There are any number of reproduction companies making 1950’s-inspired clothing, but very few that have been quite this incisive or referential to the designs that set the aesthetic for the following decade – I am, of course, referring to Christian Dior’s “New Look” collection from 1947 (which cast of the shackles of wartime austerity in favor of a “new” silhouette for women) and the most recent collection from UK-based clothing company Miss Candyfloss, which they have playfully named “Amour Fou.” If you need a little lift in your day, I recommend taking a gander at the MCF Fall 2018 look book highlighting this collection, it is pure joy and beauty of design and the models look comfortable and beautiful in their garments.
While I find most New Look skirts to be too full for my liking for dancing, I certainly appreciate this glorious aesthetic and MCF has nailed the look with modern takes on fabrics and shapes. For me and my dancing wardrobe, the separates in this collection really shine, as well as the overall color palette being versatile and so lovely for fall and winter. While I don’t love all the synthetic fabrics (in general), I can very much appreciate their washability and wearability for dancers – the design is so good here, I’m willing to break my own rules and add a few pieces from this collection to my own.
MCF started releasing portions of this collection on August 15 and some items are already sold out. According to their Facebook page, they will continue to post items through November, as there are so many looks in the book that it will take that long to get all of them up on the website.
I can’t pull photos from the look book, but here’s what I’m loving from what they’ve posted for sale on the website thus far:
I see that Wearing History will be one of the vendors at Cal Bal (the California Balboa Classic) and thought this would be a good time to review the clothing I received from Wearing History as a result of backing their Kickstarter in August. It’s been fascinating following the manufacturing process after funding, with owner/designer Lauren Maringola giving frequent updates on the status of the fabric, printing, and the manufacturing timeline for each garment, among other details about working hands-on producing her made-in-the-USA line of 40’s-inspired clothing.
I backed Wearing History at the level where I would receive a pair of the Smooth Sailing trousers in denim (yes, I bought pants! Also available in plus sizes.) and the Norma Jean blouse in a must-own-or-perish musical note print. The package arrived in the mail and was waiting for me when I got home from the holidays and Lindy Focus. It was my intent to wear the outfit dancing, but the Lindy Focus plague (née the flu) and my cat getting sick prevented me from attending any local dance nights between then and now – but I wanted to make sure my Cal Bal ladies and all of you could know about this great line of clothing!
So instead of dancing, I decided to put my Wearing History outfit though another intense experience – a whirlwind trip to Hot Rhythm Holiday in Austin, Texas, where my band, the Mint Julep Jazz Band, would fly in, perform, and fly out in a period of 32 hours. 4 airports, 4 flights, shuttles, carrying baggage/equipment, eating my weight in Tex Mex food, and touring a bit of Austin before playing the Fed that night.
Just in case the glockenspiel case and traveling with 6 dudes carrying odd-shaped instrument cases wasn’t enough, the eighth-noted Norma Jean blouse would let everyone know that I was a musician and this was a band flying to a gig (and I was so excited, I’m sure I annoyed the crap out of everyone nearby). The blouse was actually a great travel piece and I imagine, for similar reasons, would be for dancing – it stayed tucked in with the darted waistline and high waisted trouser combo, the arm holes and slight dolman sleeve allowed for a wide range of movement, the tencel fabric was soft and durable, and the blouse could be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion.
The Smooth Sailing trousers got the double travel treatment – I only wore the blouse on the first day, but wore the trousers for both traveling days. The weight of the denim is just perfect – not too thick, not too thin, and soft without losing its denim qualities. The cut is flattering, and I love the way a high waisted trouser makes your bum look. After two days on airplanes and sleeping on planes and in the airport, the trousers managed to retain their shape really well, with no stretch bubbles at the knee, and the only noticeable change was perhaps a little loosening at the waist, which may have been a casualty of my Tex Mex food baby. Two days in these pants and they performed like champs. I even slept in them when I got home – after a 23 hour day and 3 hours of sleep (with intermittent airport/plane sleeping) there was really no need to get into pajamas when the trousers were just as comfortable.
And there you have it – Cal Bal ladies, do go by the Wearing History booth and check out this wonderful new collection of clothing and remember that Wearing History is just getting started! Everyone else, please visit the Wearing History website, where you can order these lovely garments, plus some other adorable garments from Wearing History’s first clothing line. I can’t wait to see what else Wearing History has up its sleeve and would back another Kickstarter in a second. Quality goods with great style!
I have been on the hunt for knitwear to pair with my Chloe Hong trumpet skirts to transition them into winter and fall. My conclusion is that most of the great knitwear I am finding is coming from the UK, so let’s start with one of my new favorite knitwear sources, Collectif Clothing. What’s this all about? From the website: “Established in the year 2000, Collectif is an independent 1940s and 1950s inspired vintage reproduction brand based in London. We create garments and accessories that are inspired by genuine vintage patterns, knitting patterns, and fabrics from our extensive archive.”
Of course there’s much more than knitwear here, and I’ve seen a few pieces pop up on other vintage/retro retail websites, like ModCloth and Miss L Fire (US shipping!). From blouses to knitwear to gowns to overalls, I love the variety available here – there’s lots of really good everyday basics to work into your wardrobe, casual or dressy, and you could put together an entire ensemble here or just pick up a few special pieces. Also, plaid…keep it coming, I can never get enough!
I realized tonight that I haven’t written about the Downton Abbey Jewelry Collection, even after purchasing a pair of earrings, but it took me wearing them last night to realize that you might also want to know, with Lindy Focus and other New Year’s Eve swing dance events coming up! So here it is, in all of its ornate Edwardian-moving-toward-Art-Deco glory. As far as costume jewelry goes, the pieces are intricate and are at a reasonable price point, in my opinion, for what you are getting. The earrings I purchased mix very well with the vintage Art Deco costume jewelry I own and I only wish I needed more excuses to buy all this fancy jewelry. There are bracelets, earrings, necklaces, barrettes, brooches, and the line is EXTENSIVE, almost overwhelming how many lovely pieces there are. Begin the drooling in 5, 4, 3…
Tampa, Florida dancer Tom Blair tipped me off to Dapper Designs, an Etsy store that specializes in bow ties, hair bows, and other swing-inspired accessories, made by another Florida dancer, Margie Sweeney. There are a few things I really like about this shop:
1. The bow ties are available in four different styles: classic, diamond point, and those skinny nod-to-the-1950’s bow ties in both straight and wide straight. Let’s not deny that this period in history happened and that one does not have to look like a gift wrapped package to call it a bow tie. Options are always welcome.
2. The neck-wear extends to women, so we can all get a jump on our neck-wear wardrobes to give the guys a run for their money during OcTieBer. I especially like the custom cross-tie, being reminiscent of some Girl Scout neck piece I may have worn and I think it would look fab with a blouse, a 30’s skirt, and a jaunty hat.
3. The fabric selection for the custom ties has a little something for everyone – from classic plaid to dots to geometric patterns to a faux bois print.
And there you have it! Lots of custom options for guys and gals, handmade by one of our own.
(Edited to add that David Lochner has informed me that “the “cross tie” is called a “continental” in menswear and the straight bows are “batwings” – I learn something new every day! 🙂 )
Incessant scanning of the Mod Cloth website can lead you to discover new brands that you instantly love – I fell in love with this sailboat dress, and a quick search took me to the Trollied Dolly website. The sailboat dress was there, along with an array of colorful vintage-inspired dresses and tops in clever prints – dragonflies, butterflies, seagulls, honeybees, strawberries – essentially adorable overload.
Based out of the UK (like everything else I want to buy these days), Trollied Dolly is the brainchild of two sisters, Louise and Nicole, who share with us that “the Trollied Dolly range reflects the colour and vibrancy of far flung places, lively cultures and perky people, all shaken up with a slice of London Town and a splash of getting’ down! They believe in a land where bad outfits, dull fabrics and boring basics are banned and dreams of utter wardrobe brilliance really can come true!” Getting’ down means “let’s dance,” right? 😀
I’m thinking yes – on top of the adorableness, these dresses are made of cotton – breatheable, danceable, washable cotton. Yes! Yes! Yes!
BEHOLD! I give you this glorious new shoe from Johnston & Murphey – the Holbrook Linen Cap Toe! I can’t think of many other shoes more worthy of a linen or seersucker suit. Gents, this is one snappy shoe.
I can thank milliner Joei Reed for directing me to this gem – Cabiria‘s tagline is “whimsical, sensual style in sizes 12-24,” but I think the word vintage should be thrown in there because so many of these designs take inspiration from 1940’s and 1950’s styles.
This brand is brand spanking new – according to their website, the line launched on October 22, 2012, with an e-store for presales and wholesale and their lookbook, which is a part of their fundraising through Kickstarter. That’s right, this company is still in its infancy and, with your support, these dresses could make their way to you faster and possibly at retail locations and boutiques if the company’s Kickstarter is successful – it looks like they are really close! Here’s the skinny from the Kickstarter campaign:
“The $8,000 is to pay for grading (sizing up and down) costs for each pattern, factory production fees (higher here in the US than abroad, but so important to keep skilled jobs local), shipping costs, website development, and marketing to let the buyers know about our SS13 line. Part of this is to produce the garments to place in independent plus size and boutiques and online retailers, and part will be to produce additional stock for our own e-store direct to the customer.”
Here’s what I’m loving (available for pre-order) from their Spring/Summer 2013 line – silk blends, cotton blends, prints – YESPLS:
*Note that there are additional fabrics/swatches available for each dress.
I am always so happy when one of our own embarks on a business venture that is an outgrowth of the love of Lindy Hop and vintage culture. Australian dancer Denise Cox has just launched an online store selling 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s-inspired clothing called Crimson Gardenia, with distribution in Australia for the moment, and plans of expanding to other corners of the globe and possibly a brick-and-mortar store. I met Denise two years ago at the Balboa Experiment, who traveled with a contingent of well-dressed Aussies, and I have been delighted to follow her process of getting this business off the ground via Facebook. I believe I participated in a survey at some point (market research!) and it is so exciting to see the final product launch!
It looks like Denise is off to a fine start, with some great coats, tops, and that awesome Retrolite jewelry from Classic Hardware. Definitely keep your eye on this website – Denise blogs about the creation of her business and an amazing government program that helped her realize her dream on her Crimson Gardenia blog and it’s a great story! I wonder if we have comparable programs like this in the U.S….? My hat’s off to you, Denise, keep me posted on your endeavors!
OH. MY. HAWT. It’s been a long time since I came across a shoe that I couldn’t get out of my head, that I was so distracted about that I couldn’t focus on anything else until I figured out how to make it mine. Miss L Fire‘s fall 2011 collection has this shoe, and several other shoes with a distinctly jazz age styling that are simply amazing. Miss L Fire always has some really quirky and amazing shoes, and this goes for the fall collection as well, but there are a few pairs that just defy awesome and somehow become…art. And do you see all these mid-height heels?! OK, I’ve talked this up enough, check out the shoes!
I’m certain there are many arguments against wearing vintage clothing and I’ve probably heard most of them:
“I can’t afford it.”
“It’s too fragile.”
“Vintage clothing doesn’t fit my shape.”
“Wearing other people’s old clothing is gross!”
In spite of the naysayers, I’d like to share my love and philosophy about vintage clothing and perhaps refute some misconceptions or perceptions about vintage clothing in the process. I’ve come up with a list of reasons why I think vintage clothing is worth adding to my wardrobe and why I enjoy vintage clothing so much.
If you are looking for sheer quantity of clothing, then vintage clothing probably isn’t right for you, unless you make a lot more money than I do in a year. What I am looking for is quality clothing, something that fits well, is made with nice materials, and will withstand the test of time. I’ve watched a lot of What Not To Wear in my life and Clinton and Stacy always talk about spending a little bit more on clothes to get items that will look more luxurious and quality to improve your overall appearance, clothing that you can wear for years, not just this season.
Not all vintage clothing is deteriorating and some of it is in quite durable condition, especially if you find a dead stock item or a person who had items that were well-cared for and rarely worn. The fabrics used in the first half of the 20th century seem more luxurious, the prints and colors more desirable, and the cuts of clothing more flattering. It’s the details that really get me, details that are overlooked by modern clothing designers (or at least the modern clothing I can afford) – bias cuts, goring in skirts, the impeccable cut of a man’s jacket, the use of buttons, beautiful belt buckles, pintucks and pleats, the use of contrast fabrics, the matching of prints, the use of ribbons and other embellishments, beaded details, a snap closure to hold that tab or collar down, structure in a collar or sleeve to make it retain its shape, and on and on. I love getting a new vintage garment and turning it inside out to see how it is made. There are elements in some of these clothes that you can only find in modern designer and couture clothing, which leads me to my next point…
More quality for less money
I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I don’t spend any more on a vintage dress than I would in a modern retail store. That said, I generally pay less for a vintage garment that has more tailoring and details than I would for a comparable new dress. The same holds true for all used clothing – with new clothes you are paying for the new-ness of the garment, the salaries of the people who made it, and the company who is marketing the clothing. If I can get the same or better details for less money and the only difference is that the garment is old or used, I’m going to go with the more cost-effective option.
I’ve talked in the past about how vintage clothing was made for people of all sizes, not just tiny people, but I also find that vintage clothing just fits me better than modern clothing and is often easier to tailor than modern clothing. Modern clothing is made for the most common size, whatever that happens to be, and doesn’t take into account that everyone has a different bust/waist/hip ratio. If you are a little bigger on the top, bottom, or middle, that ratio isn’t going to work for you, especially if something is supposed to look “fitted.” Checking size charts can be deflating, especially if your bust, waist, and hip measurements land you in 3 different sizes. With vintage clothing, I find that the ratio can be more forgiving – generally fuller skirts, belted waists that can be cinched, and more ample areas in the bust because of how the garment was supposed to be worn. With eBay and online vintage stores, I am able to search for garments that fit my exact measurements, making fit even less of an issue.
I don’t like strapless or spaghetti strap dresses because I want the comfort of supportive undergarments; however, I am hard pressed to find dresses with sleeves, even in the winter, in modern retail stores. They want you to buy a jacket to go over it, or you have to find a cardigan. What if I want sleeves and a cardigan because I’m cold? I just find the whole thing impractical. I generally find it easier to find a vintage dress with sleeves in my size than I do finding a dress with sleeves at the mall – I think that’s saying a lot.
If you buy an article of vintage clothing, the odds of someone else having this exact article of clothing is slim to none. Much of the clothing of the swing era was hand made, not mass-produced, but even the mass produced items are rare and far flung. I’ve only come across a couple of items in multiples, one being a dressing gown I found at both Design Archives in Greensboro, NC and on eBay and the other being a 1940’s dress I wore at Lindy Focus last year that several people insisted was exactly the same as a dress owned by Naomi Uyama. Aside from those rare exceptions, my vintage wardrobe remains one-of-a-kind and I think there’s value in finding your own style via these unique garments.
Personal style can be maintained via vintage clothing without having to change your entire wardrobe to the stereotypical “vintage” look. I have friends who can pick out both modern and vintage garments and say “This looks like you!” Clearly, there would be major differences in the garments, but there are certain elements that make up personal style that can translate across the decades – cut, shape, color, and decorative notions are a few that come to mind. Sometimes people have trouble discerning whether or not a garment I wear is vintage, but I think the general consensus is that, whatever I am wearing, it is very “me.”
It’s been done
Designers are inspired by the designs of the past. It’s that simple. You can look at just about any garment and relate its shape and design to some article of clothing created in a past decade. In my opinion, most of the time, the past did it better.
Feeling good about yourself
I’ll admit it, I feel really special when I wear vintage clothing. Clothes from the past tended to be more dressy than today’s jeans and tee shirt uniform (which I do still wear), so when I wear something vintage it’s because I’m going somewhere special, so I want to look special. Maybe I want to be going somewhere special every day, so I try to wear vintage dresses as much as possible so I feel better about myself, even when I’m not going somewhere special. Vintage clothing can definitely elevate your look, your mood, and your surroundings, and I find that people smile more at me when I wear vintage.
I feel like there’s been a lot of talk about sustainability and being conscious about the environmental impact of our clothing purchases and, while I didn’t initially purchase vintage clothing for this purpose, it’s certainly an incentive to continue to do so. I like to think that I am rescuing this clothing from the garbage heap, keeping its wonderfulness alive while eliminating its clutter and deterioration in a landfill.
As for vintage clothing being gross, well…I guess I’ll just have to be gross. There’s nothing like a trip to the dry cleaners to make an old garment feel new and get out that musty attic smell. 😉
I’ll agree that this is a labor of love. I think some people get frustrated because they treat a vintage clothing store like they would treat a store at the mall. When you are shopping for vintage clothing you have to shift your approach, know that not everything comes in your size, and be patient. Just like any good wardrobe, building it takes time. I’ve been collecting vintage clothing for over a decade now and I’m just now getting to the point where I feel like I have a vintage outfit for almost every occasion. The result – a wardrobe that I love and adore – has been worth the wait.
With this summer’s record-breaking temperatures, it becomes even more necessary to either take cover or create your own cover at outdoor events. In between dances, I like to hide under my inexpensive, Asian-inspired parasol, which does more for keeping you cool and protecting you from the sun than you would think. It’s no substitute for a good sunscreen or an AC unit, but it does create shade and adds instant beauty to your mise-en-scène, without breaking the bank. Here are some lovely parasols to keep you made in the shade this summer:
If you’ve been to just about any website that sells rockabilly clothing, you’ve probably seen Bernie Dexter, a lovely model who looks like Bettie Page reincarnated and makes every dress she models look flawless. I was trolling Mod Cloth the other day (who isn’t? every day? 😉 ) and happened upon a wonderful green and white dress with a distinctly 1940’s shape, which happened to be designed by Bernie Dexter. Until then I hadn’t put a face with a name, but I was delighted to discover that Ms. Dexter has a whole line of 1940’s and 1950’s-inspired clothing, in addition to her illustrious modeling career. Unfortunately, you can’t order her clothing directly from her website, but through a number of other online and brick-and-mortar retailers (including stores based in the USA, Germany, Australia, France, Canada, England, and Austria) you can piece together the wonderful garments from her collection. Here are my favorites:
Last week I embarked on a quest for nude seamed stockings. I have little patience for wading through lingerie websites, so I solicited Facebook for ideas. When Kate Patsky declared “This is like finding the Holy Grail…” I knew I had a real shopping challenge on my hands; thus, I headed to the Stockings HQ chat forums to ask the experts/fetishists where I could find the Holy Grail. Stockings HQ is a lingerie website based in the UK that also hosts chat forums where people can share stocking info, pictures, and talk about…anyway, they were most helpful during my last hosiery dilemma, finding stockings for a Sally Bowles costume that would be period appropriate and fit my short legs, and they delivered yet again. One of the forum regulars recommended What Katie Did and I’ve been in love ever since.
What Katie Did makes beautiful reproduction and vintage-inspired bras, panties, girdles, corsets, stockings, slips, swimwear, and much more. I loathe most “vintage-inspired” undergarments because they are skimpy and not at all what was actually worn. What Katie Did has gone to the heart of the matter, reproducing things that are such rare finds, like fully fashioned stockings, bullet bras, 1940’s bras (which were just coming into the modern age of the bra), and different kinds of girdles so you can get your Joan Holloway on. If you really want a vintage look, then the next step beyond just the clothes are the foundation garments. Think about how your underwear selections change with what you wear and how that affects your shape and the way the clothes fit, then apply that to your dance dresses. What Katie Did goes further and actually improves the reproduction by eliminating discomfort and taking garments, like that 1940’s bra that probably did little to lift and support, and upgrading them to modern standards. If this sounds dull, like a conversation you’ve had with your grandmother, never fear! There are also plenty of skimpies and pretties on the website for everyone, and I know some burlesque girls who might find some goodies here.
From the website: “Founder and head designer Katie Halford has had a deep and abiding love affair with 1940s and 1950s fashion her entire adult life, but though the clothing was always fairly easy to come by, the appropriate undergarments were not. Her quest for the perfect bullet bra, the most authentic stockings and the firmest foundation garments, led to the development of her own collection, over ten years ago. And since then, thanks to her abiding passion, What Katie Did has been at the very forefront of the vintage revival that’s only recently come into the public eye.
On this website, in our London boutique, and in the glossy pages of our catalogue, retrophiles, vintage queens and lingerie lovers who appreciate the art of a circle-stitched cup, a wasp-waist, or a flash of fully-fashioned seam, can find everything their hearts’ desire.
We create and produce beautifully cut, high-quality and affordable undergarments, corsetry and hosiery inspired by the 1940s and 1950s. Our designs are based on vintage patterns, adapted only slightly for modern figures, using authentic fabrics and even old-fashioned production methods wherever possible. We’re proud of our close-knit team, high standards and enthusiasm for great customer service, all of which which have earned us fans worldwide, and led to What Katie Did being worn by stars as lofty as Claudia Schiffer and Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks. But really, we make our beautiful lingerie for every woman, so she can look and feel like a bombshell, any day of the week.”
I don’t often get excited about underwear, but I am excited to try out some of these gorgeous things. Here’s what I’m loving: