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.