Category Archives: Vintage Miscellany

Vintage Miscellany – March 29, 2015

L for Lizzie perhaps?  I need that sweater.

*   This photo essay has been all over the WWW for the past week or so, but I still must share it here:  The twenty-one Callot Soeurs dresses of Hortense Mitchell Acton.

*  Less publicized, but no less interesting was this discovery of a trunk of clothes and costumes belonging to silent film actress Alla Nazimova.

*   Here’s a rare look inside the NBC/Universal Archives and Collections, which houses relics from Universal Studios’  past and present,including, props,costumes, and historic documents dating back over 100 years.

*   Chanel is well-known for its use of Linton tweed, but the latest collection also featured Harris Tweeds.

*   A look inside the Levi’s archive reveals a pair of 136-year-old jeans.

*   Watch this short and interesting video about Elizabeth Keckly, seamstress and friend of Mary Todd Lincoln, and former slave.

*   This one is only marginally about fashion, but it is another reason why I love Instagram so much.

*   I may have posted this one before, but the Metropolitan continues to add titles to their online archive of publications, many of which are out of print.  I’m linking to the thirty-three books from the Costume Institute, but there are over 1200 in all.

*   Celia Birtwell, textile designer for her former husband Ossie Clark, is selling her personal collection of Clark’s designs.

*   A  Selkirk First Nation elder was touring the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa and spotted a bag that had been made by her mother over forty years ago.  Be sure to listen to the interview, as it is much clearer in meaning than is the article.   The episode brings up a lot of issues, the most obvious of which is, “To whom do these objects belong?” In the US, many objects in museums have been returned to Native groups under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.  This does not apply to the items in this story, as it took place in Canada, and the objects in question are not “sacred.”  Still, there is a lot to think about.


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Vintage Miscellany – March 15, 2015

It’s a beautiful and warm day here in the South.  It’s enough to make you go outdoors in search of a little athletic activity.  The 1920s tennis  girl on the left looks to be wearing a divided skirt, perhaps her gym uniform?

And now for the news:

*  Women’s Wear Daily is a daily no more.  The newspaper announced last week that they were going to a weekly format.  Interesting that this came so soon after the death of long-time WWD editor-in-chief and publisher John Fairchild.

*   John Fairchild retired to Switzerland in 1997, but he left a lasting legacy on the paper founded by his grandfather.  He was known as much for his feuds with designers as for the quality of the paper. His two books on the fashion industry, The Fashionable Savages and Chic Savages, are fashion history must-reads.

*  There was another death in the fashion world, that of French model Bettina.  Muse to Jacques Fath, and later to Givenchy, Bettina was a super-model before there were super-models.

*   It looks like Zac Posen will be the designer at the revived Charles James label.  Some critics are unhappy with the choice, but I’m having a hard time caring either way.

*   For those of you with really deep pockets, the couture collection of vintage dealer Didier Ludot will be sold at auction on July 8.

*   The season of Downton Abbey has ended for us here is the US, but I’ve found the best ever essay series on The Toast: Watching Downton Abbey with an Historian.

*   NPR reporter Jacki Lyden has been doing a series called The Seams, which is a look at fashion from a cultural and historical standpoint.

*   And the latest shoe craze is the LL Bean Maine Hunting Shoe.

*  Some American companies are coming around to the benefits of American manufacturing.

*  My friend Carrie has been doing a series on vintage swatch books on her blog, The Cabinet.


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Vintage Miscellany – March 1, 2015

Here’s one happy traveler and one who thinks he’d rather be at home reading the paper and listening to the radio.  I think I’ll hang out with her.

* There’s a saying about the 1960s: If you can remember them then you weren’t really there.  That’s nonsense, thank goodness, otherwise we’d not have great articles like this one that features Betsey Johnson.

*   Scotland’s Barrie Knitwear is doing so well that they have actually taken on more workers, and will be hiring again.

*   John Galliano talked with Hamish Bowles about the pressure to succeed at his new job.

*  Last week the  internet celebrated the life of Leonard Nimoy, whose Dr. Mr. Spock character on Star Trek taught us in the 1960s that the best human of all was actually half alien.  This fan page shows how his famous ears were crafted, along with other costume goodies.  Thanks to Christina for the link.

*  I’ll soon be reviewing the Museum at FIT exhibition, Yves Saint Laurent + Halston.  Here is an excellent interview with Fred Dennis, the senior curator of costume about the show and the work of the two designers.  There is also a video interview with the curators of the exhibition, Patricia Mears and Emma McClendon.

*   Writer Christina Robert talks about the appeal of slow fashion  at High 50.

*   Are we living in a post-trend universe?

*  And along the same lines, are we seeing “the end of fashion as we know it”?

*   Tonight is the ending of the season of Downton Abbey for US viewers.  Costume designer Anna Mary Scott Robbins discusses her work on the PBS website.

*   There was another incredible thrift store find reported last week.

*   Bloomberg posted a photo essay of the glory days of the NYC Garment District.

*  Here’s another photo essay, this one titled 121 Professional Sports Photographs Taken before 1925.  Thought the title is a bit misleading (there are quite a few photos of high school students) it’s a fascinating look back at sportswomen and sportsmen.  Thanks to Mod Betty for the link.


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Vintage Miscellany – February 15, 2015

On one of the coldest days of the year, I thought we could warm up with Betty in Miami, August 10, 1942.

Or just stay inside with a cup of something hot and the latest news…

*   In preparation of the Savage Beauty exhibition starting next month at the V&A Museum, much is being written about Alexander McQueen.  How has our view of him changed in the five years since his death?

*  And there are also McQueen books to be read.

*   The Sacramento (California) Public Library will soon be lending sewing machines, along with other tools.

*   Those of you in the UK have another great exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum, Thea Porter: 70s Bohemian Chic.

*  Where does one make a happy-looking hat?  In a jolly workroom, of course!

*   And another reason to visit the UK this spring is at the Imperial War Museum.  Fashion on the Ration features the clothes of WWII.

*   Is Patagonia the world’s most “authentic” brand?

*   And finally, here’s a story that is almost painful for me to report.  Someone pulled a vintage 1940s West Point athletic sweater that had belonged to Vince Lombardi from the Goodwill bins in Asheville.  It is now up for auction on the Heritage Auctions site, and it will end live on February 21.  I have a lot more to say about the reporting of this story, which will be posted later in the week.

This morning I read that the mystery of the sweater ‘s origin has been solved. The widow of a colleague of Lombardi lives in this area and was cleaning house. The sweater ended up in the donate pile.


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Vintage Miscellany – February 1, 2015

Miami, February, 1942.  That’s Betty and Sy, Sophia and Harry.

It’s rainy and bleak here, and so I’m jealous of Betty and Sy, Sophia and Harry.  But most of all I want Betty’s shoes.

And now for the news…

*   The emotional appeal of clothes that were made to last, featuring a local company, Appalach.

*   Skinny models have been around for longer than you night think.

*   Three young Norwegian fashion bloggers were part of a reality program that had them working in a Cambodian clothing factory.  There are links to the entire series of five short episodes.

*   Converse has successfully sued Ralph Lauren for trademark infringement.  The case concerns the Converse Chuck Taylor sneaker, which has distinctive design elements and which has been in production for 98 years.

*   Here’s proof that it is possible to have out-sourced manufacturing that is ethical.

*   Rick Owens’s latest show for men had a serious case of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Caution, not safe for all viewers

*   More and more museums are putting their collections on-line.

*   I thought having one pair of vintage skates was a big deal, but this guy has over 350 pairs. thanks to Christina for the link

*   I publicly announced last week that I like selfies, but that was before I knew they are a sin.

*   If you are a Downton Abbey watcher, then I’m sure you noticed that fashion show Lady Mary and Aunt Rosamund attended.   I’m a bit excited because the Biltmore Estate in Asheville will have Downton costumes on display starting this week.



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Vintage Miscellany – January 18, 2015

This lovely ad card was published by The McCall Company in 1904.  On the reverse it reminded home sewers that MCall patterns were “Stylish, reliable, perfect-fitting and easy to use.”  Who could want more from a sewing pattern?

And now for the news…

*   Have you ever wondered why McCall’s (who owns Vogue Patterns) does not just re-release some of those fantastic designer patterns of the past?  They explain why on the McCall Pattern Company Blog.

*  The hot new branch of law is fashion law.

*   This was new to me:  The Bonnie Cashin Digital Collection at UCLA.  thanks to witness2fashion for the link

*   Our clothes often send strong messages, as Chirlane McCray found out the hard way.

*  Is it important that Joan Didion is appearing in Celine ads?

*   And does it signal a new relationship between fashion and age?

*  Fashion critic Cathy Horyn is back and at The Cut.

*   If you are in need of a deep rabbit hole in which to fall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has provided one in the form of digitized vintage catalogues.

*   Forever 21 is at it again with the copying. thanks to Christina for the link

*   A day in the life of a museum curator.

On a more personal note, I see that I’ve (finally) gone over 700 WordPress followers.  Thanks to all of you who follow, read, and comment, and who let me know I’m not here talking to myself.  It is greatly appreciated.


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Vintage Miscellany – January 4, 2015

Winter is in full swing here in the Northern Hemisphere, or at least most of it.  I’ll admit I’m a little jealous of the warm people in today’s photos, which were taken in January, 1942 at Miami Beach.  Everyone looks happy and carefree enough, but note the little groups of people who have gathered to talk.  It was about a month after the US entered WWII, and was surely the topic on the minds of every person.

And now for some news…

*  Tonight is the US opening of season five of Downton Abbey.  Avoiding spoilers has been quite difficult, but I won’t spoil any of it for you.

*   Susan at Witness2Fashion post a fantastic chart from 1970 showing all the various skirt lengths.  I’ll admit that in 1970 I was firmly in the mini camp.

*   The LA Weekly did a great piece on the restoration of one of  Scarlett’s dresses from Gone with the Wind.  Most interesting was that this dress had been restored in the 1980s by the original designer,  Walter Plunkett.  (As a side note, I question why the author of this piece used the word zaftig to describe the collections manager of the museum.)

*  The Museum of London did an interesting video called The Anatomy of a Suit.

*   The most interesting name for a bicycle ever must be the Psycho.

*   The Museum at Fit Talks about counterfeit fashion bags.

*   The Fashion Originator’s Guild of America was an attempt by the fashion industry to eliminate fashion copiers.  Protected garments were labeled as such, but unfortunately, there does not seem to be a way to trace the maker from that label.  Kickshawproductions has posted a listing of the members of FOGA in 1941.

*   The Museums Association in the UK is planning to tighten their code of ethics in an effort to stop the selling of museum holdings in order to raise money for operating expenses.

*   My last link is probably not of interest to many readers, but the historian in me found it so interesting.  Titled Civil War Military Historians Are Freaking Out, the piece examines an ongoing debate in the Civil War academic community about how the social history of the War threatens to overshadow the military history.  For the life of me, I can’t see how the two approaches are mutually exclusive.



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