Category Archives: Viewpoint

New Twist on an Old Print

If you’ve been a Vintage Traveler reader for a while, you will recognize the little photo album above.  It’s from the 1960s, made by a German company called KEK.  The last time I looked, they were still in business, making a variety of things.

I also have that print in a larger album in a different colorway.  Europe was just so cool in the early to mid Sixties!

 

I was doing my morning scroll through Instagram and came upon this photo.  As you can see, it is pretty much the same print, but with less detail.  As it turns out this print is on a dress that was sold by a UK clothing company called Joules.  Since that company is only twenty-five years old, we know that the fabric is a reproduction of the original KEK print.

The dress is adorable, and is for sale on the Instagram account, @trexesandtiaras, which gave me permission to use the photos.  If I were 20 and in the UK, I’d buy it.

It does bring up the question, yet again, of vintage prints being reproduced.  As I’ve said before, I’m making no judgment on how this fabric got reproduced.  As far as I know, the maker could have had KEK’s permission.  Or it is equally possible that some fabric “designer” found one of the 1960’s albums, or worse yet, photos online, and merely copied the print.  Well, it’s not an exact copy.  Note that on the license plate a 7 was changed to 3.

Joules clothing was tagged in our discussion, so maybe they will shed some light on this fabric.

There have been many times when I’ve been confused over a fabric, not being able to decide if it is vintage or just a new product made to look vintage.  The more I look at modern fabrics, the more I can see the difference.  The modern reproduction is cute, but put side by side there is a great difference in the detailing.  Still, I’d sure love to have a skirt of that fabric.

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We’ve Been Punked

From the very beginning I was less than enthused about the Met’s Costume Institute’s Punk exhibition.  My biggest concern was that with all the wonderful objects within the Met’s costume collection, it was sad that they were yet again focusing on fashion from the past twenty or so years.  And then, before the Punk show opened, Malcolm McLaren’s widow made the claim that some of the objects were fakes.

This was not a new claim.  In 2008 McLaren himself had studied objects that had come from the same source as some of the Met’s punk items, and had found them to be fakes. Artist Damien Hirst had spent about $150,000 on punk clothing from Simon Easton, who was selling the stuff through eBay.  After the items were viewed by a former punk and seller of reproductions, Camden Jim, who recognized some of the designs as the ones he had sold at Camden Market,  Hirst became alarmed and contacted McLaren, who found that most of Hirst’s items were fake.

In the meantime Christie’s Auctions, who had some of the Easton material had concerns and called in McLaren to examine the items they had obtained from Easton.  Easton’s Ebay account was suspended.

To backtrack a bit, in 2006, the Costume Institute, in preparation for their Anglomania exhibition, acquired quite a few Westwood/McLaren punk items.  These were a prominent part of the exhibition and accompanying catalog.  When the Hirst fakes were exposed in 2008, it soon became evident that there might be some problems with the Met’s items as well.  At the time, Andrew Bolton, the associate curator responsible for the purchase and the Anglomania exhibition said that the pieces bought from Simon Easton would be reviewed.

At this point the story goes cold until February, 2013.  Malcolm McLaren had died in 2010, but his widow started questioning the validity of objects that were to be shown in that summer’s Costume Institute exhibition, Punk: Chaos to Couture.  She wrote to the Met outlining her objections to several of the items that were to be in the exhibition.  Along with Paul Gorman, who had worked with McLaren to try and establish the authenticity of many items, she gave detailed reasons why some of the objects were “wrong.”  A spokesperson for the Costume Institute replied that  “the provenance of all the punk pieces in our collection and in the upcoming exhibition have been verified”.

But now it appears as if they were not.  Paul Gorman, who examined the Met’s McLaren/Westwood holdings in May 2013 wrote a detailed report on his findings – a report that was not good news for the Met.  Not only did he believe that a large number of the garments were fake, others were suspect, and still others were misdated.  After the Punk exhibition came down, other experts were called in.  As a result, two bondage suits with the Seditionaries label were marked for de-accession. Both suits had been in the Anglomania exhibition of 2006.

However, the two suits in question are still on the Met’s website, but very recently the listing designation was changed to  “Attributed to Vivienne Westwood” and “Attributed to Malcolm McLaren”.  Around thirty other objects now have “Attributed to” in the item description, and photos of most of these items have been removed.

Just as disturbing is the faulty dating of objects.  Gorman gives the example of a pair of bondage trousers that were dated to 1976, but the trousers have the Vivienne Westwood Red label - a label that was established in 1993!  In his article on his blog, Gorman shows the museum’s page on the trousers (2006.253.18) which has a photo of them and the label.  When I looked up the page today, I see that the photograph of the label has been removed.

You should read Gorman’s detailed blog post, and judge for yourself.  I  see some very shoddy scholarship in action here.  As a very small-time collector I can tell you that it is very difficult to always get dating and attribution correct.  But even with my limited resources I want to be as accurate as possible, and I am always willing to admit when I am wrong, no matter how much I want to believe otherwise.  Should not our institutions be the same?

 

Thanks to Sarah at TinTrunk for the Gorman article.
 

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August in Review

August is just right for just lying back in one’s hammock with a good book and a cold drink.  Matching toenails are optional.

I’ve been a fan of Genevieve Antoine Dariaux’s early 1960s guide to proper dressing for a very long time, so I was happy to find Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro, a novel in which our heroine tries to up her elegance game by following Dariaux’s advice.  It was fun.

After a failed attempt to find a proper silk with which to reline my early 1960s Davidow/Chanel jacket, I decided to use a less than perfect Vera scarf.  I’m still working on it, but will share photos soon.

Here is just a taste of an incredible dress that I found at the Goodwill outlet.  The bodice is trimmed with those half circles, and the skirt is pleated and swingy.  I was hoping desperately to find a Travilla label, because it is of that quality, and he was known for making and remaking versions of the famous Seven Year Itch dress that Marilyn Monroe wore over the subway grate.  Unfortunately, there is no label.  I’m still researching this one.

The grapes ripened and the birds and I fought over them.

I have a new job.  Just kidding.  We are having some work done at Tim’s grandparents’ place and I couldn’t resist this classy photo op.

I made pajama bottoms.  Tim got a pair too, but mine are cuter.

This is the side of an old dog food tin that I spotted at an antique market.

Two years ago I swore I’d never go to the Hillsville, Virginia flea market again.  It was just too big, too hot, too junky, and too much.  But in a moment of weakness I headed off, and was pleasantly surprised.  I bought a lot of about 50 patterns, most of them from the 1940s, for $20.  And that was just the beginning.  It was a very nice day.

And that is it for August.

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Mademoiselle, June, 1941

Even though this is the cover of a June issue, the photo reminds me more of this time of year.  The stores and magazines are now full of clothes for cold weather, but here in the South there will be at least another month of warm weather.  Women in the South (and the southern parts of the West) have long known to transition to autumn clothing slowly.  Put away the whites and the light pastels and rely on warm, golden colors in cottons.  Add a sweater on chilly mornings.  The coats won’t really come out of the closets until late November.

I finally had a chance to sit down and thumb through the massive Vogue September issue.  At 856 pages, this issue fell short of the 916 page record, but still it is heavy and bulky and full of things to buy.  It is another season of asking who in their right mind would wear a certain shoe, in this case a particularly ugly Dior model that looks like three different shoes were thrown into a blender and mishmashed together.

And while I didn’t sit and count the pages, it sure seems to me that most of the big fashion houses are really in the business of selling accessories.  For the most part, the shoes look ugly and difficult to wear, whereas handbags are generally sleeker and not as tricked out as in previous seasons.

But the only company whose ads really made me wish I had thousands to spend was Louis Vuitton.  The clothes have a nice uncluttered mod vibe, and there is a little handbag that is like a miniature Vuitton trunk.  There is also an article about the new designer at Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Ghesquiere.

Like I said, living in the South means that our clothes are lighter.  I have several coats, all vintage, none of which I wear more than a handful of times each season.  Maybe that is why I find the over-abundance of fur in Vogue so odd.  There were three editorial features on coats, and the majority of the ones shown were either made from fur or trimmed with it.  And many of the other features also had furs.  I don’t get the emphasis on a product that many women can’t wear because of their climate, and that many will not wear because they feel wearing fur is wrong.

UPDATE:

I decided to add a photo of the ugly Dior shoes, taken from one of the many Dior ads in the Vogue September issue.  The pink part is actually molded rubber, like the sole of an athletic shoe, and the name “Dior” is embossed there near the heel.  Note also that the very tip of the black part is red, which extends under that cute little over-hang.  In some photos it looks like a tongue.  And finally, I do hope that heel is steel reinforced, as I can see that really narrow part snapping right off.

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Back to School

If you’ve read my “About” page, you know that I spent twenty-eight years in an elementary school classroom.  Recently I’ve been having dreams about teaching – dreams that are not necessarily pleasant.  The children are either unruly, or there are a hundred of them packed into a room designed for twenty-five.  Or I forgot to get dressed that morning and spend the day looking for something – anything – to cover myself.  It happens every late summer as soon as the “Back-to-School” banners start appearing in stores.

Scary dreams aside, I loved teaching, otherwise I’d never have spent twenty-eight years doing it. But when it came time to retire, I delightedly passed my plan book and 437 apple figurines on to the next teacher to occupy my classroom. The photo above was taken for the yearbook as my “retirement portrait.” I don’t think they used that one, though.

Even though I’ve been retired for nine years, people still ask if I miss teaching. My answer is generally, “No,” but there are times when I realize there is nothing like a good captive audience to make your thoughts and opinions seem important. I miss that, but then I do occasionally turn to this blog to do a bit of teaching, and preaching. And so today we are going to have a little writing lesson.

One of the biggest rules for writing is to write for your audience.  In the case of my fifth graders, I was most often their audience. I stressed to them that they had to write in a manner that allowed them to correctly communicate their thoughts to me, and in order to do so trendy slang was not permitted.  I felt like I was doing them a big favor in not allowing “words” like gnarly (1980s) or phat (1990s) to be used in their writing.  And it’s not just that those words sound dated today, it also helped some of them develop a habit that would help them if they had to do more formal writing in high school and college.

Today I’d be banning terms like cray-cray and amazeballs and dope and totes and fail (used as a noun).  I see these “words” on social media all the time, and I realize there is a need to look cool (one of the few trendy slang words that has endured, being popular in the 1940s)  but slang changes so quickly that one runs the danger of sounding dated.  Who could have been cooler in 1969 than Arlo Guthrie”

“Far out , man… Like I was rapping to the fuzz. Right, can you dig it?”

Believe me, by 1971 that just sounded weird.

Write for your audience. Remember that if you are writing on the internet, you have a multi-generational audience.  You also have an international one. Many struggle to read standard English, much less English that is sprinkled with slang that changes as soon as a celebrity uses a word in a cutsie way and everyone rushes to copy.

If you find that you are guilty of using these slang terms, don’t be offended.  As the teacher I’m here to help, not to criticize!  And, yes I do know that my own writing is not exactly textbook writing.  I’m writing to my audience, my vintage and fashion history friends, so I use a conversational voice.

I wanted to end this with a photo of me in the classroom, but the best I could do was this shot that was taken while watching the class on water safety day.  This was taken in 2000, so I want to stress that I was the person who started the whole nautical stripe trend.  And yes, I do still have and wear that striped tee.

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Betty Bacall at Harper’s Bazaar

copyright Harper's Bazaar.  Do not copy

Photo by Louise Dahl-Wolfe Copyright Harper’s Bazaar. Do not copy.

Years ago when I first started buying and loving vintage fashion magazines, I found the May, 1943 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.  Browsing through it I was stopped dead at this photo of eighteen year old Lauren Bacall.  I had no idea she had been a model, as this was during the pre-everything-on-the-internet days. I also wanted to know if that dress was still available (kidding, sort of).

So much has been written about Bacall in the past week that I wondered if I really had anything to add.  Everything from how Diana Vreeland put her on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar which led to Mrs. Hawks seeing her photo to Mr. Hawks casting her opposite Bogart… But then I realized what I’ve not seen.  Except for the famous March, 1943 Harper’s Bazaar cover,  no one – not even the Harper’s Bazaar site – has shown the modeling shots from the magazine.

I thought I had the March, 1943 issue, but I don’t, but I did find Bacall photos in three other issues.  According to wikipedia, she also modeled for Vogue, but I could not find her in any of the copies I own.

Photo by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Copyright Harper’s Bazaar. Do not copy.

This photo from February, 1943 is the earliest photo that I found of Bacall.  I’ve read several places where  Howard Hawks changed her name to Bacall, but actually, it was her mother’s maiden name, and she had been using it for years.  He did suggest changing the Betty to Lauren.  Perhaps he thought since Hollywood already had Bette Davis and Betty Grable there was no room for Betty Bacall.

Photo by Polcer, Copyright Harper’s Bazaar. Do not copy.

In the same issue, Betty’s photo appears several more times, and in this feature on blouses, she is even identified as “the young actress, Betty Bacall”.  She had already appeared on Broadway at that time.  Note the pose with the chin tilted downward, the eyes slightly upward.  Bacall always said she used this pose during the filming of To Have and Have Not because it helped her control her nervousness.  This was obviously a young woman who knew her good side, even before she met Bogart.

Photo by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Copyright Harper’s Bazaar. Do not copy.

In 1943 women were wearing pants in their roles as war support workers, and Harper’s Bazaar showed them how to wear them fashionably.  And who better than Betty Bacall to show us how it’s done.

Photo by Engstead, Copyright Harper’s Bazaar. Do not copy.

These next photos are the last ones I found of Bacall, in the August, 1943 issue, show her modeling “winter cottons.”  The copy tells us that “Betty Bacall [was] plucked  by Hollywood straight out of our pages…”

Photo by Engstead Copyright Harper’s Bazaar. Do not copy.

I’m guessing this photo shoot took place before Bacall left New York in the spring of 1943.

To her friends, Lauren Bacall was always “Betty.”  I’ve been reading the Andy Warhol Diary, and when he encounters her, he too, a casual acquaintance,  calls her Betty.

Most of Betty Bacall’s clothing and accessories were donated to various institutions some time ago.  The Museum at FIT has a large portion, and before her death last week plans were already in the works for an exhibition for next year.

All photos are copyright Harper’s Bazaar.  DO NOT copy, put on Pinterest, Tumble, or otherwise use these photos.

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Value of a Blog

 

There are several sites on the internet where a blogger can answer a few questions and provide a link to the blog, and the site will calculate how much the blog is “worth.”   Not that I’d ever sell The Vintage Traveler, but considering the time and energy I put into this blog, the price is a paltry amount.

The way I see it, the real value of a blog is what happens as a result.  In my case, I’m happy to be a part of a group of people who share my interest in and love of fashion history.   I like to think that we are adding to the body of knowledge that makes up that history.

I said “we” instead of “I” for a reason, as I consider the comments and feedback that are posted here to be as important as any original post that I happen to write.   I’ll freely admit that I often get it wrong in my assumptions, and I’m happy to be led to the truth by a reader.  And I’m always happy to let readers add to any story I might tell.

I’m saying all this because in the past week I’ve gotten two emails from valued readers and friends who feared they were “over-stepping” in their comments made here.  I want to assure anyone who posts at The Vintage Traveler that all comments are welcome (unless they are mean, but that’s another story).  I can tell you that I blogged for five years with only an occasional comment and I felt like I was talking to an empty room.  It is the interaction between the blog and commenters that gives added worth to the original writing.

So, thanks to all who take the time to read and comment (even snarky little brothers).

Another perk to writing a blog is meeting new friends.  Diana of Past Pieces Vintage was in Asheville recently with her friend, and we got together for a very fun lunch.   After talking here and on Instagram, it was like meeting an old, instead of new, friend.  Thanks again, Diana!

 

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