15 Delightful Obsolete Garments Fashion Should Bring Back


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.

getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)
6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)

Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards' near-90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. BEST ACTOR // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (female writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), and Beery won for The Champ, which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.


By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. BEST ACTRESS // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.


The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.


More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars Richard E. Grant (Girls, Withnail & I) as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.


The latest Oscar tie happened only three years ago, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg said to the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

11 Haunting Facts About Beloved

Toni Morrison—who was born on February 18, 1931—made a name for herself with The Bluest Eye, Sula and Song of Solomon, but it wasn’t until 1987’s Beloved, about a runaway slave haunted by the death of her infant daughter, that her legacy was secured. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and was a key factor in the decision to award Morrison the Nobel Prize in 1993. All the awards aside, Beloved is a testament to the horrors of slavery, with its narrative of suffering and repressed memory and its dedication to the more than 60 million who died in bondage. Here are some notable facts about Morrison’s process and the novel’s legacy.


While compiling research for 1974's The Black Book, Morrison came across the story of Margaret Garner, a runaway slave from Kentucky who escaped with her husband and four children to Ohio in 1856. A posse caught up with Garner, who killed her youngest daughter and attempted to do the same to her other children rather than let them return to bondage. Once apprehended, her trial transfixed the nation. "She was very calm; she said, 'I’d do it again,'" Morrison told The Paris Review. "That was more than enough to fire my imagination."


The book was originally going to be about the haunting of Sethe by her infant daughter, who she killed (just as Garner did) rather than allow her to return to slavery. A third of the way through writing, though, Morrison realized she needed a flesh-and-blood character who could judge Sethe’s decision. She needed the daughter to come back to life in another form (some interpret it as a grief-driven case of mistaken identity). As she told the National Endowment for the Arts’ NEA Magazine: "I thought the only person who was legitimate, who could decide whether [the killing] was a good thing or not, was the dead girl."


Morrison has said she likes to know the ending of her books early on, and to write them down once she does. With Beloved, she wrote the ending about a quarter of the way in. "You are forced into having a certain kind of language that will keep the reader asking questions," she told author Carolyn Denard in Toni Morrison: Conversations.


To help readers understand the particulars of slavery, Morrison carefully researched historical documents and artifacts. One particular item she became fascinated with: the "bit" that masters would put in slaves' mouths as punishment. She couldn’t find much in the way of pictures or descriptions, but she found enough to imagine the shame slaves would feel. In Beloved, Paul D. tells Sethe that a rooster smiled at him while he wore the bit, indicating that he felt lower than a barnyard animal.


In an appearance on The Colbert Report last year, Morrison said she finally got around to reading Beloved after almost 30 years. Her verdict: "It’s really good!"


When accepting an award from the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1988, Morrison observed that there is no suitable memorial to slavery, "no small bench by the road." Inspired by this line, the Toni Morrison Society started the Bench by the Road Project to remedy the issue. Since 2006, the project has placed 15 benches in locations significant to the history of slavery and the Civil Rights movement, including Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, which served as the point of entry for 40% of slaves brought to America.


After the snub, 48 African-American writers, including Maya Angelou, John Edgar Wideman and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., signed a letter that appeared in the New York Times Book Review. "For all of America, for all of American letters," the letter addressing Morrison read, "you have advanced the moral and artistic standards by which we must measure the daring and the love of our national imagination and our collective intelligence as a people."


Between 2000 and 2009, Beloved ranked 26th on the American Library Association’s list of most banned/challenged books. A recent challenge in Fairfax County, Virginia, cited the novel as too intense for teenage readers, while another challenge in Michigan said the book was, incredibly, overly simplistic and pornographic. Thankfully, both challenges were denied.


Ten years ago, Morrison collaborated with Grammy-winning composer Richard Danielpour on Margaret Garner, an opera about the real-life inspiration behind Beloved. It opened in Detroit in 2005, and played in Charlotte, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York before closing in 2008.


Although she publicly claims otherwise, according to a New York magazine story, Morrison told friends she didn’t want Beloved made into a movie. And she didn’t want Oprah Winfrey (who bought the film rights in 1988) to be in it. Nevertheless, the film came out in 1998 and was a total flop.


The Folio Society, a London-based company that creates fancy special editions of classic books, released the first-ever illustrated Beloved in 2015. Artist Joe Morse had to be personally approved by Morrison for the project. Check out a few of his hauntingly beautiful illustrations here.

This article originally appeared in 2015.


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