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Posts Tagged ‘vintage style’

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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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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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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Illustration by Kathryn Uhl in Fifth Chinese Daughter.

With great anticipation of a new day dawning, she dressed with care the next morning in what she thought the smart career girl should wear: her new gray tweed suit, a gift from Older Brother, a freshly pressed white shirt, shiny alligator shoes and brown bag, all of them graduation presents. She even wore precious nylons and spotless white gloves.

Jade Snow Wong (1922-2006), American ceramicist.

This quote is from Ms. Wong’s first memoir published in 1945, Fifth Chinese Daughter (Harper & Brothers). She made the unusual choice to write in the third person. In the quote, Ms. Wong is talking about her first day working for the US Government as a “typist-clerk” at the shipyard in Marin County. WWII was raging and there was a great need for all kinds of workers. (This was her first job after college.)

Ms. Wong grew up in San Francisco Chinatown, where her parents owned a jeans factory. She got her AA from City College of San Francisco and attended Mills College, from which she graduated in 1942. She had studied economics, but while there she took an art class and discovered a love of ceramics. After graduation, she was invited to stay on campus for the summer and take a ceramics class from Carlton Ball, who was an accomplished potter and taught at Mills from 1939 to 1950.

After she left her government job, Wong split her time between writing her memoir and pottery, which she initially made and sold in the window of a small Chinatown shop. She would go on to be become a renowned ceramicist exhibiting her work in museums around the country.

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It’s a festive shoe on Day Seven. I found a set of painted wood shoes at the Victoria & Albert Museum gift shop. Each one a different style with a different painted pattern. The package said: Designed in the UK, Made in China.

When I unwrap these ornaments, I imagine a shoe shop all decked out for the holidays complete with a table top tree on the counter decorated only with little shoe ornaments. It makes me wish I owned a shoe shop. But no, I am writer and perhaps this vivid image will end up in one of my stories.

Stop by tomorrow for Day Eight.

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Chanel slingbacks.

When it comes to my own style I am very much a uniform dresser. Shoe-wise, it’s kind of what your grandma would wear, which is why I was drawn to these Chanel slingbacks. I purchased them five years ago at the brand’s SoHo store in New York and saved up all my money to do so. I’m not a heels person. They always make me feel overdressed and not in my own skin. But I needed one classic shoe that I could have forever and would look nice with everything.

Maggie Holladay, furniture designer and founder of Claude Home.

I found this quote in the December 2021 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

Chanel slingback shoes sell for $925. That sounds like a lot, but for a quality classic shoe that one can wear forever with everything (almost) it’s not that bad. There’s much about this quote that I like –

1. The fact that Ms. Holladay saved up to buy her shoes. Saving up for something special, waiting, thinking about it, planning the big trip to the store when you can finally pay and take it home – that’s what I call a treat and a memorable one. Slipping out the credit card? Too easy. Not memorable. I once saved for a Coach handbag. It was a present to myself after my first year of graduate school. I still have that bag, of course, and it reminds me of a very important accomplishment. I could have whipped out the credit card, sure, but that wouldn’t have been as much fun. Instant gratification is overrated.

2. Uniform dressing. My mother did this and I tend toward it too, although I always add an accessory. My mother favored skirts and button-down shirts for her daily wear with perhaps knee socks and flat shoes if she was staying home or sheer stockings and a low heels if she was running errands. Skirts and t-shirts, or sweaters are my daily go-to as well. It’s nice to have several outfits already created that you can just pull out, dress, and go.

3. Investment in a classic. Buy one quality thing and wear it forever. One pair of classic shoes for special or professional occasions. One wool winter coat. One hardy suit (maybe two). You get the picture. Quality over quantity.

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Julie Rubio

I had the pleasure of meeting Julie Rubio several years ago when I interviewed her for an article in the Lamorinda Weekly. She had just opened a boutique in Lafayette and I have kept up with her ever since. An award winning film producer as well as a business woman, Julie produced the hit movie East Side Sushi among other films and now she’s working on something close to her heart –Tamara De Lempicka, the first full-length documentary on the famous artist from the Art Deco era.

De Lempicka (1898-1980) painted fashionable people of the 1920s and 1930s, making her paintings a fascinating study for anyone interested in fashion history. A stylish woman herself, she modeled for a French fashion magazine, designed her own hats, and donned fashions by Coco Chanel. Today her works sell for millions of dollars and are collected by the likes of Donna Karan, Barbra Streisand, and Madonna.

Julie was kind enough to agree to a Q&A with ODFL.

What is it about Tamara that attracts you?

Her will to not only survive but thrive through some really horrific times and create beauty out of her pain. 

What do you think Tamara’s message is to women of today?

Unleash the chains that bind you. Go out after your dreams and make them happen. As she would say, “There are no miracles there is only what you make.”

Tamara’s work is very collectable, what is it about her style that speaks to people? I think it’s unquestionable that her work speaks to people in a way that, if you’re fond of her work, it draws you in. Her paintings look at you and you can see into the soul of each painting.  It’s quite powerful – the eyes and the flawlessness of each portrait. Her paintings haunt you in a really good way.

In terms of her fashion style, what could we learn from her? 

To be bold and beautiful. Not to be afraid to elevate the room.

Gucci dress. You would rock this, Julie!

If you were to meet Tamara, take her out to dinner – where would you take her and what would you wear?

The restaurant at Meadowood is traveling to my favorite restaurant in Mexico City called Pujol. It’s quite simply one of the best restaurants in the world. Nothing flashy but the food is outstanding. I think Tamara would really like this restaurant considering she loved Mexico.  I would wear something free-flowing, risqué and beautiful. Gucci has this lace black dress that’s completely see-through and beautiful with the most exquisite bustiers. I’d simply go for it, when it came to my outfit and I’d wear a hat! 

Thank you, Julie. I love your comment, “Not to be afraid to elevate the room.” Let’s elevate all the rooms! And I agree that Tamara’s unique artistic style really stays with you.

Julie is working closely with Tamara’s family, who have granted her access to photos, stories, and artworks. The film is set to be released next year and in the meantime fundraising continues. Click here for more information.

Artwork by Tamara de Lempicka. Copyright 2021 Tamara de Lempicka Estate LLC. All rights reserved.

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Tamara de Lempicka, circa 1980. Image from Passion By Design: The Are and Times of Tamara de Lempicka (Abbeville Press Publishers)

But I don’t like people to flatter my clothes. Why? I tell you. When I was very young, people would say, ‘Tamara, you are gorgeous, what beautiful eyes you have, what beautiful hair – oh, you are beautiful.’ Now they say, ‘What a beautiful hat, what a beautiful dress, what a beautiful ring,’ but they never say, ‘How beautiful you are.’ The world changes. First they notice you, then they notice your things. So you had better have beautiful things when you grow old.

Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980), Polish artist.

I found this quote in the book, Passion By Design: The Art and Times of Tamara de Lempicka, by Kizette de Lempicka (Abbeville Press Publishers).

Tamara de Lampicka, Studio Joffe, circa 1938.

Ms. Lempicka is known for her distinct painting style, which she perfected in 1920s Paris. She painted many a portrait of wealthy aristocrats in the Art Deco era. Her works today are collected by celebrities such as Madonna and sell for millions.

This comment reminds me of the Advance Style ladies – women mostly in NYC of a certain age who dress either very well or quirky and have been photographed by Ari Seth Cohen for his blog called Advanced Style. The blog led to two books and a documentary film and it’s become quite the thing.

I often think about the Advanced Style phenomenon and it seems to me that these lovely ladies have overcome the loss of attention, usually experienced by older women, by being noticeable in a way other than “beauty.” Using color and pattern in their clothing, adding vintage pieces and lots of accessories, with a dash of attitude they create their own style, which encourages plenty of attention.

I suspect that despite what she said, Ms. Lempicka would have preferred whatever attention she got for her clothing, than no attention at all.

Come back tomorrow for a Q&A with Julie Rubio, producer of the new documentary, Tamara.

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