Sunday, January 18, 2009

1935 -- Scandal and Fashion

1935 was an interesting year for Miss America History. Henrietta Leaver, Miss Pennsylvania, won the contest. She had dropped out of high school in the lingering Depression years, in order to get a job in the local five and dime. After winning the Miss Pittsburgh contest, she travelled to Atlantic City, with her chaperone, of course, only to find that the contest had added a talent portion to the contest -- something they'd never done before. Nonetheless, Miss Leaver went on to win the contest.

A month later, a sculptor for whom she had posed unveiled a new sculpture he had done of her. Nude. Needless to say, this was potentially a huge scandal, so Miss America headed for the other coast until the publicity died down. It's hard to remember a day when celebrities weren't chased to the local Walmart to follow their every move, but Miss Leaver was able to evade the papparazzi and lived as a former Miss America to the ripe age of 77.

I thought I'd show you a photo of the beautiful Miss Leaver, wearing her crown and ermine, sitting on her throne in (most likely) Atlantic City. I think she's gorgeous, and I definitely want her shoes.


Best picture in 1935 was Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable in "It Happened One Night." Miss Colbert's wardrobe is fabulous, so I thought I'd show you one of her outfits, as well as a page from an Excella catalog, offered soon at the Vintage Fashion Library. It's everything that the 30s is memorable for: classic elegance, with a look that is perfect for someone who's long and lean.

Excella was known for beautifully elegant styles that much remind me of the Vogue fashions of the day. Alas, Excella was bought out by Simplicity in 1936, meaning that the patterns are relatively scarce now, as they were only in business for fourteen years. Thankfully, we have beauties like this one to look at. I particularly love the unusual neckline on the black dress. Catalog available soon at The Vintage Fashion Library.