Edna, Yes. Me, No.

Sorry about the long absence from the blogverse, but the last week or so was full up to here with real life, which terminated this afternoon with yours truly in unravelling hair and shoelaces, staring rather dispiritedly at the toes of my trainers. I can't say the event that led to the aforementioned state wasn't a happy one, but its result is mildly depressing. For me, anyway. Bah...On the upside, I just remembered something I keep forgetting when faced with a computer screen, and it's odd that I took this long (eight months!)to recall it, because it isn't often that fashion gets to, not collide exactly, more like bump into, my other great love- bibliophilia.
For all the bitching that I've done about American Vogue in recent years, it's quite interesting to read about it from the point of view of the woman behind it. More so when the woman in question, Edna Woolman Chase, ran the operation for nearly four decades (1914-1954), and began working at the magazine before Condé Nast even acquired it. She doesn't go into a huge deal of detail about the clothes themselves, but I did find her insight on the whole models-versus-celebrities debate (they had those even in 1954, it seems) interesting, considering where the magazine in question is at now. And it isn't great literature but if I were born in the century before last it certainly is what I'd call a charming read: the general feel of it in places is a whole lot like sitting ramrod straight on a chintz sofa, wearing a hat with a veil and red lipstick, but the bits on how the war affected the French design firms did have me shivery in places, and it's hard not to when you hear of employees being drafted into the army- or alternatively, if they were Jewish, fleeing the country. Added to which, several of the firms closed down altogether- at the time of publication, Chanel had just about gotten back into business and Madame Woolman Chase was wondering if it'd work (a question I can smile at half a century later, given that this was before the launch of the 2.55 after all). And as far as a real-life tale goes I don't think they can get much more interesting than this, given that it was more or less narrating the way fashion evolved between the time she started working and her retirement (I found the parts about the 1920s and New Look aka Corolle, particularly engaging). Nicest of all (to an impecunious student, at least), the book turned up in a local secondhand bookstore, and it wasn't me but my roomie who bought it, minus a dust jacket but still pretty.
PS. I forgot to stick in the title...it was Always In Vogue, and she co-wrote it with her daughter (a couple of marriages and divorces also happen in the middle...quite scandalous for the early 20th-century, I'd have thought). And apologies for the overuse of parentheses.


ambika said...

The book sounds right up my alley given that it's based out of a time period I find the most fascinating around a subject I obviously enjoy. I'll be adding it to my amazon wish list.

Hope things pick up for you otherwise.

Blue Floppy Hat said...

Thanks for the good wish (what else can I call it?) :)
And get the book if you can, you'd enjoy it. There's a fair bit of publishing-house politics that she talks about too- and I have no doubt it was sugarcoated as befits the era, but it's the best we'll get since Anna Wintour probably won't do her own biography anytime soon :)

Emma said...

Can't wait to read this.

The Stiletto Effect said...

hi :)
it must be a very interesting book! i would like to read it.

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