Currently Listening to: Haptic and Hue

A report came out several weeks ago about how the pandemic saved podcasting. It seems as if podcast growth had slowed until people with more time to listen and more people with time to record, discovered the medium.

I love the idea of the podcast, but the sad truth is that so many of the ones I’ve tried to listen to just don’t work (at least for me) for various reasons. Some times the production quality is so poor that it’s impossible to hear. One podcast I’ve followed for years has shifted focus from fashion history to modern fashion issues. And another is hard to follow because the hosts spend so much time laughing and I feel like I’ve been left out of the joke.

Maybe that’s why I’m so happy to have discovered Haptic and Hue. The podcaster is Jo Andrews, who is also a handweaver. But the topics go far beyond weaving. Jo covers textiles of all types. And I’m really impressed with the professional nature of the podcast. Jo manages to be conversational without being silly, serious without being stuffy.

You can listen on any podcasting app, or if that’s not your thing, all the episodes are on Jo’s website. There are photos that illustrate each episode, and best of all, a written transcript. That’s great because some of Jo’s guests are French and their English is sometimes hard to follow.

While Haptic and Hue has a very polished, professional feel, I don’t think that’s entirely necessary in order for a podcast to be effective. The best example is Bande à Part, which is a weekly telephone conversation between friends Rebecca Arnold and Beatrice Behlen. Rebecca teaches fashion at The Courtauld, and Beatrice is fashion curator at the Museum of London. Their conversations run the whole range of fashion and arts topics. They are always fun.

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What Lurks Beneath

I posted a photo of this poster on Instagram, along with a plea for followers to encourage me to buy it. I left it in the antique store where I spotted it, but I could not forget about it. So a month later I decided to go back to the store, and if the poster was still there, I would buy it. And so I did

Not only is this a great piece of sports ephemera, it’s a bit of Asheville history. According to my mother, everyone roller skated in the 1940s, and so the Skateland Rollerdrome was opened in 1946 to capitalize from the fad. The craze faded, and the rink was closed in 1962, The building was converted to a music venue in the late 1960s, first as the Jade Club, and later as the Orange Peel. Both clubs were mainly R & B, and later, Soul, and the clientele came mainly from the nearby Black community. But being the Seventies, the club was not segregated, and White music lovers crowded in to see nationally known acts like The Commodores. By 1980 the (Almighty) Orange Peel had closed, along with everything else in downtown Asheville. But the late 1990s brought a revitalization, and in 2002, the Orange Peel was reborn.

So I bought the poster and brought it home. I knew that antique frame was not the right fit for a mid-century poster. An examination of the poster in the frame showed that it was mounted on some questionable paper, and needed to be removed.

The back showed some interesting mounting, including some tape and corrugated cardboard. It was all going to have to go.

But then came the big surprise.

Between the cardboard and the poster was this early twentieth century portrait. Unfortunately, there was nothing at all written on the back, so I have no clue as to who she might be. What a shame!
At any rate, the portrait is a much better fit for the frame, which has, unfortunately, been painted with blue enamel with a dark overglaze. Still, it’s a lovely portrait which did not deserve to be hidden away. I’ll not be keeping the frame and the portrait. I’m donating them to a local animal rescue group that runs a thrift store with an area for collectibles. I hope she goes to a good home.

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Currently Viewing and Reading – Halston

Netflix has a new bio-pic on the life of Halston, and I watched it so you don’t have to. Actually, you might want to watch it anyway, just make sure your expectations are appropriate. Let me explain.

Anyone who has ever watched a movie or program “based on” the life of a historical figure already knows that the truth is not the first matter of consideration. Probably the nuttiest example I can think of is the series of mini-films Karl Lagerfeld made on the life of Coco Chanel. These were, of course, long-play commercials meant to bolster the Chanel myth. The scenes were highly contrived.

In the same manner, I found Halston to be contrived, especially the first episode. We get a short look at Roy Halston Frowick’s miserable childhood, in which the Iowa farmboy is inspired by a handful of chicken feathers to make his mother a hat to soothe her feelings after a violent confrontation with his father. This sets the stage for inspiration after inspiration, all highly contrived, in a Forrest Gump sort of way.

Raindrops on a ruined suede coat lead to Halston’s adoption of Utlrasuede (which the scrip insinuates Halston invented. Not so). A chance encounter with a mirror post-shower leads to Halston’s signature sweptback hair style. The inspirations are never-ending. Liza Minelli even tells Halston at one point that inspiration is going to find him. And so it does, and does, and does.

One advantage that bio-pics often have over documentaries is the ability to make the subject more human and relatable. But as Ed Austin, Halston’s longtime boyfriend said, after years of being with Halston he didn’t know him. The same can be said for the viewers of this mini-series. Three hours later, and I had no sense of who Halston actually was, beyond a lot of drugs and sex and temper tantrums. I found Ewan MacGregor’s portrayal of Halston to be unsympathetic, and that’s a shame. Several years ago I attended a talk by his niece Leslie Frowick who showed him to be a caring and thoughtful uncle. One dimensional characters always look shallow.

So I did what any inquiring mind does. I reread a book, in this case the book on which the program was based, Simply Halston by Steven Gaines. Gaines had the advantage of writing his book soon after Halston’s death in 1990 so he was able to interview most of the major players in Halston’s life. He had actually met Halston, and had written a book on Studio 54.

Simply Halston is a sad story of a man who had everything he ever wanted, and yet had so little that made him happy. Heavy drug use along with unprotected sex in the time of HIV, combined with poor business decisions destroyed his talent, his ambition, his business, and ultimately, his life.

So why would anyone want to see this program? Watch it for the clothes and Elsa Peretti’s jewelry, both of which are glorious. Some of the garments in the show are vintage Halston, while others are careful reproductions. It’s a Seventies fashion fest!

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Vintage Miscellany – May 18, 2021

This young woman may look like she’s having a carefree day at the beach, but actually she is working. She’s a model and this is a professional photograph, made for the arcade card trade. I love it because the emphasis is not on the bathing suit, but on the girl’s happy attitude. And the accessories.

And now for what’s new…

  • I love that dress designer Ann Lowe is finally getting recognition. I hate that every article introduces her as the maker of Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress.
  • Always over-contextualized, the Met has announced the next exhibition of the Costume Institute.
  • Here’s a great profile of Helen Uffner, owner of the last large costume rental shop in New York.
  • Designer Alber Elbaz died of Covid-19 in April.
  • In 1887 Hannah Ditzler Alspaugh started a scrapbook of fabric swatches from her clothing.
  • The plea for pockets continues.
  • Why should museums be de-colonized?
  • Do the clothing brands you buy from share your values?
  • The Jane Austen Society of North America, Southwest Region has posted a presentation on 18th century shoes on their Youtube channel.
  • You probably have heard about the biopic based on Halston’s life. It’s currently showing on Netflix. Ewan McGregor plays Halston, and he actually took dressmaking lessons in preparation for the role. I’ll have a review of the miniseries up later this week.

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A Mountain Goat?

This photo was a gift from Janey who writes The Atomic Redhead. There was just enough information written on the back of the photo to piece together a bit of a history. It reads, “A mountain goat? Jackie Moore (later Husen)” Quite remarkably, I found two more photos of Jackie, one on Pinterest; the other on Flickr. It appears that whoever had these photos of Jackie had the good habit of labeling them.

An internet search brought up a Jackie Husen Park in Portland, Oregon. I posted all this info with the photo on Instagram, where @truevtgfashion recognized the park as being near her home. She found that, “Jackie Husen Park, named for a long-time local resident whose husband made the property available to the district.”

Another Instagram user, @k.stone.707, found Jackie on Ancestry.com. She was Jacqueline Adelle Moore, who married Carl Calvin Husen in 1946. She was born in 1926, and died in 2000. She was listed on Findagrave.com, where I learned that Carl died in 2006.

Okay, so I have no details about who Jackie was as a person, but looking at this photos of her, taken when she was probably between 18 and 20, we can see that she had an adventurous side. She knew how to put together a great casual outfit. And she had a lovely smile.

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College-Maid, from the Girls at Maryville College

A recent acquisition is this cute little 1920s blouse with an interesting back-story. It wasn’t so much the blouse that sold me on this piece, but rather, the label.

This one ticked several boxes: women’s college related, somewhat local to me, and after digging a bit, sportswear related. And the Deco-ish embroidery didn’t hurt a bit. So what’s the story?

Maryville College is one of the fifty oldest colleges in the country, being founded in 1819 as a Presbyterian seminary. From the beginning the school was racially integrated, until it was forced to segregate in 1901. It began admitting women in the 1860s, and in 1875 granted the first degree to a women in Tennessee. By the 1920s there were more women than men in the college, probably because it offered degrees in education.

In 1921 (or 1920, according to one source) home economics teacher Kathryn McMurray devised a plan to help girls who were not able to afford their college fees to stay in school. She set up a sewing enterprise where students made simple garments that were then sold under the label “College-Maid”. The program started with ten girls, but three years later more than 400 girls were earning money to help pay for their education.

Several types of garments were made by the students. One was the apron, which is the champion of beginning sewing projects. I also found references to house dresses and work dresses, but best of all, by 1926 they were making two-piece pajamas. I am quite sure that my blouse is actually a pajama top.

Ms. McMurray traveled around the country, encouraging women’s organizations and department stores to sell College-Maid products. Women’s groups would have what we today would call pop-up shops to sell the garments for the college. Some department stores advertised the goods as late as 1934. A dress cost $1.95 at that time.

Several years ago I found some pages from a photo album belonging to a Maryville College student.

Ruth, Gert, Mae and Eva had lots of adventures. I can’t help but wonder if any of them worked making College-Maid garments.

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Alice Marble Tennis Dress, Circa 1940

I purchased this circa 1940 tennis dress for several reasons. First, I love labels that sport the name of a star in the sport. Today the practice is ubiquitous, but in the first half of the Twentieth Century, the practice was new. Alice Marble is not exactly a household name today, but she was tennis’s hottest woman star in the late 1930s.

I bought the dress even though it is not complete. There was very likely a matching belt and panties, both of which are missing. But the style was quite nice, I loved the label, and the price was right, so I added it to my collection.

At the time I knew very little about Marble, except that she dominated women’s tennis in the late 1930s. It turns out that she was much more than just a tennis champion.

I recently read tennis star Althea Gibson’s autobiography, I Always Wanted to Be Somebody. In it she talks about how she watched Alice play an exhibition match around 1940, and how Alice became an important supporter later on:

“… I had no way of knowing then that, when the time came for me to be up for an invitation to play at Forest Hills, my biggest supporter, aside from a handful of my own people, would be this same Alice Marble.”

Because she was Black, segregation rules kept Althea from playing in the big US tournaments. Incensed, in 1950 Alice wrote an editorial in the American Lawn Tennis Magazine.

“Miss Gibson is over a very cunningly wrought barrel, and I can only hope to loosen a few of its staves with one lone opinion. If tennis is a game for ladies and gentlemen, it’s also time we acted a little more like gentle-people and less like sanctimonious hypocrites…If Althea Gibson represents a challenge to the present crop of women players, it’s only fair that they should meet that challenge on the courts.” 

And so they did. And the rest is history. Althea went on to win both the US Open and Wimbledon twice, and was the dominant women’s player in the late 1950s.

The dress in my collection is a great example of early 1940s tennis wear. The fit is easy, with a pullover bodice and side zipper. The skirt is very full and is knee-length. The sleeves are mere caps, and are split for mobility.

There’s no place to store an extra ball, but that feature might have been incorporated into the panties.

The Tom Boy label began in 1938, and was owned by the same Baltimore company, Straus, Royer, and Strass, that owned American Golfer. I found references to Alice Marble designs from 1939 to 1941.

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