Monday, January 31, 2011

Hats for Spring - 1957

I'm feeling trapped. The snowbanks are higher than my waist, the driveway is getting narrower and narrower, and I am generally sick to death of winter. It's so cold, the inner harbor is frozen over. Someone remind me why I live in Boston?

To combat the winter blues and blahs this week, let's look at some goodies for spring so that we can start to dream of balmier weather. And for those of you living in warmer climates right now, I am officially jealous!

Today, spring hats from 1957. Just looking at hats lifts my mood. How about you?

Rose Valois forms a double bandeaux of rose petals.

Pierre Balmain wide brim straw hat.

Ruban flower petal cap with dramatic face veil.

Albouy uses metallic mesh and tops it with a rose.

Gilbert Orcel blue and white stripe silk.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New at Couture Allure - Vintage 50s Dresses

New at Couture Allure are lots of dresses from the 1950s, as well as other designer pieces and vintage accessories. Be sure to check our What's New section for all of our new items!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekend Eye Candy - Jacques Fath, 1957

Jacques Fath weaves black silk ribbons into a tight fitting cap. The loops at the back resemble a fun coiffure. Notice too the mix of a double strand of pearls AND a brooch. Love!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tina Leser Beach Ensemble, 1945

Tina Leser was well known for her use of exotic fabrics and style influences from around the world. During the WWII years, however, her travels were limited and so were her fabric choices. Leser was still able to find inspiration, though, and here she uses simple white jersey for an exotic beach look. The two piece swimsuit has a twisted bandeaux top and came with a long wrap-around skirt. The set sold for $42 in 1945 (about $509 in today's dollar.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fashion Plate

The title of this ad from 1948 is "Fashion Plate", and isn't she? The model exudes stunning sophistication in shades and variations of white. The coat and hat are by Lilly Daché. What a hat! It's not many women who can wear a dive-bombing dove on their heads and not look silly. The statement brooch and earrings are antiques from A La Vielle Russie. A sumptuous pair of kidskin gloves match the hat. And the perfect makeup sets off the entire look. As it should.....

....because this ad was for Revlon's new "Fashion Plate" cream wafer foundation. "Like a wonderful hat - it changes you instantly with the radiant illusion of poreless-as-porcelain perfection."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dressing for Spring, 1943

What is it with me and polka-dots lately? This dress in Mallinson's Miami rayon fabric was made from Simplicity pattern 4536, Spring 1943 . The big white buttons mimic the polka-dot print on a beautiful shade of green that is perfect for spring and summer. I like the use of black gloves here. They balance the black hat. White gloves would have been too prissy, don't you think? The photo was taken by George Hoyningen-Huene in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Omar Kiam for Ben Reig, 1949

Could you just die? This stunning ensemble was designed by Omar Kiam for Ben Reig in the spring of 1949. The floral fabric is an Onondaga silk styled by Philip A. Vogelman. The little capelet jacket slips on over a sheer white blouse with pearl buttons. The pearls are echoed in a triple strand choker at the neck. Can you see the ingenious draping of the skirt? Click on the picture for a larger view if you like.

But what about that chair she's standing in front of? Can anyone tell me about it?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Clara's Custom Made Clothes

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Sometimes the serendipity of what I do is amazing. This morning I was flipping through a 1939 issue of Town and Country magazine and I found this half page ad for Clara's Custom Made Clothes at Eighteen East 53rd Street in New York. The address is right off of Madison Avenue and you know this was an expensive store for society's elite. Especially if the store could afford a half page ad in the front third of the pages of Town and Country.

But what's the big deal? What's so serendipitous?

Just last week, I listed a Nina Ricci dress dated 1971 that was sold by Clara's at 18 E. 53rd St. Yep, same store, same high quality garments, same elite customers. And that, my friends, is serendipity. I love what I do.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Weekend Eye Candy - Emeric Partos, 1958

In 1958, Bergdorf Goodman's custom furrier Emeric Partos designed this mink coat to wear over your full skirted evening dresses. Notice how it ties at the waist with attached sashes. Let the cold winter winds blow!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Louise Barnes Gallagher

Louise Barnes Gallagher, photo provided by her granddaughter, Mary-Louise.


Louise Barnes Gallagher (1892 - 1972) was born and raised in New York City. As a child, she sewed clothing both for her dolls and for herself. She became a young widow when her husband was killed in WWI. Needing to earn a living, she began her career as a model for a wholesale dress house in New York. At night, she continued to hone her dressmaking skills at home and took classes in draping and sculpture. Modeling soon bored Louise and she spent more and more time in the workrooms of the dress house learning about construction techniques.


In 1916, Gallagher went to Paris. There she worked as a stylist, sending design ideas and fabrics from her own atelier back to the dress house in New York. Upon her return to New York in 1919, Gallagher was hired by one of the big New York suit and coat manufacturers. She was put in charge of 5 workrooms and she became the first female designer of suits in the wholesale industry. The job was a formidable one, as all of her direct employees were men who did not take kindly to a woman as their boss.


In 1924, Louise Barnes Gallagher opened her own fashion house, where she specialized strictly in suits, coats, and dresses for day and afternoon. In 1938, she was named one of the top designers in America by Stanley Marcus in the first year of the Neiman Marcus Fashion Awards. Gallagher was considered one of the leading designers in the world during the years of WWII when the Parisian couture houses closed.


The designer was best known for her use of a sheer knitted wool mesh fabric which came to be known as "Gallagher mesh". She often used many, many buttons in her designs. Her clothing was very expensive and was carried by the most exclusive stores in America. The dress shown above sold for $98.95 in 1945 (about $1203.00 in today's dollar).

Louise Barnes Gallagher wearing one of her Gallagher mesh suits with many buttons down the front.  Photo provided by Louise's granddaughter, Mary-Louise.

1951 tweed coat over chiffon dress by Gallagher Mesh.

In 1949, Louise decided to retire and turned her company over to Jerry Gibbs, one of her employees. The company's name was changed to Gallagher Mesh. She continued to oversee the company's collections for a short while. Mentions of the company Gallagher Mesh disappear after 1952. Louise continued to design patterns for American Designer Patterns and she wrote books about the fashion industry for young girls considering a career. She died in 1972.

Please note: Biographical information about Louise Barnes Gallagher is copyright of Couture Allure and may not be copied without permission.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Greta Plattry, 1955

Greta Plattry was an American designer of sportswear in the 1940s and 50s. Her work was on par with that of Claire McCardell, Tina Leser, and Joset Walker. Her clothes were versatile, comfortable, and extremely wearable. The following photos were taken by Richard Avedon in 1955 for a 4 page advertisement for Greta Plattry co-ordinates. Finding any of these today would surely make me smile!

Left: One-shoulder sundress in a cotton border print. Sold for $25 in 1955 (about $204 in today's dollar.)
Right: One-shoulder swimsuit with drawstrings at the side legs. Matching beach shirt to wear over it. Set sold for $30 in 1955 (about $245 in today's dollar.)

Left: Boat print swimsuit. Sold for $15 in 1955 (about $123 in today's dollar.)
Right: Boat print cotton sundress with rope belt. Sold for $25 in 1955 (about $204 in today's dollar.)

Left: Fish print cotton dress with tiny bows. Sold for $20 in 1955 (about $163 in today's dollar.)
Right: The same fish print cotton is used for a two-piece swimsuit and sailor collared beach shirt. Set sold for $22 in 1955 (about $180 in today's dollar.)

Left: White eyelet full skirt worn with a black cotton one-shoulder top. Set sold for $33 in 1955 (about $270 in today's dollar.)
Right: Swimsuit in white eyelet lined in pink broadcloth worn with a coordinating beach shirt. Set sold for $43 in 1955 (about $351 in today's dollar.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Metlon Metallic Yarns

Aren't these golden cocktail ensembles from 1958 lovely? Adele Simpson made the brocade suit on the left and Hannah Troy did the lurex knit dress on the right. The fabrics used for both garments were woven with metallic thread made by Metlon, a Rhode Island company still in business today. Metlon began in business in 1947 by designing and building special machinery to slit fine gauge metallic fabrics into thin continuous strips of yarn or thread.

Later in the same 1958 magazine, this ad appears for an evening suit in turquoise and gold brocade by Bill Blass for Maurice Rentner. The brocade fabric was made with Metlon threads. Gorgeous, isn't it? And if you were lucky enough to find this suit today, I'll bet those gold threads would still be shimmering just as brightly as they did over 50 years ago.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Parisian Fur Coats - 1945

It's the fall of 1945. Paris had just been liberated the previous August and the city is still struggling to rebuild itself. The couturiers won't emerge with proper fashion shows until the fall of 1947. But many designers did begin to reestablish their businesses. Here, fur coats for the winter of 1945. Hemlines are still on the short side, but shoulders are already huge.

Left: Gray broadtail coat with black fox sleeves by Molyneux.
Right: Black astrakan coat by Revillon.

Otter fur double breasted coat by Jungmann et Cie.

Paquin aubergine wool coat with blue fox fur collar and pockets.

Astrakan coat by Reine d'Angleterre. Check out those platform booties.
The soles are probably wood.

Left: Coat in astrakan fur with beige wool bodice by Gaston.
Right: White broadtail fur jacket with black suede waistband by Gaston.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Maria Carine

Maria Moutet-Chenu

I first ran across the name of Maria Carine when I found a Jeanne Lanvin dress that was "éxécuté par Maria Carine sur autorization spéciale" (made by Maria Carine with special authorization). My interest was piqued. Then last week, my friend Carrie of Glad Rags & Curios found an earlier Lanvin Castillo suit with the same reference to Maria Carine. It was time to find out more!

Maria Moutet-Chenu wore haute couture as a young woman. When her fortunes changed in the late 1950s, Maria went to work for Jacques Heim in his Boutique. She worked with Heim to find a way his designs could reach a wider market and her business, Maria Carine, was born.

Maria worked with four couturiers: Heim, Jean Desses, Guy Laroche, and Lanvin-Castillo. After each couture showing, the designers would meet with Maria and give her a few sketches to work from based upon their haute couture designs. Maria was the modeliste. She would take the sketch and make a toile (muslin pattern) which the couturier would approve. These toiles were then used to make the ready-to-wear garments.

But this is not factory made ready-to-wear! Each garment was constructed with the identical fabrics and trimmings used for the haute couture garments. Maria employed hundreds of cutters in her workrooms. Each garment was cut one at a time by a cutter. And then each garment was sewn individually by one of the hundreds of seamstresses who worked for Maria Carine, many of whom worked in their own homes. Each garment was constructed with painstaking attention to detail, with couture techniques, and each garment was completed by hand. Thus, we had individually made ready-to-wear for the world with the same high quality as the couture, but at a lower price point.

In 1959, the US became the largest market for French ready-to-wear. By 1962 Maria Carine was producing about 3000 garments per season for the US market.

The original Jeanne Lanvin couture dress from spring 1967.

Late 1950s Lanvin-Castillo made by the Maria Carine workshop available at Glad Rags & Curios.

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

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New at Couture Allure - Vintage Designer Dresses

New this week at Couture Allure are several vintage designer dresses and some fabulous 1950s dresses for spring. Be sure to check our What's New page to see all the new items!