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Cover design by Robert Smith.

Put this on your Summer Reading List: Vamps of ’29 by Alice Jurow.

Vamps of ’29 is a captivating and fashionable tale of three models in 1920s Paris, who, as it happens, are not just vamps but vampires, too.

Alice Jurow is a friend of mine from the Art Deco Society of California. Back in the 1990s Alice was the editor of the Society’s publication, The Sophisticate, and I wrote the occasional feature article.

In addition to editing Alice also writes, having penned articles on art, style, and architecture. She’s a big fan of writing fiction as well, with many a short story under her belt and now she has published her first novel.

I was pleased when Alice agreed to a Q&A with OverDressedforLife.

What was the inspiration for your first novel? How long did it take you?

Vamps of ’29 first grew out of one specific, fashion-related prompt. My friend Sally Norton (of Foggy Night Jewelry) was telling me about a Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild event; it was a vampire port tasting, and she said there would be a lot of 18th and 19th century costuming but she would love it if some of the “Deco gals” came as “vampires in little black 1920s Chanel frocks.” That image took root, and several months later I realized I wanted to write about it. Since I’m slow, and subject to distractions, the book took about four years.

What drew you to the well-covered topic of vampires?

I’m pretty squeamish, actually, so I was never really drawn to the genre  — but of course Anne Rice’s ‘Interview with the Vampire’ was so compelling and created such a complete world. And the oh so stylish movie ‘The Hunger,’ with Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie. But it was really Buffy [the Vampire Slayer] that sort of “domesticated” vampires, making them characters with personalities and humor. For a while I worried that my vampires were breaking too many rules of the genre (they can be seen in mirrors, for example) — but I did a bit of research and found that vampires vary quite a bit from one source to another. It is fiction after all – right?

Author Alice

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Author Alice Jurow. Photo: Heidi Schave.

There is a lot of scrumptious 1920s fashion detail in your book and I know you know so much about that era, but did you find you had to do some research? Where did you search?

The fashion details were already in my head, after years of being steeped in images and descriptions from the period — I could basically “see” what the characters were wearing in any given scene.  But I did quite a bit of research on other things, like train schedules and jazz clubs. It’s amazing how much is on the internet — and how much isn’t. I found some wonderful books in the Berkeley Public Library.

(Let’s hear it for libraries!)

How do you go about writing? Do you start with longhand or go straight to the computer?

There’s some writing I can bang out right at the keyboard, but with fiction I always start in longhand and then revise when typing.

Describe your usual writing environment.

Ideally it’s a beautiful afternoon in the garden … but barring that, a comfy chair in the living room. With a tiny cocktail or a lovely coffee.

When I sit down to write I have a my preferred notebook next to me and a couple of my special pencils, do you have favorite writing instruments to take notes?

I hate to waste paper, so I used to always write on recycled printer paper that had one side blank, but I worried about losing pages. So I switched to old notebooks that were only partly used. But I think I’ve used up all the ones around the house, so I may need to buy a new notebook!  Spiral bound, with pockets. I admire beautiful pens, but I write with ordinary ballpoints.

(I love that you don’t waste paper. I also use old notebooks, mostly leftover from college. But I do like choosing new writing supplies. I recommend Elmwood Stationers on College Avenue.)

I picture you at your writing table in your signature turban and red lipstick. Do you like to dress to get into the mood of your story?

I definitely dress to write, even if it’s just a gesture. Often I’m in jodhpurs — “writing breeches.” Red lipstick is essential.

(Always.)

Care to tell us what you’re working on next?

I feel that my characters aren’t done with me yet, and being immortal, they want to move on. They are in the 1930s now.

Thank you, Alice and congratulations!! We look forward to more from you.

Vamps of ’29 is available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

770_480nMum’s sewing shop – which also doubled as the back room of our flat where she and my dad slept – was where all the mothers and sisters would come. They’d bring a magazine image, and she’d work with them to cut something that actually suited them. I loved the way she could pick up a piece of fabric with confidence and cut without a pattern; to this day, I drape on friends. I then have to work backward to adapt to the standard sample-size measurements for production, but it allows me to see what it’s going to look like on the end customer.

Osman Yousefzada – British fashion designer. (This quote is from an interview with Elle magazine, June 2017.)

 

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Osman Yousefzada Resort 2017. Lots of new things going on with sleeves this season and of course the bare shoulder is everywhere. I like the one sided approach,

After graduating with a fashion design degree from Central St Martins, Osman Yousefzada debuted his women’s line during London’s 2008 Fashion Week. He quickly became a favorite for his sculptural silhouettes and went on to win several prestigious fashion awards including the BFC Newgen sponsored by Topshop.

I love this story that Mr. Yousefzada shares. What a nice image and memory. Bringing magazine cuttings to local seamstresses was and perhaps still is a popular thing to do. I know my mother did it decades ago, I do it, and I have a friend who has clothing made that way as well.

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Question: What’s the difference between a well-dressed bicyclist and a poorly dressed unicyclist?

Answer: Attire.

 

Haha. As a bicyclist myself I admit I have not brought my fashionable best to the handlebars. I usually cycle for exercise around my neighborhood in the mornings and well, my hoodie, cropped sweat pants, and a pair of Pumas go on so easy.

But I often think of the San Francisco Tweed Ride (or London Tweed Run), which gathers a dapper biking crowd to cycle together on vintage bikes and in vintage attire – such as tweed jackets, jodhpurs, caps, and argyle socks. En masse all around the city they go creating quite a picture. I ran into them once in Civic Center and it’s super fun to see all the different outfits, early 1900s to the 1930s and lots of mixing it up.

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But the Tower Bridge steals the show in this photo.

I may be casual at home but last October in London I stepped it up for a bicycle tour of the city with Tally Ho! Cycle Tours. I sported wide-leg wool slacks paired with a Pendleton jacket, and a cloche hat. It was a challenging ride thanks to all the city traffic, but I was lookin’ spiffy and after three hours tooling around, I made it back to tell the tale.

lbb-main_2245033aI am deeply saddened by the administration’s choice to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. I recently had the pleasure of attending the Copenhagen Fashion Summit and was energized by the conversations and commitments made by many brands — big and small — to truly incorporate sustainability practices into their business models. Now is the time for our industry to use its creativity toward solving the global environmental crisis. This isn’t just the fashion industry’s issue — it is everyone’s issue.

Eileen Fisher, American fashion designer.

hear! hear!

There are many hatmakers who just make hats, and who don’t think about the fashion. I love thinking about the fashion, and the crazy thing about fashion is that every six months you have to reinvent yourself. Fashion makes sense when it matches the mood and the moment. It’s about the now.

Stephen Jones, English Milliner

This year Mr. Jones celebrates his 60th birthday and 40 years making hats!
Jones has made remarkable hats and fascinators for everyone from Boy George and Isabella Blow to Princess Diana and most recently Pippa Middleton. He has worked with designers John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs to name just a few, while also maintaining his own line of hats.
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One of my favorite Stephen Jones hats from Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton Autumn/Winter 2012.

 

A Club Boy back in the 70s, Jones studied at St. Martin’s in London. He began making hats for friends in 1977 and hasn’t looked back since. Today he creates head-turning masterpieces in his studio/shop located in an 18th century Convent Garden building. (What a perfect spot for inspiration.)

Congratulations to Stephen Jones. Here’s to may more years of fabulous hats!!

That’s me sporting my custom-made shirtwaist dress by Theresa LaQuey. Photo: James Young

Throwback Thursday. Originally posted on June 23, 2011.

Last October I had a brilliant idea while strolling Fabric Row in Philadelphia. Why not buy some fabric to take home and have a couple of dresses made? What a perfect memento of my visit to Philly.

So that’s what I did. I perused the family run shop Maxie’s Daughter on South 4th Street and chose two cotton fabrics – one with a violet color print and the other a brown/orange print. I knew I wanted shirtwaist dresses I could wear with sandals in the spring/summer and with tights in the autumn.

The middle-aged salesladies with frosted updos and South Philly accents seemed more serious about the upcoming baseball playoffs than fabric. “We’re gonna beat you,” they teased. “OK,” I said. “I have no problem with that.”  Heck, I was a San Francisco visitor with absolutely no attachment to ballgames, I wasn’t going to argue with Phillies fans.

When I returned home, designer Theresa LaQuey sketched a retro shirtwaist dress with buttons down the front and a knee-length hem (very vintage nurses uniform). A few months later, voila … I had dresses that are well made and fit to a T.

Every time I wear them I think of my visit to Philly and those serious Phillies fans. Now, those are dresses with a story.

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Zara and Sahar.

On a recent Sunday afternoon I spotted these two lovely women chatting together in a local park while looking casual-chic.

Sahar and Zara originally hail from Iran but now live in the Lamorinda area.

Zara is wearing edgy ripped leggings paired with a comfy sneakers. I like that she chose a button-down shirt with a flattering slim-fit (instead of a more typical and less interesting T-shirt). She pulled the whole thing together by adding a pop of color in the turquoise scarf.

Sahar went for pattern in black and white to top her leggings. A longish sweater accented with faux fur offers lots of pizzazz and completes the outfit. Like Zara she used an accessory to brighten the look – love the fuchsia handbag! Another cute pair of trendy sneakers, which look sharp and guarantee easy walking.

Comfortable yet fashionable and interesting to boot.

Nicely done!