vintage clothing

Scarf Tricks

Scarves have come into the public eye more lately, since pandemic public figures such as Dr Birx and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi often show up wearing them. I’ve never been one to wear scarves, figuring they require a skill set that I don’t have. Also, Nora Ephron indtimated in her book “I Feel Bad About My Neck” that scarves are for middle aged ladies, and I’m not admitting to that quite yet.

But I do remember the 70s, and how my sisters would make little halter tops from bandannas and scarves. Nothing as stylish as this — we were preacher’s kids after all — but upcycle boho looks. These ones are pretty amazing, and while the 1973 article this is derived from doesn’t tell you how to twist the scarves into the look, it’s a great chance for you to DIY.

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.

sewing patterns, vintage clothing

Bicentennial Celebration Patterns

Left to right: Butterick 4208,4260,4207, and 4261

I came across this illustration in a Butterick brochure from 1976, and it got me remembering what the bicentennial was about. 1976 was a huge year for our country, as we celebrated America’s 200th birthday. Red, white and blue was everywhere, and there were all kinds of events to celebrate. Many of these events had people in period costume, so pattern companies put out patterns so that people could create their look. These four patterns are the ones Butterick put out, and I always wondered how they measured up to today’s attention to detail in costuming.

According to the brochure, Butterick did a great deal of research into colonial Americans, so as to make the costumes as authentic as possible. They also consulted with Robert Pusilo, an antique clothing expert and Bicentennial costume consultant to get the fabric details correct. Mr Pusilo has a number of movie credits to his name (Klute and The Owl and the Pussycat among them), but also did Broadway costuming, most notably for Hello, Dolly. According to an article in the Atlanta Constitution in 1974, Mr Pusilo owned hundreds of articles of 18th century clothing, putting him in a unique position of being able to not only design for period clothing, but to handle the originals. He felt that 18th century clothing wouldn’t lend itself to the mass marketing of the 1970’s, because the result would just be a 1970s version of the original. He had a real respect for the men’s shirts of the late 1700’s, stating that they were “truly comfortable”, in contrast to more modern shirts. Interestingly, Mr Pusilo is quoted in the article as saying that there were only a few houses in New York where appropriate fabric could be obtained for such period clothing, as the patterns used in that era were very distinct. I’d love to have been listening to the conversation as he made fabric suggestions to Butterick, knowing full well that the fabrics a home sewist would use would be wrong, no matter how accurate the pattern might be. I wonder if this offended his sensibilities, or if he just accepted it as it was — a modern take on antique clothing?

These patterns came with an insert that gave suggestions on how to make your costume authentic. Three accessories suggested were a gentleman’s can, a lady’s panier, and a lady’s sleeve ruffle. The insert gave instructions on how to make each of these accessories, and the sleeve ruffle is illustrated here, as well as a small panier, on the lady on the right. (I can’t tell if the lady on the left has it as well, but she may.)

The costumes shown are for an affluent colonial family. The called the lady’s costume their Dolly Madison costume, and the father and son costumes Stateman costumes. Reading the descriptions of the patterns makes one think that perhaps these patterns were a bit more accurate that the more modern interpretations of the 18th century, since they closed with buttons instead of the zippers seen in today’s renditions. I may have to do a deep dive to compare the versions. I’ll add that to my to-do list.

Butterick 4260 is available here. 4208, the men’s stateman’s pattern, is available here and here. 4207, the boys’ statesman’s pattern, can be found on Etsy here and on Amazon here. The girls’ costume can be found here.

genealogy, Non-Hogkin's Lymphoma, sewing patterns

Me, Myself and I

Here I am again, starting over with my blogging life. Many moons ago, I was active with The Vintage Fashion Librarian, but I went through a rought patch in life, got divorced, got remarried, and life moved on. I ended up deleting the blog, which regret to this day, so I decided to start again, because my love of vintage fashion and sewing patterns knows no bounds, and I have a knack for finding nuggets of information that I think should be shared. So here I am. I am, as they say baaaaaack! I

My journey in vintage started in 1999, though if I think about it, it goes back to childhood. I have always loved old stuff: movie, jewelry, clothes, magazines, books, you name it. I grew up mostly in rural Missouri and Indiana, had had no idea that wearing vintage was a thing. I just knew I loved old stuff. So when I got grown, as they say, and had kids, my daughter and I began to scour shops for fun stuff. She did pet rescue as a kid, funding all of the vaccines and surgeries for her animals through garage sales and sales from a booth she had at a local antique mall. We found lots of interesting stuff.

Meanwhile, I was selling on ebay. I got started when listings were just text — no pictures — and actually traded something with my middle school aged son’s best friend to take his digital camera off his hands. Old ebay was so much fun. I sold a lot of homeschool books (we were homeschoolers), then started buying to resell homeschool books. Then I started selling for other people. When the store concept started on ebay, I wanted to open a store but couldn’t figure out what I wanted to have be my niche. Somehow — and to this day, I have no idea how — I ended up settling on sewing patterns. I still remember the first pattern I listed, with a crappy picture, taken with the 70s pattern for a dress with flounced hem and thick straps tossed on the carpet of our living room floor. And that’s where it started.

At given times, I was either the second or third highest pattern seller on ebay (when you could see that information — remember, ebay was fun then). I moved off ebay when the fees got too high, then moved yet again and opened my own site. LOVED it, but life was getting busy. I had three teenagers, my marriage was a mess, and I just didn’t devote the time to selling. (Through all of this, I was also working full time as a nurse. Good times.) I ended up taking the website down and moving to Etsy on a much smaller scale.

Fast forward through a divorce, sending 81 printer paper boxes of patterns to Texas, and severely downsizing, getting remarried, getting the kids graduated from high school and two out of college and grad school, and here I am. I have a new husband, and overseer of care for my mom (my dad died in April), and am in treatment for lymphoma. So, when COVID came around, I decided that with the health challenges I’m facing, it just wasn’t worth the risk to me, my elderly mom and husband, or my family for me to risk bringing that nasty virus home, and I took a medical leave. I didn’t look back. Mind you, I’m not sure I’m retired — I have to sell enough patterns to make this work — but I’m selling patterns and researching fashion full time, with a side of grandkids and genealogy to boot.

I’m also trying to learn to sew because, let’s be completely transparent here , I barely sew. I can knit (some), needlepoint (passably) and embroidery (fairly well). I can sew a straight seam and honestly can tell you a LOT about patterns, except detailed information about sewing. So I figured it’s time to learn. I also am researching more of my husband’s and my family histories, doing a little painting, and learning Hebrew (I’m not Jewish. I’m doing it for fun. I’m really nuts). So here I am.

I’m listing patterns every day. Researching details about fashion every day. Loving life during lockdown, since I’m a natural introvert. Just humming along. So that’s me. Stay tuned for fun and games with The Vintage Librarian.