Elizabth Hawes


I’ve been reading a lot lately about fashion designer Elizabeth Hawes. I imagine that she’s the embodiment of those spunky 1930’s movie heroines with a quick mind and sharp tongue; a lady that could put you in your place with a simple look. Despite being a French trained designer, she worked hard to prove that fashion didn’t only come from the Houses of Paris but could originate here in the States. She saw no reason why mass-produced clothing shouldn’t be equally as distinctive as clothing from Paris and she became increasingly interested in designing for the wholesale market. It was an unhappy collaboration: Hawes' clothes were both too simple and too forward-looking for most manufacturers. She found her ideas compromised time and time again in the finished product.

Hawes called fashion and the fashion industry parasites (there’s that sharp tongue!) on true style. Style, she said, gives the feeling of the period, and changes only as there is a real change in point of view. Fashion, by contrast, changes not in response to events or to public taste or need, but because industry payrolls must be met, magazines published, a myth perpetuated (from answers.com). She was so right on and so ahead of her time!

All of this has served to make me seek out her 1938 book Fashion is Spinach. Unfortunately it is long out of print and the cheapest copy I’ve found was $85 on Ebay. Imagine my delight when I realized that the book is available digitally online. For free! (I have to thank Casey for this). Now that I’ve devoured that title I’m moving on and reading her WWII era feminist tome Why Women Cry: or Wenches with Wrenches (don’t you just love that title?). The book has chapters titled "Les Rich Bitch", "The She-Wolves", "The Common Woman" and "Sweaters! Uniforms! (Sex!)". LOVE! IT!