Monday, February 25, 2013

Dior's New Look

The post-war world of the 1940s called for something new and exciting to happen for fashion.  Women were tired of looking like uniformed civilians in their war-rationed fabric suits and were longing for something feminine and beautiful, something different and new to put on.

Over in Paris, a designer by the name of Christian Dior was designing what women wanted.  Almost mocking the ideals of rationing, he was using bolts of fabric to create full, elegant dresses that would hit the runways and be dubbed as, "The New Look," for fashionistas everywhere.

The dresses in The New Look were meant to accentuate a women's natural shape and curves.  Each one had sloping shoulders, a tiny waist, and full bust and hips.  Dior wanted to idealize a woman's body, as well as draw on past eras of femininity, such as the Victoria Era, to give charm and grace to his designs.

However, Dior used his own little tricks to really give the look some flare.  The dresses had shoulder pads to create sloping shoulders, a "waspie" corset to create a thin waist, push up bra cups to accentuate the bust, and a padded petticoat to give the wearer full hips.  His dresses could practically stand up on their own with all the boning and padding he added to them to make them have this shape.  Women who were trying to get the look, but couldn't afford the design were encouraged to sew a "waist-liner" (a strip of muslim with boning sewn into it) into their dresses.

Though his designs were popular with celebrities and socialites and copied and produced for the all-American housewife, the dominance of The New Look in fashion ended shortly after Dior's death in 1957.  One could blame the complexity and restrictiveness of the layers and corsets for the end of the look, but the changing ideals of women and fashion probably had a lot to do with it, as well.  No matter the reason, the basic idea and silhouette of the look continues to show its face in fashion, constantly being replicated in design with each passing decade.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Bold and Printed

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 I am still rebelling against all the weird, cold weather we have been having by listing bright, colorful, spring prints!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Shopping for Vintage by Funmi Odulate

A few years ago for Christmas, I received the book, Shopping for Vintage by Funmi Odulate, and I quickly devoured it.  The book is full of illustrations and blurbs on designers and fashion trends.

For starters, the book gives a very good overview of each era and designers that defined the era with their signature looks.  It has beautiful watercolour illustrations of popular dresses and designs by each designer, as well as what each was known for and how they made a mark on the decade.

The next section of the book deals with jewelry and how each artist signed their pieces, as well as how the company may have changed throughout the years.  Also, the book highlights signature jewelry designs and outlays what pieces would be most valuable for a collector.

There are then brief sections on handbags and shoes that really don't give a specific, detail-oriented view, just a generalized description of the era.

The book closes out by highlighting various vintage stores thoughout the world that one can visit, giving some a brief description on what one can expect when visiting.

Overall, I felt the book was very good in what it describes.  The illustrations alone make the book worthwhile, and, of the whole, the first section of designers is really what makes the book worth buying.

The sections after, while full of information, seem a little tacked on to give a fuller description to the book and make sure the author coversa ll areas.

I thought the weakest part of the book was when the author actually described what to look for when buying vintage.  Though she gave helpful tips on what to look for and how to tell a reproduction from an original, the book is more geared towards buying to collect more than buying to wear or resell.  With that in mind, the book does cater more to higher-end designers versus basic frocks most of us come across in our vintage hunts.  However, these tips can be applied on a smaller scale for what to look for when buying for your own shop.

Overall, I would give the book 3 out of 5.  Highly recommended for the illustrations and descriptions of designers, but not so much for the overall "buying" guide, as it is out of touch with most day-to-day experiences.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Oui, oui Paris!

Everyone loves Paris, right?

Here is some amazing photography of color photography from the early 1900s in Paris.

It is very interesting and amazing to see this style of photography coming from that era, as well as to see a "back then" comparison to modern day Paris.

See more of the photos here!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Reconstructing Vintage via Ebay

I have been reconstructing clothing every since I discovered T-shirt Surgery on LiveJournal back in the day.

I've always thought reconstructing items into something new was fun and really brought out a certain level of creativity.

Nowadays, I can't remember the last time I sewed for fun.  Maybe three or four years ago?  Seems very sad, considering I used to always make new shirts for concerts and dresses for events.

Not that I don't sew at all, anymore, because, trust me, there's a lot of mending to do when you live in the world of vintage.  Hems, buttons, moth holes, all that good stuff, though I can't necessarily say it's "fun" work, but it's work.

I'm digressing, as usual, but I just went through my stock of vintage stored in the back room of the store, and got out all the items I just don't have the time to deal with.  They need more time and love than a simple hem or darn and more creativity than my brain is apt to process at the moment.

So here you go, two giant lots on eBay - one with 13 pieces and the other with 10 pieces - for your reconstructing pleasure.

There's some absolute beauties in these lots that just need a little TLC and love to make them into something spectacular.  Or, if you're a costumer, they could easily be used for stage, as most have holes and stains that couldn't be seen from far away.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Identifying Vintage: Tags, Part 2

Now that we've covered the basics of the design on the tag in determining its vintage authenticity, let's dive in a little deeper to look at the other tag components generally attached to a garment such as a union tag, the style/lot number tag, and clothing care tag.

Clothing unions were very prevelant in the United States from the early 1900s up until the 1980s when massproduction of clothing sent a lot of jobs oversees to be produced for less.  Not saying that this exportation of jobs wasn't done before the 80s, but this was one of the largest shifts in production to happen up until that time.  Before this, however the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union or ILGWU was one of the most powerful and prevelant unions in the country, and you can see many of their tags on your vintage garments in the form of a white, square tag with a circle design, generally in a shade of blue with red.  If you find this tag on your garment, you can use this guide or this guide to help determine the garment's age.

Some things to note about union tags:  the ILGWU joined the CIO in 1937, the AFL in 1940, and the CIO and AFL merged in the mid-50s forming the AFL-CIO.  Today, the ILGWU is known as UNITE, which formed in 1995.  Tags will reflect these changes.

Once again in our modern world, computers and technology make keeping track of things very easy.  In our vintage world, this wasn't so much the case, so manufacturers had to come up with an easy and efficient way to keep track of which style of what garments were going where.  Enter the Lot and Style number and tag to a piece of clothing.  The lot number is the number attached to a group going to a store, generally done by the size.  The style number is the number for the piece's design.
For example, let's say a production of blue, bellbottom jeans were going to be sent to Macy's, Sears Roebuck & Co, and Montgomery Wards.  They all want size 10 of the jeans.  The style number for the jeans is #708015.  So, they would get articles that read, "Lot Size 10 / Style: 708015," which would be put into their inventory and the manufacturers.  Basically, the number just helped with the assembly line production and distribution of the garment.

Today, style numbers are still on most tags, especially higher-end brands.  This is helped with the return process, as most style numbers are checked against the tags to make sure the correct garment is being returned.

Sometimes, it's what's missing that helps identify if a garment is vintage.  Before the 1960s and the pass of the Textile Production Identification Act, which mandates that, mainly for customs duties, a garment must be labeled with its fabric content in percentages, clothing wasn't required to have a tag in it that said what it was made of.  The same goes for before the Federal Trade Commission passed the Care Labeling Rule  in 1971 which states that all clothing tags must have at least one safe way to clean the garment listed.  This was also when clothing care icons were introduced.  If you see a care or content label or both on your garment, chances are it was created sometime after the 1960s.

However, one must remember, that some companies, especially those that used finer fabrics such as silk and wool, generally advertised the use of these products in their garments, so don't completely rule out an earlier era just because it has a content label, and, generally, this label would be a nicely designed label sewed into the lining of a jacket and not a printed and stitched in label like those we see today.

One last way that the tag can hold the key to vintage authenticity is by looking at where it was made.  If it was made in countries such as Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia, it's pretty safe to say that it's vintage, as these countries were disbanded in 1992.

Obviously, as with anything, these are just guidelines in determining your clothings originations.  Many other factors are involved in truly getting a proper reading and feel for a garment's age, but looking at the tags can provide a quick way to glance at a garment in a pile and see if it's worthy of adding to your vintage collection.  So have fun finding them!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Identifying Vintage: Tags, Part 1

Looking at the clothing label or tag of a garment is a very easy way to determine if the article is vintage or not.  Not only do tags provide the brand, manufacturer, and size of the garment, they also give clues as to the garment's age based on the tag's designer, its designer, and its city of origin.

First, we'll start with the brand on the tag.  Many brands and stores we know and love today have gone through slight changes in their names as the decades have gone on.  As we condense more things in our lives into abbreviations and shorthand, many companies have, as well.  Kind of like how Kentucky Fried Chicken is now officially just KFC, many stores have taken the quick approach to their names.  For example, if you see a tag that says "Sears, Roebuck & Co." it's safe to assume the article is vintage, as the company officially changed to simply "Sears" in the mid 80s (though "Sears" will appear on late 70s garments, as well).

Also, look for now-defunct companies.  With the economy as it is today, many major corporations have had to consice or call bankruptcy, and the same can be said for years previous.  As smaller companies folded, larger companies bought them out.  Montgomery Wards collapsed.  Marshall Fields was bought by Macy's.  If you see tags with companies that no longer exist or that exist in a different form, depending on when they were bought out, it's safe to say the item is vintage.

Furthermore, many companies that have stood the test of time have gone through changes in their labels to keep up with modern designs.  Betsy Johnson, Lilly Pulitzer, Pendleton, and various others have redesigned their labels as their lines have progressed.  Look at the progression of the Koret of California tags (50s and 70s respectively)

Looking at the tag's design is also a great tip-off.  Most tags today are streamlined, meant to look sophistcated and to blend into the clothing.  The same cannot be said for tags in many vintage clothing.  Decorative labels with fancy font or borders were more common as the clothing wasn't as massed produced as it is today.  Companies could afford to put pretty labels printed in various colors in clothing as it was all part of the production value and they weren't making as many.  Nowadays, regardless of the price of the clothing, labels are almost non-existant in a tag form because it cuts down on costs and most people find tags annoying in a garment, so they are made virtually invisible or printed on.

Another key when looking at a garment's tag is a simple subline that reads, "by (insert designer name)."  Nowadays, you would never see a label that read "Heritage 1969 by Gap," even though Heritage 1969 is their brand.  You'd just walk into Gap, pick out a pair of Heritage 1969 jeans and walk out.  Easy as that.  But, when companies wanted to introduce a new division of their brand to people or a smaller design company was making a division of a brand for a store before the electronic age, it was a little more difficult to drum up that attention.  Why?  Simple: advertising.  The Internet.  Twitter.  Facebook.  TV commercials. It's so much easier now for a designer to advertise their new line for a company due to technology.  Prior to the World Wide Web, word of mouth was the way advertising, and a designer relied on people seeing that byline in department stores or in a magazine to get more business for their own private designs and stores.  Nowadays, sub-brands are an entity on their own, wheras before, they relied greatly on their motherbrand.

Much like the "by" subline, the city of origin where the design was made is a great tip for vintage seekers.  With most clothing now mass-marketed and produced overseas, seeing a designer's name with "China" writted underneath it is not as appealing as seeing "Kate Spade New York," per say.  However, before the the boom of clothing jobs sent overseas happened (basically, before the early 1980s), the city name represented the urban style a lot of people craved.  If one lived in LA, they may crave the designs of New York designers because it was just a different look and showed a level of sophistication and exotic when one said, "I bought this during my recent trip to New York."  European and international cities brought even more to that level, as clothing at that time was mainly kept to the area it was made.  So, saying one had a jacket from a Paris or London designer would definitely bring a certain level of class to the wearer.

Clothing tags are from
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Friday, February 8, 2013

Summer Sun Beats the Winter Blues

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This week's update is brought to you by the season Summer.

Our weather here has been so crazy!  It will be 50 degrees one day, then in the 70s the next.  I have no idea what coat to grab when I leave the house in the morning, especially because the sun is very deceiving.

Also, all I want to do is go see a Sand Gnats game and eat hots dogs with the guys, plus sit out at the beach and have pizza at Huc-a-Poos.

Have I mentioned I'm really settling into my Southern Life?

Either way, I decided to cheer myself up this week by listing the brightest items I have in the shop.  I hate dreary weather, it reminds me of growing up in Michigan, so I had to rebel against it and remind myself why I moved to the South.  Plus, I've been cleaning out the back room, which contained two huge boxes of 1970s bridesmaids dresses.  Let's just say, they will scare away any winter blues with their brightness, as well as silence any modern-day bridesmaid from complaining about her dress.  Some are horrible, but some are pretty great, and those pretty great ones you will see in the shop!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hookless Fasteners - Identifying Vintage by the Zipper

Even with smart phones, iPads, and all other technology we have at the tips of our fingers at any given moment, no one wants to stand in the middle of a thrift store trying to figure out if a piece of clothing is vintage and what year it was made.

That's why one must train their eye to vintage, and with the quickest of glances be able to tell if it is or not.  You're probably thinking, "Quickest of glances? Yeah, right," but really, I'm being serious.

Is it metal or is it nylon?

If it's metal, you most likely have a vintage garment.  If it's nylon, you might have to do a bit more researching (but there's other, easier ways to tell before having to break out the iPad, don't worry!).

A little history on the zipper.  The earliest version of the zipper was invented in 1851 by Elias Howe. For over 60 years after, the zipper was basically a flop.  They just couldn't get it right. Enter Otto Frederick Gideon Sundback.  He finally got the idea right enough to be able to market it, and in the 1920s, the B. F.Goodrich Company gave it the name "zipper," and it began to be used in the production of boots and other industrial things. Finally, due to a children's campaign and designers finally putting them into clothing, the zipper began to gain fame in the 1930s, and by the end of the decade surpassed buttons and hooks as the most popular and preferred method of fastening, even today.

In the 1960s, the company YKK invented the DuPont nylon zipper, a lighter alternative to the commonly used metal zipper of the time.  It's light-weight, more flexible design made it perfect for the synthetic materials that would begin to become prevelant in the late 60s to 70s.

It can be generally concluded that metal zippers can be found in clothing from the late 30s to the 60s, and nylon from the 60s to present.

Obviously, there are always exceptions to the rule, such as if a metal zipper was replaced by a nylon one or vice versa, so it is always important to take in other apsects of the garment, such as cut, construction, and tag.

But just a glance, that's all it can take to conclude a piece's general construction age.

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Alligators, Old Mink, and New Money

It always happens, you're shopping for something on Amazon, and you're literally $3 away from getting free shipping.  Every.  Single.  Time.

It's very frustrating.

In one of these trips, I was looking for something, and I decided to type in the word, "vintage," into the search bar for books.

I came up with Alligators, Old Mink, and New Money by Alison Houtte.  It was only 6 bucks, so I thought, "What the heck."

At the time, I was standing in as the concierge at the Hilton DeSoto and spent my downtime (which, being the off-season, was a lot), reading the book and basically devoured it in a few days time.

I read it at just the right time, too, to really appreciate a lot of the words Houtte wrote.  She talks about how she transformed from her days of modeling into opening and running a successful vintage shop in New York.

Though I wasn't going from being a model to a vintage shop owner, I was going from a 9-5 to being an independent business owner, so I really enjoyed her life anecdotes within the covers.

She covers vintage clothing -- finding it, evaluating it, and cleaning it -- as well as shares stories of devoted customers and crazy encounters.  There's a great one in there about a woman wanting a vintage alligator head bag that made me laugh, though I hope I never have to go through the same scenario.  Plus, she throws in personal stories and writes about her family and how they eventually influenced, though some-what grudgingly, her love of vintage.

So, if you're ever in the same bind I was in or are simply looking for a good read, look up the book and add it to your cart, you won't regret it!

And, if you're ever in the Park Slope area, check out the Hootie Couture Store!  (I've never been, but it's on the list)
321 Flatbrush Ave
New York, NY 11217

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tie it Up!

 Added these lovely men's ties into the shop this week.  I absolutely love the green one at the bottom - so 70s!

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