Saturday, December 30, 2006
This week the Independent Film Channel (IFC) broadcast a beautifully restored version of "Pandora's Box," staring the ultimate flapper, Louise Brooks, as Lulu. Besides staring the divine Ms. Brooks, "Pandora's Box" is about as 20s as you can get: made in 1928, just months before the Great Depression and a few years before Germany put a 12-cylinder Mercedes engine in its handbasket and drove it straight to hell, it's a German Expressionist film set in Weimar Berlin about a beautiful but damned street girl who drives the Bürgers to hell through the sheer force of her sexuality. The film features an aged and decrepit sexual predator, a Lesbian countess, an obsessed father and a faithless son, high and low-class prostitution, adultery, blackmail, murder and the chicest wardrobe east of Paris, all those decadent things that make for bad society but great art. It's no surprise that it was banned in Germany from 1933-1945.
The restored film is so sharp that you can see the seams in the clothes and how the panels of the dresses were cut to fit the body. I was so busy staring at the well-dressed extras that I at times I lost track of the action. I think I'll invest in the Criterion DVD so that I can stop action and drool over the lamé cocoon coats and hankerchief-hemmed dresses at my leisure. In meantime I'll just have beautiful black and silver dreams of slender satin-clad girls dancing on the edge of the abyss.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Now, the contents and condition of my parents’ home ranges from crazy to scary. They built the house in 1957, moved my two brothers, me, and the contents of our previous home into it, and in the next 49 years moved lots more stuff in, tossed very little out, and changed nothing. My father is the worse packrat among us. Among other things, he’s got a two-tier 20 foot workbench in the basement covered in tin cans containing assorted screws, nails, nuts, bolts that he's found and collected from the beginning of time along with tools and mystery parts for mystery machines. In the living room tucked between a love-seat and a bookcase that holds, among other things, a 1942 edition of the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, there’s Dad's favorite vacuum cleaner, a working 1940s art-deco style canister Electrolux. There are at least three other more recent model vacuum cleaners around the house, and probably one or two in the garage that I haven’t entered in about 20 years for fear of causing an avalanche of stuff.
Another section of the basement holds a 1958 vintage ping pong table the surface of which is covered with a pyramid of impedimenta, mostly engine parts (one of my brothers is a mechanic), topped off by a shocking pink wig box still containing, I believe, a shag wig I wore in 1972. (I was a great fan of Jane Fonda in “Klute” – now there’s a subject for a Clothes on Film post!) Next to the ping pong table there’s 40 years worth of televisions in several stacks. Upstairs, under the beds in my and my parents’ room, there are storage boxes containing 60 years worth of curtains and drapes. While looking through my mother’s dresser drawers for important papers I found my freshman high school report card (I got As or B+s in everything except gym and religion, foreshadowing my future as a couch-potato atheist), and all of the letters I wrote to her while I was in college.
What wasn’t there, anywhere in the house, were my old, now vintage and perhaps somewhat valuable, clothes, including my beloved red YSL. Most of my mother’s old clothes, including some nice dresses from the 1950s, were gone too. All these clothes had still been stored in garment bags in the basement during my last visit in October 2005.
I guess what happened was that my mother, sensing the end was near, decided that it was time to start cleaning up . . . something. Getting rid of my clothes and hers was obviously the path of least resistance, because my father is the type of guy who retrieves anything of his we attempt to discard from the trash. That old Electrolux will have to be ripped from his cold dead hands. I don’t know why Mom didn’t tell me she intended to dispose of all that clothing. Perhaps she made the decision to clean house after one of our more bitter battles and just didn’t get around to acting out her revenge until this year. Perhaps she thought I wasn’t being attentive enough, and this was her way of sending me a message: “out of sight, out of mind, out of the basement.”
Whatever. I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, ask Mom what happened to the clothes. I arrived in
I did, however, find a file cabinet full of vintage patterns. There must be at least 100, most of them mid-1960s and early 1970s variations on the A-line shift. (That simplicity pattern pictured at left is one). No wonder I still like that style; it must have been imprinted on me the way their human keepers are imprinted on baby geese. But here’s the thing: most of the patterns were used, but I couldn’t remember my mother or me sewing that much or having all those different dresses to wear. When I later unearthed some snapshots of my mother and I wearing our home-sewn dresses my first thought was “boy, did we have some bad taste in fabric.” We must have kept the manufacturers of polyester double-knit in business. So I left those snapshots home and won't be sharing any of those with you.
I did pack up the patterns, along with the only two articles of my home-sewn clothing I found, and ship them to this address. I did that about a week ago, and they haven’t arrived yet. If that box goes missing I’ll probably cry for days.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
This dress also has one of my favorite details, the Watteau pleat back. I can't help thinking that if this dress was made now, the scoop and bow would be in the front of the dress. There is such a breast-obsession nowadays, and I'm bored with it. But maybe that's just my old-cootism speaking.
Anyway, you can find the dress here.
Monday, November 20, 2006
All four of these dresses come from one seller, Little*Things Dolls and Clothes. She has quite a spectacular collection of classic 50s dresses. The first two pictured here caught my attention because I haven't shaken my recent orange obsession, and the fact that pumpkin-pie day is coming up isn't helping any. The third dress, which is by Emma Domb (as is the first), caught my eye because I love the big copper-colored skirt. I picked the pink dress just to show that I could drag myself away (if not far) from orange, and because it's Guy LaRoche, made in France, bust 36, and the only bid so far is for $34.99. Really, size 6 ladies (and gentlemen, as the case may be) can you afford NOT to bid on it?
Friday, November 17, 2006
The seller's store is called bombshellbetties; it's worth a look.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
If any of y'all should see this pattern on sale in reasonable size, and can resist buying it yourself, would you give me a head's up? (There are two for sale on ebay right now, both tiny).
I found the Balmain pattern at Fuzzy Lizzie's vintage. Check out the listing to see the back detail. How Jackie can you get?
Friday, November 10, 2006
For something completely different but oh so elegant, check out the geometric black dress, also from Dandelion Vintage (scroll down agaon). Hmmn, I may be entering a peplum period. But I love the idea of a narrow dress bumped up a notch with an interesting detail.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
I don't like the look, and neither do people far younger and hipper than I.
I think the whole tights/leggings thing is either a marketing device thought up by panty-hose companies to save their business after years of the no-hose look, or a trend started by stylish young New Yorkers who were brainwashed into hating regular hose but who are tired of freezing their asses off when walking around the city in winter. Now, I like hose and tights. Hose can disguise many flaws, including ghastly winter whiteness, funky shins (which afflict most women over 30, including celebrities (are you listening, SJP?) and saggy knees. But why Alicia Keys, who's blessed with beautiful skin and has nothing to hide, would want to make her legs look shorter and thicker by the addition of unnecessary gym-wear is beyond me.
I vote for the expected hose or tights. Heavy dark tights under wool or tweed skirts are perfect for the woman who's wandering the moors or striding up skyscraper canyons on her way to work. Sheer hose goes with the floaty dress, and if the wearer thinks regular hose are too stodgy, there are sexy substitutes like fishnets.
What do y'all think?
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Of course, orange can work, as the photos of Eva Longoria and Charlize Theron show. But then, just about anything will work on a golden-skinned (by nature or Mystic tan), super-thin, super-styled celebrity. And even though shiny can work on the very skinny, neither Eva or Charlize have gone for high-gloss. Their need for something sparkly was channeled into trim. I must make a note of that: "Gidget, channel need for sparkly into trim." There, in the event I succumb to orangitis, I've just spared anyone who sees me from eyeball burn-out.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
A SUGGESTION TO THOSE WHO MIND SUNBURN
No advice is intended for those who have a skin that either does not burn at all, or turns a beautiful smooth Hawaiian brown; but a woman whose creamy complexion bursts into freckles, as violent as they are hideous, at the first touch of the sun need no longer stay perpetually indoors in daytime, or venture out only when swathed like a Turk, if she knows the virtue in orange as a color that defies the sun’s rays. A thin veil of red-orange is more effective than a thick one of blue or black.
Orange shirt-waists do not sound very conservative, but they are mercifully conserving to arms sensitive to sunburn. Young Mrs. Gilding, whose skin is as perishable as it is lovely, always wears orange on the golf course. A skirt of burnt-orange serge of homespun or linen, and shirtwaists of orange linen or crepe de chine. A hat with a brim and a harem-veil (pinned across her nose under her eyes) of orange marquisette,—which is easier to breathe through than chiffon—allows her to play golf or tennis or to motor or even go out in a sailboat and keep her skin without a blemish.
Emily Post, 1922
I wouldn't try to substitute orange for several layers of SPF 30 myself, but I do find myself oddly attracted to orange garments lately. I say oddly because it's always been my feeling that pasty-faced white chicks like myself should avoid orange for fear of looking jaundiced. But as with poison green, I'm orange fabric is calling me -- and even worse, orange brocade fabric is calling me, because it's briiiiiiiight and shiiiiiiiiny. Thus, if I succumb to my current obsession I not only risk looking like an overstuffed and jaundiced walking piece of fruit, but an overstuffed and jaundiced walking couch.
Of course, not all brocade dresses are couch-like. Consider this beauty from woodlandfarmsantiques.com. I think the orange brocade fabric at left (from Thai Silks) would look gorgeous made into a mod shift like this one. But I guess the $64,000 question is -- would it look gorgeous on me? *lesigh*
Ed. -- and speaking of bright and shiny, the ruffled dress is being offered at Black Light Vintage Clothing. No one's going to get lost in a crowd wearing that! (and yes, I, I, I . . . kinda like it).
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Emily Post, 1922
Yes folks, as whoever does the damn store displays reminds us, the holidays are upon us. So go out and buy your turkey, your cranberries, your X-mas tree, your fairy lights and gifts for all and sundry, especially and including yourself. I suggest treating yourself to a little black dress if you'll be making the rounds of holiday parties, because every woman (and a the occasional man) needs a dress she can step into, zip up, and go out in with the confidence that she's wearing something totally appropriate yet absolutely fabulous.
Right now, Kitty Girl Vintage has so many fabulous black dresses on sale I had trouble deciding which ones to feature. The perfect black lace Dior that originally caught my eye is already sold, and mazel tov to the purchaser. I chose these three dresses to feature because they're so different, but each is perfect in its way.
The top one is a 1950s New Look organza dinner dress (scroll down) designed by Maxwell Shieff Beverly Hills. Check out the bodice, it's completely pin-tucked. This dress the perfect thing for a girly-girl to wear to a holiday party in a temperate zone, the perfect foil for grandma's pearls, so terribly Grace Kelly (who, if you didn't know, was quite the party girl in spite of her ice princess appearance).
The A-line little black cocktail dress is by Jerry Silverman, and, alas, already sold too. That's no surprise, considering that this LBD was a wearable size (B36, W36, H 38) and it looks like it was made yesterday. This dress is so chic that it's almost painful to look at (check out the band and bow above the hem.) It would be perfect to wear to a corporate party, although its appearance might make every female within 100 feet, including a boss or two, sick with clothing lust.
The bottom gown is by Galanos. It's so gorgeous it almost makes me forgive Galanos for being Nancy Reagan's favorite designer. The gown is, unfortunately, also tiny, B32-34, no surprise considering that Galanos dressed Social X-rays. But the price is great, $210, making this dress the perfect purchase for the slender lady of a certain age. All she'd have to do is put on a pair of dangly diamond earrings and a pair of fabulous shoes, and she'd be the belle of the ball.
Happy Holiday shopping, y'all!
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Summer Opening of the State Rooms,
Buckingham Palace, 2006," consisting of a display of 80 of Queen Elizabeth II's gowns and assorted jewels. The Collection was kind enough to offer a beautifully photographed and magnified online display of 18 of the gowns, some jewelry and portraits of the Queen wearing both, to those of us who can't fly in to see the exhibit itself.
As a slut for jewelry as well as over-the-top clothing, I spent a happy 45 minutes examining each garment and jewel in minute detail. Both are beyond extravagant, as suits items that are more symbolic than practical. I also noticed that the Queen didn't look all that happy stuffed into gowns and jewels for her formal portraits. Perhaps it's unseemly for The State to crack a smile while on the clock, but I think her gloomy look just proves my theory that anything that becomes work is ruined, including the simple pleasure in putting on a pretty dress.
At any rate, I'm now on the hunt for a black tiara to wear with my Queen of the Night Halloween costume, which is about as royal as I'll ever get.
The black and white and yellow dresses pictured here aren't from the Royal Collection. Both are home sewn dresses in the design archives of the University of Brighton (click on the link "Fabrics forming Society"). They have some of the elements of the royal gowns of the 50s -- wasp waists, big skirts, embroidery -- and they were no doubt a lot easier to wear. I bet their original owners were delighted to wear them. These dresses inspire me, too. I know I'm not going to have access to embroiderers in this lifetime, but I could find some flocked or embroidered material and pretend I do. I'll add "make 50s dress with lace overlay" to my list of things to do.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Actually, by the time the finale aired, the online fights between Jeffrey fans and Laura fans had become more interesting than the show. Even if I had the energy for message-board partisanship (I'm saving mine for the mid-term elections), I had no dog in that hunt. By season's end I was hoping Uli Herzner, the quiet, unassuming-but-not-without-her-bitchy-moments underdog would win. That one of her designs at left, my favorite look from all four fashion shows. But y'know what? It really makes no difference who won: the designers with ambition will go on to bigger and better gigs, and soon their dramas will be replaced by next seasons drama. I just wish the show would concentrate more on the clothes, dammit!
Friday, October 13, 2006
The champagne Roger Vivier shoes, top left, currently for sale on ebay, are practically an exact reproduction of Belle's shoes. The same seller is offering them in black, too, at prices much lower than retail -- alas, she's only offering size six, and the auctions are almost over. Luckily, the Pilgrim shoe (search online for "ornamented" or "buckle detail" shoes) are fashionable again, so other versions can be found. The gold buckled Delman shoes are available at Zappos. Bluefly has versions by Dolce & Gabbana and Prada. Heck, even Nine West has a pair. Then there's BCBG Girl's hoochie mama version, which misses the point entirely.
Of course, one could always just buy a pair of shoe clips and convert a pair of plain pumps into Pilgrims but I think I'm going to wander down to a local shoe emporium and find a pair or two to try on.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
This boob bun-adorned garment is from Lavin's Spring 2007 collection, which happily contains some really cute little dresses, too.
Also, when the widest part of a model's leg is her knee, the model is too thin. Really, I don't expect high fashion designers to send size 10 models down the runway, but I don't enjoy looking at women who've starved away all their muscle tone, either. There's got to be some kind of happy medium.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Madame X, aka Madame Virginie Amelie Avegno Gautreau, was a professional beauty of her day. Her reputation as such was built on her use of violet-colored powder and low-cut dresses, however when Sargent's famous portrait of her was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1884, it caused a scandal. Evidently at that time it was acceptable to wear make-up (apparently the contrast between Madame's white face and her pink ear is a give-away), henna one's hair and wear revealing gowns (one chain strap was originally painted slipped off her shoulder!) as long as those activities weren't advertised in public, and in 1884, nothing advertised like the Paris Salon.
The portrait ruined the reputations of both Gautreau and Sargent, so naturally dressmakers and designers have been making copies of the scandalous garment (henceforth, the "X-dress") ever since. Linda Evangalista got to wear a near-exact copy of the X-dress for her August 2006 Vogue cover shot, without the corset, I'm sure, given her delicate condition. I'd like a X-dress in every color, even though color would probably take the edge off its X-like decadence. I shouldn't mess with perfection, should I?
A book was written about Sargent, Virginie, and The Scandal entitled: Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X. Dang, it's worth buying just for the title, isn't it?
**This October, a show entitled "Americans inParis: 1860-1900" opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It will feature portraits by Sargent, including Virginie's, as well as paintings by Whistler and Mary Cassatt. Ooooooooh.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Mark (Albert Finney): Who said anything about beautiful?
How nice of the programing folks at Turner Classic Movies to broadcast "Two for the Road" while I'm in the middle of mod madness. "Two for the Road" was one of the last movies Audrey Hepburn made before she left filmmaking for 9 years to raise her children. The movie wasn't a hit when it was first released: the story, of the romance and troubled marriage of a couple driving through France, is told in multiple flashbacks that audiences found confusing. It also portray's Americans unpleasantly, to say the least. I think the screenwriter, Frederic Raphael, an American living in England who also wrote the screenplay for "Darling," was getting revenge on an ex-girlfriend. The movie is worth watching for Audrey Hepburn's performance. She plays a bitch and does it wearing a haute 60s wardrobe by Paco Rabanne, Mary Quant, Hardy Amies, Foale and Tuffin, and others.
One commentator speculated that Audrey's wardrobe wasn't by her usual designer, Givenchy, because her character, Joanna Wallace, was a housewife. I can't remember too many 60's housewives wearing Paco Rabanne or vinyl pantsuits, either.
Unfortunately it's hard to find good still photos from the film, probably because it's not one of Audrey's most popular, so I can't show you my favorite looks from the film. But if you're interested in seeing a fashion show from the late 60's on one of the world's best models, check out "Two for the Road" the next time it's on TV.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
I lurve the Spring 2006 Gucci collection because it feeds my vintage/Mod/Avengers obsessions. I'd so wear that white pantsuit and the neat little coat. I'd enjoy seeing some of the young celebutants in Gucci's little dresses (provided they wear underpants, for the love of Pete). This collection, however, is not without it's missteps, because its other theme apparently is Psychedelic Oktoberfest. Or maybe it's Grandma's Drapes Go Wild. Whatever, the collection is seriously schizophrenic -- perhaps an evil mastermind put something in designer Frida Gianni's espresso?
Speaking of Frida Gianni -- isn't she just the cutest little thing? She's cute enought to design for herself and get away with it, although I don't think even she could get away with Grandma's drapes unless she was waitressing in Munich. She sure doesn't look strong enough to lug around armfuls of beer steins, though.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
The challenge was to create a garment for Elle Magazine's First Look page. The look was to be "editorial," meaning, apparently, that the garment is photogenic and totally unwearable. The designers were to make a garment that would be representative of their Fashion Week collection yet shows the judges the designers could step out of their respective design boxes -- enough mixed signals, ya think?
As with every other final episode, the designers basically collapsed. Jeffrey designed a dress with an interesting bubble skirt and a wonky bodice. He was chided for stepping out of his box too much, although I bet that if he had made the dress all white his design would have received a warmer reception. A warmer reception from me, anyway, because then you couldn't see the weird top-stitching around the neckline. Laura made her usual lace and drippy-bead cocktail dress. She was chided for not stepping out of her box enough. Michael planned a gown with a complicated woven bodice, and got screwed when something like six hours was shaved off the designer's prep time so they could go out and take pictures of their outfits. His garment looked like it only had half a front. He was chided for doing a gown when his forte is sportswear. Uli started out making her usual Uli dress, got stuck, got unstuck when she wripped the oversized pattern on her fabric in half, and made the pictured vintage-inspired dress in about two hours. She even put a modified Watteau train -- actually more like a Watteau panel -- in the back. The judges loved it, I loved it, she won this challenge. I didn't notice until I saw the still photos that the beaded trim on the front oddly extends beyond the hem of the dress. Ah well, no one's perfect, especially on PR.
Uli, however, also incurred the ire of millions of viewers when she "stole" audience-favorite Michael's model Nazri. She was voted auf in the live poll during the show (although how "live" it is to Pacific time viewers is debatable). Humph, people, it's all about the dress!
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
What's the deal, Miuccia, lots of us LIKE looking like ladies, or at LEAST some of like keeping the icy winds sweeping down the Sierra off our booties!!!
If her collection, filled with tootie-baring ultra mini skirts, catches on, the paparazzi will have a field day. No more waiting for Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton to get out of a car in order to catch that elusive hairless beaver shot!* (I'll spare you links to those shots; not only are they NSFW, they're positively traumatizing.) Because you know that our slutty young actresses and socialite celebutants are not going to be wearing granny pants like the Prada models.
And speaking of granny pants: the Prada high-waisted half-leotards or whatever the hell they're called are probably the best example I've seen lately of Why High Waists Are Bad. And where exactly would one wear this? Oh, I know I know, we'll see Fergie the former Pea wearing it on the red carpet any day now.
Oh, and check out the turbans. Y'know, I actually like turbans for, like, Norma Desmond role-playing days, but these things have eau du bad hair all over them.
Then, THEN, Prada delivers dresses that look like someone gave Angela, the Project Runway contestant with the "fleurchon" obsession, a glue-gun and unlimited time. Oy vey! Who is it, exactly, who wants to appear at an event looking like a toilet paper cozy tatted by a particularly demented maiden aunt?
Miuccia's still designing some seriously gorgeous shoes, though.
*I shudder to think what Google will bring me for using that phrase, but that's about as polite as I can get.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
The new Biba's collection isn't a complete triumph as far as this vintage-lover is concerned. The white dress at left (which is not shown well on the super-skinny corpse-pale model) is the most Bibaesque of the collection. I hope the new version of Biba sticks to its roots and manages to achieve fabulosity that is.
If you'd like to read more about Biba and London Fashion Week, drop in on the Catwalk Queen.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
I'd wear the very Ceil Chapman-looking gray-and-white print dress knee-length; I'd wear the pale-green 40s-style swing dress as is; I don't know if I'd wear the pink and white dress but damn, ain't it cute? It doesn't look like it was designed for a 14-year-0ld streetwalker with a Flashdance fetish, either. This strapless white dress is so uncharacteristically elegant it look like the model wandered in from another show.
Of course, she's still Betsey, so her collection still includes hooker hotpants, rompers (who thinks these are a good idea for females over age 4?) and bloomers. Mama mia. But those trademark lapses in taste are balanced by little black dresses that are definitely meant for grown up women.
New York Magazine has Betsey listed as one of their "most popular" shows. I thinking a whole lot of people are tuning in to make sure it's true that Betsey produced such a good-looking and well-received collection.
Mazel tov, Betsey, may you be blessed with many more grandbabies and may you bless us with some more pretty dresses.