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Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

This lovely Corde’ handbag is one of several that I own. Popular in the 1940s, Corde’ bags were made from rows of gimp (cord used for trim in clothing and furniture) stitched in interesting patterns to fabric backing. The inside label says “A Genuine Corde’ Registered Trademark. Made in England.”

I add a tulle bow for festive holiday outings.

A gift from my mother, I don’t save this handbag for just vintage events; I use it often for special occasions and evenings out. It holds quite a lot and the handle is just long enough to slip over my shoulder, which updates the look.

Tomorrow we come to the final day of The Twelve Days of Vintage Handbags. Don’t miss it!

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The classic 2.55 handbag by Chanel.

I inherited my Chanel 2.55 bag from my mother, who herself had been gifted it. Whenever I wear it I’m wearing her history. I know it sounds like an inflated idea, but our attachments to objects and the paths they’ve all taken are real.

Lucy Chadwick, Gallery Director of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in New York.

The iconic Chanel 2.55 handbag was named after the date of its creation – February 1955. At the time it had unique features including quilted leather and a chain shoulder strap. Since the original hit the shelves, there have been many interpretations and spins on the original design but like a true classic, it has never gone out of style.

I have a little tan leather clutch bag with a kiss closure that belonged to my mother. I remember it was always kept in her dresser drawer and it didn’t come out to be carried but instead held important little things like her old driver’s licenses. She just recently gave it to me and I have considered using it but, I don’t want to disturb the contents. Now it sits in my dresser drawer.

So, I agree with Ms. Chadwick that objects carry the history of their owners.

Coming up later this week it’s all about handbags on OverDressedforLife. Stay tuned.

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Jay Cheng. Portrait by Franklin Lau

My hats are not for people who have bad hair days. They are for hat lovers who have wit, humor, and joie de vivre.

Jay Cheng, hat designer based in Canada and founder of Jaycow Millinery.

I love this quote! Baseball caps and beanies are for bad hair days, a beautiful hat shows personality.

With decades of experience in fashion design and a milliner since 2004, Ms. Cheng has created hats for runway shows, film, and television as well as custom hats for brides, celebrities, and hat collectors. She owns over 400 vintage hat blocks and approaches her craft with a sense of the unexpected, creating unique hats for special occasions and everyday wear.

How about stepping it up in 2021 with a new hat? Check out Jaycow Millinery.

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Oh Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah come light the menorah.

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Be safe, be respectful, wear your mask, lead with love.

Dolly Parton, American singer/songwriter, pop icon.

Sound advice for these challenging times.

Who doesn’t love Dolly Parton? I admire Ms. Parton’s upbeat attitude and confidence and I thought she was hilarious in her first movie, Nine to Five. I had no idea that she has written over 3000 songs and she was the fourth child of twelve. Twenty-five years ago she started a non-profit called Imagination Library, which provides books to disadvantaged kids.

Although her style isn’t my cup of tea, she pulls off whatever she sports – be it jeans and a western style shirt or a white beaded jumpsuit.

Do you have a Dolly fan on your holiday gift list? She’s just come out with a memoir – Songteller: My Life in Lyrics (Chronicle Books). Check out your local independent bookshop.

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Author and artist Kristen Caven says she wanted to start a fashion trend but, she’s not a designer. So instead, she wrote a story that combines her interests in fashion (specifically the dirndl), German culture, and current societal issues. Her latest play, called The Dirndl Diaspora, is actually a reading with animated (and super cool) paper dolls!

Dirndl images by Leah Vass.

Caven initially had the idea to hold a dirndl fashion show at Oaktoberfest, an annual celebration of all things German in her Oakland Diamond District neighborhood. But with the pandemic in charge this year that was not meant to be, at least not in person, however, she did receive a grant from the Diamond Improvement Association to write a play and a six week writing frenzy began.

The Dirndl Diaspora tells the story of a rising Oakland fashion designer, Savannah James, whose signature look is mashups of dirndls – the dirndl silhouette created with fabrics from other cultures, such as Scottish wool tartans. The audience gets a peek into Savannah’s colorful studio and to listen in on conversations she has with her diverse clientele. They talk about history, current events, travel, life!

Caven says, “It’s my dream for this play, or a version of it, to be staged each year at Oaktoberfest (Oakland’s version of Oktoberfest) and create a focus for more cultural creativity and camaraderie among women through fashion shows and storytelling. The stitching together of multicultural fabrics is a metaphor for stitching together many cultures, as we do here in Oakland. We need to get better at it.”

We do indeed need to get better at blending and appreciating all the fabulous cultures that make up America. I see The Dirndl Diaspora as an excellent educational tool; a fun and engaging way to teach kids about history and different cultures. But it’s not just for kids, this unique show has something for all of us.

The Dirndl Diaspora is available to watch now through November 14, 2020. Click here for more information.

Congratulations to Kristen Caven and all the people who helped get The Dirndl Diaspora out into the world.

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Illustration by Nina Allender (1873-1957), American suffragist and political cartoonist.

Many suffragists spend more money on clothes than they can afford, rather than run the risk of being considered outré, and doing harm to the cause.

Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960) – British suffragist.

In the early twentieth century, British suffragists chose to forgo pushing against contemporary fashion with practical masculine looks that were targeted in the press. Instead, they embraced the current trends and presented a fashionable feminine image. It made the movement less odd, more attractive and it soon became fashionable to identify with Votes for Women.

In 1908, Emily Pethick-Lawrence came up with a fashion branding idea – three colors for suffragists to wear to show their allegiance to the movement: purple for loyalty, white for purity, and green for hope. Tricolor ribbons were used on hats, belts, and badges.

American suffragists, following the lead of their British sisters, also branded the movement with three colors, but they switched out green for gold to honor the sunflower used in the 1867 Kansas referendum campaign. They wore white dresses to stand out in a crowd against men’s dark suits.

VOTEVOTEVOTE VOTEVOTEVOTEVOTEVOTEVOTEVOTE

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Matching tie, pocket square, and mask by Theresa LaQuey. Image courtesy of Theresa LaQuey.

I called it an upcoming trend and Theresa LaQuey Couture is doing it! What might that be? Why, matching masks of course.

Theresa has just announced that she is creating matching tie and mask and pocket square sets for our dashing gentlemen friends. She is also designing a blouse and mask set for the ladies.

An experienced seamstress with an eye for vintage silhouettes, Theresa has created patterns for Simplicity Patterns and run her own business making vintage inspired custom clothing since 1989. A longtime Art Deco Society of California board member, she designs and makes all the fabulous fashions she wears for both day and evening ADSC events.

I am lucky to have quite a few Theresa LaQuey creations in my wardrobe, including a beautiful suit with a 20s style coat.

Theresa says she has been making tie and pocket square sets for her husband since before they were married. Adding a mask during the current pandemic seemed a natural next step. “I am mostly using vintage inspired quilting cotton as that is what is recommended for the masks,” she explains. “However, I have figured out how to use other fabrics with the same mask protection.” Each set is largely sewn by hand and will be made on a custom basis from a selection of fabrics from Theresa’s collection or the client can provide their own fabric.

It’s the same deal for the blouse/mask set.

Holiday gifts! Social distance gatherings! Just dressing up for a change! Matching masks for all occasions is The Thing.

Visit Theresa LaQuey Couture on Facebook for more information.

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She spent most of her time outside and had no care for fashion, always dressing in precisely the same way: dark leather button-up boots and a green walking suit, the long skirt of which was always caked with mud about the hem. She had a large woven basket … and she carried it wherever she went … used for carrying sticks and stones and birdseggs and feathers and all manner of other natural objects that had piqued her interest.

This quote from the novel The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton (Atria Books).

There isn’t a lot of fashion in this book but there is mystery, intrigue, history, art, and a ghost! Just my cup of tea.

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When I was a kid growing up in San Francisco on the occasional Sunday afternoon my father and I would drive to Chinatown, park (because you still could), and walk around looking in all the shops. The stuff in the stores was fun to peruse but I was more captivated by the older Chinese people I saw strolling along Grant Street and the unique way they dressed. Their style was was bold and bright – mixing patterns with checks, layering unexpected color combinations such as red with yellow, and sporting something like my Mary Janes but made from black fabric (they looked so cute and comfortable).

Fast-forward quite a few years and not only is Chinatown style still thriving (with a new generation of older people), but we have a recently published book on the subject by photographer Andria Lo and journalist Valerie Luu, Chinatown Pretty: Chinatown’s Most Stylish Seniors (Chronicle Books, 2020).

As second generation Asian Americans, Lo and Luu have a shared fascination with the clothing of poh pohs (grandmas) and gung gungs (grandfathers) in San Francisco Chinatown. Curious about the people behind the clothes, they began to approach individuals on the street and ask how they put their outfits together. “The Chinatown seniors’ dress and demeanor,” the authors explain, “also reminded us of our own grandparents – their permed hair, their sock-and-sandal combinations, and the way their expressions could switch between extremely tough (and intimidating) and overwhelmingly affectionate.”

Their interest turned into a book, which covers six city Chinatowns – SF, Oakland, LA, Chicago, Manhattan, Vancouver, BC. – and dozens of stylin’ seniors. The people are as varied as the clothing with ages ranging from 60 to one woman over 100. Most immigrated decades ago from China or Vietnam, and they have worked as seamstresses, gardeners, store clerks, vendors, accounts, and social workers. Each person featured shares a lot or very little of their story and the authors say that 90 percent of the people they approached declined to be photographed or interviewed.

A theme among those featured was that their style is unintentional. They just wear what they have, some of it vintage, some hand-me-downs or purchased on sale. “At my age we don’t care about fashion,” says Show Chun Change from Vancouver Chinatown. “We just wear what’s comfortable.” How it’s all put together is more of a practical consideration, such as layering to keep out the cold. One gentleman had hand stitched several hats together for warmth and another used safety pins to close a buttonless vest, which made for a very cool look. I love that their style came from their ingenuity. (See slideshow.)

Several among the group do dress with intention. Anna Lee is in her 90s and immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada in 1989. She worked as an accountant and a social worker and although now retired she still enjoys dressing well in her custom-made dresses, high-waisted pants, and silk blouses, all accessorized with beaded necklaces she makes herself. (See first picture in slideshow.)

Another woman’s more artistic flair reminded me of the Advanced Style set, a group of older women in NYC who have become style superstars thanks to photographer Ari Seth Cohen. Dorothy G.C. Quock (called Polka Dot), 75, was born and still lives in SF Chinatown and works as a tour guide there. (See picture nine in the slideshow.) Growing up, Polka Dot spent a lot of time where her mother worked as a seamstress at the sweatshop that manufactured Levi’s:

As a preschooler, she got her first experience trimming thread ends. In second grade, she learned how to use an embosser to stamp the Levi’s logo onto the leather tag. At age ten, she mastered the buttonhole, which appeared on Levi’s before zippers became the norm.

I enjoyed the glimpses into these people’s lives and I also appreciated that the authors included a brief history of each of the six Chinatowns.

Chinatown Pretty is a fun read, a visual treat, and important documentation of an overlooked segment of fashion history.

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