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Archive for the ‘Vintage’ Category

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Image from Lingerie Parisienne by Juliette Morel (Academy Editions, London, 1976).

Remember those scenes in old films where the movie-star lead actress sits in their bedroom in front of mirrored vanity in a fur-lined, floor-length, semi-sheer chiffon gown? … Those are house gowns. Can we bring those back, dahhhling? Seriously, why not? Why shouldn’t I butter my sprouted-grain breakfast toast in a bell-sleeved satin robe? Or pour myself a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch while wearing the vintage kimono I bought for my wedding? Because let me tell you, it’s pretty **** splendid. 

Jessica De Jesus, creative director for Bitch magazine.

I recently found this quote in the Glamour issue of Bitch magazine, Issue #84, Fall 2019.

Splendid indeed! Let’s bring back the elegant house gown. Doesn’t breakfast taste just a tad better sitting at the table in more festive attire? While we’re at it, let’s enjoy that morning coffee in a pretty mug and place in our laps a cloth napkin. Like Ms. De Jesus says, why not?

I don’t want to “save” my pretty, expensive things for special occasions. Every day is a special occasion and a little attention to seemingly frivolous detail just might lift the spirits.

While we’re lifting our spirits remember: Keep Calm and Keep Your Distance … it’s working!

 

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Image: Decades of Hats by Sue Nightingale. Schiffer Publishing. 

 

There will be no Easter parades this year but we can still don our Easter bonnets while making the best of the holiday at home. 

Happy Easter!

Happy Passover!

 

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How about a little fashion distraction?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fashion history class I’m taking was on hold for two weeks while the instructor figured out how to move it online. Well, we’re back at it now and I’ve been reading about the hoop skirt called farthingale.

In mid-16th century Europe, skirts for women became more rigid. Up until then, layers of petticoats were worn to create shape, but to achieve the desired stiffness and the cone shape, more support was needed.

Enter the farthingale. Made of whale bone, cane, or steel, farthingales graduated in size from waist to hem and were sewn into a petticoat.

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In addition to the rigid cone shape skirt, ruffs around the neck were popular as well as a jeweled belt called a demicient, that hung from the V-shape waist all the way to the hem of the skirt. Image, c. 1584.

This look was a favorite of the Spanish, who didn’t give it up for years while England later adapted the hoop into different shapes such as the bum roll, which gave more bulk just under the waist (see image below).

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A fancy lady at a ball sporting the a bum roll in addition to the farthingale underneath her skirt. c. 1582. Image from Survey of Historic Costume (Fairchild Books)

 

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Image from Fashion: The Definitive History (DK Publishing)

 

This week we have our second exam. I have to say I enjoy studying for these exams (we have three) because the subject is so fascinating and of course, I appreciate the distraction.

Remember, Keep Calm and Keep Your Distance.

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51tGfYjaB2L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_She looked overdressed and dangerously hot, but sunstroke or suffocation had not yet finished her off … I still thought she would be better off without so many tunics. Perhaps in a fine mansion with marble veneers, fountains, garden courtyards deep in shade, a leisured young lady might keep cool, even swaddled in embroidered finery with jet and amber bangles from her elbow to her wrist. If she ran out in a hurry she would instantly regret it. The heat haze would melt her. Those light robes would stick to all the lines of her slim figure. 

Marcus Didius Falco, fictional character of the mystery novel, The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis.

I’m a fan of mystery novels, but good ones are hard to come by. A few years ago I listened to a BBC Radio 4 dramatization (starring Anton Lesser) of one of the Marcus Didius Falco series, which take place in Ancient Rome. When I recently had the opportunity to read The Silver Pigs, the first in the series published in 1989, I was hooked. Well-written for starters, and full of historical detail. Ms. Davis certainly did her research. She says that she had trouble getting published at first. Editors didn’t think a mystery set in Ancient Rome would be of interest. Ha! Now her books are often used in high schools as supplemental reading.

There are around 21 books in the series. Plenty to read while we all stay home to avoid COVID-19.

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When we think of American style, we think of among other things, jeans. More specifically we think Levi’s Jeans. But have we ever considered the story behind the iconic brand? It’s an interesting one and locals in the Bay Area have a unique opportunity to learn about Levi Strauss the man and his jeans.

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Levi Strauss never wore jeans himself because in his day jeans were for manual labor workers and he was a businessman.

On now at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco is Levi Strauss: A History of American Style. Featuring over 250 items from the Levi Strauss & Co. Archives, this exhibit sets out to tell the story of German immigrant Levi Strauss and how he went from a dry goods merchant to THE man behind our beloved blue jeans.

Born in 1829 in Bavaria, as a young man Strauss immigrated first to New York to work selling dry goods. He then moved to San Francisco during the end of the Gold Rush to expand the family business.

Meanwhile, Northern California tailor Jacob Davis was hearing from workers that their pants were not holding up to hard wear and tear. He had an idea to place rivets at key stress points on the pants. He had the idea, but not the funds to push it forward. In comes Strauss and the two men worked together on a patent. That was the start of a business venture that is still impacting fashion today.

 

Included in this extensive exhibit are photos of Strauss’ hometown in Germany, decades of Levi’s Jeans advertisements, Hollywood film clips showcasing Levi’s, a 1974 Gremlin car with Levi’s interior upholstery, and many original Levi’s garments from early overalls to a leather jacket worn by Albert Einstein to an array of distinctive re-purposed Levi’s Jeans. It’s the largest public display of the company’s archival items ever gathered and it’s exclusive to the CJM.

One thing that struck me about the Levi’s story, something I had not thought about, is the evolution of jeans. Strauss was clever at expanding the desire of his product for the working man –  to the cowboy, to the teenager, and eventually to women in 1918 with “Freedom-Alls” and in 1934 with the first jeans line for women called “Lady Levi’s.” Beyond that, over the decades jeans became statement pieces for rebels, hippies, and rock stars proving that Levi’s Jeans have something for everyone.

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Strauss and Davis were granted their US patent in 1873.

In addition to the fashion story, Levi Strauss: A History of American Style is a local Jewish story. Lori Starr, Executive Director of the CJM says, “The exhibition will contextualize the Jewish experience for twenty-first-century audiences, offering insight into the history of San Francisco and its Jewish population, the story of an iconic element of American style, and the inventive spirit behind it all.”

Levi Strauss: A History of American Style is on now through August 9, 2020 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission Street at 3rd St. in San Francisco. 

Don’t miss this rare opportunity.

 

 

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It takes nine pairs of jeans to make one pair of my customized creations. 

Melody Sabatasso, Bay Area fashion designer.

 

In the 1970s, Ms. Sabatasso was an independent fashion designer just starting out with her own boutique in Marin County. Her personal daily style back then included jeans but she found she had nothing appropriate to wear to an upcoming wedding. So, she got creative and made herself a patchwork dress out of re-purposed Levi’s.

Her dress somehow caught the eye of Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall, who commissioned the designer to make an outfit for her. Ms. Sabatasso hitchhiked to the Huntington Hotel in San Francisco for a private fitting with Ms. Bacall. On the inside of the ensemble for the actress she wrote in red, Love Melody.

That was the beginning of a long and ongoing career in custom re-purposed denim outfits. Her creation for Ms. Bacall (pictured above) is part of Levi Strauss: A History of American Style, the current exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

Check back tomorrow for my full coverage of this impressive fashion exhibit.

 

 

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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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