Outerwear Evolutions

            Fashion has gone through several revolutionary period throughout history. In the 20th century the fashion norms shifted several distinct eras of interesting fashion as the century progressed. We here at Andalusia are lucky enough to have a great deal of fashion worn by Flannery and Regina O’Connor which makes up a large part of the collection. The two pieces of outerwear are from two of these eras, the 1950s and the 1960s. These two pieces are great examples of what made those two eras distinctive, and tell us about Flannery and the way she chose to represent herself to the world. 

2018.4.29 from the Andalusia Collection Gift of Louise Florencourt

The above coat is a 1950s Sheerer All-Weather Outdoors brand coat, made of corduroy with a black and dark red geometric print. It is a longer coat, probably falling to mid-thigh, then a small collar that has a flat section in the front center. The sleeves are three-quarter length sleeves and large black buttons. The fifties brought about a change of fashion focusing on elements of femininity, elegance and formality. Popularized by Dior the so called “New Look” changed the style of the decade. It was a style that focused on the feminine shape, the elegant cut, and a sense of formality.[1] There was an emphasis on slim waists, flowy skirts, and delicate necklines, in contrast to the more utilitarian, shorter, and more masculine shape of the clothing of the 1940s. The coat featured above is a swing coat, a style given to float and move as the wearer walks, and to fall down over dresses. It was often paired with slim fitting skirts or trousers, contrasting the two shapes.  The shorter sleeve is also a function of the era, with the 3/4 sleeve length allows for the showing off of a pair of gloves, another statement piece from the New Look era. Designers such as Cristobel Balenciaga and Hubert de Givenchy popularized these coats by creating them for the runway and the red carpet, placing these coats at the center of the fashion zeitgeist. 

Givenchy Advertisement
John Lockett, “Photos: The 1950s Resurgence of Parisian Couture in Fashion,” Vanity Fair (Vanity Fair, August 22, 2013), https://www.vanityfair.com/style/photos/2013/09/photos-1950s-couture-dior-balenciaga.
Cristobal Balenciaga coat featured in Vogue
John Lockett, “Photos: The 1950s Resurgence of Parisian Couture in Fashion,” Vanity Fair (Vanity Fair, August 22, 2013), https://www.vanityfair.com/style/photos/2013/09/photos-1950s-couture-dior-balenciaga.

Our next object is a blue cardigan, a wool blend, with long sleeves, two pockets, and large dark pearlescent buttons. Cardigans have been a part of men’s fashion since the 1800s, but it did not become a staple for women’s fashion until the 1920s when it was popularized by fashion designer Coco Chanel, who made it a staple of her personal wardrobe, and fashion line. The cardigan remains a staple of the Chanel line to this day. Like all fashions, the cardigan evolved with the differing trends. In the 1950s began as a tighter and shorter sweater, that when they reached the later 1950s, early 1960s the cardigan used a much thicker yarn, with much bulkier knits, and looser, longer shapes.[2] This reflects a transition to the much looser, casual, and bright styles of the later 1960s. Style doesn’t transition overnight, so fashions that seem to have elements of more than one distinct era are usually in the period between the two of them. This is a late 1950s, early 1960s piece. 

2018.1.627, Andalusia Collection
Late 1950s sweater set from the Met Metmuseum.org,
accessed January 24, 2022, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/79437?searchField=All&%3BsortBy=Relevance&%3Bwhen=A.D.%2B1900-present&%3Bft=sweater&%3Boffset=140&%3Brpp=20&%3Bpos=152.

Looking at these clothes we can tell a lot about Flannery. For example, we can learn that she favored feminine silhouettes, that she tended to choose darker colors for her clothing, and that she tended to stayed relatively on top of trends. These are things that we can learn about for sure from seeing her clothing. There are also some things that we can wonder about the fashion choices that she had made, and the impact that they had on her life. For example, we know that her fashion choices tend to favor looser things, dresses, and closures with larger buttons. We also know that she had a disease that affected her joints, and in particular the joints of her fingers and her hips. So, knowing these two things, we may begin to assume a correlation. Looser clothes and dresses put less pressure on the hips, and are easier to put on by oneself, as opposed to something like extremely tight-fitting clothes or pants. Larger buttons are easier to button as opposed to smaller more delicate ones. This lens is something to analyze her fashion choices through, disability affected the way she lived, and it could easily have affected her sense of fashion. 

Fashion is changing and personal. Flannery has a very distinct style and a very distinct way of viewing the world. Each choice was made as a way to present herself and how she wanted the world to see her. And how her personality related to the trends and styles.  

[1] “1950-1959,” Fashion History Timeline, June 2, 2019, https://fashionhistory.fitnyc.edu/1950-1959/.

[2] “Vintage Sweaters: 1940s, 1950s, 1960s with Pictures,” Vintage Dancer, accessed January 24, 2022, https://vintagedancer.com/1940s/vintage-sweaters-1940s-1960s/.

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