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.