The History of the Suit: The Zoot Suit Riots
The late 30s and early 40s were a period of chaos and cruelty in the United States as war propaganda proliferated throughout the country and racial tensions grew high. Fashion played a role in this tension, as different styles became symbols for patriotism or rebellion. As the History of the Suit discussed previously, the war caused rationing of all civilian resources including fabric and notions, which necessitated new styles of suits and casual clothing to be developed, generally slimmer and more Spartan so as to use less fabric. The Victory Suit was born from the need to save fabric, and as such, became a symbol of the sacrifices that civilians were making for their country during wartime.
At this point in history, a separate style of suit, known as the “zoot suit” was becoming popular among youth minorities, in particular African Americans, Latino, and Italian American communities. While the zoot suit had been developed completely independently from the war, its start contrast from the victory suit in silhouette—as well as wearer—turned it into a symbol of anti-patriotism and crime.
The zoot suit had a much looser, baggier shape than any suit that had come before it. It consisted of large, wide-legged and high-waisted pants, often with a “pegged” trouser leg. Pegged trousers were tighter at the bottom, either with a cuff that used buttons, or with elastic. The jacket was extra long with wide lapels and overly padded shoulders. Zoot suits would often be worn with fedoras, sometimes with a long feather attached as decoration. Because of the amount of fabric used as well as the quality, zoot suits were considered “luxury items” that only the wealthy could afford.
While the origins of the zoot suit were never completely clear, they were gaining popularity among groups of youths in the late 30s and early 40s, especially among young Latinos in Los Angeles. In earlier decades, Los Angeles had witnessed extreme levels of discrimination against Mexican immigrants, including forced deportation of thousands of people of Mexican descent, many of whom were actually citizens of the US. When World War II started, many servicemen were stationed along Los Angeles’ coastline in areas with high concentrations of Mexican immigrants. It was tension between the white servicemen stationed in Los Angeles and the zoot suit-wearing Mexican youths that caused what was knows as the Zoot Suit Riots.
The Zoot Suit Riots were thought to be ignited by the supposed murder of José Díaz by a Latino gang of teenaged boys. This was thought to be the cause of a growing tendency towards crime and rebellion by Mexican youths. These same youths were wearing zoot suits, a style that was in direct opposition to the rationing that US civilians were experiencing. The zoot suit became a symbol not only of deviance, but of anti-American sentiments, a sensitive subject during the war. White American servicemen that had been stationed in Los Angeles began targeting groups of youths wearing zoot suits, and a series of altercations between the two groups began happening all around the city. Off-duty police formed a group called the “Vengeance Squad,” taking matters into their own hands, while servicemen roamed around the city beating and clubbing zoot suiters, some as young as 12 or 13. Many members of the navy formed bands that stripped the clothes of anyone they found wearing a zoot suit, sometimes going as far as destroying and urinating on the clothes.
While the Zoot Suit Riots had to do with patriotism, wartime tensions and flat out racism, at its core was the fashion style of the zoot suit. The Zoot Suit Riots were an incredible example of profiling, based completely on what someone of a certain race was wearing. To this day, profiling based on not only someone’s race, but what a person is wearing is an incredible problem in the United States, and New York City’s own Stop and Frisk program has been cited as having problems with profiling. The zoot suit became so much more than just a clothing style during the 30s and 40s, but a political statement and a symbol of the lasting stain of racial profiling in the United States.
4 Beauty Essentials Every Women Needs in Her Arsenal
No matter what industry you call home, we all have something in common as working women: the morning rush. Even if you choose your outfit the night before and have your bag packed and ready to go, a lengthy beauty routine can completely foil your intentions to be timely. But there are ways to pare down your morning regime so you still look fresh and beautiful without scrambling to get out the door in time. Stock your arsenal with these four beauty essentials, and you’ll see what we mean.
Tinted Moisturizer: Ladies: never underestimate the power of an amazing tinted moisturizer. It creates a smooth base for makeup and can be used with or without foundation depending on the coverage you want and time you’re willing to spend. Our favorite? Dr. Jart+ V7 Beauty Balm is the perfect lightweight formula, providing incredible coverage, SPF30 sun protection, hydration and anti-aging effects, all in the minute it takes to apply.
Versatile Eye Palette: Want to make sure your eyeshadow stays in place all day? All you actually need is a great primer and professional formula packed with botanicals and highly-pigmented color. Once you try Lorac’s PRO Palette Eye Shadow, complete with the incredible Behind The Scenes Primer, you’ll never want anything less in your makeup bag.
Lengthening Mascara: This goes without saying, but a great mascara will up the ante of your look tenfold. It brightens and highlights the eyes, making the slightest sign of fatigue disappear. Diorshow is our go-to when we need an extreme pick-me-up, never failing to provide long, thick lashes with a few swipes of the wand.
Texturizing Spray: No time to wash your hair before work? As great alternative to dry shampoo, texturizing spray will give body to limp hair and provide a matte finish. We love everything Oribe, and their Dry Texturizing Spray is a winner.
The Silk Blouse
We don’t know about you, but it’s blazing hot at Gurjot headquarters here in NYC. Even though temperatures are supposed to soar into triple digits this week, we know it’s not a valid excuse to waltz into the office in cutoffs and a tank top. But there is another way to stay cool and look professional at the same time.
You can never have too many shirts for the office, especially if you’re wearing a power suit five days a week. The classic button-up is a staple every woman needs in her working wardrobe, but what to wear when summer temperatures are rising or the occasion calls for a more feminine option? A silk blouse is perfect paired with a skirt or pant suit because it is professional and chic by day, ladylike and sexy by night. How can you find the perfect silk blouse that will take you from the office to a dinner party? Look for these three key components when shopping, and you’re bound to find an ideal match.
Fabric: When shopping for a silk blouse, don’t forget the silk itself! There are synthetic fabrics out there that look and feel like silk, but don’t be fooled by a cheap imitation of the real thing. A 100% silk blouse may cost more than its non-natural cousins, but it will allow you to breathe, keeping your body cool in stressful situations. The last thing you need is a sweat stain in the next board meeting.
Color: It’s never wise to jump on the craziest print you can find when shopping for a silk blouse to go under your favorite power suit. But don’t be afraid of adding a splash of color to your look with rich jewel tones. A bold fuchsia or rich purple silk blouse will bring a subtle, eye-catching element to your daytime look and is a fun way to seamlessly transition into evening, just by removing your blazer.
Versatility: Love a ruffle design detail but aren’t sure how often you can wear a blouse embellished as so? Luckily, Gurjot New York has thought of everything for the Ready Collection, including a removable ruffle that snaps into silk blouses for a quick, fun and flirty addition when you’re feeling a little extra flair.
What can we say about Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie? There are so many talking points on her resume, we don’t even have the time or space to mention a third of them here. We loved her as supermodel Gia Carangi in HBO’s Gia and in her Oscar-winning role as Lisa Rowe in Girl, Interrupted. As a mother of six children, Angelina knows what it’s like to balance her work and personal life, not to mention a marriage to one of our favorite hunky Hollywood men Brad Pitt. Her list of charitable work goes on and on, especially with organizations that offer aid to refugees and internally displaced persons. Not to mention, Angelina is a stunning woman with impeccable style. Learn to channel her working wardrobe with the three key pieces below.
Pencil Skirt: A pencil skirt is the ultimate marriage of feminine and professional. It takes your suit from drab to fab, slims through the waist and accentuates your curves in all the right places. You will feel like a superhero running the meeting in Gurjot’s silk-lined version.
Power Blazer: You’re going to need something to pair with that pencil skirt, and a power blazer is just what the stylist ordered. You will find most women’s blazers are not constructed like men’s, cheaply made and ill-fitting. Make sure it has a full canvas construction on the inside with a Super 100 Italian wool or better. And a silk lining does wonders to keep you cool in hot summer months.
Utility Bag: The secret to a stellar work bag is simple – not only should it hold everything from a file folder to a pair of emergency flats, it needs to look great. You bag should seamlessly take you from the office to cocktail hour without skipping a beat. Reach for something black, as it goes with everything, that has different strap options to accommodate your cargo and mood depending on the day.
The History of the Suit: World War II and the Victory Suit
With the advent of World War II in 1939, the world became a much bleaker place, not only for the soldiers and civilians caught amidst the chaos, but for the clothes that they wore. With much of Europe cut off from the United States, influences from Paris couturiers and Italian designers could not change the fashion market from overseas. America and Britain began developing their own fashion styles, independent of the European market, and new designers from the States emerged to be publically recognized.
While British and American designers enjoyed a period of fame during the war, they were also faced with incredible limitations in their designs due to wartime restrictions. All civilian resources were limited during World War II as the needs of the soldiers put extreme strain on British and American economies, and this included fabric, buttons, zippers, and other materials necessary for the creation of a garment. Wool was needed for the soldiers’ uniforms; silk was necessary for creating parachutes, while zippers and buttons were not being made in order to preserve metal. Leather was used for numerous purposes in the war, limiting the amount for civilian use.
These material limitations had a tremendous effect on the clothes that could be made. Silk stockings were banned, shoes were made from wood instead of leather, and skirts could only be made from a maximum of two and half yards, with a limited about of pleats and a narrower hem. Clothing was therefore less flowing and closer to the body, jackets were cropped and skirts were slightly shorter. In Britain, adults were limited in the amount of clothes they could buy using a system of coupons. Some adults could only purchase two or three new outfits a year, creating a need for sturdy, functional clothing.
Men’s suiting was the hardest hit by the material limitations during World War II. Since wool was needed for uniforms, civilians got stuck with low quality wool with limited selections, usually only in black, navy or brown. Double-breasted jackets were forbidden and lapels got narrower to save fabric. Men’s slacks were limited to having a circumference of 19 inches or less, while jackets were narrower and shorter. Vests were often abandoned, and there were no buttons, zippers, or patches that were not strictly necessary. This new style of suit was dubbed the “Victory Suit.”
The Victory Suit represented everything that civilians had to give up for the sake of their country. It was a symbol of pride and patriotism, but also of the limitations set upon creative efforts during wartime. Unlike most fashion styles, it was fabricated artificially based upon restrictions rather than creative freedom. It was not a natural evolution of fashion, and yet the Victory Suit played an important role in fashion history. It was a measure of pride for some, and a symbol of censorship for others. In the coming weeks we’ll look at the aftermath of the Victory Suit, and the outcry against this patriotic yet stifling style.