Category Archives: Viewpoint

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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July in Review

Another summer month has come and gone.  When I took the above photo near the beginning of July, I was thrilled at the thought that one little tomato was beginning to ripen.  Now the vines are hanging full and it’s time to think about making salsa.

Not even the best clothing label imaginable could save Jenny Burns Menswear, which was open from 1976 to 1988.  Note the driver’s nautical striped shirt!

The woods behind our house have a healthy crop of trumpet vine.

Poor me, forced to lie around with a book all day.

But the stir crazies set in eventually, and so we headed down to South Carolina to peach country.  Peaches are one of the true delights of summer.

This is Kallie, the neighbor’s rescue.  Actually I should say one of the neighbor’s rescues, as they have three.  Kallie loves to herd, as the two horses at her farm will tell you.

This is the Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Asheville.  It was designed by  Rafael Guastavino [shortly before he died in 1908], and features a spectacular tiled dome.

The Scottie of the month is on one of my travel themed novelty print skirts.   How about that fringed roof and the button axles?

I keep buying orchids, though I’ve had zero success with them.  I feel like a serial killer.

This is Lake Junaluska, a nearby lake where people from the community gather to walk and relax.

And that is it for July.

 

 

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Currently Reading: The Lost Art of Dress by Linda Przybyszewski

I know I’m a bit late to the Lost Art party, but there is so much about this book that I’ve got to talk about that I’m hoping you all will humor me.

First, thanks so much for all the well wishes and kind thoughts extended during my recent surgery and convalescence.  I still have a lot of healing to do, but at least I can now do a bit of typing.  And all the downtime led to a lot of reading, and the luxury of time for reflection on what I was reading.

With The Lost Art of Dress, there was plenty of material for reflection.  In a nutshell, the book is about how women and girls were once taught that the principles of art could and should be applied to one’s manner of dressing.  From the beginning of the twentieth century until the 1960s women college professors, writers of sewing books, scientists that worked for the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and others working under the home economics umbrella helped women and girls apply these principles to their wardrobes.  I loved the many profiles of these remarkable women who worked hard to apply the principles of art, and even science, to the way people dressed.

Przybyszewski also went into some detail in discussing what these principles of art are – things like proportion and color  and harmony – and gave examples on why these things are important when considering what to wear.   I think we all understand the power of color, and how the right one, or the wrong one for that matter, makes all the difference in how our clothes look.  I can remember the moment I tried on the perfect yellow linen blouse and looked in the mirror and learned the awful truth about yellow and me.

Other lessons are not so obvious.  While reading Przybyszewski’s words about proportion I suddenly realized why so many really cute, young bloggers look strange in their clothing.  The very popular skirt that looks like something from the ice skating rink is just too short and oddly out of proportion.  The same is true for 1950s full skirts and big printed 1970s maxi dresses that are chopped into minis.

Today if you want to talk about appropriateness of dress, you end up sounding like an old fogey.  But the home economists (Przybyszewski calls them the Dress Doctors) taught that in order to best present oneself, it is best to dress for the occasion.  The little girl who wears her party dress to school ends up feel uncomfortable.  The same is true of the woman who wears shows up at a party in slacks when all the others are in cocktail frocks.

One of the things from the book that rang so true to me was that we need to have a better sense of dressing appropriately.  I know that Przybyszewski sees the worst of dressing because she works on a university campus, but we all see people padding through Target in their jammies and slippers, people at funerals in shorts and tee shirts, and girls wearing shorts too short and boys wearing pants too low. We live in a time where people resent the imposition of rules.

It was interesting to read Przybyszewski’s thoughts about how the 1960s brought about the demise of home economics.  She makes the argument that the rise of Youthquake and the trend toward the mini skirt and other clothes that were suited for the young led to home ec becoming old fashioned.  The Sixties was a decade when rules were made to be broken, dress codes were challenged in court, and the young wanted to do things their own way.  By the time I took home ec in school in the early Seventies, the only art principle I remember being taught was that of color.  I guess they thought it was enough that they were getting us to sew.  In just a few years, the home ec program was called Family Life and the emphasis changed to sex ed.

Another thing that really struck me is how today the dressing ideal seems to be “sexy” where as in the middle of the twentieth century the ideal was “sophisticated,” or even ” attractive.”  I think Przybyszewski’s point that young women should aspire to something higher than being a sex object is well taken, but some reviews I’ve read of the book accuse her of “slut shaming” and say that this emphasis on clothing and rules is anti-feminist.

Look at it the way the Dress Doctors did.  They believed that knowing how to dress well was freeing for a woman.  It allowed her to get on with life without worrying if her clothing was right or appropriate.  And wearing smart, attractive clothing made a good impression in a time when women needed a hand up in the world.  But that would also be true today, would it not?

There are some things about The Lost Art of Dress that I feel are just too much.  Przybyszewski never misses an opportunity to remind us that people today are slobs, and at times I felt like I was a captive audience in her college classroom in her course, A Nation of Slobs.  And I do believe that there are some good things that have occurred in fashion since 1963, whereas Przybyszewski seemed to blame Mary Quant for all the world’s woes.  I’m exaggerating, of course, but it is easy to see her disdain for the fashion of the Sixties.

The book also suffers a real lack of pertinent illustrations.  There were two nice sections of color illustrations, but they were not cross-referenced with the text.  And some of her major points were not illustrated at all.

Still, this is a book that you need to read.  It is well researched and expertly referenced.  After starting the book I went to my own library to see if I had any of the books Przybyszewski refers to in her text.  To my surprise I have nine of them, including one of the first of these books, The Secrets of Distinctive Dress by Mary Brooks Picken which was published in 1918.  After finishing The Lost Art of Dress I immediately picked up Picken’s book to read, and was impressed with how true to the original thought and feel Przybyszewski managed to be in her own work.

Przybyszewski has gotten a lot of good press, and my hope is that her book will start a conversation on whether or not our anything goes attitude toward dressing is really in the best interest of the individual.  It is worth thinking about.

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June in Review

Wow, but that was fast.  I’m referring to the coming and the going of June.  It seems likes this happens every summer.  It will be snowing before we know it so let’s enjoy summer while we can.

A sparrow thought it was good idea to build her nest in a flowerpot at my local Lowe’s Home Center.  She choose her site well, as the workers at Lowe’s took great care to protect mother and babies.

The worst thing about having too much stuff is trying to find what you need when you need it.  After one such hunting expedition I went on an organization binge.

The best part was that I found this strip of photo booth pictures that have been lost for about ten years!  I’m on the left, and my friend Carolyn is on the right.  We were visiting the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and could not resist.  What I can’t get over is how much I actually look like Andy in that last photo.  I really hope Carolyn is not reading this because I remotely remember something about promising to destroy these.

I posted a link to this auction earlier, but I’m still not over the fact that someone paid $831 for one sewing pattern.

Of course I did a little bit of vintage shopping in June.  I love a good sports themed booth.

This statue is in the graveyard at the  St. John of the Wilderness Church in Flat Rock, NC.  For some reason, everywhere I went that day I was reminded of my sister.  Can you see the word “Sisters” on the plaque?  And what about those two little birds.  I was touched.

Yes, I do have a few scarves.  And yes, I do have a few blue scarves.

This is our dog Spooky.  Spooky is a very old guy – seventeen – and this is about as active as he gets these days.  Still, he’s a good old fellow.  He loves his vintage Scottie quilt.

My husband celebrated his sixty-fifth birthday in June.  I was glad to help him celebrate.

The end of the day, and of June.

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Betsey Johnson Meets the Spring Maid

A few weeks ago an Instagram friend, Carla, posted a photo of a Betsey Johnson dress that had a very familiar-looking print.  If you look carefully at the print above you’ll see young women, all of whom seem to be having a problem with their skirts flying up.

The print is, in fact, a redoing of the Springmaid girl, a topic I’ve written about quite a few times.  What started out as a risque ad campaign for Springs Mills fabrics and sheets was eventually made into a series of fabrics for the company.  Springs Mills not only decorated their corporate offices with the prints, they also had items made up for sale and they offered the fabrics to clothing manufacturers and home sewers.

So how did Betsey Johnson end up with a print that was designed for a bed sheet maker over sixty years ago?  I can’t possibly know for sure, but I have constructed a possible scenario.

A fabric “designer” is wandering through a flea market in search of inspiration.   The designer spots a sixty-year-old shirt made of the Springmaid fabric.  The designer buys the shirt and returns to her office where the Springmaid girls are cut apart and re-positioned, their clothes given a change of color, and then the new design is put on a black background.  The fabric is printed and someone from Betsey Johnson spots it at a wholesalers.  The fabric just screams “Betsey Johnson,” so it is bought and used to make dresses sometime in the 1990s.

Or I could be completely off base, and the fabric maker contacted Springs Mills and got permission to use their design.

Clothing design has no copyright protection in the US, but textile designs are protected.  Regardless, it is really quite common to see  vintage textiles reproduced in this way.  Tammis Keefe and Vested Gentress are two that I’ve written about in the past.  Like I said, it is possible that the maker of this fabric had permission to use the design.  That has been known to happen as in the case of fabric maker Michael Miller using Tammis Keefe designs.  Actually, Keefe has been dead many years and she left no heirs, but Michael Miller gave complete credit to Keefe, putting her signature on the fabrics.

So, no judgement, just an observation of one more thing that can be confusing, especially to newer buyers of vintage.  Yes, those Springmaid girls do look like they came from 1950, but the colors and label say otherwise.

Many thanks to Carla who graciously let me use her photos.

ADDITION:

It has occurred to me that there is a third possibility – that the fabric was actually made by Springmaid.  The company is still in business, and so it is possible.

AND MORE:

Ballyhoo Vintage has a hat lined in this fabric in the original colorway.

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May in Review

It’s time again to see what else is happening in my world.  One reader once called my life “Lizzie Land” which is as good as any way to describe my universe.

Above you see the dogwoods in bloom in the backyard of what we call the “Little House.”  We bought the Little House ten years ago after my mother-in-law’s house flooded and she needed a new home.  She never lived there, but I fell in love with it and today it houses my collection and sewing room.  We’ve also had some incredible parties there.

I bought a bunch of archival flat boxes, and so I spent quite a few days transferring clothing into them.  It was something I’d been needing to do for a long time, so it was a relief to get my collection in a safer environment.

May is the start of rhododendron time in the mountains.   This hedge belongs to the neighbors across the street, and is about fifteen feet high.  Rhododendron is beautiful, but the early settlers in the mountains called a rhododendron thicket a “hell” because it was so difficult to traverse one.

I spotted these ocean liner deck chairs at a local antique mall.  They were priced at $1200 each and the little plate identified them as being from RMS Queen Elizabeth.

 

And I continued with the Scotty obsession…

My next sewing project is a man’s cabana top for me.  I love this top, but somehow can’t imagine many men today who would wear such a garment.  Whatever happened to the adventurous male dressers of the 1960s?

Rainbow over Asheville.  Rainbows are truly a symbol of hope for me.

A good friend had to have surgery, and I was surprised to find a small display of old dresses being displayed as art on the hospital walls.  It was interesting, as there was no indication at all of the significance of the dresses.  And as much as I love having historical dress gain exposure, the conditions were less than ideal with both natural and strong artificial light being a factor.  And to make it worse, two of the three dresses were misdated.

The Carolina strawberries are in, and I celebrated by actually making a pie.  It was good.

I spent a day recently playing tourist in downtown Asheville.  We tend toward art of the obvious nature, as shown by this sculpture is in front of the Flatiron Building.

All these photos originally appeared on Instagram, which I will admit is a good idea after all.  I’m so sorry I used to bad-mouth it.

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