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Posts Tagged ‘fashion books’

The pleasure that I felt as a young adult when I’d shop for clothes at the mall has been replaced by the pleasure of selecting a pattern, choosing my fabric, and sewing a garment that fits perfectly. And the best thing about this process is that the pleasure is prolonged. I’m not engaging in a quick transaction. Rather, I’m spending days creating my clothing, enjoying the process as much as I enjoy wearing the finished garment.

Jen Hewett, Fabric designer and author of the book, The Long Thread: Women of Color on Craft Community and Connection.

This quote is from the book, Make Mend Thrift by Katrina Rudabaugh.

I completely agree with Ms. Hewett. I take great satisfaction from creating my own clothing and accessories. Every step from choosing the fabric to sewing on the last button is a pleasure. I take my time with every project (sewing only on the weekends as a special treat) and I enjoy looking forward to when and how I’ll wear my new skirt, dress, or what I’m working on now – summer handbag.

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Fashion is having a moment. After years of binging on fast fashion the party is over and it’s time to find balance for the sake of our planet. For the sake of our future.

Katrina Rodabaugh’s book, Make Thrift Mend: Stitch, Patch, Darn, Plant-Dye, & Love Your Wardrobe (Abrams) speaks to this moment, offering guidance on how to make, mend, and care for the clothing we already own. She takes the reader step by step from pausing and really considering our clothing to sorting our closets and making choices on what to keep and what to pass along (and how).

Then the fun really begins with different chapters on: Sewing and altering clothes to reshape them into something new; Finding “new” clothing in thrift stores and personalizing them with a bit of natural dye; Mending! Ms. Rodabaugh (a Mills College alum) shows how to mend and this is not Grandma’s way. We learn how to turn a hole in a pair of jeans into an attractive embellishment. A rip in a woven shirt becomes an interesting patch. A beloved knit sweater will live again with colorful repairs.

Each chapter includes photos and an introduction to the concepts as well as commentary from various artists, designers, and authors who are part of the mending movement.

Making, thrifting, mending are the new trends in fashion. Pass it on.

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Peggy’s mother had insisted that she go to San Francisco’s best store, I. Magnin, for her travel suit. Upon entering, they made a beeline for the ‘moderate’ floor. It wasn’t ‘couture,’ one floor up, where they seldom ventured, but nor did it mean thumbing through the racks. The moderate floor came with a clothing advisor, who greeted Peggy’s mother by name, led them over to a damask-covered love-seat and asked Peggy to describe the purpose of her outfit. She was going to New York, she explained, for the month of June, staying at the Barbizon and working with Mademoiselle magazine offices on Madison Avenue. She would need to appear sophisticated while she mingled with editors, advertisers, and the New York literati. Peggy left I. Magnin with a navy two-piece dress in summer wool – a long tunic top that buttoned up the front and a pleated skirt underneath. There was even a detachable white collar.

From The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free by Paulina Bren (Simon & Schuster).

The Barbizon – the first women-only residential hotel – was built in 1927 on the Upper East side in Manhattan. Standing 23 stories tall, the Barbizon was meant to be a safe alternative for the new modern woman escaping her dull hometown to seek freedom and adventure in New York City.

In The Barbizon, Ms. Bren has detailed the rich and fascinating history of this landmark hotel. From the stories of some of the prominent residents, such as Molly Brown, Grace Kelly, and Sylvia Plath, to the link with Mademoiselle magazine and their Guest Editor program, Ms. Bren has done extensive research and crafted a compelling read. There’s a bit of everything: women’s history, fashion history, journalism history, mid-century glamour, the darkness of depression and loneliness, and more. The pages are packed and I had a hard time putting this book down. In fact, I think I’m going to read it again.

Oh, and Happy Hearts Day!

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I was sad to hear that fashion great, André Leon Talley, died of a heart attack on January 18th. He was 73.

Recently I read his latest memoir The Chiffon Trenches (Ballantine Books). What a life he had – he studied French literature and spoke the language fluently; he worked with Diana Vreeland, Andy Warhol, and later Anna Wintour; he lived in Paris and worked there as a correspondent reporting on fashion for WWD; he was creative director at Vogue magazine. His many friends included Karl Lagerfeld and Oscar de le Renta.

His life it seemed was charmed and yet, it wasn’t easy.

Both Wintour and Lagerfeld (people he considered good friends) dumped Talley, in 2013 he was let go from his position as the red carpet interviewer at the Met Gala, and he encountered racism and homophobia throughout his career.

He said in a radio interview that grace and style were his armor.

Grace and style (and a little sadness) were certainly what I saw from Talley at the Press Preview for the San Francisco de Young Museum’s Oscar de la Renta retrospective exhibit in 2016. He was the guest curator for the exhibit and in speaking to the press he expressed great admiration and affection for de la Renta, who was the first to take a young Talley under his wing. It was a lasting friendship, perhaps one of the few in the fashion trenches. (The celebrated designer died in 2014.)

Talley’s message of grace and style is something to remember. I don’t think anyone travels though life smoothly. The journey has obstacles and challenges of many kinds and putting on that suit, dress, hat, helps elevate the spirit on those particularly rough days. At least that’s what works for me.

Thank you, Mr. Talley. Your grand sense of style will be missed.

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Welcome to December. Welcome to the holidays. I would venture to say that most fashionables love a good fashion book. Here’s a list of my fashion book recommendations for holiday gift giving.

Lee Miller in Fashion by Becky E. Conekin (The Monacelli Press). My introduction to Lee Miller was an exhibit of her WWII photography at the V&A Museum in London. I’ve been captivated by her ever since. An American expat in England, Ms. Miller lived a very complex and interesting life as a fashion model, photographer, surrealist artist, WWII correspondent, journalist for Vogue magazine and later almost a recluse in the English countryside. This book focusses on her work as a fashion photographer; included are lots of photos that show her talent and her way of looking at fashion, as well as the fashions of the day in WWII Europe.

The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir by Andre Leon Talley (Ballantine Books). Fashion journalist and former creative director at Vogue magazine, Andre Leon Talley spills the tea all over the fashion world with his experiences among industry royalty. Mr. Talley shares childhood memories growing up in Durham, NC as well as all the highs and lows and many disappointments of his career, which began in 1970s NYC. He offers insights as well as a close up look at what it’s like working with such icons as Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld (guess what – it isn’t always pretty).

How to Read a Dress: A Guide to Changing Fashion From the 16th to the 20th Century by Lydia Edwards (Bloomsbury Academic). I received this as a Christmas gift one year from my sis-in-law and it quickly became my favorite fashion history reference book. Each section starts with a historical overview followed by pictures of the costumes with each detail of the various silhouettes pointed out and commented on. This is a handy guide to have for quick reference as well as serious study and I really appreciate the Glossary of Terms in the back of the book. (There is a new edition out this year with additional chapters and expansion to the year 2020.)

How to Read a Suit: A Guide to Changing Men’s Fashion from the 17th to the 20th Century by Lydia Edwards (Bloomsbury Academic). When I was taking a fashion history class in 2020, much to my surprise I was completely taken with the men’s fashions of the 17th and 18th centuries. My, were they embellished and extravagant and interesting! When I came upon this book in the Bloomsbury catalogue I had to have it. I enjoy just looking through the pages of images and studying the details. The layout is the same as How to Read a Dress.

In the Name of Gucci: A Memoir by Patricia Gucci (Crown Archetype). We’ve been hearing a lot about the Gucci family with the recent release of the film House of Gucci, starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver. This memoir is not that story. Patricia Gucci is the “love child” of Aldo (eldest son of the founder of Gucci and played in the movie by Al Pacino) and his mistress, to whom he was devoted for many years. Ms. Gucci writes her childhood story living alone with her mother, seeing her fashion mogul father every so often. He spent most of his time putting the family fashion business on the map, opening stores and spreading the Gucci logo all around the world. Eventually, Patricia joined the company. This is an intriguing story about family, fashion, and business and how they don’t necessarily all fit neatly together.

It’s fashionable to shop local and support independent bookstores. If you don’t see what you want on the shelves, ask. Most bookstores can place an order and get what you need, pronto.

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Author Lucy Adlington first read about the fashion salon at Auschwitz while researching the Nazis and the fashion industry. The idea of Jewish women, skilled seamstresses, forced to make clothing for the very people who were in fact killing them, has to be, as Ms. Adlington said in one of her recent online presentations, “one of the most grotesques anomalies ever.” She explains that she tried to find out more but only had nicknames for the women of the salon and she reached a dead-end. But her mind was whirling with what it must have been like working in the Auschwitz fashion salon. So she wrote a novel, The Red Ribbon (Hot Key Books). After the worldwide publication of her book in 2017, the emails started to arrive: My aunt was a dressmaker in the fashion salon at Auschwitz … my mother … my grandmother …

Connections were made, interviews happened, and Ms. Adlington was finally able to write the true story of Marta, Irene, Renee, Bracha, Katka, and Hunya; just six of the twenty-five women who created beautiful clothing for SS wives.

In The Dressmakers of Auschwitz: The True Story of the Women Who Sewed to Survive, Ms. Adlington weaves the stories of our heroines, some who knew each other before the war and all accomplished seamstresses (Marta was a master cutter and Hunya had once owned her own fashion salon) with the broader context of the war and more specifically the fashion industry just before and during the war.

The fashion salon at Auschwitz, called The Upper Tailoring Studio, was the idea of Hedwig Hoss, the camp commandant’s wife. She, like most other SS wives, appreciated fine clothing and that was something hard to come by at the time since the SS had completely decimated the fashion industry, largely run by Jewish people, in every country they occupied. Marta was the first seamstress to start making clothing for Hedwig and as other SS wives also wanted bespoke clothing, Marta insisted that she needed help and so one by one she was able to save twenty-five women from hard labor and probably death.

In telling this story, Ms. Adlington is also pointing out the value of clothing – clothing as identity, as historical documentation, as memento, as comfort. When people first arrived at Auschwitz, they were forced to strip down to nothing. Every last stitch of clothing removed and put into a big pile. The SS knew what they were doing – take away identity, take away the familiar, take away dignity. Most of the work at Auschwitz was hard manual labor, like tearing down brick buildings, but some of the work was less physical, yet no less harrowing. One of the jobs was to sort through the clothing of the newly arrived. Digging through coats, dresses, shoes, even undergarments of people who were likely dead. One young woman found clothing that had belonged to her sister.

So what was done with all this clothing? After it was sorted into categories, the SS wives chose what they wanted and sent the pieces to The Upper Tailoring Studio for alterations. Some of it was sent to Germany to be sold (sold!) while the more tattered items were moved to another camp where slave labor wove the fabric into rugs. Shoes were repaired, if necessary, and also sent on to Germany. (While many camp laborers had no shoes or wore wood clogs that didn’t fit.)

The Dressmakers of Auschwitz is full of disturbing facts like these I mention and for me it was slow going, as I just couldn’t take too much in one sitting. But I appreciate knowing the story of these remarkable, courageous women as well as the central role clothing had in the Holocaust. The photos of the six women throughout the book make the story less abstract and to see their pre-war smiling faces is heartwarming. There are also magazine adverts images to show what fashions Frau Hoss and her ilk would have requested.

Ms. Adlington has done an impressive job telling a complicated story. Can I say I enjoyed it? I don’t know that “enjoy” is the right word. I would say it was a difficult but fascinating read and anyone who is interested in fashion history will want this book in their library.

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Winter coats, an important investment and carefully treasured, now unbelted and set aside. Sweaters and cardigans, often home-made, with patches of wool fluff where the arms rubbed against the body, peeled off. Then, more hesitantly, the front buttons of blouses, and neat side zips of dresses and skirts, all creased from the journey, possibly marked with sweat. Shoes and boots – off, placed together out of habit, their insoles gently curved to fit the owner’s feet, the heels scuffed from all the steps their owners had walked. Socks rolled off, perhaps new, perhaps darned. Stockings unclipped from girdles and garter belts. Legs bare. Feet cold on concrete.

Lucy Adlington – British fashion historian and author of The Dressmakers of Auschwitz (Harper).

In this passage, Ms. Adlington is describing how the new arrivals at Auschwitz concentration camp had to completely disrobe.

Please check back with ODFL tomorrow for my book review of The Dressmakers of Auschwitz: The True Story of the Women Who Sewed to Survive.

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My dog loves clothes. This sounds like parental projection, I know, like a mother who insists her toddler loves to be in pageants. I do love putting clothes on Clovis. But the level of enthusiasm Clovis shows for raiment cannot solely be explained by my own myopic insistence that he wear things. He truly loves clothes. During a visit to Palm Springs a few years ago, I found a man selling dog coats at a street fair. A faux fur coat in two tones caught my eye: earthy gray with a blond fur collar. It looked like a chinchilla pea coat Kanye West might wear. And with Velcro tabs for easy on and off. Very Clovis.

Taylor M. Polites – American novelist.

This quote is from an essay included in the book Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting, (Wiley). In this collection of essays edited by Ann Hood, writers share their experiences with and love for the craft of knitting. In his essay, Mr. Polites goes on to discuss how he learned to knit to make sweaters for his dog, Clovis.

In general I believe that putting any kind of clothing on a dog or cat or any other animal is cruel. I know for sure cats would hate it, but perhaps a dog might not mind, since they live to please their owners. But actually LIKE to don a coat, a sweater, a Halloween costume? I have my doubts.

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The Intruder by Gabriel Metsu, circa 1660.

Dishevelment

A sweet disorder in the dress

Kindles in clothes a wantonness:

A lawn about the shoulders thrown

Into a fine distraction:

An erring lace, which here and there

Enthrals the crimson stomacher:

A cuff neglectfull, and thereby

Ribbands to flow confusedly:

A winning wave (deserving note)

In the tempestuous petticoat:

A careless shoe-string, in whose tie

I see a wild civility:

Do more bewitch me than when Art

Is too precise in every part.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674), English poet and cleric.

I found this poem in a book by fashion writer Tobi Tobias, Obsessed by Dress (Beacon Press). This great little book is a collection of quotes all about clothing and fashion from ancient times to modern day.

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Not all vintage needs to be professionally cleaned. Many articles can be hand washed, and some can even go in the washing machine, although I almost never use a drier for my vintage. Hand-washable vintage includes simple cotton or linen dresses, skirts, and blouses; woolen sweaters (even cashmere); and knitwear that is unlined. Because vintage lingerie was made to be easily laundered at home, most is hand-washable, even silks and rayon.

Melody Fortier, a vintage clothing dealer and author of The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping: Insider Tips, Helpful Hints, Hip Shops (Quirk Books, 2009).

I have a confession – I love to hand wash. I like the hands-on cleaning, the smell of Woolite, and I particularly like hanging the clothing outside in the sun and fresh air. At the end of each season, I pile up the staples: sweaters, blouses, scarves, etc. and put them in my mending/washing cotton bag. I do any needed mending first and then off to the laundry room sink I go for some meditative hand washing.

As much as I enjoy this domestic task, it is now a luxury because we here in California are in the midst of a serious drought. Year after year since around 2010 we have had little to no rain. A ridge of high pressure just off the coast is to blame. It sits there sometimes for weeks blocking all the rain storms that we should get. It’s depressing.

It takes a lot of water to hand wash, so I fill up the tub less than half full and wash only what absolutely cannot go in the machine. To help keep my vintage (and all my clothing) fresh after a day of wear, I hang it in the bathroom or laundry room and air it out for a day or two. Often I’ll open a window and let the air circulate.

It never hurts to take good care of our clothing.

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