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Archive for ‘Joan Crawford’

The Death of “New Look” Fashions & Other Fashion Predictions (1950)

By , 10 September, 2009, No Comment

This juicy fashion tidbit comes from the March 27, 1950 issue of Quick Magazine:

Hollywood designer Adrian, disregarding Pairs and N.Y., pronounced that there will be no drastic change in the daytime silhouette for the next 50 years, added that the death of the “New Look” proved that attempting to insinuate violent fashion changes in modern times is futile.

Adrian's Fashion Prediction, 1950

Adrian's Fashion Prediction, 1950

Adrian, costumer for Irving Berlin and Cecil B. DeMille productions as well as Valentino films, is said to have been “responsible for creating and refining the images of actresses such as Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Jean Harlow and his favorite, Greta Garbo” — but clearly he was off the mark with such sentiments & statements about the death of New Look fashions and “violent fashion changes” being futile in modern times.

From our lovely vantage point of having seen not only Adrian’s future but the very 50 years he spoke of become history, one cannot avoid questioning the story that is told of this designer… No matter how lovely his work was — and it was lovely, just look at the gowns in 1939’s The Women — you have to more critically look at the story here.

Adrian Gowns, The Women (1939)

Adrian Gowns, The Women (1939)

The story goes that Adrian, frustrated by WWII’s smaller film budgets and shifting values, took up his own fashion design label & shop where he could more freely & grandly express himself & his glamour ideals. Adrian, Ltd. was born:

When Adrian decided to leave the world of costume design in 1941 and open Adrian Ltd, he could have had no knowledge of how perfect his timing would prove to be. With the Nazi invasion of Paris in 1940, all contact with the French fashion industry halted. As nearly all American designers based their designs on those originating from Paris, the absence of information from France created a fashion vacuum. American designers stepped up to the plate, and soon began to create fashions based on an idealized American lifestyle. These new fashions were often casual, practical and made of durable fabrics. Both New York and Los Angeles fought for the title of “America’s Fashion Capitol.” The February 19, 1941 title of a Los Angeles Times article declared, “East and West Struggle for Fashion Dictatorship,” and suggested that Los Angeles would win the battle, ultimately becoming “more powerful in its sway over the civilized world than Paris ever thought of being.”

Adrian debuted his first collection for buyers in January of 1942 at the May Company department store in Los Angeles. Buyers were not particularly excited about this initial collection, so Adrian held another show in February of the same year. This show was a great success and Adrian was soon selling his designs in department stores throughout the country.

But as we, with all due respect (because I do love Adrian’s work!), look at the context here: one clearly sees an aging fashion designer struggling with changing times and fashions.

On one hand, we must admire Adrian for taking a stand for glamour by saying, “It was because of Garbo that I left M-G-M. In her last picture they wanted to make her a sweater girl, a real American type. I said, ‘When the glamour ends for Garbo, it also ends for me. She has created a type. If you destroy that illusion, you destroy her.’ When Garbo walked out of the studio, glamour went with her, and so did I.”

On the other, we have to recognize that Harlow & Garbo, these were not the forms and fashions — nor even the female ideal — of the 1940s & beyond.

Refusing to change his views, his fashion statements, Adrian was able to exploit his status as a famous Hollywood costumer to a (wealthy) public hungry for fashion — and if they wouldn’t readily accept it, he could afford to hold on & push it with such little competition. But New Look fashions continued until, approximately, the mid 1960’s, years after Adrian’s death in 1959 — and there sure were violent fashion changes after that. Perhaps those statements by Adrian from the 1950 magazine clipping sound more desperate than simply catty now; they do to me.

If all this sounds cynical or unkind, I don’t mean it to be; I’m simply pointing out that fashion is both a commerce & an ideal, both of which sit within the context of culture at a specific time — and must change as the culture/times change. You can manipulate, you can create, you can even exploit conditions such as limited competition; but you cannot stubbornly refuse to change and still go on forever.

The Allure Of Vintage Satin Slips & Gowns

By , 6 August, 2009, No Comment

I know whenever anyone sees such dreamy, creamy, vintage satin slips & gowns as this, you’re supposed to remember Jean Harlow…

1930's Miss Elaine Satin Slip

1930's Miss Elaine Satin Slip

No offense to Harlow, but I also like to think of Joan Crawford — in the 1930s, before the dreaded code, she was peddled in the mags as quite the vamp too.

Pre-Code Joan Crawford

Pre-Code Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford Makes Me Want To Sew

By , 3 April, 2009, No Comment

Every year I tell myself, “This is the year I learn how to sew — really sew.” You know, the kind of sewing where you, eventually, can look at a photo and reconstruct what you see. So far, I’ve just not mustered enough time & dedication to master sewing like that. And when I see an outfit like this one, I nearly weep with regret that I never paid enough attention in home ec when we made that dumb fabric purse (with the handle that was ridiculously too long) and the peasant skirt (three tiers of unevenly gathered sections). *sigh*

Joan Crawford Publicity Photo For Dancing Lady

Joan Crawford Publicity Photo For Dancing Lady

According to the information on the back of this vintage Joan Crawford photograph, used to promote Dancing Lady (1933), this stunning polka dot ensemble was part of Joan’s personal wardrobe:

The use of linen for formal wear is introduced by Joan Crawford, glamorous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer star appearing in the picture, “Dancing Lady.” She selects a bright red model with white embroidered dots. This frock is trimmed with an edging of white scalloped pique. Linen gloves, pique trimmed, made of the same material sets off the costume.

Joan Crawford's Personal Wardrobe Publicity Note

Joan Crawford's Personal Wardrobe Publicity Note

Oh, how I want to recreate every detail — including those matching polka dot gloves!  It would be worth it to hand embroider every dot onto red linen myself (and that’s about all I would know how to do!)

Seeing Past Black & White Film To The True Colors Of Vintage Lingerie

By , 31 March, 2009, 3 Comments

Deanna, of Kitsch-Slapped (and about a million other blogs), just posted about how she and her sister could see color even though they only had a black & white TV, which reminded me of a few things…

One being how I perplexed my dad by comparing women on television to past glamour icons. I too had compared some woman or other to Rita Hayworth and he asked me how the heck I knew who she was (and when I knew who Fatty Arbuckle was, he just about fell over). Mom countered with a, “Just about the only things your daughter reads or watches were made before 1960,” in that don’t-you-even-know-who-your-daughter-is? tone that made him both flush & squirm.

That weekend he came home with an armload of classic films he’d rented — just for the two of us to watch — and when we watched them, he chased mom out of the room or shushed her so “we film buffs” could be left alone to enjoy our movies in peace. *wink*

The second thing Deanna’s post reminded me of was how I sometimes see or imagine the color in black & white films — especially the fashions. But mostly I just wish I could see them in all their glory. *sigh*

Unless it’s lingerie and the film is from the 1920’s or 1930’s.

Still from Our Blushing Brides featuring lingerie

Still from Our Blushing Brides featuring lingerie

Whenever I see lingerie in films from that period, like Joan Crawford & gals in Our Blushing Brides, then I happily “know” that what they are wearing is either peach, pink or ivory — with ecru laces.

I know that there may occasionally be other colors (black, for instance, was popular — and easy to ‘see’ on screen, and other pastel shades in blue and green), but when shopping for vintage lingerie or loungewear, the evidence in old catalogs and on vintage clothing store racks supports my visions of ivory, peach, blush & pastel pink lingerie.

1924 Lingerie Catalog Page

1924 Lingerie Catalog Page

There are several likely reason for this.

It has been noted that soft & dreamy pastels were favored by high society at this time (along with an influx of Oriental colors & design influences; mainly seen in dresses, not so much with lingerie); pastel fashions require light colored lingerie. The popularity of pastels at this time is seemingly a combination of a response to the somber dreary wardrobes of WWI and the fact that wearing such light colors was surely impractical to the lower classes who had to work — hard toil would soil soft shades easily, leaving distinct marks of classes.

Pastel Blush COlored 1920s Lingerie

Pastel Blush Colored 1920s Lingerie

I also suspect that home sewing had its affects on color too. Because construction of flapper’s dresses & the lingerie worn beneath them (and the fashions which followed) were based on a straight shift, they were less complicated to make than earlier fashions. This meant it was much easier for women to produce the latest fashions at home using a simple — but fashionable — dress pattern. (Modifying a single pattern slightly, or embellishing it, to create more individual looking dresses.) Those sewing at home would likely copy the fabrics & colors of the days fashions as well, with the middle classes especially emulating high society’s love of pastels. However, fabric would still be costly — especially silks — and likely one made the most of the bolt of fabric they had. A household’s fashions would literally be cut from the same cloth, leaving all the women to have their lingerie in the same shade.

Lace and Silk Creme Cami

Lace and Silk Creme Cami

Another reason for the popularity of lingerie in pastel shades during the 1920s and 30s is a practical one. Many lingerie pieces, panties, shifts, slips, camis, & chemises, did dual duty as nightwear and foundation garments, worn under clothing and off-white & peachy-pink shades would match or blend with most flesh tones — if you were “white”, anyway. (And fashion was — and still is — primarily made for white women.) Such neutral fleshy shades would be very practical, diminishing color lines beneath the sheer and lightweight dresses of the time.

1920s Peach Silk Chemise with Ecru Lace

1920s Peach Silk Chemise with Ecru Lace

Such fleshy shades were also in and of themselves sexy — in an age of “dare to bare” flapper fashions, clothing was not only cut to expose arms and legs, but the colors suggested nudity. This would be especially enticing on the more natural-than-forced curves than the past fashion silhouettes where the even looser fitting garments would evoke a peek-a-boo feeling, if not actual body parts.

Lace Bodice on Pink Vintage Full Slip

Lace Bodice on Pink Vintage Full Slip

These are my theories, based on what I know of the times. But what clearly remains of lingerie from this time period are these pastel pieces in peach, pink, blush and ivory shades; and most with lace, crochet and/or tatting accents in ivory and ecru.

If and when you spot authentic vintage lingerie from the 1920s & 1930s in other shades, you should expect to pay more. I suggest you do it — happily. You don’t know if or when you’ll find anything else like it to hug to your chest (or to drape over it later!) *wink*

Vintage Ivory Silk Tap Panties With Ecru Lace

Vintage Ivory Silk Tap Panties With Ecru Lace

Joan Crawford: One Sherry, Standing Up

By , 20 March, 2009, 5 Comments

I have this problem where I forget just how crazy-flapper Joan Crawford was — especially when she was still Lucille Fay LeSueur.

Crawford In Our Modern Maidens

Crawford In Our Modern Maidens

(I guess that’s the problem when you’ve seen Mildred Pierce & The Women and not Mommy Dearest; you’ve grow accustomed to her brilliance and classic style.)

But the following interesting excerpt about Joan Crawford from Starlight Starbright, by Margaret Case Harriman, as it originally appeared in Vanity Fair, February, 1936, reminds me of Crawford’s wild & rowdy beginnings. (Links added by moi.)

In Hollywood, Joan set out to bring herself to public attention less by her work in pictures than by a continuous nightlife that would have put most girls under the sod. In less than two years she had won 84 cups in nightclub contests for dancing the Charleston, or by imitating Bee Jackson, the shimmy expert. She was, then, undistinguished in appearance from any other good-looking girl, except by her curiously arresting eyes. She hid the fine structure of her face by pulling her brown hair onto her cheeks and over her forehead, and by a careless mask of makeup. Latter, she dyed her hair a flaming red and rolled her stockings not quite far enough above her knee-length skirts.

Oh, I’m not saying that such a press puff piece doesn’t have it’s marketing agendas; and if you read the whole article, you’ll see the clear effort to move Joan from Flapper to a more mature (matronly) actress status (though it honestly reads more like a sales pitch to convince people in a post-WWII world). But when you see this photo of Joan Crawford looking like Madonna from her Desperately Seeking Susan days, I guess it’s pretty clear why the public would need a push.

Lucille Fay LeSuer (AKA Joan Crawford)

Lucille Fay LeSuer (AKA Joan Crawford)

Whatever your thoughts on Joan (and she’s certainly one who inspires the “lover her or hate her” response), I double-dog-dare you not to be amused by this last bit from the vintage Vanity Fair issue:

She drinks wine now and then, but no hard liquor. At dinner parties given by Joan and Franchot Tone, the guests gather in the music room before dinner, on stools along the bar, while Franchot goes behind to mix cocktails. Joan wanders around happily enough with a glass of sherry. Once she saw a row of women sitting on stools along a bar, and the contours where each lady met the stool frightened her. Since, she has taken her sherry standing up.

Probably good advice for any ladies drinking this weekend *wink*

The History Of Fashion & The Economy

By , 15 December, 2008, No Comment

About a month ago, Claudine Zap wrote this article on lipstick as an economic indicator:

The Lipstick Economy

In this economy that’s in the red, there may be one bright spot that comes in shades of pink, brown, and taupe: the lipstick index.

It’s a financial indicator that’s as true as that colorfast shade that stays on you, and doesn’t get on your man. In bad times, lipstick sales soar while other sales sour. The term “Leading Lipstick Indicator” was coined by Leonard Lauder, chairman of makeup company Estée Lauder, after he noticed the trend during tough economic times. And what is indicated right now? All lips are pointing upwards.

After all, women don’t need to think twice about plunking down eight bucks for a drugstore lipstick while passing on $800 Jimmy Choos.

History can be our guide here. As a Harvard professor explains: “The decade of the Great Depression, cosmetic sales increased 25 percent.” After the downturn following Sept. 11, lipstick sales doubled.

Looks like we’re on track for a similar lip-color craze with this latest economic funk. The New York Times notes that in the last few months, lipstick sales have shot up 40%, and even put out a list of favorites ranging in price from the budget-conscious $1.99 to the more pricey but still affordable $55. Preferred colors for this new economy? Red is out. Neutrals are in.

Maybe you can’t put lipstick on a pig. But you sure can stock up on the stuff during rough financial times.

Overall, quite similar to Slip of a Girl‘s thoughts on lingerie sales increasing as the markets plunge.

I, however, disagree that red is “out”. Red lips are pure glamour and as such never ever go out of style.

Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford for Max Factor

Vintage Ad: Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford for Max Factor