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I Am Coco by Isabel Pin

Award winning illustrator Isabel Pin has just published her latest children’s book, I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel (Prestel Publishing).

Much has been written about the designer/fashion icon Coco Chanel (even for children), however, there’s something quite unique and compelling about Ms. Pin’s addition to the stack. As the author and illustrator, she gives readers an overview of Chanel’s life from young orphan at the turn of the last century to innovative designer to icon, highlighting the big events in her life – short-lived singing career, first shop, love affairs, world wars, daring designs, and her comeback in the late 1950s.

Illustrations From the book I am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel.

Each chapter of the story is concisely written and embellished with colorful illustrations. Although Pin’s depictions bear little resemblance to Chanel, her simple drawings with a swipe of added color grew on me. (Her style actually reminds me of mid-century fashion illustrations, in particular Andy Warhol, who was a fashion illustrator in his early career.) Pin’s images of Chanel, her life, and designs are as delightful to look at as a plate of pink and green French Macarons.

Chanel’s story takes place in the world of fashion, but the message within her story is perseverance. In addition to learning about Chanel’s life and achievements, young readers will find in I Am Coco fashion history, inspiration, and encouragement to follow their ambitions.

I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel by Isabel Pin is targeted for readers aged six to nine, but this its a fun read at any age.

(Thank you Prestel Publishing and Media Masters Publicity for providing a review copy to ODFL.)

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Illustration of Coco Chanel by Isabel Pin from I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel (Prestel Publishing).

In order to be irreplaceable, one has to be different.

So true! This reminds me of something a local clothing manufacturer once told me. He said that people don’t want to stand out in their fashion. They want to blend in.

I can understand that. It’s easier to blend in. To not be different. Particularly in our modern world, where life is so hectic. BUT, it’s a lot less fun.

Come back to ODFL tomorrow for my review of I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel by award winning children’s book illustrator, Isabel Pin.

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Taking a deep breath, I stand in front of the mirror. It is the perfect dress for a sea sprite. It is the perfect dress for me. It ripples and shimmers when I move and the color is amazing – it brings out the tiny bit of red in my hair, and the gold in my skin. Unlike the experience of wearing the beautiful dress in London, this time I don’t feel like I’m pretending to be someone else. I notice that there have been no shoes included with my costume, but this time I know that only bare feet will work.

Lou Trevelyan – 18-year-old fictional character in the book A Sky Painted Gold, by Laura Wood (Random House).

(The color of the dress that Lou is referring to is seafoam and made from organza fabric.)

A Sky Painted Gold is a coming of age story set in a village in Cornwall, England over summer 1929. I heard about this novel from Miranda Mills Comfort Book Club.

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Just a reminder for local readers that the Shadelands Ranch Summer Market in Walnut Creek is coming up fast – Sunday, July 31, open from 10am to 3pm.

A few goodies I’ll be selling: This charming summer dress has a 1920s feel and would be a great choice for Gatsby Summer Afternoon! The handbag is a Koret, circa 1960s. One can never have too many summer hats and this straw wide brim is a classic. The colorful scarf on my mannequin is vintage 70s.

Forty vendors will be selling their handmade and vintage wares. The museum will also have for sale items from their archives – vintage and antique clothing, accessories, and home décor items.

I’m offering vintage jewelry, scarves, handkerchiefs, hats, handbags, dolls, collectable perfume bottles, some clothing, and other small goodies. Joining me is Paula Dodd Aiello, costumer and seamstress from Sew Becoming. She will have costumes and accessories, clothing, and items for the home.

There will be food vendors, shade under the trees, and tours of the museum (if you haven’t been inside of the Shadelands mansion, it’s a fun travel back in local history).

Also please note that all the money that I make from sales will go to Brightfocus Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports research for cures for Macular Degeneration. As I have mentioned before my mother suffered with MD, an eye disease that slowly robs people of their vision. The last years of her life she was nearly blind. My donation will be in her memory.

So come out for a sunny Sunday afternoon and please stop by our booth (#53) to say hello.

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Image: Harper’s Bazaar.

I have a couple of necklaces from my grandmother who passed away, and wearing them reminds me of her. One of her necklaces stands for power and freedom. And I think especially being a woman in the ’70s in Morocco, it was not easy. Wearing them reminds me to push through and kind of continue with what I’m doing to stay strong.

Imaan Hammam, fashion model.

This quote is from Harper’s Bazaar, May 2022.

Born and raised in Amsterdam, Ms. Hammam is Moroccan and Egyptian. She says she appreciates her multicultural background, which has allowed her to understand the world better.

I also have many pieces of jewelry from my mother and my grandmother. Whenever I slip on one of their pieces – a ring or a bracelet, a brooch or a strand of beads – I revisit a different memory of them. In that way, they are still with me.

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Summer at Tiffany (Harper Collins Publishers, 2007) is a memoir by Marjorie Hart, music professor, celloist, and former chairman of the Fine Arts Department at the University of San Diego. Memoirs are often about an interesting slice of a person’s life and this one tells the story of Ms. Hart’s (née Jacobson) summer in 1945 when she and her best friend, Marty, both students at University of Iowa, traveled to New York City to work for the summer.

Initially the two pals thought they would have it made working in the Big Apple. Through sorority sister connections they had a place to stay for the summer and they had heard that getting “shopgirl” jobs was a cinch. After much convincing of their families to let them go, Marjorie and Marty dressed in their best and boarded the train headed for adventure. But upon arrival, they discovered getting a job wasn’t a cinch after all. They were turned away from all the best stores – Lord & Taylor, Bonwit Teller, Sacks Fifth Avenue and others. Marjorie asks herself “What was this wild rumor that finding a job in Manhattan was easy?”

Indeed it was no easy task, but once again connections played a role in helping our two heroines land positions as pages at the one and only Tiffany jewelry store on 5th Avenue and E. 57the Street. Wait, it gets better – they are the first women to ever work on the sales floor (WWII is raging and all the men are abroad fighting) AND they are outfitted in custom Tiffany blue shirtwaist dresses topped with leather messenger bags to carry the treasures upstairs to either the credit department or the repair department. And so the summer of adventure beings – dinner dates with servicemen, a trip to the ocean, a brush with Elizabeth Taylor, VJ Day in Times Square.

I have to say, crazy at it sounds, it took me some time to warm up to Summer at Tiffany. I started reading it back when it was first published, but I soon put it down. Although well written and lively, I just couldn’t get into it. Fast forward to earlier this year when I was looking for a lighthearted book to read to my mother. I had been reading to Mom for a few years since she could no longer see due to the eye disease Macular Degeneration. I thought this book might appeal to Mom for the era and the jewelry, however, to be honest, I suspect that by then she wasn’t really connecting to much of anything; she just liked the sound of my voice.

This time around I really enjoyed Marjorie and Marty and all the details of Tiffany and how it operated back in the day. I followed with interest Marjorie’s youthful romance with a young gentleman in the Navy and I enjoyed the humorous misadventures that she got into – like the time a strand of pearls broke and ended up on the elevator floor. What I particularly appreciated about the book was its unaffected tone and the transportation back to a more charming time when women dressed up for dates and wrote letters to their families “back home.”

I enjoyed the book so much I kind of savored it, reading it slowly to linger just a bit longer in Marjorie’s world. I read the next to the last chapter the last afternoon I spent with my mother. She was awake, talking and aware, and I was completely unaware that that would be the last time I read to her.

After she died, I brought the book home and it sat on my desk for weeks. I just couldn’t bring myself to read that last chapter. Somehow, for me, coming to the end of the book was to step further away from those days that I sat with my mother reading to her. The End meant the end for us too.

Once I was ready, I did read that last chapter and I read it aloud. Instead of making me feel more apart from my mother, the act of reading aloud helped me to feel connected. I like to think that Mom was listening from wherever she might be now.

Summer at Tiffany is a delightful visit back in time and just the right read for a sunny afternoon under an umbrella in the garden, perhaps sipping a lemonade or a cocktail. (Maybe you’d like to share it with your mom.)

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Marjorie Hart (née Jacobson) in 1945 and Ms. Hart in 2007.

I wore my best outfit on the train: a black three-piece linen-like suit, sling-back pumps, and my all time favorite, a broad-brimmed cartwheel hat. Everything was black (what was I thinking?), and I carried my white gloves and a herring-bone coat, which doubled as a raincoat, with a blue scarf stashed in the pocket. I must say I felt very Harper’s Bazaar-ish when that train came down the tracks.

Marjorie Hart – music professor and author of Summer at Tiffany (Harper Collins Publishers, 2007).

Ms. Hart is speaking about her outfit for the train ride from Iowa City, where she was a student at the University of Iowa, to New York City where she and her friend, Marty planned to work for the summer in 1945.

I keep thinking about those sling-back shoes. My experience with sling-backs is not positive – because I have a narrow heel, the strap tended to slip off. The only sling-backs I have in my closet now are a pair of kitten heels that belonged to my mother. She bought them in Paris back in 1964. They are lovely but they won’t stay on my foot and I think my mother had the same issue. I imagine Ms. Hart running around on and off trains, walking the streets of NYC with her sling-back straps slipping. In fact she does tell a story about aching feet after a very hot day walking in and out of NYC department stores looking for work. But no slipping straps.

Come back tomorrow for my review of Summer at Tiffany.

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The Shadelands Ranch Museum Summer Market in Walnut Creek is back for a second year on Sunday, July 31st, 10am to 3pm. The Market offers vintage and antique goodies as well as handmade items from 40 local vendors and this year I am one of those vendors. Also available will be items from the museum’s archives, including clothing, accessories, and home décor pieces. (Last year there was quite a lot of Edwardian and Art Deco dresses.)

Yes, I will be out there too, sharing a booth with Paula Dodd Aiello from Sew Becoming.

These past few months I have been sorting through my collection and my mother’s collection of vintage jewelry and other small items. I will have vintage earrings, brooches, pendants, silver bracelets, and Bakelite bangles. I have a few vintage clothing pieces, hats, handbags, scarves, handkerchiefs, collectable perfume bottles, and dolls. Beads and buttons, too. Paula will have vintage clothing and costume pieces, as well some cool items for the home.

Vintage jewelry from my collection and my mother’s.

There will be a couple of food vendors, lots of shade under the trees, and the Shadelands Museum will be open for tours. What a lovely Sunday afternoon outing. If you’re in the area, please come by and say hello.

Shadelands Ranch Museum Summer Market, Sunday, July 31st, 10-3. 2660 Ygnacio Valley Road in Walnut Creek.

NOTE: Our booth number is 53 and is under the name Mom’s Closet. We take cash only.

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No one loves you like your mom. Pictured: My mother with me and my brothers – Jimmy in the front and Marshall in the back.

Cindy Marshall died on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

My mother lived, as she would say, a multifaceted life. She was a woman of style, good manners, and a quirky sense of humor. An only child, she was born in a small town in Pennsylvania, but grew up in many places, including China, where her father was an officer in the Navy. After her parents divorced when Mom was ten years old, she and her mother moved to San Francisco. I think she was lonely in those early days; she told me she spent that first cold and foggy summer in SF by herself inside their apartment listening to Flash Gordon on the radio and making paper dolls from images in fashion magazines.

Classical music and opera were important to my mother. She learned about both from her father and when she was in high school she studied voice hoping one day to sing opera. She had a lovely voice, good for operettas, but she thought not strong enough for opera so she gave it up (it was the big stuff or nothing). Still, she’d sing to herself up until the very end of her life. (In fact she was singing along with a Michael Feinstein CD while I sat with her just days before she passed.)

A bit of a loner, Mom followed her own sense of style. In the 1950s, Marin County housewives were wearing shirtwaist dresses with full skirts and shoes with heels, but not my mother. She sported slacks and desert boots, and for a diaper bag she used a bowling ball bag. “It was more interesting,” she told me. That was the era of luncheons, cocktail parties, and evenings out for dinner and dancing. Mom loved all that and had the appropriate attire for every occasion, usually purchased from her favorite department store, I. Magnin. Sometimes she made her clothing, although, she said she didn’t like working with sewing machines and preferred to sew by hand. She was also an avid knitter and once knitted an entire dress.

Mom had three children – Marshall, Jimmy, and me. One of the tragedies in Mom’s life was the loss of her two boys, both of whom left us way too young. It weighed her down with sadness, but she had an admirable inner strength and I know that she also took comfort in our small surviving family.

When I started school, Mom went to work, out of necessity as a divorced single mother but I think also to get back into the wider world. She managed a dentist’s office for many years and then switched to jewelry sales, which was her forte. She worked at Shreve & Co. and then Zales, and eventually she started her own antique jewelry business. Around that time she also reclaimed her maiden name, grew her hair long, went blonde, and shifted from structured handbags to the more fashionable shoulder bags.

There is much to say about my mother. (And I say it in a mother/daughter memoir that I am working on – and one day may even finish.) She was an elegant, complex woman who spent much of her life searching for answers to the big questions. Sometimes when she pondered life, she’d say “What’s this all about?” We weren’t always on the same page, but we were close and we spent a lot of time together. I miss that already. She has always been there, always on my side, always backing me up. Life is a little lonelier now.

My father died just before Father’s Day in 1984 and I still have the card I had planned to give to him. Now, my mother has left just before Mother’s Day 2022. Life is strange.

While I sort through this loss, it’s hard for me to focus. Even fashion, my usual place of joy, feels empty to me. For that reason, I am going to take a break from ODFL. I hope that readers will bear with me and still be there when I return. In the meantime there’s ten plus years of archives to revisit. Also, take a peek at Mom’s Closet (tab at the top), which has posts all about my mother, who inspired this blog.

Rest in peace, Mom. We love you!

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Holyday. 1876 James Tissot. The gentleman in this painting is wearing the cap of an amateur cricket club at the time.

Here’s wishing those who celebrate Easter a Happy Day. Enjoy the treats and don’t forget to don your Easter bonnet!

It is Passover and Ramadan as well. A time of reflection for all of us.

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