Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jantzen Kharafleece Sweaters

I've seen the term "Kharafleece" in many Jantzen ads and on the labels of lots of their sweaters. I've often wondered what the term meant. I finally got a clue when reading the ad above from 1954. In the 1950s, sweater companies would name their exclusive yarn blends as a marketing strategy. Garland had "Dreamspun", Nan Dorsey had "Fabulon", Darlene had "Melospun", etc, etc.

What is "Kharafleece"? It was Jantzen's exclusive blend of lambswool, Vicara, and nylon yarn that was mothproofed by Mitin. Here's an earlier post of mine about Mitin. Vicara was a fiber produced by the Virginia-Carolina Corporation. It was made from the extruded plant protein Zein, which comes from corn. Vicara was soft as cashmere, washable, and took dyes well. It had to be blended with other fibers, though, as it was not as durable. Vicara production was discontinued in 1958 due to the advent of better performing synthetic fibers. If you have a Kharafleece sweater by Jantzen, you can properly date it prior to 1959.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sophie Gimbel, Fashion Leader

Sophie Gimbel, 1959

Sophie Gimbel, also known as Sophie of Saks, was one of America's most influential designers in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Born Sophie Haas in 1898 in Houston, TX, she moved to Atlanta, GA at age 4 after the death of her father. She attended Agnes Scott College there. At age 19, Sophie married Harry Rossbach and moved to Philadelphia. She had one son, Jay, and worked as a part-time costume designer for the theatre.

Sophie-gimbel ensemble, 1942

After divorcing Harry in 1926, Sophie moved to New York, where she was hired as a stylist by Adam Gimbel, president of Saks Fifth Avenue (she married Gimbel in 1931). In 1929, she was asked to take over the Salon Moderne, Saks' couture department. Prior to Sophie's taking over, the Salon had not been terribly successful. Within three years, however, Sophie had tripled the sales of the department. The Salon Moderne sold French couture from such designers as Chanel, Vionnet, and Schiaparelli alongside Sophie's own collections, which bore her name on the label, sophie-gimbel. In the 40s, the label was changed to Sophie of Saks.

Sophie Originals evening dress, 1949. Photo by Louise Dahl Wolfe.

Sophie also worked with Emmet Joyce to design the Saks Originals ready-to-wear collections. In the 1940s, Sophie Gimbel sold more clothes than any other American designer, with the possible exception of Hattie Carnegie, who was Sophie's main competitor. She paid little attention to trends, preferring instead simple and elegant garments which were produced in expensive fabrics.

Sophie Originals ready-to-wear dress, Fall 1961.

During WWII, Sophie became one of the world's most influential designers, as there was no couture coming out of Paris. After the war, she resumed buying Paris couture to copy in the Saks workrooms, but she found that her own designs were more popular. She then cut back on buying Paris fashions and concentrated on offering her own custom garments along with her ready-to-wear designs. Beginning in 1955, Sophie also designed custom wedding gowns.

Sophie Gimbel, at right, sits in the Salon with a customer, 1960.

Sophie's clothes were always feminine and classic, and were made in luxurious fabrics. She had a unique color sense, often using unusual colors, especially for her evening wear. Her designs often featured bows, a favorite adornment of hers.

Sophie of Saks beaded evening gown, 1963.

Sophie retired in 1969. She died on November 28, 1981. In 1942, she was quoted as saying, "You don't have to have lots of clothes in order to be chic. But you most certainly have to have the right clothes." Those words still ring true today, after nearly 70 years.

Please note: Biographical information about Sophie Gimbel is copyright of Couture Allure and may not be copied without permission.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New at Couture Allure - Vintage Designer Dresses

I added 20 new pieces at Couture Allure this week, including fabulous party dresses, designer coats and dresses and a few suits. Be sure to check out all the new things under the What's New tab at the website! Here are a few highlights:

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Weekend Eye Candy - Lanvin-Castillo, 1952

Lanvin-Castillo evening gown from 1952. White satin is embroidered and beaded in pale blue and the pale blue tulle train floats behind.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Charm School - How to Sit Like a Lady Part 1

Welcome to Friday Charm School! Today's lesson is part 1 of how to sit like a lady. We'll look at how to sit down and get up from a chair like a lady with feminine grace and ease.

1. Approach the chair holding your best posture. Turn so your back leg brushes against the chair seat.
2. Slide one foot back 2-3 inches under the chair seat.
3. Lower yourself into the seat keeping your head erect and your back straight. Most of your weight should be carried by the thigh of your back leg.
4. Ease down into the seat gracefully...don't flop.
5. For deeper seats or upholstered chairs where you can't slip your foot under, sit as above but on the edge of the seat. When seated, lift your weight slightly and slide back.

To rise from a sitting position, simply reverse the above steps. Lift yourself gracefully in one easy motion letting your back leg muscle do the work. Don't push up using the chair arms.

Practice makes perfect with this method of sitting down. Make your practice fun by lining up three chairs of varying heights. Put on some music and practice sitting in each chair in succession. Then do the same reversing the foot you slide back. Repeat until the motion becomes second nature.

Today, notice how you sit down and get up. Try the above rules. This method will probably feel alien and strange at first. Now move a chair in front of a mirror and compare how you look when sitting down normally and how you look sitting with the rules. Is there a difference? Which do you prefer?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

That Touch of Mink

I love these ideas from 1949 for wearing just a touch of mink. At a time when most women wore stoles of the entire mink pelt, including the heads, feet, and tails, these fur scarves are a refreshing change of pace.

If you have a damaged fur coat or stole and don't know what to do with it, making a scarf like this can preserve at least some of the pelts. If you prefer not to wear real fur, there are lots of high quality faux fur fabrics on the market.

Even the narrowest length of fur can be tied in a jaunty bow at the neck. Fun!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Look of Evening Gowns - 1963

Today, exquisite evening gowns, all from the Fall of 1963. Enjoy!

Silver metallic brocade gown by Jr. Theme.

Malcolm Starr white satin gown with green beaded bodice.

Minuet cotton/silk blend ottoman gown with simple princess lines.

A young Candice Bergen wears a Minuet white silk/worsted alaskine
gown with button-back jacket.

H&H white silk satin evening cape.

Photos by Milton H. Greene

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Capes and Ponchos - 1974

Swing Low blanket poncho sold for $40 in 1974 (about $178 in today's dollar).

In the early 70s, we all wore ponchos and capes, and we were very cool. The poncho was adopted by designers from the street looks of the hippies, who would take a blanket and cut a hole in the center to slip over their head, so they could stay warm without bowing to the establishment by wearing a coat.

Pendleton Knockabouts poncho sold for $28 in 1974 (about $125 in today's dollar).

In the fall of 1974, capes and ponchos were available everywhere and were worn wherever you went, from a walk in the woods to a night at the disco. Mine was brown plaid wool with a hood and a zipper up the front. I wore it every day. I think my mom might still have it. What did yours look like?

Pierre Cardin presents a wonderful mix of gray and white plaid wools
with a huge cape over a sweater and skirt.

Miss Dior sequined cape over a black satin skirt with a thigh high slit - perfect for the disco.

The cape goes high-end in Saga mink by Christian Dior
worn over a suede suit trimmed in the same mink.

Monday, August 23, 2010

1967 Fashion Makeovers

I was thrilled to receive a box full of vintage magazines as a gift from faithful blog reader Dona on Saturday. Several of this week's posts will be from those magazines. Thank you for your generosity, Dona! We all appreciate it!

In one of those magazines from 1967, there is a makeover article that focuses on young career women living in New York. The magazine updates their looks with more modern styles, many with definite Mod influences.

Before: Cynthia, a photographer's stylist, wore a coat that was big enough to fit over a heavy suit.
After: Cynthia wears a sleeker, more polished coat that will still fit nicely over dresses or sweaters and skirts. It is belted in black patent which coordinates with the black over-the-knee boots and black kid gloves.

Before: Noelle, a picture researcher, wears a classic tweed suit that is too mature and conservative for someone her age.
After: Noelle still wears a suit, but an updated one in a snappy plaid. Worn with black accessories, the pink really pops, making the suit a lot more fun.

Before: Susan, a secretary, was trying to mask her tall, large-boned physique with ill-fitting clothes. Too-short boots in a darker color than the coat do her no favors.
After: Sleek is Susan's new mantra. The short black slicker is paired with shiny black over-the-knee boots to elongate her look from head to toe. The monochromatic look with no breaks really works for her.

Before: Melodie, another secretary, wears updated colors and prints, but the loose fitting blouse makes her look much bigger than she is.
After: Melodie looks slimmer in a dress that is belted at the high waist. Dark stockings lengthen her legs.

Before: Margaret, an artist, has a model's figure and height, but she thought her body was too angular and bony. She tried to compensate by wearing ruffles and frills.
After: Margaret looks far more elegant in a suit in the season's new midi length. A soft ruffled shirt still gives her the ruffle that she likes, but is far less fussy.

Do these makeovers work? Which is your favorite?

All photos by J. J. Bugat.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New at Couture Allure - Vintage Suits and Sweaters

New at Couture Allure this week are loads of fabulous vintage dress/jacket sets and sweaters for your fall wardrobe.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Weekend Eye Candy - Jeanne Lanvin, 1966

Love this wool suit by Jeanne Lanvin, 1966. 3 button plackets descend in stairstep fashion down the front of the jacket and skirt.

Photo by F.C. Gundlach

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Charm School - How to Stand Like a Lady

Welcome to Friday Charm School! Today's lesson is about simply standing like a lady. Even the way you stand when not in motion should be planned to make you look graceful and elegant.

Here are the basics for a proper stance:

- Stand tall with your best posture. (See last week's lesson)
- Place your feet about 2 inches apart. Place the toe of the right foot even with the left arch.
- Rest most of the body weight on the front (left) foot.
- Raise the heel of the right foot so that only the ball of the foot is on the floor. Bend the right knee slightly.
- Rotate the right heel in toward the left foot until it is at a 45° angle. The heel of your left foot is now almost touching your right instep.
- Shift your weight comfortably back onto your right foot so that both feet support you. Your weight should be evenly distributed on both hips.
- Check to see that your hips are turned slightly in the direction that your right foot is pointing. Keep your shoulders and head facing forward.

If you prefer, reverse the above steps so that your right foot is in front. One side will feel more comfortable than the other, but practice both so you can change your stance from time to time when standing for long periods.

What do you do with your hands while standing? Always keep your elbows in close to your sides. Press the forearm of one arm lightly against your waist with palm up and fingers relaxed. Allow your other arm to hang freely at your side.

Or extend both forearms gracefully across the waist, resting the thumb of one hand in the palm of the other. Curve your fingers into a relaxed position.
Thirdly, you can allow both arms to hang easily at your sides with your wrists just brushing the body.

If you are fidgety, put your hands behind your back clasping one hand in the other.

At first, these positions may feel contrived and unnatural, even uncomfortable. But with practice, they will become easy and you'll be on your way to a more graceful appearance!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vintage Corsets - 1935

It's 1935 and clothes are slim and body conscious. Bias cuts reign, which means your dress clings to every curve, bump, and ripple. What's a gal to do?

You wear a girdle, of course! One piece girdles or corsets with attached bras were in commercial production with the aid of a new latex yarn called Lastex, which slimmed and supported the figure without the use of heavy boning.

Low cut backs in dresses called for ingenuity in the design of corsets. This one, without garters, was advertised as being wearable under evening gowns and swimsuits.

Here we see another low backed design and the attached ribbon garters used to hold up one's stockings.

In 1935, Warner's introduced better fit with 4 different cup sizes - A, B, C, and D.

Many evening gowns of the 1930s were daringly low cut, sometimes backless, with tiny straps. Now, what's a gal to do?

This ad for lingerie by Maguerite Sacrez solves the puzzle. This long line girdle extends up to just below the breasts. Also shown in the ad is a separate bra that could be worn with the girdle, if desired.