One can only speculate as to whether or not Liz Hawes (who, I discovered during my recent archive expeditions, also signed herself as ‘Lisa’) might have harnessed the current-day journalistic possibilities brought about with blogging or tweeting. What I can assert with certainty is that Liz, or Lisa, was a prolific journalist during her day. By the early 1940s, having established herself among the top three American fashion designers of the age, she had become increasingly preoccupied with literary – rather than design – opportunities and interests, contributing fashion reports to a daily leftist newspaper called PM (among others). However, that was not Liz’s first foray into the world of journalism (nor would it be her last). As a young Vassar graduate learning the fashion ropes during her apprenticeship in Paris during 1927 and 1928, she was invited to send cables back to the US on the latest style news from France. This was a time when Paris was considered to lead fashion and, ergo, when American retailers and consumers followed that lead rather than innovated. Fashionable New Yorkers were hungry for details from the epicentre of couture.
Choosing the nom-de-plume of ‘Parisite’ in these early years, Liz posted syndicated cables and lengthier letters, many of which appeared in The New Yorker magazine as part of the regular ‘Feminine Fashions’ column in the ‘On and Off the Avenue’ pages edited by (the mysterious) ‘L.L.’. As Parisite, Liz was placed as part of a contemporary trans-Atlantic flow of information, ideas and influence from Paris to New York. The following example, ferreted from the archives by yours truly, is one of Parisite’s short, cryptic, cables, dating from The New Yorker of 19th May, 1928 (p.64) and tantalises with information regarding the millinery of Suzanne Talbot. As I present it here, I can’t help but think that this eighty-five year old telegram strikes a certain ‘tweeterly’ tone and wouldn’t be out of place in the Twittersphere of 2013. Yet again, it appears that Lisa was ahead of her time. And her fashion advice still holds fast, too. Spotty velvet remains a perennial faux pas.
Paris, May 9
LAST WORD IN FEMININITY PRODUCED BY SUZANNE TALBOT WHO SHOWS LAMÉ BABY BONNETS WITH OSTRICH PLUMES WITH HER RUFFLED CHIFFON EVENING MODELS. RUFFLES OF OLD LACE ON WATER SATIN AND TAFFETA IN ALL BETTER EVENING CLOTHES, DO NOT BUY POLKA DOTTED VELVET. – PARISITE