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 ago...no "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.