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166 the minnesota review have to wait until others offer more comprehensive and detailed explorations of each of these remarkable artists and their medium. In the meantime she has created a book that will famiUarize leftists with a part of their history in some ways more relevant than the thirties because not yet Bolshevized, and perhaps more relevant than the sixties because capable of combining exuberant politics with the discipline and sobriety necessary to produce politicized art still evocative seventy-five years later. HARVEY TERES Radical By Design: The Life and Style of Elizabeth Hawes by Bettina Burch. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1988. pp. 214. $19.95 (cloth). This is a luminous interpretive text, unaccountably overlooked by Left reviewers and journals. Its subject, the forgotten Elizabeth Hawes, had more impact in deconstructing bourgeois fashion, and proposing radical alternatives, than any other writer or designer for decades. If not for the Cold War, she would have emerged in the late 1960s as architect of unisex dresswear, and precursor-guide to the intellectuals who would subsequently turn old-fashioned Marxist determinism into a sophisticated tool of cultural examination; even better, we would see her as the inspiration of those who, educated in cultural poUtics, would seek to transform it back into new bases for mass engagement. These are large claims, surely, and only a careful reading of the book can bear them out. But a recitation of Hawes' accompUshments suggests the text's value. A Vassar graduate of the middle 1920s, Hawes took on Paris, wrote a funny column for the New Yorker under the nom deplume of "parasite," and returned with any illusions about the fashion industry usefully destroyed. She opened her own shop in New York at a catastrophically bad moment , just as the Depression loomed, but managed to keep afloat through hard work and commissioned designs for mass-market producers. By the time she wrote her best-seller, Fashion is Spinach (1938), she had already been the first foreign dress designer invited to Russia, and had taken up with her lover-thenhusband , future avant-garde movie auteur Joseph Losey. She knew the political score as no other designer in America, and Spinach laid it all out, commercial fashion as just so much commodification. She might have created a niche for herself as a gadfly, but her next book, Men Can TakeIt, proceeded with the dangerous argument that clothescould be radically different (men might even like bright colors or skirts more than hyper-masculinity!) and make a difference in society. For that suggestion, the (male) reviewers whacked her around. By wartime, she set to work as a columnist for the leftish New York daily PM, developing a set of practical tips for radical consumerism. Moving on, she went to work in a New Jersey aircraft factory, where she gathered material for Why Women Cry, or, Wenches with Wrenches (1943), a closely written manifesto of working women's needs. After the war, she faced serious red- baiting, despite her critical self-distancing from the Communist Party . Hurry Up Please It's Time (1946) was a plea for a socialist movement that made sense to Americans, especially to American women. Her commercial popularity had been laid waste. A Washington Post reviewer reflected that ''not since the days of the Amazons has any feminist been so violently anti-male.'' The FBI shadowed her from place to place, New York to Detroit to the Caribbean, where she enjoyed tramp steamers and sought to leave America's special ugliness behind. Anything But Love (1948), a savage commentary on the supposed bliss of Cold War American womanhood, was a shot fired from a distance, as was But Say It Politely (1951), which treated imperialism's effects. Demoralized but politically game, she held on. It's Still Spinach (1954), her last book, proposed that people use their fantasies to dress themselves. She also asserted a universal bi-sexuality, just below the surface. In the long Reviews 167 run, of course, her ideas won out to a surprising extent. Late in life, she was drawn to the young people who should have known more about her. In 1967, she got her vindication, a show at the Fashion...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 166-167
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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