If we look at an overview of fashion history over the past two hundred years – it is quite revealing. The pendulum did swing. It seems that the two world wars had the greatest influence on women’s fashion, which led to the fashion revolutions of the twenties and again in the sixties. When the men went to war, women had to take care of the farms, children, businesses – and in many cases, do the work of a man. It changed things. There was a period of liberation and newfound confidence that developed. Women did not have to be put on display in corsets and hoops. In danced the flapper era, bobbed hair and the Charleston.
The Charleston is a dance that became popular in 1923, when it was featured in the Broadway show called “Runnin’ Wild”. It became a dance craze associated with flappers, prohibition and the term speakeasy. The term speakeasy caught on when a newspaper described saloons and taverns as speak-easies. During prohibition there were many places that sold alcohol. They were raided frequently, but were so profitable – it made no difference. In fact there was a marked increase in organized crime associated with prohibition. In addition to the term speakeasy, the taverns were also referred to as Big ol Ben, Big Toad, Blind Pig or Blind Tiger. The viewing of the animal was argued to be the main attraction. The owner of the establishment would place an animal on display. The patrons would get served alcoholic beverages after they paid to see the animal. They drank and danced the Charleston – frequently with women dancing while the men watched. It is most interesting to know that a song that was written and composed for a Broadway Musical ended up having such far-reaching societal impact with a strong political message. People just refused to have no fun. And although that is a double negative – it turned out okay.
The Second World War was rife with so much propaganda and grief – it took years for the next wave of rebellion to percolate. When it did – the skirts got shorter and some went on acid Kool-Aid trips. There was a generation gap like never before. LSD was a popular drug during the sixties. A Swiss chemist discovered it in 1949. Once they became aware of the psychoactive properties, it went to big Pharma and was marketed by the drug company Sandoz. The drug was widely used recreationally as well as in medical research. The stories of the use of LSD in psychiatry, oftentimes on unsuspecting patients, so their reaction could be studied – was appalling. It was not until there was public outcry over bad trips, suicides and flashbacks associated with the drug, that they stopped using it. Sandoz stopped production in 1963 – however, it was used in medical research up until 1980. The drug was made illegal as a recreational drug in the late sixties.
The sensational death of Diane Linkletter (TV personality Art Linkletter’s daughter) in 1969 became widely publicized, when she supposedly jumped to her death from a sixth story window when high on LSD. This event became the catalyst for beginning the war on drugs. But, in digging a little deeper into the death of Diane Linkletter, I learned that she was not alone in the apartment. The toxicology showed that she did not have any drugs in her system. Many years later, her boyfriend who was with her at the time, was involved in another suspicious death involving a female celebrity. At the very least, it could be said, that Diane Linkletter’s death is a mystery. And the war on drugs was a pointless hoax.
Marijuana does not have the colored past that is associated with alcohol and LSD as far as drama and tragedy is concerned. It was made illegal long before the more potent drugs like LSD. In 1923 it was somehow placed under the Opium Act, yet it is clearly not an opiate. If you ingested a half a pound of it, it would not show up in toxicology studies as an opiate. Nor would it give the same symptoms of overdose as opiates. As we all know, there is a long history associated with attempts to have marijuana legalized. And similar to prohibition – no matter how many raids crop up – it is still profitable. The thing that seems odd to me is that marijuana is not a narcotic, therefore, how can it be classified as one? It would seem that all drugs, regardless of what they are used for, should be classified with some accuracy, and not lumped together with drugs that have completely different properties. After all, drug properties are supposed to be science.
Fashion and creative freedom stem from a certain level of rebellion. I would term it as a peaceful rebellion, since fashion statements do not usually harm anyone (with the exception of six inch heels!) Fashion – like music, poetry, writing, painting, gardening, and interior design – is all about self-expression. Oppression, contradictions, control, and hypocrisy all force change. The greater the effort to control, the more people will find a way to define themselves. Every individual is unique. We hope not to be changed by the rippling effects of conflict and war. We hope not to be robbed of our identity in any way. To allow others to define us is a mistake and waste of potential. From a purely practical perspective, not all styles and trends suit all body types. We can look back into the political context of the different eras that gave rise to the hemlines. Those individual statements contributed to a movement.
The distinction to be made about Runnin’ Wild – is that it was not so much about being bad, as it was an expression of freedom. After all, if you look at either the flapper style or the Charleston, they are hardly sinister. Even the flapper’s response to prohibition was not all that bad. They actually made a point…when they kicked up their heels.
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