Fashion and food column for Suomen Kuvalehti magazine, 1917

Artist couple Eric O.W. and Olga ”Olli” Ehrström wrote the Fashion and Food column for Suomen Kuvalehti magazine in 1917. Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation’s archive contains manuscripts and drawings for these columns. Texts have been written by hand in Swedish. The title on the folder is ”Mode och mat” (Fashion and Food).

Suomen Kuvalehti has its launch at the end of the year 1916. Its first chief editor Matti Kivekäs edited the paper in the bedroom of his two-room flat in Tölö Helsinki. At first he had no assistants. He wrote, interviewed and carried out the layout and proofreading. (Risto Lindstedt, SK 47/2006) Kivekäs’ office remained short. He was killed on 4 April 1918 during the civil war in Tampere. He had operated there as a paramedic at the binding station of the Red Cross.

It remains unclear how the Ehrström couple ended up as assistant editors of Suomen Kuvalehti. The cultural circles in the capital city were, however, quite small. Moreover, a broadminded person, Eric O. W. Ehrström perhaps was known to all. In addition, he was a multi-disciplinary artist and culinary enthusiast. Undoubtedly Ehrström couple belonged to the eminent persons that the sample issue referred to.

The sample issue of Suomen Kuvalehti came out in December of 1916. The article directed to the readers stated that the magazine does not print a list of its assistant editors beforehand. ”Our aim is, in any case, to keep the best forces and talents on the move for the benefit of the readers. And to our pleasure we can already beforehand say that several eminent persons from various fields have promised to contribute to our magazine and have greeted the new coming paper with pleasure.” (SK, sample issue, December 1916)

Fashion column Nr. 1 in Suomen Kuvalehti appeared already in the third issue published 13 January 1917. There O. Ehrström presents The Patterns of the Winter 1917 in her in drawings and texts. ”In spite of the expensive season we must dress according to fashionable trends. This is not an easy task in times when business contacts to other countries have been cut off”, she wrote. ”Fashion magazines reach us like echoes from far away countries. They set the trends of this world and that mainly provide us with clothing fabrics. Nevertheless, we cannot help hearing this echo and want to be ’chic’.”

Suomen Kuvalehti appeared every Saturday. In March 1917, Eric O. W. Ehrström’s theme was potato. ”Even though one can make numerous potato dishes, we seldom see variation in dishes served.” Ehrström suggests delicious variation in form of browned potato (Pommes de terre au beurre noir), roasted potato, devil’s potato, poor man’s potato balls and 12 other recipes. The recipes in the archive are hand-written on squared paper under the header Om Potatis.

In March 1917 Olli Ehrström drew pictures and wrote of dress costumes. It was difficult to present them due to their large variety. ”With a dash of inventiveness and imagination anyone can make limitless variation.”

In the issue that appeared 31 March 1917, Olli Ehrström has drawn an illustration of dresses. On the left there is a woollen informal attire with white collar. Evening gown has been made of black velvet and black tulle with charcoal decorations. In the middle there is a ball dress with cylindrical patterns in pale blue silk. Chiffon has the same colour. It has also decorations made of dark blue velvet ribbons. On the right there is a two-piece costume made of woollen fabric and a spring cape with decorative stitching.

In the fashion column that appeared in the issue of August 1917, Olli Ehrström writes about the fashion of elderly women. ”I would like to request all you dear mothers, who sacrifice for your daughters: maintain a dash of feminine vanity despite your old age and great concerns. Do not consider it futile to take care of yourselves as long as your children look cute.”

The last column titled Patterns of Autumn, appeared in the issue published on 29 September. Assistant editor’s contract might have bee a temporary one, and the times and themes turned onerous toward the winter.

Helena Hänninen

Olga Gummerus-Ehrström, fashion drawing on Suomen Kuvalehti, 1917, Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation
Olga Gummerus-Ehrström, fashion drawing on Suomen Kuvalehti, 1917, Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation