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Celebrating International Women's Day - Elizabeth Hawes Fashion Designer

08 March 2013


Today a piece about Fashion Designer Elizabeth Hawes who I first heard about when I worked at the Brooklyn Museum many years ago.  She was an amazing talent who had a very interesting life and it's sad that she is so little known.  She had a multifaceted career, writing 9 books, fighting for human rights and of course designing ready to wear clothes.  Her book 'Fashion is Spinach' which she wrote in 1938 and is a very entertaining read condemning the fashion industry for creating a planet of fashion victims.  "I don't know when the word fashion came into being, but it was an evil day" she wrote, unexpected from a top fashion designer you might think!  She felt that the only purpose of fashion was to "give a little additional gaiety to life" and to entertain, rather than something to slavishly follow and that the system worked against the customer by creating a thirst for poorly made uncomfortable clothing that wouldn't last.  Elizabeth Hawes also challenged fashion for men, creating vibrantly patterned and coloured menswear including skirts and robes.  

Elizabeth Hawes was also a union activist and married to Joseph Losey the film director.  During the McCarthy era in the US they were both blacklisted as communist sympathisers.  As a result she became an alcoholic which lead to her death in 1971.    Her books are out of print but you can pick up second hand copies from time to time. Whether you're interested in fashion or not I highly recommend 'Fashion is Spinach'


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