Style, Fashion and Chic: A Distinction According to Elizabeth Hawes

Style, Fashion and Chic: A Distinction According to Elizabeth Hawes

In 1938, Elizabeth Hawes, couturier, fashion writer, and stylist, wrote Fashion is Spinach, a book chronicling her perspective on the trends and forces shaping fashion in the early 20th century. A friend gave me the book a few weeks ago and I've been thoroughly enjoying Hawes' enlightened and entertaining point of view since. Hawes offers much wit and wisdom about the industry of fashion, an industry in many ways so unchanged that the book may well have been written as a critique of fashion in these times. There'll certainly be more to come from Hawes around here, but for now I wanted to share a distinction she makes between style, fashion, and chic that I found interesting.

 Elizabeth Hawes in 1942, courtesy Getty

Elizabeth Hawes in 1942, courtesy Getty

She writes: 

style

 
 Greek marble statue of a woman from the 4th century B.C.  via  The Met

Greek marble statue of a woman from the 4th century B.C. via The Met

 

"For thousands of years people got along with something called style and maybe, in another thousand, we'll go back to it. Style is that thing which, being looked back upon after a century, gives you the fundamental feeling of a certain period in history. Style in Greece in 2000 B.C. was delicate outdoor architecture and the clothes which went with it. Style in the Renaissance was an elaborately carved stone cathedral and rich velvet, gold trimmed robes. Style doesn't change every month or every year. It only changes as often as there is a real change in the point of view and lives of the people for whom it is produced." 

 

fashion

 Hawes writes, "'See'st though not, I say, what a deformed thief this fashion is?' Mr. Shakespeare demanded in  Much Ado About Nothing . But nobody paid attention." 

Hawes writes, "'See'st though not, I say, what a deformed thief this fashion is?' Mr. Shakespeare demanded in Much Ado About Nothing. But nobody paid attention." 

"On top of style there has arisen a strange and wonderful creature called fashion. He got started at least as far back as the seventeenth century when a few smart people recognized him for what he was and is...I don't know when the word fashion came into being, but it was an evil day. Fashion is that horrid little man with an evil eye who tells you that your last winter's coat may be in perfect physical condition, but you can't wear it...Fashion is apt to insist one year that you are nobody if you wear flat heels, and then turn right around and throw thousands of them in your face...Fashion is a parasite on style. Without style, he wouldn't exist...Fashion is so shrouded in mystery, so far away and so foreign, so complicated, and so boring when you understand its ways, that it has become a complete anachronism in modern life..."

chic

 
 Lounging pajamas designed by Elizabeth Hawes in 1939  via  The Met

Lounging pajamas designed by Elizabeth Hawes in 1939 via The Met

 

"Chic is a combination of style and fashion. To be really chic, a woman must have a positive style, a positive way of living and acting and looking which is her own. To this she adds those endless trips to the hairdresser, facial lady, shoemaker, and dressmaker. With infallible taste for her own problems, she chooses what is in her style and fashionable at the same time. If her style is not quite the fashion, the chic woman effects a compromise with the edge on the fashionable side." 

________

There's so much here- some to take and perhaps some to leave, but certainly plenty to think about. 

 

Feature image by Alexey Brodovitch is the inside cover of Fashion is Spinach, originally published by Random House, New York in 1938.

Metamorphosis in Silk

Metamorphosis in Silk

A Mid Winter Styling Idea Courtesy of Elsa Peretti

A Mid Winter Styling Idea Courtesy of Elsa Peretti

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