Monday, September 5, 2016

Before Labor Day, of course - Women in White - Frank W. Benson 1862-1951


Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Summer


Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Girls in the Garden


Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) My Daughters


Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Sunlight



Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Portrait in White 1889



Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) The Reader


Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Twilight in the Desert 1891


Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Hilltop



Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Alice Bacon (Mrs W Stugis H. Lothrop 1891


Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) My Daughter Elizabeth



Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Firelight 1893


Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Sunlight



Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Emily Vanderbilt Binney 1894



Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Lady Trying on a Hat 1904



Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Artist's Daughters in Dining Room 1906




Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Summer



Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Dorothy Lincoln 1907



Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Girl Playing Solitaire 1909



Frank W. Benson (American artist, 1862-1951) Elizabeth Perley Kinnicutt 1909

The American dictum that women shouldn't wear white clothing before Memorial Day & after Labor Day has been around at least since the Civil War. The wives of the super-rich dominated high society after the Civil War. As more & more people became financially successful, though, it was difficult to tell the difference between "old money" in elite families & those who only had "new money." By the 1880s, in order to tell who was "acceptable" & who wasn’t, some elite women felt it necessary to create fashion "rules," that everyone "in the know" knew to follow. Not wearing white outside the summer months was one of these rules. In the non-air-conditioned early 20C, the summer "season" was defined by Memorial Day & Labor Day, when those-who-could flocked from town house to seaside "cottage" or mountain "cabin" to escape the oppressive summer heat. City clothes were left behind in exchange for lighter, whiter, summer costumes. Come fall, as well-to-do families returned to the city, more formal, darker city clothes were donned once more. And many in the large cities heated their environs with coal. The soot from the coal spread through the heated indoor spaces & coal dust quickly would stain light garbs. So folks changed to a darker wardrobe around Labor Day. This coincided with the growth of fashion magazines available to all levels of society. The magazines reflected the no white after Labor Day rule in the glossy, seductive pages of Harper's Bazaar & Vogue, which set the fashion tone for the country. This practice progressed from tradition, into rule, & finally into an identifiable cultural faux pas for decades into the 20C. 



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