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Posts tagged ‘history’

Celebrating Dior Celebrating Femininity

By , 15 March, 2012, 1 Comment

In the February (2012) issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Meenal Mistry looks at the 65th birthday of Dior’s New Look.

Spring's New Look

Christian Dior's New Look In Harper's

Perhaps my favorite quote is this:

But why now? Does 2012 look like 1947? We’re not quite postwar (and it’s hard to tell when we might be), but there is a sense of women craving a bit of optimism and maybe a trace of tradition. “We were delighted to see the retro femininity,” says Lane Crawford fashion director Sarah Rutson, who cites Jil Sander and Prada as particular favourites. “With so much uncertainty in the world, to have that sense of lightness just seemed so right.”

“Dior said that the forward thrust of the hips was a way for women to advertise their childrearing abilities, so he was certainly tapping into the emergence of the baby boom,” says Timothy Long, the costume curator at the Chicago History Museum. “But there’s no surprise that that whole idea of hyperfemininity is going to continue.”

PS I’ve been meaning to post this for awhile now, but my scanner was not playing nice. Ugh.

What New Look Fashions Shaped

By , 1 May, 2011, No Comment

There’s no doubt that Dior’s New Look fashions changed silhouettes. This not only resulted in crazy exercises, but, according to this 1948 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, mannequins too.

Christian Dior Fashion Dummies

 

Racism In Vintage Films: It’s Not A Simple Black & White Matter

By , 5 March, 2010, 9 Comments

Cliff talks about Handling the Subject of Racism as a Classic Film Blogger — and there’s lots of interesting discussion in the comments too, including mention of a post about the film I reviewed, The Toy Wife.

I agree that too many vintage films are underappreciated — if they’re seen at all. Which is partly why I didn’t mention my queasiness about several scenes with slaves in The Toy Wife. But that wasn’t the only reason…

Along with struggling with how to balance presenting the issues of racism in films of the past, of not wanting to let the known facts of past ruin a film for potential viewers, I struggle with being a white woman discussing it. It’s one thing for me to point out gender issues (I am one, and can honestly react as one), but when it comes to racism I flounder.

It’s not simply a matter of white guilt, or of defensiveness, or even of committing a sin of omission that a person of color can call me out on; it’s about how to honestly portray my horror without co-opting the issue, of committing some sin of insensitivity… If that makes sense. (I bet that does make sense to at least a few other white folks though.)

Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt

But, like all the discussion points at Cliff’s post, we shouldn’t just ignore mentioning the subject any more than others should let being told about racist depictions in films sway themselves from watching old films; it’s avoiding the past.

Because of that, I don’t think we should sanitize the racism from vintage films (and animated works), editing out the scenes with mammy’s like cigarettes from Bogart’s hand. Racism is shameful, but like our past obsession with smoking, we can’t deny it simply by giving it the old whitewash — for whatever reason. We have to remember our past honestly, even if it’s painful.

But these are my views… My questions for you, dear readers, are:

* How does racism in film affect your viewing? Do you stop watching &/or avoid films because it’s so uncomfortable? Do you just write it off as “unfortunately, that the way things were…”?

* Do you find the racism so uncomfortable in vintage movies that you wish it was edited out of the film — or that there were edited versions available?

* If you review or blog about movies, do you mention the racism? Why or why not? And if you do, how do you do it?

Fun Antique Handbag History & Facts

By , 20 November, 2009, No Comment

The first means of carrying personal items were pockets (not always one sewn into the clothing, but often a flat envelope pocket was belted beneath the skirt) or chatelaines (items on chains fixed to a belt). Then, in the Regency period, when skirts hung straight to the ground and bulk simply would not do, there was the reticule bag.

The reticule, a small drawstring bag still generally attached to belts as chatelaine, became an “indispensible”. The reticule does in fact get it’s name from the French ridicule, which likely has something to do with left-over sentiments regarding the over-indulgent Regency period in which the bags were born — as well as the fancy embroidery, beading and other adornment of the bags themselves.

Reticule Handbag With Asian Theme Embroidery

Reticule Handbag With Asian Theme Embroidery

These bags were small, as ladies really only carried about their handkerchiefs, calling cards, some smelling salts, etc., makeup was not en vogue — and certainly ever applied outside one’s bedroom.

Antique French Beaded Reticule Bag

Antique French Beaded Reticule Bag

When skirts resumed their width, some continued to use reticule bags, but they were not high fashion and you rarely see them in fashion plates until about 1870.

Though made as early as 1820, it wouldn’t be until the late 1880s that the more modern handbags with frames were in popular use. This is when those fabulous hand beaded bags on metal frames with carrying chains were made; followed not long after by the incredible slinky metal mesh handbags.

Women typically made their own bags as well as for friends and family, but quickly making beaded purses became a respectable way for a lady to make money.

As a cottage industry in the United States, women would make the purses at home — mindful to place a single white bead in a particular area of each bog (on both sides), so that the store owner could identify the purse maker and so properly pay her the commission she was due.

Single White Bead On Antique Beaded Handbag

Single White Bead On Antique Beaded Handbag

From Somewhere In Time:

If you don’t find a white bead in a beaded bag, you can assume that either the bag was made solely for the use and enjoyment of its’ maker, or that the bag is from a European country, where even if the bag was made for the tourist market, there was another type of arrangement, perhaps outright purchase, between the beader and the store which sold it.

Getting To The Point Of Pencil Skirts & Their Popularity

By , 22 October, 2009, No Comment

Christian Dior created the pencil skirt in the early 1950’s, as part of his H-Line collection.

Christian Dior H-line Fashions, 1955

Christian Dior H-line Fashions, 1955

The narrow and long (past the knee, originally) design of pencil skirts was reminiscent of the long skirts worn in the 1900s — right down to the similar hobbling effects of the 1910’s hobble skirts.

The Hobble Skirt Postcard, Circa 1910s

The Hobble Skirt Postcard, Circa 1910s

Note where the hobble skirt narrows around the knees, much like the narrowness of pencil skirts. This is why, even when pencil skirts have a slit or pleat in the back, pencil skirts still require some practice to walk in, some experience in elegant wearing.

Early Christian Dior Pencil Skirt Suit

Early Christian Dior Pencil Skirt Suit

The earliest pencil skirts were parts of suits, worn with jackets and tunics which covered the waist; this somewhat tended to minimize the hips while lengthening the legs.

Black Velevet Tunic Suit With Slim Pencil Skirt, 1952

Black Velevet Tunic Suit With Slim Pencil Skirt, 1952

But eventually, pencils skirts were worn with more fitted fashions, further accentuating the rounding of hips and behinds beneath nipped-in waists. (And would eventually evolve into the more flower-like full skirted fashions, and, on the other side, the wiggle dress, which we think of when we think of New Look fashions.)

Vintage Suit Ad: Pencil Skirt on Left, A-Line Skirt on Right

Vintage Suit Ad: Pencil Skirt on Left, A-Line Skirt on Right

In any case, wearing pencil skirts was far less practical in terms of ease of movement. This impracticality had, in fact, much to do with the success of the new skirts.

The lack of ease in movement may not have been part of Dior’s “Big Design” but his designs, and the many others who followed suit, certainly were able to capitalize by simultaneously a-dressing several post WWII cultural movements.

Pencil skirts were not only a new fashion silhouette — which women, tired of the more functional (and repaired, recycled) wartime clothing would of course be nearly giddy to have — but these skirts were also a more traditional and feminine style. Eager to be beautiful again, women loved them.

And men loved these skirts which highlighted and celebrated the female form too.

Vintage Lilli Ann Suit With Pencil Skirt Ad

Vintage Lilli Ann Suit With Pencil Skirt Ad

No one can blame either men or women for celebrating their reunions, the return of couples and families, but the physical restrictions of pencil skirts encouraged the hobbling of women.

Such fashions, with their physical restrictions, helped move women away from their wartime work (making room for the returning men) and placed women upon their pedestals as domestic goddesses, objects of desire and housewives. Female.

Feeding this return to gender roles via fashion were the recently available mass production advances made during the second World War and the post-war prosperity; ready-to-wear was affordable and most everyone had the the ability to afford the luxuries of lots of new clothing. The vintage popularity of pencil skirts remains with us today, making the pencil skirt more than a fashion classic, but a fashion basic.

Vintage Merrimack Ad For Velveteen Pencil Skirt Suits

Vintage Merrimack Ad For Velveteen Pencil Skirt Suits

Dorothy Gray’s Cherry Bounce

By , 16 October, 2009, 2 Comments

In the March 27, 1950 issue of Quick Magazine (sent to me by Deanna — who continues to drag me into her snare of ephemera), an article on “Cherry Bounce,” a new color in lipstick, rouge, and nail polish from Dorothy Gray.

News of Dorothy Gray Cherry Bounce, 1950

News of Dorothy Gray Cherry Bounce, 1950

The very brief Quick article says the colors danced their way onto the fashion scene on the heels of a new dance invented by the Fred Astaire dancers.

Now dancing couples do The Cherry Bounce in store windows across the country, music publishers have translated it into sheet music and Mercury has recorded it for American’s bouncing juke boxes.

I could find very little of this dance-cum-color… A vintage ad for Dorothy Gray’s Cherry Bounce in a College of William And Mary publication, dated March 21, 1950 (link is to PDF; ad is below).

Vintage Ad For Cherry Bounce Cosmetics By Dorothy Gray

Vintage Ad For Cherry Bounce Cosmetics By Dorothy Gray

I was surprised I didn’t find anything “cherry bounce” in connection with the Fred Astaire dancers — maybe fans of Fred can turn up something about the dance? However, I was able to disc-cover that Mercury indeed did put out the Cherry Bounce recording. It was by Bobby Sherwood And His Orchestra, Mercury # 5468 (March 14, 1950)

This recording featured Kai Winding, as part of Sherwood’s orchestra; Winding would later be known for his service as Music Director for the Playboy Club — now that’s a Cherry Bounce! *wink*

Kai Winding At Playboy Club, 1966

Kai Winding At Playboy Club, 1966

If anyone has more info — especially color images of Dorothy Gray “Cherry Bounce” cosmetics, recordings of the song, copies of the sheet music, etc., please share!

Quick Beauty News, March, 1950

By , 15 September, 2009, No Comment

In the March 27, 1950 issue of Quick magazine, news about Max Factor’s latest invention:

Hand It To Max Factor

The cosmetic maker who invented pancake make-up scored another “first” with a new purse dispenser for hand-lotion ($1). This lipstick-sized container (l.) holds a week’s supply of lotion, released by a simple tap and refilled from the “World of Beauty,” another $1 container for the dressing table. (At cosmetic counters.)

Vintage Max Factor News

Vintage Max Factor News

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.

Back To Fashion School

By , 7 September, 2009, 4 Comments

The trouble with girls & young women today is they just don’t know enough about fashion history.

Overheard at the mall (and no, dear daughter, I wasn’t listening to you & your friends; I heard this while waiting in the food court for you), a group of teens discussing the 80’s fashion comeback. They apparently, if my teen-to-adult translator was working right, were disappointed to find that stores weren’t selling “classic 80’s Madonna, like from her Desperately Seeking Susan days.”

Desperately Seeking 80s Madonna

Desperately Seeking 80s Madonna

“Where,” they snarkily commented, rather than asked, “are the short skirts, the wild boots?” — “That stuff was rad original and iconic!”

Clearly these girls didn’t know that Madonna had ripped-off — or borrowed — from Joan Crawford, so how could I tell them that pretty much everything from Madonna’s “rad original & iconic look” (save for the neon colors – ugh) was the vamp revamping past fashions?

Sure, they might have guessed that the “granny booties” were a version of antique boots or Victorian shoes — daringly paired with short skirts. But clearly they didn’t have a clue that this had been done before too. And with cuffed (decorated, even!), slouch, calf-height boots yet.

Movie Makers: Short Skirts & Boots (1919)

Movie Makers: Short Skirts & Boots (1919)

Even the disheveled hosiery can be traced back to someone else… Now that’s old school!

Marie Prevost with Stockings (One Over The Knee, The Other Rolled Below The Knee) And Cuffed Slouch Boots

Marie Prevost with Stockings (One Over The Knee, The Other Rolled Below The Knee) And Cuffed Slouch Boots (1918)

If those teenagers would have listened to the creepy old lady who rambled to them at the mall — or if they visited here and read this post — and got back to fashion schooled, can you imagine the “No way!”s? *wink*

If you’re in the mood for some boots inspired by 1980s Madonna, 1910s Marie Prevost, et all, check out Jimmy Choo’s ‘Jinx’ Cuff Boot & Jeffrey Campbell’s ‘Us’ Ankle Bootie.

Jimmy Choo's Black Cuffed (With Grommets) Boot

Jimmy Choo's Black Cuffed (With Grommets) Boot

Jeffery Campbell Black Studded Ankle Bootie

Jeffery Campbell Black Studded Ankle Bootie

The Story Of Circle & Poodle Skirts Continues

By , 16 August, 2009, 4 Comments

Continuing the story of the circle skirt… The story began with a simple skirt Juli Lynne Charlot made for a Christmas party (not the actual circle skirt shown here, but how cute is that?!) and the skirts were quickly transformed into a multitude of novelty themes.

1950s Christmas Themed Circle Skirt

1950s Christmas Themed Circle Skirt

Fashion legend says that at some point it was suggested to Charlot that she put animals, including poodles, onto her skirts and that when Charlot did so, the popularity of the circle skirts increased greatly — which has led to the skirts being called poodle skirts.

In fashion reality (or at least by my own personal definition), poodle skirts are different than novelty circle skirts… And fit a different market or fashion niche. As we shall see.

While adult women did wear novelty circle skirts, especially in the beginning,the heavily petticoated novelty skirts (what I call poodle skirts) quickly became not only de rigeur for girls, but seen mainly as a fashion trend for the youth.

The poodle skirt craze among teens is often attributed to those new rock n roll dances; teens found the big circle skirts enchanting while dancing. But it’s quite probable that mom & dad preferred their Kitten to wear a longer full skirt that hid at least part of her figure (especially when stuffed with crinolines and petticoats to prevent anything more being seen) to the more fitted along the hips structured fashions; watch Kitten’s skirt swing, not her hips sway. *wink*

(Of course, the irony was that fuller skirts looked like fuller, more womanly, hips and that boys dreamed of ladies’ underthings, so…)

But let’s not overlook the marketing machine in all of this either…

10 Year Old Girl Wearing Poodle Skirt, Christmas, 1954

10 Year Old Girl Wearing Poodle Skirt, Christmas, 1954

During the 1950’s, companies began to court the youth market as they never had before. This shift in attention to teens had fashions, like the poodle skirts, forcefully marketed to young girls rather than the former long history of marketing fashions to adult women. The proof of this can be seen in the ephemera trail which shows that ads for poodle skirts in magazines published for teens clearly outnumbered those in publications for women (which focused on less voluminous circle skirts).

There were other factors for the popularity of poodle skirts for teens too.

In the 1950’s you also had less of an emphasis on sewing as a skill for women. More ready to wear, priced more affordably, began to edge out the need to know how to sew. Girls still took the sewing classes, but they knew far less & had less interest in sewing as their mothers did. (The difference between my grandmother & mother’s ability to sew may only seem anecdotal; but I assure you, it was happening all over the atomic 50’s suburbs!)

However, the ease of making a circle skirt, and the influx of printed novelty fabrics that allowed one to make a circle skirt without even having to sew on appliques, tempted those teen girls… She could save a few dollars by making her own skirt rather than buying one — do that a few times, and Kitten ends up with more skirts for the same amount of Daddy’s money. *wink*

Also, speaking contextually of women’s lives and fashion at the time, it’s easy to see how such full, un-tailored skirts would seem unfamiliar — perhaps even ill-fitting — to a woman wearing more traditional fashions at the time. Even the full skirted New Look fashions had a more tailored, refined look about the hips (and either had shorter crinolined skirt lengths, or longer skirts with voluminous folds or a softer “outness”), indicating the more mature woman’s sophistication and duties in life as compared to their whimsical, dancing daughters.

Mother & Daughter, Wearing Different Fashions, Waving Goodby To Daddy In The 1950s

Mother & Daughter, Wearing Different Fashions, Waving Goodby To Daddy In The 1950s

Of course, this lack of tailored appearance was part of the design; if circle skirts had required more seams, Charlot never would have made one! (Nor would the idea of circle skirts have been so readily snapped up by the Mexican souvenir making market, which realized a full skirt with a simple waistband, zipper or no, was not only easier & cheaper to make, but required less actual sizes to be made than tailored or more accurately sized skirts — another reason why such souvenir circle skirts with novelty prints or details are still made today.)

1951 Wide Wool Skirt (And Jeresy Top) Ad

1951 Wide Wool Skirt (And Jeresy Top) Ad

All of these things created a schism, of sorts, leaving poodle skirts and circle skirts with more flirtatious petticoats a far more fashionable dress for teens & young women than for their mothers & grandmothers.

In short, the poodle skirt was one of the very first “too young for you” fashions.

Of the authentic vintage circle novelty skirts that remain, the waists are typically smaller & hems shorter; percentage wise what’s left indicates that the fashion was a marketplace primarily for teens and younger women. What this means for vintage fashion collectors and the fashionistas who covet authentic 1950’s poodle skirts & vintage novelty circle skirts is that it’s slim pickings on the full skirts with novelty prints, appliques, embroidery & other details.

Vintage Embroidered Circle Skirt

Vintage Embroidered Circle Skirt

But the good news remains that circle skirts are in fact very easy to make. You can purchase a circle skirt pattern, old or new — and don’t overlook making them in Charlot’s original manner either: Just cut a circle from fabric, make a hole in the waist, and decorate!

Still to come… How to wear circle skirts!

Vintage Butterick Circle Skirt Pattern

Vintage Butterick Circle Skirt Pattern