Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The rules of engagement

For those of you who are interested, and since June brides of 2010 are almost a thing of the past, here's directions for the girls of 1946, on how to catch their man, from Coronet magazine. Some are still relevant today, and a few are downright scary:

1. Draw a blueprint of the perfect man, then downsize it to your minimum requirements, because the ideal man doesn't exist. Once you have the minimum requirements, stick to them.
2. Find a field of work that attracts a lot of men. Good: architecture and chemists. Bad: salesgirl, teaching, librarian and social work, because these fields don't expose you to enough men. "Airline hostess" also is out -- they usually ended up married, but to hometown sweethearts.
3. If you are taken for granted in your hometown, transplant yourself, particularly to the west, where ratios of men to women are better.
4. Attend social gatherings where men are plentiful: dances or conventions for fraternal, social, or professional groups are great places to meet people, but don't discount church socials, adult education classes ("with all of the GIs returning, at least one should pan out"), political organizations, hobby clubs, and sports groups. Stay away from vacation resorts and cruises, as they are overrun by women.
5. Once you have met the man you want, create opportunities for seeing him often. Invent a party -- ask him if he has plans on Friday, because you are having a party at your place -- then, when he agrees to come, call all your friends and invite them over. Speaking of living spaces - get an apartment with a friend or even by yourself. No meeting your new beau at a ladies rooming house or the like.
6. Don't overdress. He may get the idea that your wardrobe taste is too expensive for his budget -- even if half of what you are wearing belongs to your roommate.
7. Don't try to be the life of the party. If your natural role is to be lively and humorous, he may admire it, in which case, go right ahead. But if you have a need to be in the spotlight, you may find yourself alone. Chances are he wants to be the center of attention, so let him be just that, with no maliciously funny or sarcastic jokes at his expense.
8. Don't talk about your job. He may admire your work, but he doesn't want to hear the details. He has work problems of his own and doesn't need to hear yours.
9. Don't alter your personality to suit his, or you will find yourself strangers when you are married, and have to start all over again.
10. Don't make it too obvious that you are looking for matrimony. Be friendly and casual. "Provide just enough moonlight and roses to produce the proper atmosphere" and guide him in the right direction.
11. Don't let your family close in on him too quickly. He will either balk at what he perceives to be a conspiracy, or grab his hat and run.
12. Once you think you have landed him, don't waste time; set the date and marry quickly, lest you find yourself with a man who hangs around for years but doesn't commit. He may need a direct hint like "Mother wants to announce our engagement. Would Sunday the 18th be all right for the family party?" will take care of that. Or invent or dig up another man to start a competitive rush.

#12 obviously has totally and completely disregarded #10 and 11, but if he doesn't bolt after a statement like that, he's either ready to go to the altar, crazy, or some combination of both, in my own humble opinion. What do you think?

Picture: April, 1946 Mademoisselle magazine.

Monday, June 28, 2010

B is for Bill Blass

Bill Blass was born in my neck 'o the woods, in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He's the most interesting thing to come out of Indiana in a while, though amazingly, Ft. Wayne is home to the second largest genealogy collection in the United States, next to only Salt Lake City. Who'd have thought?

Well, all that history must've done Mr. Blass well, because he was an innovator. After his start with Maurice Rentner, he bought the company and started his eponymous label. He started licensing his name in 1978, eventually having his name on everything from sportswear and dresses, to chocolates and luggage. This, coming from a man who was fired by Calvin Klein for his so-called lack of talent.

Bill Blass was known for eveningwear that was favored by Nancy Reagan and Brooke Astor, but his biggest forte was sportswear. His designs were known for comfortable style. He had a special place in his heart for red, as well, which is yet another reason I love him. Watch this interview with him -- he made me laugh with his point of view, especially when she asks about what seasons there are. "Hot. Cold...everything in between, we make do." Gotta love that. But it is interesting to hear his point of view. Especially in his accent, definitely not from Indiana, but affected after his move to New York in his younger days. Sadly, the cigarette he smokes through the interview is what brought his demise -- he started smoking as a young man, and died from oral cancer at the age of (almost) 80, six days after finishing his memoir, "Bare Blass," now added to my reading list.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

1902 loveliness

1902 was a year of beginnings, including everything from the birth of Marcel Rochas - who inverted the wasp waist five years before Dior's New Look, the birth of Richard Rodgers, who helped create some of the best musicals of all time, to the fact the Teddy Roosevelt initiated the US Presidents to the car. He was the first president to ride in a car, in 1902.

This beauty, a 1902 Pacquin, is simply beautiful. Pacquin loved color and romance, and this example is no exception. By this point in her career, she had been working for a little over ten years, which was midway through her management of the house of Pacquin. Her husband, Isidore, died suddenly in 1907, and she ran the business alone until 1921, when she retired, leaving the direction of the business to trusted partners. Pacquin ultimately purchased the House of Worth's French business arm. Nonetheless, Pacquin's couture house closed in the mid 50s.

Pacquin loved color, many times layering different shades of fabric, then playing with the layers to see how the light would change them. She loved the exotic -- especially the Oriental -- and the bold colors that went along with it. She had a special weakness for fur evening wraps as well. The house of Pacquin had an Argentinian office, and for good reason -- many of her fashions were based on the tango craze. Interestingly, she was also an early proponent of fashion marketing -- fashion shows were not the only way she did it. She sent her models to the races or other social events, wearing her styles, just to get people to look. This likely opened the door to others licensing their name, which was made hugely popular when Dior did it in the 50s.

Though a top designer of her time, Pacquin has been overshadowed by others over the years. Sad, considering her immense popularity at the time, and her unquestionable eye for the beautiful.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A is for Adele Simpson

Adele Simpson got her start in the late 1920s, and started her own label in 1944 -- not a bad accomplishment during wartime! Her business lasted well into the 80s, and was known for simple, stylish, affordable clothing. Her husband designed many of her fabrics, and the ones I've seen have been really wonderful. I had one several years ago that was a silver metallic brocade A line shift that was accented with rhinestones, and man, was it gorgeous. Kind of Jackie O meets NASA. I loved it, because Adele Simpson styles are frequently much more sensible than that. But don't confuse sensible with style -- she had plenty of style.

Sensible might define her daughter, however. Turns out the daughter tried to sell her mother's 105-year old mansion a couple of years ago, to the tune of 28+ million dollars. When the buyer reneged, they asked for their deposit back. Sensible Joan said no, and they forfeited it -- for over $2 million. Now that's some kinda moxey!

As for Adele, enjoy a few of her designs, and if you find one while you're out shopping, be sure to take a look. She really did have nice fashion sense. I like her mindset too. As the New Look started fading in the mid to late 50s, she said
"the fashion-minded woman replaced a `look' with a presentation of her own good looks, counting her personality, her posture, grace and loveliness as vital means of self-expression in dress."

The one and only Dovima, in Adele Simpson:

LOVE the neckline on this one:

From 1953 (photo compliments of what-I-found):

More Dovima:

Seeing the Dovima theme? I love her, as you know. This Adele Simpson dress, modelled by Dovima, is from 1954.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Classic elegance

Geoffrey Beene's style is lovely to behold, and is so "me." It's full of clean lines, comfort, and it shows off a woman's body beautifully.

Mr. Beene's inspiration was said to think of some body parts as being particularly sensual:

  • the nape of the neck (think geisha!)
  • the upper arm meeting the soft shoulder (every woman has nice shoulders, unless you are so bone thin that your clavicles protrude to the point of scariness)
  • the small of the back
  • the calf
  • the arch of the foot (not sure I agree here -- feet kind of weird me out. A lot.)
  • the ankle
  • the instep
  • and the most alluring of all, the back side of the hip, near the waist.
This dress, from 1965-1966, is an early one of his designs. Later designs showed off those erogeneous zones to perfection, with wonderful geometric elements and clean lines that didn't muck up the view. You won't find a lot of origami and pleating in his designs. They simply didn't need them.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

More Hats 'N Gloves from 1946

Here's a few more styles of hats and gloves from post-WWII fashion. Note that the cute geometric gloves up top are further evidence that scraps and remnants were still being used to create stylish accessories. The geometric pattern in those gloves could be made with the tiniest bit of leftover yarn.

No wonder people who lived through the war had a tendency toward frugality. They earned it.

PS Sorry about cutting off the model on the left. I'll see if I can amend that with a better scan.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hats 'n Gloves, Part 1

1946 - it's post-WW2 and the frippery is back, after all those ration years! Note that although you see some extras here - you never would've seen that fringe in the war years - you still see things being made very frugally, with scraps and remnants.

"Upper left: mesh crocheted gloves with fringed cuffed and matching headband. The fringe is easy to make by tieing (sic) three strands of yarn to each stitch.

Upper right: knit multi-colored beret with matching ascot. You can use odd bits of yarn for this set.

Bottom: Two tone gloves crocheted in a simple cluster-stitch. We suggest bright colors for the back and cark for the palm."

From Good Housekeeping, January, 1946.

(Part 2 tomorrow)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The last of the original designers?

I'm reading a book written by John Fairchild. One of the things he mentions therein is that Coco Chanel was the last original designer -- nothing has been original since. Would you agree?

What did Chanel bring us? The short list:
  1. The chemise dress, which unbound women from their corsets and brought on the "little boy" look.

Shorter hems - calves were now visible.

Cardigan jackets, introduced in 1925.

The "little black dress," a timeless staple of fashion, was introduced in 1927 - the same year as this dress.

Pea coats

Bell bottom trousers.

Multiple strands of necklaces, primarily pearls and gold that mixed the real jewels with costume jewelry.

Wool jersey as a fashion statement.

Quilted purses with gold shoulder chains - and don't forget those interlocking C's.

Two tone slingback shoes.

Chanel suits, which incorporate her trademark chain in the hems, to facilitate the creation of the right silhouette.

Do you see a trend here of wearing clothing for comfort? Chanel's styles didn't change that much from season to season, but what she did create was wearable clothing that was comfortable, casual, and stylish. What do you think? Was she the last original designer? Discuss.