August 25, 2014

The Amazing History of Stilettos, Red Lipstick & Chain Bag – Janina Nectara for Observator Special

Did you know that between the 1800s and the 1900s there was a law in Paris forbidding the wearing of trousers by women? They could only dare do it with a special authorization from the Prefecture.

Curious about the fascinating story of the stiletto shoes?

Or maybe excited to know which revolutionary mind thought of lipstick as “a way of dressing your lips”, identifying more than 1 500 shades of red over the course of time?

Also willing to find out who freed the market of fashion jewelry and was visionary enough to invent the chain bag?

Every Friday @ Observator Special we’ll be talking about the greatest personalities in fashion history!
Dior, Roger Vivier, Chanel, Louis Vuitton… why are they in the pages of fashion history & for which of their innovation we are incredibly thankful for.

Fashion comes and fashion goes… and I don’t think I’m spilling any beans if I’m also saying that, from time to time, it repeats itself. And I assume this is a perfectly valid reason not to let go of any valuable piece just because it’s no longer in the trend. There’s no relevance in bootcut jeans, red lipsticks, chain bags or stiletto heels not being trendy at a specific moment in time. They might not fashionable now. But how about next year? There’s no telling. So, we should actually keep the trousers, lipstick, purse and shoes. At the very least as a sign of cherishing history. What history? The history of fashion, of course!


There virtually is no woman today to not have at least a pair of trousers in her wardrobe. But about a century ago, the mere idea of a lady walking down the street dressed as a man would have been the cause for a riot.


reporter: Janina, the one us women need to thank for having opened up the freedom of wearing trousers is Coco Chanel. But how did she get the idea?


Janina Nectara: The absolute champion of fashion innovation is, indeed, Coco Chanel. She was among the first women to wear this piece of clothing, and here we’re talking about a time that was rather restrictive in this respect, the late 1800s-early 1900s, when the Paris city hall had decreed by law their banning. The women who dared to wear trousers went against formal rules and only could do it provided they had a special authorisation.


The laws of Paris didn’t stop Coco Chanel from revolutionising feminine fashion. Especially when the end of WWI also created the right climate for it.


JN: The world economy had been badly affected and women had to join the labour force and enlist into all sort of highly physical activities that before had only handled by men. This way, a new type of clothing was needed, one in step with the time and times.


This is how Coco Chanel got to wearing and fashioning women’s trousers. And it was still the French fashion revolutionary that passed us on fantasy jewelry.


JN: During the ’20s, it was only high society ladies that could afford to wear jewelry, this because they were strictly made out of precious metals and stones. Coco Chanel, very pragmatic by nature, grasps this business opportunity and manufactures the first plastic pearls, providing women the world over with the opportunity of accessorizing their outfits.


Just that Chanel didn’t stop here, she made one more gift to those of her sex: the chain evening purse.


JN: For eveningwear, the fashion of the 1900s was accessorised by clutches, those small bags that you held in your hand and, of course, had your hands busy. Coco Chanel was an avid smoker and for one evening having got all worked up for not being able to light a cigarette to her fancy, she made up her mind to premiere a new model of evening purse, one with an added chain that would set one’s hands free.


reporter: Me, you and million of women couldn’t do without our red lipstick. When did it appear?


JN: Factually, it goes back to Antiquity, but the one to have comprehended the potential of the red lipstick is Christian Dior. In 1953, he launched the first palette of red lipsticks – it was called rouge Dior. He is the one giving women the idea to dress not only their bodies, but also their lips, so Christian Dior argued for coordinating the nuance of the lips with the colour of the outfit – red had become a true fetish in his collections. Each shade had a rather scandalous name for the time, for instance scream-red, Satan-red. Then, out of superstition, he started giving numbers to his lipstick colours. Today we have over 1 500 different Dior shades.


reporter: I would like to know when and how it is that the stiletto made its way into the world of fashion.


JN: Roger Vivier, a French designer, was the one to add not just a few inches of height but also plenty to our self-confidence. He is the creator of the famous stiletto heel. It actually existed from the 19th century, but it was Roger Vivier to manage integrating it into a perfectly functional shoe. Roger Vivier is known for also having experimented with different types of heel, for example the comma/virgule heel. Such a pair of shoes was, in fact, commissioned by Queen Elizabeth and used in her coronation ceremony, in 1953.


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Photo: Dior