The Rest of New York

I was sorting through photo files this afternoon and realized I’d not made a general post about my recent trip to New York City.  My visit this time was a bit different, as my good friend Jill and I went with her twenty-four tear old son Austin, who met up with two of his friends in the city.  Much of the time was spent showing her son and his one friend the sights they wanted to see.  It was really a treat, as I taught Austin in fifth grade.  Every teacher ought to be able to spend some time with former students after they become adults!

Actually much of the itinerary was set by Austin, who enjoys history (I wonder how that happened?)  He was in fourth grade when the attacks of 9/11 happened, and top on his list was the 9/11 Memorial and museum.  The last time I was in that area was before the museum opened, so it was a first-time visit for me as well.

There is simply no way to explain the impact of this museum.  Thankfully, there was a section of art, which helped me process it all.

When the above quote from the Aeneid was revealed at the museum, there was a bit of controversy about it having being taken out of context.  Regardless, it was a very moving wall, with the blue tiles that symbolized the way so many have described the blue of that September morning.

There was an entire gallery of art, and I especially loved these two quilted banners.  Reflections by Martha Kotter, and Cutting Off by Noriko Misawa.

We walked part of the way across the Brooklyn Bridge.  It was just too hot to go the entire way, and besides, we were getting hungry.

I never get tired of Chinatown:  the colors and the smells and the people.

We don’t have a train station in our little town, so Grand Central was quite the experience.

And even though visitors generally can only see the ground floor, the Chrysler Building always amazes with the stunning Art Deco details and murals.

The New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham died the week before we visited the city, and already he was remembered as the corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue was named in his honor.

Across the street, Bergdorf Goodman decorated a window in his memory.

The next day was devoted to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  Again, this was new to me.  The last few times I’ve been to the city, the islands were closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy.

I really enjoyed Ellis Island.  It is a site that all Americans need to visit, if for no other reason than to remind us that we are all immigrants.  The only building visitors see is this one, which was the big processing center.

“Immigrant luggage brought through Ellis Island…  One baggage handler said he could recognize the nationality of an immigrant by the style of baggage. ‘I take one look at the baggage,” he said, ‘and I can tell by the way the knots are tied around the bundles…'”

If there are clothes and textiles to be found, you know I’ll find them.  One section of the museum was devoted to some of the belongings brought to America by the newcomers.

In remembrance of John Lennon, in Central Park.

The settings on my camera somehow got messed up, and it produced the filtered photo above.  Taken on the top of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the structure is Psycho Barn, by Cornelia Parker.

And I’ll leave you with this world class view.

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The Ski-O-Tard from White Stag

One of the great things about collecting it that there is always something new to be discovered.  Take the garment above.  It’s a White Stag creation called the Ski-O-Tard.  I was lucky to spot this recently on etsy, and was even luckier that the thing still had the original hangtag attached.

Hangtags often contain very valuable information, and in this case, the most important info was the name of the garment.  Without the unusual name, I might never have been able to learn a thing about the Ski-O-Tard.  And even with the name, I’ve been able to find only a few images, all dated 1948.

Even though White Stag was in the process of copyrighting the name, I think it is safe to assume that the idea just never caught on.  For one thing, all the bunched up fabric between the legs must have felt like one was wearing a diaper.  And while it probably was warm, it was so bulky that wearing it beneath slim-fitting trousers would have been difficult.

Although it was meant to be worn as a first layer, all the photos I found showed it without pants.  One photo is the January 1948 cover of See, a magazine for men, and another was in the pages of the January 8, 1948 issue of The Dispatcher, a Longshoreman Union newspaper.

When I posted a photo of the tag on Instagram, Julie at Jet Set Sewing commented that the Ski-O-Tard reminded her of the Claire McCardell “diaper” bathing suit.  I had not seen the resemblance, but after Julie mentioned it, I certainly did.  McCardell’s suit dates from the early 1940s, so it could be that it directly influenced the designer of the White Stag Ski-O-Tard.

In the 1940s and 1940s, White Stag used this tag in red, but also similar ones in bright blue and in white with red lettering.  Labels from the 1960s are usually white with gold lettering.  I only am telling this because White Stag garments can be really hard to date, as sportswear , while it did follow fashion, did not change as quickly as fashionable dress.   In this case, the Ski-O-Tard has very strong shoulder pads, at a time when shoulders were beginning to soften up a bit.

I thought you might enjoy seeing what the Ski-O-Tard looks like when not fastened at the waist.  Can you see how the concept might have been improved with a bit less fabric at the crotch?

As always, I welcome any additional information about the Ski-O-Tard.

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Vintage Sewing: Simplicity 6250

It seems like it has been forever since I did a sewing post.  Part of it is that I’m not much of a summer sewer.  I like a cold, snowy day with no other agenda in order to really get serious about sewing.  Nevertheless, I have managed to make a few things in the past warm months.

High on my list was a swimsuit cover-up, which I made from  Butterick’s Two-Way Wrap Dress pattern, number 4699.  I made it from the silly Scotty dog print you can see there, a print I’d bought to make pajamas.  But I decided I needed a cover-up more than the pjs, so there you are.  I don’t have a photo of the finished article, but it looks just like the pattern illustration, except that I made it a bit shorter.  It’s not terribly flattering, but it does allow one to get from hotel room to hotel pool without feeling over exposed.  So mission accomplished.

I had a bit of the print left over and on a whim decided to made a matching hat.  I had several hat patterns from which to choose, but I went with one I’d never used, Simplicity 6250.  I like a basic bucket shape, and this was the closest pattern I had.  I used a tiny waffle pique for the outside, and the Scotty print was to be the lining.  Actually the pattern does not call for a lining, so I used the print for the underside of the brim, attached the brim to the crown, and then put the crown lining in by hand.

I realize that I made a cutting mistake, which was partially caused by the fact that my print fabric had to be pieced to form the brim.  Because of that my Scotties are standing on their heads when the brim is flipped back!

The pattern is super easy, with the only hard part being the construction of the crown.  You have to mark it carefully to make sure it all comes to a nice, crisp, six-way point.

This turned out to be a great little beach hat.  It is light enough that I could roll it up and stick it in my pocket, and then pull it out when it was needed.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be using up more scraps left over from prior projects with this pattern.

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Vintage Miscellany – July 24, 2016

The latest OMG-I-MUST-Have-This vintage clothing object of lust on the internet seems to be the 1930s one piece beach pyjama.  Pyjamas (or pajamas, if you wish) as clothing for Western women started out in the boudoir, but in 1924 they were seen in public for the first time, on the Lido in Venice.  Pyjamas were originally two pieces, much like a set of pajamas today.  They were loose and comfortable, and perfect for the beach.

Were women actually wearing their sleepwear on the beach, in public?  Can you picture the woman above sleeping in her outfit?  The answer to both is yes.

The one piece pyjama came about just a year or two after this 1929 photo was taken.  That garment too was meant for both bedroom and beach, and I strongly suspect that most of the “beach” pyjamas for sale on the internet now never saw the light of day.  But it is exactly the same garment, so it really does not matter.

And now for some news…

* The last time I posted a Vintage Miscellany, there was no Pokemon Go.  Can you imagine?  What were people going to do all summer?  Anyway, some museums  including the museum at Auschwitz, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Arlington National Cemetery have decided to ban the game, calling it inappropriate for the surroundings.  I agree.

* Westminster Abbey has an incredible clothing collection, all of it made for funeral effigies.  Conservation is currently underway.

* Mainbocher will be the subject of an upcoming exhibition at the Chicago History Museum.  Opens October 22, 2016.

* I’ve written a lot about how over time, sportswear for women has become more functional, so I found the whole Nike dress debacle to be interesting.

*  An exhibition on Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman will open at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney in August 2016.  I’ll be writing about her in the near future.

*  The Miss Teen USA is dropping the swimsuit competition.

* As the Museum at FIT  is showing now, military uniforms have long been an inspiration for fashion.  Still, some US Marines were not amused when Burberry sent a very close replica of a Marine dress blue jacket down their runway.

*  I loved this interesting history of the Converse All Star.

*  Because looking cool is actually more important than being cool.

*  It’s bad enough for a kid to be seriously ill, so every little comfort is a fantastic morale lift.

*  Can cotton manufacturing make a comeback in Manchester, UK?

*   If you want a Savile Row quality suit, you really do have to pay for it.

*  Pioneering Black model Pat Cleveland opened doors, and still gives a great interview.

*  Here’s the story of a dress made from WWII silk escape maps.

*  The “fake shirt”, otherwise known as a dickey, makes news.

*  The archivists at The Met are trying to make sense of the Charles James archive.

*  Of course these photos of the Parisian fashion industry in 1910 are staged, but they are still marvelous.

*  Fast fashion powerhouse Zara has been caught (again) stealing the work of an independent designer, and has justified by saying the designer was too small to matter.

*  “This summer the New Museum presents The Keeper, an exhibition dedicated to the act of preserving and collecting objects, artworks, and images.” ArtDaily.  I’m really sorry I missed that one.

Well, that is a lot of links, but it has been almost a month since the last post.  I promise to keep to the schedule from now on (fingers crossed).

The great majority of images in my collection are from North America, but there are times when I just have to add one from other parts of the world.  Today’s photo is from Germany, and I’d sure appreciate any and all help in reading the inscription.

UPDATE:  I’ve heard from a lovely reader in Berlin who has kindly provided some insight on the card’s inscription:

“Foto Goebel” is the name of the photographer and his shop.He had two dependances:One in Heringsdorf and one in Berlin/Mitte (Wilhelmstraße 7).
Heringsdorf is a very famous seaside resort on an island called Usedom in the very North of Germany at the Baltic Sea.It is famous for its architecture from the 19th century and always was an “upper class” resort in the earlier years. After 1945 it belonged to the Soviet Zone. After the wall came down in 1989 it became a place for everyone!
The Lady signed “Bln. 19.August 1929″.”Bln.” is the short form for Berlin and I think she was on holiday in Heringsdorf like lots of well situated Berliners did in the roaring 20s!
“Zur freundlichen Erinnerung” means “as friendly memento/remembrance“.  Erna Hebecker
The name “Erna” is as German as Sauerkraut and really often at that time.
Many thanks to Ingo at www.rockingchair-vintage.com.

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Terminology

Our words are important.  This is true in politics and in fashion history.  I love people who have the strength to sell old clothes online because I know how much work it can be, but what I don’t like is how a garment can morph from its original purpose to something entirely different in the interest of selling that garment.

The garment shown above is a gymsuit.  Period.  It is not a playsuit.  It is not a romper. It is, despite what etsy listings would lead one to believe, a gymsuit.

This is a bathing suit by Tina Leser.  Period.  It is not a playsuit.  It is not a romper. It is, despite what etsy listings would lead one to believe, a bathing suit.

 

This is a 1911 bathing suit.  A similar suit is currently listed on etsy as a “1920’s Cotton Playsuit, Beach Romper, Athletic Wear,  Bloomers” but it too, is a bathing suit.  Nowhere in the description, nor in the tags, was the term bathing suit even used.  That would completely  eliminate that suit from the search I regularly do for older bathing suits.

But more importantly, things like this change the terminology of fashion and of clothing.  It’s like calling a short 1920s dress a “mini”, or a long 1930s dress a “maxi”.  These terms did not come into use until decades later, and so using them in an older context is incorrect.  I will agree that it is possible that some people might have referred to the Tina Leser type suit as a playsuit, but rompers were for toddlers, not for grown women.

As of this writing, there are 3125 listings for “playsuit” in the women’s vintage category on etsy.  Most of these are for 1950s and 1960s bathing suits.  Some are for 1980s jumpsuits.  And all are titled and tagged in a manner that a serious collector is never going to find them.

UPDATE: I know better than to make a statement so definite as ” rompers were for toddlers, not for grown women.”  A friend has emailed a photo of a 1920s sewing pattern of a one piece garment with legs for ladies, misses and girls, and the pattern refers to it as a romper.  Let me rephrase that to say that in my experience, rompers were worn by my little sister and cousins in the 1960s, and I wore culotte dresses in the 60s and jumpsuits in the 70s.

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Manus X Machina, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Part III

Today I finish up tantalizing all of you with photos of stunning clothing.  And today’s view holds some absolutely stellar clothing.

Lace

Above is a suit from Yves Saint Laurent, from the spring 1963 haute couture.  It seemed to be a real crowd favorite, and I can see why.

The lace is just exquisite! It was also made by machine.

The dress on the left is from Simone Rocha, from her spring 2014 ready-to-wear collection.  She called this the “Wet Lace Frill Dress”.  It’s not really wet; the illusion is achieved by use of a foil polyurethane layer laminated to back of the lace of the bodice, which is nylon.  It was not particularity appealing.

At first glance one might have “1920s” fit through the head when looking at the dress on the right, but it is actually a 1963 cocktail dress from Balenciaga.  The lace is machine made, but the dress is constructed by hand.

Here’s where I got to show off a bit of knowledge to my friend, Jill.  This silk lace gown is by Chanel, and is from 1938.  You can see the precise placement of the medallion motifs, but what you can’t see in my photo is how the lace was trimmed and overlapped to match, instead of being constructed with straight seams.

And while Coco Chanel’s use of flowers is exuberant, next to Karl Lagerfeld’s floral concoctions the decoration on this dress looks understated.

This is the place in the exhibition where I was to the point that I’d been exposed to all the hard plastic and 3D garments I could take.  By looking though my photos you are not going to see an accurate representation of this part of the exhibition.  The Hussein Chalayan and Iris van Herpen and threeARFOUR hard dresses simply ceased to be of interest to me.  Maybe due to my viewing of the Iris van Herpen show at the High Museum in Atlanta, I had seen these concepts recently and they were fresh on my mind.

Call me old fashioned, but beautiful as those clothes are, I’ve got to question if they are, in fact, fashion.

This 1920s dress has an interesting history.  It came to the Met as part of the Brooklyn Museum collection, and had been donated to the Brooklyn by Mercedes de Acosta.  The dress and many more garments containing lace had belonged to her sister, Rita de Acosta Lydig.  Lydig was a collector of antique laces, which she had incorporated into her new clothing, much of which was made by Callot Soeurs.  While there is no label, it is thought this dress of handmade lace and black silk was made by Callot Soeurs.

Made around 1870, I’m pretty sure this is the oldest garment in the exhibition.  It is all hand Irish crochet lace.  It looked a bit forlorn and out of place.

Update:  I’ve been told that this dress is miscatalogued, and is actually from the early 20th century.  This is certainly out of my range of knowledge.

Update II:  I have had the opinions of five persons who are very knowledgeable in 19th and early 20th century clothing, and all of them place this dress at 1908-1912.  Interesting.

Leather

This coat by Paul Poiret was the biggest surprise (to me, anyway) of the show.  None of the many reviews I had read pictured this, one of my all-time favorite garments.  It was in the 1996 Haute Couture show, and in the 2007 Poiret exhibition, so maybe the reviewers had already seen it and did not find it to be of great interest.  If so, I beg to differ!

The white decoration is leather, cut and applied by hand.  You can even see the stitch marks.  The back is also decorated, but unfortunately the method of display did not give a good look at the back.

By contrast, the newer, machine and even laser cut leather decorated garments just did not measure up to the work of this coat.  I was a bit embarrassed for them!

2013 haute couture from Dolce and Gabbana.  The decoration is green laser cut lambs fleece.

Here’s another 1960s look from Paco Rabanne, this one much more wearable that the metal dress I posted earlier. It is made from diamond shaped pieces of leather and astrakhan fur, linked together with pieces of metal.

Synthetic leather was also shown.  This 2013 dress from Comme des Garcon, is made of handmade faux leather flowers, hand linked, over a machine sewn base.

The Tailleur  and the Flou

And as if there was not already enough to digest, the visitor to Manus X Machina is treated to an appendix in the form of showing the two types of haute couture ateliers: the tailleur (tailoring) and the flou (dressmaking).

As a sort of centerpiece of this section, the curators placed a working toile from Charles James (left) next to several more recent works that appear to be toiles, but are, in fact, finished garments.

These two dresses are from Andre Courreges, and I’m sure you recognize them as being from the 1960s.  We sometimes look at clothing from the 60s as being “simple” but a lot of skill goes into the making of dresses like these.

A perfectly executed seam.

Please forgive this incredibly awful photo, but I have to show it to make the next point.  The dress above is by Coco Chanel, made in 1927 of wool jersey and silk satin.  It is an excellent example of the type of thing made in the flou atelier.

The tailleur is represented with a lineup of Chanel suits, with the one on the left dating from 1963, and the one on the right being from 2015.

While the suits on the left and the center are pretty much what you would expect from Chanel, a close-up of the jacket on the right is a whole new thing.  What you are looking at is not fabric at all, but is a 3D printed mesh.  It appears to me that it is laid over a layer of fabric.

The suit looks to be perfectly wearable, but I’ve got some doubts about that.  But it is at least a use of 3D printing that people can relate to, which seems to me to be important if the technology is to be accepted as a viable alternative to conventional fabric.

And with that, I’ll finish up this tour of Manus X Machina.  It’s on view through September 5, 2016, and if possible, you need to put this at the top of your summer plans.  I’d love to hear from others who have already seen the show.

 

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Manus X Machina, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Part II

One thing I need to point out before diving into today’s post is that as a show that is in large part showing how advancing technology is being used in high fashion, many of the clothes in Manus X Machina are less than a decade old.  It’s possible that a few are even still available to buy in high-end retail establishments.

Given the nature of the show this is necessary, but what surprised me was how many of the newer items were courtesy of the fashion house that made them. Probably the most heavily represented was Chanel.  It gave the show a bit of a commercial air, a criticism that is often mentioned in conjunction with the Met’s Chanel show of 2005.

That aside, and regardless if you give a care about current fashion, with almost 200 garments on view, there is more than enough of the best of the Costume Institute for visitors to enjoy.

Artificial Flowers

The dress and detail above are from a 1928 court presentation gown from French couturiers, the Boué Soeurs.  The dress really is a showstopper with the silver threads and the lovely silk flowers.  And even though this is haute couture from the 1920s, much of the work, such as the silver embroidery and the picot edging, was done by machine.

At this point I want to acknowledge the superb work done by the Costume Institute conservators.  This dress looks so fresh and new, but you can be sure it was not received in such condition.  I am in awe of their skill.

There is a clever little detail that tells us this cape and the matching dress is from Chanel.  Can you see it?

Look at the row of pink pearls at the hem of the dress that are used in place of the Chanel chain.  Two Chanelisms for the price of one.

I thought it was really interesting how the common yo-yo, so often found in Depression era quilts and made from feedsack material, has found its way into Chanel haute couture.  Note how the “flowers” are small at the top, and gradually increase in size.

Each flower has little crystals sewn in the center.  There are 1,300 of them.  From the 2010 Spring haute couture.

And here is another from Chanel, a wedding ensemble from 2005.  Coco Chanel used the camellia as her signature flower, but in less conspicuous ways than this dress made of 2500 handmade flowers.  This dress could have also been featured in the feathers category.  Later on in the exhibition, there is a Chanel lace gown showing her more restrained use of artificial camellias.

Again, the color in my photo is off.  This dress is white.

Anyone who ever doubts that Miuccia Prada is very influenced by the past, especially the 1930s, has only to look at these two dresses from the current Prada fall ready-to-wear collection.  The embroidery is done by machine, while the clusters of sequin and bead flowers are made and attached by hand.

What can I possibly say about Monsieur Dior’s floral fantasies?  These two, from 1952 and 1953, were sewn by machine, but otherwise were made by hand.  Note how in both dresses the embroidery “fades” near the hem.

How many shades of green do you suppose the embroiderers used to make those leaves?

Pleating

Here we have not one Fortuny silk pleated dress, but five! Marian0 Fortuny developed a special process for pleating light-weight silk, which he used from 1907 until his death in the 1940s.  The gowns were based on his vision of Greek clothing, and they were decorated with glass beads to add weight, and often trimmed with his hand-printed satin and velvet fabrics.

 

See the little attached beads along the hem?

Many of Fortuny’s processes have never been duplicated, though many have tried.  Notable among them is Mary McFadden, who in the mid 1970s patented a similar pleated fabric made of polyester.  The colors were rich, the decoration often lavish, and the silhouettes straight and long.

This part of the exhibition was very interesting because it was in a hall with the Fortunys on one wall, and the McFaddens on the wall opposite.  The view was simply breathtaking.

Here you see Madame Grés paired with Iris van Herpen.  I’m afraid I witnessed more than one visitor stifling giggles at the sight of the van Herpen skirt.  The top though, is a marvel, being 3-d printed.  The comparison with the pleating of Madame Grés was well done, though the Grés gowns were in the background, and a bit in the shadows.  It was impossible to really see the details.

Here is another example of what makes this exhibition so interesting.  The 1990 pleated pieces above are by Issey Miyake, and on the opposite wall they have displayed the same pieces flat on the floor.

I should have flipped this photo, as the order is reversed, but the closest piece in each photo is the same.  Did they come with instructions for wearing?

I remember these skirts from Raf Simons for Dior.  There were part of the 2015 spring haute couture.  Much of what you see was made by machine, though the pleats were set by hand.  I’m not sure why this was deemed important enough to show off three looks from the collection, but I suspect it was just for the visual impact.

I suppose you can call this technique pleating.  The original concept is the brown dress, made by Pierre Cardin in 1968.  It’s polyester that was heat-molded.  The black dress is from Junya Watanabe and was made from a similar technique in 2015.

Okay, this is where I admit that there are times when I simply do not “get” everything.  Maybe because the juxtaposition of Dior’s 1947 Bar suit with Hussein Chatlayan’s 2007 Mechanical Dress, and Paco Rabanne’s 1968 dress made of links of aluminum was too jarring.  Perhaps I’d already absorbed my limit.  But even while standing there in the gallery, I scratched my head, though happy to see both the Dior and the Rabanne.

Then I realized that the exhibition takes a bit of a detour at that point, and this was a bit of an introduction to the inner workings of a garment.  The Dior is completely dependent on the inside structure of the jacket, the Rabanne has no interior structure, and the Chatlayan is a mix of the two.  I’ll show more of that part of the exhibition in the next installment.

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