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Archive for the ‘Vintage’ Category

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Dorothy Parker in 1935.

They looked alike, though the resemblance did not lie in their features. It was in the shape of their bodies, their movements, their style, and their adornments. Annabel and Midge did, and completely, all that young office workers are besought not to do. They painted their lips and their nails, they darkened their lashes and lightened their hair, and scent seemed to shimmer from them. They wore thin, bright dresses, tight over their breasts and high on their legs, and tilted slippers, fancifully strapped. They looked conspicuous and cheap and charming. 

Dorthy Parker (1893-1967), American author.

Quote from The Standard of Living, 1941.

Favorite words in this quote: adornments, besought, fancifully, conspicuous, charming. Stylish words that are not used much anymore.

As for the idea of not painting our lips and darkening our lashes? Perish the thought!

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IMG_20180322_114748Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have. they say, more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us. 

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) – English author. This quote is from Ms. Woolf’s 1925 novel, Orlando.

Virginia Woolf’s sense of style was very much of her era and social set – bohemian 1920s. We might call it “effortless elegance” today. She favored long cardigans and printed skirts that draped so nicely on her tall slender figure. She didn’t go with the popular bob hairstyle but instead, staying just askew of fashion, she sported an untidy bun at the nape of the neck. Strands of long beads and fringed shawls were among her accessory choices.

She often referred to clothing in her novels and commented in her diary that “I must remember to write about my clothes …”

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG_20180325_113517751_HDRPeople laugh at fashion. ‘It’s just clothes,’ they say. Right. Just clothes. Except, not one of the people I’ve heard mock fashion was naked at the time. They all got dressed in the morning, picking clothes that said, ‘Hey, I’m a successful banker.’ Or, ‘I’m a tired teacher’ … a decorated soldier … a pompous judge … a cheeky barmaid … a lorry driver, a nurse … You could go on for ever. Clothes show you who you are, or who you want to be. 

Ella, 14 year-old character in the Young Adult novel, The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington.

The Red Ribbon tells the story of Ella, who as a prisoner of “Birchwood”  (a WWII concentration camp in Poland) struggles to keep hold of her dreams to become a dress designer. With her advanced skills as a seamstress she works in the camp’s sewing workshop where young women make clothing for the wives of Birchwood officials.

I heard an interview with author and costume historian Lucy Adlington on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. Promoting the book she talked about her research and the facts behind slave labor in the camps, including the making of beautiful clothing. Ms. Adlington based her novel on the true story of the Upper Tailoring Studio at Auschwitz, which was put in place by the Commandant’s wife, Hedwig Hoss. She had skilled women prisoners recruited  to make bespoke clothing for her, other officials’ wives, and female guards. Eventually there were 23 seamstresses working in the Upper Tailoring Studio, one of the better jobs to have in such a place.

This is a very interesting piece of fashion history woven into a well crafted novel of horror and hope. Although at times it’s shocking and upsetting, I highly recommend it for just that kind of truth.

I have also read Ms. Adlington’s non-fiction fashion history book, Stitches in Time: The Story of the Clothes We Wear (Random House UK, 2015). Another excellent read for those who love all things fashion history.

Check out her web-page: http://www.historywardrobe.com/index.html

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Easter Egg pendants by Faberge. Note the bunny in the middle. Image from The Art of Faberge by Alexander von Solodkoff.

Holiday jewelry can be fun, although, it has to be understated to be chic. I don’t really go for Christmas baubles but I do like to sport a collection of antique heart charms in February and this time of year I pull out my gold-filled Easter bunny pendant, which is a Faberge copy.

Carl Faberge was the jeweler to the Russian Tsars in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Known for exquisite quality, he favored enamel and opaque stones like jade and coral. His subjects were also unique –  flowers, animals, and eggs.

Russian royalty liked to give each other gifts at Easter. In 1885 Alexander III asked Faberge to make an egg as a special Easter gift to his wife. The very first egg was simple in white enamel with a surprise gold hen inside. A big hit, the Faberge Easter Egg gift became a tradition and carried on by Alexander’s son, Nicholas II. Over time the eggs became more and more elaborate.

 

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The first Faberge Easter Egg, 1885.

As well as the large eggs, miniature egg pendants were also created by Faberge and many other jewelers at the time. The pendants were popular small Easter gifts to distant family members and important friends.

IMG_20180328_112624My little bunny is a copy by the Museum of Modern Art for their 1996 Faberge in America exhibition. That exhibit came to the de Young (the old building) and my mother and I attended. I couldn’t resist this charming Easter bunny. I think he’s a quiet adornment to celebrate all that is new and fresh in spring.

(On a side note, click here to read a rather disdainful review of Faberge in America by Kenneth Baker for the San Francisco Chronicle.)

Wishing all OverDressedforLife readers a very Happy Easter. 

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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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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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