Wednesday, June 9, 2010

In Praise of the Charity Shop Find

In another life I would have been an archaeologist. For it's exactly this instinct to dig, sift, and brush aside that draws me again and again into the most unpromising of secondhand shops, not necessarily to find a great thing, but to pursue it.

It's frequently said that the rise of vintage and its plateau into fashion consciousness means that it's no longer possible to find great treasures in the secondhand arena--it all gets picked clean before you can get in the door. Largely this is true--the great thrift stores on Manhattan's Upper East Side, and London's King's Road, and elsewhere around the world are targets not only of cash-poor students and creatives, but also of fashion's kingpins, seeking inspiration where the punishing pace of the style cycle doesn't allow for quiet reflection with a sketchpad and fertile mind.

Nothing worthwhile in life is easy. Sifting for hours through lackluster garments is its own education, in fabrication, cut, embellishment. And in finding the small window between given styles and uplift of your unique self image.

It's exactly this education that allows you to pull from a crammed rack a sliver of fine color, or half-seen detail, that others might have brushed past. A reward, a find, the buzz that will keep you digging.

With this post, Fashion Preserve is going on hiatus . . . after a year and half of blogging, it's time to write another book. Thank you so much for your readership, and especially your wonderful comments. Best wishes with your own pursuits--and here's to finding and making the most out of the most unexpected of sources.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Calling All Swans: Margot Fonteyn's Odile Costume Now at Auction

OK, done swooning, but still a bit vaporous upon discovery of this marvelous costume from the Royal Opera House in London, worn by Margot Fonteyn, and labeled with her name [!!], when she danced the role of Odile in Swan Lake. She was partnered by none other than Rudolf Nureyev, which means traces of both permeate the gold-embroidered, black velvet bodice. It's being sold by Kerry Taylor Auctions, with a low estimate of £40,000, but can you put a price on owning a remnant of gods?

Before turning over to Margot and Rudolf for their pas de deux, it is worth mentioning that this particular Taylor auction holds many spectacular lots, and well worth a thumb-through if you are serious about your fashion history. More highlights will be posted throughout the week.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

If Carrie Wore Vintage Shoes . . .

Getting really excited here at Fashion Preserve Manor because tomorrow is a big night with the galpals. On the agenda: swilling strong cocktails, eating guacamole, and tottering a couple hundred yards on stupidly high heels to the local theatre to see SATC Part Two. Of course I've read the reviews -- but it really doesn't matter how bad the film is. Simply seeing the attempt to recapture the magic will be entertainment enough for this viewer. Also, it looks like the film will be packed with retro caftan-like maxis, which I love.

Anyway, the point of today's post is that Carrie famously mixes vintage with cutting-edge couture from the ankle up, and indeed helped spur the latter-day gold rush to unearth gorgeous old clothes on the part of the entire world. And yet this same character, who equally famously spends gaspworthy amounts on designer footgear, has never in memory been known to wear vintage shoes.

This seems peculiar. While I understand the potential skeeve factor at play with old shoes, many many vintage examples are in excellent new or nearly-new condition.

I think if Carrie were ever allowed to break free of the Choo and Manolo product placements and range into the vintage shoe realm, Charles Jourdan would be her go-to label of choice. Because these shoes are widely available, not terribly expensive, dead sexy, and cool cool cool. But maybe it's just as well these shoes don't get that kind of notoriety. It's nice knowing there are a few good vintage secrets left in this world.

(Charles Jourdan shoes for sale on Etsy, here, here, and here)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spot the Tourist: Plan Ahead for Your Summer Vacation

Dressing like you're a tourist on holiday has fallen much out of favor with today's younger, cooler generations of world travelers, who favor an international uniform of G-Star and Zara.

As an advocate of all things vintage, I think this is a shame. I say let's go back to the more exuberant vacation wear of the glorious 1970s, when travelers embraced their host destination with open arms and wide lapels.

A trip down the Nile, for example, would be that much more majestic in a neat poly blouse like this one (note to seller: that background of in-your-eye wallpaper and crazy frames is inspired):

The Wide Open Spaces of the American Southwest might be filled with camper vans and other families come August, but this marvelous pants suit is blissfully unpopulated.

Of course, due to economic or time constraints, not everyone is able to get away physically. In this case a fantasy voyage is the best possible option. And what could be more fantastic than a land where topless ladies and trolleycars happily share space on one stretch of fabric? Surreal world here you come.

With treasures like this a mouseclick away, who needs a lousy t-shirt?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Vintage Mystery Accessory Revealed!


We have a winner, and thank you Karin, for your winning assessment. Belle, this was possibly worn on a sautoir, as you guessed, but more likely on a chatelaine (sautoir=an extra-long chain or necklace, suspended from the neck; chatelaine=a chain or belt suspended from the waist, intended to carry keys, sewing kits, and whatnot).

The whatnot in this instance is indeed a skirt-lifter. These were popular in Victorian times when ladies started ranging in a serious way. This hands-free device lifted long skirts for ease of ambulation up and down stairs, atop a bicycle, through muddy patches and weedy fields, etc. A fold of fabric would be caught between the pincers (in the case of this model the fingers and thumb), and a ratcheting mechanism would pull the device closed, presto, skirt hoiked.

Your ordinary skirt-lifter looks more like a rendering compass -- this is the first one I've seen shaped like an actual hand. While indeed a bit creepy, as Belle points out below, it is also quite cool.

For those of you who keep track of these things, today the term "skirt-lifter" means a man or woman who loves women, actively and from afar, while a "shirt-lifter" is one who loves men.

Many thanks again to Nicole, whose fine, fine skirt-lifter is selling (imminently!) on eBay here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vintage Mystery: What Is This Accessory?

Answer tomorrow . . . in the meantime, here are a couple clues . . .

1) It was worn below the waist

2) In modern-day terms, its name is code for those who love women . . .

(many thanks to Nicole for sharing these photos . . . if you can't wait to find out what it is, link here.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields, Vogue 1978

Sigh. Ordinarily I think employing girls to sell grown women's things is insupportable, but -- she's breathtaking. Thirteen. How cool would it be for Vogue to rerun this editorial, with modern-day Chloe (for that's what she's wearing here) and a contemporary Brooke Shields.

On a less ethereal level, that earclip running diagonal to the lobe is pretty nice too. Easy to make with a diamanté barrette, a clip earring back, and some strong glue.

Photo by Avedon, British Vogue, September 1, 1978.