Tag Archives: Paris

Seahorse Silk Blouse: Tache, Rue de Castglione

I realize after looking at this photo that I should have taken the time to try and do a better job of showing just how lovely this late 1940s or early 1950s blouse is. I’m hoping the details will show the special-ness of it.

Every so often the question will arise on vintage clothing chat board, “What makes a garment museum quality or museum worthy?” There’s no easy answer to the question, and it depends on the museum and the collection housed within. For example, the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art might turn up its nose at a rather plain mid-nineteenth century dress made and worn by a woman in Kansas, but that same dress might be an important part of a museum that interprets the history of that state.

When it comes to adding something to my own collection, I have several things to think about. “Museum quality” isn’t one of them, but “collection worthiness” is. An item has to not just fit into my theme of sports and travel wear, it must fill a spot that is currently empty, or it has to be a better example of something I already own.

Blouses from the post WWII era are quite common, and I already have a few, including a navy one in rayon, so unless one is pretty special I’m not going to be interested.

I love the under-the-sea theme of the embroidery with the seaweed and seahorses.  But notice also the quality of the embroidery.  This is tambour, which is done with a hook. There is also a machine which can produce a good tambour facsimile, and I’m not enough of an embroidery person to be able to tell the difference. I’m guessing it is machine work because it is just so tiny.  I can’t imagine it being done by hand, but expert embroiderers are magicians.  All I can say is that the work is beautifully done, and the back is neat and lovely as well.

This is the arm opening, and you can see the tambour that is applied to the band that secures it.  Also note the button, which is starburst-cut mother-of-pearl.

I sort of wish the blouse were actually this color, but this is just my camera playing tricks again.  The blouse is navy.  But I included this shot because I wanted to make sure the row of tucks would be noticed.  You probably can’t tell, but they are actually stitched by hand.

This blouse was meant to be tucked into a skirt or slacks, and to help keep it looking neat, there is a series of eight tucks (in addition to these decorative ones) all around  the waist.

The label reads “Tache, Paris, 6 R. de Castiglione. The Rue de Castiglione is a shopping street that connects the Place Vendôme to the Tuileries Gardens. It’s a nice area of the city.  Unfortunately, I have found nothing at all about Tache.  I assume it was a store that sold pricey goods. Today, it appears as if there is a spa located in the space, which is across the street from a Weston Hotel.

As would be expected on a garment of this quality, there is a mixture of machine stitching and hand finishing.  The hem is hand stitched, as are the bindings at the neck and arms.  The machine-stitched side and shoulder seams are finished with a hand overcast stitch.

I also consider condition when deciding on a purchase.  I can deal with a bit of less-than-perfect-ness, especially if the garment is really good. Rarity also is considered.  I’d want a 1960s sportswear piece to be almost perfect, but I’m willing to be a little less picky when it comes to a piece from the 1910s. In this case, the condition is very good, with one light spot and a tiny repaired hole.  There are also some seams that have come loose.  Those I’ll fix with basting.

This was an item I spotted on Instagram, from Ballyhoo Vintage Clothing.  Sellers, if you are not on Instagram, you might be missing opportunities to sell your stuff.


Filed under Collecting, Novelty Prints, Vintage Clothing

Paris – Post WWII

Only three years after the war was over, European countries were ready and open for the tourist business.  This great print was the cover of Holiday magazine in May 1948. The article talks about how people were getting over the sorrow of German occupation, and were getting on with life.

It also mentions the fashion business, and how the haute couture was struggling with various problems – the continuing fabric shortages, the high wages and taxes that must be paid, and the lack of foreign customers.   Many houses were pretty much surviving on the profits from perfumes.   And the article mentions a “baldish, stubby newcomer named Christian Dior” who was helping to bring the fashionable back to Paris with the introduction of his “New Look.”

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Filed under Travel, World War II

Milliner Suzy of Paris (or Somewhere)

Over three years after writing this post, the internet rewarded me with the true answer to my questions about this hat.  It was not made by Madame Suzy of Paris, it was made by an American company headed by milliner Sylvia Whitman Seigenfeld.  Her daughter Suzy has filled me in on the story.

Here you see the latest distraction in my life.  Made from a fine wool jersey knit, it was probably intended for wintertime sports or casual wear.  The label reads, “Suzy” with another one from the store, “Flint & Kent, Buffalo”.

I love hats, but they are not my strong suit.  I bought this one purely on the strength of the sporty design, though I knew I had heard/read/seen the Suzy name somewhere.  After several days of searching for information and reading, I imagine I recalled her name from the pages of Vogue and Bazaar magazines of the 1930s and 40s, as her work was often used in their editorial pages.  Finding good, solid information about her has proved to be a bit difficult.

According to the V&A site Suzy became known in the 1920s and had a shop at 5 rue de la Paix in Paris.  During WWII she designed hats for the American market, and she stopped production in the 1950s.

All that information was a good starting place, but  it was incredibly short on details.  Continuing on, I found an interesting hat at the Antiquedress.com site.  It is a bonnet, identified as 1890s, with a Madame Suzy at 5 rue de la Paix label.  Interesting, as several sources, including the V&A one have the label starting in the 1920s.

And then I found an article in a millinery magazine from 1921, and it identifies Madame Suzy as the hat designer for Maria Guy at her shop on the Place Vendome.

By the mid 1930s, Suzy must have been well-known to American women, as I found hundreds of references to her and her new styles in various US newspapers of the time.  There were American stores selling adaptations of her styles.  Then, when WWII came, Suzy left Paris, and ended up in New York, making and selling her hats.  With the end of the Occupation, she returned to Paris in 1944.  In the post-war period, she continued traveling to the US, in an effort to help re-establish the French fashion industry.

I can find no primary references to Suzy after 1949, and several sources said she closed shop in 1951, and others said in the 1950s.

I’m thinking my cap dates to Suzy’s New York years.  I’m in the process of working my way through several dozen fashion magazines from the time, hoping that by magic I’ll turn a page and there it will be.  It has happened before so keep your fingers crossed for me please!

UPDATE:  I’ve heard from a very knowledgeable collector of antique and vintage hats, and this person thinks my hat is from a different Suzy than Madame Suzy of Paris.  If any of you have any information about other Suzys, please let me hear from you!

A word about Flint & Kent:  Established in 1865, it was an upscale Buffalo department store.  It changed hands in 1954, and ceased to be in 1956.


Filed under Collecting, Designers

1950s Paris Novelty Print

Subtitled, How Not to Do Business

As promised, here’s a bit more about this stack of 1950s and 60s novelty prints that I recently stumbled across in a local antique mall.  I almost missed these, as they were stuck on a low shelf in a booth that sells primarily modern Fiesta dishes.  Why modern Fiesta dishes are allowed in an antique mall is a very good question – one that I cannot answer.  As you’ll see, there are a few other disturbing questions about the whole process of buying the one bolt of cloth that I knew I had to have.

I really love antique malls.  They are like a giant treasure hunt where you never know that the treasure is until you spot it.  (Tammis Keefe tipsy reindeer napkins, anyone?)   And while you generally have to sift through a lot of junk, the possibility of finding great things usually makes for a nice hour or so of searching.  Usually the staff is very helpful and the prices are clearly displayed, and most places will even give a discount on larger purchases.

But then there are the times that try a vintage lover’s soul.

After spotting the stack, I looked through them and realized there was a sweet 1950s print depicting the streets of Paris.  Holding my breath, I tried to find the price tag.  I looked and looked on the bolt, on the other bolts, on the floor, on the wall…  No price tag.  At that point I felt the hassle coming on.  But I knew I had another 45 minutes or so in order to shop the entire mall, so I took the bolt to the counter to see if they could track down the seller.  Simple, right?  Wrong.

After close to an hour, I made my way back to the counter with another item to purchase, and I stood waiting for the two cashiers to help.  They were both consumed with a guy who was buying a piece of pottery.  Finally one of them looked my way, and I inquired about the price of the fabric.  The other worker said she had called both people who own the booth and neither answered their phones.  Ten minutes later, she decided to text one of them, and I realized at that point that there was a real possibility I would not be taking the fabric home with me.

I gave her my phone number and left.

Three hours later the other worker called saying the price of the bolt was $5. Well, that made all my irritation at them disappear, and I gushingly thanked the woman, telling her how much I appreciated the effort.  And in the middle of my little speech, I heard a click.  She had hung up on me.  At that point any reasonable person would have said to heck with them, but I had been obsessing about that fabric for the past three hours.  And when it comes to the perfect vintage novelty print, I’m anything but reasonable.

So back I went to the mall, quietly crept in, bought my treasure and left.  And it will be a very long time before I return.

I think you will agree that this was worth a little bother:


Filed under Novelty Prints, Sewing, Shopping

The Eiffel Tower

The 1950s had an all things Parisian crush going on.  Maybe it was the tales from all those returning servicemen (and women), talking about the French cafes and wines and most of all, the Eiffel Tower.  Or maybe it was that Paris had been closed for business for years, and people were eager to return.  Whatever the reason, during the 50s Paris, and the Eiffel Tower in particular became the motif of choice for many products, especially those aimed at women.

There is no easier way to instantly portray  “Paris,” and in the same breath , “Romantic holiday,” than to show a picture of the Eiffel Tower.  And for a complicated structure, it is amazingly simple to draw, with a curved pyramid with diagonal crosshatching.  Throw in a bit of pink and a cafe or two, and voila!  Paris!

Isn’t this 1950s handbag just the sweetest?

Eiffel Tower? Check.

Sidewalk cafe? Check.

Pink? Check.

And more of Paris, vintage style:

If you think about it, most decades have design motifs that are strongly associated with the era.  See some kitchen accessories decorated with mushrooms?  They must be from the 1970s.  And does anything scream 1980s like some white ducks on a French blue background?  Even the eclectic 2000s had a reoccurring theme – birds.


Filed under Collecting

More of an Old Favorite Novelty Print

I first posted this little vintage Paris themed change purse last year after I received it from Joules Vintage.  I was just taken by the cute print, but it was such a tiny scrap that it left me wanting more.

I was delighted to stumble across another piece last month.  This little photo album came from an etsy seller in France, The Hope Tree.  I had suspected that the print was European in origin, and while I love being right, it does make it a bit more unlikely that I’ll round up more examples.  Maybe an extended flea marketing trip to France would be in order??…

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Filed under Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Viewpoint

Paris Barkcloth Curtains

For four years I’ve been wavering on kitchen curtains for my little Victorian house.  Yes, I realize four years is a long time to go without window treatments, and during that time the windows haven’t been completely naked.  I’ve actually had two different, but unsatisfactory, curtains hung during this time.  The problem was that I just didn’t know what I wanted.  The room has south and west exposures, and the view is pleasant, so I really didn’t want them completely covered.

A few weeks ago I decided it was time to get serious.  I started looking online for ideas and fabric.  I finally found some really great barkcloth on ebay; it was a wine bottle motif.  I placed a bid but I was really nervous that there was not enough of it for the windows, a double and a triple.  So when I was outbid, I was actually relieved.

Then it hit me:  I had some great Paris themed barkcloth that I had found at the Charlotte flea market over two years ago.  A lady was using it as a table covering, and she sold it to me after I begged and pleaded and all but offered to run to Wal-mart and buy her a tablecloth.  I got home with it and promptly put it in my Babylon Mall store.  But it was so special that I put a price on it that made me feel sure that the new owner would have to really really want it!

Looking back, I’m wondering where my mind was.  What was I thinking? This fabric is perfect, and there it was literally under my nose for the past two years.  I took down the listing for the fabric, and while I was at it, ended the listings of three more pieces I love.

Well, here are photos of the finished product, though I’m not quite through with fiddling with the rods and the hanging loops.  What do you think?


Posted by Lucitebox:

Love this! Would you lower the rod enough to just get the curtain to cover the window locks? I can’t imagine a nicer solution…and to think, right under your nose. Funny how that happens. 

Friday, March 13th 2009 @ 10:46 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

I’ll try that Holly. I’m really not much of a decorator, so I’m happy for all suggestions! 

Friday, March 13th 2009 @ 1:25 PM

Posted by Couture Allure:

I love your valances! I would actually do the opposite and raise the rod up to the ceiling. This would expose more of the upper window and balance the whole thing with a 1/3 to 2/3 ratio, which is more pleasing to the eye. OR, I’d drop the rod to the center of the window and just cover the bottom, like a cafe curtain. Such great fabric! This is one time when I can say, “Aren’t you glad it didn’t sell?” 🙂 

Friday, March 13th 2009 @ 5:12 PM

Posted by Lucitebox:

Agree–it would be a great cafe curtain, but it’s too short, I think. It might be weird if it wasn’t long enough to cover the bottom half of the window. I’m really terrible at window treatments. I make ’em fit and never obey the laws of drapery. (I learned them from a decorator and realized I was seriously amiss with my own placement of things.) I figure if something doesn’t bug me, I’m too lazy to change it 😉 

Saturday, March 14th 2009 @ 1:30 PM

Posted by Tara:

Oh my goodness, what wonderful curtains!! 

Wednesday, March 25th 2009 @ 2:25 PM

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Filed under Novelty Prints, Sewing