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1946: Fashion on the verge

In 1946, the deprivations of the war years were not far from anyone’s thoughts and budget. The power that women had gained in the past handful of years could still be felt in strong shoulders and trouser styles. Particularly in the hands of Parisian designers, there were styles presaging The New Look, including prints, colors, length, and extravagance. American designers devoted themselves to fashionable sportswear. Swimwear found fresh new directions.

I love the fashions of 1946. My appreciation doesn't have so much to do with what was incubating in France. Instead, I am fascinated by the strength and freedom in women's fashion, whether emanating from France or the U.S. It was the last hurrah of the war years styles, and in the best hands this fashion—on the verge of something very different—was fresh, modern and bold. 

Pablo Picasso. Françoise with a Bow in Her Hair (Françoise au Noeud dans les Cheveux). June 14, 1946

Pablo Picasso. Françoise with a Bow in Her Hair (Françoise au Noeud dans les Cheveux). June 14, 1946

Cole of California advertisement, 1946

Cole of California advertisement, 1946

Glamour, December 1946, photo by Serge Balkin

Glamour, December 1946, photo by Serge Balkin

Even in Berlin, the war was over in 1946. Photo by Walter Sanders.

Even in Berlin, the war was over in 1946. Photo by Walter Sanders.

Women served invaluably during the war, and in this immediately post-war period, clothing reflected their collective strength with tailored, clean, well-accessorized looks for day and work.

  • March 1946 Vogue cover, photo by John Rawlings
  • Collarless, grey wool jacket worn with an Amrose beret hat, black gloves and hobo purse, photo by Clifford Coffin
  • March 1946 Vogue, Mrs. Stanley Grafton Mortimer, Jr., (aka Babe Paley), wearing a blue and black dress from Traina-Norell, photo by Horst P. Horst
  • Norman Parkinson Fashion study in doorway, March 1946
  • Leopard hat cold weather elegance, photo by Constantin Joffé
  • McCall pattern 6627
  • Model wearing belted fitted gray suit, a Vogue Couturier design, February 1946, photo by Horst P. Horst
  • Nina Leen photo
  • Dress by Mildred Orrick
  • Dorian Leigh, June 1946, photo by John Rawlings
  • B.H. Wragge dress

By contrast peasant looks—ruffled, midriff-bearing, and feminine—made a softer impression for casual wear.

  • May 1946 Charm cover, photo by Jon Abbot
  • The young Marilyn Monroe
  • Photo by Constantin Joffe
  • High school girls in Phoenix model frilly skirts and blouses in October 1946
  • Swimwear by Jacques Fath and Carven

Shoulders reached an apotheosis, never (not even in the 1980s) to be so large again. 

  • Morry Silver Originals coat
  • Awning-striped dress, Everfast ad, photo by Plucer
  • January 1946 Vogue advertisement, Adele Simpson outfit
  • February 1946 Charm cover, photo by Jon Abbot
  • Forstmann ad
  • Harzfeld's ad, dress by Herbert Soundheim

At the same time, shoulders were often bared for the classically elegant evening gowns of the year.

  • Carmen dell’Orefice, photo by Erwin Blumenfeld for Vogue
  • Two silk satin evening gowns by Charles James
  • Dorian Leigh wearing a dress by Traina-Norell
  • Charles James dress, Met Museum collection
  • November 15 1946 Vogue, Barbara "Babe" Cushing Mortimer Paley, dress by Paquin, jewelry by Van Cleef & Arpels, photo by John Rawlings
  • Photo by Gjon Mili
  • Moyen ad, photo by George Platt Lynes
  • Balenciaga
  • Balmain
  • Photo by Nina Leen

Victory rolls were a thing of the past, and long hair, whether worn loosely or sleekly piled high, was in vogue. Hats could be either over-the-top flamboyant or neat and rather handsome—a microcosm of the fashion extremes of the year.

  • June 1946 Vogue
  • October 1946 Elle, Paulette hat
  • Howard University student on campus
  • January 1946 Vogue, photo by Clifford Coffin
  • October 1946 Charm
  • October 1946 Vogue, photo by John Rawlings
  • Mademoiselle, cloche hat
  • Ad for The Broadway, Sondheim dress, hat by Sally Victor
  • March 1946 Vogue, photo by Horst P. Horst
  • Eileen McClory modeling Nelly Don
  • 'Royal blue daywear elegance’
  • Madame Paulette, Paris, veiled hat

Shoes ranged from flat and remarkably bare to tall and sleek. Grecian-style lacings were on trend.

  • June 1946, white high-lacing sandals from Delman and sheer stockings from Artcraft
  • “Make a fashion-point of leg-tan by wearing matched-tan leather sandals and, perversely, cover your arms to the wrist.” May 1, 1946 Vogue, photo by John Rawlings
  • Footwear, 1946
  • Boris Lipnitzki/Roger-Viollet
  • Lauren Bacall
  • September 1946 Vogue, Baroness Reutern models her Italian thong sandals

With all the beachwear shown in 1946 you might think it was an exceptionally warm year, but it wasn't. Instead, as Le Figaro wrote, "People were craving the simple pleasures of the sea and the sun. For women, wearing a bikini signaled a kind of second liberation. There was really nothing sexual about this. It was instead a celebration of freedom and a return to the joys in life." (quoted by Elizabeth D. Hoover in 60 Years of Bikinis)

The bikini was so named on July 5 of 1946, four days after the Bikini Atoll became the site of the first peacetime nuclear weapons test by the U.S. Louis Réard said he named his version of the revealing suit because it was "small and devastating" ...like a nuclear weapon. Playsuits, sundresses and swimsuits stated loud and clear that the war was over, and the joy of going to the beach was back.

  • Jacques Heim's version of the bikini,  the "Atome"
  • Swimwear fashions, photo by Nina Leen
  • 1946 pattern
  • Playsuit by Bonnie Cashin, Met Museum collection
  • Erwin Blumenfeld, Untitled for Vogue
  • Hollywood Pattern 1870
  • February 1946 The Californian

Leisure clearly was a theme in fashion, and central to women's off-work fun was trouser dressing.

  • August 1946 Junior Bazaar, photo by Herman Landshoff
  • January 1946 Vogue, Clare Potter design, Cohama Fabrics ad
  • August 1946 Junior Bazaar, photo by Herman Landshoff
  • Model is wearing a grey wool flannel knickers and vest by Winthrop Mills, photo by Serge Balkin
  • Model is wearing red, white and blue rayon gabardine slack suit with a bolero by Arrowhead, photo by Constantin Joffe

Really, it was a great time to be Claire McCardell. The American designer always came to fashion with women's comfort, freedom and movement in mind. In 1946 she gave women classic, unfussy gowns, elegantly practical workwear, and brilliant sunsuits and swimwear. Show women of today McCardell's designs from 71 years ago and they are likely to be surprised at the year...and wish they could wear the very same clothes now!

  • Drawstring dress by Claire McCardell, photo by Louise Dahl-Wolfe
  • Beachwear by Claire McCardell, photo by Louise Dahl-Wolfe
  • Summer Dresses by Claire McCardell, photo by Genevieve Naylor
  • Met Museum collection
  • Corbis image
  • Corbis image
  • Trousers Set by Claire McCardell, photo by Serge Balkin

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denisebrain=18, Earth Day=47, The Earth=4.54 billion

Today is the 18th anniversary of denisebrain. I didn't plan this day to coincide with Earth Day in 1999, but it has always seemed fitting. After all, vintage fashion is the chicest form of reuse...recycling in style! 

Earth Day is now 47, dwarfing my little 18 years in business—and the Earth is estimated to be 4.54 billion years old, dwarfing most everything. I still feel that all we can do to honor our beautiful "home" truly matters.  

 

Please help me celebrate the 18th anniversary of denisebrain by using the coupon code 18THBIRTHDAY for 18% off any purchase from the denisebrain Etsy shop through Monday, April 24, 2017. 

...and celebrate the Earth every day by wearing vintage! 

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Book Review: Dangerous to Know

Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932)

Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932)

Feel a thrill at the very mention of movie legends? Transported by wittily scribed Hollywood gossip? Compelled to unravel murders alongside great film noir detectives? Darkly fascinated by the insidious Nazi influences on the interwar movie industry?

Then Dangerous to Know is a book you must read.

My fascination with this book also comes from a more esoteric thread, that of costume design and fashion. The year is 1938, and the costume designer Edith Head is working to secure her ascendance at Paramount Studios. She has draped Dorothy Lamour famously in a sarong for The Hurricane, Anna Mae Wong in exotic sophistication for Dangerous to Know (yes, a fine title for this book). 

Head's own style has changed with her burgeoning career. She is now the serious woman with the closed-lip smile, neat black bangs and chignon, and owlish round black glasses we all can picture. For the book, the real Edith Head becomes a fictional character, friends with plucky young Lillian Frost, who has secured a job as social secretary to a movie-mad millionaire. They make an interesting team, Edith and Lillian, with enough intelligence, wit, depth, bravery, and (of course) style to drive the plot forward like bolts of silk under the sewing needles in the costume studio on the night before a Paramount filming. 

An obscure but true historical scandal, one that left Jack Benny and George Burns facing smuggling charges, is the scaffolding of the drama. In her quest to put her best foot forward, Edith Head asks Lillian Frost to help Marlene Dietrich find missing friend, accompanist, and fellow émigré Jens Lohse. Lillian discovers Lohse's dead body, along with a trail of real and fictional characters that lead her into a murder mystery maze worthy of Old Hollywood.

I couldn't put the book down, not just because I couldn't wait to discover the denouement, but because the writing has picturesque vintage details, such as Lillian's landlady Mrs. Quigley, "her taste buds ravaged by an excess of champagne and oysters during her Ziegfeld Follies days, brewed java strong enough to bring Pony Express riders to their knees" or Errol Flynn guiding a young woman "into his banquette as if she were a Buick with balky steering.”

Precise are the references to fashion, as when Lillian describes to Edith a woman of a certain age at a dinner party:

Picture a floor-length sheath of white silk jersey...with a gargantuan royal-blue bow covering most of the bodice. The points of which unfortunately emphasized Mrs. Lauer’s sagging jawline.

Yes, I picture this, and recognize the implications. I could easily conjure the image of every fashion described in Dangerous to Know, and there are many. When Lillian proclaims that her millionaire boss wore not a tuxedo for a dinner party, but blue serge, I feel privy to a deeper understanding of the characters. 

When we first see Dietrich? 

Marlene Dietrich coasted into the office, crooked smile first. She wore a pale green daytime suit with a subtle checkered pattern and slightly flared skirt. The matching emerald veil on her low-crowned hat did extraordinary favors for eyes that required no help.

The thrill of the star's presence is as palpable as that emerald veil.

Dangerous to Know was authored by Rosemarie and Vince Keenan, under the pseudonym Renee Patrick. One of them, but most likely both the wife and husband, are deeply steeped in Old Hollywood history, making their story intoxicatingly real right down to the collars and cuffs.

It is the second Lillian Frost & Edith Head novel by Renee Patrick, the first, Design for Dying, is now on my must-read list, as will be any future stories starring these new favorite sleuths. 

 

Please note: A copy of Dangerous to Know was given to me to review if I wished, with no quid pro quo expected.

 

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Desert Island Vintage with guest Helen Mae Green

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

 

My third guest on Desert Island Vintage is Helen Mae Green, who has been writing the personal style blog Lovebirds Vintage since 2012. She has mused about her vintage style being inspired not so much by stars as by everyday people. Even though I'd argue to the contrary, Helen claims she isn't glamorous. Certainly her style seems classic, timeless—and real. I can see her stepping out of one of the vintage photos she cites as inspiration. 

Helen in a favorite 1950s dress

Helen in a favorite 1950s dress

Although in the thick of studies, she graciously took the time to answer the Desert Island Question: 

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

What does this studious English rose fancy? Read on:

 

"I decided to start off with those items of vintage I currently own that I couldn’t do without, either because they’re very hardworking items in my wardrobe or because they’re just too pretty.  As I’m limited to 8 items in total, I narrowed my selection down to three absolute favourites and two items where I own the modern repro version but would really love to have the real thing. The remaining items are all fantasy items because a girl’s got to dream! They’re all items on my ongoing “to buy” list, so hopefully they’ll eventually make their way into my wardrobe.

 

 

1.     "1940s blue floral dress

The first item I’ve chosen is this gorgeous original 1940s dress in a blue floral rayon. This dress is what my 1940s dreams are made of, and I really wish I had the money and the lifestyle to add more genuine 1940s pieces to my wardrobe. As it is, I don’t often get the opportunity to wear my most precious vintage pieces at the moment, but as long as this dress is in my wardrobe I can’t feel too bad. The fit is perfect on me, and I love the way the dress hangs and moves. The ruffles on the front add an extra special touch, and there’s even a pretty belt that fastens at the back. I really feel like a princess every time I wear this.

2.     "c. 1970s wool skirt

This skirt is the ultimate “workhorse” item in my wardrobe. It’s vintage from the 1970s or 80s but I often wear it in a 1950s inspired style. I live in England so it gets pretty cold over the autumn and winter, so the medium-weight wool helps to keep me nice and warm, especially when layered over an underskirt and some knitted tights. It’s a great neutral colour so it’s very versatile, and it even has pockets. Winner!

3.     "1980s boots

What can I say about these boots? They’re a bit steampunk, a bit cowboy, and a lot fabulous. I love the Victorian-inspired shape of them, and although the pattern looks a bit crazy, they still seem to go with a lot of different outfits. I bought them when I was on a quest to find boots without a zip up the inside as they tend to cause me to trip over my own feet, but I also prefer lace-up boots for aesthetic reasons. I get no end of compliments when I wear these and they’re so unique and great fun to wear.

4.     "Original 1940s or 50s jeans

For this next item we’re getting slightly more into the fantasy realm. I have several pairs of reproduction vintage jeans that I wear regularly, like those shown in the picture, but I’d really like to own some original ones. I went through a phase of not wearing jeans because I thought they could be a bit scruffy or unflattering, but vintage ones are a completely different beast. They’re still a casual item but aren’t completely unstructured, and the high waist divides the body across its narrowest point rather than its widest point like modern low-rise jeans. I find this much more flattering as it doesn’t create a muffin top where there otherwise wouldn’t be one, and is much better at hiding problem areas if you do have them. Overall, jeans are now an integral part of my wardrobe, and I’ll definitely be looking out for an original pair to add to my collection.

5.     "White 1940s blouse

This is another item where I have owned various reproduction versions, but would really like to own an original one. I’m of the belief that every girl needs a nice structured white blouse, and mine always get lots of use. I like the shoulder pads and wonderful sharp collars.

6.     "Quilted circle skirt

I’ve been looking out for a quilted circle skirt in my size and price range for a long time. I think they’re very stylish but also they appeal to me as being something a little warmer for the winter, as it’s always my winter wardrobe that seems to be lacking.

1950s novelty print quilted cotton circle skirt owned and worn by Janey Ellis of the Atomic Redhead blog

1950s novelty print quilted cotton circle skirt owned and worn by Janey Ellis of the Atomic Redhead blog

7.     "1940s suit

Ah, suits. So stylish, so versatile. I have a great 1950s suit which gets a lot of wear, both as a whole suit and with the skirt and jacket worn separately, but I’d really love a beautifully fitted 1940s suit to wear as well. Something about the fit and style of 1940s clothing despite the rationing really shines through in suits for me.

War-era woman wearing a suit (Flickr Commons)

War-era woman wearing a suit (Flickr Commons)

8.     "1950s New Look coat

Another thing I’ve had on my to-buy list for a long time, and my last Desert Island item, is a wide-skirted 1950s coat in a New Look style. I wear a lot of full skirts (or full-skirted dresses) and am forever frustrated by how coats in the wrong shape squash the skirts, and how modern ones are almost certainly too short to cover the skirt which can look odd. If I had a coat like this, I’d wear it a lot and probably have a lot of fun swishing about. A must-have for sure.

J. Paul & Sons Mannequin Parade, 1949 (Flickr Commons)

J. Paul & Sons Mannequin Parade, 1949 (Flickr Commons)

Perhaps she will wear such a coat on a case once she gets her degree. Oh didn't I mention? Helen is currently working on her PhD in forensic entomology. I like to imagine her future employment could rather handily place her in a 1940s film noir—and she would probably enjoy wearing the clothing! 

Many thanks to Helen Mae Green for sharing her Desert Island capsule wardrobe with us all!

Besides her Lovebirds Vintage blog, be sure to look for Helen on Facebook and Instagram (including some of her glorious recent modeling photos!).

 

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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All the Gunne Sax I've known

San Francisco was one of the cities on the crest of the vintage fashion nostalgia wave of the late 1960s. At the time, romantic Edwardian and Victorian fashions were being rediscovered in flea markets by expressive young dressers who were tired of modern "establishment" clothing. Enter Gunne Sax, a small SF dress company founded in 1967 with a flair for the nostalgic.

Jessica McClintock, a teacher, newly divorced and with a young son, invested in the company and became its designer and marketer. In 1969 McClintock became its sole owner. Through the years, Gunne Sax has made an array of nostalgic styles, referencing Renaissance, Empire, Victorian and Edwardian clothing. Very popular were Gunne Sax's prairie girl looks. This was definitely a fanciful 19th-century prairie girl, dressed in cotton calicos, muslin and lace, with ribbons, lacings and flounces. There were lots of Gunne imitators, but the real thing is almost always discernible just by the detail of its embellishments. 

These are the Gunne Sax I have sold through the years, roughly in order from the earliest "black label" models of the late 1960s, through the 1980s, when the company had expanded in other vintage-inspired directions. 

Speaking from the experience of living through the heyday of Gunne Sax, I can say that these dresses (and separates) were exactly what most girls wanted to wear the most. I had my first, a long, flouncy gown of pink gauze with a lace-up bodice and full, sheer sleeves, in 1975. My mother, who was by then a widow who had to watch what she spent, said I could have the dress, but with its large price tag of $40, I would "wear it for concerts, my prom, my wedding, and I would be buried in it"...stated as a commandment. 

Later, with my own hard-earned money I managed to buy a couple more Gunnes.

Here I am in my mother's home in the last of the three Gunne Sax outfits I wore when they were new. This was a prairie girl set of skirt and peplum blouse, c. 1980. Sorry the photo is no better, but it was taken by a boyfriend catching me off guard who said "wow, you look great in that!" to which my mother replied, "you'd even like her in a gunny sack!" We laughed while my mother looked bewildered—she hadn't realized it was a Gunne Sax! 

Me, c. 1980, in one of my much-loved Gunne Sax

Me, c. 1980, in one of my much-loved Gunne Sax

I think it's interesting to see how girls now wear vintage Gunne Sax...these have touched several generations of romantics! Here's a round up of a few found on Chictopia:

Courtesy of Sapsorrow

Courtesy of Sapsorrow

Courtesy of AmberLucas 

Courtesy of AmberLucas 

Courtesy of EllePhoto

Courtesy of EllePhoto

Courtesy of starshipnarcissus

Courtesy of starshipnarcissus

Courtesy of novavintage

Courtesy of novavintage

Courtesy of 23freckles

Courtesy of 23freckles

This is Rie (@welldressedethcist on Instagram), who is a connoisseur of vintage Gunne Sax, wearing one that she got from me. I love how this new generation of expressive dressers have made Gunnies their own!

Courtesy of @welldressedethicist

Round sunglasses, Converse tennis shoes, lavender hair, plaid coat, prim hat...how do you style your Gunne Sax? Are you new to Gunnies, or did you wear them the first time around?


For some behind-the-scenes information on the founding of Gunne Sax, please see this article from the Vintage Traveler Blog:

History behind Gunne Sax By Roger and Scott Bailey

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What were they thinking?

Just in time for April Fool's Day, I'm dredging the bottom of my WHATWERETHEYTHINKING?? file, including such favorite categories as BADvertising, haute torture, beautifiers for when you have nothing to lose, and that perpetual favorite: 1970s men's fashions. 

After all, what could go wrong?

After all, what could go wrong?

Looks like something that would provide a really long sleep. (Popular Mechanics, 1924)

Looks like something that would provide a really long sleep. (Popular Mechanics, 1924)

After all, you can't be disappointed if you are no longer living.

After all, you can't be disappointed if you are no longer living.

Flesh-reducing soap, now made with SIX types of corrosive bacteria!

Flesh-reducing soap, now made with SIX types of corrosive bacteria!

Still another practical way to get that great physique.

Still another practical way to get that great physique.

Ummm...

Ummm...

Tape worms preferable.

Tape worms preferable.

You know it makes sense.

You know it makes sense.

Bat those eyelashes...if you can summon the energy.

Bat those eyelashes...if you can summon the energy.

Now with glamour trim!

Now with glamour trim!

Make sure to coordinate with your dishwasher.

Make sure to coordinate with your dishwasher.

Frostbite far preferable.

Frostbite far preferable.

Modess... for that magical time of the month when everything you read just looks like a bunch of flowers.

Modess... for that magical time of the month when everything you read just looks like a bunch of flowers.

Pick a Pair of drunk advertising geniuses.

Pick a Pair of drunk advertising geniuses.

1974... Well, it kind of goes with the hair.

1974... Well, it kind of goes with the hair.

Super disturbing. 

Super disturbing. 

Super creepy.

Super creepy.

Ah man, noooo, not the light blue!

Ah man, noooo, not the light blue!

Sears—for all your space-cult family needs.

Sears—for all your space-cult family needs.

No...on so many levels.

No...on so many levels.

Crochet for men…Each one more terrifying than the last.

Crochet for men…Each one more terrifying than the last.

Things WOULD happen.

Things WOULD happen.

That's super special for sure.

That's super special for sure.

This woman has herself a little acetate sandwich.

This woman has herself a little acetate sandwich.

What is choice B?

What is choice B?

The rest of you might go up in flames, but your crotch will be safe and sound.

The rest of you might go up in flames, but your crotch will be safe and sound.

A gas mask for typists—because you know you'd want to keep typing during an air raid.

A gas mask for typists—because you know you'd want to keep typing during an air raid.

No, thanks. 

No, thanks. 

Just speechless.

Just speechless.

But really, I'm considering that glamorous shower hood for April showers...

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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!

3scotlouc.png

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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