Hi! Remember me? I used to post 5 days a week. Now I seem to post twice a month. It’s something I will try to get better about. I think perhaps I need to get out of the house more.
Okay, so if you know me at all, you know that I collect, among other things, vintage clothing. Always have. Well, as long as I’ve had money to spend, I have. My mom had a beautiful, I’d guess late-1800s jacket that I used to adore as a girl. It was too fragile to atually wear out, but I would put it on, and wonder about how to fix the worn and frayed bits. I have no idea what ever happened to it, or to the gorgeous, ’40s-era ivory satin wedding dress (tea-length, therefore not a gown) that I bought on Canal Street in NYC back in 1990. I spray-painted a pair of pumps to match. I kid you not.
All of the collecting that I’ve done over the years has been with a huge amount of luck, and a small understanding of what it is I’m looking for. I recognize silhouettes and colors and fabrics from the photos I’ve always admired, and as a graphic designer, I can guesstimate an era by the typeface used on the label, but I’ve never done any serious studying. I could be wrong a lot of the time. In fact, I’m sure that I am. So from time to time, I do a little online hunting to brush up and maybe learn a thing or two.
This morning, I was scouring the LIFE archives on Google Images (boundless thanks to Ryan Cochran over at The Jalopy Journal for pointing me there). The image search feature is capped at 200 matches, so I kept finessing my keywords based on intriguing hits. Some magical combination of words let me to a series of photos of a woman’s ankles, wrapped in a variety of large white cuffs. There was a mention of “dim-out fashions.” Of course, I know what a dim-out is, but it inspired a fashion trend? And what on earth could it have to do with these giant anklets? My internal research alarm was buzzing madly, so I went about finding out.
If there is an online archive of LIFE articles, I don’t know about it and can’t find it. I know that these photos accompanied an article that ran in the March 22, 1943 issue. And while I couldn’t find a LIFE archive, I sure know where to find the New York Times archive. On January 16th of 1943, the Times ran an article which explained,
White anklets, which would make New York women pedestrians visible to motorists 100 feet away on the city’s dimmed-out streets, were suggested yesterday by the Public Safety section of the Greater New York Safety Council as part of a five-point program to reduce the mounting number of fatal traffic accidents here.
Ah-ha! Now I get it! There’s also a mention of “college girls” being asked to “help out” which only strengthens my belief that the entire concept was thought up by a bunch of ankle fetishists. I mean, c’mon. Take a look at these photos.