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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

Ashely Paige Bathing Beauty

By , 31 March, 2009, No Comment

Speaking of vintage swimsuits… Via A Slip of a Girl, I found this vintage styled knit swimsuit by Ashley Paige, appropriately called Bathing Beauty.

Ashely Paige Bathing Beauty Swimsuit

Ashely Paige Bathing Beauty Swimsuit

Doesn’t it have the same sweet appeal of the authentic vintage swimwear shown on this antique French postcard?

Swimsuit Model On Vintage French Postcard

Swimsuit Model On Vintage French Postcard

Forbidden Wellman

By , 26 March, 2009, No Comment
Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three

Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three

Those of us utterly engaged by Pre-Code movies are excited this week by Turner Classic Movies and Warner Home Video’s latest release: the third volume in Forbidden Hollywood Collection series.

The four-disc set contains six films, all by William Wellman — who is vastly becoming one of my favorite directors. The films are: Other Men’s Women (1931), The Purchase Price (1932), Frisco Jenny (1932), Heroes for Sale (1933), Midnight Mary (1933) and Wild Boys of the Road (1933). (Of the films, I’ve only seen The Purchase Price, Frisco Jenny, Heroes for Sale and part of Midnight Mary when it was on TCM the other night. I’ll discuss them more in depth later; for now, I’m just excited to have them all available on DVD.)

Also included in the DVD box set are two documentaries on Wellman (Todd Robinson’s Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick and Richard Schickel’s The Men Who Made the Movies: William Wellman) which are much appreciated because Wellman has been vastly under-appreciated as far as Hollywood goes, because the director was not known for playing Hollywood politics properly. But that’s largely why Wellman’s work is so fantastic.

Unafraid of telling stories that were relevant to the times, he focused social issues such as prostitution, adultery and drug addiction, and the real moral questions (as opposed to “morality plays”) surrounding poverty, service and good will — issues that largely are still with us today. So it’s easy to see why Wellman made his great films before the Hay’s code (The Motion Picture Production Code), when movie making was nearly restricted to concise, predictable, rather unimaginative and predictable stories. (This is not to say that all films made after the code was instituted in 1934 are bad; but too often it is easy to see where stories were bent to the will of The Code.)

William Wellman Jr., instrumental in the release of his father’s films for this collection, was interviewed at The London Free Press where he had this to say about his father’s reaction to :

“He didn’t like the fact the the Code came in because he thought that the pictures — at least the ones he was making, even though they were risque in some sense — were still quality pictures,” Wellman Jr. says. “He felt that they were real. He didn’t like the Code coming in and then they started having to make all these changes. Of course, the filmmakers were always trying to work around it and get something through that maybe they weren’t supposed to.

“But he loved that era (the Pre-Code days). That was his favourite era.”

That era is my favorite too; and that’s largely due to Wellman’s films.

Elegance In Ivory

By , 25 March, 2009, No Comment

This vintage ivory satin blouse is more than a basic every woman should have in her wardrobe, it’s a masterpiece in simple elegance.

Elegant Vintage Satin Blouse With French Cuffs

Elegant Vintage Satin Blouse With French Cuffs

From the 1950’s, the blouse has a classic notched collar, traditional yet bold large pearlized buttons, and a covered hook & eye to assure the garment’s proper closure and stylish fit. The tailored fit is further assisted & accentuated by both vertical and diagonal darts at the bust — the sort of detailing that I miss in today’s fashions.

But the piece de resistance are the lovely French cuffs which allow you to wear cufflinks!

Vintage Roadshow Goes Along Swimmingly

By , 23 March, 2009, No Comment

Those of us at Vintage Roadshow have been a little lax in listing our posts, but here’s a quick round-up of those you might have missed:

Glamoursplash discusses swimsuit styles for every body. (Hey, the season’s almost here!)

Debutante Clothing shares some must read vintage fashion blogs. (Lots of new sites to check out!)

Here’s Looking Like You, Kid: When Pyjamas Weren’t The Cat’s Pajamas… Or Were They? (It’s my post, but in case you missed it…)

Glamoursplash uncovers a new grail: Joset Walker. (Swimsuits, cover-ups and other beach-wear — oh my!)

Because the post are so swimsuit oriented, I had to also include this fabulous vintage Catalina swimsuit of black illusion lace and black velvet:

Vintage Catalina Illusion Lace & Velvet Swimsuit

Vintage Catalina Illusion Lace & Velvet Swimsuit

It’s a carbon copy of Marilyn Monroe’s swimsuit! Just remove those straps and, Voila!

1951 Marilyn In Swimsuit Photo

1951 Marilyn In Swimsuit Photo

But Monroe similarity or no, the bestest thing about this vintage bathing suit is the combination of illusion lace and velvet. Illusion lace is generally seen only on lingerie and cocktail dresses, and even then, rarely with velvet.

I love the back of bathing suits like this — it leaves so much more to the imagination.

Marilyn Monroe Posing In Swimsuit

Marilyn Monroe Posing In Swimsuit

You can also buy a poster of Monroe wearing the swimsuit, with the sassy classic, “I don’t mind living in a man’s world as long as I can be a woman in it,” quote.

Marilyn "Woman In A Man's World" Poster

Marilyn "Woman In A Man's World" Poster

Other images of Marilyn Monroe from the August 3, 1951 photo shoot via Corbis.

Putting Zebra Stripes On Your Spring-o-lator Steps

By , 23 March, 2009, No Comment

Currently I’m lusting after these 1950’s Spring-o-lator heels with a wild zebra print — and the matching vintage handbag.

Vintage Zebra Pring Heels & Handbag

Vintage Zebra Print Heels & Handbag

What a fabulous way to change the look of any little black dress!

When Pyjamas Weren’t The Cat’s Pajamas… Or Were They?

By , 19 March, 2009, 5 Comments

When shopping for vintage fashions from the 1920s – 1930’s, it’s especially difficult to find women’s pajamas and pantsuits. You certainly can find advertisements, editorial fashion articles, and illustrations extolling such styles when paging through vintage magazines…

Vintage Pajama Illustration By A.K. MacDonald

Vintage Pajama Illustration By A.K. MacDonald

In fact, you see them so often it sets your heart to pitter-patter.

Vintage French Magazine Fashion Page Featuring Pyjamas (Yes, That's Louise Brooks, Second From Left!)

Vintage French Magazine Fashion Page Featuring Pyjamas (Yes, That's Louise Brooks, Second From Left!)

But finding such items available for sale is one of the toughest searches a vintage-loving fashionista can have.

Given that flappers were all about freedom, it’s easy to think that fashions with ‘male trouser bottoms’ — which offer more mobility and less worry about ‘upskirt’ issues — would have been all the rage, leaving you to find vintage pyjamas and pantsuits from those decades. But pants and pyjamas were not as popular a purchase as you’d imagine.

Vintage Pyjamas

Vintage Pyjamas

Some of the reason for such unpopular pants has to do with simple economics.

Most flappers, especially in terms of dress, were younger single women. As such, they would have had, in very general terms, less money to fund their wardrobe purchases. (And as most women knew how to work a needle and thread, rather any dress of the time could, in a pinch, be altered to suit a flapper’s style.) Often their living arrangements would limit their ability to entertain at home as well, meaning the lounging pajama was not only unnecessary, but ill-advised in mom and dad’s house where pajamas were tantamount to declaring a morality debate.

Cosy-Leg Pyjamas 1936

Cosy-Leg Pyjamas 1936

Older women who would have had more discretionary income to throw at the latest fashions would have also had, in general, positions which required them to join the stance against pants that their more traditional or conservative friends and family had. So they too eschewed the manly fashions, opting for the ‘more feminine’ skirts — with longer hemlines too.

Louuise Brooks Models Fashions

Louise Brooks Models Fashions

Pants also had the misfortune of being marketed at the wrong time, for once The Great Depression hit, fashion was a frivolity few could afford. It wasn’t the time for new trends.

But as we learned, for the flapper who could afford both her lifestyle and her fashions, showing off one’s legs was a serious priority… And pants were not seen as the way to a man’s umm…. heart.

You can argue that such pursuit to be chased is not feminism; but power is something you wield and that includes the power to attract a mate — should you want one for keeps or the moment. (And this debate regarding sex & power is one that Third Wave Feminists are still having.)

In any case, less purchases of pajamas and ensembles with pants during the 1920s and 1930s means less of these gorgeous & sophisticated vintage pajama styles are available for purchase today. Which means when you are lucky enough to find it, you’ll pay a pretty price for it. But you should happily do so, for you know-not when you’ll find it again…

Vintage Satin Lounging Pajamas

Vintage Satin Lounging Pajamas

Which brings us to the expression, “the cat’s pajamas” (or “the cat’s pygamas”).

Like “the bee’s knees,” the phrase means something or someone is the best, a charming desirable, splendid or stylish. Unlike the “bee’s knees,” the phrase has been traced to its origins. It was coined in the 20’s by Justin B. Smith, and made popular by cartoonist Tad Dorgan‘s use of the expression. While the word “cat” has a long history of association with women & their wiles, it not surprisingly resurfaced strongly in the roaring 20’s to refer to the unconventional flapper spirit. Combined with the word “pajamas”, for the new fashion trend, the expression captures both the inherent “female nature” as well as the new “masculine” path. Like feminine curves in the straight masculine lines of pajamas, a charming & stylish paradox is achieved. Voila!

The irony, of course, is that while flappers & their pajamas enjoyed a relatively short run at the time, the phrase continued…. From the unflappable flappers to the blushing pin ups to present day.

The Cat's Pajamas Pin Up

The Cat's Pajamas Pin Up

(Note: Thanks to A Slip of a Girl for showing me the pretty vintage illustrations by A. K. MacDonald!)

Sheer Mod-ness

By , 17 March, 2009, No Comment

When I saw this mod hot pink top, with it’s sheer sleeves and outrageous pussycat bow, I immediately thought of Goldie Hawn in that Vogue photo by Stern.

Fabulous Retro Hot Pink Tunic Top

Fabulous Retro Hot Pink Tunic Top

If you’d prefer a more classic little black dress version, the Etsy seller, Catbooks1940s, also has this amazing 1960’s babydoll Mini cocktail dress.

The Little Black Dress Goes Mod

The Little Black Dress Goes Mod

In both cases you’re minus the frothy layered skirt; but you’ve got the integrity of authentic mod 60’s style and those incredible sheer sleeves which are not limited to any season.

Cut & Print: Vintage Dresses With Film Flair

By , 26 February, 2009, No Comment

I just love vintage novelty print dresses!

East meets West in this vintage novelty print dress. In true New Look style, it’s a full-skirted party dress — but it features exotic Indian or Arabian scenes which remind the seller and I of Morocco — and therefore brings to mind Casablanca.

Vintage Dress With Moroccan Print

Vintage Dress With Moroccan Print

This pretty frock is covered in a flock of birds — but these cheery birds don’t look like they’ve seen Hitchcock’s film… Then again, maybe that’s their idea of getting close enough for an attack? *wink*

Full-Skirted Vintage Day Dress

Full-Skirted Vintage Day Dress

Vintage Bird Print Dress

Vintage Bird Print Dress

This vintage dress dates to the 1940s and if the print doesn’t have folks thinking about horsing around, thinking of a curvy figure beneath the petal bust bodice will.

Vintage Dress With Horses

Vintage Dress With Horses

Bodice Of 1940s Print Dress

Bodice Of 1940s Print Dress

(If you’re wondering what the film connection to this dress is, I’m going to ask if you really don’t have a Flicka of an idea, my friend. *wink*)

Fashion Returns To The Romper Room

By , 25 February, 2009, No Comment

In the March issue of Giant magazine, a feature on rompers & jumpers by Madison Mobley titled Romper Room (which is likely a reference above the heads — and years — of the average Giant reader). But if you do remember Romper Room, you may also remember the one-piece dressing fad of retro rompers.

Romper Room article in Giant

Romper Room article in Giant

From Romper Room: One is the loveliest number:

Fashionistas have adopted jumpers and rompers as this season’s go-to getup. To pinpoint the modern-day onesie’s origin, look no further than the birth of overalls in the 18th century. The rest, as they say, is history. In the ’70s glamour icons such as Bianca Jagger demonstrated in white Grecian splendor that a woman’s figure won’t drown in parachute pants and poet sleeves if you just cinch the waist with a subtle, matching sash. This year, however, brings a bit more spice to the romper’s unassuming beginnings. From the runway to the red carpet, designers such as Proenza Schouler, Giorgio Armani, Roksanda Ilincic and Bruno Pieters have given style mavens attainable examples of the jumper’s versatility. Hollywood has taken note. Attending a black-tie affair and don’t want to wear a gown? Mimic actress Malin Akerman’s glittered, form-fitting suit with a plunging neckline and flared bottoms. If you dare, follow UK singer Estelle’s lead and match a vibrant print with simple accessories. Regardless of what inspires you, shake your rompers, ladies, and bring the heat this spring.

Along with Bianca Jagger, the article shows Pam Grier and Farrah Fawcett in retro one-piece rompers.

Celebrities wearing rompers - then and now

Celebrities wearing rompers - then and now

As a general rule, rompers are for the more flapper-esque among us — not just for the more active fashion style (pants vs. skirts), but jumpsuits often work best on the slim, straight and narrow.

Retro jumpsuit

Retro jumpsuit

Those of us with booming bods like Pam Grier, can’t help but end up looking like we are in an exploitation film. Not that that’s always a bad thing. *wink*

Pam Grier rockin' a retro romper

Pam Grier rockin' a retro romper

Love this authentic 1970’s black jumpsuit and jacket set with feather trim!

Retro black romper set with feathers

Retro black romper set with feathers