Archive for April, 2013

eduardo-garcia-benito-vogue-cover-january-1931Shun the cheap and shoddy as you would a contagious disease and … sink your all in a few perfect clothes. Well-made shoes, well-cut clothes of classic, lasting style, good hats, however few in number – these form the foundation of our lady’s wardrobe.

Vogue, January 1931.

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Jane AustenI’ve been reading a new book called Jane Austen’s Guide to Thrift: An Independent Woman’s Advice in Living Within One’s Means, by Kathleen Anderson and Susan Jones (Berkeley Publishing Group, 2013). The authors, both English Literature professors, offer basic budgeting advice using examples and quotes from Jane Austen’s novels and characters. The fashion section includes discussions on how to repurpose forgotten clothing in your closet, how to succeed at thrift-store shopping, and the advantages of investing in quality classic pieces.

With good humor and wit, the authors poke fun at modern society’s consumptive ways.

“We wonder: Would Jane Austen or her characters have succumbed to personal trainers to achieve a svelte look? Would Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey pore over fashion magazines and think that a pair of $400 shoes was money well spent?”

No they would not and why should we? Although the advice is old-hat for those of us who already practice thrift, the book is entertaining and makes living within one’s means sound like the best trend of the season.

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vreeland1_t500x535Style is everything. It helps you get up in the morning, it helps you get down the stairs. It’s a way of life. Without it, you’re nobody. And I’m not just talking about clothes.

– Diana Vreeland (1903-1989), fashion columnist and editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.

Have you seen the documentary film on Ms. Vreeland, The Eye Has to Travel?

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Essie Davis as Miss Phryne Fisher.

Essie Davis as Miss Phryne Fisher.

 As an enthusiast of vintage fashions and a fan of mysteries, I am super excited about the new television series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, based on the books by Kerry Greenwood. Filmed in Melbourne, Australia the debut series was a big hit there and in the UK when it aired last year. Now it’s coming to America on DVD from Acorn and airing on PBS starting April 22. 

The Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher, delightfully played by Essie Davis, is a well-clad woman of the world in 1928 with plenty of money, wits, and courage. She’s a Lady Detective toting a gold-plated snub-nose revolver who enjoys the company of handsome male admirers and a good murder to solve. So charming is she, we can’t help but love Miss Fisher and her closet.

The mystery plots are somewhat unsatisfying, however, the costumes by Australian costume designer Marion Bryce are the real treat. Ms. Bryce put together 150 outfits for Miss Fisher including the necessary hats, gloves, and handbags. Many of the accessories used are original pieces, but most of the clothing was built with vintage fabric from Ms. Bryce’s personal collection. “The 1920s was a time of extreme excess in many ways,” comments Ms. Bryce. “They lived a lot with gay abandon and that’s always reflected in the clothing, especially the women’s clothing.”

2011_07_29_0336_Ep 4_Death at Victoria Dock_Miss Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis)#10DBOur heroine’s zest for life is indeed reflected in her extensive wardrobe. She is always well dressed plotting her next move in silk kimono; chasing bad guys in fine tweed suits; and slinking around potential beaus in beaded gowns. I appreciate that Ms. Bryce reuses several key pieces, including the black and white coat shown in the photo above, allowing viewers to get a really good look.

In addition to Miss Fisher there are the supporting characters and extras, most of which are not of Miss Fisher’s social standing but nevertheless still properly and well-dressed for their class, offering a useful piece of fashion history. The sets and props are nothing to sneeze at either. 

For anyone who loves vintage this series is an excellent period resource not to mention a great inspiration for creating our own ensembles. Calling all designers and fashion students – this is a must for you, too.

Hey, and the costumes aren’t the only chichi thing going on with Miss Fisher. The show’s theme tune by Greg J Walker is pretty snazzy as well. (You heard it here first.)

So readers, make a pot of tea (or a cocktail), don your favorite cloche hat (or fedora) and settle in for the adventurous new series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries starting April 22nd on PBS.

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essPhoto-unionjackTo wear your heart on your sleeve isn’t a very good plan; you should wear it inside, where it functions best.

Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013), former Prime Minister of Great Britain, 1979-1990. The longest-serving British PM and to date, the only woman.

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Image courtesy of ADSC.

Image courtesy of ADSC.

The Art Deco Society of California Preservation Ball is coming up on Saturday, April 27th, 2013 at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Oakland and you, my readers, simply must be there.

The Deco fun begins at 8pm and includes:

  • Don Neely’s Royal Society Jazz Orchestra with vocalists Carla Normand and Frederick Hodges
  • A dance performance by The DecoBelles
  • Silent auction
  • Preservation awards

… and of course the opportunity to view and experience the elegance of a by-gone era.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Paramount Theatre’s restoration and along with three others, the ADSC is honoring the Paramount for their efforts in preserving the aesthetic excellence of the Art Deco period.

“Each year the ADSC honors a select number of recipients with Preservation Awards,” said H. Lynn Harrison, ADSC’s Preservation Director. “We are thrilled to host the annual Art Deco Preservation Ball at the Paramount Theatre and assist with its ongoing restoration efforts.”  Towards this end, ADSC will make a donation to the Paramount’s Restoration Fund.

Designed by the distinguished San Francisco architect Timothy L. Pflueger, the Paramount Theatre opened its doors in 1931. From then on the Paramount was the go-to cinema showing all the grand movies of the day. In 1970 it closed as a cinema and after extensive restoration in 1973, it became the home of the East Bay Oakland Symphony. Today the building is a California Registered Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. So, it’s not going anywhere but it does need to be maintained.

The Art Deco Preservation Ball Sponsored by the Art Deco Society of California, Saturday, April 27th, 8 p.m. to midnight (Preservation Awards reception at 7 p.m.) At the Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland, CA. Cost in advance:

                  Current ADSC Members – $100

                  Non-Members – $125

                  $150 at the door for everyone

White Tie or Black Tie and Formal Attire /styles of the 1920s-1940s Requested!

Contact:   For information and ticket phone orders: 415-982-DECO (415 982 3326) or zelda1927@artdecosociety.org

To order tickets on-line or for more information, including Deco Dressing Hints, please go to: http://www.artdecosociety.org/decoball

See you at The Ball.

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Strapless dresses make you want to turn the page.

Andre Leon Talley

Mr. Talley, former contributing editor for Vogue, has recently moved on to another gig – editor at large for the magazine Numero Russia.

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Left to right: Valerie, Helen, me, Jean. Photo: Richard Aiello.

One thing often leads to another as was the case with the Night & Day hat exhibit I attended in March. At the exhibit opening I was introduced to Jean and Valerie, two ladies from Advanced Style.

Advance Style is a blog by photographer Ari Seth Cohen featuring chic NYC women of a certain age. The blog turned into a book and now a documentary is in the editing process. Cohen’s ladies have become celebrities of a sort and some are even getting modeling gigs.

I have great admiration for these women. Each has created for herself a unique look combining vintage with ethnic with what ever strikes her fancy. They’ve embraced age and are fearless when it comes to color, pattern, statement jewelry and outlandish hats. What makes it work is they do it all with good taste and flair.

So, I was thrilled to meet Jean and Valerie and their friend, Helen, who owns her own costume shop (watch for a post on that later). The trio couldn’t have been nicer as they posed for photos and took the time to speak with me. Turns out that Jean and Valerie have their own blog, indiosyncraticfashionistas and are the subject of a recent book by cartoonist Joana Avillez.

Hats of course were the accessory of the evening and Jean sported one of her animal ear hats. She has a fondness for the silhouette and owns many a chapeau highlighting two propped points.

Valerie sported a fabulous vintage red feathered number. She’s a hat gal from way back starting as a child wearing hats for warmth against East Coast winters. As she got bored with one style she’d adopt another. The years passed and … Valerie is now a collector.

Thank you, ladies for being so gracious. I look forward to seeing you again in the documentary.

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I’m kind of sick of fast fashion and would like to enhance visibility and power around contemporary, modern design produced in a heartfelt way, like artists or industrial designers were doing in the seventies … I work in fashion, and it’s so fast that we should stop more and think about it.

Chiara Orlandini, shoe designer.

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