Friday, 29 October 2010

Fashioning Fashion

This wonderful book just arrived at work, Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail 1700-1915. It was published to coincide with an exhibition celebrating the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's acquisition of a large number of European clothing and accessories. The book is lavishly illustrated with beautiful photographs, much like the Fashion in Detail books, although I do like the fact that this gives you both a full length photo of the garment as well as closeups showing details of the construction and decoration.

This mantle, from Paris in around 1891, is wool and silk velvet, embroidered with metallic thread and glass beads, and with an ostrich feather trim. You can see a closeup of the embroidery at the back the garment in the photo at the top of this post.

As well as several interesting essays at the beginning of the book, there is a timeline of the periods covered, illustrated with costumes photographed on the same mannequins so you can really get a feel for the silhouette of each period. The remainder of the book is divided into three sections: Textiles, Tailoring, and Trim. This green suit from around 1760 in France, made of wool and heavily embroidered with metallic thread, sequins and silk, weighs over 9 pounds! There are a couple of great closeups of the embroidery, including a double-page spread of the front of the waistcoat.

The back view of a woman's dress from the House of Rouff, Paris, around 1897. There is a wide selection of clothing in the book, and a lot of accessories as well, including a variety of underwear (even a man's corset) and other things such as parasols, fans, beaded purses and slippers, bonnets, and even a pair of fetish boots from 1900! Although there is probably twice as much women's clothing in the book than there is men's, there are some truly splendid examples of embroidered waistcoats, smoking caps, and 18th century French suits. If you are interested in seeing some outstanding examples of tailoring and embroidery, this is the book for you!

All photos are from the LACMA website.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Beauty Alphabet - E

"E" is for Eyes and Eyebrows (the focal point of beauty)

"If you want to dazzle your friends, you must have sparkling eyes. Tired eyes do not shine, so -
  • Avoid eye strain - reading in a bad light and squinting in strong sunlight
  • Have your desk placed so that the light so that the light shines onto your work OVER your shoulder. (Your boss will probably help you readjust your table if you ask him nicely.)
Tired eyes should be bathed in a weak solution of boracic acid and lukewarm water. If you can spare ten minutes before you go out, lie down in a darkened room with pads of cotton wool soaked in iced water or cold tea over your eyes.

Here are some hints for correct make-up for eyes and eyebrows.
  • After powdering your face you should brush your eyebrows and eyelashes with a clean brush. Keep a special box for these tiny brushes, as they get very dusty if left with other make-up.
  • Brush mascara on the top lashes only, beginning at the inside corner. When buying mascara, be sure to choose a shade to match your colouring. You don't want to look as if you've got false lashes and this is exactly the effect you will achieve if you use the wrong shade.
  • When your mascara has dried, smear on both upper and lower lashes a light coating of vaseline. This will encourage growth and add lustre to your lashes.
Eyebrows can be treated in much the same way. First brush all traces of powder off with a clean brush.
  • If you use an eyebrow pencil, be sure not to extend the line too far past the end of your eyes. You should keep your pencil sharp and apply it in a strong light with a good mirror.
  • Eyebrows should be plucked from underneath the brow ONLY. Removing the hairs on top will only alter your expression and give you a "vacant" look.
  • If your brows are very untidy it is a good idea to have them professionally plucked the first time, and then you have a line to follow.
  • For a final touch of glamour, there is eye-shadow. There a numerous colours from which to choose - so there is no excuse for using the wrong colour and looking grotesque.
  • Eye-shadow should be smeared on the top of the eyelid and extended out to the edge of the brow.
  • Eye-shadow looks silly at nine o'clock in the morning - but adds just the right touch of sophistication for dates after the sunset."
From The Argus, 12 October 1950.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Masqerade Ball

Last night Alice and I went off to the Bohemian Masquerade Ball at the Thornbury Theatre. I'm wearing a 1950s ballgown from Rose Chong Costumes, leather gloves from Etsy, an old seqinned scarf I've had for ages, and mask I made myself.

Don't William and Alice make a lovely couple? William (who is Metal Couture) made both those masks, which are silver and very heavy. The feathers on his were so enormous, he kept poking people in the face who were standing metres away, but everybody loved it so much, and he had to pose for dozens of photos.

Me and Thea, a lovely lady who works for William and is a very talented jeweller herself. I wish I had got a photo of her whole outfit, as she had made herself a feather cape. My mask was just one of those cheap ones, stripped of all it's decoration, and then edged in grey ribbon, with a few rhinestones, and some new feathers.

Everybody put so much effort into their costumes, it was quite amazing. My favourites were Anthony and Jess, who looked just divine! You can't go wrong with chainmail, silver hotpants, or tiny chandeliers attached to your head.

A closer look at Jess' fantastic makeup and face decoration. I have a huge girl-crush on her, this girl knows how to dress up! Plus, that is all her own hair!

There was a whole lot of great entertainment throughout the night, including The Barons of Tang, Mojo Juju, Kira Puru, and Percy Valentine's Swing Orchestra who played from up on the top balcony. We were also entertained by some acts, including a gorgeous burlesque performer, Frankie Valentine. She started one of her acts dressed like this...

And ended it up like this! Her performance was very polished, sexy and best of all, quite funny. All in all, a great night out!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Beauty Alphabet - D

Here's your weekly installment in The Argus Beauty Alphabet from 1950, this week it's:

"D" is for Daintiness

"D is for daintiness and is possibly the most important letter in the beauty alphabet. You cannot be well groomed if you have not first of all been well scrubbed. No make-up looks attractive unless the skin is fresh and clean.
  • Your bath can be an important beauty treatment, so use a good soap, and use it generously.
  • A complexion brush used with a circular motion can work wonders with the neck, elbows, knees and heels.
  • As steam, plus cream, does a double-time lubricating job, scrub the face, neck and cuticles first, then massage in cream and let the steam do the rest.
  • If you want to be fragrant and dainty, a daily use of a deoderant is a must
  • And, of course, you shampoo you hair once a week? Two lathers and three rinses will bring out attractive lights and leave your hair bright and shiny.
  • Your eyes and teeth are precious possessions, which you must guard as if they were heirloom jewels.
  • Wear glasses if you really need them - (Men DO make passes, at girls who wear glasses), and no matter how much you like reading in bed, discontinue the habit if the light does not shine directly on to your book.
  • Then there are your hands and your nails. Keep a nail brush and hand lotion in your office drawer, and give them a good scrub during your lunch hour.
  • Nail varnish is fun. BUT please watch for chipped polish. Nothing looks worse."
I was trying to find out exactly what they mean by "daintiness". These days I guess we would use "dainty" to mean delicate or small and pretty, but the 1950s meaning seems to have something to do with being fastidious and well-groomed. I found this exchange in a short story called Bernice Bobs Her Hair by F. Scott Fitzgerald, from the collection of short stories Flappers and Philosophers. Although it was written in 1920, it seems to illustrate this use of the word dainty. In the story, which was published Bernice is visiting her cousin Marjorie, who is giving her advice on how to be more popular with young men. The short story was based on letters which Fitzgerald wrote to his younger sister Annabel, on the same topic.

Bernice says:

"Don't I look alright?"

"No; for instance, you never take care of your eyebrows. They're black and lustrous, but by leaving them straggly, they're a blemish. They'd be beautiful if you'd take care of them in one-tenth the time you take doing nothing. You're going to brush them so they grow straight."

Bernice raised the brows in question.

"Do you mean to say that men notice eyebrows?"

"Yes - subconsciously. And when you go home you ought to have your teeth straightened a little. It's almost imperceptible, still --"

"But I thought," interrupted Bernice in berwilderment, "that you despised little dainty feminine things like that."

"I hate dainty minds," answered Marjorie. "But a girl has to be dainty in person. If she looks like a million dollars she can talk about Russia, ping-pong, or the League of Nations and get away with it."

You can read the rest of Bernice Bobs Her Hair if you so desire, on Google Books here.

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Monday, 18 October 2010

Grey Gardens the Movie

Here, finally, are my screenshots for Grey Gardens. The film, starring Drew Barrymore as Little Edie, and Jessica Lange as Big Edie, was made for HBO in 2009. It's about the lives of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, also named Edith, who were the subjects of the 1976 documentary Grey Gardens by the Maysles brothers, which I posted about earlier.

The film flashes back and forth between the 1930s and 40s, and the filming of the documentary in 1976. I decided to just concentrate on the costumes from the earlier period. If you want to see Little Edie's amazing sweater-on-the-head outfits from 1976, go straight to the source and rent the documentary.

The costume designer for the film was Cat Thomas, who also designed the costumes for Kill Bill Vol 1 and 2. There is an interesting interview with her about Grey Gardens from Glamour.

The first flashback in the film is to 1936, when Little Edie is attending her debutant ball. The dress she is wearing is really lovely. Of an ivory or cream brocade, the bodice is ruched at the front with a row of little covered buttons in black, as well as a black trim, which is echoed on the bottom of the bias-cut skirt.

As the dress is quite revealing, there is a delightful matching bolero jacket to go over the top, with short, puffed sleeves, and black lapels. The accessories include long white gloves, a triple string of pearls, and pearl stud earrings.

It was very difficult to get a shot of the whole dress, but here you can see the black band around the hem, and also her high heels, which were a silvery colour.

I took a couple of shots of Little Edie's hair from this scene, as I think the style is really pretty. It appears to have been caught back on either side with white flowered combs, and then the rest of the hair is caught up in a very fine hairnet.

You can just see the top of the hairnet stretching between the two flowered combs in this shot.

I tried and tried to get a shot of Big Edie's dress in this scene, but she kept moving! As far as I can tell, it was a very dark blue dress, with a draped v-neckline, and long sleeves which were slit down the length of them. Here she is about to put on the Beale family jewels, a lovely Art Deco style necklace and earring set.

This is my favourite Big Edie outfit, when they return to Grey Gardens after being in New York. Look at that marvelous sweeping hat! Her necklace is a cluster of golden crocodiles. You can't see in this picture, but Big Edie is wearing a pair of wide-legged coral palazzo pants.

Here's a shot of the back of that gorgeous coat, can't you just imagine swanning around in it?

This is Little Edie's gorgeous summery 1930s outfit. She is meant to be 19 in this scene, so it's girly, but bit grown-up at the same time. Look at the detailing around the neckline of the blouse, and how the brim of the hat is attached so it swoops around.

The rest of the outfit. Nice pockets on the shorts.

Little Edie down at the beach with her younger cousin, Jaqueline (later to become Jackie Kennedy). Imagine having such a glamorous older cousin!

Here's another shot, from Just Jared. Note the matching white bathing cap!

Another of Big Edie's lounging-around-at-home outfits. I suppose this is the 1930s equivalent of a tracksuit, but damn, so much classier! The robe has a little tassel hanging from the bottom of each sleeve, and from the collar at the back.

Again, palazzo pants, this time in a delicious crushed raspberry. I bet that whole outfit was silk, divine!

The Edies have a house party. Little Edie's dress is based on one that she actually wore in real life.

The real Little Edie, aged 21, modelling a dress at the 1938 East Hampton Fair.

The dress is quite unusual, in that it has a zipper down the front, and also a hood.

Big Edie's outfit is all ambers and oranges. Again, palazzo pants, which seem to be her signature, and I suppose mark her out as a bit of a bohemian. Her velvet coat is cinched in at the waist with a jewelled buckle, and she is wearing several strings of amber-coloured beads. Check out her matching shoes!

Here is a full-length shot of the two outfits, the Edies doing a soft shoe shuffle.

Big Edie seems to favour robes with an 'oriental' flavour, both in cut and pattern. The oriental look (which seems to have covered anything vaguely exotic) was popular during the 1920s and 30s in fashion and home decor, and would have suited Big Edie's bohemian aesthetic. Here she is wearing a Chinese robe embroidered with bamboo.

Little Edie heads off to go live in New York in this outfit. This would have been 1947, when Edie was 30. The figure hugging dress doesn't look very 40s to me, but perhaps that is deliberate, to show that stuck in East Hampton, Edie was out of touch with the current fashions?

Anyway, it's a great dress, I love the colour. It looks like a very fine knit to me, with some cable and eyelet detail, and round buttons on the shoulders and I think around the hip area too. The hat is almost 20s style ivory felt cloche with lines of stitching around the turned-back brim.

This is my favourite of all Little Edie's outfits. The divine belted blouse, the short black gloves with notched wrists, that perchy little straw hat! Edie is all dressed up to have lunch with Father, and looks every inch the 1940s Woman About Town.

A horribly blurry photo, but I wanted you to see how the blouse is belted over a black pencil skirt. You can just see the gloves in this picture.

Another shot of the hat, which appears to have a woven straw bow on the front. Also, I love Edie's makeup and hair.

Big Edie relaxing at home. She's become a little less glamorous in the intervening years, but she's still wearing lipstick and those great bakelite bangles even at home. Those of you who have seen the documentary will recognise that hat as the one Big Edie wears in bed, also featured on the film poster.

Edie modelling furs in New York. I want that leopard fur on the right!

This dress actually has tiny beads scattered all over the top of the bodice, but I couldn't seem to capture this. Love the notched neckline.

This is the little jacket Edie puts on over the blue dress after she has finished modelling.

A classic, romantic ball gown for Edie's romance with Julis Albert Krug, the US Secretary of the Interior. Julius was married, and in the documentary, Big Edie refers to him, saying "That married man was not going to give you any chance at all."

The grey and lemon colour combination is unusual, and I like the way the grey part wraps round the waist and then falls down the front and back. Also, there are those inverted triangles of grey at the sides of the waist.

A closeup of Edie's pretty diamante necklace.

Meanwhile, abandoned by her lover, and all alone at Grey Gardens, Big Edie is letting herself go. These chenille dressing-gowns must have been popular in the 1950s, as Bettie was wearing a dark red one in one of the scenes from The Notorious Bettie Page. Chenille, by the way, comes from the French word for caterpillar.

Another lovely 50s dress for Little Edie, this time an Air Force blue cocktail dress with three-dimensional roses on the skirt and bodice.

Here you can see the beautiful skirt of this dress, and that tiny lucite clutch.

Little Edie returns to Grey Gardens. Her travelling outfit is very smart, a grey button-through skirt, black back-button blouse cinched in at the waist with a belt, short black mesh gloves, and a small black hat.

A close-up of the hat and gloves.

I had to take this picture to show you the back of the blouse, which is notched at the back of the pelmet. By now it was 1952, and Little Edie was 35. Her clothes are very smart and quite sober and grown-up.

Love this gorgeous print dress Big Edie wears to welcome back her daughter in. Great colour and print, and it matches with her collection of bangles.

With her daughter back, Big Edie returns to her chic look of a kimono over a silk top and palazzo pants, like she wore back in the 1930s.

A sweet ruffled sundress in chocolate and caramel stripes.

You can sort of see how the circle skirt is gathered up on the side in this picture.

This was the only picture I could get of the whole dress, very small and blurry!

I'm not sure if this cardigan/top is printed or embroidered all over. It's quite striking, and has a slightly exotic feel to it like many of Big Edie's clothing.

Little Edie is in holiday mode at home, wearing a totally 50s combination of pedal pushers and a sleeveless blouse over a black bra. Was that acceptable in the 1950s to go out with your underwear showing?

The blouse is really quite sweet, with lots of stitching detail around the collar and armholes.

I found this shot somewhere on the web, Drew Barrymore on set. Ignore the awkward pose! Edie decides on the spur of the moment to go to New York for her audition, and just ties a white scarf over her hair and hops in the car like this.

Back at home, her heart broken, Little Edie goes to the beach. Her hair was falling out again now, so I guess that's why she had that kerchief over it. It's a sad picture when you contrast it with the earlier beach scene in her white swimsuit, when all her life was ahead of her full of possibilities.

Another kimono for Big Edie, this one was worn with lemon yellow pants.

The Edies at the reading of Phelan Beale's will. Later in the film, they will wear these exact same outfits as they sit on their beds and watch the funeral of John. F Kennedy on the television.

I tried to lighten this picture so you could see that Big Edie's dress, with its dramatic shawl collar, was actually made of a self-patterned fabric, perhaps a silk brocade?

Little Edie is wearing the same little hat that she wore when she was so happy in New York.

Well, that's it, pretty much every outfit in the whole movie! I hope you enjoy looking through these pictures and maybe getting some inspiration from them.