Archive for April, 2014


Image courtesy of Basic Books.

Oh boy, I am super excited about this: On Thursday, May 15th at 6pm Linda Przybszewski will be at Book Passage in the San Francisco Ferry Building reading from and signing her new book, The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish (Basic Books; 2014).

Ms. Przybyszewski is a professor of history at the University of Notre Dame as well as an author and accomplished seamstress. In The Lost Art of Dress she discusses what she calls the Dress Doctors, women in the first half of the twentieth century who taught young girls and women how to dress well. In Home Economics classes and women’s clubs, in magazines and on the radio, The Dress Doctors, armed with basic fashion knowledge and some serious sewing skills, imparted their wisdom on what was appropriate attire for home, school, work, daytime and evening. Ms. Przybyszewski says:

Today, Americans are known for their sloppy dressing, but it was not always so. An Englishwoman who came to the States after WWII marveled at ‘the inherent good taste’ of the American woman. But American women weren’t born with good taste. They learned it from the Dress Doctors. And we can learn it again.

I’ve just started reading this fascinating book (review coming soon) and I’m really looking forward to hearing what Ms. Przybyszewski has to say in person. Local readers, join me on Thursday, May 15th, 6pm at Book Passage, in the San Francisco Ferry building.

In the meantime, check out Ms. Przybyszewski’s blog: http://professorpski.tumblr.com/





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9781452132693_largeIt was liberating to spend the early part of my youth playing with clothes and finding my own style without the tyranny of being influenced by expensive labels … I think an eighteen-year-old with a luxury designer bag has missed out on a lot, not the least the excitement of it taking fifteen years to save up and buy one yourself.  

– Kirstie Clements, former editor-in-chief of Vogue Australia and author of The Vogue Factor (Chronicle Books, 2014).

Click here to see an interview with Ms. Clements.

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A LV tote made of LV handbags. Designed by Marc Jacobs.

A LV tote made of LV handbags. Designed by Marc Jacobs.

I recently saw the 2007 documentary Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton and actually, watched it twice. It was fascinating to see Mr. Jacobs at work brainstorming ideas with his team, designing on fit models and planning runway shows, all while puffing away on cigarette after cigarette. And … he had to do this twice: once in Paris for the brand Louis Vuitton and then again in NYC for his own line, Marc Jacobs. (But this is no longer the case since Mr. Jacobs left his position as creative director at LV in fall 2013.)

Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton includes commentary by Mr. Jacobs as well as other fashion industry notables like Anna Wintour, in-house and backstage footage, and close-up peeks at fashion artisans at work.

For example, we’re in on a creative meeting where Mr. Jacobs comes up with the crazy idea of making a tote from VL handbags. Then later we watch several artisans work on the bag, speaking French, trying to stitch leather on a huge industrial sewing machine. It looked like pure hell putting that bag together but the LV staff persevered (I suspect all French cursing was edited out) and got it done minutes before the Paris Fashion Week runway show. Apparently, 28 of those bags were ordered as a result.  I wonder if the intrepid artisans got the hang of it by number 27.

This film is a very informative behind-the-scenes view of the hectic life of a corporate fashion designer. It’s like taking a super fun fashion class without pop quizzes.

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imagesWe used to live in a world where people cared about how they dressed. I am shocked how often I will be out somewhere, whether on a street or in a restaurant, and I see only a handful of people who seem dressed appropriately, and even fewer dressed beautifully.

Linda Przybyszewski, associate professor of history at University of Notre Dame and author of The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish (Basic Books, 2014).

Watch for my review of this book, coming soon.

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TShirtMakovers_CoverWe all love our t-shirts but sometimes they could use a little pop. To help us out, New York City based fashion designers, Carmia Marshall and Carmen Webber  (former Project Runway contestant) have just published a book with scads of DIY ideas for refashioning and refreshing the tee.

T-Shirt Makeovers: 20 Transformations for Fabulous Fashions (Glitterati Incorporated) includes instructions on how to take your comfy t-shirt and turn it into something super chic and fun.

Ms. Marshall and Ms. Webber open the book discussing:

  • body type and how to take your measurements
  • color and what works for different skin shades
  • and the various styles of t-shirts.

The writing duo also includes a very important chapter called Quick Tee Makeover Tips, which reminds us of some sewing basics such as ironing out wrinkles before getting started, the right and wrong sides of fabric, different pin types, and Cutting Rules.

“Once you cut, there’s no turning back! Cutting mistakes are costly and irreversible.”

IMG_0476Each set of instructions has a list of what you need and a difficulty level, from pretty easy with no sewing machine to challenging, like the Deep V-neck with Ruffled Sleeve Dress – a dress make of three oversized tees.  

I tried the Simple Scoop Top and had it done in an hour. I started by taking my measurements and plugged those into the instructions before doing any cutting. I found that part to be a little unclear so I suggest a choosing a practice tee. Once I got past the measurements it was easy going.

My favorite part of this particular design is the sleeves. I cut up the middle of each one and the tied extra fabric, cut from the bottom of the tee, into a bow at the top. This creates movement and style to what was once a dull cap sleeve.

IMG_0479In fact, it’s the reinvented sleeves that I like most about many of the designs by Ms. Marshall and Ms. Webber and in the Visual Glossary there are illustrations of various sleeve styles. What a handy guide just for general fashion knowledge!

I think refashioning t-shirts is a great way for beginner designers as well as novice seamstresses to let loose with the scissors and think creativity. T-Shirt Makeovers: 20 Transformations for Fabulous Fashions helps lead our way.




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MV5BMTYxOTMwMjg5N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjExMjE2MQ@@__V1_SY317_CR8,0,214,317_It’s kind of a charmed situation. Anything that is associated with Marc Jacobs instantly becomes popular. It’s sort of the combination of extremely beautiful, extremely unpretentious, and extremely hip. I mean, the cachet is extraordinary.

– Novelist Francine Prose speaking about fashion designer Marc Jacobs in the documentary film, Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton.



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Woman with Fur Trim Hood STOCK PHOTO

Unfashionable woman in fur-trimmed coat. Photo courtesy of Born Free USA.

Many years ago a vintage fur coat was handed down to me from a distant relative. Even then I was anti-fur in fashion, however, I did wear it once and … felt a fool. So I decided to put the coat on consignment at a local vintage clothing store and give the money I made to People for Ethical Treatment of Animals.

That was the best option I had at the time but what I really wanted to do was give the fur back to the animals. Sounds crazy, I know.

Or maybe not. Now, thanks to Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, we can give fur back. Born Free USA is running a donation drive called Fur for the Animals. The drive is collecting coats, hats, and other garments made from animal fur and donating them to wildlife animal rescue rehabilitation centers around the country. The centers use the fur to provide comfort and familiarity to young injured and sick wildlife in their care.


Consider the source of fur.

According to Adam Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, “Animal trapping and fur farming are not only barbaric to animals but also are horrifying public safety and environmental issues. One of our key organizational campaigns is to reduce the supply, demand, and social acceptance of fur and end the cruelest forms of trapping in America. Our ‘Fur for the Animals’ drive offers a simple solution to the compassionate question Born Free USA often receives: “what can I do with this old fur?” Consumers and retailers across the globe are going fur-free and we applaud each and every one of them!” 

Fur for the Animals runs now through May 30, 2014.


Donations can be dropped off or shipped to the following places:

Born Free USA, 2300 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007

Born Free USA, 1220 H Street, Suite 103, Sacramento, CA 95820

Click here for more information.

Do you have a fur something or other that has come your way? Why not give it back to the animals?

Thank you, Born Free USA for giving us the opportunity to put fur fashion to good use.






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untitledI’ll never forget what wonderful Edna Chase, the doyenne – the goddess – the former of taste, discretion and elegance – sending a memo to us in the bombing, that she noticed we weren’t wearing hats and she didn’t approve that we dyed our legs and made lines up the backs to simulate stockings – (Britain had no nylons until the US Air Force brought them in as rich presents) – and I happened to be in charge of the office that day, though it was none of my affair to answer the boss, I sent a cable in my own name: We have no ration coupons and no nylon stockings anyway. The next week every member of the staff was sent three pairs.

Lee Miller, (1907-1977) American fashion model, photographer, and war correspondent for Vogue magazine (WWII).

This quote is from a letter Ms. Miller sent to her brother during the London Blitz (German bombing of the city), happening in the early years of World War II. At the time she was living in London with the artist/photographer Roland Penrose and working for Vogue as a fashion photographer. Later she traveled to the Continent as a war correspondent, also for Vogue.

I’ve been fascinated with Ms. Miller ever since I attended the exhibit The Art of Lee Miller at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. I was and continue to be captivated by the many facets of her artistic talents.

Currently I’m reading Lee Miller in Fashion, by Becky E. Conekin.

BTW, Edna Chase was the editor in chief of Vogue from 1914-1952. She’s also quite a story.

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Image courtesy of Reminisce Magazine.

It’s been 50 years since the miniskirt first hit the fashion scene and Reminisce magazine is celebrating.

Back in the late 1950s, British designer Mary Quant had been slowly raising the hemlines of her designs, inspired by the idea of easier movement for women. Over the years her customers kept saying, shorter, shorter, and Ms. Quant obliged. By the mid-1960s models such as Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton caught on, and the mini (aptly named by Ms. Quant after her favorite car, the Mini Cooper) became the international trend of the era.

The reinvented skirt brought along other fashion staples:

  • Pantyhose, which meant no more stockings, girdles or garters. (Suddenly, young woman were more comfortable and free to move about the world.)
  • Colored tights, now a wardrobe must
  • Low-heel and flat shoes
  • Boots!

Before long the miniskirt developed into much more than an article of clothing. It symbolized the many shifts happening for women at the time –  feminism, liberation, and rebellion.

I read all about the miniskirt in Reminisce, a bimonthly nostalgia magazine. In addition to historical articles (many about fashion), Reminisce is filled with personal essays and photos about everyday American life from the 1900s through the 1970s. Most of the content is written by readers and include stories about parents and grandparents, siblings and themselves. Stories about how they met their spouse, school day happenings, family road trips, and other interesting slices of life. I say Reminisce is a great resource for writers, history buffs, vintage fashion enthusiasts, collectors, and anyone who appreciates a good story.

One of my favorite recent articles is titled Job With A View written by Lynn Hartz, who worked as an airline stewardess in the 1960s. Ms. Hartz shares with readers what it was like to work in the industry when travel and flying were still exotic and glamorous. Included in the article are lots of photos of various airline uniforms, showing how they changed with the fashions over the decades (hemlines going from mid-calf to way above the knee.)

Check out Reminisce online.

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