Thursday, December 17, 2009

Won't ya let me take you on a...........

The mid 50's McCall's patterns are seriously glam. This is around the time that the designers like Givenchy, Trigere, and others were designing for McCall's, so the glamour of a "generic" McCall's pattern shouldn't surprise anyone. This one is from 1954, and wowza, is it hot!

And so, I leave you with this, and it shall have to get you through till after Christmas, as the family is starting vacation tomorrow, and won't return till next weekend. And though this would be a headturner on formal night on our cruise, I've opted for a draped neckline ruby dress that hubby appreciates just fine.

So happy holidays to all, and I'll see you when we disembark.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Glisten or Gleam?

The question the other day was, what is the difference between glisten and gleam? According to Wordnik, here's what the dictionary says, but don't expect to understand the difference from it:

Glisten: To shine by reflection with a sparkling luster OR be shiny, as if wet.
Gleam: A steady but subdued shining; a glow OR shine brightly, like a star or a light

And just to make it more confusing:
Glisten: To sparkle or shine; especially, to shine with a mild, subdued, and fitful luster; to emit a soft, scintillating light; to gleam; as, the glistening stars.

My own personal take is that glisten means wet. Like Scarlet O'Hara, working an angle with Ashley. Like a mom's eyes at a wedding. Or a 16 year old girl telling her daddy that she got her first ticket. Or my eyes, when I come across a big stack of 30s Vogue magazines. Or my eyes, when I think of how badly I'd like to come across that stack of magazines.........

Gleam, to me, means a wild look in the eyes. Think Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Or a devious, scheming woman. Like Scarlet O'Hara thinking about those drapes. Or carrots.

So let's clarify. I'll show you a couple of pictures, and you tell me if they are glisten or gleam. We'll have a little throw-down right here, and settle it once and for all. Maybe. And if not, at least we can enjoy the pictures.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Losing my Head

There's a tradition in our house: we are hardcore Oscars watchers. Hubby tries to see every movie that's nominated, as well as the roles that were nominated in the major roles. I just like to look at the clothes, of course. (Drives hubby nuts that I tend to guess the winners of the awards pretty accurately, when I don't even watch the movies, but I digress.)

This is one of my all time favorite Oscars dresses, made by Edith Head for none other that Grace Kelly herself, back in 1955. Everything about it is perfect: the color, the draping, the coat....everything. I do wish that I could find a picture of the coat in color though, and what the lining looked like.

No worries though. It's beautiful nonetheless. Even though every time I see a picture of Edith Head, it makes me giggle, thinking of Edna in The Incredibles - a role which was inpired by her. How could you not love someone who bluffed their way into a job that they held for thirty years, and that allowed her to create iconic garments like this one, as well as Audrey Hepburn's iconic Sabrina dress?

Answer? It's just not possible not to love her.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Do-Over, War-time Style

How to turn a fur trimmed coat into a skirt and scarf set, and still have something fashionable, during war-time rationing:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Silver and Gold

"To create an impression of glamour in the evening this winter it takes a gown of one of the many new velvets, the slippery crushed satins, the velvety crepes, or best of all, the new lames. These are quite different than the lames we used to know - the kind that glittered like radiator paint. The new ones are colored lames, pink ones, gray ones, red ones, blue ones. The are soft and supple, they gleam rather than glisten. And this is because of the way they are woven. Some of them are nothing but fine, crinkled crepes in delicious colors, with a thin thread of gold or silver strung through them. Many of the loveliest are moires threaded with thin metal strands and these have a slippery sheen like ice. Vionnet used this last type in soft pink with silver, in gray with gold."

I'm imagining the one on the right in chocolate velvet (sounds like a pudding, doesn't it?). The one I want is the one on the left and, despite the fact that this is from the December, 1933 Pictorial Review, I want it in a pale ivory with tiny pink floral. If I must wear it in December, make it cream with a green print, but I must have a fabulous opera coat to go with it. In emerald green velvet, please.

Monday, December 7, 2009


More of the Audrey Hepburn offerings from Kerry Auctions, to be sold off tomorrow. Could someone please buy me something? I'd personally love to have some of the fashion sketches, but I'd settle for anything, especially something of Ms. Audrey Hepburns. ::sigh::

This Givenchy dress (from 1966 - worn in the October 15 issue of Vogue in that year) is spot on fashion right now, with it's Wilma shoulder treatment, and side bow. The asymmetrical hem is interesting too, especially since it continues the diagonal line of the bodice. Genius, in shocking pink.

I remember my mom calling certain hues shocking pink when I was little. I didn't realize that the term actually came from Elsa Schiaparelli, paying homage to both her love of the color, as well as her interesting personal history. How iconic does one have to be to be able to coin the name of a color? How many other people have been able to do that? Think about it. There's Kelly green, I know, but who is Kelly? Has anyone else been able to do it?

Her fascination with pink purportedly caused great distress to one Englishman who, in visiting Paris, recognized a stuffed polar bear in her window as one that his grandfather had shot. Dali, her window dresser at the time, had dyed the unfortunate ursa pink.

Shocking, indeed.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Post-Titanic Era loveliness

The clothing from the early and mid-1910s are beautiful. I love the way the bodices are draped with fabric, and the carefully chosen beading is just so pretty. This one is, according to Kerry Auctions, from 1913, and I'm in love with it. But then again, I'm a sucker for pink, too.

By Charles Drècoll, a couture house in Paris. Drecoll introduced perfume to his line in 1925. The company was purchased by Marcel Guerlain in 1944.

Pretty much the perfect 60s dress

It's no secret that I love the lines on 60s clothing. This pattern is no exception, and I love how much it can be varied. My favorite style is the drop waist variation, though I can't carry it off. I think that the pockets are an interesting addition, though I'm not convinced that they are really very useful where they are located, and think that they probably wouldn't be very flattering, if truth be told.

I love the look of a proper roll collar, especially because it pretty much negates the need for a necklace. These would be cute with a brooch, but I love how they styled them here with patterned hose. But is that girl on the right really wearing fishnets? I think not -- that wouldn't work here at all. I think they are also patterned hose.

Or at least I hope so.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Clean and Simple

This may be the perfect "coming of age" womanly dress. Yes, it could be worn by an early 20 something, but I think it's probably best suited for the later 20's, through the 30s and even early 40s, before one's arms begin to flap, threatening to knock one out with a improperly timed wave. This dress says "I'm young enough to have fun, but I want to show a little maturity, without coming across as an old lady." Accessorized as shown, it could easily carry you from work to a dinner out, but with no accessories and a pair of ballet flats, it could be a great running about town dress too.

It's from October/November 1960 Vogue Pattern book, and happens to be Vogue 5088, which comes in lots of other styles too. I love the boxy cropped bolero and sheath style, but that style wouldn't love me back. This one's a bit more forgiving for us pear shaped girls.

To make it in the proper colors for the season, choose "phosphorescent yellow, magenta, sizzling pink and green, neon blue," as noted as being the "new color hits."

Monday, November 23, 2009

All Woman

"Nettie Rosenstein's vision of a perfect world is one in which all women have high, well rounded breasts, slim waists and gently curving backsides. Since women in real life fall far short of her ideal, she uses every trick in the dressmaker's trade to create this illusion." I should say.

I managed to clip off the bottom of this photo, but if you could see it, you'd see beautiful shirring that curves along the hips. With the genius construction of the bodice, there's pretty much no way to wear this dress and not look all woman. And consider that this was 1944, so wartime rationing was in effect, and I am in awe.

I see it in dove gray. Or cream, if I wasn't such a klutz about eating.

From Life Magazine, 1944.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What's the frequency, Kenneth?

I've always loved this pattern. Truth be told, the dress' lines are really fairly simple, but I think that the styling in the photo is what attracts people to it. The details are kind of interesting, too.

In reading the verbage on the left, they call it "McCall's Twins' Two in One Pattern." Who are the twins? Without today's photo editing possibilities, these actually are twins on the cover, because it says it -- right before it says that their hairpieces and hairstyle is by the Kenneth Salon. They even include the instruction sheet on how to create the hairstyles -- sadly, my pattern is missing that sheet, and I'd LOVE to see it.

So, who is Kenneth? I went searching, and found that Kenneth Salon has some pretty swanky history. Kenneth's first claim to fame was that in 1954, he did the hairstyling for a newly wed Jacqueline Kennedy. Apparently, he was a stand in for her regular stylist, but it turned her into a regular customer. He styled all of the Kennedy's hair on the day of JFK's inaugaration. (I presume he means JFK's immediate family, not the extended clan!) Kenneth is actually the one who created Jacqueline's bouffant hairdo. He also worked extensively with none other than Marilyn Monroe, and even styled her hair for her last photo shoot. Kenneth's book, if he ever chose to write one, would be a really interesting one to read, I'm sure. Can you imagine the chats he had? He's still styling hair today, so if you want to get the goods, I'm sure you can chat him up, for a price.

I'm interested to see if I can find any more McCall's Twins patterns. I've never found one. Have you?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's all in the details

This is what's missing from today's fashions: the little details. Look at this illustration. If you look at the dress itself, the details make all the difference.

The little notched neckline, as annoying as I think it would be to wear, is the perfect answer to the "I don't want to wear a necklace" days. Though I'm not a huge fan of topstitching, it does give the chocolate dress a different look. And the belts! Look at the difference a belt can make.

This is a good example of how, in post-WWII 1946, they were still in a rationing mindset, and embellishing not with the yards and yards of fabric that Christian Dior would introduce a year later.

The proper lady on the left wears her gloves, which makes me wonder why little lady on the right doesn't? I don't know that there was a statute of limitations on age, when it came to gloves, so I'm surprised that little lady isn't wearing them too. The hair embellishment on right is cute (I'm a sucker for daisies), but that hat on the left is to die for. Must. Have. It. Now.

Not sure what kind of shoes they are wearing, so you tell me.

Pattern from Sew-Retro

Monday, November 16, 2009

Speaking of weddings..............

No one loves a good wedding more than me. Maybe it's in part because my own wedding darned near didn't happen, or because we had to change the location and time of the wedding the night before, but I do love a good wedding.

The Fontana story of the other day came at an interesting time. Just after doing that story, I joined a Facebook group for Dovima fans, and started browsing the photos there. Dovima was just beyond awesome, as far as models are concerned. Her poses were perfect. I doubt there will ever be another one like her, and certainly not anyone with that kind of grace in front of the camera.

So whilst I was perusing the pictures, I came across the one at the left. Turns out one of the members of the Facebook group has a mother who just happened to have none other than Dovima as her maid of honor at her wedding (on the left). Again, can you imagine? I considered myself lucky to get down the aisle in one piece, and now I've found not one but two brides were had the good fortune, and good connections to have a special object of beauty in theirs. Jealous!

And while we're at it, another photo of Dovima, with the elephants doing the hokey pokey while she turns herself around. Cause that's what it's all about.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fontana History

I've wondered about who Fontana was since I found this swanky 50s dress pattern -- that dress would take some serious attitude to wear, if because of nothing other than that jacket. Sadly, the pattern sold some time ago, but I still think about that pattern, and have continued to wonder who Fontana was (is?) and how he/she designed such beautiful styles, because each Fontana I've ever seen has been fabulous.

Well tonight, my friend Lizzie pointed me toward Kerry Taylor Auctions, which just happens to be having a very special auction. Peruse the listings and you will see lots of cool vintage clothing, some fashion sketches by none other than Vionnet, Jacques Fath, and Desses, lots of purses and hats, but the crowning jewels? Vintage Givenchy, worn by none other than Audrey Hepburn herself! Be still my heart -- many of these were worn at events or in movies. If I only had the cash........

So I started reading the listings, and found some interesting Fontana facts. I knew Fontana was special! Read it and weep for the lucky little Italian girl and her incredible good fortune:

Lot 333 The ivory satin bridal gown designed for Audrey Hepburn by the Fontana Sisters for her marriage to James (later Lord) Hanson in 1952 which did not take place, un-labelled, of heavy ivory satin, with wide boat neckline, pleats of fabric to the bodice front converging on a bow at the waist, three quarter length sleeves, zip fastened to the back with trained skirt, bust 92cm, 36in, waist 66cm, 26in; together with a letter of provenance from Amabile Altobella; a quantity of press cuttings relating to the gown; and a photograph of Audrey at a Fontana fitting wearing the original gown, (qty).

The Fontana sisters were renowned for their highly romantic ball gowns and bridal gowns. The sisters Zoe, Micol and Giovanna founded their business in Rome in 1944. They counted among their clientele many celebrities including Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Grace of Monaco and Jackie Kennedy. In 1952, whilst Audrey Hepburn was filming `Roman Holiday' with Gregory Peck in Rome, she approached the Fontana sisters to ask them to make her bridal gown. Signora Micol Fontana said that the 23 year old Hepburn was 'young, fresh, on top of the world'. She used to slip away from the set to take refuge in the sewing rooms and discuss the dress. `Audrey wanted complete discretion and had lots of fittings'.

Some weeks later when Audrey called off the planned wedding to James Hanson she asked the eldest of the sisters - Zoe to give the dress away. `I want my dress to be worn by another girl for her wedding, perhaps someone who couldn't ever afford a dress like mine, the most beautiful, poor Italian girl you can find.' Zoe's search centred on the town of Latina which had been founded by the fascists in 1932. The dress was given to a poverty stricken young Italian girl called Amabile Altobella, which coincidentally was the same Christian name as the Fontana sister's mother. Amabile visited Rome just once to have the dress adapted by the Fontana sisters for her to wear at her own wedding to farm worker Adelino Solda with whom she remained happily married, producing three daughters and five grandchildren. Amabile said `I have had a happy marriage, so the dress brought me luck'.

The town council gave the young couple kitchen furniture and even organised a honeymoon for them in Paris. After the event she carefully wrapped the dress in tissue paper and stored it away without disturbing it for decades. It was not until 2002 when Micol Fontana, the last survivor of the three sisters traced the gown for a retrospective exhibition of their work, that it was re-discovered.

Can you even imagine something like that happening to you, because I sure can't! Never mind how the dress has now ended up at auction, because I want to think happy thoughts about it, but wow. What a great story. And if you want something else dreams are made of, check out the listing of the dress that belonged to Audrey, but was identical to Jacqueline Kennedy's wedding dress when she married Aristotle Onassis. Talk about great minds thinking alike.

I must go and ponder this for a while.

Pattern: 1950s Woman's Day pattern by Fontana

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gone With the Wind

1940 was all about Gone With the Wind. An epic movie as never seen before, it brought the South, and the beautiful actress Vivien Leigh, into the spotlight.

Girls of 1940 could get in touch with their inner Scarlett with this interpretation, based on Scarlett's barbecue dress, created by Hollywood patterns. Lovely, is it not?

Hollywood pattern 1989. From the April issue of Hollywood patterns.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Short, but interesting.......

This video is short and sweet, but it sure brings a lot of questions on board!
  • Do you cut out your patterns on the floor, especially whilst the kids are in the room?
  • Is your family this quiet? I find the whole thing a little Stepford wives, frankly.
  • Don't you love her dress? It's classic 1962, and I'm sure it's probably a Butterick pattern too.
  • What is that little boy doing in the background?
  • What is the pattern number on that Butterick? I'm dying to know if I have it.
  • Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Shirred-ly goodness and MERCY!

    I've seen some patterns for dresses that could be considered Oscar-worthy, but this one takes the cake. I will be the first to say that I'm getting rather weary of the strapless gowns that have been the standard for the last several years, but this one is simply fabulous. I see it and think of Deborah Kerr, which is always a good thing.

    I suppose that all that shirring would mean that my fingers would be worn to the bone, but look at the difference it makes! The strapless neckline could be boring, but who's looking at her clavicles? I can't take my eyes off the gown.

    Personally, I would choose the draped shoulder scarf. I'd veer from my normal love of red, because I think red would be too much. I think it would be gorgeous in dove grey or a soft blue, as shown, but I could even see it in this season's neutrals, like a nice mocha. With white opera gloves. No necklace, just pearl drops. And a great pair of Jimmy Choo's, like these.

    Pattern: Vogue Couturier Design 771, from 1951

    Monday, November 2, 2009


    I love this photo. Every time I see it (in the Simplicity pattern catalog, Fall/Winter 1969-1970, from my personal collection), it stops me in my tracks.

    First of all, the set is perfect. The lighting is fabulous. I love both dresses, especially that silver A Line on the right. It embodies every style I love: empire waist, standup collar, and the colors they chose are pure me. Put its sweetness next to the bad-girl-wanna-be of the black dress, and it's catalog photography at its best.

    But the thing that I find most interesting is that this photo is probably a bit groundbreaking. Here, five years before Beverly Johnson made the cover of Vogue, an African American model is featured. She's included in several photos of this spread, and that is something that was rarely seen in this era. I wish I knew who she was. I can imagine her pointing it out to her grandchildren, and not just for how awesome the concept is, but for how great she looks.

    I want her shoes, too.

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Come Fly Away

    Remember when flying was an event? I remember when we would dress up for a flight -- no yoga pants or jeans, I mean a dress or a suit. Flying wasn't something that was done every day, and it was treated as such.

    I remember what may've been the last time I "dressed" for a flight. It was in the summer of 1984, and I was going to San Diego for a conference with two of my friends, both of whom thought I was out of my tree, but I didn't care. It was a white linen suit with an A line skirt and a cropped jacket. I felt good, and was perfectly comfortable, whilst my friends sat next to me in their jeans.

    Granted, I didn't have the gloves and the faux fur that our little lady here does, but then again that was in another time, when Pan Am was still flying. Heck, today, you'd have to check that second bag, and they'd probably make you remove that fabulous hat in security. ::sigh::

    It's a time long gone, but sadly missed by those of us who remember. And so, when my husband and I head to Florida this Christmas, maybe I'll dress for that flight, just for old time's sake.

    From Vogue Pattern Book, Nov/Dec 1960. Pattern: Vogue 4146.

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    Probably my favorite movie garment

    Yes, I know that Philadelphia Story has some of the more beautiful costumes in history, so I risk sounding cliche in mentioning this. Add the fact that the costumes were done by Adrian who, much to my dismay, never received an Oscar for costuming, and it really sounds unimaginative. But look at this dressing robe!

    I think that you have to see it in this scene to see why I love it so. It's all about the sleeves. The belt does make Katherine Hepburn look pin-thin, and yes, when you look at it overall, it has a Princess Leia-ish feeling to it, but the sleeves.........
    They have such beautiful movement as she gestures in this scene that I fell in love instantly. I would love to have this robe, in silk, please. With the accompanying champagne, of course.

    And, you ask, why is it that Adrian never received an Oscar? Bad timing. The Oscar for costume design did not exist when he was working in Hollywood. That doesn't stop him from being an inspiration to man in Tinsel Town, nonetheless, but if someone started a campaign for a posthumous Oscar, I'd sign it.

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    The Personal Trousseau

    The Modern Book of Etiquette, by Eleanor Ames (copyright 1940) outlines what is properly contained in the bride's trousseau. To make a point, the trousseau should supply the bride with enough to wear for a full year. Ms. Ames cautions about buying too many dresses, coats and hats in advance because of changing styles, but everything else could be bought for future use.

    For the average city-dweller bride, who plans to have an "average" social life:

    Outer garments (Spring-Summer):
    1 dress coat
    1 sport coat
    1 ensemble or suit for city street wear
    1 crepe and one chiffon dress
    2 pastel colored frocks (note that these are frocks, not dresses)
    2 wash sports dresses
    1 dinner dress
    2 dance dresses (one crepe, one summer cotton)
    2 or 3 hats for general wear
    1 special afternoon hat
    1 simple evening coat
    1 cardigan or slip on sweater.

    Outer garments (Fall-Winter)
    1 fur coat (if possible)
    1 fur trimmed dress coat
    1 sports coat (optional)
    1 heavy ensemble or winter suit
    2 crepe dresses
    1 dressmaker suit or dressy cloth dress
    1 sports frock (of bright wool) -- note again, a frock, not a dress
    2 evening gowns
    1 dinner dress
    1 Sunday night or cocktail frock
    2 afternoon dresses, 1 velvet, if possible
    3 hats for general wear
    1 dressy afternoon hat
    1 evening wrap

    3 slips
    1 evening slip
    4 brassieres
    6 pairs of bloomers, step ins or shorts
    6 vests (if you wear them)
    2 dance sets (for evening wear)
    6 nightgowns or pajamas
    2 sets of silk and wool underwear for sports wear
    6 pairs of silk hose
    2 pairs of sports hose
    2 pairs of evening hose
    1 pair of street shoes
    2 pairs afternoon shoes
    2 pairs evening slippers (to match dresses)
    4 pairs of suede, kid or fabric gloves
    2 pairs of white kid gloves (for formal afternoon wear)
    1 pair long white kid gloves for evening wear
    2 dozen handkerchiefs
    2 bags for street costume
    evening bag.

    The average bride will also need 3-4 house dresses, 2 or 3 tea aprons, and one large apron for kitchen work. The bride who expects to entertain women friends extensively and who moves in an extravagant set should also have a tea gown or lounging pajamas.

    I wonder what the men brought with them?

    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    An amazing resume

    Hubert Givenchy. Many of us know him from Sabrina/Audrey Hepburn fame, or maybe from Jacqueline Kennedy. But do you know about how his early years?

    Givenchy originally got a lot of inspiration from Balenciaga. He showed up on the doorstep of Balenciaga, eager for a job, but was turned away for lack of experience. He was, in turn, hired by Jacques Fath, but also worked for Lelong (when Balmain and Dior also were there) and for Schiaparelli. Can you imagine?

    I think if you worked next to such fashion geniuses, and didn't become one yourself, well then, you'd just better pack it in and go home.

    He ultimately opened his couture house across the street from Balenciaga (take that!) in 1952. His first collection was made of simple men's shirting fabric, and a double ruffled blouse called "Bettina", after the supermodel, was featured on the cover of French Elle. I would LOVE to find that issue, because it was a game changer for the young Givenchy.
    His next endeavor was to create gowns, and little did anyone know what he was to come up with: this man, whose shirting material collection had shown seeds of genius, created ball gowns that were full of sumptuous fabrics, beading and embroidery that would rival that of the other couture houses of the day. Givenchy had arrived.

    Pattern, Givenchy for McCall's, from 1956. Don't you love the little hat, perched at the base of her head? Personally, I love how they declined a full frontal view of the dress. It adds to the mystery, in my opinion.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Goin to the Chapel

    I love this dress. It reminds me of my mother's 1953 wedding dress. They have very few wedding photos, and all a bit blurry and inadvertently double exposed by my uncle, but this is the dress as I imagine it looked. Add my mom's cateye glasses and you've got it.

    Her dress, sadly, was donated to the Salvation Army shortly after the wedding, when it was left alone with my grandpa. Can you imagine? My own wedding dress, from 1987, is safely tucked into my bedroom closet, though I have no idea who would ever wear it, in all its ruffled silk organza lovelieness. Maybe one day I'll figure out something special to do with it -- I've imagined making ring bearers' pillows, christening gowns, or something else that's meaningful to my kids, but in the end, I always chicken out and tuck it back into the box.

    Where's your wedding dress? What did it look like?

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009


    Do people have coming out parties anymore? I think that they do, but it's been a while since I've seen anything in the paper here, regarding debutantes.

    I know that the Mexican population has quinceaneras, and they are a huge, huge deal. Whatever happened to our debs? Was it really a goody two shoes thing? Maybe it morphed into prom somehow, but I have to admit, the photos of debs from years past are a pretty thing to behold.
    Take this beauty, from 1950. I must say that I'm surprised that she's not wearing gloves, but maybe this was a pre-game shot, and the gloves came on later. I dearly love the dress though.

    Sadly, I have no idea who the designer is, but isn't it beautiful with the lighting in the photo? Dreamy....

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    The greatest Cuban import

    Luis Estevez - one fantastic designer. He was born in Cuba, and thank heavens he came here, because I don't know that I've ever seen a boring Estevez. Like many designers, he started out by studying architecture, and ended up designing beautiful garments like this.

    Now, I'm as much of a fan of the 50s and 60s era coats as anyone, but this one is really misleading -- look at the hubba hubba dress beneath it! Wowza! I see it in midnight blue. What about you?

    From approximately 1963, Prominent Designer pattern booklet.

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    College wear circa 1933

    We packed our daughter off to college this fall, and amongst the vanload-full of stuff that the girl took with her, there was nothing so stylish as this: Junior Miss clothes to pack off to school after the holidays. Today's girls could learn a thing or two from the girls of 1933, couldn't they? Just look at those collars!

    I believe that I had the pattern for the one that is second from the left, but the two I want to focus on are #3 and #5 (far right). Look at #3's collar -- the way it's done reminds me of a spider web. The one on far right isn't seen in its entirety, but look at those sleeves! I wouldn't have a clue how to describe them, but the top looks like it's been through a shredder, and the forearm part is slim and fitted. Lovely!

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    Glove etiquette

    from the Vogue Book of Etiquette, 1948:

    "Traditionally, gloves are a mark of the formally dressed woman. A generation "lady" left her front door without gloves on her hands. Now, modern usage holds that gloves should be worn on occasions such as these: going to a formal luncheon, dinner, reception, or dance; in the streets of large towns and cities; going to and from church; going to official receptions or entertainments.

    On the other hand, a woman should always take off her gloves before she starts smoking, playing cards, eating, drinking or putting on make-up. When one is wearing long, elbow length gloves (as, for example) at a very big dinner) one should take them off as soon as one is seated at the dining table, before touching food or drink. At dances and receptions, gloves are left on for dancing and one may unbutton them at the wrist, tucking the finger ends of the glove into the wrist opening, whenever one wants to smoke, drink, or powder one's nose. This system can also be followed at a dance, but gloves should never be left on the arm at the dinner table. Bracelets may be worn over long gloves (except, of course, at the dinner table) but rings should never be worn outside the glove.

    They do not mention, however, where the gloves should be placed, once they are removed, but many women would tuck them into a waistline belt or put them into a pocketbook. Of course, many would also elect to put them into a pocket of their coat, which explains the large amount of stray gloves found when said coats are purchased today.

    Sadly, gloves are largely out of fashion today, though I will say that I've seen some in the magazines this season. This may be an indicator that, although we may never see them become a part of everyday wear, they still have a place. We can certainly hope so!

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    R.I.P. Irving Penn

    A photographic artist was lost today, when Irving Penn died at the age of 92. Mr. Penn was known for his breathtaking portraits, like this one, of Martha Graham, in 1948.

    Mr Penn worked for Vogue for years, and was among the first to put fashion models wearing haute couture in front of a plain gray background, creating a simplistic look that focused on the garment. Take a look here at a gallery of photos from the master himself.

    RIP, Mr Penn. You've left a legacy of art that takes our breath away.

    Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    What to wear in 1939

    I just thought I'd show you what you'd have worn on a special night out, in 1939. As if the bodice and waistline aren't fabulous enough, just look at that trumpet hem, complete with a train. And the jacket? With fur trim? Wow! I'm seeing it in velvet, but I'd substitute marabou (though my cat would eat it). This is an outfit that definitely requires some attitude to carry it off.

    I suspect that this lovely was probably greatly influenced by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (who purportedly did NOT like being called The Queen Mother). She was quite a fashion plate. I once found a lace overdress with this skirt's shape. I didn't have the underdress, but the lace was lavender and in pristine condition. It photographed wonderfully, especially with, and I'll say it again, that trumpet hem. At the time, someone showed me a photo of the Queen Mother in a similar gown and amazingly, she was able to pull it off, despite her shorter stature. My lace overdress is now in, of all places, Israel, where hopefully the buyer loves it as much as I did.

    Meantime, I'll take this one in powder blue, with midnight blue velvet jacket. Marabou trim? Optional. Attitude? Not so much.

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    What a difference a (fabulous) jacket makes

    It took me reading the caption of the article where I found this photo to realize that this is the same dress in both pictures.

    It's from Traina-Norell's Spring, 1950 collection, and I think it's just to die for. Look at that jacket! With the jacket, that outfit is lunch out with the ladies. Take it off (left) and it's pure Other Woman. I'm imagining it in navy and white -- red would be too overwhelming, methinks.

    And yes, the model is Dorian Lee, an icon of modelling, whose life was pretty darned interesting: five marriages (four if you don't count the one that was annulled), bearing the child of a "man who was not her husband", owning a modelling agency, becoming a restauranteur, and putting it all into a book called The Girl Who Had Everything. This, in addition to her books on doughnuts and pancakes! This girl's life had more variety than Dunkin Donuts! Her book one will be next on my reading list.

    Sunday, October 4, 2009

    Good enough to eat

    I love this pattern! It's super easy to make, and look how cute it is! I think the only problem that I have with it is the fact that I'd never be able to eat if I was wearing it.

    What else is cool about this pattern? The bottom two versions are made from a tablecloth! Make it with a 68"-70" round tablecloth, and you'll be done in a New York minute. How cool is that? Personally, I'd stick to Version 1 (on the bottom right), and try to find a tablecloth with some metallic threads in it, especially if it had the scallops it's showing in the illustration.

    I was cruising around last night, looking for a vintage tablecloth of the appropriate size, just to see what it would've looked like, back in the day. I didn't have a lot of luck, but I did find this Vera tablecloth with poppies on it, and thought it would be pretty perfect. I don't know that I could've done it though, since that tablecloth still had the matching napkins with it. I'm a sentimentalist, and probably couldn't have done that to the set, after making it all the time without being separated. Pretty foxy outfit though, isn't it?

    Friday, October 2, 2009

    Mod Legwear

    I love these two outfits. First of all, the hat is fabulous. The sleeve treatments are wonderful, and the fit and the collars are perfect, too. But what I really love is tights.

    Panty hose and stockings are almost always in style, but tights have a love affair that seems to come and go. Tights are a wonderful way to perk up an outfit, and they can actually thin thick legs. Pair 'em with the hat & boots in the picture on the left, and you have a smashing outfit. Sure, Nina Garcia would call it too matchy matchy, and maybe it is. And it surely is a little Lady Gaga, with its pantless-ness, but I love the look anyway. I think that dress looks totally comfortable -- it may even be a bit like what Claire McCardell would've designed, had she lived to this area. Do you agree?

    On the right, add some yellow stockings, and you've got a fresh look -- I wish I could see the shoes she's wearing, don't you?

    From McCall's New York Designer Fashion Catalog, 1967

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    Man Tailored Shirts

    First of all, she's got Bette Davis eyes, huh?

    There's nothing like a little Peter Pan collar blouse, I will admit. This one, from Reid & Reid, is from 1950. Gotta say, I would like to see the entire outfit, because I'm not wild about the print, nor the hat that's been thrown into the mix. To me, Peter Pan collars have a more casual vibe than what this hat evokes. I also wonder what color the blouse is, but the biggest distraction here is the claw hand on the left. Creepy!

    On the other (right) hand, there is nothing like a wing collar blouse to speak of glamour. This one, from Brooks Brothers, is no exception. I see it in champagne or pale blue. She may've even been able to carry off the hat with this blouse, though it may've thrown her over the edge, accessory-wise.

    This is a case of the blouse making the difference between being in the secretary's pool or being in the board room.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    Baby, It's Cold Outside

    Fall has come to Indiana, and there's a chill in the air. It's my goal this year to find a great coat, because in the wintertime, people see you in your coat all the time, so you should feel fabulous. My current coat was a gift from my hubby, who is a painter. It's nice, and warm, and comfy, but it's had it's time.

    I want to find (of course) a red coat. I can fully see myself wearing this one, especially view 1. Note that this coat has bracelet length sleeves, to accommodate the gloves that were all but mandatory -- I'm really shocked that the pattern doesn't show the women with lovely gloves on, but I do like that hat.

    The wedding ring collar is beautiful, and I must say that although I'm not a fur person, the illustration is beautiful with the leopard trim. These days, it would have to be faux, since the big cats have been illegal to sell since the early 70s. So I'm sticking to View 1, in red wool and jeweled buttons -- and a fabulous hat.

    From, most likely, 1962 (pattern is not dated)