Saturday, December 26, 2009

See You Next Year!

Given that so many of you are enjoying the festive season away from your screens, Fashion Preserve is taking the opportunity to clean house. Gone all the defunct photos from auctions long past, more YouTube where I can find it, now that I know how to embed, and entries updated and relinked to make the blog more functional.

Thank you so much for your readership, support, and wonderful comments over the blog's first year. FP be back with all-new all-old fashion on January 11th.

Friday, December 25, 2009

No matter where you live between the Poles . . . Fashion Preserve wishes you warmth, wisdom and style. On to the stockings!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mr. Dino, I Presume: More Jetset Knit Dresses

What I love best about the glorious jersey-knit frocks of 60s maestro Mr. Dino are, in no particular order:

1) The insanely great use of op-art prints right on the body, which essentially gave onlookers leave to stare at the wearer's parts with the excuse that those cubes were going to flip sooner or later.

2) As a Pucci for the masses, Mr. Dino created great-looking dresses out of nylon, double-knit polyester, and Arnel triacetate, fabrics that could be thrown into a washer, drip-dried, trampled on by a herd of elephants and still emerge reassuringly crease-free.

3) Mr. Dino was the adopted name of designer Max Cohen. He and his family chose it in homage to his wife's affection for Dean Martin.

His designs not only nodded to Op Art, but to Ming vase decoration, Rajasthani decorative patterning, Aubrey Beardsley, and, at bottom, Accornero's Flora scarf designs for Gucci, scoring himself a twofer in the Knocking-Off-the-Italians division of the garment wars.

Quick note: the images here are from Roseann Ettinger's Signature Prints: Jet--set Glamour of the '60s and '70s, which has finally come in from Amazon. If you love these exuberant prints as much as I do this is a must-have for your library. The examples are wonderfully styled with period jewellery and shoes, giving a real sense of how they were worn.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jetset Knitwear, American Style: The Goldworm Look

Continuing in this week's look at the masters of patterned knit dresses is today's entry on Robert Goldworm, who wedded American mercantile drive to the artistry of Italian printmakers, creating a line of dresses that overturned the barriers between garment and art.

There is a wonderful interview with Goldworm's daughter Susan on the vintage site Playing Dress Up All Day Long . . . choice tidbits include how Robert came to reshape a business founded by his mother in the late 1920s into one of the most innovative knitwear operations in the world. Robert went to Milan after graduating from New York University with the idea of creating a new kind of dress. It was knit along the simple lines of a t-shirt, but finished to the highest standards of Italian hand craftsmanship in terms of seaming, closures, and other technical details.

Susan relates how her father was influenced by the stacks of art books that filled their home -- especially the near- and pure abstraction of van Gogh, Picasso, Paul Klee, Jasper Johns, Mondrian. His eye was also caught by the exotic . . . the dress at top, featuring an Indian-inspired print, would have captivated buyers eager to convey their own cosmopolitan inclinations in a time when the world was opening up to long-haul air travel.

While his lines could be categorized under the category of 'art to wear', Goldworm was also designing to a mandate of ease and suitability for travel. Knit dresses filled that role perfectly, as this extraordinary report in Sports Illustrated (which actually wrote about cutting-edge sportswear for women in the '50s) shows . . .

Seated above in a spider web of his own designs is the gentleman who is responsible for the knitted fashions favored by the American woman who travels fastest, farthest and neatest.

Goldworm's dresses are widely available at vintage outlets at prices that seem very reasonable, given their significance in American fashion history. Look around, and see if you don't catch a sense of how marvelous these designs must have seemed to women seeking to expand themselves . . . through travel, through art, or, barring that, an expedition through the rails of a great department store.

Sports Illustrated ad from Viviene18328 at Photobucket. India-print dress at Van Gogh dress from Many thanks to all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Who Dressed the Jetset: Emilio Pucci

Tom Ford, please enough with the Isherwood--for your next trick make a film of the life of printmaker, sportsman, U. of Georgia aggie and politico Emilio Pucci. Born to a noble family in Florence in 1914, he maneuvered from a role abetting the Mussolini family in WWII to seeing his own Apollo mission logo land on the moon. Jackie O loved him. Marilyn Monroe loved him so much she is wearing him now (maybe). This is a big life, even for an Italian fashion designer, people not generally known for doing it small.

Pucci is best known, of course, for his brilliantly hued biomorphic prints, which, when applied to the slinky stretchiness of silk jersey knit, came to define the pack-and-go lifestyle of the late-sixties jetsetters.

This week I'd like to follow the trail of the great printmakers who catered to this particular tribe. Pucci, was, of course, the first and foremost. The impact of his signature style was so distinctive it remains instantly recognizable today under current head-of-house Peter Dundas, and is still as covetable on the streets of Ibiza and Southhampton as it was in the marchese's heyday.

Pucci's genius, I think, lies in his ability to lay down a multitude of not-necessarily agreeable colors in a pattern so jumped-up and lively that all arguments are off and they simply must get along. Nature can manage this nicely (above); it's harder for humans, as the heaps of bad vintage psychedelic prints for sale online make clear. It's a testament to Pucci's eye that he accomplished it routinely, and what's more he created a template for others to follow.

These sunglasses, currently for sale on eBay, seem a brilliant way to wear Pucci if you personally are not boarding a Cessna for a fresh island every weekend. High-quality vintage dresses will cost a fortune, but accessories (and his uniforms for Braniff, described here), offer a more affordable option.

More on the great 60s printmakers on through the week.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Art Imitates Life: What Inspires American Vogue

Was so pleased and surprised to happen across this Maurice Brange photo of writers Solita Solano and Djuna Barnes at a Paris café in 1922. I suspect Vogue's Grace Coddington and photographer Steven Meisel must have seen it too, when conceiving one of the most beautiful editorial shoots ever, Paris Je t'aime, for the September 2007 issue (and the subject of one of Grace and Anna's ongoing battles for page count in life and in the documentary The September Issue).

As for the fashion, this sort of pearly-toned, fur-and-silk styling is perfect for New Year's Eve--see if there's not something here to inspire you.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Style Icon: Charlotte Rampling

Actress Charlotte Rampling is 63. In this photo in the January issue of British Harper's Bazaar, she provides an indelible example of how to dress for one's age.

Of course she's a beautiful woman with a feline-sleek figure, but both attributes are only amplified by the long lines of the dress, which I reckon to be silk jersey or another ultrafine knit.

Most women consider ankle-length dresses only suitable for ultraformal occasions. They needn't be, as long as they're as simple as this one. Consider covering up, all up, in a figure-skimming dress if the situation calls for a dramatic look. With a massive cuff on your wrist and a slash of bright red on your lips, you'll be the best-dressed woman in the room.

To find examples online, keyword vintage and silk jersey, and/or look for the designs of the knitwear specialist Goldworm, or Vera Maxwell.

(photo by Sofia & Mauro, styled by Carmen Borgonovo, in Harper's Bazaar, Jan. 2010)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

And She in Her Kerchief: A Very Brief Look At the Breakfast Cap

Roustabout Jack London, author of The Call of the Wild and other manly classics, doesn't seem an obvious source for details of female fashion history. Yet in The Valley of the Moon, one of his characters asks another gruffly about a particular piece of headgear:

"'Say,' he said, 'what's become of that frilly breakfast cap you was workin' on so hard, I ain't never seen you wear it . . . "

I second that question. What has become of breakfast caps?

More importantly, what is a breakfast cap, and why did ladies wear them?

First, a visual from authoritative online vintage experts

Frilly yes indeed. As you can see, a breakfast cap is essentially a confection of lace, ribbon, and embroidery, soft upon the head and moldable upon the pillow. That's because some breakfast caps worked the night shift as bedcaps ("boudoir cap" is yet another possible term). Anyway, if worn during sleep they helped protect the elaborate coiffures, or less elaborately, braids and pins, of the sleeping lady's head. Come dawn, breakfast caps provided a cordon sanitaire for bedhead, which would have been far more disreputable in their day than in ours. Turned out in her breakfast cap, a lady was dressed -- and unlikely to startle servants, husband, or children.

Styles in breakfast caps came and went, as this bulletin from the 1911 New York Times made clear.

They do seem quite quaint. But not without practical value. I can't be the only woman who routinely scares herself with that first glance in the mirror first thing in the morning. Could it be that the breakfast cap is well due for a revival?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pocket Picasso: The Hanky Designs of Tammis Keefe

Antique tools that have fallen into disuse--for example fine old carpentry, kitchen, and farm implements--call out to be displayed as beautiful objects, their functionality fallen away in favor of their appeal as ingenuity and artistry in one.

In the fashion realm, the same can be said of a distinguished cadre of vintage hankies. Yes, hankies. We take for granted our disposable tissues and infrared taps, but not terribly long ago the pocket handkerchief was the sole way of keeping our germs to ourselves and others' wiped away at frequent intervals.

It was a dirty job, being a working hanky, so most of them were made of easily laundered and ironed cotton, perhaps with a bit of embroidery if the owner considered herself particularly fine.

But a few printed hankies also became art forms unto themselves. This entry is about Tammis Keefe, who was effectively an Old Master of this 15" canvas.

An American textile designer born in 1920, she applied the design ethos current in the '40s and '50s to the hankie format. City scenes, whimsical takes on man and beast, commonplace motifs made effortlessly charming, evoked in the candyshop colors and etched pen-and-ink outlines typical of the period.

The charm of her work speaks for itself, so have a look at the examples here: at top is a scene of ancient fishing boats, complete with barques, fishies, and Jonah himself, tucked comfortably inside a whale. This is from seller Xtina, whose other examples can be seen on Flickr here.

Tammis Keefe did other linens as well--at left is a fine tea towel featuring Carmen Miranda topped with her usual tower of fruit, plus a chicken, because why not. I can't imagine this being used to wipe up kitchen spills, but that avocado/brown plus the knockout blow of Carmen's cherry lips would look absolutely brilliant framed up in in somebody's midcentury modern-style kitchen. (thank you Maureen!)

One last one below: does it get any more '50s than harlequins and poodles? It does not. Vendor Go Hanky has loads more, just as cute.

To wrap it up: if you want some instant original decor for your flat or apartment and don't want to spend a fortune on more traditional graphics, why not frame up some Keefes. As works of art go, they are nothing to sneeze at.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lingerie as Outerwear: How to Wear a Vintage Corset

The news has appeared in at least three major fashion outlets, so it must be true: London girls are wearing lingerie to go out clubbing. This is a trend I haven't personally witnessed, but then I don't get out as much as I used to.

Apparently, the ladies are following the example set by Rihanna and Lady Gaga, whose own redoubtable stylists are viralizing a look most recently manifested in the high fashion realm by John Galliano, who sent models out in their handwashables in his haute couture show for Dior in Fall 2009. Galliano, I reckon, was himself inspired in part by the lovely Dita von Teese, who channels Rita Hayworth, on the high road, and Gypsy Rose Lee on the low, and so on and so forth on back to Eve, for whom a mere fig leaf was coverage enough.

Anyway, lending evidence to the most recent outbreak of underwear, reporters say, is the recent sale of a $1,470 Bordelle corset out of Selfridges department store.

Which is fine if you have $1,470 to burn. What I advise, as ever, is forgoing the crowds and expense of retail shopping and, with the aid of an excellent tapemeasure and an accurate eye, have a look at online vintage sources to see what's on offer.

Above and below are a pair of vintage corsets that would do brilliantly as outerwear, especially if:

1) accompanied by a a chiffon or slightly stiff-textured yet transparent shawl wrapped several times around the shoulders
2) or even more vampily, a fur shrug
3) or a very lacy black bolero
4) try not to wear vintage lingerie with sequins, denim, leather or other clashy textures unless you're Rihanna or Gaga.

(corsets here and here on eBay).

(photo of Dior Haute Couture model by Monica Feudi/, from

Monday, December 14, 2009

Stuff Her Stocking: Hermès Knotting Cards

The blokes can have their Texas Hold 'Em . . . my kind of playing cards come in a bright orange box, and number 21 to a deck. On one side is a pic of a model wearing an Hermès scarf in an interesting way. On the other are step-by-step instructions on how to knot it. 21 ways to tie a scarf? Blackjack!

You can keep the deck handy in a drawer . . . play pick a card, any card, if you want to wear a scarf but are stuck on inspiration . . . go bold with examples of wear a square as a halter, or a bikini top (which you don't need to do over bare skin: atop a fine knit top could look great as well).

The wonderful resource Bagsnob has scanned some examples, which are here. The cards themselves are easily found on eBay and other luxury resellers.

I've just bought vintage sets from 2007 and 2008. Santa, darling, you're off the hook.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

O Come Let Us Deplore Them: Ugly Xmas Sweaters, Part III

Another in Fashion Preserve's ongoing series . . . for more see here and here.

In the ugly sweater department, this one's got it all going on. Groping teddies: check. Gratuitous tartan: check. Big old bow, in case the overall lack of taste doesn't signify xmas enough: check. Brown Snowflakes: Huh? Don't eat brown snowflakes, people.

Also: don't eat the brown acid, people, otherwise you're in for visions like this long, strange trip of a jumper. Oh man, the kitties with their beady eyes and jaunty caps and mangled tails . . . Mandatory warning: viewers are likely to experience double vision, nausea, paranoia, loss of libido . . .

But it could be worse. Like exactly what happened below. A holiday tragedy. All in the line of duty this handsome model donned the xmas sweater, then made the critical mistake of looking in the mirror. Instantly, like an ancient Greek casting eyes upon Medusa, he turned to stone. Specialists are trying to revive him with round-the-clock runway videos of Jil Sander, but prospects are not good.

And finally, this one. We'll start with the positives. The detail is nuttily specific, in ways (click on the pic to enlarge). Santa is wearing golf shoes suitable for the Old Course at Saint Andrews. The snow is cunningly textured--the lie of the ball is very helpfully raised in anticipation of Santa's putt. The ball is dimpled. But this brings to mind a question. Does it not look like Santa is crouched not in concentration, but in pain? As if silly Rudolph forgot to yell fore prior to driving one straight into Santa's sack? Somebody please help this man off the course, he's got work to do.

And so do you, no?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rah Homburg

Learned something new just now. Hats have formal rank.

The kind of thing you sort of know already, but interesting to see it codified.

Top hats being at the top, of course. Then, quite a bit farther down, fedoras and derbies.

And in between? The Homburg. A rigid, curl-brimmed, crease-crowned, grosgrain banded topper, named for the German city from which it originates. Its best-known British wearers were King Edward VII and Prime Minister Anthony Eden.

Here's a beautiful example from eBay seller Hogspear, which specializes in "colonial leftovers". I ordinarily don't promote individual vintage sellers but their shop is incredible, filled with such glorious empirical wreckage as sat-upon top hats, Rhodesian pith helmets, military spurs, decorations aplenty. Putting aside the historical aftermath, these people knew how to dress.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Spot the Difference: Nordic and Icelandic Sweaters

In the ongoing hunt for awful xmas sweaters, I see many vintage Nordic and Icelandic woolens that are mistakenly tarred with the ugly brush.

Listen up, vendors. Traditional vintage Nordic and/or Icelandic jumpers are not ugly. They are beautiful. And warm. And significantly undervalued by you dumdums, but that's your loss and our gain. Moreover, both Nordic (originating in Norway) and Icelandic sweaters date back to Viking times and hence have a pedigree whose bravery and honour and handsomeness you'd be foolish to slander, because those ghosts are just spoiling for a fight.

That settled, on to the commonalities. In both countries, local sheep supplied the wool, which in the earliest days was undyed. This meant the hues were limited to cream-brown-grey-near black. The jumpers were knit in pullover, and later, cardigan styles, the latter closed with clasps, buttons, or zips. Any decorative pattern was limited to the neckline, shoulders and sleeves, for the bottoms would be tucked into the trousers for added warmth and waterproofing (wool is an excellent repellant of water, which is why subarctic fishermen are so fond of it).

Now for the dissimilarities. Icelandic sweaters (lopapeysa) typically have a bold yoke design that is symmetrical on front and the back. The wool is usually left in its natural state, so appears in the soft brown/greys mentioned above. More importantly, Icelandic lopi wool is not spun before it is knit, which gives these sweaters their characteristic hairiness--resembling mohair. According to Wiki, this lofty quality helps retain more air close to the body, hence greater warmth.

Here, a beautiful handknit contemporary example, from

Nordic sweaters are made with tightly spun, long-fibred wool which yields a compact knit (frequently in a herringbone array, again for improved insulation). The wool is usually dyed in navy, deep greens, deep reds, and white. The small-scale zigzag patterns and motifs (snowflakes, reindeer, etc.) that run across the chests, shoulders, and sleeves tend to be typical of the village in which they were created, much as the colors and scale of Scottish tartans indicate the clans from which they originate. Nordic sweaters may be found with pewter clasps as closures, embellished with Viking motifs. Pia's Scandinavian Woolens is a superb visual resource if you're seeking the origin of a vintage find--it's also quite nice if you want to buy one new. Below, a fine example from Dale of Norway, a premiere maker of this type of garment.

Buyer's tip: if you want a fantastic deal on a beautiful traditional knit, keyword ugly sweater. In there, past the kitties and scotties and terrible, terrible teddy bears, you may find a fine Viking to take home.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Now That's What I Call Fierce: Taxidermy Chic, Part II

It's Monday and I'm feeling a bit delicate and had no intention of going in this direction, but having discovered this stuff purely by haphazard Googling, I feel attention must be drawn. These vintage accessories are of such authentically terrifying disposition that they make all the chains, studs and padlock malarkey issued by today's fashion houses look flat-out poser in compare.

OK, this is your only warning. These items are like WHOA. And the Victorian women who carried them must have been pretty intimidating too, despite their vapourous reputation.

Exhibit A: a purse made out of a swan's foot (click on image to enlarge, if you can't help yourself). Apparently trumpeter swans were hunted to near extinction to make objects like these. Why is anybody's guess, because I can't imagined it looked much nicer fresh than it does in its current state of antiquity.

Exhibit B: While it's not actually taxidermy -- the brooch is made of celluloid -- some lady somewhere saw fit to wear a fly on her bodice. On purpose. Exhibit C: An armadillo bag, vintage '30s or '40s. With [bejewelled] heady and footies still on. It's a nice shape, beautifully cured and crafted, but no amount of workmanship will ever change the fact that it's a flipping armadillo.

Exhibit D: Yes, nothing says refinement like a little alligator's foot
purse. This thing looks straight out of Hogwart's, but it was carried for real.

That's it for now. I'm off to look at stuff from the Gap, and nothing but, for the rest of the day.

Friday, December 4, 2009

For your Weekend Viewing Pleasure

Kerry Taylor Auctions of London is holding a sale of exceptional antique, designer and couture vintage pieces next Tuesday. Lots from no. 283 onward were from the wardrobe of Audrey Hepburn.

To see the lots online, click here.

(photo of Rose Bertin burnt orange velvet evening dress from Kerry Taylor Auctions)

Tiara, No Sugar

With the holiday season upon us -- and candlelight's call to sparkle, glimmer and shine -- it's fun to discover new old modes of self-adornment.

Recently, I've been looking at tiaras. But not the skinny supersweet diamanté versions favored by Lagerfeld, brides, and Tinkerbelle.

Instead I mean bulky, bold, take-no-prisoners tiaras, like those worn by warrior queens and the guardian of the masses, Lady Liberty.

The model Givenchy created for its haute couture collection (above) is awesome, no? I wish I had the nerve and bone structure and reserves in the checking account to wear it.

Other, less frankly-kind-of-scary examples are also available.

I love the jazz-age skittishness of this little headpiece.

And this silver and turquoise Native-American inspired tiara is perfect for a more casual gathering around an open fire.

Or this amazing non-vintage-but-cool-enough-to-post headpiece from ShopCurious . . .

What would you wear, if you could crown yourself Queen of the Night?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Golden Bough

From the Bodleian library shop in Oxford, England: a wonderful mistletoe brooch, with freshwater pearls replicating the plant's white berries.

This is contemporary jewelry inspired by a vintage source . . . an even more wonderful illustration from a 16th-century Tudor pattern book.

Mistletoe lore is as dense as the tangles of branches the plant puts forth. Since pagan times, kissing underneath was said to signal peace and goodwill between strangers, and to mend the hearts of quarreling lovers.

The best place to wear a mistletoe brooch? Everywhere! Christmas is only 22 days away . . .

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hot Erté

There are certain artists and designers whose work you take to at first sight. See ... draw breath ... admire, then post a replica as a visual trophy on an inspiration board.

Other artists ignite a slow burn. You see their pieces for years and never feel more than low-level regard. And then you change, the way you see it changes, and abruptly, it's love at thousandth sight.

That's how it's gone with me and Erté. In years past I was vaguely put off by its graphic perfection--too pretty, too calculating, not enough effort evident to make it interesting.

Now I could look at his work all day--perhaps because after so many years of seeing style gown awry, his work's beautifully contained flamboyance, like a jungle bird's, sits just right.

Which is a longwinded way of introducing a designer who helped frame the figural element of Art Deco style. Here are some tidbits about his life and career, from the excellent biography at

* The name Erté is a shortened version of his birth name, Roman Petrovich Tyrtov.

* His father, an admiral in the Russian Imperial Fleet, wanted him to become a marine officer. Even from the age of six, the boy preferred making detailed sketches of evening gowns to playing battleships. He fled to Paris at age 20, and became a partner of Paul Poiret.

* He designed a dance costume for Mata Hari and countless others at the Ballets Russe, the theatre, opera, and later MGM films, including Ben Hur.

* He created 240 Harper's Bazaar covers, from 1917 to 1937.

Is it possible to bring an element of Erté style to the contemporary wardrobe? I think so, especially if you come across a cap as dramatically deco as the one below.

This is not something you wear to a picnic, or even a big dinner out--it's simply too costumey for that. But it is ideal for a New Year's Eve party, or a Mardi Gras ball . . . where flamboyance is expected, and some personal grand opera is just right for the night.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Nuns, Nannies, and Nurses: The Upside-Down World of the Pendant Watch

Before yesterday, I had never heard of pendant watches. And for all I know, since I haven't yet asked, my mom routinely wore one on rounds as part of her nursing uniform (Mom?).

These fascinating timepieces are meant to dangle upside-down, batlike, from the bosom of a person in service, who, with a quick glance downward could tell it was time to administer drugs, take the children to the park for their afternoon airing, or go to the chapel for matins.

Pendant watches offered the advantage of being practical and discreet, thus appropriate for women in custodial roles, and more importantly, sat well away from the hands, which nannies, nurses, and ministering nuns needed unencumbered due to the nature of their tasks.

Given all this, you'd expect pendant watches to be plain. And yet, look at this one. Rose gold, with art deco molding that, exponentially larger, might be found gracing the Chrysler building. It's gorgeous, front and back.

Who wore it? A mystery . . . but clearly an industrious lady with little free time on her hands.

(photo of nurse at top from Dycken on Flickr, many thanks!)