Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Summer Into Fall

Take a sleeveless summer sheath dress in black (or red, or blue, or.....) and add a popover jacket in plaid.  As the cool morning gives way to warmer temps in the afternoon, simply take off the jacket.  Dress and jacket by Larry Adrich.  Set sold in 1961 for $160 (about $1,228 in today's dollar.)  Hat by Lilly Dache.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Perfect Look for a Hot Summer's Day

July is coming to a close and the dog days of August are almost upon us.  Summer is speeding by.  Instead of complaining about the heat, I am determined to enjoy it while it's here.  The best way to do that is to dress appropriately for the weather.  Back in 1954, here is how one woman achieved cool perfection.  Her simple sheath dress by B.H. Wragge is made of linen.  She tops it off with a little straw hat that has a brim to shade her face.  She keeps jewelry to a minimum, but adds accessory flash with a well made handbag, this one by Josef.  As I said, perfection.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympics Fever

Something a little different today. "Sport at Heart", the Official London 2012 Olympics Film. Enjoy! Then get up and move!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Weekend Eye Candy - Christian Dior, 1950

Christian Dior Haute Couture, Spring 1950.  Layer upon layer of white silk tulle, each accented with rows of narrow Valenciennes lace.  A trail of white silk roses at the side waist.  Bliss.

Friday, July 27, 2012

More Modess...because Ads

Last week, I showed you several advertising images from the "Modess...because" campaigns.  I thought you might like to see more of them since they feature couture garments.  I've also started a Pinterest Board of the Modess.....because ads.  If you have an image of one of these advertisements you'd like to add, please email it to me and I'll be happy to include it with attribution.  Thank you!

Motion Picture Magazine, 1949

True Confessions Magazine, 1953

Model Helen Whiting, Ebony Magazine, January 1960

Model Helen Whiting, Ebony Magazine, April 1960

Model Helen Whiting, Ebony Magazine, June 1960

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rant: Modern Clothing Manufacturers are Skimping on Quality

In the drive to keep prices of clothing down for customers who demand it, modern manufacturers have to find ways to cut costs.  Many of those cost cutting measures result in lower quality garments.  This "dumbing down" of American fashion has been gradual over the last 15 years or so until a whole new generation of buyers have come to accept poor quality and throw away garments as the norm.

I have recently started noticing more press devoted to the issue of poorly made garments imported from overseas.  In my opinion, this is a very good thing.  But talking about the issue is just the beginning.  We as consumers now need to start fighting back with our wallets.  We need to stop purchasing "garbage garments" and use our hard earned dollars for quality, not quantity.  In doing so, though, you have to become a fashion detective.

Photo from Eileen Fisher
Here's an example.  I was perusing the Eileen Fisher website this morning.  I wear Eileen Fisher garments frequently, but I haven't purchased anything new from this brand for the last 3-4 years.  My older classic pieces from this company are holding up well, while newer Eileen Fisher garments in the last few seasons have suffered in comparison.  Take a look at this Round Neck Tee with Cap Sleeves that is newly offered on the site.  I am shocked at how ill fitting this t-shirt looks in the photo.  If it doesn't fit a model well, how is it going to work for me?  The cut of the garment is unflattering and when you zoom in on the photo, you can see that the "silk cotton" is thin and not tightly woven.  At $108, this t-shirt is hardly a bargain.  For that price, I would expect a garment of much better quality.

Let's look at a few details.

-  First, the fit.  Eileen Fisher says this shirt is "fitted at the bodice, easy at the hem."  Translaction? The side seams are straight instead of curving to fit the body.  It's easier to cut and sew a straight seam than a curved one.  That means the shirt is cheaper to make.
-  "Cap sleeves" simply means they have taken a short sleeve and made it shorter and skimpier.  These cap sleeves aren't even shaped to the body.  They're simply cut straight across and hemmed which gives them an odd angled appearance.  Shorter length and cutting  straight across means less fabric, which means the shirt is cheaper to make.
-  Take a look at the shoulder seam.  Now look at where the model's shoulder is.  There's about 2" less in shoulder width than there should be.  That means less fabric, which means the shirt is cheaper to make.
-  "Banded at neckline."  Instead of using a dyed-to-match rib knit for the neckline banding, which would hug the body and not gap out of shape, this band is just a folded over piece of the same knit fabric that is serged to the neckline.  One washing and that will no longer sit flat on the body.  It's going to crumple and fall over.  But using the same fabric for the neckband means less fabric to buy and dye, which means the shirt is cheaper to make.
-  Is it me, or is this t-shirt too short?  The fabric is 70% silk/30% cotton which can be "hand washed, but dry cleaning is recommended."  Translation?  This shirt will likely have some shrinkage in length when I wash it.  But a shorter hem means less fabric, which means it's cheaper to make.

The folks at Eileen Fisher are hoping you won't notice these areas where they've skimped to cut costs.  And they are not alone in using these methods.  Almost every manufacturer out there is hoping you'll accept their "garbage garments" in your pursuit of the latest fashions.  Will you become a fashion detective?  Will you keep your wallet in your purse in protest?  I hope so. 

Sorry, Eileen Fisher, I won't be buying this t-shirt.  And I have to say how disappointed I am that you would attempt to pass off this poor quality garment to a long time customer.  Maybe I should start to sew my own t-shirts again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chanel 1993 - 94

I've started to add magazines from the 80s and 90s to my collection, as fashions from those decades are now considered vintage.  I was browsing through the magazine rack at a thrift store the other day and came across one from October of 1993 and I promptly brought it home to share with you. I thought you might enjoy a look at a few pieces from Chanel for Fall 1993 and Spring 1994.

The micro-mini skirt was back in a big way in the fall of 1993.  Karl Lagerfeld and Yves St. Laurent led the way by featuring the new super short length on their runways.  Here is one example from Chanel Haute Couture, worn with black opaque tights.  I can't tell if those are socks or boot tops in the same tweed.

Love this.  Simply love this.  Chanel Haute Couture wool tweed bra top, guantlets and full length skirt, all embroidered in gold.  The wide belt makes it just right.

Another view of the same ensemble gives you a better view of the embroidery on the skirt.

For Resort 1994, Lagerfeld went to the ankle with the hem on this silk dress covered with Chanel graffiti.

And in a preview of Spring 1994 Haute Couture, a micro mini tweed dress worn with a jacket of the same length.  The flared godets at the jacket hem match the slight flare of the jacket sleeve.  The ensemble is worn with black opaque tights.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Please Support a Dream

My husband Harry has been a writer all his life.  I've known it from the first day I met him.  I have a stash of eloquent love notes and poetry to prove it. Even though Harry always dreamed of being a writer, he got a degree in accounting and has worked in that and other related fields since graduating.  But the book...the book.....it was in his soul.

One day, about 4 years ago, I had the opportunity to read a poem Harry had written to a friend in college.  I was stunned at the beauty of his words written when he was only 19 years old.  I turned to him and challenged him, saying, "Why aren't you a writer?"  And thus, it began.  Harry took the idea that had been in his mind for so long and brought it to life.  I am so very proud of him.

The book is written.  It is called "Little Deadly Things" and is set to be published on September 12, 2012.  It's part science fiction and part thriller, but it's really a work of literary fiction about humankind.  It tells the story of how things that happen to us when we are young have a profound affect upon who we become as adults.  It is beyond wonderful, and that's not just the proud wife speaking. 

Harry is self publishing his book, and has launched a Kickstarter Project to raise the remaining funds necessary to get the book into print and into e-reader format.  Can you help?  We need to raise $2500 by August 12 in order to have the project funded.  No gift is too small and your support would be most appreciated. 

I'll let you know when "Little Deadly Things" is available.  I know you're going to love it!  If you'd like to learn more about the book or read an excerpt, you can go to Harry's website.  But first, please do support the project.  Thank you!

UPDATE!  A huge THANK YOU to those of you who have chosen to support this project.  The response has been wonderful and we truly appreciate your help!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cole of California Swimsuit - 1955

In the spring of 1955, Cole of California introduced a new brilliant blue color they called Cole Blue.  The suit was made from a new fabric called Warshfast Laton that would not fade through a summer in salt water, chlorine pools and sun.  This suit was designed by Margit Fellegi.  That draping around the waist makes the model look even tinier than she is.  And that wing on one bust serves to balance the draping on the opposite side.  This suit probably came with removable shoulder straps, but I think it looks great without them.  Don't you?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

New at Couture Allure - Vintage Party Dresses!

New at Couture Allure this week are some wonderful vintage party dresses, including this 1950s turquoise beauty that is one of my favorites....ever!  Be sure to check our What's New pages to see all the latest listings.

1950s beaded tulle ball gown

1960s gold and silver brocade cocktail dress

1980s gold metallic full skirt dress

1950s genuine fox fur stole

1960s draped red silk cocktail dress

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Weekend Eye Candy - Evening Hat, 1926

In 1926, an evening hat like this one by Judith Barbier was a must-have for every flapper.  The hat is completely covered in beads and rhinestones.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Designer Clothing in Modess Ads

One of my biggest frustrations as a vintage lover are the "Modess....because" ads by Johnson & Johnson.  They feature the most gorgeous clothes, but no mention or attribution is given to the designers of the over-the-top ballgowns and evening wear used in the ads.  

Young & Rubicam was the advertising agency responsible for the ads.  They contracted with well-known designers and couturiers of the time - Christian Dior, Jacques Fath, Balenciaga, Hattie Carnegie, Falkenstein, etc, etc. The clothes used in the ads were designed exclusively for Johnson & Johnson to be used in the Modess ads and were not offered for sale to the general public.

The ads were featured in all major women's magazines of the time and were always full page.

This ad from 1955 is one of my favorites.  Instead of a ball gown, we have beaded cigarette pants with attached drapes at the back.  I WANT to know who designed this ensemble, don't you?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What's the Difference Between Faille, Bengaline and Ottoman?


If you've ever asked yourself that question, or any other question about fabrics, check out the new Fabric Resource at the Vintage Fashion Guild!  My friend Maggie of Denisebrain has been working on this project for 5, count 'em, 5 years.  Maggie has put together high quality scans along with definitions and descriptions of almost any kind of fabric you need help with.  It's been a true labor of love and is a huge service to the vintage community.  2 thumbs up to Maggie and the VFG for this fabulous resource!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Last Chance Sale at Couture Allure!

It's time to make room on our racks for fall merchandise. That means it's time for our famous Last Chance Sale where everything on the site that is marked Last Chance is on sale for $50.00 or less! Sale runs now through Saturday, July 21.  All remaining Last Chance items will be removed from the site on Sunday.  Go! Shop! Grab a bargain while they last!

60s cotton shift dress, now just $50

1950s Rappi pink tulle party dress, now just $50

1950s cotton full skirt sundress, now just $50

1970s Yves St Laurent silk blouse, now just $50

1960s linen dress and jacket, now just $50

1970s full skirt cotton halter dress, now just $50

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Couture Allure on Pinterest

Twiggy, photographed by Richard Avedon

Couture Allure is now on Pinterest!  Come join the visual feast of vintage and modern images that inspire my life.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Introducing SewHallie on Etsy

You know that feeling when you open a closet door and things start to tumble out on your head?  That was the impetus for my new Etsy shop, SewHallie.

My grandmother Hallie taught me to sew when I was 12 years old. I was always fascinated with her sewing room. Every drawer and cupboard was filled with vintage sewing notions and fabrics that she had saved all through the Depression years and beyond. Fast forward through the decades. I started my own collection of high end fabrics and notions during my years at fashion design school and then during my time as a manager for a fine fabric store. I spent years as the owner and designer of an infant clothing business. I also had a brief stint as a costume maker.

All of those fabrics, laces, patterns, buttons, and bits and bobs were packed into boxes and moved with me from place to place.  For the last 10 years, they have been stored away in a rather large closet here at Couture Allure.  That closet was loaded floor to ceiling with all these wonderful treasures I planned to use "someday."

Time for a Reality Check. It's rather silly of me to keep hanging onto these treasures when they can be used today by a new generation of seamstresses and crafters who have an appreciation for the quality of vintage.  I am now offering the contents of the closet to you at Sew Hallie.  Lots of the things I'll be listing have personal memories attached, but it's time to let them go.

My grandmother Hallie grew up in a family of 13 children and was a young mother during the Great Depression. She saved and reused everything! Many of her laces and trims were removed from garments that were worn out or they were the leftover pieces after sewing a new dress for one of her daughters or granddaughters.  It was my job to clean out Grandma's house when she had to leave it in the late 1970s.  I remember approaching the project of the sewing room with many fond childhood memories.  But I didn't find this lace in that room.  The multiple drawers of the nightstands in her bedroom were jammed full with pieces of lace and trimmings.  I scooped all of it into a large box and brought it home with me.  I've used lots of it over the years, but I'll never be able to use it all.  The piece of lace shown here is just one fine example of what is already listed and what is to come.

When my sisters and I were young, Grandma used to make the most wonderful doll clothes for us. Our Barbie wardrobe was the envy of every little girl on the block.  I found lots of those patterns when I cleaned out Hallie's sewing room.  But I don't have the time or patience to make clothes for dolls, so those patterns are now listed as well as loads of other vintage patterns that are soon to come. 

During my years as a designer and costumer, I would travel to the fabric show in New York once a year.  While I managed the fabric store, I amassed a collection of designer woolens and silks that I always planned to use "someday."  I have yards and yards of gorgeous dressmaking fabrics for you. The gold metallic crepe shown here was used for Renaissance costumes, and I have yards leftover and available to you.  I also have it in silver and checks.

And then there are the odd bits and bobs that have come to me during my years as a vintage clothing dealer.  There are lots of little treasures that I simply could not throw away, as I know they are beautifully made and can be used in another way today.  This umbrella handle is a good example.  This was in a box of jewelry that came out of an estate about 7 years ago.  A broken handle off an umbrella?  What good is that?  Well, it's genuine Bakelite, that's what!  This piece is now sold and I'm sure the new owner will use those beads in a new and wonderful project.

I have loads more to come.  Ribbons, buttons, millinery feathers, rhinestone trims, thread, zippers, patterns, etc, etc, etc.  I hope you'll add SewHallie to your favorite shops and check back often for the treasures that will show up there!

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Weekend Eye Candy - Jacques Fath, 1951

Petals fall diagonally around the skirt in this summer afternoon dress by Jacques Fath from 1951.  The dress is made of silk organza in white with black polka dots.  When I dream of wearing a dress from the 50s, this is my vision.  It's simply perfect in every way.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Summer Vacation Fun - In the Swim

I can't finish up a series on summertime fun without including a jump in the water. Whether you just like to dip your toes or get out there and surf the waves, get in the water and take a swim!