Celebrity, designers, Hollywood, sewing patterns, vintage fashion

The Whole (?) List

Simplicity 2849, ©1938

After the discussion about unknown designer patterns yesterday, I went to look for as many of the Doublemint Gum designer patterns as I could find. Here is the list. There may be more, but these are all I could find at the moment.

Simplicity 2849, above, is attributed to Sonya Henie as the designer. Now, Sonya was a prolific skater, but did she actually design this, or were they just using her name? We will never know for certain.

Simplicity 2718, ©1938

This cute number was modeled by Joan Bennett in the ads, and is attributed to designer Elizabeth Hawes.

Simplicity 2902, ©1938

This beautiful suit was modeled by Claudette Colbert and designed by Travis Banton.

Simplicity 2951, ©1938.

This ad featured Deanna Durbin, with the pattern being attributed to Vera West, “Universal Pictures’ Fashion Creator.”

Simplicity 2978, ©1939

This one is different. Though it mentions the movie The Last Frontier/aka The Real Glory, the ad does not mention a designer. If it was designed by the costumer of the movie, it would be Jeanne Beakhurst, but there’s not a way to confirm this attribution.

That is the only one I can find for 1939 that mentions an actress. It may be the only one, and perhaps the movie/designer/actress/pattern/gum collaboration was confined to 1939, but considering they snagged Schiaparelli and Valentina, I’d say it was pretty successful, wouldn’t you?

Celebrity, designers, Hollywood, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Again With the Valentina

I’ve posted about Valentina before, but I was listening to an episode of the Dressed podcast today that was about all things Valentina, and it led me to a rabbit hole of sorts. I’m impressionable that way.

They mentioned in passing two things: that Valentina never had commercial paper patterns made of her designs, but also that she was featured in a Doublemint gum ad that featured a paper pattern of the design. A bit of confusion ensued, but I took them at their word and went searching for the pattern. I found out some interesting stuff.

First, the Valentina pattern, as shown in the 1938 ad.

This dress is being modeled by Gloria Swanson, was designed by Valentina, and was produced by Simplicity as #2784. I haven’t found a copy of it, but I don’t think that it is attributed to Valentina on the pattern envelope, if the other information I’ve found is accurate. The ad itself attributes the design to her, and if you really dig deep, you can find that 1938-1939 is full of similar Doublemint ads with other designers as well.

Case in point: Schiaparelli.

Simplicity 2740, ©1938

This beautiful dress is modelled by Anita Louise, and was designed by none other than Elsa Schiaparelli herself. It’s beautiful, yes? There are other designers and actresses in this ad campaign, like Joan Fontain, Sonya Henie and a few more. I find it fascinating, because they were taking patterns in the same vein as Hollywood Patterns, by featuring the actress and movie title, but the Simplicity ones actually added the designer names in the ad, if not on the pattern envelope. It’s also advertising in triplicate, which is so smart: the gum, the pattern and the movie the actress is in. Add in the designer – many of whom did not need advertising — and it’s four ads in one! Now that’s smart marketing!

I know that Hollywood has some famous patterns from movies, like the ones based on Gone With the Wind, but I’ve never considered that perhaps those patterns were designed by Adrian or Schiaparelli. I’m not even sure that there is a way to prove if they were, which is what makes this Simplicity series so unique. It’d be a great way for thirties pattern collectors to ad to their collections if they can match designers up with the patterns in their stash. It’s just the kind of sleuthery (is that a word?) that I love, because it’s much harder to match pattern with designer than if you look at a 70s Vogue with the designer’s name emblazoned across the front.

I will not go down this rabbit hole, I will not go down this rabbit hole, I will not……….gotta go!

Celebrity, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

You Learn Something New Every Day

Hollywood 1111, circa 1933.

I love the Smithsonian. I think everyone should visit it, although it likely would take a month to make it all the way through the museums. I was wandering around the catalog of the Museum of American History, looking for the dress I mentioned in my last post, and lo and behold what should I find but that the Smithsonian has sewing patterns! Specifically, these two patterns, though there may be more that I haven’t found. Amazing. The first is the iconic Ginger Rogers on Hollywood 1111, circa 1933. The second is Betty Grable on Hollywood 870 from the forties. The Betty Grable one is an odd choice, since there are so many cuter ones with her on it, but I’m not a curator, so what do I know?

Hollywood 870, circa 1940s.

I was more than a little surprised to see at first glance that they do not have any of the Lucille Ball patterns there. She was truly a beautiful woman, and there are some pretty phenomenal patterns featuring her (and Desi). I wonder how they choose what they add. If there are any curators out there, I’d love to know more.

Celebrity, designers, Hollywood

The Red Carpet Conundrum

Anya Taylor-Joy at the Emmys, wearing Dior Couture. Photo Credit: Francis Specker/CBS, Rich Fury/Getty Images

This has been a big week in the US. My husband loves (American) football, and all I’ve been hearing is commentators falling over themselves, happy that the stadiums are full of (COVID and) fans again. Like having stadiums full of thousands of (unmasked) people is a good thing right now. But I digress.

For those of us with finer tastes, we got not only the Met Gala, but also the Emmys red carpet this week, and it was fun to watch. Though the trend of naked dresses has me yawning (ok, you have a nice body, cover it up cause it’s boring), and the trend of yellow (which, as a very fair redhead, is not in my wheelhouse, or a lot of other people’s either), there is a bigger thing that has me thinking. It’s the current fashion conundrum.

Fashion has been taking a big hit in the past few years, for how un-environmentally friendly it is. They are putting out more and more collections to fewer and fewer buyers, and the environment is paying the price with the manufacturing impact, as well as the overall waste. Designers are talking about using renewable sources, and manufacturing with less impact, but these red carpets had me wondering, do they really get it?

Billie Eilish at the Met Gala, in Oscar de la Renta. Photo Credit: ABACA USA/INSTARimages.com, Janet Mayer/Startraksphoto.com, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Take these dresses in point. They are beautiful, of course. Gorgeous, in fact. Though Anya Taylor-Joy’s dress is very minimal, that coat was made with that huge train, just to be dragged along for photos? And Billie Eilish’s dress is gorgeous, but you can see it from space. Add to that that she changed to another beautiful, less over-the-top dress for dinner. Anya literally wore her knickers to the Emmys afterparty. So is all of this really necessary? It’s gorgeous, but this is the kind of thing that makes the criticism rain down on the fashion industry.

I don’t know the answer. I love, love, love to look at all kinds of fashion, but I think if we are going to talk about caring for our planet, we need to walk the walk, not just give it lip service. ::end rant::

Oh, and this week, I found out that my cancer is, indeed, in remission. YAY!

Celebrity, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

I Don’t Know What It Is, But I Love It

OK, so these aren’t as vintage as usual, but hey, it’s my blog and these are so amazing. I have NO idea what you’d call this style of pants, and I couldn’t even wear them (I see you, hips), but it reminds me so much of something Wendy or Lisa would wear when they were performing with Prince that they really caught my eye.

I mean seriously, what are they? It’s like jodphurs had a baby with the 80s and there you are. It’s all in the details here, and I really don’t know if anyone could actually wear them — perhaps they are just for models, but I can’t stop looking at them, and I wish I could sew well enough to make them, because I’d like to see them in person.

Lots of run on sentences today, but I’ve had too much caffeine so that’s probably where the problem is. What do you think? They’re for sale in the Etsy shop.

1950s fashion, 1970s fashion, Celebrity, designers, Hollywood, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

70s Does 30s

Vogue 2286, from 1979.

When people mention something is 70s does 30s, or 80s does 50s, for example, do you know what they mean? Fashion has a great way of repeating itself, as seen in this iconic scene from The Devil Wears Prada, where Miranda dresses Andy down like no other:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ja2fgquYTCg&w=560&h=315]

So when someone says 80s does 50s, they mean that it’s an 80s style, done in the vibe of the 50s. This is how I actually realized I loved vintage, because all of my 80s dresses were done in a 50s vibe, with a few 80s does 40s thrown in for good measure. I had a wonderful white peplum dress with red polka dots that was a particular favorite, which my ex also dumped coffee on during a five hour drive to Boca Raton for a wedding. Nothing like showing up with a huge coffee stain across you lap. But I digress.

This beautiful Bill Blass patter is a great example of 70s does 30s. The disco era is full of echoes from the 30s, with the beautifully cut bias maxi dresses, and this one is no exception. It also has a great tuxedo vibe, which is reminiscent of the Annie Hall look of the same time period. It’s a beautifully draped menswear inspired dress, and that is one hard thing to pull off. Also, because of the jacket, you can wear it in winter if you’re daring, and taking off that jacket would give you a great Grace Kelly “Rear Window” reveal vibe, seen here at :57, in her 50s does 30s top:

Well, maybe not that dramatic, but still — you’d catch everyone’s eye when that jacket comes off.

What do you think? Click here to purchase.

1950s fashion, Celebrity, designers, sewing, sewing patterns

Who was Hannah Troy?

McCall’s 5289, 1959, by Hannah Troy.

I came across this fantastic pattern the other day, and as I was listing it in the shop, noticed that it was designed by Hannah Troy. I’ve never seen a Hannah Troy pattern, and never heard of her, so I did some digging.

Hannah purportedly entered into the fashion industry in 1940 through a design she made herself, then sold for $3. She became a fashion model, and in a rather ballsy move for a model, suggested a different drape of fabric to the designer she was modelling for. I guess she didn’t believe in the (very wrong) belief that models are just clothes hangers and shouldn’t think. That suggestion led to her immediately becoming assistant to the designer, then head designer for another company, then to her branching off on her own to create Hannah Troy, Inc. Not bad for someone who started as a home sewist, yes?

Hannah revolutionized the clothing industry when she began designing for women with short waists. She was working as a model at May Company, and after spending days watching salespeople show short waisted women how to alter clothing to fit, decided there should be a petite line, made particularly for short waisted women. She enlisted help from the military, of all places, deciding that they would have the best database of women’s measurements. She got measurements of the WACs from the quartermaster, and found that the majority of women she studied were short waisted. She called the measurements she used in designing “Troyfigure,” and went to work.

One of Hannah’s most influential designs was one that Grace Kelly wore when she went to Europe early in her career. That also happened to be the trip where she met Prince Rainier. Hannah was also considered to be one of the most influential people in bringing attention to Italian fashion. In 1951, exports of Italian goods was $1 million, and by 1955, was $1 billion dollars, all in large part of the fact that she lauded the Italian goods. She was celebrated all over Italy for the help she gave their fashion industry, even being given the Star of Solidarity — the first American woman to be so honored.

Hannah designed with “complete wearability” as her foundation, and felt that the best designs were those that “lent themselves to the individual tastes of the greatest numbers of women.” She wanted to design for the masses, and bring the European styles to American women. Not unlike Coco Chanel, she felt that the best designs compliment, not overwhelm. Interestingly, she didn’t think women’s knees were pretty on anyone, even those with good legs. As the sixties marched on, she pronounced the pantsuit trend as “silly”, and thought the trend of women wearing teen styles was “ridiculous.” She did very well for herself, designing for a number of socialites and celebrities. Newspaper articles describe her apartment as elegant, and having decor that included rare antiquities from ancient Chinese dynasties.

She retired to Fort Lauderdale in the early 1970s, after thirty years in the fashion industry, and died of a heart attack June 22, 1993, in a Miami hospital. She was 93.

Celebrity, Hollywood, vintage clothing

Valentina

Who knew that Milwaukee holds a treasure trove of a couturier for some of the icons of fashion history? At Mount Mary College, in their Historic Costume Collection, there are almost 400 original Valentina toiles and garments, as well as personal documents and more. In Milwaukee. I’ve always said that the hidden gems are held in places you’d least expect, and now Milwaukee is on my bucket list.

Valentina was born in 1898, and was orphaned during the Russian revolution, and reportedly was rescued at a train station by George Schlee, who she subsequently married after escaping the country. They were married in Russia in 1920, and emigrated to New York via Paris in 1922. She is shown in the 1925 New York census as a housewife to George and notes herself as a naturalized US citizen. In 1930, she is found living in Manhattan with George, again as a housewife, though reports state she started her business in 1928, with dresses she pulled out of her own closet. Of note, the 1930 census states she is still an alien, and not a US citizen, and she subsequently applied for citizenship in 1932, noting herself again to be a housewife. In 1937, papers laud her for her costumes in the play “Idiot’s Delight.” She costumed a few movies in the early 1950’s, but was most known for the celebrities she dressed, such as Greta Garbo and Lynne Fontanne. (The photo above are of garments from Ms Fontanne’s collection and was worn in Idiot’s Delight.)

Valentina was known for her monochromatic designs, often having a stark monastic look. She costumed many stage shows, including dressing Katherine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story. The drape of the garments is beautiful and so simple in design as to not distract from the wearer. She loved to use opulent fabrics to create a lush effect that had customers flocking to her. She was held at the same level as Claire McCardell would be later, and there are some similarities in their garments, as both created simple garments that were comfortable to wear. Much of the work was hand done and there was not a lot of ornamentation. She truly was the torch bearer for the minimalism that we see today, but would not be popularized until the 1990’s.

Valentina wore her designs and was able to build her business in that way, given her status as a fashion icon of the time. Barry Paris noted in his book Garbo that Garbo and Valentina had a falling out over George in the years before he died, and though they lived in the same apartment building, they created a schedule where they would never run into each other in the lobby. She died in 1989 from Parkinson’s Disease in New York.

Valentina’s name is not as widely known today, being overshadowed by Valentino, who is not only male, but Italian. Her work still deserves to be seen and studied, because she set the bar in many ways for many designers to come.

Photos: Threads Magazine

Celebrity, Hollywood, Uncategorized

Hindsight is Compelling

I listed a book in the shop today. It’s called “Tell it to Louella,” and it’s written by Louella Parsons, the famed Hollywood columnist of years past. Ms Parsons was the person who knew all the gossip coming out of Hollywood, so you can only imagine the things she tells in this boo about people like Frank Sinatra, Princess Grace of Monaco, Lana Turner, and many more. But it was Marilyn Monroe’s story that I found most compelling.

I’ve long said that it’s hard to look at pictures of Marilyn, because I see so much sadness in her eyes. This book, published in 1961, acknowledges that. Ms Parsons calls it fear though. She said “if I were asked to choose one adjective with which to desribe Marilyn, I would choose ‘frightened.'”She said that when she looked at photos of Marilyn very early in her career, she saw sheer fright, to the point that it made her feel compassion for the poor girl. She described her as a Cinderella who is sure that the clock will strike midnight at any moment, and stated that this is why she could never achieven her full potential.

Marilyn was dead a year later.

Interesting that others have seen what I see through almost all of her pictures. Look past the beauty, the sex appeal, and the “it” factor, and you see sadness. And fear.

Mentioning the ‘it” factor, Ms Hopper says in her book that Clara Bow, the original IT Girl, had written her a letter the previous Christmas and said “not to [Elizabeth] Taylor, not to [Brigitte] Bardot, but to Monroe did I mentally bestow the “It Girl” tag some time ago. She and Jean Harlow are the only women I’ve ever seen who possessed the flesh impact that people said I had on the screen.” What an interesting way to put it.

Other interesting tidbits: Hollywood agent Ben Lyon always said Marilyn was a natural blonde which, of course, was not completely accurate. Ms Parsons brought this up to him one time, to which he responded “She is a naturaly blonde. I didn’t make the mistake. Nature did.” Hilarious.

Another thing that is really interesting in retrospect: Joan Crawford called Marilyn out for showing up to an event in form fitting gold lame dress which left nothing to the imagination. (This was not JFK’s birthday party.) Ms Crawford compared it to a burlesque show, and said “Miss Monroe should be told that the public likes provocative feminine personalities, but it also likes toknow that, underneath it all, the actresses are ladies.” Marilyn did not take the criticism well, being known for being very sensitive, and esponded that “I didn’t mean to do anything that the industry wouldn’t like. I just thought that I was expected to look alluring. Maybe my choice was bad, but my intention wasn’t. And the way so many people jumped on me — as if I’d committed a crime. Especially Joan Crawford.” She then added something that to Ms Hopper seemed to be out of contect, saying “I’ve always admired her [Crawford] for being such a wonderful mother. For taking four children and giving them such a wonderful home.”

Wow. Reads a little differently today, doesn’t it?

She ends the chapter by saying “no matter what, one thing I do know. Marilyn will make news for a long, long time. I hope, for her sake, that it will be happy news.”

I guess it’s up to the reader to decide whether memories of Marilyn are happy or not.