When Broadway Was the Runway: Theater, Fashion, and American Culture

0 avg rating
( 0 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780812221633: When Broadway Was the Runway: Theater, Fashion, and American Culture
View all copies of this ISBN edition:
 
 

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title

When Broadway Was the Runway explores the central and largely unacknowledged role of commercial Broadway theater in the birth of modern American fashion and consumer culture. Long before Hollywood's red carpet spectacles, Broadway theater introduced American women to the latest styles. At the beginning of the twentieth century, theater impresarios captured the imagination of their largely female patrons by transforming the stage into a glorious site of consumer spectacle.

Theater historian Marlis Schweitzer examines how these impresarios presented the dresses actresses wore onstage, as well as the jewelry and hairstyles they chose, as commodities that were available for purchase in nearby department stores and salons. The Merry Widow Hat, designed for the hit operetta of the same name, sparked an international craze, and the dancer Irene Castle became a fashion celebrity when she anticipated the flapper look of the 1920s by nearly a decade. Not only were the latest styles onstage, but advertisements appeared throughout theaters, in programs, and on the curtains, while magazines such as Vogue vied for the rights to publish theatrical costume sketches and Harper's Bazaar enticed readers with photo spreads of actresses in couture. This combination of spectatorship and consumption was a crucial step in the formation of a mass market for consumer goods and the rise of the cult of celebrity.

Through historical analysis and dozens of early photographs and illustrations, Schweitzer aims a spotlight at the cultural and economic convergence of the theater and fashion industries in the United States.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Marlis Schweitzer teaches in the Department of Theatre at York University.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction

On June 13, 1908, thirteen hundred women entered the New Amsterdam Theatre at Broadway and 42nd Street for the 275th performance of The Merry Widow, enticed by the promise of a free Merry Widow hat. Three weeks earlier, the New York Times had announced the arrival "from Paris" of a consignment of one thousand hats, "all of the most ample variety," which would be distributed to all coupon-bearing theatergoers at the conclusion of the special show. Like other promotional stunts in this period, the giveaway was designed by theatre manager Henry Savage to renew interest in The Merry Widow and prolong what was already an impressive run. By June 1908, Savage's American production of the internationally successful operetta by Franz Lehar had made well over one million dollars, launched two road companies, given rise to numerous burlesque versions, and inspired a vast array of tie-in products, ranging from sheet music and cigars to lunches, cocktails, and corsets.

But of all the commodities associated with The Merry Widow, it was The Merry Widow hat that attracted the most attention. Originally designed by the couturier Lucile (Lady Duff Gordon) for the 1907 production in London, it was "an immense black crinoline hat, banded round the crown with silver and two huge pink roses nestling under the brim." Within days of the London opening, the fashionable commodity crossed from the footlights to the showroom to the stage, sparking a transnational craze that, according to Lucile, "lasted longer than most fashion crazes" and carried the designer's name "all over Europe and the States." By the spring of 1908, as milliners throughout Europe and North America struggled to meet consumer demand and outperform one another, the hat had ballooned to enormous proportions, reaching spans of three feet or more.

Given the hype surrounding the production and the tie-ins it had inspired, Savage's promise of a Merry Widow hat to all women who attended the 275th performance of The Merry Widow was a brilliant marketing tactic, guaranteed to achieve maximum publicity. Yet while Savage had thought carefully about how to distribute the hats to ensure that his patrons remained for the duration of the performance, correctly assuming that there would be little incentive for them to remain once the hats were gone, he failed to anticipate the lengths to which they would go to secure their gifts. As expected, the New Amsterdam Theatre was filled to capacity on the afternoon of June 13 with hundreds of women eager to collect their Merry Widows. Rather than quietly sitting through the performance until the appointed time, however, these fidgety spectators refused to remain seated. After the first act, an excited crowd gathered in the ladies' cloakroom, looking expectantly at the stack of hatboxes arranged on two tables. One woman asked to try her hat on, explaining, "If it doesn't look good on me I don't want to carry it home," but was politely told by the cloakroom attendants that she would have to wait until after the performance. As the end of the second act neared, more and more women trickled out of the auditorium to request their souvenirs in advance, claiming that other obligations prevented them from staying until the end of the performance. By the time the house manager intervened, insisting that no more hats would be given out until the curtain had fallen, hundreds of women had already left their seats. While most returned to the theater at his urging, a stalwart group insisted on waiting outside the cloakroom, determined to be the first to get the hats.

The giveaway finally commenced just before the final curtain and ran smoothly for several minutes while spectators filed out of the house, at which point chaos ensued. Desperate to get their Merry Widows, the normally respectable middle-class audience ignored calls to get into line, overwhelmed the female attendants, pushed aside one of the tables, and began helping themselves to the boxes, blocking those who had already picked up their hats from getting out of the room. "In an instant the confusion was at its height," the Times reported somewhat gleefully. "One woman, jammed tight against the one table that still stood in place, tackled the woman next to her with a vim that would have done credit to the world's champion female wrestler." The most adventurous and nimble women managed to climb over the furniture to escape, but others had their gowns and hats trampled as they struggled to get out. After half an hour of pushing, shoving, name-calling, and other, very unladylike behavior, the house manager announced to those who remained that the hats were all gone. Although he promised to give out rain checks, one hundred angry women left the theater empty-handed, with "only the débris and the memory of the struggle" to show for their efforts.

The chaos surrounding The Merry Widow giveaway—or "The Battle of the Hats" as the Times dubbed it—was typical of the kind of bargain counter crushes one might expect in a department store, where working- and middle-class women frequently battled over marked-down goods. Such a scene was highly unusual in a commercial Broadway theater, however, especially in a first-class playhouse like the New Amsterdam Theatre, which catered to an elite audience and expected its patrons to behave in a courteous and respectful manner. In thus bringing the department store into the theater, Henry Savage had aligned female theatrical spectatorship with fashion consumption, advocating a very different way of looking at and relating to theatrical spectacle.

In this, Savage was hardly alone. Beginning in the 1890s and continuing through the first two decades of the twentieth century, theater managers aggressively pursued the imagination and presence of female theatergoers by transforming the stage into a glorious site of consumer spectacle. Acutely aware that their financial solvency hinged on their ability to attract and retain the interest of socially advantaged women, these predominantly male impresarios presented actresses, the dresses they wore, and the objects they used onstage as fantastic commodities, readily available in photographs and magazines, in nearby department stores or, in the case of The Merry Widow giveaway, in the theater lobby just beyond the auditorium. By the 1910s, Broadway theaters had become fully commercialized urban spaces, comparable to any amusement park, department store, or, indeed, the Great White Way itself. Advertisements were everywhere: in the programs, on the curtains, on the scenery, and in the embodied performances of trade-character showgirls. This fusion of theatrical spectatorship and consumption represented a crucial step in the formation of a mass market for consumer goods and the rise of the cult of celebrity, two intertwined cultural projects designed to fuel the American economy and overwrite anxieties about the exploitation of labor and the loss of individuality. Utilizing the rhetoric of democracy and the shining faces of manufactured stars, Savage and his colleagues advocated a consumerist mode of looking, moving, and being in the city, training female consumers to see themselves as patrons of leisure rather than players in a capitalist game.

A number of interrelated economic, social, and cultural developments made collaborations between Broadway theaters, department stores, mass-circulation newspapers and magazines, fashion designers, and consumer goods manufacturers both desirable and necessary. These included New York's prominence as the nation's social, economic, and cultural hub; the emergence of large corporations with enough capital to launch national and international advertising campaigns; increased recognition of the power and influence of female consumers; growing consumer interest in fashion thanks to the large-scale promotional efforts of couturiers in London and Paris; and consumer desire for interesting, attractive, and inspiring role models who could demonstrate how to succeed in the swiftly changing modern world.

Throughout the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth, New York forged its identity as the imaginary if not geographic heart of the United States, the epitome of all things American, and the point of origin for a remarkable range of new products, ideas, and people. Every year, millions of dollars in goods from around the world arrived in New York Harbor, the nation's largest seaport, at which point they were loaded onto trains and distributed throughout the country. Immigrants also moved swiftly in and out of New York, transforming the demographic makeup as well as the sites and sounds of the city; of the twenty-three million Europeans who entered the United States between 1880 and 1919, 75 percent landed in New York. Many of these newcomers remained in the city, where they found employment in clothing factories, stockyards, and other booming industries and became avid consumers of popular entertainment and other forms of mass culture.

By the early twentieth century, New York had become the de facto center of capitalist enterprise in the United States, home to sixty-nine of the nation's one hundred largest corporations. Although the percentage of trade goods moving in and out of the city decreased to just below 50 percent in 1900 from a previous rate of 57 percent, due in part to the migration of heavy industry to less densely populated areas, the city maintained what the historian William R. Taylor describes as a "stranglehold" on credit and banking as well as such "market-sensitive" and mutually dependent industries as fashion and publishing, surpassing Boston and Philadelphia to become the center for trade in "intangible" commodities. By 1904, New York's garment factories produced 65 percent of all ready-made clothes in the United States, accounting for a similar percentage of the total value of women's clothing. The centralized publishing industry helped to promote these and a wide array of other commodities, informing readers throughout the United States of the latest styles and innovations.

Theatrical touring companies, "direct from New York," also played a pivotal role in the distribution of information, ideas, and fashion throughout the United States. Beginning in the 1890s, theater managers and booking agents in vaudeville and the "legitimate" theater moved to consolidate their business interests, extending many of the same processes of rationalization and standardization that characterized modern manufacturing to streamline touring practices, and establish greater control over the production, distribution, and consumption of theatrical commodities. These changes would not have been possible without the phenomenal growth of the railway industry and the establishment of New York as a major transportation hub. Between 1870 and 1910, the amount of ground covered by railway tracks increased by almost 500 percent from 52,922 to 249,902 miles. Newly constructed stations in small towns previously cut off from the main lines brought large touring companies to existing theaters and encouraged enterprising businessmen to build new ones.

The incorporation of the theater industry mimicked developments elsewhere. Throughout the 1890s, business leaders in industries ranging from sugar and oil to meatpacking and dry goods participated in a flurry of mergers in an effort to rationalize production processes, ensure financial stability, and outperform the competition. The outcome was a radical transformation of the business and economic landscape; by 1904 approximately three hundred corporations controlled over 40 percent of all manufacturing in the United States and influenced business operations in 80 percent of the nation's industries. Gone was the self-made man of local business; in his place stood corporate giants such as the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) and Standard Oil. Throughout this period, anxious observers and surviving independents called upon the government to introduce legislation to prevent the new corporations from becoming monopolizing behemoths. Laws such as the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 offered some resistance to the merger mania, but a certain laxity in defining such key terms as "combination" and "trust," the absence of an effective structure for enforcing the act, and an administration that turned a blind eye to shadier business dealings did little to stem the tide.

Vilified for their "robber baron" tactics, corporations set about creating a positive public image, promising real benefits to American consumers. With the assistance of leading advertising agencies, most notably N. W. Ayer and Sons and the J. Walter Thompson Company, consumer goods manufacturers used funny names, catchy jingles, and cute or interesting trade characters to create a memorable impression on consumers and convince them that their branded products were far superior to unbranded goods or those of their competitors. "[Overcoming] the growing distance between manufacturer and buyer," the historian Susan Strasser explains, corporations such as Nabisco, Procter and Gamble, Campbell's, and Swift and Co. "surround[ed] their products with a magical aura" and "personal[ized] impersonal commodities." Training consumers to associate brands and corporate logos with quality, they laid the foundation for a mass market that extended from coast to coast.

Although advertising campaigns targeted men as well as women, agencies such as the J. Walter Thompson Company soon recognized the influence of the female consumer and created advertisements that spoke directly to female needs, interests, and desires. In 1915, Thompson opened up its Women's Editorial Department, believing that the best way to reach female consumers was with female copywriters. J. Walter Thompson's advertisements appeared in leading women's magazines, including the Ladies' Home Journal, the first magazine to reach a circulation of one million readers, Women's Home Companion, and Good Housekeeping, as well as prominent fashion journals such as Vogue and Harper's Bazar. Although magazine editors had previously hesitated to publish large advertisements, wary of the false claims made by many nineteenth-century manufacturers, they now welcomed the attractive ads produced by professional agencies and the revenue that came along with them, going so far as to court advertisers directly. For example, when Condé Nast gained control of Vogue in 1909, he introduced a number of measures to emphasize the magazine's "high-class" status in a bid to increase circulation and attract major advertisers.

Vogue and its rival Harper's Bazar, which was owned by the publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, also profited from and played into growing interest in fashion from London and Paris, vying for the American rights to publish sketches and photographs of the latest couture fashions. Although the words "from Paris" had long held considerable cachet for American consumers, the emergence of a group of designers, led by Paul Poiret, revolutionized international fashion. Influenced by modern art and dance, these couturiers tested the limits of fashion, creating bizarre, even awkward, styles that reshaped the look and movement of the female body. Such changes alone wo...

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Buy New View Book
List Price: US$ 24.95
US$ 21.77

Convert currency

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.

Destination, rates & speeds

Add to Basket

Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780812241570: When Broadway Was the Runway: Theater, Fashion, and American Culture

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0812241576 ISBN 13:  9780812241570
Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009
Hardcover

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Marlis Schweitzer
Published by University of Pennsylvania Press, United States (2011)
ISBN 10: 081222163X ISBN 13: 9780812221633
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
The Book Depository
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press, United States, 2011. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title When Broadway Was the Runway explores the central and largely unacknowledged role of commercial Broadway theater in the birth of modern American fashion and consumer culture. Long before Hollywood s red carpet spectacles, Broadway theater introduced American women to the latest styles. At the beginning of the twentieth century, theater impresarios captured the imagination of their largely female patrons by transforming the stage into a glorious site of consumer spectacle. Theater historian Marlis Schweitzer examines how these impresarios presented the dresses actresses wore onstage, as well as the jewelry and hairstyles they chose, as commodities that were available for purchase in nearby department stores and salons. The Merry Widow Hat, designed for the hit operetta of the same name, sparked an international craze, and the dancer Irene Castle became a fashion celebrity when she anticipated the flapper look of the 1920s by nearly a decade. Not only were the latest styles onstage, but advertisements appeared throughout theaters, in programs, and on the curtains, while magazines such as Vogue vied for the rights to publish theatrical costume sketches and Harper s Bazaar enticed readers with photo spreads of actresses in couture. This combination of spectatorship and consumption was a crucial step in the formation of a mass market for consumer goods and the rise of the cult of celebrity. Through historical analysis and dozens of early photographs and illustrations, Schweitzer aims a spotlight at the cultural and economic convergence of the theater and fashion industries in the United States. Seller Inventory # AAJ9780812221633

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 21.77
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

2.

Marlis Schweitzer
Published by University of Pennsylvania Press, United States (2011)
ISBN 10: 081222163X ISBN 13: 9780812221633
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Book Depository International
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press, United States, 2011. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic TitleWhen Broadway Was the Runway explores the central and largely unacknowledged role of commercial Broadway theater in the birth of modern American fashion and consumer culture. Long before Hollywood's red carpet spectacles, Broadway theater introduced American women to the latest styles. At the beginning of the twentieth century, theater impresarios captured the imagination of their largely female patrons by transforming the stage into a glorious site of consumer spectacle.Theater historian Marlis Schweitzer examines how these impresarios presented the dresses actresses wore onstage, as well as the jewelry and hairstyles they chose, as commodities that were available for purchase in nearby department stores and salons. The Merry Widow Hat, designed for the hit operetta of the same name, sparked an international craze, and the dancer Irene Castle became a fashion celebrity when she anticipated the flapper look of the 1920s by nearly a decade. Not only were the latest styles onstage, but advertisements appeared throughout theaters, in programs, and on the curtains, while magazines such as Vogue vied for the rights to publish theatrical costume sketches and Harper's Bazaar enticed readers with photo spreads of actresses in couture. This combination of spectatorship and consumption was a crucial step in the formation of a mass market for consumer goods and the rise of the cult of celebrity.Through historical analysis and dozens of early photographs and illustrations, Schweitzer aims a spotlight at the cultural and economic convergence of the theater and fashion industries in the United States. Seller Inventory # AAJ9780812221633

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 27.35
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

3.

Marlis Schweitzer
Published by University of Pennsylvania Press
ISBN 10: 081222163X ISBN 13: 9780812221633
New Paperback Quantity Available: 5
Seller:
THE SAINT BOOKSTORE
(Southport, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press. Paperback. Condition: New. New copy - Usually dispatched within 2 working days. Seller Inventory # B9780812221633

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 18.50
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 8.92
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

4.

Schweitzer, Marlis
Published by University of Pennsylvania Press (2011)
ISBN 10: 081222163X ISBN 13: 9780812221633
New Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Books2Anywhere
(Fairford, GLOS, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. PAP. Condition: New. New Book. Shipped from UK in 4 to 14 days. Established seller since 2000. Seller Inventory # CA-9780812221633

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 16.95
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 11.57
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

5.

Schweitzer Marlis
Published by University of Pennsylvania Press
ISBN 10: 081222163X ISBN 13: 9780812221633
New Quantity Available: 3
Seller:
Majestic Books
(London, ,, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press. Condition: New. pp. 320 , 47 Illus. Seller Inventory # 5413239

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 23.15
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 7.07
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

6.

Schweitzer, Marlis
Published by Univ of Pennsylvania Pr (2011)
ISBN 10: 081222163X ISBN 13: 9780812221633
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Revaluation Books
(Exeter, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Univ of Pennsylvania Pr, 2011. Paperback. Condition: Brand New. 320 pages. 8.90x6.00x0.90 inches. In Stock. Seller Inventory # __081222163X

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 27.75
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 9.64
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

7.

Marlis Schweitzer
Published by University of Pennsylvania Press (2011)
ISBN 10: 081222163X ISBN 13: 9780812221633
New Softcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Irish Booksellers
(Portland, ME, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M081222163X

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 36.16
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.27
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

8.

Schweitzer, Marlis
Published by University of Pennsylvania Press
ISBN 10: 081222163X ISBN 13: 9780812221633
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Cloud 9 Books
(Wellington, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 081222163X New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW99.1955451

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 47.49
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

9.

Schweitzer, Marlis
Published by University of Pennsylvania Pre (2011)
ISBN 10: 081222163X ISBN 13: 9780812221633
New Paperback Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Murray Media
(NORTH MIAMI BEACH, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description University of Pennsylvania Pre, 2011. Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P11081222163X

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 63.49
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

10.

Marlis Schweitzer
Published by University of Pennsylvania Press (2011)
ISBN 10: 081222163X ISBN 13: 9780812221633
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Ergodebooks
(RICHMOND, TX, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX081222163X

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 83.16
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds