I’ve had this sheet music for a while and have always said that it would look great framed. It’s from the 1944 movie “Lady in the Dark,” and features Ginger Rogers in all her glory. That costume is fantastic.
I saw this post on the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Instagram the other day and it explained why this dress is simply iconic. This costume was designed by Edith Head. She, of course, went on to win eight Academy Awards for costume design. At the time the beauty was designed, it cost $35,000 to make ($15,000 of that was the mink). That equates to about $571,000 today. For ONE dress. It is said to be the most expensive costume in movie history. Ms. Head was right when she said that it simply couldn’t be made today unless a studio gave the costume designer an open wallet. Funny thing is that Ms. Head wasn’t even supposed to be the costume designer for this movie. Valentina was, but Ginger Rogers didn’t like her designs, so they brought in Ms. Head. Serendipitous.
What makes it even more amazing is that this was done in 1944 — smack in the middle of wartime. So much for fabric rationing, though the actual amount of fabric is pretty small, but those sequins. WOW. And mink trim and train? Yep. Couldn’t be done today.
Pretty fantastic, huh? It appears that this dress is the sequined version. Two versions were made, according to the book Edith Head: The Fifty Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer, by Jay Jorgensen. The original dress and matching mink jacket had faux jewels applied to create the shimmering effect, but when Ms. Rogers tried it on, it was too heavy to wear during the dance scenes. They created a second, sequined dress. That dress was worn during the dance scenes, and Ms Head later took it to the fashion shows she would host. The original dress with the stones was shown in two scenes of the movie, then was donated to the Smithsonian, though I haven’t been able to verify that it is still there.
I came across this pattern in my stash yesterday and thought “wow, what a cute dress.” Except, it’s not. It’s an apron and a coverall. Very stylish, isn’t it? It does a back wrap, then comes around and buttons in the front. I’m not sure that those huge triangular pockets would be helpful, because everything would fall out of them, but isn’t this a chic look?
The coverall is designed to wear over your frock whilst you clean, so your day dress stays fresh. It’s basically designed in the same vein as a Claire McCardell popover dress, which was meant for the same task. The earliest ones came with a matching potholder, and the popover was a staple in Claire McCardell collections.
Claire McCardell is one of my favorites, because she basically birthed American sportswear. She created comfortable fashion that was also stylish. Her use of plaids was also really beautiful. Not red carpet glam stuff, most of it, but comfortable day wear. She died at 52 of cancer, which was far, far too young. I would’ve loved to see what she would’ve done had she lived longer.
I came across this interview with Claire’s brother, which I found super interesting. Given the fact that she skiied so much, and that she was on the first board of Sports Illustrated, I always thought she must’ve been a talented athlete. Not so. Who’da thunk?
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?
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!
I don’t know if you remember, but I mentioned McCall 4882 in a former post about 1920s designer patterns from McCall. Well, waddya know, I found the Model by Jenny of Paris in my stash! Truthfully, I had the pattern for some time, but thought the envelope was long gone. Look what happens when one actually tidies:
I am so excited, because this is something of a rare find, much less in factory folds AND in a bust size 34 which, for some, is a wearable size. How cool is that?
Jenny of Paris is quoted in 1929 (the year after this pattern was printed) as saying, “I not only believe but actually preach the creed that it is vitally necessary for the modern woman to be as lovely and charming as is possible for her to be, and accordingly I design.” She goes on to say that the suffrage movement took as long as it did because of the way the women dressed, including stiff collars and flat shoes, and then says that chivalry in men also had dropped because of the way women chose to clothe themselves. Miss Jenny took her fashion SERIOUSLY. She says that women in fiction were only admired if they were not dowdy (she obviously didn’t read Pride and Prejudice), and that men will never woo a woman unless she is fashionable.
Jenny said to choose your clothing carefully, regardless of your budget. She favored carefully selected black dresses, and liked velvet trim as an accessory. She strongly disliked the robe de style, first saying women didn’t take the time to choose a frock that favored them, and second, saying basically that she didn’t understand why women would dress in a style from the past when the entire future of fashion was in front of them. She was also not a fan of fads, though she would toss in a trendy item or two like a bustle, in each collection, just to keep people interested.
She mentions that she prefers natural waistlines, though she would drop them occasionally. This jacket is a case in point. Though it doesn’t officially have a dropped waist, it gives the illusion of one with the lower placement of buttons and belt. The jacket itself really has no waistline, as the silhouette is straight. Miss Jenny knew how to design something that was on trend, without compromising her ideals.
Side note, I just finished Season One of Making the Cut on Amazon Prime. I have mixed feelings about it. I find Heidi Klum to be insufferably narcissistic, and actually have to fast forward the little Heidi and Tim segments — I love Tim Gunn, but Heidi is such an attention hound I just cannot. Plus, I would much rather see the design process or even the business side of things instead of seeing Heidi dance half naked at the Moulin Rouge, or fence with Tim. The insights the designers give to how the fashion business works is really interesting, and of course the fashion is wonderful. Miss Jenny’s idea of designing on trend without losing herself and loving black reminded me of Esther on MtC. ***SPOILER ALERT*** Esther, without a doubt, was a FAR superior designer to Jonny, but I think that the judges probably chose the right winner, since she was unlikely to veer from her black color palette. Jonny, however, should’ve been booted at least a couple of episodes prior, since he couldn’t finish without help from other designers, but the judges didn’t see that. I must say too that the judges should have listened to Naomi, as she gave the best insights, and was obviously frustrated by Heidi running over her all the time. I would’ve been surprised if she had come back for season 2, but I miss her. She was a good judge. And for those who think that the judges were rough on the designers: these were not rookie designers. All of these people had their own lines coming in. They know the business is tough. I think the judges were just being truthful and direct, though I could do without the “have you changed your mind” schtick from Heidi. UGH. I really don’t like her. And I hate myself for starting Season 2, but that’s life. I just love fashion.
It’s been business as usual around here lately, which means crazy all the time. I’m down to watching the grandbabies only one day a week so I’ve been working more diligently at home. I seem to be permanently stuck here, which isn’t a bad thing for a homebody, but it’d be nice to get out a little bit for a movie once in a while. Problem is that although I got the COVID vaccine, I didn’t develop any antibodies because my cancer treatment has zapped my immune system, so that vaccines won’t work. Since I live in “I-Refuse-To-Wear-a-Mask-ville” Indiana, I am stuck until we get to herd immunity, which I figure will be roughly 2031. So here I am.
We’ve been watching Midsomer Murders, and when we are done, I have no idea what we will go to. If you have any suggestions from Britbox or Acorn, let me know, as we pretty much only watch British or Scottish television around here. We seem to be stuck on crime shows, though we’ve interspersed with Monarch of the Glen some time back and a random sitcom here and there.
So while I was listing new things in the shop, I came across this perplexing model by Valentino. I actually love the dress, though I rarely go sleeveless (meds make this fair redhead even more susceptible to the sun, and I will burn). So why is it that the sleeveless model is paired with a hat that is perfect for a winter in Siberia, and why is the long sleeved version paired with what looks like a cowboy hat? Are we being punked? Was someone having fun? Am I the only one to notice? Surely they didn’t expect that we wouldn’t see the accessories, even though the dress is amazing, right? Please, someone, help me to understand this.
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:
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.
OK, so it’s not really vintage and I’m late to the game today, but I got up at 4am the last two days, to watch two wild toddlers, so I need a bit of a break here. Nonetheless, I’m working through listing the 10,000 patterns I got a couple of weeks ago, and came across this one.
It’s Vogue 2940, by Anna Sui. Anna Sui is a very underrated designer who you don’t hear a lot about, but she has made some gorgeous stuff, including this little beauty from 2007. It’s got a very Pride & Prejudice vibe to it, and considering that the Kiera Knightley version of the movie came out in 2005, I guess that’s why. The regency vibe is unmistakable, but it would fit in perfectly for lovers (like myself) of Gunne Sax and cottagecore garments. It also may just be the perfect summer dress, as I could see it going from shopping to a wedding to church, and just about everywhere in between.
So forgive me if this one isn’t actually vintage. It’s not even quite listed in the shop yet, though it should be this weekend. It’s not even my picture. But I do feel that it is too lovely to ignore. What do you think?
I’ve come across a few Dazian’s patterns over the years, and they’re always unique. Dazian’s produced some sewing patterns, always for dancewear or theatre costumes. The patterns I’ve seen have been for both women and children, though there are some even harder to find men/boys ones out there. I think the actual pattern line was pretty short lived, and although the ones I’ve seen always appear to be late 40s and early 50s, the company’s website states that they actually didn’t start putting out patterns until 1961. I would have never guessed.
Dazian’s as a company was pretty cool. They actually started with theatre costumes in 1842, and the company lasted over 100 years. It was started by Wolf Dazian, said to be the most knowledgeable costumer in history, though he also designed stage props. Dazian’s costumes were worn by such notables as Sarah Bernhardt, Caruso, Anna Pavlova, Al Jolson, and Maude Adams. Mr Dazian was known.
Dazian’s created costumes for Ziegfeld, of Follies fame. It was said that Ziegfield would walk into the shop carrying armloads of sweet peas, demanding the color be replicated into fabrics. He did the same thing with butterflies. He was a creative genius, but seemed to have trouble paying his bills once the costumes were done, according to Emil Friedlander, the manager of the company in the early 40s. Another customer was P.T. Barnum, who bought custom-made costumes for Mademoiselle Fanny — an orangutan.
He created a military style coat for Maude Adams that was trimmed in 14 carat gold — his most expensive costume by 1941, at a cost of $1350. Legend also had it that he created a fountain for a performance of Anna Pavlova. When she sent her rep to threaten to kill Dazian due to the noise of the water, he offered to remedy by changing the water from “hard water to soft water.” After banging around on the pipes for a while, Ms. Pavlova declared the noise to be much improved. The man was a genius at costuming and handling people.
Dazian’s expanded to the West Coast in 1929, so that they could serve not only the New York clientele, but the growing Hollywood scene as well. Wolf Dazian had pretty much locked up costuming nationwide by this time. Though he died in 1902, his son Henry had been heading the business for some years, and it continued to grow. Henry was quite the aficionado as well. He was director of the Maurice Grau Opera company, and was such a foodie that he was known to travel abroad just to taste a particular dish. Though the company remained in business for years after his death in 1937, Henry Dazian’s will stipulated that many of the company’s assets be converted to start the Dazian Foundation for medical research. He died after a long illness of heart disease, finally succumbing to pneumonia and the effects of diverticulitis. He had never married.
Dazian remains in business today as a fabric seller, primarily for curtains and drapes for theatres, including Las Vegas. That the company has managed to thrive for 180+ years is nothing short of amazing, and the diversity of their business is fascinating to behold.
The illustration above is one of a group I acquired recently. Several are signed by “Fern,” and though I have no idea who she is, I do admire her expertise. They all include cute notes about what fabrics to use and other details. I think that these are actually costume illustrations and not patterns, but I can’t be sure, given how few of the patterns are out there. Aren’t they adorable?
This may be the first post I’ve done about Dovima, but it most likely won’t be the last, because I. Love. Her. She is truly a goddess, to my eye, and the most iconic model in fashion history, with perhaps the exception of Carmen Dell’Orifice. Actually, she is the most iconic, but Carmen has had a longer career, by virtue of living longer and modelling into her 80s. But Dovima. ::sigh::
Dovima hit the fashion scene in the 40s, and worked into the 60s. She came from an era where models brought their own accessories, shoes and makeup, and did things on the fly. They did their own hair, they did their own makeup, and often the photos were done in any location they could find quickly, especially after a fashion show, when all of the photographers were vying for pictures of the same garment. This is why you will see so many photos of that era outside, where they ran to shoot after a show, or in front of a plain backdrop. It’s some of the most recognizable fashion photography ever done.
The models of that era had an elegance you don’t see now. Dovima was especially so. The way she placed her hands and tilted her head could not be replicated. Her relationship with also-iconic Richard Avedon was muse and mentor, as he considered her one of the last elegant models and she trusted him to capture beautiful images. He shot the unforgettable image above, Dovima and the Elephants, shot at a circus in Paris and featured in Harper’s Bazaar in 1955. The original dress was the first one Yves St. Laurent did for Christian Dior, and it is now housed at Newfields Art Museum in Indianapolis. I have stood and stared at it in awe many times, imagining the scene as Dovima created the image of soft and hard, old and new, elegance and animal instinct. It evokes a lot of emotion for me.
Dovima, for all of her elegance, lived a complex life. Married three times, and the face of both Dior and Balenciaga, she ended up broke in Florida, waitressing at a pizza joint. She had a particular affinity for abusive men, and according to other models of the era, would sometimes arrive at their apartments in the middle of the night, crying about what had been done to her. They wanted to help her, but she always fell back into relationships with the wrong men. She retired from modelling as Camelot crumbled and the mod era arrived, never to be seen on camera again. She died from liver cancer in Florida in 1990, but her images will live forever.
I listed this cute pattern in the shop this morning. It’s Butterick 6879 and it’s adorable. I love View A, but can’t imagine doing all that bias tape trim. It’d be worth the work, but wow. This pattern is part of the “Susie Stephens” line from Butterick.
Susie Stephens, in case you didn’t know, is a line of sewing patterns designed by students at Stephens College, in Columbia, Missouri. (Fun fact: I grew up not far from there, and always thought of it as a rich kids school. But I digress.) At Stephens, they had a yearly fashion show done by the students. It was called “Susie Stephens.” It commonly had a theme, such as in 1952, where the them was “Campus Classics from the Classics,” and featured garments and millinery inspired by books such as Little Women, David Copperfield and Wuthering Heights. These garments were shown in fashion shows around the Midwest.
A 1947 article notes that the designs were fresh and adaptable, with rompers that had skirts to go over them, coats with enough volume to carry books underneath during the rainy season, and much more. On the day of the show, it was surmised that the garment district of St Louis must’ve emptied out and headed to Columbia, along with designer staff from Kansas City and New York. Budding designers were hired straight from these shows. The next day, the show was done again for the people of Columbia, where customers could choose the garment or the patterns, to take to their dressmaker for adaptations.
By 1950, Butterick had taken notice, and started their “Susie Stephens” line. This line was specifically created from the Stephens College students’ designs, and was advertised for teenagers. By 1952, they had printed 30 designs in the Susie Stephens line, but it seems to have waned in popularity after 1953, and disappeared completely after 1954. It’s worth taking a look at this cute line of patterns.