largely justified. It was in 1883 that the Metropolitan Opera House, costing nearly $2,000,000, provided grand opera with its first really permanent home in America.
With the first post-war boom in the 1860’s, observers began to note that New York society was becoming entirely based upon wealth, social prestige being won by those who had the most splendid carriages, drawing-rooms, and opera boxes. George Makepeace Towle has described the balls and assemblies-ladies in sparkling tiaras, suppers of oysters and champagne, fountains gushing wine or sprays of perfume. He was somewhat horrified by “so unceasing a round of glittering gaiety and dissipation.”
The advance of the new millionaires was picturesquely described as “the Gold Rush” by representatives of older social traditions. “From an unofficial oligarchy of aristocrats,” Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer sadly wrote, “society was transformed into an extravagant body that set increasing store by fashion and display.”
Nor was New York alone in this competitive rage for showy display. A sycophant press might boast that its ornate fancy-dress balls and ten-thousand-dollar dinner parties were the most expensive ever known, but the world of fashion throughout the land was closely following its lead. There was an epidemic of gaudy magnificence in the amusements of what went for society. One Chicago magnate brought an entire theatrical company from New York to entertain a group of his friends, and a wealthy woman in another city engaged a large orchestra to serenade her new-born child. San Francisco was notorious for its “terribly fast so-called society set, engrossed by the emptiest and most trivial pleasures.” A fortunate miner who had struck it rich in Virginia City drove a coach and four with silver harness; another had champagne running from the taps at his wedding party.
“The movie is the art of the millions of American citizens,” an English writer in the Adelphi discovered, “who are picturesquely called Hicks-the mighty stream of standardized humanity that flows through Main Street… The cinema is, through and through, a democratic art; the only one.” Nor would this commentator have had it otherwise.
The attempt to educate the public to higher standards of taste except through the movies’ natural evolution in response to a gradually maturing public sentiment was pious humbug. Europe had failed to realize the possibilities of the moving picture and was hiding behind that “singularly putrescent hypocrisy that masquerades as ‘artistic culture.'”
The reigning stars during the thirties also revealed how diverse moving-picture entertainment had become. Micky Mouse rivaled Greta Garbo, and the Dionne quintuplets competed with Clark Gable. Lawrence Tibbett and Zazu Pitts, Will Rogers and Jean Harlow, Adolphe Menjou and Shirley Temple, Bette Davis and James Cagney, Mickey Rooney and Vivien Leigh, each had an enthusiastic following.
The movies’ success in reaching such a broad public had long since had a most far-reaching effect on other forms of entertainment. From nickelodeon days they had been gradually drawing off the patrons of the popular melodrama, the devotees of variety and burlesque. They now dominated more completely than ever the whole field of commercial amusement. The people’s theatres were either closed or made over into movie palaces, variety shows were so reduced in number that the old two-a-day vaudeville circuit was completely disrupted, and the doors of the local opera houses (unless they too were wired for sound) were everywhere boarded up. The triumph of the movies over the popular theatre was complete.
The legitimate stage which was primarily centered in New York — the theatre of classical drama, sophisticated comedy, problem play, and also musical revue — remained a vital force. It was perhaps more important in some ways than in the nineteenth century. If vaudeville had left it free — or forced it — to go its own way without considering entertainment that would appeal to the urban workers, it was now more than ever the arbiter of its own fashions. It could encourage playwrights — Eugene O’Neill was the country’s leading dramatist — who really had something to say. It could present plays dealing with social problems, and musical comedy that deftly satirized the current scene.
The 1930’s saw a revival of stock companies, especially summer stock; other cities followed the lead of New York with its Theatre Guild and Group Theatre; the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union staged a musical skit which played on Broadway and toured the country; and the Federal Theatre Project became for a time an active force in the theatrical world. Under such stimulating influences there also sprang up a mushroom growth of community theatres with some five hundred thousand amateurs playing before an estimated annual audience of fifteen million.
Escapism that is not an escape from or to anywhere, but an escape of our utopian selves, has always been present in the idea of Camival, where the inhibitions which bind us to conventional roles are loosened. It is our Camival selves that we take on holiday, and the holiday resort – from Atlantic City to Blackpool to Pattaya – has always been a place of loosened inhibitions. If it is the crime of popular culture that it has taken our dreams and packaged them and sold them back to us, it is also the achievement of popular culty’ne that it has brought us more and more varied dreams than we could otherwise ever have known.
Popular amusements had more generally evolved from diversions that were originally available only to the wealthy. The theatre in America had at first been primarily class entertainment, the democratic audiences in the large playhouses of the mid-nineteenth century, as we have seen, offering a marked contrast to the more exclusive theatre patronage of the colonial period.
And from this gradually democratized theatre had developed the even more popular minstrel shows, burlesque, and vaudeville. But the first appeal of moving pictures was to the masses rather than the classes. They were cheap and popular from the very beginning. The support which in time enabled them to raise their standard of entertainment came entirely from their nickel-paying customers.
Their early development along such unashamedly popular lines was not by any means inevitable. It was in part due to the class of people who happened to take them over. The outstanding figures were Jewish garment-workers or fur-traders who bought up the penny arcades, and then the nickelodeons, to merchandise films as they would any other commodity. And their dependence on a mass market led to their continuing to place emphasis on quantity rather than quality.
They were not troubled by an artistic conscience, not concerned with culture, in promoting this profitable business. But at the same time what might superficially be dismissed as merely shrewd commercial tactics represented an approach to the development of this new amusement which would not have been possible in any other country. It reflected a democratic concept of the general availability of popular entertainment which was thoroughly American.
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Between the wars, and even more in the 1950s, the love affair of black-and-white photography with high fashion gave birth to the frozen perfection of the fashion image. The sharp lines, dark shadow and white light dramatized the angular, exaggerated creations of the New Look period particularly well.
American photographer Richard Avedon captured the self-dramatization, the confidence, sophistication and self-mockery of haute couture in his work for Harper’s Bazaar in the early fifties. Avedon and others loved to place their glacial or cavorting models in bizzare or incongruous situations.
By 1960 a new generation of photographers was seeking inspiration from the grainy images of the new cinematic realism of British films such as Saturday Night and Sunday Morning or Room at the Top. Their work displaced line drawings as the main medium for fashion illustration, but was at times even more mannered, while the search for novelty could lead to downright eccentricity in choice of angles or location. At times the fashion photograph seemed less to attempt to convey information about the latest styles than to capture the mood of an ensemble, or even to suggest a whole lifestyle.
The fashion photographs of the 1960s made of a high fashion a performance, a street event, a triumph of the will. They also transformed photographic models into celebrities and stars, while the photographers themselves -David Bailey, Lord Snowdon, John French- became household names, heroes of the swinging sixties. Michalengelo Antonioni’s film Blow Up -often taken to epitomize “Swinging London”- involved just such a fashion photographer as its main character.
In the 1970s, the imagery became even more mannered and eccentric, or else banal. Black models appeared more frequently, but models tended to become ever more precious, while some photographers, notably the German Helmut Newton, flirted with an imagery drawn from soft pornography.
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Until 1950 the term teenagers had never before been coined. The word “teenage” had first appeared in the popular press in the 1920s, but the idea that there was a time of life between childhood and adulthood that could be isolated, and that had its own peculiar characteristics, belongs largely to the 1950s. Children were known as girls and boys were known as youths once they displayed signs of puberty. Then young people were grown up at 18 and fully adult legally at 21 when they often married and set up a home of their own, even if it was a rented room.
The long-established belief had been that people remained children until they suddenly became adults; this conviction lost its hold partly because of social changes, partly as a result of the flourishing postwar consumer economy.
What has been called the “self-conscious subculture” of the young developed during the 1920s and 1930s as a largely urban white middle-class response to the increasing leisure opportunities afforded by changing social attitudes. After World War II the extra years spent in education both broadened the base of the group and gave it a clearer sense of identity. The economy started booming and families experienced a great deal of economic power freedom and independence, including teenagers.
At the same time, teenagers in work (many of them working-class) found that increases in spending power and in leisure time enabled them to move to a position where they could both assert their independenee and be courted by leading representatives of entrepreneurial America. Ironically, while teenagers were more open than ever before to market influences, they were frequently hostile to the adult culture of which the market was a part.
Teenagers were also becoming more independent in the type of music they preferred to listen to, no more listening to what their parents liked, teens flocked to the new music of the decade, which was rock and roll. Even though teens were able to purchase rock and roll records because they were receiving extra spending money, their parents were opposed to rock and roll music, they despised it, and thought of it as corrupting their children.
Fashion is how we express our identitites. Fashion not only highlights the social history and the needs of women, but also the overall cultural aesthetic of the various periods. The evolution of fashion dates back to several hundred years and as our attitude and culture change, fashion comes along with it.
In the 1950s reconstruction in Europe and the boom brought about by the Korean war boosted the fashion industries of the capitalist world. There exists a great evolution through the fashion of the 40s to the 50s, and it involves different ideologies, dress trends, shoes and hairstyles.
Cheap, mass-produced clothes that closely followed prevailing fashions were more widely available than ever before. For the first time in this early postwar period all classes had access to clothes in up-to-date styles. Until the 1930s the poor and the old had tended to wear clothes in styles long out of fashion, either from choice or by necessity, but now even they were incorporated into the language of style.
The 50s were the shirtwaist era, when the rock and roll causes a change in the fashion. This era was represented perfectly at Grease movie, when we can see the different fashions between the social groups. The women used crinolines and shirtwaists. Men used jackets and blue jeans, with grease in their hair. And women used the hair over the shoulders.
The huge success of the New Look, and the stringent attempts of Dior and his contemporaries to lirnit the pirating of their fashion designs and take advantage of worldwide licensed copying and the adaptation of their creations for the mass market, led to an awareness of the news value of fashion. The evolution of styles was now dramatized so that each season was to have its own “look” or “line”. it had been possible to present the New Look as a revolution because of the hiatus of the war; henceforward dress designers sought to repeat this miracle in the molding of popular taste.
In the 1950s every season’s new line was frontpage news and most newsworthy of all was the length of the hemline. The height of the hemline was alýnost bound to be an easily changed variant of fashion when neither full-Iength skirts nor trousers were a serious option. Couturiers emphasized variations in eut and length and sought to encourage the association of fashion with exelusivity.
Parisian fashion in particular was promoted on the basis that it sold to the French aristocracy, to international royalty (women such as Queen Soraya of Iran) and pseudo-royalty Jackie Kennedy was a great fan of Pierre Cardin and Chanel). These clients were even more prestigious than internationally famous actresses and film stars, though they too used to publicize their favored couturiers- Audrey Hepburn, for example, whose sIender figure and waif-like face fixed the gamine look for the decade, was often dressed by Givenchy. Her appearance in his clothes in popular movies such as Funny Face (1957) gave them even more powerful publicity than they received from Vogue and other magazines.
The 60s were the time of a revolution. The hippie clothes, psychedelic ones, and groovy elements were fashionable. The hippies used a natural or ethnic style, love-ins, flowers, and free-flowing hairstyles.
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With the return of prosperity in the early 1920’s, the American automobile industry came into its own as the nation’s largest manufacturing enterprise. Production of motor vehicles climbed from 2,227,349 in 1920 to a phenomenal high of 5,337,687 in 1929, a figure not surpassed for another 20 years. By 1929, there was one automobile on the highway for every six people in the United States, and Herbert Hoover’s campaign slogan of “two cars in every garage” was by no means as ridiculous as it was made out to be by subsequent critics.
Much of the economic expansion of the period, in fact, was a direct consequence of the rise of the motor vehicle. The production and the operation of automobiles absorbed 20% of the country’s annual steel output, 90% of its gasoline, 80% of its rubber, and 75% of its plate glass. Moreover, as millions of Americans became automobile owners, they demanded better roads.
The Federal Highways Act of 1921 and the dedication of the Zero milestone in Washington a year later, a ceremony at which Roy D. Chapin was appropriately one of the principal speakers, signaled the launching of a vast program of road building by both Federal and state authorities. The automobile also brought with it a substantial new area of service occupations: dealers and repair shops, filling stations and tourist camps.
The effect of the automobile on recreational habits was often decried in the 1930’s: the substitution of a passive amusement for something more active; standardization and regimentation; the moral problem of the parked sedan and roadside tourist camp. The Sunday-afternoon drive was devastatingly described — the crowded highways, traffic jams, and accidents; the car windows tightly closed against spring breezes; and whatever beauties the landscape might offer lying hidden behind forbidding lines of advertisements. “One arrives after a motor journey,” one eminent sociologist wrote, “all liver and no legs; one’s mind is asleep, one’s body tired; one is bored, irritable, and listless. But what such critics forgot was that the great majority of Sunday and holiday motorists, or even vacation tourists, would have been cooped up in crowded towns and cities except for the automobile.
The country they saw may at times have been almost blotted out by billboards and the air they breathed tainted by gasoline fumes. But the alternative in many cases would have been the movie, the dance-hall, or the beer-parlor. The steamboat and the railroad began a century ago to open up the world of travel and provide some means of holiday escape from one’s immediate enviromnent, but until the coming of the automobile, recreation along these lines was a rare thing. The wealthy could make the fashionable tour in 1825, the well-to-do built up the summer resorts of the 1890’s, but every Tom, Dick, and Harry toured the country in the 1930’s — thanks to the automobile.
By the early 1950s, brightly polished chrome on bumpers, door handles, headlight surrounds and body trim had become the main means through which automobiles expressed more than their mere utility functions. Their bulbous pressed steel bodies provided a canvas upon which all sorts of imaginative delights could be portrayed.
While it was a highly capital-intensive exereise to modify the shell itself, it was relatively cheap to vary the amount of chrome detailing in order to provide a range of differently priced models. The fact that General Motors soId automobiles under a range of different brand names – Cadillac, Pontiac, Buick, Chevrolet and OIdsmobile, each aimed at a different sector of the market – meant that it could simultaneously standardize the production of major components and provide different models through varied body decoration.
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Route 66 that crosses through the western United States from Chicago to the location of Los Angeles is an iconic American highway.
The Mother Road, as it was referred to as has been the subject of songs (“Get your kicks on Route 66.”) The backdrop of quite a couple of movies, and even a component of a typical Disney movie (Cars.) Traveling Route 66 is really a dream for some Americans, rather. Here are some fundamental reasons and know why.
Route 66 was developed in 1925 when Congress decided to join many small roads between Chicago, Illinois, and Los Angeles, California. At that time, traveling by car was a brand new concept, so this concept has contributed to the evolution of U.S. highways. As soon as people began generating this trip, they leave places essential to eat, sleep and put gas in their car. Enter the lot of a now-famous stops along Route 66.
Motels actually got their start at this point in time. Travelers needed a place they could drive right up to rent a room to rest before continuing their journey. Not surprisingly, some motels were much more elaborate than others. The Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino, California, and Holbrook, Arizona are some of the most famous and well known to date.
Diners also became popular and necessary along the Mother Road. Travelers need to eat, so people started providing fast and cost restaurants that provided standards like fried catfish, fries, chili, chicken pies and milkshakes. The 66 Diner in Albuquerque, NM is an example of a dinner that provides the food in a style similar to what was available in the early days of Route 66.
Traveling Route 66 also required an approach to fill the gas tank of the car. For this reason, the home based business gas station exploded from the start. Although the stations used to be necessary in a city, now people now, these days producing long trips needed a chance on a typical gas, which provided a lucrative opportunity organization for men and women who lived near Highway 66.
Unfortunately, today much of the Route 66 passes through the invisible travelers because of the motorway program. Route 40 was built to cover about the exact route west along Route 66. This caused the closure of many stores of the diners and motels that were once very busy. While Route 66 fans can still travel over the road, however. It really is an exceptional method to see America in a multi destination path that takes you through the perspective of the first passenger car.
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