Category Archives: Viewpoint

Month in Review – February, 2015

I know that February is a short month, but that one just flew by.  If I were a talking in the third person type, I’d be tempted to change the title of these monthly updates to Keeping Up with Lizzie.  I found this at the Metrolina show in Charlotte this month.

Also spotted at Metrolina was this super button card.  An attractive pearl trimming, attractively marketed.

We did a big library clean up and reorganization at my house.  Here’s a sampling of the fashion books.

I had several lovely reminders of how much I get from keeping this blog.  The illustration above is the cover of a 1924 Harper’s Bazar.  It, along with a dozen other early 1920s magazines, was sent to me by reader Susan Maresco.  What a treasury of great images and information!

I also got a sweet surprise from Juliet of SixCatsFun Vintage – the cutest little embroidered Scottie towel.  How did she know I’d love it so?

While in New York I was lucky enough to meet up with Julie of JetSetSewing.  She not only showed me around the fantastic old-school New York club where she was staying, but she also treated me to a much needed lunch.  And the last morning I was in the city I had breakfast with my good friend, Monica Murgia. It was so much fun catching up with her.

New York is always fun, even if it is cold enough to freeze one’s nose off.  All the layers of clothes left me feeling like the Michelin Man, but they did keep me warm.

And when clothes didn’t work, there were sippy cups of Cabernet Sauvignon.  We saw Matilda: The Musical, and it was delightful, and not just because of the wine.

Cannoli – one of the true delights of Little Italy.  The signature filling was cinnamon.

A lot of my time was spent, of course, in the wonderful museums of New York.  The Museum at FIT is a favorite.  Reviews of the two shows will be posted soon.

I’ve been looking for this pattern for years.  Please help me find it!

And finally, meet Kali.  She is an elkhound mix that was offered for adoption through a group for which I do some volunteering.  I’m happy to report that Kali found a home, and now has two people and a rottweiler brother of her own!

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Getting the Story Right

Last week the story broke that a 1940s sweater worn by football great Vince Lombardi had been found in the bins of my local Goodwill Clearance Center.  To summarize the story, vintage dealers Sean and Rikki McEvoy found the sweater while shopping in the store last June.  They did not realize how important the sweater was until viewing a documentary on Lombardi some time later, and Sean noted that the sweater was similar to one he saw Lombardi wearing in the program.  Rikki remembered there was a name tag in the sweater, they got it out, and sure enough, the label read “Lombardi.”

The sweater is being auctioned at Heritage Auctions, with online bids being taken now, and the final sale being on February 21.  The sweater is expected to sell for as much as $20,000.

Seeing as how that Goodwill is my shopping place, you might think I’m upset about not finding that gem myself.  But no, I have another, more important matter to address.  The reporting of this story was downright sloppy.

I admit that I’m a stickler for details.  If a story is worth telling, isn’t it worth telling correctly?  It’s an unsettling feeling to be reading an interesting article, and there near the end is a misstated fact.  It throws doubt onto the entire article.

The first place I read about the Lombardi sweater was on the website of our local newspaper, the Asheville Citizen-Times.  The second sentence held a mistake that completely disrupted my train of thought:

They stopped at the Goodwill Outlet on Patton Avenue where you can purchase things for 58 cents per pound.

As far as I know, clothing at that center has never been 58 cents a pound, and I know that last June the price was over a dollar a pound, $1.09 or $1.10 if my memory is correct.   It’s a small detail, one that only a shopper at the Goodwill would notice.  Unfortunately for me it set the tone for the article, and I found myself scrutinizing every statement, looking for more inaccuracies.

It didn’t take long for this story to spread past Western North Carolina.  The next article I read was on the Green Bay Press Gazette website.  According to that article, Sean McEvoy is a  “Nashville, Tenn., man”.  Actually, Sean and Rikki live in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The local television news, WLOS 13, did a piece on the find.  In it they interviewed the Goodwill district manager who stated that the sweater had to have gone through one of the retail stores where it did not sell before ending up in the outlet center.  Actually, that is not true, as any of the workers in the back sorting area could have told the reporter.  Things that are donated that do not meet a certain standard – like an old, full of holes wool sweater – never make it to the retail store, but go straight to the bins.

Of course the reporter could not help that she was given bad information by the person in charge.  But anyone who has ever worked in a corporate (or educational) setting knows that the boss usually does not know as much about how a place operates than does the lowest employee.

I could go on and on.  Fox Sports reported that McEvoy is from “Ashville, North Carolina.”  Wrong place, misspelled. RTV6 spelled it as “Asherville”.   CBSSports called Goodwill a pawn shop and referred to the couple as elderly, but from their photos, they look to be in their mid thirties.  All the accounts I read state that the sweater cost 58 cents, but only one clarified that 58 cents was the average cost per piece that the McEvoys paid for their multiple item purchase.  Bought by itself, I figure the sweater would have cost about $1.50.

Who knew that it would be so hard to get such a seemingly simple story right?  Do newspaper and TV news sites actually fact-check, or proofread, for that matter?  This is sending a very strong message – that quality content on websites is not as important as hurrying into the latest sensational story that is surging across the web.

What really concerns me is how this sort of misinformation eventually makes it into the “official” story of an event.  An example is the story of how  equestrian influences are often seen in Gucci products.  Many websites and books state that Gucci started out as a maker of saddles and that is why the company decorates their loafers with a piece that looks like a horse bit.  But careful research by  Sara Gay Forden for her book House of Gucci, proved that was simply not true, that Gucci never was a saddler.  Nevertheless, the story got started, and is still often quoted.

I realize that it is hard to get everything completely correct, which is why I appreciate it when a careful reader alerts me to my own mistakes.  But it is our culture of sharing “news” that has led to an internet full of misinformation.  In copying from one site to another, Asheville becomes Asherville, a thirty-something couple becomes elderly, and a thrift store becomes a pawn shop.

It calls to mind that game from childhood called “Gossip” where the first kid whispered something into the ear of the second kid, who repeated what he thought he heard into the ear of the third kid, and so on down the line.  The last kid gets to say out loud what he heard, with hilarious results. “I saw a cat outside” became “High sewer cap hot pride.”

It’s time for “news” sites to stop playing this game, or to at least hire people who know how to listen to the whispering.

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Quote of the Week

It also seems to me that there’s an unjustified amount of pressure on designers to make youthful clothes. No one wants to be called boring or dated, but the relentless insistence on youth actually seems to be hindering imagination.

I’d like to personally welcome Cathy Horyn back to fashion journalism.  With statements like the one above she cuts to the heart of what bugs so many women over the age of thirty-five about fashion.  Why is “fashion” geared to the young, when it is the older women who possess most of the means to indulge in clothes?

Even if you do not follow the fashion world, it is important to know that there are an increasing number of critics who can see that fashion will not truly be “democratic” until older women can picture themselves wearing the clothing that goes down the runways.

Sure, I want to be thrilled by great design, challenging ideas, even offensive ideas. I’m all for that. But my mind is equally open to clothes that are simply beautiful, that have an easy and inhabited and ageless quality.

Let’s hope the designers and manufacturers are listening.

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Thoughts on Photographs – Vintage and Modern

A lot of my time on any vintage shopping excursion is devoted to looking through stacks of vintage photographs.   I just can’t think of a better way to study how people actually dressed than to examine the photos of an era.  I guess it would be even better if they were all in color.

I’ve noticed that I rarely see photos younger than the early 1970s.  I’m thinking that newer photos are still in the possession of their original owners, but that as time passes and the owners die, treasures from the 1970s through the 1990s will hit the market.

It has occurred to me that these wonderfully old candid snapshots are pretty much a thing of the past.  With digital photography we take and retake an image until it is “perfect.”  We arrange not only ourselves, but also our belongings in photographs.  What we have lost is a sense of spontaneity in our photos.

I know that many history and museum people object to the use of the word “curate” outside of a museum setting, but it does aptly describe how people take photos in the digital age.  I’m not saying that photo “curation” is somehow wrong; I’m saying that it is leaving a false record of how our lives actually look.

Another disturbing thought is that many photos taken today are never seen outside of the virtual world.  Out of the thousands of photos I take in any year, I might actually print a hundred or so of them.  I doubt that anyone prints all the photos they take these days.

Of course the trade-off is that there are so many photos digitized and shared today that the  internet is a virtual photo album of the grandest sort.  More and more people and institutions are digitizing collections so they can be shared online.  We have access to photos of the past – and present – like never before.  That said, I don’t think anything can replace the fun of a good shuffle through a stack of vintage black and whites.

Here are two more photos from the Sophie in Miami set.  In the top photo Sophie is on the left, next to yet another man identified only as Sy.  That’s him in the bottom photo, with his arms around Betty of the fantastic shoes, so he was probably not one of Sophie’s conquests.

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Month in Review – January 2015

I jokingly called this photo Clyde Beach.  What you can’t see is that the “beach” is pretty much what you see, about ten or twelve feet of rocky ground leading into the Pigeon River.  It looks like a nice place to wade in the summer, but there is a paper mill upstream, so wading is ill-advised.

Merely to invoke envy, I occasionally show off details of my 1950s gathered skirt collection.  I bought most of them ten or so years ago before they were appreciated for the treasures they are and before the prices went through the roof.  Because I also love art-inspired textiles, this Van Gogh print is one of my favorites.

I’ve been helping out with a relatively new rescue group, Duke’s Animal Haven.  This photo was taken at an adoption event, after a day-long play session.  Both puppies now have new homes.

This is Sunny.  She was left homeless after her owners both ended up in nursing care.  Duke’s took her in, and despite the fact that she is nine years old, she has found a wonderful new home.  I took this photo as she was playing in my backyard.  The rescue needed a good photo of her, a task that proved too much for me.  Or did it?

I haven’t started a new sewing project this month, except to reline this Marimekko jacket.  I loved the jacket, but I hated the slippery acetate lining.  Now the lining is a thrifted Chinese silk.

I’ve been asked about what I have against “up-cycling.”  This photo, taken at the Goodwill Clearance center, tells the tale.  One bin was full of someone’s up-cycling failures.

The accidental collection.  What can I say, except that I love plaid.

All the gloomy days has had me sympathizing with this lovely antique print.

People on Instagram think they invented this idea, but actually Norman Rockwell came up with it in the 1940s.

And finally, I am starting to wrap up my etsy sale and so I’m starting to reduce prices.  Need a tie?  I have quite a few patterns left, and none are over $10.

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We Bring New York to You

For years Paris was the undisputed center of fashion, but during the two world wars, New York clothing makers capitalized on the absence of European imports. After WWII ended, New York was regarded as the center of American fashion and a leader in fashion worldwide.

I recently found this little brochure from Modern Manner Clothes, located on Fifth Avenue in New York City.  I haven’t found out anything about the company (it does not help that the company’s name contains words that show up in all kinds of searches.), but it appears that it was a sales venture that was similar to Avon.  There is a place on the folder for the name of the representative, and the sales pitch mentions shopping at home.

It’s the easiest way in the world to shop – right in your home at your leisure, at your convenience – direct from Fifth Ave., New York, to you.

No shopping hurry – no parking worry, but in the privacy of your home when you are all rested and at ease, you make your selection of New York’s beautiful styles.

There’s no date on the folder, but it is late 1940s.  The styles are similar to what was offered in catalogs like Sears and Montgomery Ward. Prices range from $4.98 to $16.98, which would be $52.78 to $180.26 in today’s dollar, based on inflation from 1947.  So, the dresses were not cheap, but neither were they expensive.

Click to enlarge

 

Somehow, though, I feel like Modern Manner Clothes was missing the point.  Even though claiming a New York or a Paris connection was a huge selling point, there really is no substitute for the experience of shopping in New York.  And it really is about the experience, rather than the purchases one makes.  I’ve strolled Fifth Avenue, stopped in at Saks, Bergdorf’s, and Tiffany’s, and never spent a dime.  It was more about seeing than buying.

A recent study at Cornell University indicates that humans get more pleasure from spending their money on experiences than they do from spending it on material objects.  If that is the case, and I do agree with the findings, then one would be better off spending an hour or two window shopping and then experiencing high tea or drinks at a fancy hotel.  Skip the latest “It Bag” and take in a couple of plays or musical events.  Forego the souvenirs and instead go to the top of the Empire State Building at dusk.  Make some memories.

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Museum Selfie Day

In case you missed it, January 21 was Museum Selfie Day, a selfie being a photo a person takes of him or her self.  The development of the cell phone camera that can take photos both forward and backward has made taking one’s own photo very easy. Instagram and twitter have given the selfie an audience.

Quite a bit has been written about the practice of selfies in museums.  As you probably would expect, writers are divided in their opinions on the practice.

Those who oppose the practice say that selfies are akin to notches on a gun.  In a culture where many seem to think that if you don’t have a photograph of yourself doing something, then it really didn’t happen.  Each selfie is a notch on the gun of life, proof that one has actually seen a landmark or a work of art.  In addition, selfies are distracting to other museum-goers.  It’s hard to seriously contemplate Rembrandt when people and their cellphones keep getting between you and the art.

But what really seems to bug some critics is that museums are supposed to be “serious” places of learning.  The constant snapping of photos is replacing the proper examination of art.

On the other hand, supporters of museum selfies argue that the practice is a good way to get people to actively engage with art.  Taking a good selfie requires that the photographer study the work of art carefully.  And allowing selfies might encourage participation by reluctant museum visitors (teenagers) who might otherwise be focused on texting friends or playing the latest online game  while the family tours the museum.

If my twitter feed is any indication, many museums have embraced the day.  Institutions large and small tweeted their support of #MuseumSelfieDay.   I’m sure that some of them have decided that “If you can’t beat them, then join them.”  Camera phones are not going to go away and people are going to use them.  More and more museums have taken down the no photos signs, partly because it’s just too difficult to police camera usage.

But other museums seem to be genuinely delighted that they have their own social media day.  They have people on their staffs who see social media for what it is, a part of people’s lives that is here to stay.  They already have accounts on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, and so are reaching a lot of people that way.  Having an event like #MuseumSelfieDay allows a museum to use those accounts to encourage visitors to come in and participate.

This is only the second year of #MuseumSelfieDay, so I suppose it is a bit early to see if the promotion is having any effect on attendance on that day.  But there seemed to be good participation, so if you are serious about your museum visits, I suggest you not plan one for selfie day next year.

In looking for a photo for this post I realized that while I don’t have a museum selfie of myself, I do have lots of photographs from museum visits.  Ever since the camera became available to travelers, it has been used to document their journeys.  In looking back at a lifetime of travel photos I find that the most interesting ones are the ones that contain images of my family and friends, and to be honest, me.   And in collecting vintage photos, it is the people in each that makes it interesting.

Consider the photo of my husband that I used to illustrate.  Would the photo of the sculpture be as meaningful to me if he were not sitting there?  I doubt that without his presence that I’ve even remember where the photo was taken, but with him sitting there the events of an entire day come flooding back into conscious memory.  We had spent the day in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and had finished up by spending the last hours of the afternoon touring the museum there.  The bears provided a welcome resting spot and a good photo opportunity.

I really don’t see the selfie as a new phenomenon, but rather as a new version of an old one.  While I don’t feel the need to photograph myself at every place I go, I can’t help but look at photos taken decades ago and get pleasure from seeing my face on the road, having fun.

Me, 1999

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