Currently Viewing: Advanced Style

I have to start by saying that I’m not a huge fan of the blog on which this film is based.  Advanced Style was started several years ago by a young man, Ari Seth Cohen, as a street style blog featuring stylish older people.  The blog became successful, partly due to some of the characters that Cohen featured.  Somewhere along the way the emphasis turned from individual style to style eccentrics, and at that point I pretty much lost interest in Advanced Style.

Cohen and his featured ladies have gone on to become media stars, with an Advanced Style book and documentary.  I wasn’t really interested in watching the film, but I’ve had a recent unfortunate encounter with a nasty cold germ, and so Netflix has become my best friend.  After two days of Miss Fisher, Poiret, and Miss Marple, I was ready for something other than murder, so when I noticed that Netflix was now streaming Advanced Style, I decided to just watch it.  The worst that could happen was that it would put me to sleep.

I’m happy to say that I did not go to sleep and that I found the film to be very enjoyable.  Yes, it did feature older women dressed in a way that most of us would have no desire of dressing, but the point made by the women themselves was not that it was important for them to look “kooky” but it was important that they dress to satisfy themselves.

For most of us, that would not mean putting on bright red eyelashes every day, or wearing a hat that could in no way be over-looked by other people on the street.  What it means is that older women (and men too, of course) should feel free to base their clothing choices on what makes them feel happy.

For many of us I suspect that it might be that we want to be a bit more “put together” in this dress-down casual world of ours.  An Advanced Style attitude would say to wear the dress, even though everyone else at the event will be wearing slacks.  Wear the skirt and sweater though all the other women will be in capris and tee shirts.

After watching the film I decided to give the blog a new look, and was happy to see  that some of the old format has returned.  There were photos of stylish people found on the street, not just Cohen’s “superstars”.  It’s great seeing older people with all kinds of personal style again being given the Advanced Style spotlight.

20 Comments

Filed under Currently Viewing

Currently Reading: Rose Marie Reid, An Extraordinary Life

After seeing the Emilio Pucci in American exhibition at the Georgia Museum of Art, I was curious about the relationship between Pucci and swimwear maker Rose Marie Reid.   To my surprise I found that a biography of Reid had been published, so I promptly ordered a copy.

Unless the designer is Coco Chanel or maybe Yves Saint Laurent, designer biographies are actually quite rare.  Some are written as exhibition catalogs, such as the wonderful Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism which was published in 1998 to go with an exhibition of McCardell’s work at the Museum at FIT.  There are quite a few autobiographies from twentieth century designers, some good, some bad.  But a biography of a ready-to-wear designer in a niche market is a rarity.

In reading about the life of a fashion designer – or any important person for that matter – the thing that interests me most is that person’s work and the influences on the work.  There are a few designers, again, Coco Chanel, whose work was so important and so entwined with the time in which she lived that her private life and political and religious views are an important part of the narrative.

Rose Marie Reid, An Extraordinary Life is actually more about Reid the mother, the Mormon, and the woman with whom people had difficult relationships.  Not that the details of her design career are not present, as they are, but the timeline  is fuzzy and confusing.  To a person like me who likes to examine the when of things, it was a bit frustrating.  For instance, the book tells a great story about how Rose Marie first started making bathing suits.  Her new husband, Jack Reid was a swimming instructor who hated his saggy wool trunks.  Rose Marie took a piece of cotton duck to which she added lacing on the sides to make for a good fit.

The design was so successful that Jack took a copy to the local Hudson’s Bay Company store, where the buyer there asked for a women’s design.  From that order the business was formed, and  within a year Rose Marie was overseeing a factory with thirty-two sewing machines.  But the book never says exactly when this all took place.

Of course I realize that history is not always measured in dates.  However, when you are studying design it helps to know when such innovations actually took place.  The best I can figure was sometime between November 1935, when Rose Marie and Jack were married, and 1937 when it is mentioned that Rose Marie’s suits were used in some 1937 games.

Interwoven into the story of the formation of the business are the details of the birth of their children, the disintegration of their marriage, and how Rose Marie prayed through it all.  The theme and the timeline constantly changed and at times I was left shaking my head.

I guess it is important to let you know that one of Rose Marie’s daughters, Carole Reid Burr, was the co-author.  There were endnotes that gave sources, and from that it is easy to see that this book is mainly a compilation of oral family stories.  Numerous interviews were listed as references, and from that I could begin to see why the telling seemed so disjointed.

There were actually sixteen different people interviewed for the book, and along with old letters and newspaper clippings, they seem to be the source for most of the information.  Company records did not seem to be used at all, but that is not surprising since Rose Marie sold the business and franchised her name starting in 1962.  Subsequently there are more details about the many lawsuits in which Rose Marie was involved than there were of the actual business of making swimsuits.

Near the end of the book I finally spotted the name of Emilio Pucci, and began to take notice.  Unfortunately the anecdote was about how he had bought some Rose Marie Reid swimsuits for his staff, and had given one to fashion journalist Ann Scott James.  And that was the end of Emilio, with no mention of the collaboration between him and Reid.

A great deal is made of Reid’s Mormon faith, and I suppose that is understandable considering that the book was published by a Mormon company.  In some ways her faith was important to her design story, as the dictates of modesty by the Mormon Church led her to strongly reject the bikini.   And it was probably this rejection that led Rose Marie to sell the company in 1962.

Besides the fuzzy storytelling, there were quite a few factual mistakes.  The book refers to, but does not explain a relationship with White Stag.  Unfortunately, it is consistently spelled “White Stagg.”  There was also a big discussion of the great success of rival  swimsuit maker Cole of California.  The authors refer to Cole’s Scandal Suit as a bikini, which it was not. (There was a version that resembled two pieces connected by mesh, but even it was not a true bikini.)

It’s such a shame that the story of a company that was the world’s largest producer of women’s swimwear in the late 1950s should be told in such an off-putting way.  Between the preaching of Mormon principles and the accolades of Reid’s mothering ability, I’ve found it hard to go back through and try to establish just the story of the swimsuit company.  Maybe someday I’ll be stranded on a desert island with just this book and a pencil and I can figure it all out.

 

 

8 Comments

Filed under Currently Reading, Designers, Summer Sports

Month in Review – November, 2014

November got off to a very white start when we got an early snowfall.  It was pretty, but terribly inconvenient, as I was expecting a visitor from out-of-town.  She finally made it into Asheville after being stuck on the highway for over five hours.

After an ordeal like that, comfort food was in order.  My friend is British, and it was her very first hush puppies and collard greens.

We were both delighted with the Doctor  Who sock monkey windows at Purl’s Yarn Emporium.

I never get tired of showing off the Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Asheville.  It was designed by  Rafael Guastavino [shortly before he died in 1908], and features this spectacular tiled dome.

Later in the month I went to Charlotte to the Vintage Charlotte show.  There I finally met Andi and Isaac of Raleigh Vintage.

I found an item that had been on my want list for years.  This Skotch Kooler features tourist sites across the USA, all courtesy of Esso gasoline.

I had a little outing to Tennessee with two of my best friends.  On the way there we stopped at the Bush’s Bean Factory.  Seriously.They have a cafe and visitor’s center and a great little museum.  We decided to skip lunch and had pinto bean pecan pie instead.  It was really good.

After being overwhelmed by all the vintage sewing patterns, I decided to put some up for sale on Etsy.  I’ve listed almost fifty, and I have that many more to go, plus some very nice fabric.

My latest sewing project was based on the bodice of this 1960s dress.  I loved that neckline so much, but I did not need another dress.  It made a great knit top, which I’ll be showing off here in a few days.

I’m in the process of setting up a new sewing room.  The cutting table would not fit into my old space, so I decided I needed a room just for sewing.  The wall opposite the cutting table is getting new ceiling to floor shelves.

And finally, I had a lovely Thanksgiving with my brothers and their families.

6 Comments

Filed under Viewpoint

National Park Seminary: A School for Girls

The book I’m sharing today is enough to make me clean house a bit more often.  That’s because I found this one among my husband’s books which are usually in a bit of disarray.  The root of the problem is that we are both book lovers, and we have outgrown the two floor-to-ceiling shelves that cover two entire walls in his office.  We’ve decided to add more shelving, and so we are sorting through books, and that when I turned up A School For Girls.

The National Park Seminary was a private two year program for young women of means.  When this book was published in 1924, the school was being called a junior college, but in reality it was more of a finishing school.  There were several courses that girls could take, all of which were heavy on the arts and on homemaking skills.  There was also a four year high school program.

National Park Seminary, commonly referred to as The Glen School, started life as a hotel.  When the hotel failed in 1894, the property was purchased and converted into the school.   The facility was spread over ninety acres and consisted of around thirty buildings, many of which were connected by covered walkways.

In 1924 the school seemed to be on firm footing, but the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the resulting Great Depression  took a heavy toll on the school.  It barely remained open, and in 1942 the school was closed when the US Army bought the property.  It was established as part of Walter Reed Army Hospital as a rehabilitation  facility for disabled soldiers returning from WWII.

My husband does not remember where he got the book, but he does know why he bought it.  He was stationed at Walter Reed in the early 1970s.  The research facility in which he worked was located near the old school, and he and his co-workers would regularly go to the cafeteria there.   By that time the facility was severely underfunded by the army, but Tim still remembers the buildings as being quite grand.

The army eventually closed the Forest Glen facility, and it fell into disrepair.  Today it is being restored, and the old school and hospital is now being converted to condos and apartments.  A Google images search shows both the decay and the newly restored buildings, and is quite amazing to look at.

The book seems to a catalog of sort for prospective students.  It outlines the courses, lays out the rules, and brags about the facility and the clientele.  As expected, the school was quite expensive, with a basic charge of $1375 ($19,100 today), but with many additional charges, including up to $100 ($1400 today) per course.  Girls had to have five references in order to be considered for admission.  Any girl who turned out to be a “difficult case” was “…promptly returned to her home.”

The book is full of photographs of the school and of the girls.  After a while the photos, which are obviously staged, start to look alike, and I’m guessing that the same girls were used over and over.

I’m sure that by now you have noticed that all the young women are wearing very similar dress.  While not a true uniform, each girls was instructed to have:

Four dresses cut after the style of the two-piece sailor dresses.

There was a Dress Circular that was supplied to the mothers of applicants that laid out in detail the particulars of dress that was accepted at the school.  In addition to the four middy dresses, my book gives a few general dress requirements:

Three simple dresses to be worn at evening dinner and Sundays at home.

One evening dress for formal parties.

One topcoat or a tailored coat suit for trips to Washington.

All jewelry is forbidden…

Unfortunately, the book does not go into detail about athletic wear, but the pictures pretty much tell the story.

This shows Indian club exercise in the gym.

Several sports teams were pictured, all wearing the identical middy and bloomer combination that we see in use in the gym.

But for riding, the proper attire was a riding jacket and jodhpurs.

Note the covered walkway.

And the middy dress worked well for tennis.

Finally, I want to share one of the courses that was offered in the home economics department – Laundry.  At first I wondered why a girl who could afford to go to an expensive finishing school would need to know how to do the laundry.  Silly me!

An interesting course that ought to be taken by any girl who would intelligently supervise such work in her own home.  Many an expensive article has been ruined because the necessary caution or advice could not be offered by the inexperienced housewife.

 

15 Comments

Filed under Proper Clothing, Vintage Photographs

1930s Northbilt Ski Pants

In the 1930s skiing was a relatively new spot in the US, having become popular only in the 1920s.  After winter resorts and ski slopes were developed it became obvious that women especially were going to need clothing specifically for the sport.  It just was not practical to try to make one’s way down a mountain wearing a 1920s skirt, or even knickers that ended at the knee.  By the early 1930s companies were making full length wool ski pants for women, another great example of how active sportswear led to women adopting the wearing of pants.

Even though these ski pants were made to be functional in the snow, a woman wearing them would still want to look her best.  The waist and hip area is slim and quite fitted, with little extra bulk.

And what a nice curve there is to the side button opening.

The leg cuffs are made of a knit wool for a close fit.

And for the key to your room at the lodge, a little patch pocket was included.

These ski pants were made by the Northbilt company in Minneapolis.  According to the US Trademark site, Northbilt was first used as a brand name in 1919.  The last reference I can find to the company was in 1962.  As always, additional information about this company would be appreciated.

Here is a page from a 1936 Montgomery Ward catalog showing their selection of women’s ski pants, which are very similar to my pair.  Note that one pair has  “slide fasteners” – zippers – at the cuffs and the waist.  Button closings were slowly being replaced.

3 Comments

Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Winter Sports

Ad Campaign – Bobbie Brooks, 1957

Luscious lambswool intarsia sweaters by Bobbie Brooks and a dyed-to-match skirt

A magnificent look… yours in either beige heather or grey heather.

What I found interesting about this ad from 1957 was the use of the word “intarsia.”  I strongly suspect that if I were to stand on the corner of a busy street and ask random strangers what an intarsia sweater is that very few of them would know, the exceptions being knitters and textile fanatics.  But there it was in 1957 being used as a selling point in an ad as if anyone reading it would know the term.

I was too young in 1957 to have any idea about this, but what about my older readers?  Did intarsia sweaters mean anything to you?

For the non-knitters reading, intarsia is a technique of using different blocks of color like you see in all three sweaters above. For each block the other color is not carried across the back of the knitting like is commonly seen in patterned sweaters.

7 Comments

Filed under Ad Campaign

1930s Baby Fabric Reproduction

Some of the very best vintage feedsack designs are those that were designed for babies and small children.  To look at this photo, you might think that is what I’m showing.  But take a closer look.

This is actually a cotton flannel, and it is not vintage.  It’s still really cute.

Since we were talking about the blurred lines between old fabrics, and those that are meant to look old I wanted to show this relatively recent fabric and the print in the selvage.

Copyright Judie Rothermel for Marcus Bros. Textiles, Inc. 1930’s

A quick google reveals that Ms. Rothermel is a textile designer who seems to specialize in “fabric reproductions.”  In order for it to be a true reproduction, it has to be a copy or a duplicate of an original.  I suspect that these fabrics are actually adaptations of old fabrics, and not faithful reproductions.  At any rate, they look “vintage-y” enough that without the selvage they could fool people who are not experts on 1930s prints.  And that includes me.

This is just another case of how difficult telling old from new has become.  People who handle this type of thing a lot would not be fooled, but I suspect that after a few washings this fabric is going to look even more vintage.

If you have not been in a large fabrics store in recent years, especially one that deals in quilting cottons, you might be very surprised at the huge variety of prints that are designed to look vintage.  If you are familiar with the graphics of an era, say the early Sixties, then you will see that there are things that often give the new designs away.  Sometimes the colors have been updated, or they tend to deal with themes that we in 2014 have assigned to an era, such as martini glasses for the early Sixties.

I’m not saying that these fabrics are bad, but it really does pay to be aware of the new, even when collecting the old.

In the 1970s laws were passed that require that the sleepwear of small children be made of fire-retardant fabrics.  Personally, I can’t imagine for what one would use a warm,soft fabric printed with little bunnies except sleepwear.  I wonder how many rebellious mommies out there  have ignored the selvage and made junior’s jammies from fabric not impregnated with fire-retardant chemicals.

9 Comments

Filed under Novelty Prints, Viewpoint