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Archive for May, 2013

Caroline-CharlesBritish fashion designer Caroline Charles is called The Thinking Woman’s Designer for her smart styles – classic yet feminine yet chic. After 50 years in the business, Ms. Charles is as popular now as she was back in the Swinging Sixties when she hobnobbed with the likes of Mary Quant and Mick Jagger.

Over the years, in addition to creating her own line Ms. Charles has been a design consultant for brands such as Burberry and Marks & Spencer. In 2002 she received a OBE  for her services to British fashion.

To mark five decades in the business the successful designer has published a book, Caroline Charles: 50 Years in Fashion (ACC Editions, 2012). Full of diary entries, press clippings, and photos this memoir is a unique peek into the fashion world of the 1960s through today.

Ms. Charles got her start in 1963 when as a young London designer she was invited on a Pop-Tour of America. Twenty-four cities in one month with pop rock bands, dancers, and models showing up at department stores to give a fashion show.  

The stores were massive and the shows were exciting … at the end the audience would get up on the catwalk and join the models, the band playing on, the go-go girls with fishnet tights in their cages … They loved the music and the clothes, which were by their standards short and unconventional – little shifts rather than the shirtwaisters they were used to, short hair rather than pony tails.

Ms. Charles succinctly describes her business happenings for each decade, 1960s right up to today and there’s a Q&A with fashion writer Ian R. Webb. Her stories are compelling as are the photos. Almost for me the best part, the images are informative, inspirational and an excellent documentation of silhouettes and styles for the past 50 years. I enjoy flipping through the pages studying them (and wishing I had lived in Swinging London).

I say Ms. Charles’ memoir is another must-have for anyone interested in fashion history.

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Pocket Square

It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be there.

Roberto Isola speaking about the all important pocket square at the Art Deco Society of California’s recent lecture on men’s vintage fashions. Roberto and his wife, Jula, are experts in vintage fashions and run their own business, City Vintage Clothing.

From their studio in South San Francisco, the Isolas work with men and women to create vintage ensembles for parties, weddings, and various period events, including the upcoming ADSC’s Gatsby Summer Afternoon.

Thanks, Roberto for doing your part to help our fellas look their best.

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I think women are really going to tap into the Gatsby look because it’s quite feminine and soft and joyful, and I think that, post financial crisis, people are looking for a little joy. And women are rediscovering the power a hat has to transform their look and to give them some extra ways of styling themselves.

Rosie Boylan, milliner. (Ms. Boylan created most of the 1000 hats used in the new The Great Gatsby film.)

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Hats designed by Rosie Boylan for The Great Gatsby.

Hats designed by Rosie Boylan for The Great Gatsby.

Hats are always important. Full stop … Hats enhance the characters, create an otherworldliness, and help the audience understand that we’re in a time other than our own.

Catherine Martin, costume designer for The Great Gatsby

Ms. Martin worked with milliner Rosie Boylan designing hats for the blockbuster film, which premieres May 10th, 2013.

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Helen Uffner (far right) and her helpers. Left to right: Chelsea Bjerk, Lauren Bostic, and Dan Travis. Photo: Richard Aiello.

Helen Uffner (far right) and her helpers. Left to right: Chelsea Bjerk, Lauren Bostic, and Dan Travis. Photo: Richard Aiello.

Helen Uffner is well-known around NYC and Hollywood for having the best old duds. She runs her own business renting period clothing and accessories for theater productions, films, television, magazine editorials, and book covers. 

I met Ms. Uffner over hats at the reception opening for the Milliner’s Guild exhibition. When I mentioned that I write about fashion and have a fondness for vintage, Ms. Uffner generously invited my partner and me to her warehouse.

Now that’s an offer I wasn’t going to refuse. Plans we had for the next day were forgotten as we hopped on the subway to Queens and knocked on the door of Helen Uffner Vintage Clothing, LLC.

It seemed a fun place to work. Vintage tunes played in the background as staff chatted with actors who were getting fitted for a local play. A woman visiting from Hollywood was sorting out costumes for an upcoming film. 

When not busy reorganizing or working with clients, the staff model some of the merchandise for Ms. Uffner’s Etsy site, Vintage Pickle. Apparently on some days they just can’t resist playing dress-up.

What started as a personal collection for Ms. Uffner is now a 6000-plus square foot warehouse of clothing for men, women, and children from the 1860s on.

Photo: Richard Aiello.

Photo: Richard Aiello.

Since she was a young teen, Ms. Uffner has been drawn to all things antique and vintage. Her first purchase was a 1920s beaded dress for $5, which she found at a flea market in Connecticut. “Then I went to a big antique faire,” she explains, “and I had to debate for about an hour and a half whether or not I could spend $20 on an Edwardian dress.” Good sense won out and she still has both of those dresses.

As a fine arts major in college, Ms. Uffner continued to collect but never with the thought of wearing her pieces. She preferred to study the fabric and construction of what she considers works of art. Everything she bought she hung or kept in boxes at home. Before long she became the go-to person for friends and friends-of-friends in need of a costume for this or that. One day the costume designer for Woody’s Allen’s film, Zelig came over and ended up buying just about everything Ms. Uffner had. (BTW, the film won an Academy Award in 1984 for Best Costumes.) It was then that she realized she could rent rather than sell, and a business was born.

In addition to basic clothing, Ms. Uffner has undergarments for men and women, hats, handbags, ties, shoes, anything needed for a complete period ensemble. Among her many clients are popular fashion designers who rent pieces to copy for their own lines.

Photo: Richard Aiello.

Photo: Richard Aiello.

Ms. Uffner stores everything on racks or shelving arranged by time period, then color and fabric. “We don’t quite do it by decade,” she explains, “but by how styles changed.” Interns are charged with sifting through the racks looking for misplaced pieces, which is a great way to learn about vintage details. Details that Ms. Uffner can rattle off the top of her head. Such as, button-fly trousers for men are Victorian to the early 1930s.

Photo: Richard Aiello.

Photo: Richard Aiello.

Over the past 35 years, Ms. Uffner has provided clothing for the films Fatal Attraction, Out of Africa, The Color Purple, Mona Lisa Smiles, Julie & Julia, Mildred Pierce (HBO), and Far From Heaven just to name a few. Currently staff is working on 42 and Behind the Candelabra. Theater productions include The Producers, The Seagull, Trip to Bountiful, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Oh, and Catherine Martin, costume designer for the new Great Gatsby film spent six months visiting the warehouse and renting various pieces for inspiration.

Ms. Uffner is still actively buying, both for the business and her collection. She says her personal favorites are not necessarily the pretty dressy pieces, but the character clothes – the faded, patched, lived-in and worn. “Because they have a story.”

Ms. Uffner spent two hours showing us around and answering our questions. It was a rare NYC treat for this vintage-lovin’ tourist.

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