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Fresh spring styles interpreted with vintage

After looking at spring fashions from Nordstrom online, I am here to show you why you might want to start your spring shopping with vintage.

I love Nordstrom, always have. I also love these fine designer fashions, and believe many, if not all, were made ethically, by fairly-paid workers.

Still, I can’t help but do head-to-head comparisons with vintage fashions. I suspect that many of the vintage items are of equal-to or greater quality even as compared to modern well-made designer items. And the bonus? Vintage is recycled, sustainable fashion, and you support a small business owner when you purchase from her.

These items are all available from Etsy sellers (including me):

I guess it's obvious you can save some money with vintage. On this shopping trip alone you would save a whopping $13,781.50—plus you'd be one of a kind wearing your vintage originals! 

Of course Nordstrom sells lower-priced clothing for more modest budgets. The snag there is that the clothing at lower price points is often not made ethically, although price alone does not always tell the entire story. Those wanting to purchase new fashions that were made by reasonably-paid workers in safe working environments will need to do some research. Bonus: Most vintage clothing was, in its day, more ethically made, often by union workers earning a living wage in the U.S.

Buying vintage is:

  • Less costly
  • Ethical
  • Sustainable
  • Supporting a small business
  • Unique

So what are you waiting for? 😊

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The Magtone color of the moment: Hollywood Cerise Pink

Hollywood Cerise Pink—technically Hex Color #ED0990

Hollywood Cerise Pink—technically Hex Color #ED0990

Oh, I know there are well-researched and ever-so-vetted Pantone colors of the year, but it seems there is always a color pulling me in a different direction. This year, their color is Greenery, and it's quite lovable. It seems to evoke a feeling of hope. (It was chosen before those November elections!)

For me this year it’s Hollywood Cerise Pink. There is a femininity in pink (since the 1930s anyway), and there is an urgency in bright pink. It seems not only a beautiful hue but a necessary one. Fearlessly feminine.

 

Feast your eyes on shades of Hollywood Cerise Pink from vintage sellers on Etsy. As of today these are currently for sale and the links are in my Etsy favorites collection on the subject. 

Face it...Hollywood Cerise is not just a color, it's an attitude!

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Lady and the Skirts

I recently had the good fortune to renew an old online acquaintance with Debbie, who has a remarkable vintage fashion collection. Someday I may have the opportunity to show you more of Deb's collection but for now, it's plenty to feast your eyes on her collection of 1950s Lady and the Tramp and Si and Am skirts. She has 21 (!).

These skirts were homemade from cotton printed in 1955. The fabric was licensed by Disney, originally sold at J.C. Penney, and coincided with the release of Disney's Lady and the Tramp animated feature-length film. Although the skirts are now coveted and highly valued, Debbie told me that the fabric was originally just 59 cents per yard. From the yardage, the seamstress would cut out the flaring panels and sew them together to create her skirt.

The seamstress had to add her own waistband, so the skirts can have waistbands that slightly differ from the skirt colors. The number of panels vary and so do the lengths as the skirts were hemmed and sized for girls and women both. Debbie even has a Lady and the Tramp skirt in which every bit is embellished with hand-sewn decorations. The "dog" skirts can be found in red, black and turquoise; the "cat" skirts are in pink, black and brown. She loves to wear these on trips to the Disney parks.

Debbie lets her great nieces share her skirts, and when they match at Disney, they are "just too much fun to be ignored."

Debbie and her grand nieces at (where else?) Disney

Debbie and her grand nieces at (where else?) Disney

I've only met Debbie online, but she has impressed me so much with her joyful spirit. Now 63, she has no trouble donning the Disney mouse ears and taking a twirl with Pluto!

In her mid-50s, Deb took on the important task of raising of her 9-year old great niece; she has worked as a court reporter for the State of Nevada Public Utilities Commission for almost 44 years. Debbie isn't a woman of leisure, so when she gets to "play" she does so with gusto!

She and her significant other Rick attend car shows together with their vintage autos. Women she knows are bored going to the car shows, but she loves the shows, thoroughly knows their cars and makes a big deal of wearing her vintage finery for these events. Debbie not only dresses up, she brings along dolls with clothing custom-made to match her vintage fashions. She says that the children especially love the dolls!

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Debbie's vintage collection focuses on her favorite time in fashion, 1947-57, the Dior era. She has couture items, a Hawaiian collection, Hollywood costumes. More that leaves me in awe: She has so many vintage pairs of shoes that she can't count them all. She has over 350 vintage hats. 

In case it wasn't already apparent, Debbie, even in her 60s, is a bit of a bombshell. She has the figure to wear vintage well and the savoir faire to pull it off. Most of all, it is obvious that she is having fun. She says "these skirts make me so incredibly happy!" There is not a stuffy bone in Debbie's body.

While Debbie's favorite of the skirts is the red Lady and the Tramp, I am partial to the pink Si and Am skirt. When I saw this great photo, I had to let her know how big a smile it put on my face.

She told me there is a story to go with this photo:

That trip we were in Disneyland with 4 adult couples, and when I walked into Disneyland I saw Minnie.  Rick asked me if I wanted my photo taken with her—because he KNOWS I adore photos with the characters—but she had a very long line of guests, and I didn’t want to hold everyone up in my group to get a photo.  As I was walking towards Main Street someone tapped me on the shoulder...and it was Minnie.  She had left her line and run over to me, and she pointed at my skirt, put her hands on her heart, swayed back and forth, turned me around towards Rick for a photo, put her hands on her heart again, and ran back to her line. I was absolutely on Cloud 9...my Disney Magic Moment! 

 So many people admire her skirts at Disney, and so many of the Disney character performers show their appreciation at seeing these. What a wonderful use of Debbie's collection, bringing such pleasure to herself and others!

 

All photos courtesy of Debra Bartgis.

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Desert Island Vintage with guest Carla Rey

IF YOU COULD HAVE JUST EIGHT VINTAGE FASHION ITEMS, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

 

For my second guest on Desert Island Vintage I invited Carla Rey, proprietress of Carla & Carla, one of the most consistently cool vintage fashion shops online. Carla's sensibilities were honed growing up in New York City in the 1980s. She credits her mother's Brooklyn theater company for kindling her love of Victorian mourning jackets, flapper dresses, "beaded anything" and glorious feathered hats. 

Carla is a retired ballet dancer and a punk rock maven.

Let those two points sink in a moment.

 

Among the riches of New York City in the early '80s? "A great and cheap abundance of vintage clothing. Every 20 feet there was a vintage store. Racks upon racks of '40s dresses, '50s dresses, and bins of pedal pushers and army/navy jackets.

"Back then, I loved mixing '30s and '40s crepe dresses with fishnets and leather and wearing grandma cardigans backwards with anything Betsey Johnson! Man-tailored tuxedo jackets with pedal pushers and pointy-toe cowboy boots were signature staples in my closet."

Carla in a 1940s blouse

Carla in a 1940s blouse

Need I say that Carla has edgy/cool taste? She has a style I would love to have myself...so of course I had to find out how she'd answer the Desert Island Question:

IF YOU COULD HAVE JUST EIGHT VINTAGE FASHION ITEMS, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

And of course her answers are interesting. Read on. 

"My eight vintage desert island must have pieces—it's a combination of pieces I already own and ones I covet! I'm not a 'fussy' dresser, I live in vintage kimonos, rock band T-shirts and turquoise jewelry. But Ms. Maggie challenged me to really think about the eight pieces I couldn't live without. Here goes, enjoy!!

 

 

1. "Norma Kamali sleeping bag coat, from my closet.

For a desert island stay, I figure you would want fashion AND function. This iconic coat keeps you warm and is just like a huge sleeping bag. I bought this from a woman who was moving to Florida. Every person who has tried it on has their eyes roll back in their head—it's heavenly and HUGE, double points for being able to use as a bed!

Norma Kamali in 1982, Dustin Pittman photo

Norma Kamali in 1982, Dustin Pittman photo

2. "My shredded late 1930s 'Pay Day' work wear overalls, again from my closet.

I found these in a local vintage shop among contemporary overalls. I love the double layer on the front of the leg, nifty pockets and the softest cotton. I get so many compliments every time I wear them. Full of little holes and wearing away in spots, patches etc. I will wear them until they fall off my body.

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3. "1920s Cubist print robe, closet.

I had a vintage dealer try to buy it off my body for $500, I turned her down I love it that much. It reminds me of abstract Cubist paintings. Light, airy, and goes with everything.

For the rest, Carla's list gets even more eclectic.

"Wish list as follows:

4. "1930s rayon jersey deco lounging pajama.

I had a pair that were way too small for me, I reluctantly sold them to a lovely vintage fashionista who totally rocks them. I love these examples in this ad, and look at the prices!

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5. "My 1982 Plasmatics T-shirt, long gone but not forgotten!

My very first boyfriend bought me this shirt in 1982, it disappeared somewhere and I am forever on the hunt for another!

Proto-punk Carla in her early teens

Proto-punk Carla in her early teens

6. "Genius designer Kansai Yamamoto knit onesie and arm/leg warmers for David Bowie. Not a repro. THE ONE. Because Bowie. So versatile for desert island life!

7. "1930s spiderweb gown.

Something formal for evenings dancing around the fire. I'm not picky, I'll take either the Vionnet or the chiffon gown with the web train.

Helen Bennett in Spider Dress, 1939, Horst P. Horst photo; Madeline Vionnet dress, Marilyn Glass photo

Helen Bennett in Spider Dress, 1939, Horst P. Horst photo; Madeline Vionnet dress, Marilyn Glass photo

8. "1980s Stephen Sprouse punk band sticker leggings.

Super talented, Sprouse. Ultra graphic, soooooo NYC. Fabulous use of color. I love everything he's done, one of my top tier designers. Sadly gone too soon. These leggings are perfection.

If anyone feels like making Carla's dream come true, this very pair is available on Etsy here

If anyone feels like making Carla's dream come true, this very pair is available on Etsy here

Many thanks to Carla Rey for her fascinating list of eight! 
 

Don't miss Carla & Carla on Instagram, as well as the Carla & Carla Etsy shop.
 

(Maybe you will even catch a glimpse of her adorable staff member Noggin!)

 

What would you want if you could have just eight vintage fashion pieces? If you'd like to be featured here, let me know!

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My Funny Valentines

Oh no, they're back! I hope it doesn't seem OLD HAT to a-DRESS this with you! 

I am positively obsessed with vintage Valentines, the type with great drawings and puns—"I can TELEVISION when I see one, you're on the CHANNEL to my heart"—you know the type? 

My vintage clothing photos are ones I had on hand that all made GRAPE sense to PEAR with the vintage Valentines.

{FRANK-ly, you'd better have the sound up for Sinatra!}

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Desert Island Vintage with guest Lizzie Bramlett

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If you could have just eight vintage fashion items, what would they be?

 

I decided to start Desert Island Vintage thinking of the BBC’s famous Desert Island Discs, the show that has, since 1942, been asking guests to choose the eight records they would most want to have with them on a desert island. 

Does one take vintage to a desert island? I can certainly imagine feeling the sand between my toes in 1940s beach sandals—but that isn't the point. The point is to winnow down a love of vintage fashion to just eight pieces. Whether the guest would put her choices in a museum, give them away, sell them, or wear them—that's her choice. I am interested in the what and why of my guest's choices, but I don’t care if they're practical or fanciful, something she owns already, or something she could never imagine getting her hands on. 

 

My very first castaway—as Desert Island Discs likes to call its guests—is Lizzie Bramlett. Lizzie is the fresh, history-loving writer of The Vintage Traveler blog. Her viewpoint has been honed from collecting, wearing, and selling vintage clothing since the 1970s, and from a 28-year career of teaching history to pre-teens. Lizzie has unique perspectives and interests in the world of vintage fashion. I wouldn’t expect her to choose a Dior or a Chanel among her eight…that  just doesn't seem like her.

In her blog, Lizzie fascinates us with vintage sporting wear, vintage novelty prints, obscure fashion history, reviews of fashion films and books, and many other interesting, often overlooked subjects.  She writes an excellent bi-weekly roundup of fashion history news from around the web. There is always a vicarious thrill in peeking over Lizzie’s shoulder on her shopping expeditions, museum visits, and travels, all of which she describes and photographs with discernment, erudition, and wit. 

Betsey Johnson got to meet Lizzie! 

Betsey Johnson got to meet Lizzie! 


Here is Lizzie's Desert Island Vintage collection, and why each piece is part of it. 

 

"How does one choose eight must-have items for her vintage collection?  In my case, I started with the long list I already have of vintage items I need for my sportswear collection.  After much agonizing I was able to come up with the eight vintage items I most covet.
 

1.  "1890s sports sweater.  Victorian sweaters for women are the rarest of the rare in the sportswear category, so of course I want one.

Photo by Lizzie Bramlett taken at the DAR Museum in Washington. The sweater belongs to the collection of Shippensburg University

Photo by Lizzie Bramlett taken at the DAR Museum in Washington. The sweater belongs to the collection of Shippensburg University

2.  "1910 Outdoors suit from Abercrombie and Fitch, made from striped wool blanketing. A & F was THE place for sportspeople, and I need this so much. 

From 1910 A & F catalog

From 1910 A & F catalog

3.  "1920s Sonia Delaunay Bathing ensemble. I hope it isn't cheating to want the entire ensemble: bathing suit, robe, tote, parasol. For a very short time artist Sonia Delaunay had a shop in Paris that sold mainly sportswear and accessories made from fabrics she designed. 

As shown in Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay, Cooper-Hewitt

As shown in Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay, Cooper-Hewitt

4.   "1934 Jean Patou skating suit. Actually, I'm not picky. I'll take any Jean Patou sports attire. 

As shown in Jean Patou: A Fashionable Life, Emmanuelle Polle. The drawing is in the Patou archive.

As shown in Jean Patou: A Fashionable Life, Emmanuelle Polle. The drawing is in the Patou archive.

5.  "1940s Claire McCardell Pop-Over dress. For a dress that was mass-produced, examples are surprisingly scarce.  

Ad, 1943

Ad, 1943

6.  "1960s Ski ensemble from Hermes. This particular set was in the wardrobe of Ann Bonfoey Taylor, a sportswoman after my own heart.  

As shown in Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor, Phoenix Art Museum

As shown in Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor, Phoenix Art Museum

7.  "1965 Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian-inspired dress. Because it's not always about sportswear with me, and the intersection of art and fashion is completely fascinating.  

As seen in Haute Couture, Metropolitan Museum of Art

As seen in Haute Couture, Metropolitan Museum of Art

8.  "And to put it all in, a custom-made Louis Vuitton trunk with shelves and cocktail bar."  

As seen in 100 Legendary Trunks, Louis Vuitton

As seen in 100 Legendary Trunks, Louis Vuitton

Of course The Vintage Traveler would need this trunk...I hope someday she has one for her stylish travels!

 

Many thanks to Lizzie Bramlett for her fascinating list of eight! 

 

What would you want if you could have just eight vintage fashion pieces? If you'd like to be featured here, let me know!

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What do all these American designers have in common?

Adolfo

 Vogue, January 1957

 Vogue, January 1957

Hattie Carnegie

American Fabrics, Summer 1951

American Fabrics, Summer 1951

Oleg Cassini

Inaugural, 1961

Inaugural, 1961

Nudie Cohn

1956

1956

Jonas Eisenberg

Vogue 1963

Vogue 1963

Estévez

Fall 1963

Fall 1963

Oscar de la Renta

1980s

1980s

Rudi Gernreich

1971

1971

Cathy Hardwick

Mademoiselle, November 1985

Mademoiselle, November 1985

Carolina Herrera

1988

1988

Philip Hulitar

1951

1951

Mr. John

1954

1954

Omar Kiam

1950

1950

Judith Leiber

1978

1978

Rose Marie Reid

1957

1957

Nettie Rosenstein

Horst P. Horst photo, Vogue November 1940

Horst P. Horst photo, Vogue November 1940

Giorgio di Sant' Angelo

Vogue, July 1968  

Vogue, July 1968
 

Sarmi 

1959

1959

Arnold Scaasi 

1966

1966

Levi Strauss

George Stavropoulos

Official White House portrait of Lady Bird Johnson, 1968

Official White House portrait of Lady Bird Johnson, 1968

Pauline Trigère

1955

1955

Valentina

1941

1941

Koos Van Den Akker

1980s

1980s

Diane von Furstenberg

1970

1970

Joset Walker

Louise Dahl Wolfe photo, May 1948

Louise Dahl Wolfe photo, May 1948

Ben Zuckerman

Karen Radkai photo, 1959

Karen Radkai photo, 1959

 

Did you know?

 

These designers all immigrated to the United States from other countries—



Adolfo (Cuba)

Hattie Carnegie (Austria)
To show the American woman herself off to best advantage - that has always been my aim and that is my real biography. 

Oleg Cassini (France)
The first lady must be a leader. She must not be a follower.

Nudie Cohn (Ukraine)

Jonas Eisenberg (Austria)

Estévez (Cuba)

Oscar de la Renta (Dominican Republic)
My customers are successful workingwomen.

Rudi Gernreich (Austria)

Cathy Hardwick (Korea)

Carolina Herrera (Venezuela)
For me, fashion begins in New York.

Philip Hulitar (Greece)

Mr. John (Germany)

Omar Kiam (Mexico)

Judith Leiber (Hungary)

Rose Marie Reid (Canada)

Nettie Rosenstein (Austria)

Giorgio di Sant' Angelo (Italy)

Sarmi (Italy)

Arnold Scaasi (Canada)

Levi Strauss (Germany)
Jeans represent democracy in fashion —Georgio Armani

George Stavropoulos (Greece)

Pauline Trigère (France)
I was really a little housewife with two small children, and I had a husband who really didn't want his wife to work. He didn't like the competition. That's why I'm not married to him anymore.

Valentina (Ukraine)

Koos Van Den Akker (Netherlands)

Diane von Furstenberg (Belgium)
Eighteen months before I was born, my mother was in Auschwitz. She weighed 49 pounds. She always told me that God saved her so she could give me life. I was born out of nothing.

Joset Walker (France)

Ben Zuckerman (Romania)

patchwork dress by Giorgio di Sant' Angelo

patchwork dress by Giorgio di Sant' Angelo

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Deadstock

No, it’s not the Grateful Dead in concert, the depths of a bear market, or a no-longer-with-us cow—at least not in this context.

If you shop for vintage fashion online, you will have run across the word deadstock, and maybe wondered at its meaning.

According to Collins English Dictionary, deadstock is “the merchandise or commodities of a shop, etc, that is unsold and generating no income.” Some dictionaries separate the word (dead stock), others do not include the term at all. It is, apparently, a business term that has crept into the general lexicon.

If it sounds pejorative, it’s because that’s its history: Items that couldn’t be or weren’t sold were “dead” to the seller, needing to be stored and of relatively little value. These items would sell for a song if at all.

Filene’s Basement, source: toughnickel

Then came eBay and lots of people started looking for the words to describe a vintage (or at least not new) item that was apparently unused. Other terms that surface often:

  • New Old Stock (usually abbreviated NOS)
  • With Tags
  • Unused
  • Virgin

Now you know where this is headed: Deadstock is nothing like a pejorative when associated with vintage fashion! Who wouldn’t want to be the first wearer of some vintage finery? It is the livest of the live!

Notice that I haven’t mentioned the term mint condition? To be mint, an item has to be in a state as if it had just come off the assembly line—like new. So many items that still have tags were not stored well or in some way show signs of their age. I’ve noted rust stains from hangers, sun fading, musty odors, dusty hemlines...even coffee splatters and insect holes. Vintage in mint condition is a bit rare.

I am fortunate to come across unused vintage fashion pieces now and then. So often they come to me in groups because one woman will have collected a number of items that she didn’t wear. She might have bought several of a single great piece because she loved it, then didn’t get around to wearing the alternates. Maybe she went to a sale and purchased more than she needed. Maybe she bought the size she hoped she’d achieve. For whatever reason, some people seem to have collected items that they did not use.

One of the greatest joys of finding deadstock vintage is seeing the hangtags and labels. These can give original store names, prices, sizes, fabrics and fabric care...not to mention the artwork!

 I often write in my Etsy listing for a deadstock item, “This item has gone unused, through no fault of its own,” because so often the piece is really fantastic.

This 1950s Hawaiian sundress is one of the deadstock (and in this case mint condition) items in my shop right now. I honestly can’t believe it hasn’t been used!

https://www.etsy.com/listing/387337436/nos-50s-blue-hawaiian-print-cotton-full?ga_search_query=NOS&ref=shop_items_search_13

Some of the other deadstock items ready to come alive (click to see shop listing):

I have recently added a deadstock 1960s vintage shirt to my own closet. Its price tag, from one of my city’s late-great department stores, shows a price of $1.00. I am saving that little tag and hope to make a necklace from it, to wear with the shirt. You see the only problem I have with deadstock is that I don’t ever want to lose those interesting tags!

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Update on PINK HEART shop sales

On Friday I made a second donation to Dress for Success Worldwide. It felt really good.

On November 10, 2016, I opened a shop-within-a-shop in my Etsy store, the Pink Heart Shop. 100% of the proceeds from this shop go to Dress for Success. So far, all thanks to my wonderful customers, I have been able to donate $297. I have had a lot of really positive responses.

A few of the diverse vintage items in my Pink Heart Shop right now

 

Many I know have been inspired to live their convictions in the wake of the November elections, and I’d like to highlight one person in particular. She is a friend—a vintage connoisseur with a penchant for 1950s styles—who has consigned many beautiful vintage fashion items with me. We made an agreement about her percentage of each sale. This partnership has been going on for years.

When she heard about my Pink Heart Shop sales, my friend asked if I would add some of her items to the Shop, which I did. Later she came back with this:

I’m wondering if you would consider taking the rest of the items I sent and just donating my portion of the sales to Dress for Success? 

What do you mean? There are many, many items... 

I mean that the items are yours and 100% of what you receive that would have come to me can go to Dress 4 Success. 
 It is a good, even great, cause. I believe in helping other women grow & grow & grow. 

And that’s the point of the cause. According to their About Us page, “Dress for Success is an international not-for-profit organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

Since starting operations in 1997, Dress for Success has expanded to almost 145 cities in 21 countries and has helped more than 925,000 women work towards self-sufficiency.”

Dress for Success photo

Dress for Success photo

 

(My friend Tweets and Pins as Spiritual Feminist—you should check her out.)

Friday I made a donation, yesterday I took part in the Women’s March on Spokane.

I have also just donated 10% of proceeds on all non-Pink Heart Shop items to Save the Manatee Club, to help protect this beloved endangered species. This too is ongoing for me.

Human rights, the environment, public health, education... There is a lot at stake right now. In fact, one of my favorite signs from the march yesterday read TOO MANY ISSUES TO FIT ON A SIGN.

But many people (like my generous friend) give me hope.

Photo by me (Margaret Wilds)

Photo by me (Margaret Wilds)

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Debbie Reynolds, actress, costume archivist...and horn player

Debbie Reynolds, legendary actress, died on December 28 at the age of 84 following a stroke and the death of her daughter Carrie Fisher. There has been so much coverage of her death the day after Carrie’s death that if you didn’t know about it, you have probably been on a desert island.

You probably can also picture Ms. Reynold’s in some of her most famous roles: 

The Unsinkable Molly BrownTammy and the BachelorDivorce American Style, and especially Singin’ in the Rain.

She was the ultimate girl next door—

Singer, dancer, actress—

Famous mother—

You may even know that she was a 

Hollywood costume archivist

But did you know that Debbie Reynolds also played the French horn?

You can even catch her playing the horn at about a minute in on this movie cut: 

And, besides a vintage raincoat or two, I have the horn in common with Debbie. 😊

 

 

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