Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Vintage’ Category

Here’s the whole outfit: a pair of thick, black tights, with the feet cut off and rolled up to the middle of my calf. The footie part of the sock was hidden inside my shoes – a pair of black dress shoes Mom had bought from a bargain bin for two dollars, not realizing they were boys’. My father’s cadet blue cashmere sweater, too small for his latest girth, but long enough to hit me just above the knees, then hiked up a little thanks to a wide, black belt that gave the illusion that my waist was at least two inches smaller.

Elyse Nebbitt, fictional character in the YA novel, Pudge & Prejudice by A. K. Pittman (Wander Publishers).

As a budding children’s literature writer myself, I read picture books, middle grade novels (that’s what I write), and occasionally young adult novels. This one intrigued me because it’s another spin on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, reset in 1984. Interesting, because I have heard that currently publishers are turning down anything set in that decade. I suppose what saved this manuscript from the “no thanks” pile is the Jane Austen element. Plus the author has written a couple of other novels, so she already has a platform.

This passage reminded me that in the 1980s I also sported my father’s cashmere navy blue sweater. But I didn’t use it as a dress. I paired it with a longish skirt, wide belt, and boots. Oversized was a definite look in those days. I still wear that sweater!

The 1980s was when everyone really experimented with their style – mixing vintage with new, clashing colors and prints, using accessories in unusual ways. Such fun!

Read Full Post »

Spandau Ballet, circa 1980s.

I’m disappointed at the homogenization of looks. You don’t see young kids coming up with many ideas of their own. They can create their identity on their Facebook page or their Instagram site. They don’t need to create it on the street. They don’t need to find their tribe by going out in a uniform and going to a club. They can do that on the Internet.

Gary Kemp – founding member of the 1980s British pop music band Spandau Ballet.

This quote is from an article in WWD, May 2015 – the same year a documentary on Spandau Ballet, Soul Boys of the Western World, was released.

Turns out that the fellas of Spandau Ballet were quite the fashion trendsetters. Gary Kemp in particular enjoyed exploring sartorial expression. Inspired by his father who was a teddy boy, Mr. Kemp followed underground fashions of the day, his favorite being Glam Rock a la David Bowie. Later, on the 1983 True Tour, he and the band revived the teddy boy look with long jackets and western ties.

Along with Mr. Kemp, I am disappointed that modern teenagers are complete blank pages when it comes to style. Just like their parents, it’s sweats, t-shirts, shorts, t-shirts and oh yeah, sweats. Since the pandemic, not even jeans make the cut. When I was in high school I was experimenting with all kinds of silhouettes, colors, layering. I was adding vintage to new and sporting jewelry galore. It’s the time for exploration. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on that.

A few years ago I interviewed a teen girl on her style and what she was describing was pretty dull. She explained that she didn’t want to stand out. I’ve heard adults say that too. Just by wearing a dress, or a blazer, or a hat (anything other than sweats and a t-shirt) I stand out every time I leave my house. To be honest sometimes I wish I didn’t, but what I wear is what I wear and if it stands out in the mass of athleisure, then so be it.

Read Full Post »

She is dressed more formally than she would be for our shop, of course. She wears a smart, crisp suit in beige wool, with a short jacket, a straight skirt, and a silky purple blouse under it. Large silver hoops in her ears and an abstract silver pin in her lapel give her outfit just the slightest edge – businesslike, but still creative. Her attire makes perfect sense … Compared to Frieda’s chic ensemble, I realize that my getup – plain navy-blue dress, low heels, no jewelry save for the wedding set on my left hand – makes me look outmoded. But not fun artsy, who-cares-what-anyone-thinks outmoded, the way Kitty would dress. More conventional-housewife outmoded, the way Katharyn wouldThat restrained, sensible clothing collection in the big closet at home is long overdue for an overhaul.

Katharyn Andersson – fictional character in The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson (Harper Collins).

The Bookseller takes place in 1962-1963 and it the story of Kitty Miller a 38-year-old single woman who co-owns a bookshop in downtown Denver, Colorado. When Kitty goes to sleep she dreams deeply of herself in another life, that of Katharyn Andersson, a married woman with triplets, a big suburban home, and a maid. The story goes back and forth between the two worlds as it moves forward in time, revealing clues as to how the story will resolve.

This book, published in 2015, has received mixed reviews by readers, many of whom found the story boring. What they didn’t like, I actually liked – great detail on 1960s Denver, mid-century decorating, and of course, fashion. Something I did find bothersome was the modern sensibilities of the protagonist. Some of her politically correct thoughts and concerns would not have occurred to a woman in that era. Much of the time, when we were in Kitty’s head, I had to remind myself that this was 1962 and in that regard she felt inauthentic. Still, this is a well crafted, complex story that explores marriage and singlehood for women at a time when to be unmarried was frowned upon.

I heard about The Bookseller from Miranda Mills, who discusses all things books, baking, and living in the English countryside on her YouTube Channel. It sounded like my cup of tea, so I checked it out of the library and every evening for the past couple of weeks I’ve looked forward to jumping into Kitty’s/Katharyn’s world. I don’t often say that.

Read Full Post »

At 4:40 pm on Saturday, March 25, 1911 a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory employed 500 mostly immigrant woman and children to make blouses, or what were called “shirtwaists” back then. The company rented the top three floors of the ten story Asch Building located in Greenwich Village, NYC. The staff worked 52 hours a week for approximately $7 to $12.

Shirtwaists buttoned down the back and usually had a high collar. They were worn with long gored skirts and a belt. Sometimes women sported a men’s style tie or a cameo at the neck.

On that spring afternoon, a fire started on the 8th floor in the scrap bin underneath one of the cutter’s tables, perhaps from a lit match, a cigarette or something else, no one knows. Because of the vast amount of piled fabric pieces (two month’s worth), the fire spread quickly. Workers on the 10th floor were able to escape onto the roof, but others were trapped due to locked doors, flames, and a single faulty fire escape that collapsed. Many workers jumped from windows; others jumped down the elevator shaft after it quit working from the intense heat.

That day, 23 men and 123 women and young girls lost their lives.

The shock and horror of The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire prompted changes in factory regulations.

Read Full Post »

I’ve never been a handbag person or spent a lot on bags, but I bought my first Comme bag in New York 10 years ago. It just spoke to me. I liked all the zippers and the handle on it, and that you could dress it up or down. I also liked the size of it: It wasn’t too big, but it had nice deep compartments. I don’t know how girls do it when they get all dressed up for the Emmys and they have these tiny, little bags.

Amy Sedaris – American actress.

This quote is from Harper’s Bazaar, February 2021.

Ms. Sedaris is speaking of the Comme des Garcons Aoyama handbag. She goes on to say that she carried that first handbag until it wore out and then she replaced it with the same style also in black. Later she bought one in white and another one in pink. Now that is brand loyalty.

It is a simple classic handbag and it reminds me of styles from the 1960s. (My mother would have liked it.) As Ms. Sedaris says it’s large enough but not overwhelming and it has a certain understated cool factor. She comments that it “makes me feel like a grown-up.”

I usually like a handle bag, but these days with the pandemic and masks and distancing I’m using crossbody bags. I like my hands free and everything I need at an easy reach. Handle bags can be awkward.

As for small handbags at dress-up events? Well, during the pandemic it’s a non-issue but what I do is … make use of my escort’s pockets.

Read Full Post »

The pandemic has hit hard in all areas of life, but particularly restaurants, shops, theaters, and museums.

One of my favorite visits when I’m in London is the Fashion and Textile Museum located south of the Thames River in Bermondsey. Founded by fashion designer Dame Zandra Rhodes in 2003, FTM is now run by Newham College and offers unique fashion and textile exhibits, as well as workshops and classes. (I was privileged to view 1920s Jazz Age and write about it for Vintage Life Magazine.)

They even offer Events on Demand – for a small fee (5 pounds or approximately $7) you can watch recorded interviews and tours of exhibits.

As the only museum in the UK dedicated to featuring contemporary textile and fashion design, FTM is a rare and necessary resource for education and inspiration.

Unfortunately since March of 2020, they have lost more than 80 percent of their income and the future of the museum is “uncertain.” Yikes! FTM needs our help and to that end they have set up a crowdfunding campaign. Please consider making a donation to FTM. Any donation will help. And then put this fabulous museum on your Must Visit List when next in London.

Not familiar with FTM? You’re in for a treat. Click here.

Read Full Post »

Clare Spera and RBG, circa 2010.

Now that my grandmother is gone, I am humbled and comforted when I wear her clothes. These items carry more than just a legacy of sartorial elegance; they are a tangible reminder of the woman underneath the judicial robe and of everything she taught me, from lessons in style to how best to continue to strive toward a “more perfect union.” Her thoughtful wardrobe choices – never an accessory out of place, a story behind every piece of clothing she wore – were but one aspect of her incredible mind and attention to detail.

Clara Spera, reproductive rights litigator at the American Civil Liberties Union.

This quote is taken from the essay, My Bubbie Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Ms. Spera in Harper’s Bazaar, Jan/Feb 2021. In her essay, Ms. Spera talks about the bond she had with her grandmother over clothing and fighting gender inequality.

I have long been fascinated with the idea that more is woven into our clothing than just fiber. There is memory, association, reflection, time, and place. It interests me that an article of clothing can, over time and wear, absorb so much of who we are. I have pieces of clothing that belonged to my mother in various stages of her fashion life. Entwined in each sweater, skirt, dress, coat, are scraps of her life and my childhood – her days as an urban mom at home, her fling with Hippie Style, and those challenging years she was a working mom. I even have clothing that hung in her closet before I was born, which has allowed for imaginings of an even younger woman who attended cocktail parties and wore a suit to shop downtown.

Like Ms. Spera, I take comfort in every piece of my mother’s clothing that I have. They are like time portals for me.

Today, March 15, would have been Ruth Bader Ginsburg 88th birthday.

Read Full Post »

During the day, Mom worked as a teller, and at night and on the weekends she attended classes in tailoring. When I started elementary school, people started noticing the clothes she made for me. Soon she was earning pin money and satisfying her creativity by sewing dresses and pantsuits for the working women in town and making alterations on band uniforms, prom dresses, and store-bought clothes … To her, sewing traditionally, the way she had learned it in tailoring school, was an art.

From the food memoir Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America (Seal Press, 2006), by Linda Furiya.

In this quote Ms. Furiya is speaking of her mother, who was born and grew up in Tokyo where she worked as a young woman in a bank and learned how to sew on the side.

In need of some reading escapism, I was shopping my bookshelf and came upon this book. I actually started Bento Box years ago when it first came out and enjoyed it but, I put it down and didn’t go back to it until now. That is strange as this time around I could have read it in one sitting.

In her memoir, Ms. Furiya shares with us the challenges of growing up in a small Indiana town in the 1970s. Her hardworking immigrant parents spoke English awkwardly, the Furiyas (she has two older brothers) were the only Asian family in town, and she felt somewhat lost – disconnected from her Japanese culture but also less than a part of the American culture into which she was born.

Traditional Japanese cuisine played an important role in the family and Ms. Furiya uses food as a entrée into her stories. A food writer and former food columnist for the SF Chronicle, she offers details of her father’s Japanese produce garden, long road trips to secure essential ingredients sold only in large cities, and her mother’s impressive cooking skills. Sprinkled into larger tales, are descriptions of family meals that included steamed buns, rice balls, and other mouthwatering delights. (There are recipes at the end of each chapter.)

My favorite stories are of the family travels to visit other extended family in Brooklyn, NYC, New Jersey, and Japan. In the early 1970s Ms. Furiya travels alone with her mother to Japan. Meeting her mother’s family for the first time and settling into this new yet familiar culture, she finally is able to connect to her heritage but not without some inner conflict. I really enjoyed the descriptions of Tokyo and the family from the unique perspective of a ten-year-old girl.

Of course I also love that she includes fashion and textile references throughout. Food, travel, fashion. What an excellent pandemic escape book.

On another note – today is International Women’s Day, a day when we honor all that women have achieved. How to celebrate? Add a touch of purple to your outfit. Purple is the official color of IWD and one of the three suffragists colors, it symbolizes loyalty. Another way to celebrate the day is to buy and read a book written by a woman. I recommend Bento Box.

Read Full Post »

Please help save this stunning Art Deco lobby.

The Art Deco lobby in the McGraw-Hill building is under threat of being completely destroyed. While the façade of the building has landmark status, the inside does not and The Art Deco Society of New York is working to secure landmark status for the lobby with the Landmark Preservation Commission. They need our help. Please sign the petition.

Located on West 42nd Street in NYC the 1930 Art Deco building stands 35 stories and was designed by Raymond Hood for the McGraw-Hill publishing house, who occupied the lower floors and rented out the upper floors. The publishing house moved out and sold the building in 1972. Since then there have been many owners of the landmark building, including the current Deco Towers Associates (a foreign investment group) who recently abandoned their plans to convert the building into apartments and now want to “refurbish” the building.

There is nothing like Art Deco architecture. It is at once distinctive and timeless. We cannot afford to lose irreplaceable style and quality of work. Please readers, sign the petition and help save the McGraw-Hill lobby for the education and inspiration of future generations.

Thank you!

Read Full Post »

Time wears down the pencil.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021), American Beat Poet, publisher, owner of City Lights Bookstore, SF icon.

Mr. Ferlinghetti liked to don a hat. From his Navy cover to a fedora, beret to beanie, bowler to Greek fisherman’s cap, over the years he wore them all with unbeatable flair.

RIP.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »