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Archive for the ‘Vintage’ Category

I was looking at press coverage of the recent Academy Awards ceremony trying to spot historical references. The Dior designed ensemble worn by Natalie Portman (pictured above) incorporated several details of the past.

  • The gold embroidery on the long gown is reminiscent of the heavily embellished fabrics that the Byzantines (AD 339 – 1453) favored.
  • The gold rope sash reminds me of Greek and Roman ties that were used with tunics.
  • The black cape echoes the Mantle from the Early Middle Ages (10th & 11th centuries).

(Ms. Portman’s cape was embroidered with the names of women directors whom she felt had been snubbed by the Academy. Her actions are apparently controversial and since I don’t really know much about it, I don’t have a comment. Except to say that I do enjoy seeing clothing used to communicate messages – as long as it’s done subtly.)

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A depiction of Byzantine Empress Theodora surrounded by her courtiers.  The men are wearing short tunics under an outer layer called the Paludamentum, as is the Empress who was the only woman allowed to wear this garment.  The other  women are wearing a long-sleeved tunic called Dalmatic, and on top a Palla (shawl).  All the fabrics used are heavy and elaborately embellished.

 

Women from the Byzantine and Middle Ages kept covered from head to toe, so hair and chest would not be revealed. In that regard Ms. Portman’s ensemble is very modern. But what an interesting mix!

 

 

 

 

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IMG_20200120_161145543Conde Nast: The Man and His Empire by biographer and historian Susan Ronald, covers Nast’s glamorous life and successful career as an American publishing giant.

There is much to cover and Ronald moves quickly over Nast’s early life from his birth in 1873 to his marriage to his initial interest in magazines. Once he enters into publishing she slows down and settles in on how Nast started with Collier’s magazine, moved on to Ladies Home Journal Patterns and eventually Vogue magazine.

Publishing Vogue and Vanity Fair are most of the story but we also read details about Nast’s famous “cafe society” parties and his grand apartment at 1040 Park Avenue in Manhattan. There are intriguing tales about fashionable characters such as Vogue fashion editor Carmel Snow, photographer Cecil Beaton, and writer Dorothy Parker.

The financial crash in 1929 hit Nast hard and he nearly lost his empire. We learn how over several years Nast fought to keep his business going by calling in favors. WWII was not an easy time either as French Vogue had to shut down and British Vogue (based in London) struggled to publish facing paper shortages and The Blitz.

But Nast and his empire did survive these challenges and that makes for great reading. Thoroughly researched with help from surviving letters and company documents, Conde Nast: The Man and His Empire is an excellent read for fashion and publishing industry history.

 

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Romance lurks in strange places, but perhaps nowhere so much as behind shop windows.

British Vogue, January 1922.

British Vogue, like Vogue in America was published by Conde Nast. In the 1920s the covers were illustrated, such as the one pictured here. I find the illustrations have a certain charm that photographs just don’t have however artistic and slick they might be.

I just finished reading Conde Nast: The Man and His Empire, by Susan Ronald (St. Martin’s Press). Check back Wednesday for my review.

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Resort 2020 for Louis Vuitton.

On my first trip to New York, I was fascinated by the incredible craftsmanship of the Art Deco buildings. I tried to go back to those emotions with this collection. It’s about rediscovery of American Heritage. 

Nicolas Ghesquiere – French fashion designer and creative director for Louis Vuitton.

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Photo courtesy of Leslie Gallin.

Bows are dominating much of fashion – just look at recent Golden Globes gowns worn by Jennifer Lopez and Scarlett Johansson. Always a chic classic, they are adorning shoes as well. A good bow can take you anywhere – a wedding, the beach, a business meeting and more.

Leslie Gallin, President of Footwear at Informa.

Bows make me think of the Georgian Period in British history (1714-1830). The Georgians loved the bow motif and it was often used in jewelry design and in architectural detail.

I wonder if bows aren’t the end of the current fashion story. Hitting the small screen is the unfinished Jane Austen novel Sanditon on PBS Masterpiece and yet another version of Emma is coming out on the big screen in February 2020. (Technically Austen was in the Regency Period, 1790-1820.) Might we see other late Georgian motifs in current fashion?  A return of the Empire Waist? Puffy short sleeves? The spencer? (Short jacket worn by both men and women. The spencer for women ended just under the bosom.) I have already spotted a few Austen inspired looks in fashion magazines. We shall see.

For now, check ODFL on Wednesday to read a fun and informative Q&A with Leslie Gallin – it’s all about shoes!

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1960s Vera logo. Image courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design.

Although Vera Neumann (1907-1993) might be best known for her colorful scarves, which by the 1970s were a staple in any fashionable lady’s wardrobe, there is much more to learn about this artist, entrepreneur, and successful business woman.

Last fall I attended the exhibit Vera Paints a Scarf: The Art and Design of Vera Neumann at the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan. What I knew when I walked into the extensive exhibit was that Vera designed beautiful scarves and that is all I knew. I was amazed and excited to see examples of her life’s work from table linens, to bedding, to clothing, to needlepoint kits and more.

Vera was always interested in art and as a child growing up in Stamford, CT. she spent her time drawing and painting what she saw in nature. After high school she attended The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a private college in New York City. Later she studied life drawing and illustration at Traphagen School of Design.

After working in fashion illustration she and her husband George, a former marketing executive, started their own business in their Gramercy Park apartment. It was 1942 and the couple had an idea to transfer Vera’s bold paintings onto fabric and create textiles to use in the home. They built a silk-screen just the size of their dining table and called the new company Printex.

A year later the Vera and George took on a partner, Frederick Werner Hamm who brokered Printex’s first big order – placemats for the NYC department store B. Altman & Co. Other orders came in along with licensing deals and within a few years Printex outgrew the dining room and relocated to a larger space, where Vera and George also lived and raised their children.

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Vera at work in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design.

During WWII fabric was in short supply. While desperately looking for cotton, Vera came upon parachute silk in an army surplus store and bought some to try. The results were a series of scarves with a fern motif and her signature on the bottom right hand corner. That was an unexpected game changer as department stores such as Lord & Taylor lined up to place orders and the Vera scarf became a serious trend for decades to come. Ten years later she had designed more than 2,000 scarves.

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Scarves by Vera. (I love the telephone dial.) Photo courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design.

 

Vera Paints a Scarf: The Art and Design of Vera Neumann tells the entire Printex story with examples of everything the company manufactured. They were the first back in the 1950s to create a lifestyle brand. A lady could decorate her home entirely Vera with the first laminated placemats, napkins, dishware, wallpaper, pillows … By the 1960s she could also don Vera clothing in those distinctive bright colors and unique patterns inspired by nature and Vera’s world travels. Motifs in all her work included flowers, plants, insects and birds, but also coffeepots, an apple, carrots, school buses, even eyeglasses. Vera saw beauty in the details of everyday living and believed that art was not meant just to adorn the walls of the elite. She felt strongly that art should be affordable and available to all. (Other designers of the day were selling their scarves for $25 or more, while a Vera scarf sold for between $2 and $10.)

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Vera Paints a Scarf exhibit. Photo courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design.

In addition to examples of Vera’s work, included in the exhibit are several videos produced by the company back in the day, which help to tell the complex yet fascinating story of Printex from humble beginnings to corporate success.

Vera sold Printex a few years before her death in 1993 (George died in 1962). Since then the brand has changed hands a few times. As far as I can tell the most recent sale was to a holdings company based in Singapore. New issues of Vera’s designs are distributed through licencing deals.

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Photo courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design.

Hurry hurry, if you’re in the NYC area Vera Paints a Scarf: The Art and Design of Vera Neumann  is on now through January 26, 2020. If you can’t make it, check out the museum website.

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IMG_20200110_134442128To me, fashion is an ever-changing art.

Vera Neumann (1907-1993), American artist, business woman.

She is known for her line of scarves but there is oh-so- much more to Vera Neumann.

Check back on OverDressedforLife tomorrow for the full scoop.

 

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