Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Finding Lightness and Inspiration

In light of recent internet ongoings, involving a pal of mine and her special day, I wanted to rise above all of the muck to find some lightness and inspiration. I don't usually say much here, but it's time for some positivity. Big post time!

I wish I could dress exclusively in 1930's feedsack dresses, but they're just so hard to come by. I know I'm not alone in this. We all know that the Depression Era was a time of hardship, and that the struggles faced by many families was extraordinary. Now so many of us look back fondly and we can't help but feel inspired. Not by the hardship itself but by both the beauty that existed despite it and the beauty that somehow arose from it. Clothes were homemade of natural fibers in neutral colors. The dresses were modest, yet breezy, and cut simply.

I've met people who are "buffs," so to speak, of almost all eras. Every era has its own skeletons, and we respect them while remaining fascinated by what existed around them. Heck, eBay itself categorizes its vintage clothing by these eras (WWI, WWII, Depression Era, etc.) as a frame of reference to a specific style.

My Grandma was born in 1930 and grew up on a struggling farm in Michigan throughout the tail end of the Great Depression. She did a lot of the labor herself as a tiny girl, and tells me of how hard Michigan's winters were during that time. I have a deep appreciation for what she and others went through, as she shows me her old photos. This doesn't mean a little squeak doesn't occasionally slip out when I see the cute clothing she wore. She just smiles at me, and loves that I appreciate it.

Time for pretty stuff.

Some rags from Ralph Lauren's 2010 Spring collection, followed by Benjamin Bixby's collection, both designers inspired by the Depression Era:







And who hasn't heard of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a comedy set in rural Mississippi during the Great Depression. (Side note: This movie had a budget of $26 million, and made $71 million in the box office. I really can't even begin to guess how much of that went into costumes, props, and set design.) Aside from the aged sepia-toned cinematography that earned them an Academy Award nomination, the music is tops! They stayed true to period-specific folk and bluegrass music with the Soggy Bottom Boys:

Well, I could go on and on in the case of film and TV. (Fried Green Tomatoes is a personal favorite.) We've all enjoyed reproductions of this era in serious, lighthearted, gritty, beautiful, relevant and irrelevant forms. Don't even get me started on my favorite television show, Carnivale.

Too bad, I'm started! Not only is Carnivale set in the Great Depression, but its the story of a travelling carnival in the Dust Bowl. While the show is gripping and compelling for its story value, it won five Emmy Awards including Outstanding Costumes For A Series, Outstanding Hairstyling For A Series, and Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series. I'm glad that shows like this have been made and that I'm not the only one who finds beauty and aesthetic value in them.




I'll end with the song Dust Bowl Dance by Mumford and Sons. I ask that we all try a little harder to be better to each other, especially strangers.


  1. I don't know what kind of internet drama is going on in your life, but I can definitely relate to this post! In moments like this I like to remind myself of one of my grandmother's favorite addages, "empty cans make the loudest noise." When you're unfulfilled in your own life, it's easy to start pointing fingers and criticizing others just to try and fill that emptiness. Much better to focus on inspiration, especially when it's as beautifully curated as this post! I find myself drawn to this era as well, and I'm a huge fan of Carnivale! Such an amazing show, the sets and costumes were incredible. I'd love to get my hands on some old patterns and make my own feedsack dresses!

  2. inspiration is what makes the world go around, chick. and you totally inspired me. thanks for the post.

    love, rach.

  3. Great styles, positive commentary, awesome TV show, excellent music choice... all around loving this post. Thank you! :)

  4. i enjoyed reading this very inspiring post, thanks!
    do you know pokey lafarge? i think you might enjoy them xx

  5. Great post! I've been fascinated by the 1930s since I was a little kid, and I just love everything from that era. Mumford and Sons are fantastic, too!

  6. I love this post! Sometimes I worry about coming off as shallow for being so enamored by a period that was really not much fun to live through, but you've articulated the all beauty and charm of the Depression so very well. (Oh, and perfect timing too... I'm just about to get my last Carnivale dvd from netflix. I don't want it to end, haha!!)

  7. love Ralph Lauren especially in love with the stripey tunic dress with the waistcoat. so pretty!


  8. I honestly believe that finding beauty in turmoil is what keeps us strong. To appreciate human-created elements of certain tumultuous eras is crucial in furthering ourselves as a society... if we couldn't find good in the ugly, how on earth would we be able to move past any of it?
    I don't think appreciating these elements is by any means glorifying the hardship.
    Lovely post.

  9. the o brother where art thou? soundtrack is one of my favorites and a must for any road trip! i think the '30s are a very appropriate period to look to at this time. i blogged about that american girl movie; i'm not necessarily a fan of the dolls (rather indifferent i guess) but the movie had some great depression era costumes (i've included a link if you want to see, hope that's ok).

    and Spinner's End - that quote from your grandmother is fantastic, and so true!

  10. This is a really interesting and insightful piece, thanks! I really enjoy fried green tomatoes too, a bit of an under appreciated film I think. That set of menswear photos is amazing!

  11. I've never heard of Carnivale, but I'll be looking for episodes online now, it looks amazing!

  12. Really nice dresses. I love O Brother Where Art Thou? - it's a great movie!

  13. i'm really inspired by movie costuming, too. paper moon is one of my favorites :)

  14. This was a really thought provoking post. Love your glad I found it!

  15. These are wonderful 30s inspired looks, those Ralph Lauren dresses...j'adore! It is so difficult to find 30s dresses nowadays and usually they always have faults. *le sigh*

    Love Mumford & Sons!

  16. Oh brother where art thou has to be one of my all time favorite. Everything about it is so perfect! Gets better the more you watch it eh?


  17. My Grandmother grew up during the depression as well, in Massachusetts. Her parents came to America in 1907 from Norway and her mother (my great-grandmother) died of a diabetic coma in 1934. Grandma was 7 years old then and went to live with neighbors on their farm for 2 years until her aunt took her in. She often talked about spending countless hours canning vegetables and fruit. I want to learn how!
    Carnivale is amazing.. I am sad that it only has 2 seasons.


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