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We are what we wear. Clothing defines who we are as individuals, and as a society. From Mary Quant's scandalous introduction of the miniskirt to the invention of the thong bikini, the history of fashion is as colorful as the fabrics and styles within it. A Stitch in Time is an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek look at the fashion trends of the 20th century.
Produced in cooperation with Taxi Vidéo Brousse and La Cinquième in France and fascinating images culled from the WPA Film Library's 20th century archive, A Stitch in Time explores how political, technological, cultural, and social changes have impacted the way we dress. The series is full of interesting and amusing historical tidbits: men were the first to wear stockings; platform shoes were worn in 16th century Italy; women wore long dresses to swim and play tennis at the turn of the century; and until about 100 years ago, babies were forced to wear tight wrapping because it was believed it would help their spines and legs grow straight!
Episode summary for Volume 1:
A Leg Up (Stockings)
Devices from thigh garters to corselets have been invented to make stockings stay in place. Stockings were imitated in leg make-up during World War II. And, all along, they have aggravated us with runs and crooked seams! Whether hidden under Victorian style dresses or exposed by mini skirts, stockings cling to fashion trends and make legs look oh so sexy...
A Supporting Role (Corset and Bra)
From the whalebone corset to the push-up bra, foundation garments have shaped fashion throughout the 20th century. The corset restricted women, and was finally swept out, along with other Victorian morals, after World War II. The brassiere was hailed in the 1920's and burned in the 1970's. Whether pointed in the 1950's or padded in the 1990's, it is an architectural masterpiece, and still has to be assembled by hand.
Making Waves (The Bikini)
In the 1900's, women actually wore a bathing dress to the beach. Since then, the evolution of the bathing suit has chronicled changing morals in the 20th century. Patented just days after the first atomic bomb tests on Bikini Island, the revealing garment with the same name became the first of a series of scandals in swimwear, which include the topless bathing suit and the thong bikini.
Here Comes the Bride (Wedding Dress)
Something old, something new; possibly the most revered garment in a woman's wardrobe, the wedding dress is seen in a new light. This episode shows how white came to be standard for the wedding dress, how Royals have inspired thousands of brides--even before Princess Diana--and how veil and dress lengths have fluctuated with the styles and trends of the time.
If the Shoe Fits (Shoes)
Shoe designs took great strides in 20th century fashion, not sparing any extremes. Platform shoes caused ankle sprains and stiletto heels punctured museum floors. Audrey Hepburn brought relief with the ballerina slipper and hippies went back to nature barefoot. The sneaker took care of all our comfort woes. But will anybody ever invent a shoe that is comfortable and sexy?
A Head for Fashion (Hats)
The hat maker and the hair stylist have always had a volatile relationship when it comes to adorning the head. Thanks to long manes and complicated hairspray 'dos in the 1960's, the hair stylist has won, at least for now. This episode examines the long and fascinating history of the hat maker's trade.
The Long and Short of It (Hemlines)
Twelve inches off the ground according to Christian Dior, exactly at the knee according to Coco Chanel, as short as possible according to Mary Quant. It is time to ask the question--is the prevailing skirt length of the time inversely proportional to the state of women's emancipation? The answers may surprise you.
One Leg at a Time (Women and Trousers)
It may be difficult to imagine today, but less than 100 years ago, trousers were still absolutely unthinkable for women. Joan of Arc and Calamity Jane were the exception, but not the rule. For half a century, the fight for the female trouser was about much more than just fashion.
Breaking the Rules (Sportswear)
A hundred years ago, people played tennis in everyday suits and long dresses. Today, we wear gym shoes to work, sweatpants to the grocery store and baseball hats to parties. In between, the invention of sportswear turned the world of fashion upside down.
Out of the Rain (Raincoats)
Not surprisingly, the British were the pioneers in making fabric watertight. Charles Macintosh invented a waterproofing rubber concoction and British officers were the first to wear trench coats. The history of rainwear--from the rubber boot to the Sou'wester--is a case study in how necessity is the mother of invention.
The Cat's Pajamas (Pajamas)
Fashion has slipped under the covers with us during the past 100 years. No longer is it just the prudish, unisex white cotton nightgowns of the early 1900's. Between the sheets, we now wear everything from sexy nylon baby dolls, classic blue and white striped pajamas, t-shirts and boxer shorts or just our "birthday suit."
Bib and Bonnet Beauties (Children)
Up until the dawn of the 20th century, mothers wrapped their babies tightly, hoping spines and legs would grow straight. During the past 100 years, babies were liberated in more ways than one. Protected from trauma and restrictions, even in the realm of clothing, there are now entire clothing stores devoted to just their cute looks!
Off the Cuff (Men's Fashions)
Centuries ago, men wore heels, stockings and wigs. Eventually, they settled for the three-piece suit. Ever since, women have had much more fun in the world of fashion--or so it seems. Until the blazer was invented in the 1920's, and broke up traditional dress codes.
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