A blog about vintage fashion, vintage jewels and art.....

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What's that Fabric?

This is the first of what I plan to be a series of mini-tutorials on the old fabrics from the 80s, 70s, 60s, 50s and back. If you would like to know more about any particular fabric you are curious about, just write back and will try to help.

Some time ago I had this 1970s jacket somebody liked and bought and they asked what fabric it was made of. I said, crimplene. I received a quizzical look which showed very evidently that this 'crimplene' had never been heard of. Crimplene was one of those fabrics which took the sewing world by storm as housewives found it was so easy to sew (it didn't need zigzag or overlock to keep fraying threads at bay) and it was so easy to wash and so quick to dry. And it needed no ironing whatsoever so you could squash it and sit on it as much as you liked and it simply bounced back in shape. As long as you cold washed it. It came in so many diverse patterns and colours - a revolution. Although invented in the 1950s, it really became popular here during the late 1960s and early 70s. Remember that in the 1970s, most women sewed the clothes they wore and so, quick-fix fabrics were important to have at hand, especially for those not too keen on the nitty gritty of finishing off their sewing projects. Everybody, but everybody wore crimplene, especially as crimplene came also in many thicknesses and weaves, so even men's pants, or shirts or swimming trunks could be made neatly out of it. It was the second major revolution after nylon. And obviously just as dangerously flammable.There was another snag. You had to watch out for snags. Literally. If you sat on a bench which had rough ends, these always stuck to the fabric and pulled threads and you could tell how many times somebody's dress or skirt had been worn by counting the snags and pulled threads on the crimplene dress or skirt. Another problem was that this crimplene was superbly synthetic, and fancy summer dresses, although popular and easy to wear, became hot-houses in the heat and hardly comfortable at all. If you ask your older sisters or mothers about the glory of crimplene, they will tell you more about it. Chances are you won't find many vintage items in crimplene because the textile was so easy to live with that items made out of it were worn over and over again and most generally ended up too unsightly to wear and just go thrown away.... also because the fabric was relatively cheap compared to finer specimens.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Up or Down

Check those hemlines.
They go up, they go down. And sometimes they go way up or way down or just fluctuate somewhere in the middle.

The bonus of being vintage fashion lovers is that we get forgiven for wearing our hemlines any length we fancy. I mean hems go up and down according to the era we tend to prefer. But then again, fashion this year says we can do just about anything we fancy where hemlines are concerned.

These are some of the items from my vintage collection of fashion. I fell in love with the peach floral dress because it is delicate in colour and in texture. Most of it is handmade with a lovely underskirt that shows of handmade lace detail too. The skirt is pressed slightly and the sleeves are tied up with a ribbon. Late 1970s.

The black skirt and green blouse are 80s although the skirt is reminiscent of the 50s both in style and in texture.

The red/white floral shift dress is the perfect summer dress from the early 70s.

The paisly designed secretary dress comes from the early 80s although the hand made leather bag derives probably from the 70s. I am not that sure about that.

The navy ankle-length culottes are exceptional in their pressing and fall elegantly around the legs. YOu can only tell they're not a skirt when you're standing with legs apart. 1980s again. What's your ideal hemline like?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Petticoat Lane

Petticoats are back in fashion even if it's just to show some lace beneath the hem of your skirts. Actually petticoats or slips as some prefer to call them, are quite effective undergarments worn under skirts when you're wearing tights to avoid the skirt from riding up your thighs in that so very annoying way. Effective as body warmers and as part of the layering that helps counter-act a chill wind. As a child we were made to wear petticoats or half-slips to avoid that sheer see-through effect on some clothing - it was a no-no to have your thighs seen through your dress when you stood against the light. In short, it was all about modesty. It was even considered impolite to walk around with the frills of your petticoat showing below the edge of your skirt. Now we know it's a go-getting device most women used to get men to go all a-gog. And so to these days, when that extra frill and sheer lace is reminiscent of burlesque and yes..... getting some men to go all a-gog too!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Maltese Lace

Maltese Lace is a very unique kind of lace which is made in the Islands of Malta and Gozo, tiny islands found right in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, just below Sicily. Today I am posting some exquisite images of new and antique Maltese lace for you all to enjoy.

In truth the beauty of Maltese lace is a witness of technical dexterity, manual delicacy and unrivalled skill. And if you’re intrigued by the quality of this unique traditional lace, these pictures will further thrill you. Also known as bobbin lace, referring to the use of wooden or ivory bobbins to compose it, Maltese lace has a long and intriguing history in Malta.

And this is all handmade! Traditionally made from creamy coloured Spanish silk threads, it derives inspiration from Venetian silks.

You can read more about Maltese Lace on these books:
Gozo lace: an introduction to lacemaking in the Maltese Islands
by Consiglia Azzopardi

Gozo Lace – A selection of Bobbin Lace Patterns designed by Dun Guzepp Diacono (1847-1924)
by Consiglia Azzopardi

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Secretary Dress

Perhaps you've got one..... a secretary dress. Very popular in the 70s especially, these button-up, shirt-waist dresses or shirt dresses with buttons all the way down. All with with dainty flowers or patterns or just plain plain. Smart and stylish yet still very feminine, they are all the rage once again.

I wonder how this word came about - the secretary dress? Does anybody know?

The model in these pictures is showing off two authentic 1970s dresses. The top dress you can see better here. The black/white bangle is also vintage. The brown dress is another beauty with very pretty ball buttons on the cuffs and worn with authentic vintage real leather heels.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Conversation with Edith Head

A Conversation With Edith Head is a glorious behind the scenes feast of great movie legends and delicious stories that provide an insight into Hollywood’s legendary costume designer. In her six decades of costume design, she worked on 1,131 motion pictures, dressed the greatest stars of Hollywood, received 35 Academy Award nominations and won an unprecedented eight Oscars - a record that will never be broken. This exclusive interview with impersonator Susan Claassen delves deeper into the character of this extraordinary woman.

FF: How did you 'meet' Edith Head?
I first got the idea nine years ago when I was watching a television biography. I literally did a double take when I watched that TV biography. My physical resemblance to Edith seemed uncanny! And what's even more bizarre, we are the same height and both born 50 years apart in October! The more I watched, the more I knew there was a great story to be told.

I contacted Edith's estate and they granted me permission to pursue this project. I madly read anything I could find and when I came upon Paddy Calistro's book, Edith Head's Hollywood, I decided to attempt to locate its author. I called telephone information for Santa Monica, where I thought Paddy lived, and voila, she was listed. I placed the phone call and it was kismet.

At our first meeting in Los Angeles we knew the connection was right and we agreed to collaborate. Paddy had not only written the book but had inherited 13 hours of taped interviews with Edith Head - it was truly a gift from heaven. We can honestly say that A Conversation with Edith is based upon the words and thoughts of Edith Head - the ''Edith-isms'.

FF: What intrigued you about her apart from the fact that you resemble her so much?
Edith was an executive woman before there was such a thing! It was a boy's club when she started - 1923. Women in the Unites Stated had just recently got ten the vote, if you can imagine. It has been said that Edith had the instincts of a pastry chef and the authority of a factory foreman.

She herself said, "I knew I was not a creative design genius... I am a better diplomat than I am a designer...I was never going to be the world's greatest costume designer, but there was no reason I could not be the smartest and most celebrated."

She knew how to play the game better than anyone. Her concern really was to change actors into characters. Edith said, "I make people into what they are not - ten years older or younger, fatter or thinner, more handsome or more ridiculous, glamorous or sexy or horrible. The camera never lies, after all, so my work is really an exercise in camouflage."

FF: What were the challenges of doing this part?
It is a privilege to keep her legacy alive. The preparation to be comfortable in some else's skin is enormous. I must always be present to be able to respond to any question. I want them to feel as if they have just met Edith Head. I am constantly researching and trying to understand this amazing woman. I have my rituals before every performance. It is an enormous responsibility but well worth the effort. I feel so blessed. The audience response has been amazing. From Tbilisi to Edinburgh to London to Chicago audiences have been touched by Edith's story. What they take with them after having seen the performance is truly dependent on what they bring to it.

Film buffs get immersed in hearing stories from someone who has lived through the evolution of contemporary film, older audiences remember always seeing the closing credits, ‘Gowns by Edith Head’, it evokes a bygone era and younger audiences think of the Pixar animated film The Incredibles and Edna Mode, designer to the superheroes.

The universal response is summed up by a note I received from a fan, "My friend saw the show on Saturday and adored it. He said the same as me, i.e. if someone mentions Edith Head to me now, my first reaction will be to say "Oh yes, I met her once and it was unforgetable!"

FF: Did you get to research her costume design work?
Yes, and I own many original sketches in addition to the reproductions on the set. Edith's story is as fascinating as the history of the film industry itself, filled with humor, frustration and, above all, glamour. This diva of design helped to define glamour in the most glamorous place in the world - Hollywood! Remember, Edith Head did Hollywood Red Carpet commentary while Joan Rivers was still in college.

Edith Head may not be a household name these days, but in her prime she was one of the most colourful characters in Hollywood. She was dishing out caustic fashion advice years before Trinny and Susannah made careers out of it, and was confidante to the stars long before Celebrity Sleuth broadcast their measurements.

As Lucille Ball said, Edith knew the figure faults of every top star. And she never told - Edith always knew how to keep a secret."

Well, in this cozy conversation some secrets might be revealed and fashion tips freely given. As Miss Head says, "If Cinderella had had Edith Head, she would not have needed a Fairy godmother!"

FF: Which costumes did impress you most & why do you b elieve she achieved such huge success in Hollywood?
That would be like picking a favorite child! I have to admit I do love the costumes from To Catch a Thief - she had an extravagant budget and a gorgeous star, Grace Kelly - who could ask for anything more.

High fashion is of the moment and the best of costume design is timeless. You must remember that costumes were often completed a couple of years before the release of the film.
A perfect example are Elizabeth Taylor's gowns in the 1951 A Place in the Sun . The film was shot in 1949 and released in 1951.The silhouette was the most important aspect of any of the ensembles, therefore the costumes in the Academy Award winning film could be worn to any society event today. The woman wearing it would evoke an era classic couture and look as dramatic as Liz did when she danced with the dreamy Monty Clift!

Edith had the ability to shape each gown to a character or image. This is what made her as popular with film directors as with the glamour girls she dressed in both their private lives and screen roles.

FF: Did you ever meet her personally or get anywhere near her, her home, her studio?
No, but I feel as if I have met her. I know we would have been great friends.

September 24, 2010
Hollywood Premiere
El Portal
North Hollywood, CA

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the lovely vintage medallion is the lovely Sharon RoseMyStyle - Thrifting, Fashion, Me.... whom you can visit here. The blogger will receive notification of her win today. Thanks for all those who participated. Keep your eyes open for more special Tuesday giveaways soon....

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Bonnet for Easter

Have you ever worn an Easter Bonnet? I haven't but I sure would love the fun of it. Researched a bit into the history of the Easter Bonnet and found out that its tradition was derived from the very old tradition of wearing new clothes for Easter in times gone by when having a new dress was something quite rare for most folks. It also helped hark in springtime, with all the fun of enjoying all those flowers, the more colourful, the merrier. Add a chick here and there, some feathers perhaps and voila!

I don't know if any of you participated in the traditional New York Easter Parade yesterday, or whether you did wear an Easter Bonnet at all. You might have been inspired by Irving Berlin's 1948 film 'Easter Parade' with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. Whatever you did with your bonnet..... start thinking about creating the next best exemplar for next year.... all it takes is one plain hat, some flowers & lots of fantasy!
White hat above is courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/teresa-stanton/495342051/

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Wishes

And so it is another Easter and I do hope you all have a lovely one with family and friends. May the joys of love and springtime envelope you like silk bringing you happiness, laughter, health and flowers, plus many dazzling good things in your life.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

And who was Edith Head?

I was recently reading a biography about Audrey Hepburn. It was a book from the library and although it was interesting, because Audrey Hepburn has such a marvellour lifestory, it turned out that the book had a chunk of missing pages which meant I just couldn't keep reading it and make any sense. But I did manage to find out a few interesting titbits.

One of them was.... the name of a lady called Edith Head. Thumbs up for those of you who know who she was. Chances are that most of you don't. Well this was one fascinating lady.

Edith Head (October 28, 1897 – October 24, 1981) was an award-winning costumer designer in Hollywood. Here you can see her working on a dress for Grace Kelly (Grace's name is written on the neck of the mannequin - get your magnifying glasses out ladies!) This film costume designer dressed the most ravishing of film stars including Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Audrey Hepburn.....

She worked for Paramount Pictures and for Universal Studios. During her career she was nominated for 35 Academy Awards, every single year from 1948 right through to 1966. She actually landed an Oscar 8 times - no other female landed so many Oscars in her life! 
It is understandable that she strongly influenced what women of her day wore and even wrote books about fashion.
Later over the coming days, I'll be posting all about one special lady who has come to know Edith Head really well and up close. Keep following for a sensational interview with a lady who is keeping Edith Head's legend alive.
(Images courtesy of Margaret Herrick Library AMPAS)