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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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My 2016, part II

As promised in my last post, this is the better news side of 2016 here at denisebrain.

First, I have never had so many great vintage items to offer. My storage units runneth over! And I have a new friend with a passion for vintage who has helped me with the hanging and organization. (Thank you, Fay!—If you are in Spokane, you should go visit her space at Chosen Vintage.)

Then there is the book, which I had planned to publish in November. You know when you

really

want to do something and for some reason you aren’t getting it done? Something was up with me, and I figured out what it was: The book is missing a couple of sections to make it a complete beginners guide to vintage from my perspective. I am now progressing without that weird feeling of being held back. It’s back to being an exciting prospect.

Then there is the new website, which is  thiscloseto being ready. [edit 2/1/17: You're looking at it now!] I know Google has it right about people using mobile devices to search, and I know my old website is not terribly mobile-friendly. This old Neanderthal is finally about to stand up straight! Expect lots of pink (duh!).

Next comes the annual end-of-the-year roundup of favorite items sold. Perhaps you will see something that now hangs in your closet—If so, I hope it’s making you happy!

I love, I mean LOVE seeing customers in their purchases! In fact, I’m devoting a section of the new website to customer images. (If you’ve been holding out on me, now’s the time to make right!)

This 1970s Gunne Sax dress went to a great connoisseur of GS dresses, Rie (thewelldressedethicist on IG) 

Kymi  (kymijojo on IG) staged a prom birthday party, and wore this princess-y 1950s gown like a true princess

For

her

birthday, the colorful Sophia (sophiamzell on IG) wore this 1960s party dress

This 1940s New York Creations hat went straight to the head of the elegant Eliza (vintagerosegirl on IG):

(As you can probably tell, I’m doing more over on Instagram this year. If you’re there, stop by and say hi to me @denisebrain_vintage)

Some favorites that found new homes this year:

Starting on September 7, 2016, I began setting aside

10% of sales for saving endangered manatees.

 I’ve been called the Manatee Lady, and I thought I might as well prove it with every sale.

Then, on November 10, I opened a shop-within-a-shop in my Etsy store.

The Pink Heart Shop

has vintage fashion with

100% of sales going to Dress for Success Worldwide.

The contributions I have been able to make to these causes so far make what I do even more worthwhile to me, and the support customers have expressed literally keeps me going some days.

If you read my previous post, you know it hasn’t been the easiest year for me, but I am fortunate in so many ways. For someone with health issues, having a good team is something to cherish. I have a wonderful, supportive partner in my husband John. I have good doctors. I have caring friends and family. That would be plenty, but I also have the distant but real friendship and kindness of customers and colleagues in the vintage world. You all lift me up.

So goodbye to 2016...

...and hello to a new year of hope, health, joy, and love for us all! 

My best to you, Maggie of denisebrain

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My 2016, part I


What a ride 2016 has been. We all know what happened in the news—but we don’t very often know about each other’s lives.

At the start of the year there was a memorial service at which I said goodbye to a woman that I called “one of my hierarchy of mothers.” She wasn’t my blood relative, but she was definitely a family member to me, and one of my favorite people. She was the last of the adults around whom I grew up.

Jennee in the 1950s

Jennee was intelligent, funny, interesting, beautiful, independent, talented—and most definitely fashionable. I remember leafing through her Harper’s Bazaars and stopping into the most fabulous boutiques with her. She would try on a coat or pair of shoes, parade them around the store like a model and, with the greatest discernment, choose just the most stellar. (She was like that with furniture and art too!) Some years ago, Jennee gave me many of her items of clothing from the 1960s and 70s to sell. I’m so glad I saved out her sailor-style coat for myself.



Two days after Jennee’s memorial, I had surgery on my right hand. 

Let me go back a bit. Late in 2014, I was stepping up onto a riser with my French horn, and instead of landing on that riser, I fell backward onto the edge of a lower riser. This was at a concert of the Spokane Symphony with a full house in the art deco theater the orchestra calls home. The good news is that I saved my irreplaceable horn from damage, the bad news was that I went to the E.R. I was pretty badly injured.

In the spring of 2015, I woke up one day barely able to move. My hands felt like they were broken, both painful and tingling. My shoulders and elbows hurt, my hips hurt, my knees hurt. It was supremely challenging to get up out of bed. I went to my doctor, who sent me to an orthopedic surgeon, who sent me to a hand specialist and someone to test the nerves in my hands, along with putting me into a very long queue to see a rheumatologist. My blood pressure had spiked 30 points.

When I saw the rheumatologist half a year later I had gotten pretty used to aches and pains, resting when I had to, changing my life around to manage energy lulls. The rheumatologist diagnosed psoriatic arthritis along with osteoarthritis in one hip. I’ve had psoriasis for 20 years so this is kind of predictable. An injury or illness can trigger the arthritis side of psoriatic disease, and that fall at the symphony may have been the catalyst. Psoriatic arthritis is an auto-immune disease that can be treated but not cured. It has five “flavors” (none of which are peppermint!) and I have experienced a spectrum of the possible symptoms. I’ve got spondylitis, dactylitis, tendinitis, bursitis, blah-blah-itis...I can’t even remember all the itises.





Have you ever noticed how many vintage fashion items have back zippers and/or buttons? I have spent a year and a half not easily reaching anything back there—not zippers, not buttons, not my hair—all things I used to take for granted. I usually can’t put my right sock or shoe on without stretching for awhile. 







The nerve doctor said I had carpal tunnel syndrome, and the hand specialist said I had trigger finger. After trying a few less drastic things, I scheduled for surgery to alleviate the excruciating pain in my right hand. Although there is still some pain, my finger is much better from that surgery. So chalk up one positive from early 2016.

I’ve seen a naturopath, spoken with an old family doctor, gone to months of physical therapy, joined the YMCA for exercise. I gave up eating certain foods that I am sensitive to. I have taken a medication that weakens the immune system and can severely damage the liver, so I quit drinking alcohol. My weight has gone up even while eating better and exercising more. Eyes can be affected by psoriatic disease and mine have been painful and reddish at times. I sleep sometimes 10 hours a day, and am still tired. 

In mid-June, with sudden pain in my side, I wound up having a very infected appendix out. Again, something to chalk up on the positive side. Good riddance—but most of all I felt that having that infection out of my body would help my psoriatic disease. My rheumy agreed I should give it a try, and I spent a few months without the scary medications. 

Unfortunately, the psoriatic disease didn’t get better. In the meantime, when the standard EKG was done prior to my appendectomy, it was abnormal. Following up, I found out that I have a partial right bundle branch blockage, a small interruption in the electrical firing of my heart. Psoriatic disease can cause cardiovascular problems too, so this may be part of my heart’s problem, or it may be exacerbating an existing issue. 


This week, I started a new class of medication for my psoriatic disease. It may or may not work, has some very serious possible side effects, and has to be self-injected, but I am happily giving it a go. I am so eager to have a bit of my good health back.


Why am I writing this? I don’t believe in making excuses, and I don’t need anyone’s forgiveness for not being fully on. Life is hard for many people, and some are making it without a wonderful partner like I have in my husband. I have caring friends and family. I have medical insurance and good doctors. I’m not complaining, just explaining. Well, maybe I’m complaining just a little...



So what have I been up to for denisebrain this year? I have found plenty of glorious clothes that I am dying to show you. I have a book mostly ready to be published. I have a bright, shiny new website that is almost done. I have met so many wonderful people. I haven’t been able to do as much work, but I have done some good work.

I will show you some of the happiness of the year in my next post...there has been plenty!




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So thankful to so many


I am so very thankful for all my wonderful followers, customers, readers, colleagues, and friends in the world of vintage. On this day after Thanksgiving, my deepest appreciation to each and every one.


This year, my husband and I are celebrating Native American Heritage Day today, in appreciation to the most courageous people in the country right now, the Standing Rock Reservation protestors.

A Young Ute Woman, 1880-1900


America, I Sing Back

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, 1958
for Phil Young, my father, Robert Hedge Coke, Whitman, and Hughes

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.

Sing back the moment you cherished breath.

Sing you home into yourself and back to reason.

Oh, before America began to sing, I sung her to sleep,

held her cradleboard, wept her into day.

My song gave her creation, prepared her delivery,

held her severed cord beautifully beaded.

My song helped her stand, held her hand for first steps,

nourished her very being, fed her, placed her three sisters strong.

My song comforted her as she battled my reason

broke my long held footing sure, as any child might do.

Lo, as she pushed herself away, forced me to remove myself,

as I cried this country, my song grew roses in each tear’s fall.

My blood veined rivers, painted pipestone quarries

circled canyons, while she made herself maiden fine.

Oh, but here I am, here I am, here, I remain high on each and
     every peak,

carefully rumbling her great underbelly, prepared to pour forth
     singing—

and sing again I will, as I have always done.

Never silenced unless in the company of strangers, singing

the stoic face, polite repose, polite, while dancing deep inside,
     polite

Mother of her world. Sister of myself.


When my song sings aloud again. When I call her back to
cradle.

Call her to peer into waters, to behold herself in dark and light,

day and night, call her to sing along, call her to mature, to
     envision—

Then, she will make herself over. My song will make it so

When she grows far past her self-considered purpose,

I will sing her back, sing her back. I will sing. Oh, I will—I do.

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.


Copyright © 2014 by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke. Originally published in Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.





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the PINK HEART shop

As you probably know by now, 10% of my sales go to Save the Manatee Club, for the protection of this beloved endangered animal. I am thrilled that so many of you are eager to help this great cause!

In addition, starting today, there is a section within my Etsy shop with 25+ vintage fashion items. When you purchase any items from The Pink Heart Shop, 100% of your purchase price goes to Dress for Success Worldwide.

Dress for Success is a top-rated 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 20 countries. To date, Dress for Success has helped more than 925,000 women work towards self-sufficiency.

Visit the 

Dress for Success website

for more information about this fantastic organization.

Visit

The Pink Heart Shop

and come back often to see what’s new.

Call it a fight for the metaphorical pantsuit—after the U.S. election, I feel compelled to do something for the empowerment of women.

Fashion by Rodier Paris, 1971

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