A Second Helping of Spinach


Inside Cover ‘Fashion Is Spinach’, 1938 showing ‘decorations’, as Hawes termed them, by Alexey Brodovitch

As I approach ‘take off’ (in more ways than one) with The Style Stakes Project and my departure for New York looms ever closer, my preoccupation with all-things-Hawes duly intensifies.  Please bear with me, then, as I offer another blogpost here on Hawes’s fascinating and oft time puzzling book Fashion is Spinach (1938).  The passage I’ve selected gives a taste of her arched and acerbic remarks concerning 1930s fashion, levelling the accusation that it creates false needs (and, incidentally, this theme is reprised in her later work It’s Still Spinach, 1954).  The extract cited below (Hawes: pp. 5-6) is a reasonably lucid piece of writing with a resoundingly clear sentiment.  Yet elsewhere in the book the flow of consciousness is more challenging to follow and untangle (for me, at least).  I wonder if this is evidence of a Surrealist influence, given it was the Thirties?  Of course, it may just be a case of poor editing skills…  Fashion writers take heed!

“On top of style there has arisen a strange and wonderful creature called fashion.  He got started at least as far back as the seventeenth century when a few smart people recognized him for what he was and is.  ‘See’st thou not, I say, what a deformed thief this fashion is?’ Mr. Shakespeare demanded in Much Ado About Nothing.  But nobody paid any attention… [Fashion] becomes more and more deformed with practice.  Fashion is a parasite on style.  Without style, he wouldn’t exist, but what he does to it is nobody’s business.  Fashion is that horrid little man with an evil eye who tells you that your last winter’s coat may be in perfect physical condition, but you can’t wear it.  You can’t wear it because it has a belt and this year ‘we are not showing belts.’  Fashion gets up those perfectly ghastly ideas, such as accessories should match, and proceeds to give you shoes, gloves, bag and hat all in the same hideous shade of kelly green…”.