Monday, December 17, 2012

The Textile Corduroy


  Corduroy is a woven material that uses cut weft (crosswise) yarns to form velvety ridges. This composition creates a warm and durable fabric with a distinct appearance. It is typically composed of cotton or cotton blend yarns. 

  The first known usage of the word "corduroy" is sited by the Online Etymology Dictionary  to 1780 in American English. There are disputing theories as to where the term came from. A popular theory is that the word is an amalgamation of the French term "corps du roi" meaning "body of the king." Nobility wore jacket-like garments called "pourpoints" and corduroy was a stylish textile to have these garments made from because of it's appealing characteristics: warmth and durability. However, the French used the term "velours colete" for the fabric, so it is unlikely that theory is valid. A more likely theory is that the word comes from the term "deroy" a durable, coarse fabric available in England in the 18th century, and that "cord" was added onto the beginning to describe and distinguish the two fabrics. 
  Corduroy is a descendant of an ancient textile called "Fustian." This velvety, twill fabric was constructed in El-Fustat, Egypt, a current suburb of Cairo, as early as 200 AD. At first it was used primarily for laborers clothing, but it became a popular exotic fabric among Europeans during the 12-14th centuries with the growth of the cotton trade. By the 17th century, fustian was being manufactured in Ireland and the UK using blends of cotton and wool or cotton and linen yarns. During the 18th century different versions and grades of fustian were being used for everything from King Henry's pourpoint to military garments to ladies dresses. After the close of that century, corduroy became the working-class person's textile because its inflexible nature made it undesirable for use in Victorian fashions. 

  In the 20th century corduroy was used for children's clothing first, and then military garments during World War I. After the war, corduroy was the perfect material for the new sporty fashion trend, but it goes out of main-stream style once again by the 1950s. In the 60s and 70s it became the fabric of choice for the anti-establishment counter culture in the United States, and following that decade the corduroy pant remained in closets as a fall/winter staple. 

  My favorite current use of corduroy for women is a skinny jewel tone cord pant paired with a flowy silk crepe top in a neutral color, a chunky, knit scarf and a pair of feminine, pointy-toed stilettos. For men, a corduroy vest with and oxford shirt, tweed blazer with a pocket handkerchief, a pair of slim, twill pants and distressed boots.

  Jacqueline Jones

Photo Editor: PicMonkey
             Textiles: Concepts and Principles, 2nd Edition by Virginia Hencken Elsasser
             V is for Vintage blog: A History of Corduroy

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Parka

I have been trying to decide for some time how to begin this blog. I wanted to start with a classic, and what came to mind was the most classic of classics - the little black dress. However, after research I discovered that the history of the little black dress was impressively extensive and a little much for a beginning blog entry. After learning that I became a bit discouraged, but after mulling it over for a couple of months I realized I was overcomplicating things. I needed to focus on what I originally set out to do: bring the historic background of fashion pieces to fashionistas, history buffs and the general web-searching world. On that note, I give you my first entry:

The Parka

The parka jacket appeared in American popular menswear in the 1930s. It was an informal style that was modeled on the coats worn by the Eskimo Indians. In fact, the word parka originates with the Nenets of the Aleut Islands with the first known use in 1780.

The term "parka" is often used synonymously with "anorak"; however, there are differences that should be noted. The Parka is a heavy jacket with a hood that is often lined with fur used for hunting in the Arctic. It was originally made from seal or caribou skins and was coated with fish oil regularly to maintain it's water-resistance. The Anorak hails from Greenland where it was worn by brides in the 1930s. This garment is waterproof with drawstrings at the cuffs and waist. The Parka differs in that it is described as a stuffed or quilted garment which is lined by fur.
The Anorak began as a pull-over coat, but that distinction is lost today. The Parka has also been through something of an identity crisis. It has been adapted into such varieties as the fishtail and snorkel used by military forces in the 1950s.

The Snorkel (N-3B) Parka was created by the US military for use by flight crews operating in climates below -60 degrees F. It was originally made with sage green DuPont silk nylon outer shell and inner lining, and it was padded with wool until the 1970s when they switched over to the synthetic material, polyester. The term "snorkel" comes from the fact that the coat can be zipped up past the neck leaving a small opening around the face. This style gained widespread popularity in the 1960s and 1970s in England among schoolchildren, but lost this popularity in the 1980s and spawned the derogatory term "Anoraks" for nerds or geeks.

The Fishtail (M-51) Parka was created by the US Army in 1951 for wear during the Korean War. This coat was meant to be used for infantry. It tied around the knees and was used for wind-proofing, and it had a hood that could be taken down and folded into a standup collar. This garment was to be used either as a top layer or alone as protectant against dry-cold weather: below -14 degrees F. Again, England latched onto this garment and in the 1960s it became a part of the uniform of the mod subculture.

After Vogue featured the Parka with a poplin outer shell in 1959, the piece became an instant fashion sensation. This season, the Parka has enjoyed a great revival and graced the runway of a wide variety of high-end fashion houses. The Parka (or technically Anorak in some cases) this season also exhibited the plethora of colors, textures and patterns it can wear so well. These details make it a piece that can find a place in everyone's closet no matter your style or walk of life. I'll be moving to Seattle, WA this winter, and I know there's a spot in my closet for my very own parka!

Jacqueline Jones

information: Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Survey of Historic Costume, Tortora and Eubank