History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

07 July 2014

Worn on the Fourth of July

We hoydens often discuss the use of the way costumes/clothes/garments/accessories in our novels denote character.

Of course, clothes do more than keep us covered, or strategically reveal certain parts of our bodies, which in itself makes a statement. Fashion has always been an expression of personal and often social standing. In some cultures during certain eras, governments enacted sumptuary laws restricting the textiles that could be worn by various social strata. And in some centuries velvet or silk, or certain colors, were purely the purview of royalty.  

The colorful tabards worn by medieval knights represented their family heraldry; moreover, one knew who was who, friend or enemy, on the battlefield. Surely this is the genesis of the concept behind sports team jerseys as well. Supporters of the French Revolution sported the tricolor cockade in their hats. Marie Antoinette was literally a fashion victim, condemned by her subjects as much for what she wore as for what she didn't. Her lavish garments, accoutrements and hairstyles of the 1770s were criticized as wretched excess as the queen became the scapegoat for centuries of France's social and economic issues that were none of her making. Yet during the early 1780s when she foreswore her furbelows for flimsy linen and muslin gowns, she was not only derided for looking more like a dairy maid than Queen of France, but for putting the French silk merchants out of work, in favor of the Flemish flax growers--citizens of her elder brother Joseph's Hapsburg Empire.

And while Nazis wore swastikas on their armbands, they compelled German Jews to stitch a yellow Star of David on their clothes and gays to sew a pink triangle to their garments as an identifying badge.

On the morning of July 4, while I was taking a walk in Washington DC, where I now live, I saw so many people dressed in red, white, and blue in honor of our nation’s 238th birthday, and especially dressed in clothes with replicas of our flag on them. In NYC, where I’m from, people only wear flags on their clothes with a sense of irony; yet here in our nation’s capital, no matter the age or gender or color of their skin, people really seemed to have awakened that morning and deliberately chosen to cover their own birthday suits with one that would honor America’s birthday—without irony, but with patriotism. At least that was the reason I was given, cheerfully and honestly, by the senior citizen I encountered by the Georgetown waterfront who lamented DC’s dearth of a good bagel store/deli (true that) to my cashier at Trader Joe’s, a young man who was as fascinated by the idea of this blog, as he was proud to be an American—wearing it on his face for all the world to see.
Did you wear red, white, and blue on the 4th of July? Do you tend to suit your outfit to the holidays (red or pink clothes for Valentine’s Day, donning Halloween costumes, wearing green [or orange, or both] on St. Patrick’s Day, red and green to Christmas parties, etc.)?


Blogger Helena said...

Something went wrong with this sentence! "On the morning of July 4, while I was taking a walk in Washington DC, where I now live birthday, and especially dressed in clothes with replicas of our flag on them."

1:24 AM  
Blogger Helena said...

I read on, and saw that the whole paragraph is repeated below, with the second version being the correct one.

1:26 AM  
Blogger Helena said...

This is an interesting piece. I also thought of students wearing t-shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with the name of their university, and how this has been subverted by the sale of those shirts worldwide to anyone who wants to wear them. I agree that sports jerseys are the natural successor to knight's tabards -- and their supporters buy and wear them worldwide.

I find the whole question of national flags to be a little different. I would guess that they're most frequently worn by ordinary citizens when their national teams are involved in sorting competitions, be they the Olympics, the football World Cup, or (in the UK) cricket and rugby international matches. The wearing of a national flag absent such a reason is, I think, not something that generally happens in England. But we don't have a day which equates to the 4th of July; the nearest might be St George's Day, but most of us don't know when that is or why it might be celebrated. The Welsh mark St David's day with more enthusiasm, I think, but I'm not sure if they actually wear Welsh flags that day. The same is true of the Scottish St David's Day.

Do Canadians wear their flag on Canada Day?

1:37 AM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

I had trouble getting the text to post, Helena (I'll go back in and edit). First a whole chunk looked missing; now it seems to be there twice.)

Good point about University jerseys. I had a conversation about them on the 4th with another couple. Both my husband and the guy in the conversation had attended Berkeley and the wife and I were talking about wearing the clothes with the bear insignia on it. And I mentioned that I always felt weird wearing my husband's Berkeley baseball cap, or e.g. a Harvard tee shirt when I attended a different school. I didn't earn the right to wear the Harvard shirt or the Berkeley cap and was giving the public a false impression.

5:22 AM  
Blogger Aorist said...

I too live in the suburbs of Washington DC. The "pool ladies" aka as "The Girl Scouts" (ages 53-93) held a blueberry pancake brunch with strawberries and whip cream. All of the crew was dressed in red, white, and blue.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I wore blue, a friend wore red, all we needed was someone else to wear white.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always try to wear red, white, and blue on the fourth. I like the comparison of heraldic clothing to modern sports gear-I hadn't thought of it that way before, but they are very similar practices.

12:16 PM  

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