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Posts Tagged ‘vintage fashion’

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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Early one September not long ago, a rural woman with a secret grief traveled to New York City in pursuit of a dream to buy the most beautiful and correct dress she’s ever seen. The dress wasn’t at all what you might expect. It wasn’t a riot of feathers and chiffon. It wasn’t designed to catch a man or reawaken her youth. It had nothing to do with a paparazzi-lined red carpet or the glories of shopping, “It” bags, “It” designers, or must-haves. The dress – and the lady’s use for it – was something else.

This is the opening from the novel My Mrs. Brown (Simon & Schuster).

Come back to ODFL tomorrow and read my review of this charming book by fashion insider William Norwich.

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

If we are going to create a Slow Fashion future, it’s not going to look like any fashion trend of the past. It will embrace circularity and invention. Yet it will heed the limits of nonrenewable resources and recognize when we’ve used enough. Or too much. It will look to upcycle, recycle, reuse whenever possible. It will be low-waste and zero-waste. It will prioritize carbon-neutral to carbon-beneficial. Circularity will become the new norm – designers and makers will conceive of garments with the intention of using materials again.

Katrina Rodabaugh – artist and author.

This quote is from the introduction of Ms. Rodabaugh’s recent book, Make Thrift Mend: Stitch, Patch, Darn, Plant-Dye & Love Your Wardrobe (Abrams).

Book review tomorrow – come back to ODFL and read all about Make Thrift Mend.

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I always enjoy the exhibits at Lacis Museum for the subject matter, but also their unique presentation – charming in its simplicity. Worn to Dance: 1920s Fashion and Beading opened in November 2019 and I was looking forward to seeing it and then … Covid, lockdown, variants. I nearly missed it and that would have been a shame. Don’t let that happen to you! The clock is ticking – Worn to Dance closes March 12.

Lacis Museum is located on the second floor next door to the retail shop at 2982 Adeline St. in Berkeley. Docent Julie Ann ushered us up the stairs to be greeted at the top with two elegantly clad mannequins ready and waiting for us to travel back in time. With jazz tunes playing in the background, we toured the main gallery filled with original 1920s beaded dresses, gowns, handbags, coats, hats, jewelry, even wedding dresses. Each item comes from the Lacis extensive collection. Arranged by type of clothing, every section includes posted images and pictures from magazines and sheet music. What I really appreciate is that there’s plenty of room to get a close-up look at the extraordinary workmanship (every bead is sew on by hand). But no touching!

You’ll notice that most beaded dresses are sheer and require a slip underneath. A handy way to slightly change the look of the dress is to change the slip, perhaps a contrasting color.

Julie Ann led us around the exhibit and offered interesting facts, such as, women of the era could purchase from catalogues or department stores “panels” – precut fully beaded fabric ready to be sewn. That was a less expensive option for middle class women. (See image below.)

Some women beaded their own dresses and there were beaded handbag kits for the crafty types. (See image below.)

One thinks of beaded gowns for evening wear but beading was popular for day dresses, too. Beads for evening would be cut or faceted to reflect light, whereas day dress beads would be uncut.

This day dress is perfect for a summertime garden party.

I’m so pleased I didn’t miss Worn to Dance and I encourage local ODFL readers to make their way over to Lacis before we say goodbye to this wonderful exhibit. It’s a must for anyone interested in fashion history, the Art Deco period (that’s you, ADSC members), and lovers of beading and textiles. Admission is $3 and that includes a docent led tour. And then spend time in the Lacis shop where one can find all kinds of vintage and antique goodies, books on fashion and textiles, sewing notions, ribbon, cards, silk flowers, and much more.

Worn to Dance: 1920s Fashion and Beading on now through March 12th, 2022. Call Lacis to make a reservation 510-843-7290.

Side note: Also on at Lacis is The Bird in Textile Arts: The Extraordinary in Thread. Now through July 9, 2022.

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Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in the film, Spencer.

Last month I attended a virtual talk with FIDM Museum curator Kevin Jones and Ms. Jacqueline Durran, costumer for the film Spencer. She spoke about the challenges of costuming this production during the pandemic. They had one nine hour fitting with Ms. Stewart before she flew to Germany where the film was shot. Ms. Durran stayed in London and worked from there.

The story is set vaguely in the early 1990s over three days during Christmas. The decision was made by both Ms. Durran and the film’s director Pablo Larrain, that the costuming for Diana would not be anything precise, but instead an essence of her style. They didn’t want the story to be pinned to any particular time because ultimately it’s a work of imagination.

Ms. Durran looked over photographs of Diana at official visits from 1988-1992. Most of the costumes in the main story were built for the film, except for some loans from Chanel and costumes for the flashbacks were bought or rented. For the famous wedding dress, they didn’t try to recreate it, but simply bought an 80s dress and added sleeves and a neckline.

The film opens with Diana in a wool plaid jacket and for that Ms. Durran had a hard time finding the right bold plaid, but finally she found just three yards in Cyprus.

I love this jacket! Wouldn’t it be great to see more structured fashions hit the streets?

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Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in the film, Spencer. Costumes by Jacqueline Durran.

There were much more exciting things going on in 80s fashion than the things she wore. When she first started in the early 80s, she really didn’t have a handle on what her potential was in fashion, because it was all so new and she was so young. She discovered it as she grew older.

Jacqueline Durran, British costume designer.

Ms. Durran created the costumes for the 2021 film, Spencer, staring Kristen Stewart, who is up for the Best Actress Oscar, as Princess Diana.

Come on back to ODFL tomorrow for my post on the virtual talk I attended with Ms. Durran and Kevin Jones, curator at FIDM Museum.

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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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The gentleman who always dressed well.

ODFL pauses to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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