istock
istock

15 Delightful Obsolete Garments Fashion Should Bring Back

istock
istock

Your wardrobe already has plenty of shirts, sneakers, and jeans in it. What you really need is for a sharp pair of spats to come back into style.

1. Muffs

From the 15th century onward, the smartest bet in keeping your hands warm was a muff, a cylindrical piece of fur, leather, or fabric that provided a cozy resting place for chilly fingers. Although muffs were originally unisex garments, by the 19th century only women were sporting muffs. While you’ll still occasionally see a muff as part of a very formal outfit, the muff has yet to return to the absolute apex it enjoyed during the 17th and 18th-century reign of Louis XIV of France, when every classy lady had a muff dog—a tiny pooch that she carried around in her muff!

2. Top Hats

Until the early 20th century, the top hat broadcast a powerful message of prosperity and was the finishing touch on any gentleman’s formal outfit. However, as cars became more common, wearing giant hats stopped being practical, and they disappeared from the wardrobes of everyone except magicians.

3. Spats

How could button-up fabric covers that go over your shoes and socks to protect them from rain ever go out of style? Spats were originally meant for this practical purpose, but by the 1920s they had become the height of fashion and a crucial element of a formal outfit. On behalf of splashed-shoe wearers everywhere, bring them back!

4. Nightcaps

The pointy caps associated with Ebenezer Scrooge weren’t just dapper—they were functional. In the days when heating was hit-or-miss, the long nightcaps helped sleepers keep their heads warm, and the long pointed ends could be wrapped around the wearer’s neck like a scarf. As a hilarious visual that also keeps you warm and toasty on cold winter nights, these caps are due for a comeback.

5. Boudoir Caps

After the utilitarian nightcap faded from fashion, women of the late 19th and early 20th centuries slept in more elegant headwear. Intricately decorated boudoir caps stylishly protected a woman’s hair while she slept and disguised any sleep-mussed locks as she went through her morning routine. These small decorative caps made of soft, light fabrics were considered an essential part of a woman’s pajamas. Boudoir caps disappeared during the Depression and haven’t really been seen since, but why shouldn’t modern women have the option of pulling on a stylish cap to disguise a case of bed-head?

6. Chopines

Throughout the 15th century, many of Europe’s classiest women preferred ludicrously oversized platform shoes called chopines. The platforms on some chopines soared over two feet tall, and although they were very fashionable, they didn’t get any points for practicality—wearers had to be accompanied by attendants to steady them as they walked on the stilt-like shoes. By comparison, getting around town in modern high heels looks like a breeze!

7. Detachable Pockets

Before women started carrying handbags in the early 19th century, many used the next best thing, an accessory called a “pocket.” A pocket was a small bag on a string that could be tied around the waist and hidden under a woman’s skirts to give her a discreet hiding spot for any cargo she needed to carry. Sure, modern garments come with built-in pockets, but the persistent popularity of cargo shorts proves that you can never have too many pockets.

8. Dickeys

Formal attire for late 19th and early 20th century men included a shirt with a stiff, heavily starched front that was uncomfortable and difficult to maintain. To make things a little easier, many men wore dickeys—false shirt fronts made of fabric or rigid plastic to make it look like they were wearing complete shirts. As attire became less formal, dickeys fell by the wayside, but anyone who’s attended a summer wedding in a rented tuxedo knows that a dickey revival would be an excellent thing.

9. Hatpins

When women’s hats rapidly faded in popularity after World War II, they took the hatpin with them. In the early days of women’s hats, ladies couldn’t count on their complex, heavy hats to stay put on their heads, so they affixed them to their hair using ornate pins. Many of the hats they helped keep in place may seem ridiculous in retrospect, but these small pieces of beautiful jewelry are missed.

10. Union suits

These all-in-one long-underwear/jumpsuit hybrids first hit store shelves in the late 1860s, and they were a hit with men and women alike. Men liked the warmth and convenience of the soft underwear, while women preferred union suits to the restrictive corsets and undergarments of the day. Union suits eventually gave way to more practical two-piece long underwear, but they can still be a nice option on chilly nights or any time you want to feel like an Old West prospector.

11. Shapeless Swimming Smocks

Sick of worrying about achieving the perfect beach body? In the 18th century, any body was beach-ready. Women went for dips in long smocks that protected their modesty as they splashed around. The outfits weren’t the most streamlined attire, but female swimmers were probably less self-conscious than their male counterparts—during this era men generally swam in the nude.

12. Sporran

When you see a man in full Highland garb, it’s easy to be distracted by the majesty of his kilt. Look closer, though, and you’ll see a sporran, the traditional pouch of leather, fur, or horsehair that hangs from his belt. Although they’re now mostly worn as part of costumes, sporrans originally served as handy cargo space for anyone wearing a pocket-free kilt. Think of a sporran as the manliest possible variation of the fanny pack—they would make the average tourist dad look 40 percent tougher.

13. Motoring Bonnets

Passengers in early open-air cars often ended their rides in a bit of a mess—whipping wind and dirt roads left them with grimy faces and tousled hair. Fashion-conscious women countered this problem with “motoring hoods,” more or less fabric bags with eye-holes cut in them. As automobiles became more sophisticated, so did fashions. By 1910 women were sporting “motoring bonnets,” decorative headwear that protected their hair, necks, and shoulders from dirt. Sounds like something that could still come in handy for convertible owners!

14. Banyan

Men really knew how to lounge in the 17th and 18th centuries. For members of the upper classes, casual wear consisted of a banyan, a long-sleeved, ankle-length dressing gown. While men had to don formal suits when they left the house, they could slip into the more comfortable banyan during their leisure time, and the long gowns became associated with scholars, merchants, and other worldly thinkers. The world would be a more relaxed place if loose-fitting nightgowns were once again the height of sophistication.

15. Western Bow Ties

It’s impossible not to smile when you see someone wearing one of these long ribbon bows around their collar. Are they a fried chicken magnate? A 19th-century riverboat gambler? An old-time saloon keeper? Add one to your wardrobe and delight everyone you meet.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
iStock
iStock

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
11 Things You Might Not Know About Johann Sebastian Bach
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images
Illustration by Mental Floss. Image: Rischgitz, Getty Images

Johann Sebastian Bach is everywhere. Weddings? Bach. Haunted houses? Bach. Church? Bach. Shredding electric guitar solos? Look, it’s Bach! The Baroque composer produced more than 1100 works, from liturgical organ pieces to secular cantatas for orchestra, and his ideas about musical form and harmony continue to influence generations of music-makers. Here are 11 things you might not know about the man behind the music.

1. PEOPLE DISAGREE ABOUT WHEN TO CELEBRATE HIS BIRTHDAY.

Some people celebrate Bach’s birthday on March 21. Other people light the candles on March 31. The correct date depends on whom you ask. Bach was born in Thuringia in 1685, when the German state was still observing the Julian calendar. Today, we use the Gregorian calendar, which shifted the dates by 11 days. And while most biographies opt for the March 31 date, Bach scholar Christopher Wolff firmly roots for Team 21. “True, his life was actually 11 days longer because Protestant Germany adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1700,” he told Classical MPR, “but with the legal stipulation that all dates prior to Dec. 31, 1699, remain valid.”

2. HE WAS THE CENTER OF A MUSICAL DYNASTY.

Bach’s great-grandfather was a piper. His grandfather was a court musician. His father was a violinist, organist, court trumpeter, and kettledrum player. At least two of his uncles were composers. He had five brothers—all named Johann—and the three who lived to adulthood became musicians. J.S. Bach also had 20 children, and, of those who lived past childhood, at least five became professional composers. According to the Nekrolog, an obituary written by Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, "[S]tarting with Veit Bach, the founding father of this family, all his descendants, down to the seventh generation, have dedicated themselves to the profession of music, with only a few exceptions."

3. BACH TOOK A MUSICAL PILGRIMAGE THAT PUTS EVERY ROAD TRIP TO WOODSTOCK TO SHAME.

In 1705, 20-year-old Bach walked 280 miles—that's right, walked—from the city of Arnstadt to Lübeck in northern Germany to hear a concert by the influential organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude. He stuck around for four months to study with the musician [PDF]. Bach hoped to succeed Buxtehude as the organist of Lübeck's St. Mary's Church, but marriage to one of Buxtehude's daughters was a prerequisite to taking over the job. Bach declined, and walked back home.

4. HE BRAWLED WITH HIS STUDENTS.

One of Bach’s first jobs was as a church organist in Arnstadt. When he signed up for the role, nobody told him he also had to teach a student choir and orchestra, a responsibility Bach hated. Not one to mince words, Bach one day lost patience with a error-prone bassoonist, Johann Geyersbach, and called him a zippelfagottist—that is, a “nanny-goat bassoonist.” Those were fighting words. Days later, Geyersbach attacked Bach with a walking stick. Bach pulled a dagger. The rumble escalated into a full-blown scrum that required the two be pulled apart.

5. BACH SPENT 30 DAYS IN JAIL FOR QUITTING HIS JOB.

When Bach took a job in 1708 as a chamber musician in the court of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, he once again assumed a slew of responsibilities that he never signed up for. This time, he took it in stride, believing his hard work would lead to his promotion to kapellmeister (music director). But after five years, the top job was handed to the former kapellmeister’s son. Furious, Bach resigned and joined a rival court. As retribution, the duke jailed him for four weeks. Bach spent his time in the slammer writing preludes for organ.

6. THE BRANDENBURG CONCERTOS WERE A FAILED JOB APPLICATION.

Around 1721, Bach was the head of court music for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. Unfortunately, the composer reportedly didn’t get along with the prince’s new wife, and he started looking for a new gig. (Notice a pattern?) Bach polished some manuscripts that had been sitting around and mailed them to a potential employer, Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg. That package, which included the Brandenburg Concertos—now considered some of the most important orchestral compositions of the Baroque era—failed to get Bach the job [PDF].

7. HE WROTE ONE OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST COFFEE JINGLES.

Bach apparently loved coffee enough to write a song about it: "Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht" ("Be still, stop chattering"). Performed in 1735 at Zimmerman’s coffee house in Leipzig, the song is about a coffee-obsessed woman whose father wants her to stop drinking the caffeinated stuff. She rebels and sings this stanza:

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes
More delicious than a thousand kisses
Milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I have to have coffee,
And, if someone wants to pamper me,
Ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

8. IF BACH CHALLENGED YOU TO A KEYBOARD DUEL, YOU WERE GUARANTEED TO BE EMBARRASSED.

In 1717, Louis Marchand, a harpsichordist from France, was invited to play for Augustus, Elector of Saxony, and performed so well that he was offered a position playing for the court. This annoyed the court’s concertmaster, who found Marchand arrogant and insufferable. To scare the French harpsichordist away, the concertmaster hatched a plan with his friend, J.S. Bach: a keyboard duel. Bach and Marchand would improvise over a number of different styles, and the winner would take home 500 talers. But when Marchand learned just how talented Bach was, he hightailed it out of town.

9. SOME OF HIS MUSIC MAY HAVE BEEN COMPOSED TO HELP INSOMNIA.

Some people are ashamed to admit that classical music, especially the Baroque style, makes them sleepy. Be ashamed no more! According to Bach’s earliest biographer, the Goldberg Variations were composed to help Count Hermann Karl von Keyserling overcome insomnia. (This story, to be fair, is disputed.) Whatever the truth, it hasn’t stopped the Andersson Dance troupe from presenting a fantastic Goldberg-based tour of performances called “Ternary Patterns for Insomnia.” Sleep researchers have also suggested studying the tunes’ effects on sleeplessness [PDF].

10. HE WAS BLINDED BY BOTCHED EYE SURGERY.

When Bach was 65, he had eye surgery. The “couching” procedure, which was performed by a traveling surgeon named John Taylor, involved shoving the cataract deep into the eye with a blunt instrument. Post-op, Taylor gave the composer eye drops that contained pigeon blood, mercury, and pulverized sugar. It didn’t work. Bach went blind and died shortly after. Meanwhile, Taylor moved on to botch more musical surgeries. He would perform the same procedure on the composer George Frideric Handel, who also went blind.

11. NOBODY IS 100 PERCENT CONFIDENT THAT BACH IS BURIED IN HIS GRAVE.

In 1894, the pastor of St. John’s Church in Leipzig wanted to move the composer’s body out of the church graveyard to a more dignified setting. There was one small problem: Bach had been buried in an unmarked grave, as was common for regular folks at the time. According to craniologist Wilhelm His, a dig crew tried its best to find the composer but instead found “heaps of bones, some in many layers lying on top of each other, some mixed in with the remains of coffins, others already smashed by the hacking of the diggers.” The team later claimed to find Bach’s box, but there’s doubt they found the right (de)composer. Today, Bach supposedly resides in Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios