Green and Purple

The purple in Monday's post goes very well with green. I don't yet have my own photos of the two together, but have a look at's "Coloured trousers for men: how to wear them this winter". This thumbnail is taken from there, and shows one of several schemes they suggest.
Man wearing purple trousers and light green velvet jacket

I like green and purple. More people should wear it. Unfortunately, I couldn't find many other examples of this combination on the web. I've seen engravings of 18th century French courtiers wearing such colours, but Google wasn't helpful in locating them online. The nearest I came was an article about court fashion during the reign of Louis XIV in the Serbian blog Moda Nekad i Sad (Fashion Then and Now). There are two pictures which approximate the colour scheme I'm trying to describe:
French purple trousers and light green coat French purple trousers and light green coat


"Coloured trousers for men: how to wear them this winter" by Nicoleta Parascan,, 9th December 2013. This is the right-hand frame of a composite photo captioned "Purple coloured pants at Dirk Bikkembergs, Paul Smith and Etro, F/W '13".

"Luj XIV" ("Louis XIV") by Marina Skrinjik Ćorić, Moda Nekad i Sad (Fashion Then and Now). The blog is by Marina Skrinjik Ćorić at the School of Design in Belgrade; she says that her many illustrated posts are to compensate for the lack of Serbian-language literature on costume history and fashion.

Orange Satin Sarouel

On Monday, I showed pictures of a full-length silver silk-velvet sarouel, made for me in Tangier with material from A-One Fabrics in Shepherd's Bush. But I've had trousers of the same design made with Moroccan fabrics too. I once commissioned two on spec, with colours to be chosen by the tailor.

For one pair, he'd chosen a wonderful vivid orange satin. Here are some photos, including two which show the fly, belt loops, and elasticated ankles:
Orange satin sarouel

Orange satin sarouel, showing flies and belt loops

Orange satin sarouel, showing elasticated ankles

Orange satin sarouel

Though rather thin for winter, the material is OK for autumn and spring. Because it's so bright and cheerful, I wear this pair a lot. The orange makes a stunning contrast with this ice-blue top and this turquoise top. In a different way, it goes very nicely with this green, this black and scarlet, and this Chinese red. And with some others that I don't yet have photos of.

Silver Silk-Velvet Sarouel

The silver silk-velvet jacket pictured in Friday's post was made with the same material as the sarouel trousers I'm going to write about now. In a sarouel, the lowest the crotch can be is at the ankles; when, really, it isn't a crotch any more, but just an edge with holes in for the feet. As in this design from Balenciaga:
Sarouel with crotch at ankles

I've seen sarouels this shape in shops. At least one "Oriental" gift shop in Oxford sold them, made out of silk; Fusion Clothing in Portobello Road, London had a more robust version in a rather rubbery synthetic; and FantaZia in France had a very sturdy kind made from denim, their Sarouel Jean Mixte Zayu. Sturdy that is apart from its colour, because I bought one once, and when I got caught in a June rainstorm, the dye ran and stained my jacket.

But none of these have flies; they all use drawstrings rather than belts; the material tends to be thin and droopy; pockets are non-existent or so floppy as to be unsafe; and the designs available tend to be "hippie". (Admittedly, the last three don't apply to the Jean Zayu.) I wanted a properly tailored sarouel, nicely pleated and made with as much detailing as a conventional pair of trousers.

Moreover, I'd seen photographs of flowy grey-velvet trousers — in a Tom Ford collection, I think — and thought it would be nice to get a full-length sarouel made with a similar fabric. Full-length because I have a lot of three-quarter-length Moroccan trousers, but in Britain we have winter; and velvet because a full-length sarouel has a lot of relatively flat surface interspersed with pleats and folds, which gives loads of room for velvet's shine and shimmer.

So when I was in London one day, I took a side trip to Shepherd's Bush to get some fabric to have sent to Tangier. As Sew Over It's "Fabric Shops in London" explains:

If it's fabric bargains you're after, there is no better place to go than Goldhawk Road in Shepherd's Bush. Head out of Goldhawk Road tube station (Hammersmith & City line), or walk five minutes from Shepherd's Bush (Central line), and you'll find yourself in fabric shop heaven. There are over ten fabric shops on Goldhawk Road, and whilst they can be a bit higgledy-piggledy, it's worth the rummage. My favourites are Classic Textiles and A-One Fabrics.

I went into several shops. A-One had the nicest selection of velvets, including a variety of greyish and blueish silk velvets. So after taking samples outside to see how they looked in the sun, I chose seven metres of silver-grey. I had it taken to Tangier, together with my Jean Zayu to show the tailor the shape I wanted. And the photos below show what I got back.

Silver silk-velvet sarouel, made in Morocco

Silver silk-velvet sarouel, made in Morocco

Silver silk-velvet sarouel, made in Morocco

Silver silk-velvet sarouel, made in Morocco

The sarouel, by the way, cost me about £30 for labour, plus the cost of the velvet. Or half the velvet — about 3½ metres — because the rest went on my jacket. And this was cheap. When walking around London on another visit, I happened to pass a boutique named Digitaria run by Eleftheria Arapoglou and Stavros Karelis at 60 Berwick Street. I don't believe it's there any more, despite that link; but they had one sarouel, not quite full-length, on sale. For £450. It was cashmere, but even so.


From "How Low Can You Go?" by Sameer Reddy, The New York Times Style Magazine, 9th March, 2010.

Silver Silk-Velvet Jacket: Dress Reform and the Leg-of-Mutton Sleeve

Last time, I wrote about the influence of dress reform on architecture. If you Google images for "dress reform cycling", you will find a lot of drawings of women wearing clothes similar to these: bloomers, a cropped jacket with leg-of-mutton sleeves, and a hat with a feather in.
Woman cyclist wearing bloomers, hat with feather, and cropped jacket with leg-of-mutton sleeves

The most appealing such picture I've seen was in a book of reprinted cartoon-style pen-and-ink drawings, probably done in the 1920s for Life magazine. The protagonist there looked quite masculine, and may even have been a man — the picture was too small to tell. I thought it would be nice to get a similar jacket made, because the picture suggested it would look good with various of my baggy qandrissi trousers. Something to do with the fitted look of the jacket balancing the volume of the trousers, I suppose.

So I bought some silk-velvet fabric, about which I'll say more in my next post, and arranged for it to be taken to Tangier to be made into a jacket. I also provided a pattern for leg-of-mutton sleeves; in French, where the term is "manche gigot", as a Moroccan tailor was more likely to be able to read that than English. This page, "Les manches bouffantes : explications + tuto"§ from mad moi Zelle shows outlines of various types of baggy sleeve and their names in French, as well as a simple tutorial on how to make leg-of-mutton sleeves for a T-shirt.

Here are three photos of the result. The jacket isn't as fitted as the one in the Ellimans picture, but I don't think I'd asked for that. Nor are the sleeves as puffed, but they do look more leg-of-muttony when I wear it. The pockets have lost their shape a bit. I've worn the jacket a lot, and the silk velvet is very soft.
Silver silk-velvet jacket, made in Morocco

Silver silk-velvet jacket, made in Morocco, showing sleeve head

Silver silk-velvet jacket, made in Morocco, showing sleeve head


I took the image, which is public domain, from Wikipedia. Its page there describes it as a "1897 advertisement in The Graphic for Elliman's Universal Embrocation (manufactured in Slough), showing a relatively early example of an ordinary non-sea-bathing Western woman appearing skirtless in public (wearing 'rationals' or 'knickerbockers' or 'bloomers' for bicycle-riding). The whole outfit (top and bottom) was known as a 'bicycle suit'. For the radical change in the way that women rode bicycles over a period of just ten years, compare and im Sociable um 1886 - Verkehrszentrum.JPG (which date from just before the 'safety bicycle' and the woman's 'bicycle suit' started to catch on)."

I also like this one:
Two cyclists wearing bloomers and cropped jackets with leg-of-mutton sleeves
I found it in "Rational Dress Reform Fashion History — Mrs Bloomer" by Pauline Weston Thomas, . I've no idea of its origin or usage rights, but there are many copies scattered across the web.

§ "Les manches bouffantes : explications + tuto" by "Scarlette" from mad moi Zelle, 10 June 2010.

Seasickness Between Two Shelves at Zara, and Buttons in the Mucous Membranes

Excuse me while I vomit on my epaulettes. I ran Google Translate over "Les manches bouffantes : explications + tuto" from mad moi Zelle, because I wanted to see how it translated "manche bouffante". Is this a collocation which translates to something equally specific in sewing English, or just a general combination like "baggy sleeve"? Google was no help, but it did provide some amusement. Here's its translation from one passage in the linked page:

In the following pages, I propose to you to make yourself a top with gigot sleeves, if you have not yet had seasickness between two shelves at Zara and that the sight of these sleeves does not give you buttons yet even in the mucous membranes.

And here's another:

This update comes one season after the reimplantation of the 80's maxi-square way by the Balmain house (among others). It would seem that this place under the sunlights (and on the catwalks) has favored the reappearance of this type of sleeve that had been abandoned in the girls' costume department for years (and Nelly Olson, this bitch.) I see it a bit like a way to say "Good guys, we made them eat squaring squares all winter, you have not an innovative idea? By what I will soon vomit on my epaulets bling-bling. And this is where a small trainee raised his hand shyly: "Well, uh, as long as we're in the revolution of the shoulders, we have not yet exploited the seam of the sleeves of cucul-la-petite-princesse Well, I do not know, you must see.

I think, Google, some more research on automated post-translation editing is needed. And why can't you translate "gigot"?

Dress Reform, Architecture, and Modernism

In my last post, I wrote about Daniel Miller's paper on the anthropology of drabness in clothing: "The little black dress is the solution. But what’s the problem?". He examined four possible reasons for the current epidemic of dreary dress: the fashion industry; historical precedent; modernism; and shopping habits. (To the philosopher in the front row who has just shouted out that historical precedent is not the kind of thing that can be termed a cause, I should explain that there, Miller was looking at previous turnings toward drabness, and whether their explanations threw any light on what's happening today.) I summarised what Miller wrote about three of these, but left out modernism. I felt his analysis thereof merited a post of its own, rather than getting buried amongst lots of other discussion.

Also, I wanted to experiment with animation. Miller discusses the book White Walls and Designer Dresses by Mark Wigley (1995), who traces the links between dress reform and architecture. By drawing a diagram of how ideas spread and mutated as they diffused outwards from dress reform, and successively unhiding it from its centre, I thought I could make this easy to understand.

Unfortunately, this was not straightforward. I couldn't find any software that lets me arrange text and images nicely, while at the same time displaying links between them, and defining an order in which to reveal elements. I looked at lots of things, including mind-map creators (Mindmap Maker is one that's free and easy to use), Microsoft PowerPoint, network-visualisation packages such as vis.js, and animated GIFs of hand-drawn cartoons. None did what I wanted. Since I know how to write web pages using CSS stylesheets and the JavaScript language, these seemed the easiest solution: at least the web browser would give me typography and text layout free. So that's what I did. I had to write some code to progressively reveal blocks of text and images, and more to draw arrows between blocks. Anyone interested can find them at the end of this post.

Having made my animation, and tested it on a stand-alone web page, I then found that it didn't display as I wanted when I copied the HTML into this blog. Probably WordPress styles were interfering. Also, it needs a nice wide window area to spread out the diagram in, and my current WordPress theme usurps a lot of the space for past blog posts and other things. So I've kept it as a stand-alone web page, also called "Dress Reform, Architecture, and Modernism".

Beware. Anyone writing a serious analysis of this stuff should not depend on my animation: it's a summary of a summary, it mixes causation with passage of time, it's grossly oversimplified, and I'm not an expert. Read Daniel Miller's text, and then Mark Wigley's book.

The two paragraphs of Daniel Miller's that I was animating, I've included below. These are only part of his discussion of modernism, which can be found under the section heading "Interrogating the Third Suspect — Modernism" in the web page I already linked to, "The little black dress is the solution. But what’s the problem?".

Fortunately, in contrast to Chromophobia, there is a book with a less succinct title, but quite excellent in its substantive content called, White Walls and Designer Dresses by Mark Wigley (1995). This makes precisely this argument for the centrality of leaching to the modern movement, but does so with considerable and impressive scholarship and through making an unexpected, but convincing, link between the histories of clothing and of architecture. Wigley starts from the pervasive presence of white walls in modern architecture. His argument is that these are supposed to be neutral and silent but actually speak volumes about the attempt to assert certain hegemonic values through modernism. He shows how white, and I think we can add black, is not a neutral absence but often an assertive presence. Tracing back its source, he sees a powerful influence upon architects such as Le Corbusier to be found in earlier dress reform movements. It was in dress reform that there developed a clear ideal of rationalism applied to aesthetic form. Rationality seen as both the ends and means of civilisation itself proclaims white as a form of purity, the hygenic, the pristine. This allows for a pure utility, that which is assertively functional to emerge from mere decoration. But behind this in turn lies another set of oppositions. The dress reform movement proclaimed an opposition that was repeated in the architectural literature between decoration and function.

While this is common to both genres, there are also specific associations within the field of clothing. Decoration in dress is associated by the reformers with the phenomenon of fashion, and this in turn with superficiality and with women. These associations formed part of a larger logic by which rationalism as the civilising tendency is seen as a robust male endeavour that needs to overcome a whole series of what in contrast are seen as primitive and superficial tendencies. Indeed in its more extreme forms, colour and print become associated not only with a kind of non-civilised and irrational world, as illustrated in naïve or primitivist art assumed to be analogous with the pre-modern, but also with the dangerous, the uncontrolled, the images of the drugged and the bestial (also in Batchelor 1999). Women are seen as the conservative force retaining a less civilised and superficial fascination with colour and the decorative.

Links to code

Here are links to the code I wrote:

The little black dress is the solution. But what’s the problem?

Salman Rushdie's wonderful children's book Haroun and the Sea of Stories is based on the premise that there is some evil mechanism that is taking away the vital stream of stories that course through the veins of our world. My paper is based on a kind of adult equivalent to this story. During my lifetime I have been witness to a similar dreadful loss and in this paper I want to don the mantle of the anthropologist as detective and see if I can locate the culprit. The crime is evident all around us. There has been a gradual leaching out of colour and print from the world of Western women's clothing.

So begins a web page titled "The little black dress is the solution. But what’s the problem?" by University of London anthropologist Daniel Miller. It describes how he came to write a paper of the same name about why people today dress so drearily.

Miller says that as a child, he worked in a Carnaby-Street-style boutique and was "enthralled by the coral sea of clothing, while festooned in my own purple flared trousers, beads and floral shirt". When he started lecturing as an anthropologist, he was still wearing a bright orange jersey and a necklace of shells retained from his fieldwork in the Solomon Islands. But even then, this was making him look anachronistically hippy-ish, so he gradually drabbed down, adopting "the general conventions of male clothing based around indigo and black, which is constructed along a vague polarity with `classic' Armani emulating cuts for more formal wear, and jeans materials for the more informal to today's customary indigos and blacks".

Now, indigo can be a blazing, dazzling, glaring colour, as in this indigo coat of mine:
Bright indigo coat I suspect, however, that Miller doesn't mean he's wearing this kind of indigo, but the sort that gives jeans their colour — or lack thereof. As he says, "About the most existing possibility left to me is to discover a new shade of grey."

But while resigned to the dreariness of day-to-day wear, Miller did still expect to see more adventurous clothing on holiday, a 'Hawaiian shirt' lifting of the gloom:

Well for a while this seemed true, but then I was starting to find that my fellow tourists were bringing out the same dull drab clothes on holiday that they were wearing at home — just more interesting messages on the T shirts. But at least I felt that if holiday clothes had also become drab, the last refuge of colour would indeed be the beach and the swimsuit, with at least some desire to 'fit in' when snorkeling over a coral reef. So the decision to write this paper can be precisely timed. It came when taking a family holiday on a beach in Mexico. I had my novel and my drink and was relaxing under a beach umbrella. This was quite a European resort and the people around me were probably Dutch, Swedish and English with a few Americans. Anyway, after a while, I started looking around me and what actually caught my eye was that every single bikini or swimsuit as far as my eye could see was — you guessed it — black. At that point I decided that surely if the anthropologist could turn detective, I might not be able to stem this tide, but might at least find the culprit."

So what was the culprit. Very disappointingly, Miller doesn't have his paper on open access. There's a database entry for it linked from the 2004 section of But even though this service is called open access, it says the full text is not available. However, he does summarise it in his web page. He starts by discussing four possible causes. These are:

  1. The fashion industry. Is it promoting drab colours because they’re more profitable?
  2. Historical precedent. Have there been past turnings toward drabness? If so, could their causes throw light on the current turning?
  3. The rise of modernism and modernist minimalism. Have these caused the recent decline in colour?
  4. How people behave when buying.

    Miller dismisses the first three causes. Regarding the first — the fashion industry — he argues that if the world has gone black, one can't merely assume designers who promoted the trend are responsible. Clothing is one of the most diverse industries. In order to survive, companies will always be seeking new niches. Some may go black, but this will drive others to seek alternative, and therefore more colourful, niches.

    Concerning historical precedent, Miller says that that have indeed been previous turnings towards drabness. In his 1995 book Men in Black John Harvey discusses the Victorians. Victorian dandies wore black, adopting an ascetic and minimalist appearance which favoured elaboration in style rather than in colour. The middle classes also adopted black: probably not because of influence from the dandy elite, but because the Church had for centuries associated black with sobriety. What really cemented this association, Harvey says, was the Victorian Cult of the Dead. To me, this is exemplified by any number of gloomy images, such as the splendid picture heading Essie Fox's Virtual Victorian blog.

    But all the above shows is that there were other periods when "clothing leached and bleached". It doesn't prove that the reasons for this were the same as today. After all, Miller writes, a girl picking out a little black dress for a party is unlikely to think of herself as dressing for a funeral.

    The third possible cause Miller considers is the rise of modernism and modernist minimalism. Have these caused the recent decline in colour? I'll say more about these next time, but Miller concludes that they have not.

    This leaves the fourth possibility, people's behaviour when shopping. Miller and his colleague Alison Clarke observed shopping habits in North London. They found that "there remains a considerable desire to wear different colours and prints, and yet at the moment of purchase women seemed unable to bring themselves to fulfil their own desires".

    This appeared to be because of anxiety: "One of the extended examples presented in Clarke and Miller 2002 was a woman — Charmaigne who sets out to buy a floral dress, in a deliberate attempt to expand out of her conventional wardrobe and to try and associate herself with this other genre of clothing. By following her around the shops we can actually watch her increasing anxiety when it comes to making a choice that will lead to her expressing a more distinct sartorial identity in public outside of the arena of what are experienced now as simple and safe minor variants upon the core of printless and colourless clothing."

    So women get anxious, and this inhibits them from choosing interesting clothes. But why do they get anxious? We need to ask, because: "Finding anxiety at the root of this refusal of distinction does not tell us anything about why women are so anxious, and why this might be more the case now, than say thirty years ago."

    Miller argues that: "what we have uncovered is the combination of two forces; one long term and one short term. The long term trend could be identified, not so much with modernism, as with modernity. The condition of modernity as analysed by Habermas (1987) is one in which we become decreasingly convinced by the authority of institutions and rules that previously determined how we should act. We can no longer say simply that this is our 'custom' or our 'religion' Instead we have to face up to the degree to which we are making up our own moral rules. We become, as individuals, increasingly burdened with the task of creating normativity for ourselves. This is even more difficult given our increasing self-awareness, that this is what we are engaged in. All of this pressure to create our own normativity in turn produces a tremendous desire for self-reassurance (for details of this argument see Miller 1994: 58-81)."

    That final reference is to Modernity: an Ethnographic Approach by Miller (1994), Oxford: Berg. I haven’t read it yet, so I can't go any further in explaining the above. But the consequence is: "This is why the shoppers are less and less confident about making a clear choice. They want to buy something strong and bright, but they just can't bring themselves to do it. We live not in a risk society, but in what we might better call the no-risk society. What we do is pretend that choosing shades of grey is more subtle and sophisticated — an intelligent choice. We say to each other we are all very cool and sophisticated. But of course this is nonsense. We would much rather be making bold choices, but (speaking now as a man), we just don’t have the balls to actually do so, because of the burden of freedom. Because we are defensive about being held responsible for the sartorial statement we have thereby made."

    Miller concludes that "Contrary to the expectations of the 1960's and 1970's we have excavated a logic which explains why a free world is likely to be a drab world."

    Daniel Miller, "The little black dress is the solution. But what's the problem?". In K. Ekstrom and H. Brembeck, ed., Elusive Consumption, 1st ed. Bloomsbury Academic, pp.113-127, 2004.

    John Harvey, Men in Black, Chicago, 1995.