Looking Back At History Through Current-Colored Lenses

Editor's note: Ever since the launch of DG my friend David Bernstein (a Bay Area engineer, not the Volokh Conspiracy blogger) has been passing on interesting glamour-related links and observations. I've finally persuaded him to join us with the occasional post. Here's his debut. For more on this topic, check out this 1974 New York magazine article by Anne Hollander (and for a really creepy experience, keep scrolling to the one after it). [VP]

A couple of Sundays ago the other half was watching Little Women from 1949 on TV while I walked through the living room. Now, I'm an engineer, so fashion generally slides right past me, but the clothes of all the girls (little women?) activated the pattern recognition part of my brain. It seemed that they were all wearing dresses with inverted triangles over the upper torso. They struck me as looking more like photos I've seen of women from the post-World War II era rather than around the Civil War. It got me to thinking about how art that depicts history is affected by the time of the art itself, as opposed to that of the depicted history. It can be difficult to remove the current-colored lenses that we all peer through.

To illustrate the point, here is a montage of scenes from three different versions of Little Women.