Archive for April, 2016


Every  April, Clinique has a gift with purchase so I popped into the San Francisco Union Square Macy’s to pick up Clinique tinted moisturizer and my gift.

The samples came in the usual cotton pouch but there was an attached tag – Vera. I’m thinking, Vera as in Vera Bradley, that’s pretty cool. But the print wasn’t quite right. Well then, Vera who?

Vera Neumann the enclosed poop sheet said. So, I looked her up.

Turns out Vera Neumann is THE VERA, as in the artist and fabric designer from decades ago best known for her scarves. Apparently Clinique occasionally contracts the brand, now called The Vera Company, to use prints from their archives.

Vera Salaff was born in 1907 to parents who encouraged her and her siblings to follow their passion. Vera’s was drawing and painting and she became a fashion illustrator and later a textile designer in NYC. After marrying George Neumann, the two set up shop creating screen printed table linens. During WWII Vera discovered parachute silk material selling cheap at the Army/Navy surplus store. She began transferring her brightly colored, often floral patterns to the unconventional material and created her first scarves with the Vera signature. They were an instant success and the beginning of a long career and successful business in fashion. The Vera Scarf was a popular choice for many women including Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. Later, the company started a line of clothing for women.

Vera died in 1993 and the business was bought and sold a number of times thereafter. Vintage Vera scarves can be found in thrift stores and vintage shows and are very collectable. So too are these pouches; I found a few selling for $10 on EBay.

Tempting but I’ll keep mine.


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sjcf_01_img0244Glamour has to come from you and it has to come from confidence. The pope is glamorous. There are people who are automatically glamorous. Marilyn Monroe was glamorous in a towel. She couldn’t help herself. Shirley Temple was glamorous. The first person that looked glamorous to me was Carmen Miranda. It was 1943 and I was four years old.

– Bob Mackie, American fashion designer.

Mr. Mackie recently received the Costume Council’s Designer of Excellence Award. He is known for his work on the Carol Burnett Show and for costuming such celebrities ad Cher, Bette Milder, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Maggie Smith and … the list really is endless.


Bob Mackie design for The Carol Burnett Show. A parody of Gone With the Wind.

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still-cream-clothes-galleryDownton Abbey is done and I imagine many fans are feeling the void. Well, there is a little something to ease life post DA.

Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times is a costume exhibit now running at the Driehaus Museum in Chicago. Featuring 30 original costumes from the popular PBS series, this exhibit explores how fashions evolved from 1912 to the 1920s. Covering men and women, upstairs and downstairs, Dressing Downton makes connections and explains how world events impacted fashion.

It seems The Driehaus Museum, a mansion built in 1879 for Chicago banker Samuel Mayo Nickerson, is the perfect setting for a DA exhibit. Restored in 2003 by businessman and philanthropist Richard Driehaus, the interior is decorated with period furniture, artworks, stained glass and other select pieces from the Driehaus extensive collection.

Driehaus Museum.

Driehaus Museum.

If you’re in Chicago or are planning a visit this exhibit runs through May 29th and is worth a peek. If Chicago is not on your itinerary, click on the link above for a virtual tour.

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Dress Impression With Wrinkled Cowl, 2007. Glass sculpture by Karen LaMonte.

Clothing both protects and projects. It is an armor and costume, plumage and camouflage.

– Karen LaMonte, American artist.

I recently stumbled upon this sculpture by Karen LaMonte at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR. Isn’t it something? I love the contrasting feel of soft draped fabric and inflexible glass.

With the idea of creating a series of life-sized dresses in glass, in 1999 Ms. LaMonte traveled to Prague, the world renowned location for large scale casting. After her first successful piece, she realized she wanted an absent human presence within the dress. From there she created a process using a live model plus rubber, wax and fabric. For her work she has to use an industrial factory and a team of eight men, all specialized craftsmen. Each piece takes nine months from start to finish.

Ms. LaMonte was initially inspired by the the idea of dress as metaphor for the body and human presence. With each glass dress she says she is exploring beauty, the allure of fashion, and the mystery of the missing figure.

Check out her website.


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IMG_20160402_211739438Whenever planning an outfit for a period costume event I start by shopping my closet. For me creating something out of what I already have is the most fun.

The theme the 2016 Art Deco Society of California Preservation Ball this year was Forbidden City: Chinese Nightclubs of the 1930s. I started with a lovely silk sheath dress by Kiss of the Wolf in a deep gold. This is really a 1920s silhouette but hey, that’s my best era so I went with it. The shoes are from my small collection, 20s copper leather and I chose my grandmother’s Whiting & Davis gold mesh evening bag. (It seemed my personal theme was colors of metal.)


I took the black sash from the dress and wrapped it around my head and … here’s the fun part, as a subtle nod to the Chinese theme I wove into the folds a pair of chopsticks. On top of the chopsticks I glued two small monkeys.

I was really excited about the jewelry – a necklace of lace silver and smokey quartz disks with a matching ring. My grandmother bought this set when she and my grandfather, an officer in the Navy, were living in China in the 1930s. So the set is the real deal!


I was very pleased with my sartorial creation, particularly because I was able to include family pieces.

The evening itself at Bimbos in San Francisco was as always a great time with lots of music, dancing, cocktails, and visiting. Congratulations to all the 2016 Preservation Award Winners, including Heather Ripley for her outstanding contribution to the Art Deco Society of California and Stookey’s Club Moderne, my new favorite SF place to stop for a drink.

Next up – Gatsby Summer Afternoon set for Sunday September 11, 2016.

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409full-rei-kawakuboIf you have total freedom to design, you won’t get anything interesting. So I give myself restraints in order to kind of push myself through, to create something new. It’s the torture that I give myself, the pain and the struggle that I go through. So it’s self-given, but that’s the only way, I think, to make a strong, good new creation.

– Rei Kawakubo, renowned fashion designer for Comme des Garcons.

Ms. Kawakubo is known for her experimental construction and unconventional silhouettes. One can sense her self-torture looking at her designs, which to my mind are interesting soft sculpture but not at all wearable. Her work reminds me of Leigh Bowery concoctions.


Rei Kawakubo designs for Comme des Garcons spring/summer 2016.

But I do like her ready-to-wear … like this one:


Ready-to-wear spring/summer 2016.

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