Thursday, January 28, 2010

A hidden icon in a swimsuit

Yesterday's not-Morgan-Fairchild photo sent me on a quest, looking for other photos of that model, to see who she was. And who did I come across, but Lauren Hutton, in a babe-a-licious daisy bikini. Of course, you can't see her gap toothed trademark, but it's her, nonetheless. And the more I got reading about her, the more I found I love her.

She started out as Mary Laurence Hutton, working as a Playboy bunny. Remember the 60s? What were the common names? Linda, Debbie, and Mary were, which meant that there were so many Mary Playboy bunnies, she was told to choose another name, so she chose part of her middle name, inspired by Ms. Bacall, she chose Lauren. It was just a hop from Playboy's bunny costume to a floral bikini in 1967.

Lauren made the cover of Vogue 25 times, and is still working now, with her most recent appearance as a judge on Project Runway. I never realized that she was the original "Charlie" perfume girl, either. Not bad for a 5'6 1/2" girl from Charleston with a gap toothed smile.

But I think it's her idea about aging that I like the best. In these days of Botox and Nip/Tuck, many women are terrified of showing their age, much less getting older, period. But Ms. Hutton says "We have to be able to grow up. Our wrinkles are our medals of the passage of life. They are what we have been through and who we want to be. I don't think I will ever cut my face, because once I cut it, I'll never know where I've been."

I just love that.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ding Dong Sleeves

Well this post is going to be all over the place, so put your seat belts on -- you've been warned.

Whilst looking for something interesting to chat about, my eye fell on this near circus-like shot, from a 1967 Simplicity pattern catalog. The colors and prints from the late 1960s are like no other, and probably will never be repeated, because nothing brings on a good print like the hallucinogens so common in the period. I mean seriously -- look at all of the colors here. The one on the left is pure Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, but what really caught my eye was the bell sleeve top at the bottom.

I love how this top photographed: the perfectly match patterns really sell it, but those sleeves are so cool. They would work for anyone, because the heroin chic models of today could cover up their scary stick-arms, and those of us who don't like showing our arms would be right at home. The swoop of color across the bust could help out a smaller bustline too, so this top works on a variety of levels. Of course, the photo is kind of killed for me by the random pointed toe on the bottom right. It belongs to bell sleeve girl, but it's poking out from caftan girl like she just landed on the Wicked Witch of the West.

The more I looked at the bell sleeve top, the more I wondered, "who does this model remind me of?" It finally came to me. She reminds me of Morgan Fairchild, the blonde vixen of the 70s and 80s, and Chandler Bing's mom from Friends. I kept staring at her, thinking that maybe it was her, but not being able to envision her as a brunette. Thinking of Morgan Fairchild brought me back to her days on Search For Tomorrow, which my mom watched (among several others) back in the day. Sadly, soaps are going out of style nowadays, but they sure do evoke memories for those of us whose moms sat glued to the TV for an hour or two at a time. The ladies of our moms' "stories" were always perfectly coiffed, impeccably dressed, and impossibly beautiful. I seriously thought that Morgan Fairchild was close to 6 feet tall, and was shocked when I found out she was a mere 5 foot 4 inches. These women were mysterious and perfect, even if they were horrible characters on the show, and it's still fun for me to spot someone from the soaps on a TV commercial today. This is probably why the model fascinated me almost as much as those bell sleeves.

It took me a while to decide that, regardless of her Cleopatra wannabe phase, I don't think this is Miss Fairchild, as I found another photo of, I believe, this model on another page of the magazine, and she definitely does not resemble her in that one. But tomorrow, I will show you who I did find. I think.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wherein I become a minor internet celebrity

Well, not exactly, but I had to say that, because my oldest told me a couple of years ago that he was a minor internet celebrity. Of course, it came to pass that I found out it was true, and not for bad reasons, so I guess I can't complain. I've been trying to catch up with him ever since, he'd say, and maybe now the day has come: I won a little award!

The lovely Nancy at Waiter Waiter Percolator has bestowed upon me the Kreativ Blogger award, along with a wonderful commentary about The Vintage Fashion Librarian. I guess now I have something to live up to, don't I? Thanks, Nancy, and what a great blog title you have!

And so it is, in keeping to the spirit of the award, that I sow what I've reaped.

Here are the Kreativ Blogger Award rules:
  1. Copy/paste the Kreativ Blogger Award picture onto your blog
  2. Thank the person who awarded it to you and post a link to her/his blog
  3. Write 7 things about yourself we might not know
  4. Choose 7 other bloggers to award
  5. Link to them
  6. Notify your 7 bloggers of their award
Seven Things You May Not Know About Me:

1. I come from a long line of writers, so writing is not optional for me. It's genetic. My crowning achievement was having a letter published in Ann Landers' column, in response to a grandfather's complaint at not having free reign to film anything he wanted, in his daughter's delivery room. No one thought it would be printed, but it was.
2. I'm a nurse in "real life," hence the Ann Landers rant. I've worked in ICU, Special Care Nursery, and for ten years in phone triage, answering medical questions coming in from people who are not afraid to ask anything. ANYTHING.
3. I homeschooled my three kids for twelve years, and lived to tell the tale. 'Nuff said?
4. My husband and I had to change the location and time of our wedding the night before it took place. We feared the need to cancel our honeymoon when our passports were lost in the mail two weeks before the wedding. Needless to say, we kiss our rings frequently.
5. I've lived in the same house for sixteen years -- longer than anyone in my family has ever lived in one place, and only a few blocks from the hospital where my husband was born. I'll likely never move, but I love my 1930's house with the round door, so it's all good.
6. I love the color red. When we pulled out our winter clothing this year, I realized that about 80% of my clothing is some shade of red. I promptly went out and bought a red wool coat. Even my hair is red.
7. I sell patterns. I have thousands. And I don't sew. I did do a lot of needlework and handwork before tendonitis took over. I made baby quilts for most of my nieces and nephews, a wedding sampler for my husband's best friend, a grandmother's sampler for hubby's grandma (complete with proper hair color, Purdue and IU hats, and our dog), and stockings for our kids. But I do not sew.

My 7 Kreativ Bloggers Nominees:
1. Real-Vintage, by my girl Ang, of Dorothea's Closet. She has the most fabulous vintage, and shows how it can work without becoming too costumey. She's the bomb!
2. What-I-Found. Tina is an interesting friend 'o mine. A retired nurse, she and her hubby hit the road, literally, and travel the country in their RV. She rolls down the road, selling patterns as she goes. And her blog is a wonderful montage of vintage ads and photos. It's a quick dose of vintage every day.
Vintage Goddess -- Julie is a sharp mix of vintage style and today's opinion. She ain't afraid to say it like it is, but she's gonna look good doing it.
4. The Mysterious Life of the Metropolitan Housewife I want to be her. Period.
5. Veronica Darling
-- there's not way that I can't love someone who has such wonderful taste in vintage sewing patterns.
6. Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing -- I love her practical explanations, and her recommendations (I really WANTED to win that MAC Lipstick, Gertie!). Her trip through Vogue's Sewing Book is a great read. Her current vintage undergarment obsession is something to ponder.
7. Wearing History -- She is who I would be, if I sewed. I can't wait to see her completed Regency Ball Gown. I am in awe of her 1) skills and 2) taste. She's awesome.

I bow to your greatness, ladies. I can only aspire to write half as interesting as you!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Daniel Green was a man (maybe)

There's nothing as frou frou girl as a great pair of boudoir slippers, and Daniel Green is right up there, as far as style is concerned. I've come across a few pair over the course of time. They are always a beautiful thing to behold, and I generally have passed them along to my girl Ang, of Dorothea's Closet. She's a big collector, and for good reason. They are amazing!

I've seen them in lots of colors of the rainbow, but look at these. The pink ones are called Tux, in blossom pink, cherry, heaven blue, lime, royal blue, wine, and black rayon satin -- for only $5.50, in 1946.

The green (lime) ones are Cara, in blossom pink, cherry, lime, heaven blue, wine, and black rayon satin, for "around" $5.00. (What DOES that "around" mean, anyway? Is it today's equivalent of "price upon request?" I don't know.)

At the bottom, there is Loll, Virgin Wool Dee-Gee felt in blossom pink, cherry, heaven blue wine and black, for "around" $5.00.

Adding to the interest of the add is the lovely lady, stage left, in her post WWII rationing gown, with yards and yards of fabric.

I'll take the top pair, because I'm a sucker for bows, in pink. And the bottom pair in cherry, as shown -- and I'm hoping the edge of the vamp is satin, because that's how I'd like it, please.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Gotta Whole Lotta Dress

What challenges the Walkaway dress pattern created, this one solves. There's a whole lotta dress going on here, as well as a pattern conundrum that I wish someone could explain.

The Walkaway dress is a casual dress that is just adorable, as well as being easy to make. It has some issues with fit, and can be very frustratingly misleading -- it's easy to make, not as easy to wear. But look at this one. It's not just a casual dress -- it offers a more glam one shoulder sex-bomb option, as well as the more casual shoulder tie sundress option (gotta love that contrasting bodice in Style A). And then look at that housewife on crack Style C. Can't figure out what that's really supposed to be, but I think it's a hint of glamour, with a skirt you can dry dishes with.

I think that the way this bodice is constructed means that it would hang better, as well as being more flattering. And that's not just your typical Wilma one shoulder dress -- it's got as much interest going on in the skirt as it does in the bodice, so it's not just screaming HEY LOOK AT ME, I HAVE A BARE SHOULDER. It's more whispering it, with a wink. It's kind of the perfect balance of the early 50s one shoulder craze meeting the circle skirt of the late 50s. Fabulous, yes?

This pattern came out in 1953, the year after the Walkaway, and I can see some of the influence here. Sure, it's not as easy a pattern as the Walkaway, but it's definitely got more options, while still keeping the vibe. The one thing I'd like someone to 'splain to me is why it's numbered 9393A. What is that A about? I don't think I've ever seen a pattern of this era with a letter in it, so I'm not sure if this is a limited edition of some kind, or why it's not just plain ole 9393. Want to 'splain that to me? And make me a copy of Style A, in red and white, please.

Click the image or here to purchase.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Walk Away Walk Away.......I Will Follow

I feel like a broken record when I talk about this pattern, because so much has been written about it, but there is a method to my madness. You'll find out tomorrow what I'm talking about.

This is the so called Walkaway dress was Butterick 6015 which was the best selling pattern in history. At one point, Butterick shut down production on all other patterns, just to keep up with the manufacture of it. It was supposed to be easy enough to sew in the morning, and walk away in in the afternoon. With as many as were sold, it's amazing that it's a bit difficult to find the original pattern nowadays. Butterick reissued it as part of their Retro line a few years ago, so if you don't get sassy and scream that you need the original, you can not only have it, but have it in sizes for today's curvier girls.

I've always wondered if the Walkaway owed some of its popularity to Claire McCardell, as I see her vibe here. There's just something that rings true here -- the simplicity of the Popover dress, and Ms. McCardell's sporty but chic vibe.

The problem is that the Walkaway isn't always as friendly to wear, with many people saying that the armholes aren't cut correctly, that it hangs wrong in back, that the bodice bunches up, and any number of other complaints. It'll take modifications to make it work. You can't really wear a crinoline under it either, because of the construction, and it's a casual dress, but would require proper foundations to get the silhouette right. That's a lotta work on a dress that's supposed to be easy! Adorable dress, but I've heard so much about it that I don't know that I'd make it either. How do you fix it? I'll show you tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On a more serious note..........

We were in Haiti last month, albeit briefly. To think that some of the people we met may now be buried under rubble or worse is sickening to me. Yesterday's news of the earthquake has spurred us to action. Hubby is actively looking into travelling to Port au Prince with a medical team, as he's a nurse (like me). He's travelled to Mexico every year for the past ten years, and to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but this is different, and he needs your prayers and good thoughts.

Meantime, the Vintage Fashion Library will be making a $5 donation to Oxfam for every purchase made from the store in the next 24 hours. Combined with coupon code SNOWBALL that we already posted to our mailing list earlier this week, it's a way to get something gorgeous while helping out on a good cause.

Feel free to Tweet, post on your Facebook, and let your friends know. And if you are a vintage or pattern seller and want to join the cause, comment below. The people of Haiti are in desperate need -- sources say that all water sources in Port au Prince have been destroyed. Imagine being in 80 degree heat with no shelter or water. Shop. Donate. Light a Candle. Pray. Send Positive Energy. Help.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Norman Hartnell was a British designer who worked like a dog and ended up dressing a queen. He made his way through good old fashioned work, starting out by working for other designers like Lucile, one of the best known designers of that time period. Soon after, Lucile published some designs that looked awfully familiar: they were his. Mr Hartnell ended up successfully suing her for stealing his work. That was in the early 20s.

Mr Hartnell opened his couture house in 1934, after years of pinching pennies building the business. His sister managed the business, which was built on pretty day dresses made for ladies who lunch, with a smattering of his gorgeous beaded dresses. His couture house was built with much thought to not just design, but to money, as he and his sister made one frugal team. Some paint and a few chandeliers later, he was ready for his first show in the new house.

Keep in mind, couture houses' shows were a huge deal that would make or break a house. The great publicists of fashion were present at each one, and the schedule in Paris was set in stone -- if you got sick, you missed it. It was a one shot deal. Yes, Mr Hartnell was in London, but this was still a do-or-die deal for him, and he was nervous until it got underway. That lasted all but a few seconds, when suddenly the lights went out, throwing the crowd into darkness.

A short panic ensued, but the show was finished in a rather odd way: the models brought the dresses to the publicists by carrying them in their arms, instead of wearing them. Can you imagine Fashion Week at Bryant Park taking place with no trademark stomps, and instead the heroin chic models thrusting the dresses under your nose in a half darkened room? Not me. Instead, I can see the mannequins, as they were known in 1934, lovingly carrying out gowns, in all their embroidered and beaded splendor, and gently offering them up for the perusal of the enamored public.

And yes, that's how I see it. It may not have been so romantic as I see it, but we all have choices in life, and I choose romance.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


The 70s were all about Calvin Klein, and what is more Calvin Klein than jeans? If they'd had some forethought, Vogue would've gotten Brook Shields to do the photo shoot for this pattern, but considering she was making something along the lines of $10,000 a day during this time period, and yes, she was about 14.

Brooke, if you remember, was pretty darned controversial, long before Tom Cruise started throwing arrows her way. She was a Pretty Baby, for sure.
But yeah, what most people remember her for is this commercial. And yeah, she was 14. 14. And gorgeous.