Wednesday, March 19, 2014

138. Charles Ricketts on Modern Women's Dress

Charles Ricketts wrote about fashion several times. He contributed pieces about 'Greek Dress' and 'The True Significance of Dress' to the Saturday Review in January and February 1909, and he became well known as a designer of costumes and scenery for the stage. His most famous designs were done for Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado in 1926.

His view on modern dress was published in an interview for the Evening News; and reprinted in the Daily Mail, 2 June 1928. This interview has, to my knowledge, not yet been used for articles or books about Ricketts.

Modern Women's Dress is "Graceful and Charming in Every Way."

Handsome Tribute from a Royal Academician - Short Skirts of the Grecian Girls - Splendid Combination of Utility and Beauty - But the Corsage is Too Monotonous - And Footwear Should be Well-studied - A Glance Backwards: When the Bustle was a Delight

Daily Mail Atlantic Edition, 2 June 1928
Women's taste to-day is sound. Of that I have received ample assurance from Mr. Charles Ricketts, Royal Academician, a distinguished authority in historical dress and designer of costumes for many plays, including "St. Joan" and "The Mikado."

"I love the clean and new head," he declared, "though I must admit I wasn't sure of it at first. The shingle allows you to appreciate the shape of a girl's head and her carriage of it as you never could when all that bird's-nest business was the fashion.
"But the appearance of women is now graceful and charming in every way - I even think girls' faces are prettier than ever they were! And I should not be surprised if that were because of the dresses and the wide interests of their lives."

He reminded me that there is nothing new in short skirts; the girls of ancient Greece wore them - strange that elderly connoisseurs should so admire a short skirt on an ancient decorated bowl, and yet be blind to its beauty in reality. But though it is no new thing, it is new to us.
"Women have only recently learned how to carry short skirts," he said. "You can see that if you watch an older woman in one - she doesn't know where to put her legs.
"Nearly every period of dress has charm - or has had charming exponents of its best points. The bustle, which most people think of as an enormity, was wonderful on some graceful women; they moved like swans. The 'aesthetic' type that was ridiculed was really an extremely beautiful arrangement of lines, on the right person. And to see an elegant woman moving swiftly in those huge hooped skirts was a delight."

Portrait of Charles Ricketts in Daily Mail Atlantic Edition, 2 June 1928
I asked Mr. Ricketts which recent fashion he admired most, and he said that during the two years before the war women were the most gracious and elegant fashions of his lifetime.

"That period was immeasurably better than the twenty or so previous years," he said, "but there was a sad falling-off immediately after the war, when the fashions became violent and vulgar and skirts shortened to just the wrong length.
"Now, as I said, they are lovely; but there is just one thing about women's dress that, as an artist, I regret: the monotony of the corsage. It is dull and rather childish - in fact, when it's pink, it might have come straight from the nursery. Of course, it is very much better than the upholstered eggcup affair, but we ought to think of something more interesting.
"I hate all the talk of the 'indecency' of modern dress," he went on. "It is anything but indecent. It is a splendid combination of mere sex-appeal."

"But I do wish women would pay more attention to their shoes," he said, earnestly. "In America - but then, American women carry modern dress to perfection. Footwear is an art over there; it completes the dress. Shoes should never be chosen because they look smart in themselves; it is essential that they should be a part of the whole dress."

Mr. Ricketts has been designing costumes for a play about the Spanish conquest of Mexico, and he showed me two exquisite designs. "Do you think," he asked," that these old Mexican dresses would be modest enough for a bishop?"
From an interview in the London "Evening News,' associated with the "Daily Mail."