Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Age, vanity and upcycled old bags

Nietzsche said, “the vanity of others offends our taste only when it offends our vanity.” The word ‘vanity’ as we know it, didn’t develop narcissistic undertones until the 14th century. Excessive pride in appearance and conceitedness are usually frowned upon, yet seem to have become de rigueur in today’s fashion focused world.

But, “modern excesses of body shape and fashion are not a recent phenomenon,” says Dr Ulinka Rublack, teacher of early modern European history at Cambridge University, and author of Dressing Up:Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe. Apparently, even in the 15th century, people aspired to an elongated, delicate and slim silhouette. With the development of international trade by merchants from around the world came new fabrics and techniques for cutting and sewing, along with unique accessories such as hats, bags, gloves and hairpieces. And Renaissance art was the ‘new media’ of its day – a way of being noticed and admired by others.

July 1526, Mattheus Schwarz, of the Fugger family in Augsburg, commissioned a naked image of himself looking fashionably slim. In fact, during his life, Schwarz commissioned 135 watercolour paintings in various outfits, which were compiled into an album called the Klaidungsbuchlein (Book of Clothes), which is currently housed in a museum in Brunwick. From the book, we know that Schwarz carried heart shaped leather bags in green (the colour of hope) when courting. In later images, he wore black, as opposed to the red of his youth, so as not to apear like mutton dressed up as lamb.

Talking of of which, I thought you might like to see these vintage vanity cases by uoldbag from ShopCurious. Each one is an upcycled old bag which has been individually embellished using iconic images from vintage magazine cuttings to create decorative decoupage. A stylish alternative to bland modern travel bags, they’re also great for keeping lots of girly bits and pieces. They’d make an extravagant and unusual Mothers’ Day gift too, in which case they’re probably best described as ‘retro’ rather than ‘old’. You don’t want to offend Mum’s vanity on her special day.

Do you?

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