Modern fashion trends leave much to be desired when it comes to taste in many an opinion, but it’s good to know that we are in fact carrying on a time-honored tradition of less-than-fabulous fads, as this letter from Bernard Shaw to the Times in 1905 clearly demonstrates.
After waxing poetic on the strict dress code required of men to attend the opera, Shaw strongly suggests it would be wise to bring some equality of the sexes to the dress code.
At 9 o’clock (the Opera began at 8) a lady came in and sat down very conspicuously in my line of sight. She remained there until the beginning of the last act. I do not complain of her coming late and going early; on the contrary, I wish she had come later and gone earlier. For this lady, who had very black hair, had stuck over her right ear the pitiable corpse of a large white bird, which looked exactly if someone had killed it by stamping on the beast, and then nailed it to the lady’s temple, which was presumably of sufficient solidity to bear the operation. I am not, I hope, a morbidly squeamish person; but the spectacle sickened me. I presume that if I had presented myself at the doors with a dead snake round my neck, a collection of black beetles pinned to my shirtfront, and a grouse in my hair, I should have been refused admission. Why, then is a woman to be allowed to commit such a public outrage? Had the lady been refused admission, as she should have been, she would have soundly rated the tradesman who imposed the disgusting headdress on her under the false pretence that ‘the best people’ wear such things, and withdrawn her custom from him; and thus the root of the evil would be struck at; for your fashionable woman generally allows herself to be dressed according to the taste of a person who she would not let sit down in her presence. I once, in Drury Lane Theatre, sat behind a matinee hat decorated with the two wings of a seagull, artificially reddened at the joints so as to produce the illusion of being freshly plucked from a live bird. But even that lady stopped short of a whole seagull. Both ladies were evidently regarded by their neighbors as ridiculous and vulgar; but that is hardly enough when the offence is one which produces a sensation of physical sickness in persons of normal human sensibility.
One thing is for sure: He doesn’t mince any words, and seeing the letter was later published, we have to wonder if this particular hat ever saw the light of day again.
Full story at Letters of Note.
A horrible history of fashion.Author on Google+