Saturday, August 13, 2016

Olympic Attire

What to Wear When You Play

I happen to have a free week.  Believe me, that doesn’t happen often.  No meetings, no classes, no lunches with friends.  To my joy, this coincides with the first week of Olympic competition.  In our house, every TV (yes, we have more than one) is channeled onto sport.  While my husband will enthusiastically watch nearly everything, his favorites reflect his own athletic routine of cycling and swimming and all types of sailing,  although sailing in the desert has been  relegated to observing and not participating.

While I enjoy watching many events, I admit tennis is always my favorite.  Which brings me to comment on the various styles of sports apparel worn by the athletes.  Most contests demand certain “costumes”.  For instance, swimmers have high tech suits to enhance their performance in the pool.  Equestrians and fencers wear traditional garb, safety is also a feature here.  Cyclists wear Spandex and helmets.  All this I understand.

But have you watched tennis lately?  Conditions on the court can vary greatly: wind, heat can change the efforts needed by the players to succeed.  They must be able to move quickly and safely around the court.  They must be able to focus their attention  on the oncoming ball, while planning their return strategy.  It seems to me that tennis ( and other sports) has become a fashion extravaganza among the women athletes.  Surely, one wants to look good before the fans and TV cameras, but have some of them even looked at themselves in a mirror?  Unflattering colors and styles abound.  There are few that can wear layers of pleats and  ruffles in bold colors.  Skin tight tops paired with shorts so short they cannot accommodate an extra tennis ball, if a second service becomes necessary.  It would not matter if these outfits were comfortable.   I have seen players tug and readjust their clothing after each point.  This has brought to mind an article in the WSJ Style and Fashion section, Sat./Sun, July 2, 2016, which  lauded, what they called the Wimbledon Whites Advantage.  According to the attire requirement for the Championships Wimbledon “suitable tennis attire that is almost entirely white” is to be worn.  Refreshing and professional.

Now, some will say that is an infringement upon the athletes ability to show themselves as individuals  If one wants to look frumpy,so be it.  Personally, I would rather appear as one very lovely competitor who wore a simple white slip dress over her bloomers.  She did not fuss with her neckline, but appeared focused on the matter at hand.  Athletic wear should be advantageous, not outrageous.

Speaking of which, beach volleyball women have no where further to go.  Although they are awesome athletes and their winnings are uber impressive I remember vividly sitting on a sandy beach in a swimsuit.  Not a pleasant experience.  

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Fashion Victims - Poisonous Pigments : Arsenical Greens

A Killer Green Gown

These represent green shades popular in fashion.  They are not toxic pigments
This is the second excerpt from  Alison Matthews Davis” book, Fashion Victims.  The first excerpt, 5/28/16, recounted the health risks posed by the long skirts worn by fashionable women. The skirts dragged on the ground, through the filthy streets of large cities and, of course, were then worn within the household, bringing with them all manner of pathogenic ( or at least, undesirable ) elements.

Fashion Vistims - The Dangers of Dress Past and Present, Aloson Matthes David, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015 

The topic I present now is of a pigment popular in the 1800’s which, while perceived as very attractive, was also very, very toxic.  The first dyes were made from natural materials: madder root, cochineal exoskeletons, mollusk shells.  While many colors could be produced from recipes using natural elements, there were some that were less than satisfactory.  One of these colors was green.  Green was produced as a compound color, that is the combination of two colors, yellow and blue.  Perhaps you have seen old textiles where the blue component has faded and the “green” has become a
poor example of its former self.  Chemists were constantly trying to introduce new hues for the new technology of aniline dye production. Better Living Through Chemistry as one future chemical company would motto a century later.

In 1778 Carl Wilhelm Scheele published his work on a green pigment he created by mixing potassium and white arsenic with a solution of copper vitriol (a sulfate of copper).
Yes, you read correctly..arsenic. In 1814 a more saturated green hue was synthesized from copper acetarsenite and called by various titles.  It was widely used for fabrics, children’s toys and even candies.  It was also produced as a pigment in oil paints.

Women were tired of the dull-colored clothing that was commonly worn and the introduction of  fresh green hues was most welcome.  The dye was used not only in fabric production but also in accessories such as shoes, and most widely in artificial floral wreaths of fruits and foliage worn as hair adornments and  large broaches. 

It had been noted for some time that workers who produced the artificial foliage suffered from debilitating ulcerations on their faces arms and legs.  Rashes appeared along the necklines of women wearing green gowns and there were  reports of children dying from eating ( or trying to eat) artificial fruits which appeared in baskets set upon tables in Victorian parlors.

Efforts were made to assuage the fears that soon were voiced by consumers.  Apparently, “this is not arsenical green” became a disclaimer, but was it, or was it not?  Eventually by the 1870’s, other green pigments replaced the copper arsenic compounds.

Why would anyone purchase, much less wear, something that was so very dangerous?   It was well known that arsenic was used as a pesticide and that it was toxic if ingested.  Although there were many fallacious  theories concerning disease and cures, surely, there should have been some heed paid to those physicians and chemists who warned of the danger.

Thinking of today’s times, there are still those who ignore the warnings that appear on tobacco products.  The question would be, is it worth being stylish?