I know; it’s been a while. As the title says, we are in the process of downsizing. What that means is that we are selling the adorable little cottage where I have stored my collection for the past sixteen years. So between sorting through everything, and getting my priorities straight, time and energy have been short.
We bought the cottage after my mother-in-law was flooded out of her house in 2004. We thought she might want to live there, but as it turned out she didn’t. But we kept the house anyway and over the years it has been a source of joy to me. We held family gatherings there. And I have spent lots of happy hours with my stuff.
But now the cottage has to go, and it’s really more for its sake than for mine. We simply can’t keep up with the maintenance of a 116 year old house. It’s for the best. And yet, here I am forced to reassess the items I’ve accumulated over the past two decades.
So please bear with me while the sorting and rehoming continues! But don’t worry, the vast part of my collection is staying with me.
And now for a public service announcement:
Get the covid vaccine. This is not rocket science, but it is biology. Vaccines work. That’s why you don’t have to worry about polio or the measles. That’s why smallpox is no longer naturally occurring in our world. This is not political. It is doing the right thing for humanity.
That said, we were delighted with what we found in Fountain Inn. The director of the museum, Kenzie Galloway, wanted to do a clothing exhibition, but the museum’s collection did not have enough garments to put on a good show, so she reached out to long-time members of the community and asked for loans of their clothes, and those of deceased family members. The result was a well thought out exhibition, with every piece a part of the story of the town.
Furman’s college colors are white and purple, and the use of them has been traced to the early 1890s. My guess that the use of light blue and black for Fred’s coat indicate this was his class’s colors, which were different from the college colors.
I want to congratulate Kenzie for a job well done! The exhibition is running until July 30, 2021, so there is still time to see it if you are in the Greenville area.
The three owners were also avid swimmers, so they worked on the knit until it was good for swimming and not just splashing about in the water. In 1921 the team at Jantzen began marketing their suits as swimming suits instead of bathing suits. By then Jantzen suits were being marketed to both men and women, and their famous diving girl logo had been designed.
The Jantzen story is well-documented. The company advertised heavily and they also released catalogs for both retail and wholesale. I have a fair collection of them, mainly from the 1950s, so I was glad to get this earlier one.
Unlike some companies, Jantzen maintained an archive even after the original families sold the business. They have not only a nice collection of Jantzen swimsuits, but catalogs, artwork, and copies of the in-house magazine, Jantzen Yarns.
The Take-Off model came with a removable skirt that doubled as a cape. The straps could be adjusted for three different looks.
Jantzen developed several textured knits, like the Kava knit seen throughout this catalog. Lastex thread had been invented and marketed starting in 1931, but it took swimsuit makers a few years before they fully embraced the new (and improved) technology.
I’ve dated this towel to circa 1973. In that year one could also buy a sweater with Chaplin’s face, and if you had acted very quickly before the product was pulled from the market due to copyright issues, you could buy a Whiting & Davis mesh handbag. 1973 seems to be the year that Chaplin made a comeback. It was the year after he had been awarded an honorary Oscar for his ground-breaking work in film, so he must have been on people’s minds.
The other type is like my Charlie Chaplin towel. It’s thick and full, and the design is woven in rather than printed onto the terrycloth.
That RN number on the label proved to be the key to the company that produced the towel. There is an online database where you can type in the number, and it tells you who owned the label. It’s a handy little tool.
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.
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.
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!