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International Sweater Vestival

Today is the International Sweater Vestival, also known as Sweater Vestival or the Festival of Sweater Vests. Always occurring on the first Friday of December—identified by some as the second Friday after Thanksgiving—it celebrates the sartorial splendor inherent in the collective donning of sweater vests.

The first known mention of “Sweater Vestival” occurred in 2008 when Carolyn Johnson interviewed the holiday’s creator for the Boston Globe. Who is this mysterious genius? Is it Johnson herself? Perhaps fearing scandal, Johnson isn’t telling; one might say she’s playing her cards close to the vest. Here is an excerpt from the article.

Q: Why should I wear a vest? Isn’t this a made-up holiday?

A: It certainly is made-up, and that is exactly why you should take part. All holidays are made-up – a collective recognition of some person or historic event or cause. These can range from the sincere to the ironic to the nonsensical. In apparent seriousness, for example, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm established Narcolepsy Awareness Day on March 9. A more arch holiday is 11/11, set aside for the Corduroy Appreciation Club to “hail the wale.” Name your cause and there’s a day: International Talk Like A Pirate Day (Sept. 19), World Wide Knit in Public Day (the second Saturday in June), or National Boss Day (Oct. 16).

The purity of a holiday’s origins tends to get buried in the commercial detritus that blossoms in the middle aisle of local drugstores. So understand that the Sweater Vestival is a nascent holiday – a rare opportunity to get in on the ground level of a holiday, before manufacturers are churning out tiny, edible, foil-wrapped vests.

[Editor’s note: seen on store shelves since 2015]

Sweater Vestival Day

tiny, edible foil-wrapped vests

 

More importantly, it is not a holiday about historical figures or causes or ideals: It is about all the other people who wear the vest.

Q: Can you tell me more about the holiday’s origins?

A: The second Friday after Thanksgiving is a lull in a jam-packed holiday season and a perfect day for people to continue the holiday cheer with something subtle yet uplifting. Unlike other faux holidays – such as Festivus, which first appeared on the sitcom “Seinfeld” as a protest against holiday-season commercialism – Vestival is not a joke at all. It also happens to be funny.

Q: Why is Vestival important?

A: On a superficial level, Sweater Vestival isn’t about something “deep.” In contrast, on a superficial level most other holidays are: Veterans Day is about the serious topic of honoring soldiers who have fought in wars to protect this country. President’s Day salutes our forefathers. Valentine’s Day is about love. But if you look beneath the surface, Valentine’s Day is more about candy and overpriced bouquets. Presidents’ Day has become synonymous with sales at car dealerships, and many people see Veterans Day as just another day off, not an opportunity to consider wars and the weight of history.

Despite its seemingly shallow artifice, though, Vestival carries unusual depth. People wearing vests smile at each other in recognition, discuss the origins of their vests, or give each other compliments. At a time when people can feel more alone than ever, wearing a sweater vest is a reason to connect.

What are you waiting for? Grab those thrift store finds; gifts from Christmas past languishing in the back of your closet; or any sweater you have the urge to liberate of its sleeves. (Common sense advice: obtain permission before wielding the scissors if the aforementioned sweater belongs to someone else.)

Embrace the cold shoulder(s) and have a happy International Sweater Vestival!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 16 is National Button Day

National Button DayNational Button Day

Today is National Button Day. How did it get its start and why should we celebrate it? We use this humble fastener every day but how much do we really know about it?

National Button Day may never have existed were it not for Otto Lightner, publisher of Hobbies magazine, who democratized collecting during the Great Depression when he said, “Even with no money, everyone could collect something.” He became fascinated by other people’s collections, amassing them and buying real estate for the sole purpose of housing them. (The Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida, exhibits a few.)

Lightner organized a hobby show in 1938 at the Hotel Sherman in Chicago. Button collectors contributed to the show and founded the National Button Society (NBS) later that year. On November 16, 1939, NBS hosted its own event in Chicago to recognize button collecting as an organized hobby that anyone, rich or poor, could enjoy and declared it National Button Day.

Today, NBS  has more than 3,000 members on four continents, with 39 of the 50 states represented by state and local button clubs. Per its website:

Membership in the National Button Society is open to individuals and organizations who collect buttons and who wish to support the objectives of the NBS. Principal among those objectives are the promotion of educational research and exhibitions, the publishing and dissemination of information about buttons, and the preservation of the aesthetic and historical significance of buttons for future generations.

NBS holds a weeklong convention every August. In 2016, “Mining in Button Mountains” paid homage to its host city of Denver, Colorado.  Organizers chose “The Magic of Buttons” as the theme for the 2017 celebration in Appleton, Wisconsin. Each year, collectors meet to share finds, stories, craft ideas and fellowship.

national button dayNational Button Day

Do you have what it takes to join? The answer is yes. Every one of us can enjoy collecting buttons. Look around your home. Maybe you still have buttons that belonged to your grandmother. Have you ever noticed that while buttons may not be appreciated, they are rarely thrown out? You probably have a container sitting around right now.

A Brief History of the Button

The earliest known button was found in what is now Pakistan; it is made of a curved shell and is about 5000 years old. In ancient Rome, buttons were ornamental and rarely appeared in straight rows. Beginning in the Middle Ages, buttons became status symbols made of precious metals and stones. The number of buttons one wore communicated wealth.

The first guild of button-makers was formed in France in 1250. The buttonhole appeared around the same time but didn’t catch on right away. Most buttons remained strictly decorative, applied atop a garment while functional underpinnings such as the hook-and-eye and laces did the actual work of holding clothes together.

Even after the buttonhole helped forever change fashion design, many buttons were nonfunctional. There is a rumor about the origin of the seemingly useless line of buttons along the sleeves of coats and jackets, especially military uniforms.

According to legend, one of three leaders–Catherine the Great, King Frederick I of Prussia or Admiral Lord Nelson–inspected the troops (in Nelson’s case, the sailors) and ordered that buttons be sewn onto uniforms to discourage the young men from wiping their noses on their sleeves. Pockets weren’t yet features of most uniforms, so carrying a handkerchief was not a viable alternative. We’re loath to picture the scene of soldiers going off to battle with mucus streaming down their faces.

Over the years, buttons became increasingly ornate. Among the more extreme were “habitat” buttons, made to hold keepsakes like dried flowers, hair clippings or tiny insects under glass. Hollowed-out buttons allowed thieves to secretly transport jewels and other contraband. (This practice was revived unsuccessfully by a heroin-smuggling ring in 2009.)

Button orientation was formalized during the Victorian Era. Then as now, men tended to dress themselves so buttons faced right for their convenience.  Women wore their buttons on the left to make it easier for their maids to adjust while facing them.  (The presumption was that most people were right-handed.)

The servants are gone, but the convention remains. Right-handed women and left-handed men successfully button their clothes every day without giving a thought to the discrimination that decided their sartorial fate.

Go Forth and Button!

Now that you know more, it’s time to go round up some buttons. Check out these craft ideas for inspiration and have a happy and fun National Button Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

August 28 is National Bow Tie Day

Today is National Bow Tie Day, inaugurated on August 28, 2012, to celebrate the quirky neck accessory.

Croatian mercenaries of the 17th century tied scarves around their necks to hold their shirt tops together. French soldiers brought the style home after the end of the Thirty Years’ War. They called it the cravat, derived from the French word for “Croat.”

It was fashionable throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s unknown when the scarf evolved into the bow tie. One unlikely legend states that tobacco magnate Pierre Lorillard introduced it in the U.S. when he wore one to his Tuxedo Club.  We’d like to think he looked like this guy:

national bow tie day

There are three types of bow ties: pre-tied, clip-on and traditional “self-tie.” The first is popular these days for its ease of use and uniformity coupled with myriad fabric and pattern options. A clip-on conjures the idea of waiters and prom dates. A traditional tie takes more work  but begs to be casually untied like this:

national bow tie day

Admittedly, there aren’t many people who can pull off the bow tie. It takes the attitude and confidence of a woman like Marlene Dietrich or the devil-may-care rebellion of someone like Pee Wee Herman:

national bow tie day

While few of us live up to these cool images, we can all bring our own style to the bow tie. Check out the holiday’s official website for more ways to proclaim your love, read media articles from the last four years, get information on tying tips, and participate in its Twitter campaign.

Have a Happy National Bow Tie Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Bikini Day

Today is Bikini Day. On July 5, 1946, French designer Louis Réard unveiled a two-piece swimsuit at a swimming pool in Paris.

He named it the “bikini” after the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, where the U.S. had conducted an atomic bomb test only five days earlier. He believed his swimsuit would cause an “explosive commercial and cultural reaction.”

Two-piece outfits were not new. In 1960, while excavating the ruins of a fourth-century Roman villa, archaeologists discovered a mural depicting ten women they are informally referred to as “the bikini girls.” There’s no evidence to suggest the clothing was used for swimming.

bikini day

Villa Romana del Casale – “the bikini girls”

In the 1930s, European women began wearing two-piece bathing suits—a halter top and shorts—that bared a small bit of midriff and covered the navel entirely. During World War II, fabric rationing led to similar designs in the U.S.

In 1946, Réard wasn’t the only French designer determined to capitalize on jubilant postwar feelings of liberation. Jacques Heim re-introduced the “Atome,” a suit he’d designed in 1932, when exposing the belly button was still considered scandalous. He released it in June 1946, advertising it as “the world’s smallest bathing suit.”

bikini day

Jacques Heim’s “Atome”

Réard’s swimsuit was smaller, constructed of a little bra top, two triangular pieces of fabric and string. He planned to unveil it on July 5 at the Piscine Molitor pool, promoting it as “smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit.”

One issue threatened to derail Réard’s plan: He couldn’t find a professional model who would agree to wear the skimpy bikini. His solution turned out to be a stroke of marketing genius. He hired exotic dancer Micheline Bernardini, who had no problem with appearing nearly nude in public.

bikini day

Réard’s “bikini”

To show how confident he was of the headlines his bikini would generate, he printed newspaper type across the suit’s material. The bikini was a hit and so was Bernardini, who reportedly received 50,000 fan letters.

In less than ten years, the bikini became a familiar sight on beaches all over Europe. By the 1960s, it was popping up everywhere in the U.S. as well. Seventy years after its introduction, the design continues to dominate the market. Réard summed up its sexy allure when he stated: “A bikini is not a bikini unless it can be pulled through a wedding ring.”

Happy Bikini Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays