Category Archives: Designers

1960s Emilio Pucci Pants Set

Photo courtesy of Meloo Vintage

I find that I’m a bit of an age snob when it comes to looking for sportswear for my collection. What that means is that I find it to be a lot more exciting to look for items from the first half of the 20th century than for those from the second half.

I think part of the problems is that so much survives from the 1960s and 70s, that I’ve learned to be really picky about what I pick up. If I have got mid 1960s “scooter” dresses on my mind, I could go to etsy, Ruby Lane, and Ebay and have my pick of dozens of items.  Even with high-end garments like those from Italian designer Emilio Pucci, there are hundreds of items listed for sale at any given time.

So, I don’t really search very hard for things made in the last sixty years or so, but when I run across a stellar example, I’m ready to shop. And when Melissa of Meloo Vintage posted this set on Instagram, I fell in love.

For years I’ve been looking for an older Pucci set, from his days on the Isle of Capri, but I’ve not been lucky to find what I wanted. I dumbly passed on a great ski-themed top from the late 1950s, and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. But when I saw this tunic and pants set, I knew I’d found my Pucci set.

It dates a little later, from the early to mid 1960s. Pucci can be difficult to date, as the nature of the prints are outside the whims of fashion. Older prints (from the 1950s) are often on a theme, like the skiing blouse I mentioned. The label used is a big help, and my set has the labels most commonly seen in the 1960s.

I’d love to think that some jet setter bought it in Italy, but instead there is a B. Forman of Rochester label alongside the Pucci one. I have no idea what the little “E” label means.

You can see that a metal zipper was used, but be sure to note the way it was inserted – by hand picking. This is a detail seen more commonly in couture clothing, which this is not. But it does go to show how much more handwork went into high-end ready-to-wear fifty-five years ago than you see today.

The crease in the pants is made permanent by the use of hand picking, and the side seams are secured in the same manner.

What really sold me on this set was the way the print of the tunic was designed specifically to be a top with a scalloped edge. It’s one of things that makes the set so special. Imagine, for contrast, if the tunic was made from the same print, but that it was cut in a willy-nilly manner with no thought to the scallops or to the placement of the center of the design.

What could be more Continental than three-quarters length sleeves with French cuffs?

The bateau neck is actually padded. It’s just one more great detail.

In the late 1960s mainstream fashion caught up with Pucci, and these “psychedelic” prints were everywhere. From what I’ve seen of Pucci garments from the 1970s and later, the print became the design, but in these earlier pieces you can see how Pucci was more than just a bunch of color thrown onto the fabric.

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Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon, at the Titanic in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Of all the unlikely places to see six dresses from early twentieth century designer Lucile, Pigeon Forge is one of the most unlikeliest. But that’s where I did see them, in an exhibit at the Titanic attraction located there. (For those of you in the Midwest, there is also a Titanic in Branson, Missouri, and they too have an exhibit of Lucile dresses this summer.

Lucile opened her dressmaking business, Lucile, Ltd, in 1891. She was a leading designer of the first two decades of the twentieth century and, along with her business in London, opened branches in New York in 1910, Paris in 1911. and Chicago in 1915.

She was known for the lovely tea gowns she designed for her high society and celebrity clients. She herself was a member of this class, having married Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon in 1900. Lady Duff Gordon was probably most associated with dancer Irene Castle, but she also designed for the stage, including “The Merry Widow” in 1907 (which started a trend for the “Merry Widow” hat) and for Ziegfeld’s Follies.

Lucile’s designs had a soft extravagance about them that, after the end of WWI, was out of step with the needs of modern women.  Her London business restructured in 1918, and in 1922 she was no longer a part of the London branch of the business she had founded. Lady Duff Gordon continued working in the US and Paris, with the Paris branch not closing until 1933 .   (Adapted from the biography I wrote for the Vintage Fashion Guild Label Resource)

In 1912, Lucile and Sir Duff Gordon were traveling to New York on the Titanic. They ended up with ten others on a lifeboat meant for forty persons, which caused a bit of animosity toward the designer, and they were even accused of bribing the crew members in the lifeboat to avoid plucking survivors from the water. They were called to testify at the official inquiry into the sinking, and were found to be innocent of the charges.

So with this strong connection between Lucile and the Titanic, it is easy to see why the attraction is displaying some of her designs. Most of them were loaned by Lucile collector Randy Bigham, and one is from the collection of the Fashion History Museum. Three of the dresses are in a re-created first class parlor room, and it is these dresses that are seen to their best advantage. The other three, as seen in my photo above, are in a little room behind glass. This made for tricky viewing.

No photos were allowed, so I’m having to rely on press photos from the attraction. Unfortunately, there is only the one photo of the three dresses above, and so you are just going to have to take my word on the details of each.

Afternoon dress, black velvet, green ribbon, metallic silk flowers. 1909-10  Lucile-London branch  (imported by Wanamaker’s, New York & Philadelphia)

I’ll start with this most unlikely Lucile dress.  Described as a late afternoon gown, the black velvet was a nice change from all the light blue and white of the other dresses.

This has to be the most “Lucile” dress ever, with the soft color, lace bodice, front bow, and short over-shirt. This frock really does tick all the Lucile design boxes.

Summer afternoon dress, white organdy and batiste, blue and white pinstriped silk.  1915  Lucile-New York branch

Here is where I get into some deep photo regret. I loved this day dress so much, and the photo absolutely does not begin to show how special it is. First of all, the stripe that reads as white is actually blue. It is a stunning textile and you can’t even see how sweet the bodice is. The buttons are crochet covered balls, an often seen feature in Edwardian attire.

Fortunately, the other three dresses are better represented in the photographs.

This 1911 wedding dress is in the Fashion History Museum’s collection. It’s a real stunner, with layers of lace and net and gauze, all topped with pearls and beads and handcrafted flowers.

I’m grateful that the Titanic press photos included the close up shots of this dress as it does give you the best view of just how lovely all these dresses are.

That’s the train of this dress on the left. At the exhibit the mirror is set up so as to see the back of this gown, but it is so far away from the viewer that it has little effect. Still, how about that bow!

Evening dress, cream chiffon and satin, beads, silk flower appliques. Formerly owned by Darnell Collection. 1910-1912 (Probably 1911) Lucile-New York branch.

Lovely beading, more constructed flowers, and a pretty blue bow.

And here’s the rear view. The clothes are arranged to give a limited view of the backs of these three dresses.

Wedding gown, ivory silk tulle and satin, gold metallic lace, worn June 22, 1921 by Freida Heinrich on marriage to Robert Bollei.  1921  Lucile-New York branch

This pretty thing was worn by Freida Heinrich in 1921. By that time Lucile was nearing the end of her association with the firm that bore her name.

Again, this dress was much more impressive in person. When viewing the dress, the lace looked to be gold, and Randy Bigham confirmed that the lace is gold even though the photo makes it look silver. No matter, because this dress sparkles.

In this back view you can see the layers and the embroidery a bit better.

In the very scanty exhibition notes, this dress was mis-attributed as belonging to the Fashion History Museum. It is actually in the collection of Randy Bryan Bigham. The mistake is most unfortunate as it makes me question all the visitor notes.

Click to enlarge

The blue dress on the far left is a reproduction and you can really tell by comparing it to the fabrics and laces of the originals.

Besides the dresses there was a Lucile hat, a perfume bottle and packaging, and best of all, a 1916 catalog of the adaptations Lucile designed for Sears, Roebuck. I’m pretty sure the catalog was a reproduction because it was out in the open and nobody yelled at me as I stood and looked through it. The designs for Sears were mainly day dresses and suits, and they were quite nice. They were expensive, though. One suit was $49.95, which the inflation calculator tells me would be around $510 in today’s dollar.

I really think that the Titanic people should have combined the Lucile artifacts from both locations so there would have been a better showing. With twelve dresses instead of just six, a fashion lover would feel more like she’d gotten her $29 worth. Yes, it costs $29 to tour the Faux-tanic, and though there are lots of other things to see and interactive stuff to play with, to me all that was secondary. Let’s be honest – this is an attraction, not a museum, though they have done a decent job presenting the artifacts on exhibit.

I think the big lesson here is that there is no comparison between looking at photos of garments and actually seeing them.  In person, the special-ness of Lucile’s work is obvious. You can almost feel the richness of the fabrics, laces, and embroideries. None of this translates in even the best photos.

All photos are provided by the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Please don’t use these photos on other sites, as they do not belong to me.

Update: I switched the dating of two dresses and have now fixed the error.

Randy Bigham has provided me with dating, fabrication, and labeling details which I have added as photo captions. Also from Randy:

“Two things that are just FYIs – Lady Duff Gordon was chief designer for Lucile until she left the house in Aug. 1922; there were issues with assistant designers turning out garments of which she did not approve but this mainly occurred in the last few months before her departure. Also, black was a favorite color with Lucile from early in her career and I speak of that in my book,  Lucile – Her Life by Design.”

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Péro, by Aneeth Arora

I can pretty much count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I go shopping at retail. It’s usually when I’m in a bigger city that has the type of high-end stores that you are not going to find in Western North Carolina. In all fairness, I’m usually not shopping for real clothing, but rather, for ideas. It was when I was in Charleston, SC recently that I became aware of  Péro. I’d never heard of the brand, but I was so impressed by the beauty of the textiles that I wanted to see more.

Péro was started in 2009 by Aneeth Arora, and from the beginning, craft has been the driving force of the line.  All the fabrics are hand-loomed of natural fibers, and the garments are embroidered and finished by hand. It’s very labor intensive, the very opposite of what you might think garments made in India would be. This type of craft, quality, and skill is not cheap.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that the beauty of one indigo coat with embroidery made me almost ignore the price tag and cave into my desire to own that object.

But cooler heads prevailed, and I left the shop without the coat. But I could not forget about Péro, so when I returned home I began to read all I could find out about the line. Best of all is  Péro’s Instagram account, where employees and their stories are regularly featured. They tell where and how materials are sourced, and how they work with artisans across India.

photo copyright Barneys New York Warehouse

In all the reading and looking, I finally found a garment that is really in tune with the types of things I like to wear. Yes, I adore embroidery, but I’m really more of a stripes and solids lover, and the embroidered pieces are more than I wanted to pay. So the top above seemed like a good idea, especially since it was deeply discounted. I knew before I bought it that I’d be altering the sleeves, as that much fabric in the crook of my elbow would drive me crazy.

However, when the shirt arrived, I was shocked at just how over-sized it was. If you can’t read my yardstick, it reads 30″ across, for a bodice measurement of 60″! The altering job just got bigger, but I was confident I could made this work.

And I did. I apologize for the silly shirt on the floor photo, but I’m recovering from a week-long respiratory infection, and trust me, no photos of me are allowed at present. But I do promise a picture of me wearing this before the summer is over. It’s just too cute not to share.  I cut enough from the sides that I actually have enough fabric to make pockets. I’m going to wear it a few times before I decide if I need them.

So, now let’s look at what makes Péro so special.

The bottom edge is faced with a cotton fabric, and then the facing is hand hemmed. The stripe is linen. The care instructions call for dry clean only, probably due to the mix of fabrics, but I carefully washed this before beginning the alterations and there was no shrinkage in either fabric.

Even the labels are hand embroidered, as is the red hanging loop.

The seams are machine stitched, and all seams are flat fell or French seams.

Even the buttons are special. They are made by a local ceramic artist, and are hand-molded and hand-painted. Each one is different. And see if you can tell that even the buttonholes are hand-stitched.

We can’t all afford these incredible embroidered confections, but we can appreciate the beauty of them. We can see hope for the garment industry in that there are some brands that are working toward fair treatment of employees, and who promote skillful work.

Update: The little heart and flowers in the top photo were attached to the label of the shirt. The pouch holds extra buttons.

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Pierre Cardin: Pursuit of the Future

Currently showing at SCADFASH in Atlanta is Pierre Cardin: Pursuit of the Future. As the title suggests, this exhibition is an exploration of how in the mid 1960s designer Cardin envisioned clothing of the future. As such, it’s not a true retrospective of Cardin’s work, but rather, an intensive look at what he is most known for, aside from all the hundreds of licencing agreements.

Cardin’s career began after WWII, when he worked first for Paquin and Schiaparelli, and then for Christian Dior. His first collection under his own name was released in 1951. This suit from 1957 shows the short-lived sack-back style, but it also shows Cardin’s love of structure and sharp tailoring.

The great majority of the exhibition was concerned with Cardin’s “space age”, or Mod looks. I really think the main point of this exhibition could be summed up with the photo above. These two dresses, both with a similar aesthetic, are forty-five years apart. The dress on the left was made in 1968, and the one on the right, in 2013.

So I spent time in front of each look, trying to determine if the look was from the Sixties, or if it were a modern re-interpretation of Cardin’s vision from the 1960s. Sometimes I was right, but just as often, I was not.

The dress above is from 1966. No problem believing that, right?

But what about these two? Both are from 2017! I have a lot to say about these dresses, but first let me say that the longer dress was one of my favorites, as well as one of Liza’s, with whom I saw the exhibition. We just adored the 1920s vibe of it.

What I found so interesting was that the fiber content of both as labeled as “synthetic”. That really doesn’t tell us a lot. The more modern dresses were mostly labeled this way (though some were made from wool jersey), but the 1960s ones were made from wool. The value to me of an exhibition of this sort is that I gain some insights on that I thought I already knew. In this case, I was struck at how the highly structured wool fabrics Cardin used created a silhouette so similar to the wool or polyester doubleknit fabrics used by the average home sewer in the 1960s.

This dress is from 1968, and is made of wool. The dress is so structured that I’m guessing it was interfaced and interlined, and then lined in another fabric. In 1968 the girls in my school were wearing similarly stiff and shaped dresses, but made, for the most part by our mothers and grandmothers. It was an easy look to imitate with doubleknit (and often with a bonded interlining) fabric.

Cardin was an early adopter of pantsuits for women. The 1966 one here is quite similar to the suits he designed for the Beatles several years earlier. He also incorporated this usage of zippers into his men’s clothing.

In 1969 women were in a quandary over skirt lengths. The midi and the maxi had been introduced, but many were reluctant to give up the mini. Cardin’s solution of long over short was a common one. The shiny bits are vinyl, and being attached to the wool coat and skirt, it must have driven dry cleaners crazy, as it does museum curators today. Many times the vinyl has not held up. Several years ago I was touring the archives of the North Carolina Museum of History with the textiles curator, who was an acquaintance. The museum had just acquisitioned a Cardin dress from this line. The wool was perfect, but the vinyl was sticky and in really bad condition.

The “Carwash” dress dates to 1969. It was widely copied, but I can remember seeing an original Cardin in a thrift store years ago. That one is high on my list of things I regret not buying.

Along the same lines is this tunic from 1970. Getting dressed in this one had to have been an experience.

Cardin did design for men as well as women, but while the women’s clothes of the 1960s look quite normal to us today, his menswear is anything but normal. The vinyl collar of the jumpsuit was modeled after that of a NASA spacesuit, but I’m pretty sure Neil Armstrong did not have a vinyl brief (codpiece?) over his suit. And note how the placement of the zippers is very similar to that on the woman’s suit seen earlier.

The red and black dress is again, wool and vinyl. I really like this 1968 dress and the way the sleeves are made in one with the yoke, but the presence of the vinyl makes it look a bit uncomfortable.

I hope you can tell this is a jumper over a black bodysuit. This is from 1967, and you can see how Cardin used the diamond-on-a-belt shape on the red dress above. I was happy to spot skirts with a similar motif for sale.

This skirt, and another in orange, is made of vinyl and mohair. Photo courtesy of Style & Salvage.

The three colorful dresses in the middle are all from 2015 and 2016, though Augusta Auctions just sold a 1960s version of the pink skirt with the straps that look like the spokes of a wheel.

Note Cardin’s use of circles as a motif, and go back through the photos above to spot more circles.

Even if the show notes had not pointed out Cardin’s love of the circle, any visitor could not help but notice them.

Click to enlarge

In a large grouping like this one the circles are even more obvious.

In the center of the exhibition there was an interesting display of Cardin’s evening looks that I thought were beautifully displayed, and shown, I’m guessing to get the point across that Cardin could do more looks than the Mod styles with which he is most associated. The lace and silk dress above is from 1977.

This very Halston-esque gown is from 2017. It is a spectacular little frock!

I loved the set of this exhibition. It was straight out of a 1960s space age fashion show with pods and circles galore.

For the first time that I’ve vivited SCADFASH, instead of a paper guide to the garments, I was loaned an ipad that had had the show notes. I loved this. It was easy to navigate, and best of all, it can be accessed through the SCAD website. So even if you can’t get to Atlanta before the show closes on September 30, 2018, you can browse the guide and see all the looks. I recommend it if you are at all interested in learning and seeing more.

 

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1930s Bruyere Adaptation Dress and Jacket

First of all, this fantastic set does not belong to me, as you probably could tell from the quality of the photo. But more about that later. First I want to talk a some about the maker of the set, and a bit about labels.

Sportswear is my great fashion history love, but that does not mean I don’t appreciate a great afternoon dress when I see it. I even buy dresses and gowns if I feel a garment fits in with the spirit of the collection. That’s a bit hard to explain, but I think I’m mainly interested in the gown a tennis player would wear after a day on the court.

You don’t even need a label to tell you this mid 1930s ensemble is really good, with the slit in the sleeves, and the way the border print is used to elongate the front. And the collar is quite special as well. It’s the type of garment that fashion history lovers look at and immediately hope to find a “good” label.

In this case, the answer is yes, there is a good, if lesser known, label. Bruyere was Madame Marie-Louise Bruyere. She had worked with both Callot Soeurs and Lanvin, and around 1930 opened her own establishment in Paris. According to an August 1932 article in Fortune magazine:

… the French don’t go near the shop which the white-haired Mme Bruyere, once with Lanvin, opened two years ago in the rue de Mondovi. This house, however, has had an enormous success with some Americans, and is one of the “coming” houses.

The article went on to say the Bruyere was the third most popular Paris label available in New York. This was based on the number of “Paris copies in Manhattan’s stores”. And that is exactly what we are seeing here. Note the word “adaptation” on the label. It means that this is a ready-to-wear piece based on a couture design by Madame Bruyere.

There’s not a lot of information available about Bruyere. We know her adaptations were popular with New Yorkers, but who actually manufactured the dresses? We may not know, but I can tell you the work was top-notch, something that’s not always true of adaptations.

Such details!

To add to my post about care of old clothes, I need to add another all purpose care tip. If you have a special garment and you spill something on it, clean it immediately, even if it is white wine or some other substance that does not show. The substance is there nevertheless, slowing turning dark.

And to end this post of multiple lessons, here is a photo I took of this ensemble on a hanger instead of  a mannequin. Never judge a dress by the way it looks on a hanger. Never!

I started this post by saying this dress is not mine. Through one of those serendipitous moments, I learned through mutual friends Jonathan and Kenn that the online vintage clothing shop Style & Salvage is located in my little town. It took a pair of guys from Canada to connect me with new local friends Mel and Jeff. I’ll be posting some of their incredible finds from time to time.

Photos courtesy and copyright of Style & Salvage

 

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Currently Reading: The Hidden History of American Fashion

One of the things I love about fashion history studies right now is that historians seem to have moved beyond writing about Chanel and Dior. I said some time ago that I didn’t know what else could be said about the great and familiar names of fashion. It appears that lots of others are in agreement.

The Hidden History of American Fashion: Rediscovering 20th Century Women Designers is a book after my own heart. Edited by Nancy Deihl, the lives and careers of sixteen designers are explored. Some, like Tina Leser, are familiar to me, but others, like Pauline Fracchia and Catherine Scott were not. All are important to the story of American fashion.

Each chapter features a different designer, and each is written by a different historian or team of two. I like this type of book because it is easy to pick up and read one chapter when time (or attention) is short. Each chapter is well-documented with the sources given.

One of my favorite chapters is about designer Libby Payne. Payne was one of the hundreds of designers who worked without ever having their names on the label. Though her career spanned from 1937 to 1987, it wasn’t until the early 1980s that her name was on the label of a line she worked on. She designed for some very big names, among them Bobbie Brooks, Jonathan Logan, and Saks fifth Avenue. It’s great that now her name is a part of the historical records of the companies she helped make successful.

I was really surprised and pleased to spot my own name in the bibliography of one of the chapters, that on Fira Benenson. I was familiar with Benenson because I had seen the sewing patterns adapted by the Spadea company. Author Michael Mamp referred to the patterns, and referenced and quoted the article I wrote concerning how Spadea cut their patterns directly from the designers’ garments. This was information I got from Anne Spadea Combs, the daughter of the owners of Spadea Patterns.

I can’t help but think of how the internet has allowed this book to be written. So many of the sources are primary ones that are easily accessible due to back issues of newspapers and trade materials being available online. Material that used to be buried deep in microfilm is now easily found.

It is gratifying to know that even blogs like this one are now contributing to the written record and are useful to others doing research.

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Givenchy For McCall’s Patterns, 1966

I don’t write a lot about haute couture here at The Vintage Traveler. The careers of most of the 20th century greats are so well documented that there’s just not a lot I can add. But I just could not let the recent death of Hubert de Givenchy pass by without mentioning one of my favorite ever sewing pattern lines. In 1966 the movie, How to Steal a Million staring Audrey Hepburn and a wide cast of Givenchy creations, led to four of the suits Audrey wore in the movie being adapted into sewing patterns by McCall’s.

The patterns rated three pages in McCall’s magazine, all with publicity stills of Audrey, rather than pictures of the patterns. In the McCall’s Home Catalog, however, there were sketches of the pattern designs. By comparing the two sets of images you can see that the patterns are very faithful to the original designs as worn in the movie. All four designs were either suits or coat and dress ensembles.

Over the years I’ve managed to find three of the four patterns. An interesting note is that neither Audrey Hepburn nor the movie were mentioned on the actual pattern envelopes. I find that a bit odd as the connection between the patterns and the movie were well publicized in the magazines.

This is the pattern that I do not own. I need this pattern in my life.

I’ve been telling myself for years to make this coat. Maybe now is the time.

I don’t even try to collect couture clothing, as my interests don’t really run in that direction. I have been known to pick up the rare (inexpensive) piece though when lucky enough to find it. In fact, one of the few pieces of couture I own is a Givenchy suit, which dates to 1967.

 

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