One Small Act

Six years ago I posted a photo of a Magda Makkay handbag I acquired, and as luck would have it a neighbor of Magda’s reached out to me. I called Magda and we’ve been friends ever since.  At the time she was turning 89, and I asked you all to send her a birthday card.

Well, Magda will be 95 soon, and once again I’d like to remember her birthday in a big way. If you would like to help me, all you need to do is send her a birthday card.  I don’t want to give out her address so I have set up a post office box for the cards, and then I’ll put them all in a box to mail to her. Please mail them so they will reach me by June 12.  Send to:

Magda Makkay

c/o Lizzie Bramlett

PO Box 493

Clyde, NC 28721

To read about Magda’s incredible life, you can revisit the old posts I wrote about her. HERE  and HERE.

I know this is just a small thing, but it will make mean so much to Magda. I have found that in times when our world seems to be completely messed up, it helps to perform a small act of kindness.

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Vintage Miscellany – May 27, 2020

I hope that this finds all of you well. I hope that if you do go to the beach, that you are like the two women above. Keep your family to yourselves, and no one gets hurt.

I have been writing these Vintage Miscellany posts since June, 2010. That’s almost ten years, but in internet years it’s many, many more.  I know I’ve posted in the past that I get most of the links from Twitter. Twitter has always been a great place for gathering information, but unfortunately, it is now a place where the most vile falsehoods are being allowed to be posted by those in power. So until Twitter does something about the crazed posting by the president of the USA, I’ll no longer be using the platform.

Unfortunately, that means I will have to really cut back on posting links to fashion history and fashion issues articles. I do hope to do posts on fashion exhibitions and events once the world returns to some sort of normality. I’m not holding my breath.

So, here’s the last Vintage Miscellany as we have known it until the world is once again made safe for Twitter.

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Two Early 1960s Blouses – Emilio Pucci and Haymaker

Several years ago I wrote about a ski themed blouse by Emilio Pucci. This is not it.

This is the Pucci blouse, as it was photographed by the seller, Erawear Vintage. I had always regretted not buying it, so when the similar blouse at the top of this post was put up for sale, I decided to add it to my sports-themed collection, even though it was not the real thing.

Actually, the blouse has a pretty good label, Haymaker.  Those of us who were around in the 1960s might remember Haymaker. It was a label owned by the David Crystal company, the company that also owned Izod, and which held the American license for Lacoste crocodile shirts. Haymaker made mainly sportswear and business attire for women. I’ve looked all over, and I can’t find a connection between Haymaker and Pucci, but the Haymaker blouse can’t be an accident.  The two shirts are just too similar.

The Haymaker blouse has Sestriere in script as part of the border.  The Pucci blouse has various Alpine ski resorts in script as part of the design.

There are no actual skiers on my Haymaker blouse. It’s made of a very nice rayon, while the Pucci is silk.

I was happy to find a different Pucci blouse with a ski print. It’s a bit plain to be a typical Pucci, but not all his early work was bold and geometric.

It also has the name of, I presume, a ski resort, but I can’t quite figure it out.  I do love how the script forms the tree.

The back really is fun, with a variety of crazy skiers working their way to the hem.

One of the best skiers is this mermaid. What’s really interesting is that Pucci also made a sports themed dress that used a mermaid. You can see it on the old post.  In fact, the design of the dress fabric is very similar to my Pucci blouse in that both have a small overall scale.

If I remember correctly, the Pucci sold by Erawear did not have the Emilio name in the print. Mine, does, as you can see above.

Pucci is so representative of the late 1960s and the 70s aesthetic, but I love these early examples more. I love how he showed one of his passions – skiing – in the print. I may not be typical of what we today envision as “Pucci”, but how clever are these print?

 

 

 

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Moore Gymwear, 1968

I have a nice little collection of gymsuit catalogs dating back to 1940, but this new-to-me catalog is not only the latest, it is from the year I bought my gymsuit as a seventh grader in junior high. Six years later, as a senior, I was still wearing it, and I’m still waiting on that last growth spurt.

The cover is interesting in that it makes a stab at racial diversity.  Considering that US Vogue did not have a Black model on its cover until 1974, I’d say good for Moore. Inside the catalog, the “models” are mostly white blondes and redheads, but this is still a good step forward, as the 1965 Moore catalog has no girls of color.

I love how the catalog designer used Op Art to show how “hip” Moore gymsuits are. Considering that the only persons who actually used the catalog (at least at my school) were the gym teachers. I imagine the only reason they looked at the catalog was to see the price of the same suit they have been ordering for years.

And here is my suit, the Waist Hugger. You can see it sold to schools for $4.35, which meant someone at the school made .65 on each suit they resold to the students. As I remember that mine cost $5.  So .65 times 150 girls meant a profit of $97.50 every year.

I wish our suits had been this nice blue. Ours were white, which meant one had to be careful about the underpants she wore on gym day. The suits were thin enough to see through, especially after a few year’s wear.

I guess I shouldn’t complain as it could have been worse. We would have really hated these bloomer legs.

This style, the Matadora, was “smasheroo news” when it was introduced in 1961. It looks a bit dated for 1968. Gymsuits aren’t high fashion, of course, but to a teenage girl, looking current is important.

There were two dresses with bloomers styles, the type my mother said she wore in school in the 1940s. I think I would have liked this one, as we could have pretended it was a mini dress. But NOT in white, please.

There were several pages of gym clothes for the teachers. This kilt was to be worn over the gymsuit for when teachers had to leave the gym. Even in 1968 girls and women teachers were not allowed to wear pants on campus, and certainly not shorts.

Look at all these great colors. So why were we forced to wear white? It seems like a mean trick to me.

There was a brochure included with this catalog, titled, “The Psychological Effects and Benefits of a Color and/or Style Change in Uniform Gymwear”.  It seems as if getting girls to spend $5 on a new and different gymsuit each year was good for them.

As a side note, I have quite a few gymsuits in my collection, ranging from Victorian styles to the late 1970s. I started buying when I found them years ago, when I could guy a great example for a few dollars. Today, there seems to be a fad for them, if the prices on etsy and the posts on Instagram can be believed. One girl’s misery is another’s cute outfit.

I’ve written a lot about gymsuits over the years, and I’m always rewarded with women sharing their own experiences with this garment, mostly negative. I’m not surprised.

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Currently Reading – Fashion: The Definitive Visual Guide

Since no one protested in my last post about more book reviews, here’s the latest one that’s occupying my time. I bought this book after seeing it on Instagram. I usually don’t buy survey of fashion history books because I already have quite a few, but this one seemed to have great illustrations, and it also included fashion all the way back to ancient times.

To be honest, this is not a curl up by the fire on a chilly day type of book. It’s huge and heavy and that makes it a bit hard to curl with. But it is just full of details and pictures, which makes this a great book to pick up when one has a few minutes to sit and absorb a few fashion history details.

The book is structured chronically, and  the authors point out details that characterize each garment. This concept is not new. and long-time fashion history students may remember the John Peacock Fashion Sourcebook from the 1990s. Still, it works to draw the reader’s attention to what is important. I do little mini-lessons on Instagram using this technique and have found that it’s quite popular.

Another nice feature of the book are the sidebars that give extra information.

The timeline format makes changes in fashion easy to see. I tried the effectiveness of this out on my husband, who after a few minutes study was able to correctly identify dresses from 1870 – 1895. He was quite proud of himself.

One of the things I really like about the book is the emphasis on sporting attire. There are several pages like this one, showing both men’s and women’s sportswear.

So much can be learned just from examining photos of women dressed for various activities, especially with the commentary.

One of my biggest concerns about books of this type is that through the 1960s or early 70s the clothes shown seem to be from an upper class wardrobe, but at the same time, they look like what people actually wore. But after the mid-seventies, there’s much more emphasis on designer fashion. While the outfits above from the 1970s are interesting, they are more high style than what actually was worn by most women.

Yes, these styles filtered down, and many women would have worn a version of the Mary Quant sweater suit above, but it’s just misleading as I think I’m right in assuming that people who were not there would see these dresses as what was typically worn.

A better example is that there are full pages of the work of Vivienne Westwood, Comme des Garcons, and Alexander McQueen, but no mention that I could find of designer jeans, and indeed, very few mentions of jeans at all.

One section I found interesting was this one on the influence of “vintage” on fashion. It wasn’t so much about wearing fashion, as it was about fashion having a “vintage” look. It’s no wonder that so many people don’t realize that vintage clothes are actually old!

The book has several nice timelines in the reference part of the book, along with a fairly comprehensive glossary.

I assume it has to do with the aesthetics of the look, but it bothered me that the photo credits are stuck in the back of the book, in tiny print. Many of them are from Getty or Corbus, and don’t have a lot of information about the image, including dates.

Still, this is an interesting overview of fashion history. It’s very readable, and can be taken in by small doses. The illustrations are excellent, and engaging. I think it would make a great introduction to fashion history for teens. I know my sixteen-year-old self would have loved it.

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May 4th and All’s Well.

Since several readers have emailed wondering if I have fallen off the edge of the earth, I thought I’d better post and relieve everyone’s collective mind. The truth is, I have a massive case of writer’s block. I did not realize how just being out in the world inspired my writing here.

I have been doing a lot of reading, but I hate for every post to be about a book. Nevertheless, I will be sharing a few more over the next few weeks.

Because of the shutdown, I missed my favorite shopping opportunity of the spring, the Liberty Antiques Festival. Actually, everyone missed it, as it didn’t happen. Maybe the situation will be different in September. I have been doing a lot of online “shopping”. Actually, I should say online looking, as I haven’t found a lot to buy. I’ll be sharing a few things in the upcoming days, or weeks, or months…

The postcard above was bought on the last real shopping trip I took before the current unpleasantness fell upon us. Such a romantic view of sailing! I know from experience that sailing is a lot of work. I once spent a week on a schooner sailing around the coast of Maine, and I had no chance to wear my Edwardian sailing suit. I’m kidding as I had no Edwardian sailing outfit, but trust me, sailing is hard work – very hard. That is unless you are rich and can pay others to do the line pulling and such.

I just read the Wall Street Journal report on how the cruise ship industry helped spread Covid-19 around the world. I had pretty much given up on the idea of cruising once the ships got so huge, and so many intestinal virus and bacteria upsets became rampant on the ships. I actually took a cruise through the Aegean in  2001, and I enjoyed it. But never again.

Fortunately, I have had the time to work on a new research project that I hope the present to the Costume Society of America next year. The topic is how pajamas were adopted by women for sleeping, and how they then became acceptable beachwear. I will, of course, post the paper here as well.

And I’m taking book recommendations.

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Currently Reading – I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson

One thing good about spending so much time at home is that one can really blow through her reading queue. Under normal circumstances, I have anywhere from five to ten books waiting to be read. I’m down to one. It may be time to fire up the Kindle, or to search for some new treasures on eBay.

I found this book, I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson in my usual shopping place. I knew about Johnson from reading lots of books about “lady adventurers” of the past. And a quick look at the photos in the book sealed the deal.

Osa was from a small town in Kansas. Born in 1894, she was only sixteen when she married Martin Johnson in 1910. By that time, Martin had been on an expedition to the South Pacific with Jack London, and he was hooked on adventure. Martin was lecturing about his trip in Osa’s town when they met, and she was intrigued. Little did she know that Martin had no intentions of settling for a domestic life in Kansas.  He talked her into traveling again to the South Pacific with photographic equipment. He wanted to document the lives of people in the area before they became adapted to the Western lifestyle.

The five trunks you see in this photo proved to be inadequate for Osa and Martin’s needs. In future trips they traveled with three dozen trunks. On this first trip, the couple had only a small amount of film, and Martin had bought a motion picture camera. They did encounter the “natives” as you can see, but they ended up being chased off one island, nearly ending their lives of adventure.

This was just the beginning, as the Johnson’s returned to the US and went on the Vaudeville circuit, showing the movie and telling about their adventure. When they had enough money, Martin bought another camera, and the couple headed back to the Pacific, this time with enough movie film to make a short film for distribution.

This was in 1914, when movies were new. Most people in the West had never seen foreign animals in motion. The movie, the first of many, was a hit.

In the early 1920s, the Johnsons set their sights on documenting African wildlife. Over the next thirteen years they made several trips to Africa, sometimes staying as long as four years at a time.

Above is probably the most famous photo of Osa Johnson. It was taken in Kenya at the home of a man they met who was raising zebras and taming them.

Which leads me to the obvious – attitudes toward places like Africa and Borneo and the Solomon Islands were very different than they are today. Both people and animals were considered to be exotic, and were not treated with the respect we (hopefully) place on them today. Osa’s attitude toward the Black people she encounters is patronizing. Some articles about Martin Johnson describe him as a big game hunter, which is not strictly true. Martin was a photographer and filmmaker, and the couple did not hunt for fun. They did kill animals when they felt endangered, and they also helped kill animals for the exhibits for the Museum of Natural History in New York.

The book proves that one does meet people in the strangest places. Here are Osa and Martin enjoying an afternoon with the future George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the parents of the present Queen of England.

From their first trip in 1912, Osa adapted a practical wardrobe of pants, overalls, and breeches. This 1920s outfit is identical to the type worn by other outdoors women in the 1920s.

As time and technology progressed, the Johnsons were quick to adapt new inventions to aid in their photographs. They bought two airplanes, and produced what are most likely the first aerial films of African wildlife.

Back in the US in 1937, Osa and Martin were on another promotion tour when the plane in which they were traveling crashed. Martin was killed, and Osa was badly injured.  Several years later she wrote this book, which was the bestselling nonfiction book of 1940. On her own she made more trips to Africa before her death in 1953. Today there is a museum in Osa’s hometown of Chanute, Kansas, The Martin and Osa Safari Museum.

I didn’t know this when I bought the book, but it turns out that  the cover makes it a favorite with home decorators. There is a companion volume by her that has a giraffe print cover.

 

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