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.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

10 Facts About the White Night Riots

Rioters outside of San Francisco City Hall on the night of May 21, 1979, reacting to the voluntary manslaughter verdict for Dan White, which ensured White would serve just five years for the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone.
Rioters outside of San Francisco City Hall on the night of May 21, 1979, reacting to the voluntary manslaughter verdict for Dan White, which ensured White would serve just five years for the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone.
Daniel Nicoletta, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

On November 27, 1978, Dan White, a former police officer and city supervisor, broke into San Francisco City Hall with a loaded revolver. Evading metal detectors, he snuck through a basement window and shot and killed both Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk, San Francisco's first openly gay elected official, in their offices. Weeks earlier, the mayor had refused to reinstate White as city supervisor after he previously resigned from the position; Milk was among those who backed the mayor's choice. Hours after the shootings, White turned himself in to the police and confessed to his crimes. What seemed like an open-and-shut murder case, however, turned out to be anything but.

The city's gay and lesbian population stood aghast on May 21, 1979, as White was convicted of the lesser crime of voluntary manslaughter, which only carried with it a maximum prison sentence of seven years and eight months (White would only serve five years). That night, thousands of enraged protestors showed up at City Hall and engaged in violent clashes with the police over the outcome of the trial. What would later become known as the White Night Riots redefined the relationship San Francisco's gay and lesbian community had with the political structure and law enforcement in the city at the time. Here are some facts that you should know about the White Night Riots, one of the most violent protests in San Francisco history.

1. Dan White's trial will forever be known for the "Twinkie Defense."

During Dan White's trial, his legal team had to convince the jury that their client wasn't a cold-blooded killer but was instead a man suffering from diminished capacity due to ongoing bouts of depression. Among the evidence they used to illustrate that White wasn't in his right mind during the killings was the fact that he had recently given up his normally healthy lifestyle in favor of sugary junk food and soda. To give these claims credibility, the defense even called Dr. Martin Blinder, a psychiatrist, to the stand to talk about how, among other things, White's sudden intake of sweets was clearly a sign of a man depressed. (He also brought up White's strained marriage and unkempt beard.)

Reporters covering the trial would coin the term Twinkie defense to describe the unique strategy, but despite its outlandish nickname, it was enough to sway the jury after six days of deliberation. Today, "Twinkie defense" has been inscribed into law dictionary history as a derogatory label for an improbable legal defense. (Though, in reality, Twinkies weren't even brought up during the trial, and the killings were never blamed directly on junk food itself.)

2. The police openly supported Dan White's cause.

Dan White, the former police officer, turned himself in to an old friend down at the department just a couple of hours after the killings. Soon, members of the city's police and fire departments had helped raise over $100,000 for White's defense and many officers were seen openly wearing “Free Dan White” T-shirts in the weeks and months before the trial.

3. The White Night Riots started off as a peaceful march on Castro Street.

Many within the city's gay community were furious when the verdict was announced, and that night, a crowd of people spontaneously gathered in San Francisco’s Castro District to begin a nonviolent protest march. Gay and lesbian activists raised their fists and led the way, chanting “No justice, no peace!” throughout the district. Originally, 500 people began the march, but that number would soon balloon to 1500 as the crowd moved through the city.

4. Famous activists spoke at the protest, including Cleve Jones and feminist Amber Hollibaugh.

Harvey Milk’s friend, Cleve Jones, spoke to a crowd on Castro Street through Milk's own bullhorn. He angrily denounced White's conviction, saying, “I saw what those bullets did. It was not manslaughter, it was murder.”

When the marchers reached City Hall, feminist and lesbian activist Amber Hollibaugh climbed onto the railing and gave a speech in front of the ever-growing crowd. She yelled, “It’s time we stood up for each other. That’s what Harvey meant to us. He wasn’t some big leader. He was one of us. I don’t think it’s wrong for us to feel like we do. I think we should feel like it more often!”

In the years after the protests, Jones and Hollibaugh would continue to be vocal activists in the LGBTQ community. In 1987, Jones became one of the creators of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a handmade quilt made up of more than 50,000 panels that commemorate the lives of over 105,000 people who have died of AIDS-related illnesses. It remains the world’s largest community folk art project. And Hollibaugh went on to establish Queer Suvival Economics (QSE) in 2014, a project that addresses the intersection of sexuality, poverty, homelessness, labor, and the criminalization of survival.

5. Chaos broke out once the crowd reached City Hall.

By the time the demonstrators had reached City Hall, they had attracted a crowd of 5000, and the peaceful march soon evolved into a full-fledged riot. Grieving and angry protesters broke the windows and bars of City Hall, set police cars on fire, pelted the cops with rocks, and ripped parking meters off the sidewalks, leaving 59 officers and 124 protestors injured in three hours. The White Night Riots remains one of San Francisco’s most violent protests, and one estimate put the cost of the damage at $1 million.

6. Some police officers covered their badges with black tape during the riots.

When police arrived on the scene, they were ordered to hold the crowd back. However, many officers began assaulting the demonstrators with night sticks, with some even covering their badges with black tape during the chaos. Protesters tore off tree branches to use them as protection against the police who were armed with clubs and riot shields. After three violent hours, the police used tear gas to stop the protestors. Later, the FBI investigated the police’s use of force but no officers were ever reprimanded.

7. Rogue police officers retaliated by raiding The Castro District, San Francisco’s “Gay Mecca.”

The Elephant Walk, one of Harvey Milk's favorite bars in San Francisco's Castro District, was one of the many landmarks damaged during the White Night Riots. In 1995, it was fittingly renamed Harvey's in Milk's honor.jondoeforty1, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

After the destruction at City Hall, some rogue police officers headed to The Castro District, an area known for its large gay community. Harvey Milk was an admired public figure throughout the district and was even nicknamed “the Mayor of Castro Street.” One of his favorite haunts was the Elephant Walk bar, a safe space for people otherwise unwelcome in straight bars.

During the White Night Riots, a crowd of people dashed into the bar for shelter, but the police stormed in and demolished the property. Officers clubbed and injured the people inside, crashed bar stools, and broke windows while shouting anti-gay slurs. When former police inspector Jack Webb questioned why officers were pouring into the Castro when it had been quiet and nonviolent, the police captain allegedly responded, “We lost the battle at City Hall. We aren’t going to lose this one.”

In 1995, 16 years after the riots, and after surviving a fire that almost destroyed the entire building in 1988, the Elephant Walk bar reopened under a new name: Harvey’s. You can still find it at 500 Castro Street.

8. Flyers were plastered all over Castro Street warning protestors from speaking out.

Days after the riots, flyers appeared around the Castro, warning neighbors to keep quiet in fear of persecution by the law. The flyers read, “Our defense against the police is each other, our strength is our silence.” The ongoing distrust in the gay community ran so deep that the flyers even discouraged people from cooperating with law enforcement looking for information about the Elephant Walk attack.

9. The day after the White Night Riots would have been Harvey Milk's 49th birthday.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The day after the riots, May 22, would have been Harvey Milk’s birthday, and an estimated 20,000 San Franciscans peacefully gathered to celebrate and honor his legacy. This event had been organized months prior to the riots, but in light of the protests, the organizers came prepared with community “gay monitors” who wore shirts with “PLEASE! No violence” printed on them. The community policed themselves as Mayor Dianne Feinstein ordered police not to enter the immediate area. The “noisy and sometimes drunken” celebration of Milk's life was a complete turnaround from the night before. “Last night, gay men and lesbian women showed the world we’re angry and on the move,” Cleve Jones said at the gathering. "Tonight, we are going to show them that we are building a strong community.”

10. The 2008 movie based on Harvey Milk's life and assassination omitted all mention of the White Night Riots.

Directed by Gus Van Sant, the biographical film Milk details the life of Harvey Milk, focusing on his rising political career as a gay rights trailblazer. But the film comes to an abrupt end when Dan White shoots Milk and Mayor Moscone, with a closing shot of a candlelight vigil across San Francisco. The film’s omission of the violence that wracked the city on May 21 also omits Harvey Milk’s legacy that sparked an aggressive fight for gay rights on the West Coast. In 2017, however, Van Sant did wind up recreating the riots as a producer on the miniseries When We Rise, which chronicles the major events in recent LGBT history.