Friday, July 6, 2018


If you haven't seen this wonderful biopic about Christian Dior, get to it!

Click here to watch.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Carolyn Schnurer

I recently came across Advance American Designer pattern 6479, by Carolyn Schnurer.  Though some of these American Designers are names we are familiar with - like Suzy Perrette -- Carolyn Schnurer is someone I'd never heard of.  The bubble hem bloomer swimsuit reminded me of Claire McCardell's similar design, so I went looking.

Turns out that Ms. Schnurer was originally an art teacher in the New York Public School system, but by the late 40s, she was one of the most popular swimsuit designers out there, and was also known for her sportswear.  She even has some designs at the Met.  I guess I wasn't too far off the mark thinking Claire McCardell, who was one of the original sportswear designers, having also been on the board of Sports Illustrated.
But I digress.

Reading articles about Ms. Schnurer, I found that she literally travelled the world for inspiration:  Alaska, Turkey, India, Guatemala and more.  I wonder how a public school teacher had the money -- though I suppose if she was a popular enough designer, it wouldn't be hard.  What inspired her to make the jump from art teacher to designer?  Inquiring minds want to know.  She seems to show up around 1945 as a popular designer, but there's nothing out there prior to that.  How did she blast onto the scene so fast?

I need to know.  If anyone has anything to add about her, I'd love to know.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dresses, Frocks and Gowns

When you read about clothing in the 20s and 30s, women's clothing is alternately referred to as dresses or frocks, and sometimes gowns.  Now, I know what a gown is, but I did sometimes wonder just what is the difference between a dress and a frock.  Turns out there really is a difference.

According to Mary Brooks Pickens' booklet "Dresses, Part I," published by the Women's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences (multiple printings, starting in 2016, but the one I have is from 1921),
"it might be said that a dress is an outer garment for women and children, the term applying to simple or complicated constructions, whether made in one piece or of a separate waist and a separate skirt, in harmonizing materials.  A frock in the modern acceptance of the term is an outer garment for children and young women that is smart as to combination of style features and in harmonious keeping with prevailing fashions.  The term gown is used in referring to elaborate court dress and outer garments for ceremonial or ecclesiastical wear, such garments being made in long, flowing lines and of elegant fabrics, elegance being the paramount thought.  The term gown refers also to an outer garment for women that is either close or loose fitting, rich in fabric, and beautiful in line, the term being particularly applicable to all dresses with trains."

"A dress may be made of gingham, muslin, taffeta or chiffon, that is, of cheap or expensive material, and yet  be properly called a dress.  In speaking of such a garment for the mature woman, it would seem that the term dress is most befitting; but in referring to the young miss or the young matron, especially if it is attractive, bespeaks a correct assemblage of style features, and carries a suggestion of the prevailing mode, it may be correctly called a frock, because the very smartness of the name gives a clear mind picture of the actual garment.  The word gown, however suggests drapery, long flowing lines and stateliness; it would indeed be very inappropriate to refer to a garment developed in dignified line and of exquisite fabric by any other word except gown."

To be sure, even Ms. Brooks Pickens said that the words were defined in different ways by different people during this time, so it's no wonder that we are confused now.  Gowns are gowns, especially if they have a train, so I don't think that's very confusing. From her definitions, it sounds like a frock then would be what we call trendy now, and would only be seen on girls of a certain age.   If you were "mature", you would never wear a frock -- it would always be a dress.

I guess I'm relegated to dresses, but at least I know what a frock is now.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Hannah of Troy

My friend Tina of What-I-Found, posted this pattern for sale recently on Facebook.  It's by Hannah Troy.  This era of McCall's patterns are some of my favorites but despite selling sewing patterns for over 15 years, I'd never heard of Hannah Troy, so I went to do some research.

Turns out that Ms Troy was a big designer from the late 30s until at least the late 60s.  How had I never heard of her?  She presented collections along with the big designers, and was frequently quoted in newspapers along with contemporaries like Alan Graham and Jo Copeland.  Interesting that she flew under the radar over the years.

I love her take on 60s mod fashions though.  Keep in mind how outrageous it was when fashion changed from this type of style to the micro minis and such.  It really was out there to think about.  Ms Troy had her say though, stating rather firmly that she saw no reason to show a knee when wearing a dress.  She went so far as to say that knees are UGLY.  She really was repulsed by the idea.  Maybe she saw my knees, but I found that to be a really interesting viewpoint.  Scandalous, yes, but ugly?  WOW.

She went on to mention how vulgar fashion had become, because "everyone is a slave to labels.  Once if you said 'I'm wearing Mr X tonight,' you were bragging.  Now it's expected.  It doesn't even matter if it's pretty.  It must have a designer name to bolster our -- security."

Think about this for a minute.  This is SO true.  The fashions coming out of Dior right now are absolutely atrocious, but people like Jennifer Lawrence are contracted to wear them, so out this beautiful girl walks in some of the most heinous stuff I've seen in years.  She is only one example.  And people like Reese Witherspoon and Taylor Swift do a sidewalk sashay in designer fashions where at least they look cute, but I'm sure are attached to contracts or at least financial reimbursements.  Back in Ms Troy's day, I'm not sure that it was the case that the stars were paid to wear the fashions.  This was an era where women were just starting to be loaned garments to wear to red carpet functions -- before this, they had to come up with their own stuff.  It was considered vulgar by many to brag about what designer you were wearing.  Now the stars get PAID to wear them, and they have to be sure to get it in when they are interviewed.  "Who are you wearing tonight" tends to be one of the first questions the stars are asked now.  And yes, it doesn't even matter if it is pretty stuff, as long as it has a name attached to it.

I have to agree with Ms. Hannah.  It's just plain vulgar.  Your thoughts?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Age Old Dispute

There have been conversations -- some quite animated -- over the years about whether or not it's ok to alter vintage clothing.  Long gowns cut top shorter lengths, sleeves cut, and the like have upset lovers of vintage style, who cry out at the inappropriateness of it all.  These same people say that these are pieces that should be saved for posterity, despite the fact that most textiles are not stored properly to protect them.  Most of the time, these are the same people who wear vintage --- and that's the worst way to preserve these precious textiles.

Mind you, I am not against people wearing vintage.  Quite the contrary:  I LOVE vintage clothing, and the more people wear it, the better in my book.  Yes, there are some true museum pieces, like a Charles James gown, a vintage Dior, or even some Ceil Chapmans.  I'd love to see the fun novelty prints saved, like Alex Colman and Vested Gentress, and the daily wear styles like Anne Fogarty and Jonathan Logan.  Au contraire -- I love it when vintage is saved intact.  There's nothing worse than seeing some poorly (and completely inappropriately) inserted corset, put into a 50s gown where it doesn't belong.  And a ball gown trimmed to a mini just isn't right, if for nothing other than the fact that the proportions are altered so as to look wrong, most of the time.  One does need to use judgement in these things.

That being said, I came across this article in the November, 1950 Woman's Day magazine, and it is just perfect for proving the point that people have been renovating their clothing for years, so we are really no different.  This gown was originally worn in 1900.  It is constructed of pure satin.  When her grandson's wife prepared to marry, they used the train and skirt to create a fashionable dress for the wedding 50 years later.  The bottom half of the train was used to create the bodice, complete with a tucked border that was part of the original trimming.   The collar was cut from one long side of the train, tucked at the shoulders, and then attached to the bodice.  The ends were then crosed over the front, creating a surplice effect.  Facings were made from bias strips.  The original skirt's waistband was removed.  The skirt then became an underskirt in the new gown.  The underskirt was stitched to the bodice, and a side zipper was added.  

4 1/4 yards of oyster white lace and 1 1/4 yards of veiling was purchased.  The overskirt was made by cutting the lace crosswise into four equal pieces.  These were seamed together, gathered at the top, then attached to Grandma's waistband and hemmed.  The headband was made from a piece of the train, then lined with taffeta from the original train lining, then the two ends were joined.  The veiling was tacked to the back of the headband, so the veil could be worn either over the face or folded back, as shown.  The veiling and gloves were soaked in tea about an hour, to create a tint that matched the dress and overskirt.

All in all, an excellent use of vintage clothing to create another stylish garment.  The original dress may have been fortunate to survive the years, given the calling for fabric during World War II.  That means that there may have been those in 1950 who cried out to save the original dress.  I could totally understand their concerns, but when it was used to create a beautiful heirloom garment, who could argue?  I'm not sure how I feel about it.  What do you think?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Giving It Up for the War Effort

When fabric began being rationed in 1942 -- everything was saved for the war effort -- designers had to be especially creative.  Clothing of this era usually lacked buttons, lace, or embellishments, and were shorter in length than prior to the war. Sleeves were shorter, and hem and belt width was limited to 2 inches.  (If you were a bride, or were pregnant, the rules were different.)

I like this 1943 dress because it shows the creativity used to create a fashionable day look while not having all the frippery.  The bow could be made from a remnant, and although Style A (on the left) looks like the cutouts may have lace to fill them, the instructions do not mention it.  Notice, there are no pockets, which were also considered unnecessary in most garments.

I don't know that we will ever see another time where people come together for a single effort like we did during World War II.  Bless all those soldiers for whom the sacrifices were made, and especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Devil's Fiance

Jacques Fath was a genius of fashion, whose life was cut short by leukemia in 1954.  The dress, an example of his genius, is from the Fall/Winter collection he showed in February, 1951.  It was termed "fiance du diable", or "devil's fiance."  I guess it's pretty obvious why, yes?