Circa '95

I just got linked to this picture again, and I had to share it. This is me, circa 1992 95 - ish. 25 years ago, in my capacity as a Wiccan (acting) High Priestess who had just officiated the marriage of two very dear friends of mine. My co-priest Daniel isn’t in the picture but our version of Wicca was very much about male witch equality especially if they’re gay …. which my lord and teacher Auberon was and is.

Pagans have been on the forefront of fighting for marriage equality on religious freedom grounds for so fucking long. We’ve been blessing same-gender marriage couples on a religious basis since at least the 50s, and for our rites to be considered less important on a state level than patriarchal one-male-god monotheist religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) is clear-cut discrimination. We have always understood that gender is complex and love is love and bodies are not the same as spirit.

just a local reminder that I’m a witch and I’ve been a witch for a long time and I’m never going to stop being a witch. 

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Welcome to this week’s FRIDAY FASHION FACT! Today we’re talking about why the vast majority of historical clothes that survive today seem so small in size.

Most people probably think, that’s obvious! It’s because people used to be much shorter than they are today! Well, that’s not really true. I could write a full essay on this (in fact, several people have), but let’s stick with the basics. Average heights use to be shorter than they are today because many more people use to be malnourished, stunting their growth. However, the wealthy (and therefore properly nourished) members of society had the same variety of heights that we have today. Average heights also varied region, just as they do now, and varied by era based on ever-changing eating habits (meat based diets vs. vegetable or grain based diets, etc.) Additionally, many people have a skewed perspective of what average heights are now. Many of our celebrities are athletes, or actors who are staged to appear taller on screen, leading to the misconception that average people are taller than they really are.

So, if people (and therefore clothes) from past centuries were created in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, why do we see so many petite little dresses in museums? Simple. For one, clothing isn’t always as small as it looks. The proportions of historical gowns are very different than clothing today, often built to trick the eye into seeing a tiny waist. If we cinched in our waists and padded our hips like they did years ago, we might look as small, too. Of course, there are many pieces that actually are quite little. Why? Clothing was extremely expensive in past centuries, and the average person could only afford to buy about one new complete gown or suit a year (or the material to make one complete look.) However, the wealthy upper classes, who could afford several garments a year, were very style conscious and would discard pieces that were not in the latest fashion. They would pass down these pieces to their servants, or other less wealthy members of their communities. They were hand-me-downs, taken in or remade by the next wearer, then the wearer after that, until they were completely worn out, then used as rags or scrap fabric. The very small pieces survive because they were too petite to be passed down, taken in, re-worn, and worn-out.

Luckily for us, there is an exception to every rule, and there are surviving examples of larger pieces, as well as pieces where we can see where they have been taken in, altered, or remade. The above photos show a few of these garments:

Circa 1780 robe a l'anglaise remade from a 1740s sack back gown

Circa 1770s bed gown remade from the 1760s

Circa 1800-05 round gown remade from 1785-95

Circa 1840 evening dress remade from 1760s

Circa 1880 redingote remade from a circa 1810 man’s jacket

Want to learn more about the lifespan of historical garments? Check out these books:

What Clothes Reveals: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America, by Linda Baumgartem

The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth Century England, by John Styles

Have a question about fashion history that you want answered in the next FRIDAY FASHION FACT? Just click the ASK button at the top of the page!

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Previously unreleased 2PAC phone conversation with Sanyika Shakur aka Monster Kody Scott October ‘95

Great conversation! Love that there are still unreleased shit like this. Hearing shit like this, his plans for the future particularly his activism is always a reminder of what a huge loss Pac’s death was.

- “Io mi sento di poter dividere gli uomini in quattro categorie, che più o meno mi vanno a coprire circa il 95% dell'universo maschile.
Categoria Numero Uno: Gli Insoddisfatti. Tutto il giorno ripetono la mia vita fa schifo, mia moglie non mi ama, i miei figli mi detestano. La donna che cade in questo tipo di rapporto diventa una crocerossina, non dice mai io ti amo, ma dice io ti salverò.
Categoria Numero Due: Peter Pan. Hanno di bello che non hanno crisi di mezza età perchè sono fermi all'adolescenza. Per loro sei un joystick, conquistarti vuol dire salire al primo livello, portarti a letto vincere la partita. Prediligono donne giovani, esageratamente giovani.
Categoria Numero Tre: I Vorrei ma non posso. Di solito sposati con figli ma in procinto di separarsi. In procinto di dirglielo, in procinto di andarsene via, sono sempre in procinto di…ma non fanno mai nulla perchè ora lei sta attraversando un momento difficile, perchè il bambino è piccolo, perchè il bambino non capirebbe. Poi, alla festa di laurea del bambino, forse capisci che il momento giusto non arriverà mai." 
E poi infine ci sono i buoni, i belli e gli intelligenti.
- "Oh, finalmente. E qual è il loro problema?" 
- "La mamma. Una presenza costante e imprescindibile fin dall'infanzia. Ed è lì che cominciano a trasformare i loro piccoli uomini in piccoli mostri.
E allora, se per metà della tua esistenza una donna ti fa sentire Dio, perchè accettare che per il resto della vita un'altra donna ti faccia sentire uno stronzo?”
- “E il restante 5%?”
- “Sono quelli decenti.Buona caccia al tesoro amore mio.”

                                                                                  -Tutta Colpa di Freud-

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One of T. Enami’s earliest photos of Mt. Fuji. He cataloged this circa 1891-95 image as No.316 – Fujiyama View from Iwabuchi.  Text and image via Okinawa Soba on Flickr