Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Dress

Not that I'm a fan, but Nicole Ritchie got married last weekend and, from what I read, was inspired to create a wedding dress based on Princess Grace of Monaco's iconic dress. She was inspired by a photo of the prince and princess kneeling at their wedding (probably the photo below) and who can blame her? I can't find a good photo of the waistline of Nicole's dress, but it has the same cummerbund effect as Princess Grace's, which inspired a cadre of brides to adapt it into their own wedding. And now, 50 years later, it's showing up again.

I think that's the definition of icon, don't you?

Not so much a fan of the skirt of Nicole's dress, left, but apparently she had three different ones for the wedding, and changed to a sheath dress for the reception. This dress is beautiful, but I wouldn't get two feet without snagging the tulle and ripping it to shreds.

Seeing the other photos helped me see the commonalities better than the one photo I'm sharing here, but I'm going to share some photos of Princess Grace too, because she was gorgeous.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hoosier Pride....and some elves too.

Our First Lady wears vintage! And from an Indiana designer, no less. Be still my heart.

This is Mrs. Obama in a vintage 50s Norman Norell dress that is just beautiful. Norman Norell was from Noblesville, Indiana, 30 minutes from where I live, so it's really special to see her in this lovely garment -- and she looks wonderful. I'd love to see the back.

If indeed the label says Norell, it is probably from about 1958, since pre-1958, Norell's garments carried the Traina-Norell label. Mr. Norell's signature garment was a chemise, which makes this lovely piece of eveningwear all the more special. Mrs. Obama is one lucky lady!

Click on the image to see all the photos, and be sure to pay attention to the little elves faces. Some of them just crack me up. And look how cute the First Children look, too. This is one very nice looking family!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Late Victorian Loveliness

This photo, dated 1894, is a perfect example of period dress. The hair of the 1890s tended to be tightly curled with a heavy metal curling iron that may have been heated over an open flame or an oil lamp. The resulting heat was hard to control, and the hair usually suffered damage from the heat. This came in handy as the Gibson Girl era started, when the hair was pulled into an updo that sat under a gigantic hat. Camouflage dress, at its finest!

This blouse shows the classic leg-0-mutton sleeves that were a benchmark of fashion in the 1890s. These sleeves began to be seen in 1893, and grew to enormous proportions. This blouse is a little unusual with its diagonal details -- most blouses of the era had horizontal trims that only accented the huge shoulders more.

Undergarments still included corsets at this time, but bustles were gone by now. The pigeon shaped S bodice wasn't seen yet, so the effect was an hourglass shape that was created by the fairly tight corset and the A line skirt. I think it's really pretty.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pure romance

I love Laura Ashley. She started her business in 1953, at her kitchen table. She decided to start making quilts, but couldn't find fabric she liked, so what did she do? Invested $15 to buy some supplies, and turned it into a multi-million dollar business.

Ya gotta love it.

Her prints tend towards florals and toiles, which is perfect for the English cottage look I favor. Her clothing tends to be sweet and romantic, just like this dress pattern from 1975. I see a very real Scarlet O'Hara influence, and wonder if it really is Gone With The Wind inspired, with 1975 being the 35th anniversary of the movie.

Despite her love of ruffles and romance, Laura Ashley didn't like waste. She was probably very early on the green scene when she realized that fabric remnants were being burned, and turned the burning into a reward by offering the fabric remnants for sale - thus very nearly creating World War III whilst customers fought for the fabric. All that, from a $15 investment. Amazing.

The Emperor's New Hat

Did you know that the first hat that Lilly Dache sold actually didn't even exist at the time of the sale? She had just bought the shop she worked in, and had very little capital to work with. There were only two window weary hats in the entire shop, and both were battle weary from the front window's sun. The little shop that rarely saw visitors suddenly had a customer come in who was insistent upon buying, of all things, a hat. Lilly had none to show her.

She quickly ran to the back room and brought back her own hat - the one she had worn to work that day. She proceeded to mesmerize the customer with how that particular hat would not flatter the lines of her face, and how she would create a beautiful custom hat that would be such a creation as to leave her breathless. Lilly's partner stood there watching, probably scared to death that the would-be customer would catch on.

She didn't. She ordered the hat, sight unseen. The next day, after a quick trip to the fashion district for supplies, Lilly Dache had her first customer, starting her way to being the milliner to stars such as Loretta Young, Marlena Dietrich, and many more.

That lady had some moxie!

Portrait of Lilly Dache, 1948.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bates without the hotel

I was reading the biography of John Bates at Vintage-A-Peel today, and admiring the beautiful dress of his she has for sale. Be sure to click and look at it, because it's a fabulous example of early-mid 60s fashion.

I love that era, because the lines are clean, and somewhere between the full, full skirts of the 50s and early 60s, and before the crack-tastic later 60s. So I went wandering around the web for no good reason, and what should I come across but this photo of yet another John Bates dress, from 1965. The dress is described as "
In heavy-ribbed all-cotton white, it is a simple shift with a floral collar. The unusual stockings are looped with roses and bows," and unusual is surely what I'd call them!

They look like they are perhaps spats, or not even stockings at all, but an extension from the shoe, and if you look at her left leg, they look like thigh highs, though I can't be sure. I know that for all of my unwavering love of bows, I wouldn't want to wear these. They a) seem like they'd be VERY uncomfortable and b) look as though I've put my shoe through them and destroyed them (something that I can do on my own). I wonder what this outfit looks like from the front?

And I do believe that this outfit fairly DEMANDS a proper hat, preferably something rectangular, with a knot on the top. Maybe in a stripe or geometric, though it would depend upon what the outfit looks like from the front. I'm picturing this in pure white, which is hard to carry off, so I'll think of it in baby blue instead.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The most beautiful woman on the planet.

I have always loved Carmen Dell’Orefice. She is a timeless beauty who came from the era of Dovima, my one true modelling love. Carmen has thumbed her nose at the idea of getting old and not having work, and continues to work, even at the age of 78. First, enjoy the overview of her amazing career. Next, enjoy her walking in Guo Pei's show in Beijing -- realizing that the walk took two escorts to hold the weight of the dress, and two more to push the train along. She looks AMAZING, even today. (Sorry for the brief commercial at the beginning of the Guo Pei video, but it's short, and the show is WELL worth watching.)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lounging around

I've been sick all week with a cold that turned into bronchitis, compliments of my co-workers. I stayed in bed all day Wednesday, sleeping till 3:15 pm, only getting up so I could go pick up my son from school. It confused the heck out of our dogs, but boy, did that feel good!

I typically sleep in soft cotton jammies or a nightshirt, but if you get sick, go straight to bed and sleep for the day, hopefully in something like these jammies. I think they will make you feel better pretty darned quickly

I'll take the cap sleeve version, please. And wear them with a lovely pair of Daniel Green boudoir slippers.

Circa 1930s, likely around 1936.

(Click the link to buy the pattern.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

And while we're talking about hats.........

Enjoy this millinery show from 1965. These hats cover the gamut from mod to almost burka-like.

Lucky me!

I was wandering around today, killing time till I had to pick up our son, so I stopped in Half Price books. In the case of collectible books, I found Lilly Dache's book, "Talking Through My Hats." It's a first edition. And it was half price.

A half price book, at Half Price books. Does that make it a quarter price book?

No worries -- I snapped that little tome up quicker than you can say "hat," and now I can't wait to read it. I'm on the lookout for Ms. Dache's Glamour Book, and life might just be complete.

Lilly Dache hat, above, from 1958.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Oh MY.

I want this coat. Badly. In MANY colors. Pure Lucy. Very flattering. Wearable for every shape. I will obey the bracelet length sleeve style and wear gorgeous gloves with it.

Want. NOW.

From 1952.
Click to buy from my friend Tina, at What-I-Found. Then make it for me, please. In red, cream, slate blue, and houndstooth. I'll supply the gloves.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Little Alliteration

When you look at vintage clothing, you see a lot of alliterative names. I'm not sure why, but the history of mid century fashion is full of names like Toni Todd, Vicki Vaughn (photo, left, click to buy), pattern companies like Barbara Bell, Anne Adams, and Marian Martin. What's up with that? I'm not sure. Maybe they were just catchy, but you don't see that much anymore.

'Splain it to me Lucy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Night at the Opera

Enjoy this Balenciaga fashion show -- the first part is 1965, the second part is 1952.

It's funny how so few of these styles feature sleeves. Balenciaga loved sleeves, and frequently started with the sleeve as his inspiration. Most of these styles are sleeveless, which I find fascinating. Everything is, of course, very tasteful, since Balenciaga had no tolerance for a) vulgarity and b) bad taste.

How much tulle do you suppose that 1952 gown took?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

70s knitwear fabulosity

From 1971. LOVE the 20s inspired cloche. The sweater reminds me of my oldest sister, who was in high school in this time frame. I was pretty sure she was the coolest thing ever. She never would've worn the knickers though -- you have to be tall to carry that off. And what shoes would she have had on with this outfit?

Hat by Frank Olive, New York
Slacks by Jaeger
Sweater is from a knitwear pattern from Coats and Clark.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Again with the pretty.

I don't know who the designer is, but isn't that dress amazing? From August, 1950 Magazine magazine.
And yeah......we know what the man is thinking.

Gorgeous a la Mode

I came across this ad in a Good Housekeeping ad from 1946. It's post-World War II, and happy days were here again in fashion.

To carry this dress off, you'd need some sturdy foundation garments, but isn't it beautiful? I find it interesting that she's kind of playing with the hip swag -- or is that something else? Most times, hip swags are on the left, but that's what it looks like to me, and the style would fit the era.

Look in the background -- there are people dancing in full length ball gowns. I can't decide if she's at the dance, and dressed completely differently than anyone (the 50s style ball gowns weren't in vogue yet), or if she's at the ballet, because the gowns are too long for that. You tell me, because I can't figure it out. Or maybe they're just going for the photograph's setting, which is Le Theatre de la Mode. That's quite possible, but I catch a different vibe. Then again, I wasn't around in 1946, to see what a huge deal Le Theatre de la Mode was. The dress that is the focal point here is from Balmain. Photographed in Le Theatre de la Mode, presented by American Relief for France. Jewels by Cartier.

In either event, what do you think the ad is for? I was's an ad for Helena Rubinstein's Command Performance makeup line -- and the dress is listed as being from Balmain's Command Performance collection. Nothing like the makeup ads of today, where the face is front and center. Me? I'd rather look at gorgeous clothes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Converse-ation

There is no photo tonight, because I am sad. I was sent to look at an interesting post here, regarding classic college fashions. Gotta say, I agree with the majority of it, though I'd argue that argyle isn't quite back yet -- but then again, has it ever gone completely away? I think not. Messenger bags are as classic as Indiana Jones, and boyfriend blazers are, thankfully, making a resurgence. We haven't seen them around regularly since the 70s. Interesting list that made me think.

The one thing on the list that made me sad was Converse. I met my husband in early November, 1985. For Christmas that year, I bought him a pair of leather high-top Converse All Stars which, according to him, cemented the fact that he intended to marry me. Apparently, the $40 I spent on those shoes was a big deal, and he kept them for years.

I've searched for a pair of them for years, in hopes of surprising him at Christmas, and have NEVER found another pair like them. White and blue, high top, leather, and a strap across the top. I guess they were QUITE the deal at the Y, and now I know why, because they are simply not to be found. If I could find a pair in size 11, I'd be over the moon. And I don't think I'm alone -- read this for another lover of vintage Converse's take on the big deal, back in the day.

Chucks are back now, but take me back to the old days, and help a girl out. Anyone know where I could find 'em? And what else would you add to the list of college fashions that will never go out of style?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

RIP to everyone's favorite TV mom

Barbara Billingsley died this morning. She was the quintessential TV mom, with her shirtwaist dresses, pumps and pearls, and countless kids grew up listening to her wisdom.

Here she is in a TV guide spread from 1961. Imagine doing your vacuuming in that jumpsuit on the left.

Barbara Billingsley Mortensen, homemaker both on and off television, likes to dress up to her role. To the housewife whose slacks become her uniform Barbara offers this advice: "There are occasions when a homemaker feels and looks better if she's dress up. No matter how hectic things get, try to keep yourself up. We try on Leave It To Beaver - June Cleaver always changes her dress to look fresh when the children come home from school. "A woman managing a home has a career, just as an office worker does. And an attractive career girl give her job more stature."

At right [top right photo], Barbara models an attractive outfit for marketing. The simple sleeveless sheath is of checked woven cotton with drip-dry finish. The dress has a square neckline, a pleat in the back of the skirt. Orlon acrylic sweater is appliqu├ęd in dress material. By Lipson Co. $16.

Dress of Dacron polyester [middle right photo] has button detail and easy pleats falling from the new dropped waistline. by Sue Brett. $18.

Lawn jumpsuit [left photo] $19 is ideal for housework; with long skirt ($11), it becomes a glamorous dinner or evening-at-home outfit. Shoulder are elasticized. by Victor Most. [Bottom right photo] Basic sheath goes from morning to night. Patent leather belt is trimmed with dress material. By Mr. Bert, $13.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Baby, it's cold outside.

Fall is here, so the coats will be coming out soon. I love the coats from the 50s and 60s. This one is from 1963, so the fullness of Lucy's coats is going away, replaced with clean lines. These collarless coats were great for showing off jewelry, but many of them could be dressed up with a detachable fur collar and cuffs as well.

The buttons were usually "couture," meaning that they were special -- carved, rhinestone encrusted, woven, or any number of other embellishments. I once was browsing around the thrift store, thinking of buying a great 60s car coat I'd seen. I must've thought too long, because when I went back a few minutes later, the coat was there but beautiful blue rhinestone buttons had been rent from the front of the coat. I felt like going over and grabbing the mike at the register, demanding for the culprit to come to register #1 and turn themselves in!

One thing you have to be careful of when purchasing a coat from this era is the sleeve length. Just like in the photos, gloves were usually worn, so it's not unusual for these coats to be 3/4 length instead of full length. If you are buying online ASK how long the sleeves are, and ask how the seller measured them, or you could be in for a disappointment.

This one is a Prominent Designer pattern, A868 if you're interested, by none other than the genius Estevez. I don't remember seeing anything he's done in outerwear before -- he generally designed great cocktail dresses and the like. I'd make this one in a beautiful aubergine, and wear gray gloves. And a hat.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What Rachel Zoe could learn from 1936

This is just flat out elegant day-wear styling without looking like a crackhead like Rachel Zoe does these days. Love the hat and gloves. And of course the Marlene eyebrows.

Friday, October 1, 2010

1951 Bow Ties and Dovima

Photos a little grainy, but I'm pretty sure this is Dovima, in a vintage Bronzini ad.

"A new idea in a man's bow tie....where the knot falls, the scale of the pattern is reduced, allowing the knot to show not a fragment but ALL the pattern."

Click the photo to purchase the ad on ebay.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Obi Wow Can I Have-y?

Here's a picture straight out of Life Magazine, October 17, 1967. It's Naomi Sims, taking a stroll down the street in a cool 60s outfit that says relaxed. Gone are the foundation garments of the earlier 60s, and the wild mod is starting to relax into hippiness - hence the looser fit. I particularly love the obi belt.

The purse would fit right into today. The shoes? Who knows -- I can't see them, but it sure looks like they are sensible. I'm sure they're not.

The plum color would fit into a fall wardrobe perfectly, and if I had that set, I'd be wearing the top as a mini dress, too. I love clothes that can multi-task.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shoe Candy from 1937

From a Swedish sewing pattern catalog, March 1947.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Then and now

I love it when the fashion gods converge and hand us a gift. Offered here: a vintage 1956 Pat Premo ad, featuring the amazing Suzy Parker. Absolutely gorgeous rendition of 1956 fashion, yes? Pat Premo dresses are always cute, and rather overlooked today. I've never seen a Pat Premo dress that I didn't love. Suzy Parker is just the icing on the cake in the ad for me, since she's second only to Dovima in my book, so this ad is like the perfect storm.

Then take a look at this: the same dress, featured on Etsy, by my friend Julie of Damn Good Vintage, minus Suzy Parker, but no less drop dead sexy, yes? And Julie's right, Pat Premo loved horizontal stripes. Can you imagine this making it to market today, in a time when everyone is so afraid of them? She was one brave woman!

Don't you love it when this kind of thing happens? It's like years past meeting today, and showing us how fashion can be so indicative of the time in which it's made, but at the same time how vintage clothing is still relevant today.

The pairing just makes me smile.


This pattern is from 1953. The thing I find interesting about it is that it says on the cover that "this design is illustrated in quilted fabric." Who knew?

I've never seen a quilted fabric dress, especially from that era, so this intrigues me. The back of the envelope lists quilted cottons among the suitable fabrics, but I'm still not quite seeing it. The fabric list is also one of the most varied I've ever seen. Here it is:

  • quilted cottons
  • linen
  • pique
  • cotton broadcloth
  • denim
  • lace
  • gingham
  • percale (great use for leftover sheets, for thrifty sewists)
  • chambray
  • calico
  • dotted Swiss
  • embroidery cotton
  • velveteen
  • corduroy
  • shantung
  • taffeta
  • crepe
That's the kind of fabric list that goes from soup to nuts, yes? What do you think? Ever seen a quilted cotton dress like this?

Monday, September 6, 2010


A friend point this store out to me recently. It's a great store where you can find fabrics with wonderful vintage themes. You can search by color, so if you are a sucker for pink (like me) or a fanatic for red (again, like me), you'll find something pretty easily.

Things like this wonderful deco inspired print:

and this fun little button print:

and this cherry blossom inspired print:

and this -- reminds me of picking Granny Smith apples at the orchard in September:

Click on the Aunt Bea's logo up top to shop.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Do you watch Mad Men? Yes? Good. No? You are hereby shunned, and are not to return to The Vintage Fashion Librarian until you have watched at least one season of what is probably the best show on TV right now.

I'll admit, I just started watching it midway through the last season, but do as I say, not as I do, and go watch it for the vintage eye candy. The clothing is to die for.

And this pattern from 1959, alas, sold to someone in New Orleans just today, is pure Joan. Joan loves her some fitted sheaths with some neckline interest, and View A has Joan written all over it. View B not so much, but only because the bow is in the front. Remember the Christmas party where Roger told Joan he loved the red dress with the bow in back, because it was like she was a present? Well, View B is that dress, if the bow was in back.

And you know Joan has a good thing rockin' when my my teenaged son says of her, "now that is a woman." And he's right.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Restoration

I don't know if you've seen this article or not, but it's worth a read. Does the dress to the left look familiar? Hint: It's an iconic part of movie history. Yep, it's Scarlett O'Hara's drapery dress. And it's falling apart.

The University of Texas is sponsoring a restoration project on five of Scarlett O'Hara's costumes for the movie, to restore the fading, failed seams, and other evidence of age. Keep in mind - movie costumes aren't made like normal clothing, because it really had to only last for the duration of the filming. My beloved Atonement dress had several copies made, because the fabric was so delicate that it kept ripping. The only solution was to make a bunch of dresses, and just trade off when one got snagged.

I suspect that there was only one of each of Scarlett's dresses created, and it would be a shame to watch these legendary textiles be lost to the years. I have decided to do my part to help, and am having a sale at the Vintage Fashion Library site: use coupon code SCARLETT and receive 15% off till the end of August. $1 of your purchase will be donated to the restoration project, and I'll even match the proceeds. As God as my witness, there may never be a sale like this again!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rear Window Inspired

One of the more iconic suits of movie history was worn by Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 movie "Rear Window." A beautiful shade of celadon green, it was pure Grace Kelly.

And then she took off her jacket, revealing a completely surprising sexy halter top. Me-YOW!

So when I saw this pattern on ebay, you can probably imagine why I thought of Rear Window. Granted, it's not the same halter top (I'd love to find a pattern for the one in the movie), but it's the same surprise halter top. Add to that the interesting fact that this pattern is dated 1950 -- four years before "Rear Window." I'd like a combination of these suits, with Ms. Kelly's top and the Vogue jacket, please.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Swimsuits, 1950

Just because I think they're pretty. Sadly, I don't know who designed them, but they're from Pageant Magazine, August, 1950. The red is my favorite (of course):

The models are, clockwise from the bottom: Shirlee Teggee, Alice Kelley, Tracy Marsham, Barbara Green, and Dee Turnell. Miss Tegge is modelling the red swimsuit at the top.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Something old and something new.

My husband's parents were married in 1957, after meeting by complete happenstance. They were married in a church that's a mile or so from where we live now, and I think of that every time I drive by there. She wore a beautiful ballet length dress, as was the style that year. Isn't it beautiful?

Here's a closeup of the bodice. I love the collar.

The post-wedding photo. Don't they look amazing?

And for those of you who look at vintage clothing as just being "old clothes," here's how you can work vintage the right way. Dan's sister wore her mom's 1957 wedding dress at her own wedding, in 1985. Beautiful, yes? I think so.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Not your ordinary bride.

What does it take to make a wedding dress for a future queen? Well, if you are the future Queen Elizabeth II, it took Norman Hartnell. And he designed dresses for just about every woman who had a part in the 1947 wedding, too.

He designed the dress in less than three months, finding his inspiration in a Botticelli painting. He aspired to create a pearly garden, going so far as to send his manager to the U.S for the pearls. When returning to his homeland, customs asked if he had anything to declare. Imagine being there when he raised his collar, "bent forward mysteriously and answered in a lowered tone: 'Yes, ten thousand pearls, for the wedding dress of Princess Elizabeth.'" I'd imagine the customs agent was taken somewhat aback whilst collecting duty on them.

And then there was the near scandal of the worms. The entire dress, almost came into question at one point. Mr. Hartnell wasn't able to use silk from the Queen's choice of silk, but when he chose another source, questions arose as to the origins of the silkworms. An outcry arose when some fine citizens said that the silkworms were (gasp) Italian, or even worse, Japanese. Imagine the scandal in post WWII England, with the thought of this. A genealogy of the worms ensued, at which point it was ascertained that they were, indeed, Chinese worms, and were thus found to be acceptable. The monarchy was saved.

Mr Hartnell also designed the bridesmaids' dresses, cutting them out on the floor of his workshop, as well as the dress for Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother). They covered the windows of the workshop, first with whitewash, then with muslin, to try to keep anyone from seeing the design and copying it before the wedding.

On the day of the wedding, the Princess' bouquet briefly went missing, but in the end, the wedding took place, and history was made. Want to see more photos of the wedding trousseau? Click here. For other royal wedding eye candy from years past, click here.

Next? The coronation dress.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Variations on the McCall's 8332

Perhaps you remember me mentioning the McCall's 8332 pattern, in a style created by Oleg Cassini for Jacqueline Kennedy, but without the attribution? It's adorable, and difficult to find (though I have one in my store, hint hint).

Today, my dear compadre Tina, from What-I-Found Sewing Patterns, sent me an early birthday present. (Go buy something from her. Now. She is the best!) I arrived home to an unexpected package, and literally screamed in delight when I opened it -- a 1967 Spadea pattern catalog, full of Ceil Chapman, Jo Copeland, Suzy Perette, Duchess of Windsor, and more designers. It's a wonderful thing to behold.

And so while I was thumbing through it, I came across two patterns that reminded me of said McCall's 8332. These are from 1967, which adds to the interesting question of dates:

First, by Herbert Sondheim:

And second, by Capucci:

Both are a bit of "business in the front, party in the back," aren't they? And cute, cute, cute, yes?