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Archive for the ‘Vintage’ Category

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On a recent sunny Saturday, my partner and I spent some time in Downtown Pleasanton. What a charming area with restaurants, a farmer’s market, and quite a few boutiques that were packed with shoppers. Who says retail is dead?

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Custom aprons from Estrella Designs.

I love it when I turn a corner and find something completely unexpected. We turned off Main Street onto Division Street and discovered a tiny shop inside the garage of a large brick house. Tucked inside was a teenage girl trying on the most fabulous gown in red lace. Well, turns out this was her senior high school graduation party dress that was getting altered by the shop’s proprietor, Agustin Estrella.

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Estrella learned how to sew from his mother and he opened his shop, Estrella Designs in 2010. He sells custom aprons, cotton dresses, and he does alterations.

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I loved Estrella’s clever approach to decor – he uses zippers and spools of thread to trim lampshades, drapes fabric from the ceiling for a makeshift dressing room, and his sewing machine is front and center, like a prized piece of art.

Thank you, Agustin Estrella. Running into your shop was a highlight of the day.

 

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While at the Costume Society of America symposium in Seattle last month, as part of the symposium we had the opportunity to view the exhibit, Seattle Style: Fashion/Function before it opened.

Exhibiting at the Museum of History and Industry, Seattle Style is a collection of what best reflects sartorial choices, past and present, in this Pacific Northwest city. One might expect to see a lot of outdoor gear and we did, but also included are evening gowns, ball gowns, summer dresses, hats, coats, beaded handbags and more.

I’d say, just like in San Francisco, Chicago, and New Orleans fashion is not a priority for current Seattle residents. But that was perhaps not the case in the past and the intent of this exhibit is to feature the crossover of style and practicality. Given the climate, there’s a lot of layering, wool, and protection from rain. The exhibit draws manly from the museum’s own clothing collection, which has increased with donations from some of the city’s socialites. Also included in the exhibit are pieces on loan from local designers.

Pictured below are some of my favorites of the exhibit:

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Tired of having to cover up a interesting outfit with a drab raincoat, Clear Coated founder Miriam Rigby designed a coat that would keep her dry and show off her creative outfits.

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Blue Morpho gown. Luly Yang is a Seattle couture designer known for her elegant and nature inspired motifs for evening wear. 

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I’m a sucker for a shirtwaist! This one was designed and manufactured by Foster-Hochberg for the 1962 Seattle Worlds Fair. Sold at the fair and in stores around the city, the fabric depicts the Space Needle and other highlights of the fair. LOVE. IT.

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Salish Pattern wool blanket by Eighth Generation. Seattle based Eighth Generation makes Native American inspired blankets, which can be worn as a cape. 

Seattle Style: Fashion/Function is on now through October 14, 2019 at Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, WA. If you’re there, check it out.

 

 

 

 

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Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with five of their eventual nine children. 

… the one outward sign from which people can and often do judge the inward state of mind of a person, and it’s of particular importance in persons of high rank … we do expect that you will never wear anything extravagant or slang because that would prove a wont of self-respect and be an offence against decency. 

Queen Victoria (1819-1901)

This quote is part of a letter written by Queen Victoria in 1851 to her son, Prince Edward, who would later become King Edward VII.

She uses the word – slang – which meant casual.

May 24th marks the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth. What might she think of today’s royal family? (And the name Archie for the latest addition?)

Fans of Victoria, the PBS television show, might be interested to know that there will be a season 4 and perhaps a season 5 but no one is sure beyond that. Another tidbit – the actors playing Victoria (Jenna Coleman) and Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) are dating in real life.

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Every year Costume Society of America hosts a symposium, where professionals gather to discuss historical and cultural dress.

Costume Society of America was founded in 1973. As a non-profit organization they seek to offer educational opportunities in historical dress. Their mission statement:

The Costume Society of America fosters an understanding of appearance and dress practices of people across the globe through research, education, preservation, and design. Our network of members studies the past, examines the present, and anticipates the future of clothing and fashion.

This year I attended the CSA symposium for the first time. Held in Seattle, Washington it was four packed days of paper presentations, professional development workshops, meetings, exhibitions, and lots of chances to meet new friends among over 250 like-minded people. Attendees included professors,  historians, costumers, and museum curators. I’m not sure, but I might have been the only fashion writer. Although there were plenty of academic writers.

This year’s theme was The Pacific Rim and Beyond: Diffusion and Diversity in Dress. The keynote speaker Akiko Fukai from the Kyoto Costume Institute opened the symposium with an enthusiastic speech on the influence of Kimono and Japanese dress on western fashion.

Presentations varied and covered topics from costuming Shakespeare to pattern creation, from prison attire to clothing terminology, from modern Muslim dress to 1790s menswear.

My favorite presentations happened to be grouped together on the final day of the symposium.

Union-Made: Fashioning America in the 20th Century. Denise Nicole Green, Ph.D. discussed a multi-media exhibition at Cornell University that chronicled the rise and fall of union-made clothing in America.  The exhibit included union-made clothing, photos, sewing machines, ephemera, and artifacts from the the university’s costume collection and union archives. What a rich and fascinating topic.

Sustainable Clothing – Nothing New: Women’s Magazines Encouraged Clothing Recycling During World War II presented by Nan Turner, professor at University of California, Davis. We could learn a thing or two from fashionable women of the war generation. With all resources going to the “war effort” clothing was rationed both in England and Europe. Recycle, up-cycle and “Make-do and Mend” were a way of life. Researching fashion magazines of the period and interviewing women in Britain who lived through the war, Ms. Turner considered how women went about refashioning their clothing.  This paper is part of a book Ms. Turner is currently working on. I look forward to reading that book!

Corporate Fashion Archives and the Growing Role of the Historian: Using PVH Archives as a Case Study presented by Becca Love, PVH Archives. Ms. Love has a very interesting job – she manages part of the archives for PVH, a fashion conglomerate which owns brands Calvin Klein, IZOD, Arrow, and Geoffrey Beene, among others. PVH Archives launched in 2014.  In this paper presentation Ms. Love discussed this new avenue in corporate fashion houses for fashion historians. As legacy brands begin to tout their history, archives have become important for inspiration, research, and PR cachet. Growing archives create a need for professionals to manage these archives. With limited and competitive options elsewhere for museum curators and fashion historians, corporate fashion houses are an exciting option. I really enjoyed learning about this new and growing career path.

All in all it was a week of full immersion in fashion academics.

There is more to report so I’ll be posting again on the CSA Annual Symposium in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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A saleswoman was assigned to me. She walked me to a small sofa in a dark corner of the salon, and then the questions began: What colors do you like? Do you want a print? Full or straight skirt? Strapless? What size are you? When I told her I was a 10, she smiled and said, ‘I think perhaps a 12.’ I hated her but she was the one who had access to all those wonderful, beautiful Magnin clothes that were kept behind closed doors. She was my key to glamour. 

Pat Steger (1932-1999), San Francisco native and society columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, 1974-1999.

Ms. Steger is recounting her experience shopping at the iconic San Francisco store, I. Magnin. She wanted something special for her senior high school dance and the third floor of I. Magnin was the place to go. This would have been in the late 1940s when there were no racks of clothes for customers to sift though. Instead the clothes were kept in the back and saleswomen would pull out items they felt were to the customer’s taste. Ms. Steger goes on to say that after rejecting six or seven selections, the saleswoman presented the perfect dress – a teal strapless evening gown by Ceil Chapman, in a size 10. Suddenly she loved the saleswoman.

I found this quote in a most interesting book all about the history of I. Magnin – A Store to Remember by James Thomas Mullane (Falcon Books, 2007).

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In the deep suburbs it’s difficult to find any inspired style. Everyone looks the same in their alt-leisure/yoga wear. So I was pleasantly surprised to spot this woman in the post office.

Screaming 70s style we have: the short jacket with faux fur trim hood, the flared tight jeans, and even her hard leather shoulder bag, which she doesn’t wear cross body – not done back then.

The boots can’t be seen here but they’re a low chunky heel and her hair is straight, long, and dyed very blonde. The clue that we haven’t entered a time-travel machine (given the age of the post office itself we might think, hmm …)  is that she’s sporting the black shirt below the jacket hemline. That is a modern layering look and it wasn’t done back in the day.

I doubt any of these pieces are vintage but worn all together the total look certainly presents vintage.

Hooray for something different!

 

 

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qKBCeTOLKJwCWe wear what everyone else wears, but that in turn is constantly undermined by changes which take place in society. In the 1950s, that “everyone” was in twinsets and pearls; a decade later, it was miniskirts. The radicalized 1960s was a decade whose true and enduring revolution was the sexual one. Clothes were part of the physical liberation of the body, the undoing of what Dior had made twenty years earlier. Chic, elegance, style, femininity were no longer the measure of how you dressed. You dressed to feel free inside, and feeling free, perhaps you could actually make yourself (and others) free. You cannot take part in a demonstration in stilettos. 

Linda Grant, British author.

This quote is taken from the non-fiction book, The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter (Scribner, 2009).

Reading The Thoughtful Dresser I have wondered what Ms Grant would have to say about athleisure and the trend for sloppy dressing. I’m about two thirds into the book and she hasn’t commented yet.

What she does discuss is shifts in fashion from the 1940s on as well as the importance of clothing in society and to her personally. She says, “how we choose to dress defines who we are … how we look and what we wear tells a story.”

With her own stories and stories of others (including Catherine Hill, a refugee in Canada after WWII who went on to become a successful buyer for women’s clothing in various department stores) Ms Grant takes on the topic of fashion in a serious but accessible manner.

I’m enjoying The Thoughtful Dresser and I recommend it to fashion enthusiasts, particularly those interested in fashion history.

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