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Posts Tagged ‘1930s fashions’

Beverly Cleary, circa 1935.

… I unpacked my meager wardrobe: two woolen dresses, one brown serge and the other navy blue, the fabric cut from bolts of cloth that had lain for years on shelves in my grandfather’s general merchandise store … A skirt from a remnant, another that I had made from a pair of my father’s old gray pants. I had cut them off at the pockets, ripped the seams, washed and turned the fabric, which was perfectly good on the wrong side, and made myself a four-gored skirt to wear with a pink sweater I had knitted. A couple of cotton dresses; a bathing suit; a badly made skirt and jacket left over from high school; my precious bias-cut cream-colored satin formal, which made me feel like I was slinking around like Jean Harlow in the movies …

Beverly Cleary (1916-1921), American children’s literature author.

This quote is from Ms. Cleary’s memoir, My Own Two Feet (Morrow Junior Books, 1995).

I truly enjoy sartorial detail like this in a memoir.

At the height of the Depression, 1934, Ms. Cleary moved from her small hometown in Oregon to Ontario, CA to attend Chaffey Junior College. In those days, most people didn’t have big wardrobes. Nor did they toss away clothing like it was a used Starbucks cup. Clothing was kept and mended, altered, and refashioned. My great grandmother, who was a whiz at the sewing machine, made all of her daughters’ clothing, and anticipating future alterations, she always allowed for generous seams and hems.

Ms. Cleary’s sewing talents and thrift would be much appreciated today as we struggle to fight climate change while trying to find a path to sustainable fashion. I think one place to start is with this old goodie: Make do and mend!

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Matt Bomer and Lily Collins in The Last Tycoon.

Who’s watching The Last Tycoon on Amazon? I have only seen the pilot but I’m hooked.

It seems there’s a run on period series lately. It started with Mad Men then Downton Abbey, The Crown, The Feud, Outlander … did I miss any?

Those of us who love all fashions vintage are thrilled to be able immerse ourselves in the fabulous costuming of these series – finding endless sources of inspiration for our own creations.

Costumer for The Last Tycoon is Janie Bryant, who reached commercial success with her work on Man Men. She tells WWD that after eight years on that show she was ready for something different. Another era will do!

She says:

Everything about the Thirties is so different from the architectural, minimalist Sixties. The cuts, the parts of the body that are accentuated, the color palette. The Thirties is about being very soft and dusty, and silk charmeuse-y. Really, it is about the facade of Hollywood that the studios created, and all of the glamour that entails. They made sure the actors were untouchable.

The Last Tycoon is based loosely on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel set in 1930s Hollywood. Bring on the glamour, the hats, the gloves, the impeccably dressed characters from movie moguls to stagehands to homeless Okies. I always enjoy seeing how poor people are costumed in period pieces. It must be a challenge as such people sported cheaper and slightly outdated versions of what the upper-classes wore. So any costumer has to strike a balance of a character trying to look their best with shabby clothing. There are interesting nuances to convey.

For the upper-crust main characters, Ms. Bryant was inspired by Hollywood stars of the era, such as Myrna Loy, Clark Gable, Ginger Rogers, and Fred Astaire.

The costumes in The Last Tycoon are a visual treat. In particular Lily Collins – Phil Collins daughter – who plays Celia Brady is well suited to the 1930s, with a trim figure perfect for knit dresses and big eyes with full brows, which cannot be hidden under those adorable small hats of the era.

Ms. Collins is no stranger to the show’s sets. She tells WWD that Greystone Mansion (used as her character’s family home) was a childhood playhouse since her mother was quite active in historical building preservation. I was happy to see featured the Biltmore Hotel as I stayed there for the first time on a recent visit to LA. It is quite the period building (opened in 1923) with grand ballrooms, marble columns, murals, and a fabulous tile-lined pool. Indeed the Biltmore was one of the original venues for the Academy Awards.

Now that I’m all about The Last Tycoon, I want to see the 1976 version with Robert De Niero, costumes by Anna Hill Johnstone who also costumed The Godfather, Ragtime, and Dog Day Afternoon. She was nominated for two Academy Awards.

Time for a little compare and contrast.

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