Known by few, Elizabeth Hawes (1903–71) is generally regarded among fashion scholars as one of the very first American couturiers. She opened her salon in New York in 1928 with designs that were well ahead of their time—an indication of everything she thought and did throughout her life. Hawes approached clothing design by delving into the psyche of the client—whether a wealthy socialite or the common man or woman. For Hawes, clothing was a direct expression of one’s self. She believed that one should have control over the style of clothing one wore, that it did not have to follow or be dictated by the fashion industry. In the 1930s, she forecasted styles that were not realized until the 1960s.
Hawes’s Anything but Love (1948) was a diatribe against the “happy housewife” role that women were expected to fulfill. Hawes examines how the media, the male patriarchal system, and women themselves eagerly indoctrinated the next generation to accept a proscribed role as homemakers and mothers. Written fifteen years before Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963), Anything but Love debunked some of the most basic myths about American women’s lives. Like her fashion designs, Hawes’s ideas about women’s roles were far ahead of her time. This article explores Hawes’s avant-garde ideas within the realms of fashion, politics, and female roles in the United States.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.