Vintage Miscellany – January 1, 2017

My guess is that the photo above was taken around 1925.  I love how the standing girl’s outfit is an assemblage of the feminine and the masculine, with her stockings and fancy shoes, and the blouse that appears to be silk.  The girl in the wagon has better mastered the tomboy look, with her socks, vest, and tie.

And now for some news:

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And the Winners Are…

Fashion in Detail –  jlnieling  (Please be in touch with your mailing address.)

Couture Sewing Techniques – Jennifer Faust

My thanks to all who threw her name into the pot, and most of all, for all the extremely kind comments.  In a world that seems like civility has been tossed aside, it is heart-warming to see evidence of graciousness and thoughtfulness.  Your readership is most appreciated, and I wish the best for all of us in the new  year, and beyond!



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The Trickle-down Effect

I don’t believe in trickle-down economics, but I do believe in trickle-down fashion.  In his fall, 1965 collection, Yves Saint Laurent included six dresses that were an hommage to artist Mondrian.  One of the dresses was on the cover of French Vogue in September 1965, and by February there was a sewing pattern available from Vogue patterns.  None of that is surprising, but what is a bit of a revelation is how quickly this dress made it to the mass market.

All of the items in today’s post are from the spring and summer 1966 JC Penney catalog.  This was a catalog that was in homes by the beginning of the season, and so was surely in the works before the end of 1965.  The decision to knock-off the idea must have been made soon after the styles were first shown.

Not only were the styles directly copied, they were also adapted to other garments like tops and skirts, and different colorways were used, apart from the primary colors plus black and white seen in the Yves Saint Laurent originals.

There were even styles for little girls, including accessories.  What about that handbag, and those sunglasses, and that triangle scarf?  A fifth grader was less than nine dollars away from a couture look costing thousands.


The Mondrian dress was available in sizes as small as a little girl’s three.

Some of the ad copy referenced Mondrian, while others did not.  Yves Saint Laurent was not mentioned, of course, but some of the copy did mention that this was a look straight from Paris.

It would be interesting to actually see one of these dresses and to examine how it was made.  The YSL originals were pieced, but I suspect these were made from fabric that was printed with the color-blocking, or maybe even with the color blocks and black stripes applied on top of the white base.  At $6 for a woman’s dress and $3.90 for the child’s, it does not seem possible that the time intensive process of piecing would have been feasible.

The trend was short lived.  There were no Mondrian/Saint Laurent designs in the fall winter 1966 JC Penney catalog, and none the following spring either.  If you were to find a vintage ready-to-wear dress of this style, I think it’s pretty safe to say it would be from 1966.

I’ve got to wonder if women wanted to continue wearing these dresses, seeing as how they were so connected to one specific season.  I’m pretty sure that anyone who made the Vogue version wouldn’t have easily given it up, as the pattern was pieced, and was quite difficult to make.  But at $6, I’m betting a lot of the mass market models went straight to the back of the closet.


Filed under Curiosities, Designers

The Vintage Traveler Annual Giveaway

It’s Christmas Eve and the first day of Hanukkah, and I wish all my readers a peaceful holiday season.  To celebrate, I’ve got two books to giveaway, Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer, and Modern Fashion in Detail, by Claire Wilcox and Valerie Mendes.  Both are duplicates from my library, and both are excellent.

Claire Shaeffer is well-known as a sewing teacher and Chanel expert, but she has also studied other couturiers techniques extensively.  And while the book is aimed at people who sew, anyone interested in couture will love this book.

Modern Fashion in Detail really should be titled 20th Century Fashion, as it covers the work of designers from Lucille to Christian Lacroix.  It’s a fascinating look at the details.

To enter, just leave a comment telling which book (or even both of them) you would love to own.  I’ll ship worldwide so the drawing is open to all.  I’ll pick the winners on New Years Day.

I want to thank all of you who have supported my research and collecting with your readership and comments.  It is truly delightful having a wonderful group of textile and fashion history lovers who are willing to help me solve my little mysteries and who give encouragement.  I wish you all peace.


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Help Me Plan My Trip to the Midwest

In celebration of our 40th wedding anniversary in February, my dear husband and I are planning a road trip through the eastern Midwest: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and West Virginia.  We are in the talking about it stage, where very few plans are concrete, so we were hoping some of you might be able to make recommendations on things to see and places to stay.  Here’s what we are sort of planning:


Reds Baseball


National aircraft Museum



Chicago History Center

Art Institute

White Sox Baseball

Southern Wisconsin

Northern Indiana

Lake Michigan

Dearborn, Michigan

Henry Ford Museum


Kent, Ohio

Kent State Museum

Canton, Ohio

NFL Hall of Fame

Marietta, Ohio

Through West Virginia

And back to North Carolina

Since this is a his and hers trip, we need to plan for things other than fashion and art.  Tim likes art and science, sports and history.  So he is pretty easy to plan for.

I’d appreciate any ideas on other museums along the way, interesting hotels, and anything you know would be of interest to me.  That includes vintage shopping.  We only know where we will be staying in Cincinnati and Marietta.  Feel free to post here or to send an email.  Oh, the trip will be in May or June.

Thanks!  Lizzie and Tim


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Vintage Miscellany – December 18, 2016

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this photo before, but I couldn’t find it so here she is again.  The photo is dated February, 1952, but that’s all the information I have about this very put together woman in the snow.  From her socks to the mittens to her jacket and scarf, this woman has matching down to an art.  We miss so much with vintage photos that are black and white, that it’s a treat to see one in color.

And now for the news…

Please note that you may disagree with my reporting of the Trump family’s clothing manufacturing interests, but it will not keep me from continuing to do so as long as this is an issue within our country.  For the past month, each time I’ve reported on this issue, I’ve received criticism for doing so.   This tends to derail the conversation about other important topics.  Therefore I ask that if you have comments on the matter to please address them in an email to me.  But be advised, I will not be changing my reporting policy.


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Currently Reading – Empress of Fashion, Diana Vreeland

This biography of Diana Vreeland has been out since 2012, and I’d been meaning to get it and read it, but it was not until I ran across a copy in a used bookstore that I was reminded to do so.  So much has been written about Vreeland that I feel she needs little introduction.  As far as fashion is concerned, she held three main positions: American fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar 1939 through 1962, associate editor then editor in chief at Vogue 1962 through 1971, and Special Consultant at the Costume Institute from 1972 until 1986.

What makes this biography so good is that Stuart somehow managed to cut through all the fantasy Vreeland had built around her life to give a true picture of what really transpired.  Vreeland was never one to be bothered with factual truth; she was more interested in the essence of truth.  To really understand this, I suggest reading Vreeland’s DV before reading Empress of Fashion.

As much as I love losing myself in vintage fashion magazines – the fruit of Vreeland’s labor from 1936 through 1971 – it is her time at the Costume Institute that I find to be the most interesting.  After being fired by Vogue in 1971, Vreeland was at loose ends when the opportunity to organize exhibitions for the Met’s Costume Institute came her way.  Her official title was that of Special Consultant, but she was actually acting as curator of exhibitions.

From the beginning, Vreeland’s approach to fashion exhibition was unorthodox.  She was not interested in chronology, nor in the construction of garments.  Her belief was that the important thing was the mood that clothing portrayed.  She never let historical facts get in the way of how an exhibition should feel to the visitor to the museum.  The curatorial staff at the Costume Institute often went behind Vreeland, correcting  anachronisms and historical errors.

Despite her dismissal of a factual approach, Mrs. Vreeland  did not believe that fashion was art.  As she put it, “People say a little Schiaparelli design is an art form.  Why can’t it just be a very good dress?”  And that, to me is the essence of Mrs. Vreeland’s contribution to fashion display.  Fashion should be seen as an important part of a  culture, and whether or not it is art makes no difference.

Vreeland transformed the Costume Institute from an afterthought at the Met to a department that brought in the crowds.  Many of her exhibitions broke attendance records, and brought needed attention to fashion studies and the display of dress.  Still, many did not agree with her methods.  The director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London  wrote in 1983, “… We are all totally opposed to Diana Vreeland’s degradation of fashion.”

But no matter, as Diana continued doing what she did best, creating exhibitions that inspired designers and delighted the public.  And while I might prefer a more factual approach to fashion curation, I can certainly appreciate how much she did for the discipline.


Filed under Currently Reading