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Archive for February, 2018

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Costume designer Adrian and Greta Garbo on the set of The Single Standard. 

I first realized Costume Design was an occupation while watching Greta Garbo in the 1920s film, A Single Standard. Adrian’s costumes succinctly captured a free-thinking, strong-willed character through her louche, striped pajamas. The casual, masculine silhouettes with a nautical flair were antithetical to women of the time, a radical rethinking of the uniform women were expected to wear. I was mesmerized. 

Anna Wyckoff, editor-in-chief, The Costume Designer: The Official Magazine of the Costume Designers Guild.

Adrian (1903-1959) designed costumes for over 250 films from the 1920s through 1941. He’s known for such iconic films as The Women (1939), Camille (1936), and The Wizard of Oz (1939). Adrian worked with many a film superstar including Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, and Katharine Hepburn.

Despite Adrian’s popularity and success in Hollywood, he was never nominated for an Oscar.

Speaking of the Oscars – they are fast approaching. Sunday, March 4th.

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Nice belt detail on the hat.

I love the hat! We rarely see fashion hats on women, which is a shame because they really pop an outfit and create interest. A picture hat is a stylish choice and shows panache. The thin belt around the crown adds a touch of class.

There is such a void of interesting fashion in the burbs, that anyone with any sense of style really stands out. As did this woman at the Walnut Creek BART Station on a recent sunny winter day.

The dress looks like a wrap made of jersey knit in a fabulous colorful geometric print. She pairs it with brown boots, which is appropriate for the season. Her purse is just a big tan shoulder bag – simple chic that nicely ties in with the hat.

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Thank you, Picture Hat Lady. You brightened my day.

 

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Jane Birkin Lights Up Christmas Tree

… when I first went to Paris as a teenager, I could always spot other English girls because we put everything together so badly. French women start with the same ingredients, but they make better use of them. They were always so beautifully turned out with their velvet headbands and clip-on pearls, a scarf casually tossed over their shoulder. But after the counterculture swept through Europe, it became chic to wear whatever you liked, and it was our chance to laugh at the French girls. You’d see photos of Julie Christie coming down her front steps wearing a raincoat  over her pajamas with gum boots, spectacles perched at the end of her nose. It was so unpretentious – and so very English. It’s impossible to be stylish without confidence, you see. 

Jane Birkin – British actress and model.

I’d love to see an example of a British woman back in the day who styled herself so badly and a French woman who did it so perfectly.

Ms. Birkin is known for her effortless style. She sported a basket as a handbag back in the 1960s, which eventually inspired the Hermes Birkin Bag and she has made “borrowing from the boys” look tres chic for the ladies.

Speaking of European style, lately several women have complimented me by saying, “Your style is very European.” I think what they meant is that I have a put together look – my outfits are intentional and cohesive. That’s not at all American but perhaps it is European.

What American fashion strives for is more like Ms. Birkin’s effortless sporty look. I love that, when it works. Making it work, like she says, takes confidence and some instinct for fashion.

My style is vintage inspired with a modern twist here and there. Whatever I’m sporting for the day, a simple a-line dress or a pair of cords, I usually top it with a hat of some kind and that gives any outfit a vintage feel. I often tie a scarf around my neck, which adds interest, and my jewelry ranges from Victorian to Art Deco to 1950s kitsch. To make the look a little more modern, I’ll add a trendy item such as a hoodie.

Effortless is it not. I put a fair amount of thought into what I wear but that’s what makes fashion fun for me.

 

 

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Scott Wentworth as Mr. Goldberg and Judith Ivey as Peg in ACT production of The Birthday Party.

“… you like my dress, Mr. Goldberg?”  and he says, “It’s out on its own.”

Mr. Goldberg, fictional character in Harold Pinter’s play The Birthday Party, first produced in London in 1958.

That line got a laugh on the night I attended the recent ACT production of The Birthday Party, as much for the way it was delivered as for anything else. But the dress itself should have caused at least a chuckle.

Peg, the character that dons this dress, is middle-aged and a bit “daft” as the Brits would say. When she comes down the stairs in her “party dress” there should be some awkward humor in the air as she comments that her father gave her the dress. I’m thinking her father bought this dress A LONG time ago, when Peg was a teenager. The play’s setting is the late 1950s, so he bought the dress in the late 1920s. Well then, that dress would be kind of old – right? Out of style for sure and too youthful. It all should be slightly uncomfortable and absurd (it’s Pinter!) as a women of a certain age prances around attired in an old dress meant for a girl. Hence Goldberg’s response – It’s out on its own.

Although the dress chosen for Peg in the ACT production is bit low cut with a loud print, it’s otherwise not so outlandish. It’s of the era (a mistake) and looks rather nice on Peg. Particularly from a distance, which is the perspective of the audience. I suppose the dress is a minor detail in the overall production, but it was a glaring misstep to me.

All that aside, I love this statement and I think we should add it to our fashion lexicon.

Oh wow! That dress! It’s out on its own!

 

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Me on the left and Jennifer Serr at The Sewing Room. (On the far right is a 1990s coat that Jennifer is altering into a 1930s silhouette.)

I first met Jennifer Serr several years ago at the Art Deco Society of California’s Gatsby Summer Afternoon. Jennifer and her mother caught my eye, sitting in their charming picnic site enjoying the day together. So I struck up a conversation and it turns out that Jennifer had created her dress out of a vintage tablecloth made of a lightweight embroidered silk. Further chatting revealed that she runs a sewing school in Alameda called The Sewing Room.

 

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Jennifer made this dress for Gatsby Summer Afternoon 2017.

Since then I have been following Jennifer on Instagram watching her whip together all kinds of fabulous vintage style fashions, many inspired by the popular television series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

Jennifer has been sewing since she was seven years old. “I loved clothes and my mom was single with a very limited budget,” she explains. “My grandfather funded my sewing, which empowered the new clothes desire and thus enabled me to create whatever I wanted.” She was, however, only allowed to keep going with the sewing if she maintained at least a 3.5 GPA in school. “I made sure that would happen.” Smart and creative!

Keeping up with her affection for clothes, Jennifer says she makes 90 percent of what she wears.

Learning those skills at an early age has served Jennifer well, at one time working for The Gap and now teaching kids. It’s been five years since she opened The Sewing Room where she has taught many a budding seamstress/designer the basics of sewing, pattern making, and beyond.

IMG_0997 (2)But The Sewing Room isn’t just about kids! Adults are also welcome for classes, workshops, and sewing camps. This summer, July 23-27 Jennifer is planning a special adult camp – a week of sewing and fashion. Here’s her description: Students will spend the week escaping their day-to-day life, delving into the exciting world of Fashion and Sewing. Over the course of the week, students will work on apparel projects as well as explore different aspects of the Sewing World – Textiles, Color, Garment Construction, Mood Boards and more!

Students bring their own projects to work on, there will be a special guest or two and on the final day of camp – lunch! A total immersion in all things fashion. Sounds like heaven to me.

Click here for more information on Sewing Camp for Adults. 

The Sewing Room 2434 Webb Ave., Alameda is open during class times and by appointment.

Thanks, Jennifer. I look forward to seeing your creation for the upcoming ADSC Preservation Ball. 

 

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Irene Castle

In the world of fashion, where there is no appeal from the decree of the great designers, the modern dance has come boldly to the front and demanded, and won, sensible styles. On looking back a few seasons to the clothing worn by women and girls, you will recall long, cruel, corsets and garters that trusses them like fowls for the roasting. You will remember, too, the right snakiness of the hobble-skirt and the hats that were shaped like peach-baskets. 

Irene Castle (1893-1969), American dancer and fashion designer.

This quote is taken from the book Modern Dance by Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Castle (The World Syndicate Co. New York, 1914.)

Vernon and Irene Castle were a husband and wife ballroom dance team popular on Broadway and in silent films at the turn of the last century. Irene is said to be the first to have bobbed her hair (circa 1915), starting an international trend.

While British born Vernon joined the Royal Air Force during WWI, Irene continued to work in films. In 1918, he was killed in Texas on a flight training expedition.

Irene went on to develop a career in fashion, designing a line of (sensible) clothing for women.

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Fashions designed by Irene Castle for Corticelli (1920s). On display at the Cornell University Costume & Textile Collection exhibition. Photo from the article The Best Known & Best Dressed Woman in America, by Denise N. Green published in Dress: The Journal of the Costume Society of America, V. 43 #2, 2017. 

 

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