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Archive for the ‘Vintage’ Category

IMG_20180829_152527This was the midsixties, no T-shirts for these middle-class moms, no sweatpants, canvas shorts, or jeans. To school, their daughters wore dresses, or skirts and blouses (always tucked in, thank you very much), skipping in white socks and two-tones shoes or penny loafers or Keds. So their mothers were not sloppy in their gardens, even as they planted. 

Marcia Gay Harden – American actress. This quote is from Ms. Harden’s memoir, The Seasons of my Mother: A Memoir of Love, Family, and Flowers (Atria Books).

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Gatsby Summer Afternoon 2018. Photo: Richard Aiello.

It was a record breaking year for the Art Deco Society of California Gatsby Summer Afternoon. Just over 1000 people gathered on Sunday, September 9th for an opportunity to live for a day the elegance of the 1920s/1930s.

Attendance to Gatsby Summer Afternoon has been on the increase for the past several years. I met many first timers.  One young woman heard about the event from Face Book and was happy to pull out her extensive collection of all things vintage. Quite a few attendees were from LA and a woman from the Sacramento Art Deco Society was very impressed with her first visit, commenting on how well organized the event was.

The costumes of course were fabulous. Everyone dressed to the nines in period appropriate clothing (1920s-30s). Here’s a look-see:

 

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I like how this couple, Kim and Kenneth, coordinated their colors and gave a nod to the upcoming fall season with touches of orange.

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Katie and Gregg toast the day. Katie made her dress and it turned out great!

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This was Ann’s first Gatsby Summer Afternoon. Doesn’t she look lovely? Ann found her dress at Relic Vintage in SF.

 

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Jill (pictured right) was attending Gatsby Summer Afternoon for the first time with her old college chum, Amy. Jill told us that she remembers the very first invitation from 34 years ago. She wasn’t able to attend and for one reason or another hasn’t all these years since. But she wanted to and has been planning. Finally this was the year! She was so thrilled to win Best Petite Picnic Site her excitement and big smile made my day. Oh, and she made her dress!

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And here’s yours truly. This is the third time I’ve worn this dress to Gatsby Summer Afternoon. I found it at Vintage Fashion Expo. The lace gloves came from Lacis in Berkeley. The purse was my grandmother’s and the pendant was my great grandmother’s. People often comment on my sunglasses, which are not period. They’re Liz Claiborne, circa 1990s.

It takes a lot of volunteers to put this day together. A round of applause for the committee and Event Co-Chairs Heather Ripley and Marie Riccobene. Gatsby Summer Afternoon was founded by Laurie Gordon.

We look forward to next year when the Art Deco Society of California will celebrate 35 years of Gatsby Summer Afternoon. See what all the buzz is about and join us, Sunday, September 8, 2019.

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Spectators were my go-to shoe for Gatsby Summer Afternoon.

I like spectators. They’re very … mmm … get out of my way, here I come!

Lucinda Marshall, fashion follower, retired antique jewelry dealer, my mother.

This was Mom’s response when I told her what shoes I planned to wear to Gatsby Summer Afternoon.

Well, I didn’t really want to send a “get out of my way” message. My choice was more about comfort since I would be doing a lot of walking and the color combo of blue and white was a good match with my dress. But I know what Mom meant. Spectators are a statement.

Spectator shoes were originally designed for men in 1868 by British shoe maker John Lobb. They were a two-tone Oxford style and intended for playing cricket. In the 1920s the style grew in popularity for casual daytime wear but thought of, by British gentlemen, as rather flashy and therefore a tasteless choice. Edward, Prince of Wales was a big fan in the 1930s and wore spectators often. His approval eased the way for other men and soon the “tasteless” label faded.

The style became an option for women in the 1930s in Oxfords or pumps and have been around ever since. Aside from the two-tone (in white and black, tan, or navy) what distinguishes a spectator is the brogue decoration around the edges of the shoe.

Today spectators are still a stylish choice. Not in or out of fashion, but a vintage classic appropriate for spring and summer.

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Son of Man by Rene Magritte, 1964.

The Bowler … poses no surprise. It is a headdress that is not original. The man with the bowler is just middle-class man in his anonymity. And I wear it. I am not eager to singularize myself. 

Rene Magritte (1898-1967) – Belgium Surrealist painter. Quote – 1966.

Bowler hats were a popular informal choice for European middle-class men starting in the mid-19th century. Magritte used the simple chapeau in his work at first in the 1920s. Then again in the latter part of his career. The bowler is the iconic image most associated with Magritte.

Oh how the world changes. Back in the day, a bowler represented the every man blending into obscurity. But today a fella sporting a bowler is very much a surprise, a standout, and anything but anonymous.

A man in a hat? How surreal!

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Photo: Vanity Fair, March 2018. 

I prefer quality to luxury. Luxury can become tacky when it’s too much. You have to have the perfect mix of good taste and charm. 

Diego Della Valle – president and CEO of the Tod’s Group, a leading Italian fashion brand.

The man behind the popular Tod’s driving moccasin is also the man behind the reconstruction of the Colosseum in Rome (he pledged $34 million).

To give generously to one’s community – that’s pure good taste!

 

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Late last month I ventured to Woodland Hills, CA for my very first Costume College, which is an annual “costuming arts conference” brought to us by Costumer’s Guild West, Inc. Attendees enjoy three days of workshops and lectures on all things period costuming and history. There are also special events such as an opening night social, a grand ball with a red carpet! Afternoon tea, a small marketplace, an exhibit, photo ops, and I’m sure I’ve left out something. Each year has a theme and this year it was – Dressing the Royals.

Costume College has been around for 26 years and over time it has grown from a mostly local event to attracting people from all over the country and the world. In 2017 there were just over 400 attendees – this year CC topped out at around 650. That’s a big leap in one year.

It seems cosplay (big in the LA area) has sparked an interest in period costuming prompting people to check this out. I would also suggest that the current desire for “experiences” might also play a role. I spoke to a few people who were first timers. One woman from LA has been involved in reenactments but she had only recently heard about CC. Another is a regular at various cosplay events and wanted to expand her costuming adventures. There were young and not-so-young, women and men but mostly women. Almost all of the people I spoke with are serious sewists – the more complex the outfit the better.

 

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The lobby on Friday morning.

Once upon a time I was into Victorian ballroom dancing and I had a local seamstress make a Victorian gown for me, but that’s as far as I went. Other than the 1920s-40s, I’m actually not that interested in costuming for myself. So at CC I focused on the fashion history lectures, which were a mixed bag. I noticed quickly that the quality varied. The presenters who were academics gave strong in-depth lectures on their subjects and were able to answer just about any question thrown at them. Lectures given by people who worked in or owned businesses that related to their topic, such as historical shoes, were excellent.  But there were some instructors that had simply chosen a topic they liked and done basic internet research and those presentations were thin. Given that everyone who works Costume College, including the instructors, are volunteers perhaps this is not surprising but nevertheless, disappointing.

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Waiting to walk the Red Carpet.

Speaking of volunteers, I tip my hat to the board and every one of the volunteers who spent months putting CC together. I could see how much work it must be and it seemed on the surface to go smoothly. I also want to give a shout out to the Woodland Hills Marriott. I usually don’t care for big corporate hotels, but this one was a pleasure! I had a few minor problems over my stay and the staff were friendly and went out of their way for me. My room was spacious and clean. The two swimming pools were kept immaculate.

Back to CC. The organizers ask attendees if they’d like to take a volunteer shift over the weekend and I was happy to do that. At the last minute my original assignment was changed to crowd control at the Red Carpet. People in costume are invited to walk a red carpet on Saturday evening before the Grand Ball. My job was to direct them to a staging room before walking. It was an intense two hours as people in packs kept coming and coming off the elevators donning all array of costumes. Given the theme I spotted many a Queen Victoria. I also saw Renaissance, Regency, Georgian (a very popular choice), Victorian, Edwardian … even a 1920s flapper. There were Steampunk ensembles and a couple of odd sci-fi creature type costumes. After awhile the scene became a whirlwind of time travel, but the nearby Starbucks sign kept me grounded.

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The Queen Victoria Trio.

What did I wear? For the daytime lectures I wore vintage inspired pieces that I made myself, or were custom made, paired with vintage accessories. My look was pretty consistent with what I wear everyday anyway – 1920s/30s. As I mentioned I’m not into extravagant period costumes so I avoided most of the special events. I did briefly pop into one or two and even though it is stressed that no one HAS to wear a costume, I felt pretty uncomfortable. Plus people who attend year after year know each other and kind of stick together. It’s tough for newbies.

Turns out I wasn’t the only one not into dressing up. After my volunteer shift I stopped into the Hospitality Suite for a bit of rest and refreshment, I chatted with a couple of women who told me that they enjoy making costumes but not dressing themselves. They explained that there are really two camps at CC – the making and the crafting and the dressing and showing.

I believe that! I noticed that some people had multiple elaborate costumes, a different one for every event. We are talking hoops, corsets, layers of undergarments, wigs, hats. Oh my! I kept thinking – how does one travel with all that stuff and indeed there was a lecture on that very topic. (On a side note, it was a visual shock Monday morning to see the same people roaming around the lobby in leggings and flip flops.)

Overall I enjoyed my first Costume College. I learned new things, met interesting people, and found inspiration here and there. I’d say it’s an experience worth the effort at least once.

Interested? The theme next year is: What’s That Fabric.

 

 

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Austine Hearst models a Charles James coat for a 1954 Vogue fashion shoot. Photo from the book Charles James: Portrait of an Unreasonable Man. 

Sometimes in my family, they remade old clothes over and over. They would go up to the attic, choose an outmoded dress, and restyle it: take the buttons off one thing and put them on another. In the South in that period before and following the Civil War, when the attic began being filled, they saved everything, so that in my girlhood there were just endless resources: pieces of ribbon, bolts of lace, boxes of feathers, and pieces of fur, buttons, and buckles. Nothing was ever thrown away. 

Austine Hearst (1920-1991), American journalist, fashion model, and socialite.

Perhaps Ms. Hearst (nee McDonnell) was an original promoter of restyled/recycle fashion. She certainly was an admirer of and good friend to fashion designer Charles James, who created the famous Clover Leaf Ball Gown. Ms. Hearst modeled the gown in the 1954 March of Dimes Fashion Show.

The story goes that with the gown came a short evening jacket. Hours before the fashion show, Ms. Hearst had five dozen fresh gardenias attached all over the jacket. It was reported by Bill Cunningham that the scent was “intoxicating.” While walking the runway, she removed the jacket and flung it into the audience. Aaaa choo!

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