Friday, May 18, 2018

Vanity Fair, February 1953

There's a Royal wedding happening today!  So it's only appropriate that I post a picture of a wedding dress.  The description reads: 
From Paris, wedding separates by Jacques Heim.  Surprise: the train is attatched to the spencer, not the strapless dress.  Lipstick: Charles of the Ritz new Bright Pink.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Fashions For All, June 1928

Here we have the centre spread from the June 1928 issue of Fashions For All, a magazine I have discussed previously    From the models' cloche hats to their dropped waistlines, these are the kinds of clothes we envisage when we think of 1920s fashions! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Carte de visite photograph, circa 1883

Dating these old photographs usually takes some detective work.  In this case it was easy.  On the back of this carte de visite was the name of the photographer's studio:
Lamartiniere & Kerry
306 George Street
Lamartiniere took Kerry into partnership in 1883, absconding shortly afterwards and taking all of Kerry's capital with him.  (Kerry, however, was left with the business, which he expanded from a small portrait studio to a large photography business specialising in news pictures and landscapes.)  This picture can safely be dated between 1883, when Lamartiniere and Kerry became partners, to 1884 when Lamartiniere took off.

I'm inclined to give it the earlier date because the sitter's clothes, though smart, are slightly old-fashioned even for 1883.  Her hair is worn down which indicates she was still an adolescent when this picture was taken—not an adult who would have worn her hair up.  Perhaps her clothes were hand-me-downs from an older sister?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

"La Mode", D├ęcembre 1912

Though La Mode was aimed at middle-class housewives and printed on cheap paper, the woman and girl on the cover of this issue are undeniably chic.  What's more, they're drawn in the newly trendy Art Deco style.  This issue originally contained paper patterns for a woman's dressing gown and a young girl's coat.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Peterson's Magazine, February 1859

A few years ago I bought a bound volume of Peterson's Magazine in which all the colour plates had been torn out.  The strange thing was, however, that most of the plates were still with the volume.  Though the plates themselves were undated, there was enough information in the back of the magazines for me to work out where each one went, and what they depicted.

And so I give you for February 1859: on the left a silk dinner dress, and on the right, a morning dress in "drab cashmere".

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Hidden History of American Fashion

Most fashion histories only discuss the most famous, innovative or avant garde fashion designers.  This leads to a sadly distorted picture of what fashionable women wore.  Only a tiny minority ever donned one of Poiret's lampshade tunics, or one of Jean-Paul Gaultier's cone bras.  The Hidden History of American Fashion corrects this view by concentrating on the less well-known  women designers who were the backbone of the American fashion industry in the 20th century.  Some designed for the high end of the market (Fira Beneson and Zelda Wynn Valdes) some for Main Street (Libby Payne) and some disappeared behind their labels (Jean Wright, aka "Lilli Ann" and Nicki Ladany, aka "Catherine Scott").   This book even contains chapters on a knitting pattern designer (Virginia Woods Bellamy) and two children's designers (Helen Lee and Suzanne Godart)!

No doubt this collection of essays is only skimming the surface of this fascinating topic.  Hopefully someone will dive deeper into these waters at a later date and tell us more about the people behind the fashion labels.  For the moment this book is amply sufficient: it explores some interesting and little known aspects of mid-century fashion history—one of my favourite eras!

The hidden history of American Fashion: rediscovering 20th century women designers
Edited by Nancy Deihl
London: Bloomsbury, 2018

Monday, June 22, 2015

Dance & Fashion

 All right, I'll confess--I found this book to be disappointing.  Your Mileage May Vary, of course, depending on whether you are  more interested in dance or fashion, for example.  Balletomanes will find a lot to appreciate in Dance & Fashion.

The first thing to note about this book is that it contains collection of articles based around the theme of "dance and fashion" rather than a single work.  It thus lacks a strong central narrative or argument.  The writers of the articles pick up different themes that interest them, and cover them in more or less detail.  The closest thing Dance & Fashion has to a structured narrative is the editor's introductory essay ("Dance & Fashion" by Valerie Steele).   The result is a book that has some topics over-represented (ballet shoes, say) while some are under-represented (Irene Castle only rates one brief mention?)

This leads me to my second niggle: Dance & Fashion mostly deals with dance in the form of High Art.  (Mary Davis' essay on Tangomania is a notable exception.)  And yet, dance also plays a major part in popular culture.  If we look at the history of fashion and dance and how they influenced one another we can find many examples in popular dance, from the stylised costumes of ballroom dancing to the polyester flares of the disco era.  I would have enjoyed reading this book more had this aspect of the topic also been discussed.

Dance & Fashion / edited by Valerie Steele

Yale University Press, 2013.
Published in conjunction with the exhibition at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology held Sept. 13, 2014-Jan. 3, 2015.