Russ and I took a drive to San Francisco one Sunday to catch the art exhibit Weapons of Mass Seduction: The Art of Propaganda at the de Young Museum. I went there expecting to see lots of wartime posters. The whole Keep Calm and Carry On explosion some years back got me curious about other wartime slogans. Did you know that the Keep Calm and Carry On poster was printed but never actually distributed? Here’s the whole story. The idea was to boost morale during World War II across the British Isles. One poster that was distributed had this message: Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory.
I loved everything with Keep Calm and Carry On on it. I bought the pencil cases and pencils in London in a little market. The bracelet I purchased in a Tiburon gift store. I wore it nearly every day during a difficult period in my life. I needed to be reminded of that slogan. Wearing a bangle with that message pressed deep was like getting the benefit of a daily multi-vitamin or something stronger like an Ativan tablet. It helped to curb my anxiety.
My kids couldn’t miss the fact that I loved this saying so much. They purchased this print for me one Mother’s Day and I have it hanging in my office next to my computer. I got it when I was just thinking about committing to my blog. Many times it has encouraged me to get that blog post finished! And that typewriter. It’s just so vintage!
When clothing is a form of propaganda
So I went to the Weapons of Mass Seduction exhibit and saw posters, but I spent the most time studying the propaganda kimonos hanging from the ceiling behind glass. They were fascinating from a historical point of view; they were engaging as fabric art. Seeing these pieces made me want to go home and create some sort of message in clothing or accessories. Oh, to be that talented!
This looks like a painting, right? The soldiers, the clouds, the planes, the tanks. It looks foreboding to me.
So here’s the big reveal! This is actually an undergarment, circa 1938.
Here’s the explanation of it.
Using my present time thinking, can you imagine wearing such an elaborate and beautifully executed garment that only you would see? Take a minute and think about what you’d want to be reminded of during the day that a garment could emote. I think I’d want an undergarment that had some of my favorite nature scenes in it. I feel so blanketed with nourishment when I’m in gardens, especially botanical gardens. I appreciate the wonder of them, how gardens are filled with mystery and beauty. Seasons come and go and come and go. I find that rhythm comforting.
Or maybe I’d like an undergarment that reminds me of the loved ones in my life. If I was about to do something new and had trepidation, the faces of my loved ones would remind me that even if I fall on my face, they are there for me. They’ll love me no matter what.
A newborn’s wrapping garment, circa 1935
Here’s a near newborn. Say hi to Sienna. She’s the first grandchild of my friend, Joan. If that darling confetti blanket had a message inside it, I wonder what it would be?
This exhibit is at the de Young through October 7th. To learn more about it, click here. The exhibit is so stimulating. Russ and I kept talking about it over dinner at Da Flora that night. It’s one of those exhibits that educates you about the past but also helps you identify the applications of propaganda in our current lives. Simply fascinating!
So what messages do you want to put in your undergarments or inside the blanket belonging to your grandchild? Let’s start the discussion!