I’m a history lover and an aesthete, so when I came across an official Golden Anniversary Jubilee book, I found myself in heaven.
At first I was just lost in this time capsule of a book — each page a key-hole into the past — but then I realized the theme was the “Golden Anniversary” of New York. So what did that mean?
The book, titled: “Official Jubilee Edition, City of New York Golden Anniversary of Fashion 1898-1948”, is a momento from a three-month-long celebration of New York’s 50th anniversary as incorporated city in Summer 1948.
Yes, New York was settled in the colonial era — first claimed by the Dutch in 1609 as “New Amsterdam”, so why in 1948 was the Mayor’s Committee celebrating 50 years?
The answer lies in another brief tidbit of historical trivia. The city was not officially incorporated until 1898, when Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Richmond (aka Staten Island) were consolidated into one city.
I can only imagine the gaiety and exuberant private parties that were held in the summer of 1948. It was three years after the end of World War II and the final troops were arriving home, as America, and New York, began marching proudly into the future.
New York’s skyline in the 1940s: Surprisingly, the brilliance of what it was and what it is today hasn’t much changed!
New York: Through the Eyes of a Child
New York: Through the Eyes of a Woman
New York: Through the Eyes of a Man
But What About the Fashion?
According to New York Historical Society, “the Golden Jubilee festivities began in June on Fifth Avenue when the 75,000 multi-ethnic city employees and students — many in history-themed floats and costumes — marched in a ‘New York at Work’ parade”.
Later in the summer, at Grand Central Palace (the city’s now-defunct exposition hall), visitors “could coo over the latest offerings from the garment district at one of the Jubilee’s many fashion shows; marvel at a scale model of the city’s water system or ‘Man and the Atom,’ described as ‘the most comprehensive and educational atomic energy exhibit ever assembled.’ “
As for the “Official Jubilee Edition”, the book went into pages of sketches outlining the notable style trends of each era. Here’s a brief sampling of the pearls …
“1945: During World War II “being sloppy” was very stylish …”
“1930: American girls just arrive in France are making sensation with their hats pushed backwards. It is the first time that American has her word in fashion …”
“1928: A little bit more hair … bangs are a great success …”
“1940: My little hat isn’t funny anymore,” (Clown says).
1944-1946: “The padded shoulders had a very long life … the “new look” finished them.”
1937: “Just before World War II, a French modiste is launching a little doll hat — which women love the world over. Grandmothers are wearing as well or not as well as young girls.”
1943: “The first pictures are coming out of Paris during the German occupation showing outgrown hats and turbans — large enough to make the victor nervous.”
What’s the Take-Away?
Context is decisive.
And, without the context of history, the meaning of culture and where we are today has nary a foundation.
Understanding the historical events which influenced fashion of vintage eras gone by gives us a deeper appreciation for our modern designers borrowing styles and lines from such original trendsetters.
For many eras, fashion wasn’t just a creative whim rather an outward “sign of the times.”
For more information on New York’s Golden Anniversary, visit New-York Historical Society at 170 Central Park West, New York, or call: 212-873-3400.
What “original” designers and trendsetters of by-gone eras inspire you?