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Debutante Clothing :: The DebLog

October 28, 2010

Vintage Books | Want To Learn About Vintage? Read These Books!


Forbes online (who knew they had a style section?) recently interviewed two of the biggest names in vintage fashion - Kerry Taylor of Kerry Taylor Auctions and Doris Raymond of The Way We Wore. The vintage mavens give us an insider's view on the best books to read if you want to learn about wearing, selling, or collecting vintage fashion.

I don't want to copy and paste, so I'll just give you links and list the ones I own and agree with, as well as give you my personal favorite books that are in my resource library right now!

Happy reading!

Kerry Taylor's vintage books picks

Doris Raymond's vintage books picks

My picks:
I agree with Kerry Taylor on The Couture Accessory, by Caroline Rennolds Milbank. It's a beautifully photographed book all about the little accouterments that make us look at a runway show beyond the garments.

Doris Raymond and I have similar taste in vintage fashion books. I agree with Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century Kyoto Costume Institute. I was lucky enough to find it on sale at Barnes and Noble. But do yourself a favor - invest in this two book set. it gives a breadth of information on important looks in the last three centuries.

New York Fashion: The Evolution of American Style by Caroline Rennolds Milbank - this book does an excellent job of covering some of the most important American designers. You can find it used at a great price.

And here are some more to consider:

Costume Jewelry for Haute Couture by Florence Müller - a stunning collection of haute couture jewelry with a brief history on the makers of the exquisite pieces for Chanel, YSL and Pierre Cardin.

The Seductive Shoe and Forties Fashion: From Siren Suits To The New Look by Jonathan Walford - Jonathan knows his stuff. Jonathan, a fashion historian, curator, and private collector, was the founding curator of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. Both these books go beyond pretty pictures and really give you a historian's perspective on these impressive collections.

20th Century Fashion: The Complete Sourcebook and The Complete Fashion Sourcebook 1920s-1980s by John Peacock - while most fashion history books have gorgeous color or black and white photography, Peacock's books are all illustrated with typical garments of the decade, broken down by purpose of wear (day, evening, bridal, underwear, accessories, etc.) and further categorized in 2-3 year spans. If you ever wanted to know if a dress was from 1940 versus 1943, these books would help you determine that! I really love that these books also feature menswear and clothing that normal people wore during the period. Not everyone wore haute couture and the chances of you stumbling across such a rare piece are slim, unless of course you are Kerry or Doris.

photo: The Princess Blog via

June 10, 2010

Vintage Inspiring | Glamour & Travel

vintage model traveling

I have this fantasy travel wardrobe that usually consists of light gabardine and wool blends from the 1940s, an exquisite pair of slacks, and a perfectly square leather train case. It's probably not unlike your fantasy travel wardrobe. Travel used to be yet another occasion to dress, like dinner, or drinks. This picture really inspired me because this woman looks so casual and comfortable, but still put together. Beats a raggedy track suit any day!

photo: by gone fashion

May 27, 2010

Vintage TV | American Woman at the Met

If you live any where near NYC, you have to check out the American Woman exhibit.

American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity is the first Costume Institute exhibition drawn from the newly established Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Met. It explores developing perceptions of the modern American woman from 1890 to 1940 and how they have affected the way American women are seen today. Focusing on archetypes of American femininity through dress, the exhibition reveals how the American woman initiated style revolutions that mirrored her social, political, and sexual emancipation. "Gibson Girls," "Bohemians," and "Screen Sirens," among others, helped lay the foundation for today's American woman.

I am not a museum studies expert by any stretch of the imagination, but after attending the Betsey Bloomingdale exhibit at FIDM last year, I grew a tremendous appreciation for the art of textile and costume display. The "wigs" of this exhibit are stunning!

If anyone has attended the exhibit or plans to attend, and you are interested in writing a review for it here, I'd love to hear about it! Email me!

April 30, 2010

Vintage Links | The Week in Vintage

vintagecrinoline.jpg photo: pulpwoman

Go vintage clothing shopping with designer Philip Lim [Tales of Endearment]

Work clothes brand, Dickies, creates a 1930s inspired capsule collection (my husband will love this!) [WWD]

The best flea markets in France [Guardian] features a vintage Pierre Cardin necklace from Garland Collects to celebrate the release of Cardin's autobiography Pierre Cardin, 60 Years of Innovation []

Halston documentary Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston premiering at Tribeca Film Festival. You can see a clip at T Magazine. []

April 20, 2010

Vintage TV | Vintage Fashion Auctioneer Karen Augusta On Elizabeth Hawes

If you've ever read the Washington D.C. based fashion blog, Fashion Is Spinach, you've probably wondered where on Earth the unique name came from. Elizabeth Hawes was a little known fashion designer that was well ahead of her time. Vintage expert Karen Augusta shares her Elizabeth Hawes treasures and her personal connection to the designer. Enjoy!

P.S. If anyone owns a copy of Hawes' book, Fashion Is Spinach, I'd love to hear your opinion on it! I love vintage style guides.

April 6, 2010

Vintage Fashion Photo | 1920s Feathered Flappers

1920s flapper girls wearing feathers

image source: i am the child of the blue moon

March 30, 2010

Vintage Inspiration | Vintage Photo Contest at The Sartorialist

Ena Frias.jpg

I love looking at old pictures of glamorous, everyday people. It's all about the pose, the bag, the scarf, or the hat. Little elements that made seemingly ordinary people look glamorous or dapper. Back when people use to dress.

The Sartorialist is running a vintage photo contest. You can submit a picture of a stylish person - family, friend, or just a random old picture - and win a Celine inspiration book.

Go to The Sartorialist's blog for rules and details about the contest. 

photo via The Sartorialist

March 26, 2010

110 Years of Fashion Panel at California Market Center Discusses Vintage Influence

CMC WGSN 110 Years of Fashion

Sue Wong, Doris Raymond, Sally Lohan

In my world, vintage fashion and fashion history don't really live in a vacuum. As much as I love vintage clothing and accessories, I don't consider myself a scholar like my friend Heather Vaughan. My real passion lies in that intersection between vintage and its influence on modern clothing.

This topic is precisely what fashion designer Sue Wong, Katherine Brandes, Creative Director of BB Dakota, fashion author and Apparel News journalist, Allison Nieder, vintage expert Doris Raymond, and WGSN's West Coast Content Director Sally Lohan discussed at the 110 Years of Fashion History: How Vintage Inspires 21st Century Trends discussion panel which took place at the California Market Center. My heart skipped a beat when i received the invitation!

What is vintage?

Each panelist answered the age old question "What is vintage?" Doris had the most precise definition. She felt that anything older than the late 1980s is vintage in her book. You can watch what she says about the 1990s coming into the vintage marketplace in the video interview I did with her. Sally Lohan added that her definition of vintage also includes quality and craftsmanship. Sue Wong feels that vintage has to have a "lot of soul".

When asked about some of their favorite eras Sue Wong shared her fascination with the elements of the 1920s and '30s. Katherine preferred the cinched waists of the 1940s and '50s. Doris Raymond prefers the 1930s like Wong, but was able to narrow it down to 1929-1932. She loves the bias cuts of Vionnet. Sally loves Paul Poiret and Fortuny.

CMC WGSN 110 Years of Fashion
Doris Raymond and me in vintage

Vintage As Inspiration

The panelists agreed that fashion pre-1960s was the easiest to interpret in contemporary fashion. Sue Wong prefers to look at individual details and silhouettes when looking for inspiration for her designs.

Leave it to me to ask the question that made Sue Wong and Doris Raymond engage in an intelligent debate. I wasn't fishing for a debate, but was genuinely curious what designers vs. vintage professionals thought on the subject - when does inspiration cease being

inspiration and becomes a copy?

The example I had in mind was that beaded antique bag I knew had been sold by a vintage dealer I know to Anna Sui and ended up on the runway in the exact same colors and exact same pattern.

The discussion really surprised me. Sally Lohan quickly jumped on the question and her reaction was complete disapproval. Sue Wong agreed. Doris actually had a different opinion. She felt that giving a a vintage garment life again, even if it is in its original design is ok. Otherwise it would never have been appreciated again. The conversation got pretty lively as far as panels go.

Vintage Trends

Some of the vintage influenced trends identified for upcoming seasons are romantic floral prints, boudoir and lingerie, classic seasonless items. Sue Wong predicts vintage looks from the teens to 1920s for a more avant garde look. Doris believes people will shop for investments versus trendy items.


There seems to be two types of consumers when it comes to true vintage. The general public and designers. The general public is buying contemporary vintage inspired as well as vintage. Tips were offered on how to look for quality vintage - turn the garment inside out, check seams, feel the fabric. Sue Wong warned about fraudulent sellers trying to tap into the vintage market by selling new items, taking the tags out and claiming they are vintage dresses. She found one of her own beaded, flapper inspired dresses on Ebay being sold as a 1920s dress!

CMC WGSN 110 Years of FashionCynthia Dipierro, WGSN, Sally Lohan, Doris Raymond, Liz Moore, Los Angeles Confidential magazine

The panel discussion was followed by a lovely reception in a very Schiaparelli pink carpeted room. it was great to be in a room full of people who embrace vintage and contemporary fashion with both arms. And now with the collaboration between WGSN and Doris Raymond to create a specialized vintage directory, it seems what's old is new again and it will continue to make it's way to the runway.

January 21, 2010

Gucci Will Appraise Your Vintage Gucci

vintage blondie Gucci bag

I get emails frequently asking me to help shoppers determine their vintage Chanel and Gucci bags, or purses they are about buy on Ebay, are real or fake. Even with vintage styles, there are quite a few knock offs, especially bags from the 1980s when label snobbery was perfectly acceptable.

So when I read that Gucci would be offering a unique, and extremely generous appraisal service for the brand's vintage goods, I knew I had to share it with you.

"Gucci Collector: Presented by Christie's" is a free service will be offered through You upload photos of your vintage items and, within a month, you'll find out an auction estimate. Director of Fashion and Textiles, Patricia Frost, will even let you know if your item is appropriate for an upcoming Christie's vintage sale.

Apparently Gucci is preparing to open a museum in Florence, Gucci's birthplace back when they made saddles, in time for its 90th anniversary in 2011. I could kick myself for not buying a vintage Gucci bag when I was in Florence for my honeymoon.

This is the first time I have ever seen a luxury brand offer such a service. I am so happy that Gucci is willing to build this kind of relationship with it's consumers, even if they are vintage consumers. With such a service, I wouldn't be surprised if vintage shoppers started buying new Gucci products. This is such a win win for both parties.

I guarantee Chanel would never provide such a service. They are so tight with their archival information. When it comes to vintage, the best example of service I have heard from Chanel owners is that they will say confirm whether or not vintage Chanel is real.

I'm going to dig out my vintage Gucci and go get it appraised now!


December 11, 2009

Audrey Goes to Auction

audrey hepburn auction

My latest article for Today's Vintage magazine is online now. It's all about the amazing Audrey Hepburn collection that went to auction at Kerry Taylor Auctions in London. I could not believe the volume of historically important dresses and haute couture gowns that were up for grabs.

Here's a snippet...

Going, going, chic! Audrey Hepburn Collection Goes to Auction

Whether you love her as Holly Golightly or a bored princess looking for adventure in Rome, Audrey Hepburn was a major style icon of the 20th century. Her beauty, her grace, but most of all her style, caused the world to fall in love with her. And now the public can own a piece of fashion history and iconic chic when Kerry Taylor Auctions presents a collection of Audrey Hepburn couture and accessories on Dec. 8, 2009 in London.

The Collection

Around thirty six items of clothing will be offered, dating from 1953 to the late 1960s as well as hats, belts and a fascinating group of letters in which she describes an early film break, her proposed wedding to James Hanson, and the time she spent filming Roman Holiday.

The collection includes stunning evening-wear including a plethora of chic little black dresses by Valentino, Elizabeth Arden and of course her favorite designer of all - Hubert de Givenchy.

Simplicity and elegance was her trademark and it is evident in the Kerry Taylor Auctions collection. Hepburn became the personification of chic elegance in the 1950s and 60s. Givenchy said of her "All the responsibility for the way Audrey looked is hers. She made the selections." Hepburn and Givenchy had a mutual admiration of one another. For Funny Face in 1957 and many of her other major films, Audrey had it written into her film contracts that Givenchy would make all the clothes she wore and also astutely had it agreed that she retain the majority of her Parisian wardrobe.

Check out the rest at

The final numbers are in and it appears that the collection has earned a whopping £542,040! Given that most of this will go to charity, I'm sure all parties were pleased.

audrey hepburn auction

One particular dress, the black chantilly lace gown worn by Audrey Hepburn in the film "How to Steal a Million" in 1965, is rumored to have been purchased by Victoria Beckham. I hope she cherishes it and doesn't deconstruct it to be used as inspiration for another line!

If you want the real scoop, please check out my dear friend and colleague's, Jeanne Suica, blog. Not only was she there, she helped with the catalogueing and research of the collection. AND she got to meet Hubert de Givenchy himself. I hope she shares the experience here. Hint, hint Jeanne!

all images copyright Kerry Taylor auctions.

November 18, 2009

High Style: Betsy Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture

Two Saturdays ago, I experienced  a day full of haute couture and style. The Costume Society of America, Western Region hosted a curator led tour and premiere documentary screening of High Style: Betsy Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Curators Kevin Jones and Christina Johnson led us through this magical, privileged world of haute couture and high fashion. We took a curated walk through Mrs. Betsy Bloomingdale's wardrobe, overflowing with Givenchy, Balmain, Galanos, Adolfo, and of course, Dior. To be that close to real live haute couture worn by one of the last remaining wearers of haute couture was an amazing experience.

betsy bloomingdale haute couture

betsy bloomingdale haute couture

Mrs. Bloomingdale was the wife of businessman, Alfred Bloomingdale, a descendant of the famous Bloomingdales that found the iconic department store. Mr. Bloomingdale made is fortune in the credit card business as co-founder of the first independent credit card, Diner's Club. He wanted to bring his business to France. This was the beginning of the beautiful beginning of Betsy's relationship with some of the most important couture houses of the 20th century.

In the documentary, which unfortunately will not be released to mass media, Mrs. Bloomingdale reminisces fondly about the glory days of shopping in Paris at the couture houses of Balmain and Dior. "I had no idea I was collecting anything so important," says Mrs. Bloomingdale. She recalls how shopping for haute couture was such a quiet experience. Society ladies met for lunch in Paris and attended the shows at 3pm. There wasn't much sound, just stunning gowns parading through the show room. No fanfare, no theatrics, just the ladies and the gowns.

betsy bloomingdale haute couture

betsy bloomingdale haute couture
Christina Johnson, Betsy Bloomingdale, and Kevin Jones at opening night of exhibit

Betsy's world of couture spanned about 30 years. Her first purchase was at the house of Balmain in 1961 and she faithfully attended couture shows until 1996.

Walking through the FIDM museum was visually overwhelming. Three galleries were punctuated with gowns and ensembles that looked like sculpture.

Mount maker Carolyn Jamerson gave us a detailed tutorial on how to create invisible garment forms. I have to be honest and admit that this wasn't nearly as important to me as some of the other CSA members considering that many of them are involved in curating and museum studies. I just love clothes. They could hang on a hanger for all I care. Until I saw the garments displayed in the galleries. I was mesmerized by the artistic display of clothing. They were almost an optical illusion - a parade of floating silk, lace and satin. It was a stunning display.

Kevin Jones, who was as entertaining as he was educational, explained that FIDM now has custody of around 200 croquis from Christian Dior. Croquis were the hand colored reproductions of the designer's original sketches with a swatch of fabric attached. Christina Johnson, co-curator, told a funny story of how these wonderful croquis were decorating office walls. Aye!

If you can't make it to the gritty streets of Downtown LA to see the exhibit, you can purchase the catalog at the FIDM Museum gift shop. The exhibit ends December 13. Check FIDM's website for more details.

September 18, 2009

Wrapped in Fashion - the Paper Dress

Project Runway SPOILER ALERT!

Folks in media are constantly speculating on the death of print. Ironically, one of the most collectible garments in vintage fashion is the the paper dress. Last night's Project Runway was such a thrill to watch because the designers were challenged to design a dress made of Los Angeles Times newspapers. Booth Moore, Los Angeles Times fashion critic, was a guest.

Tim Gunn gave a brief fashion history lesson on the paper dress - Project Runway contestants always seem short on their history knowledge don't they?

In 1966, Scott Paper Company created a paper dress as a marketing tool. For one dollar, women could buy the dress and receive coupons for Scott products. No one could've predicted the popularity of this new and practical fad. Even Andy Warhol joined the paper dress craze with his famous Campbell's soup print dress.

In my interview with Katy Kane, Katy revealed her affection for vintage paper dresses. She owns a few collectible examples and is always looking for more parchment frocks. My friend and vintage colleague, Jonathan Walford, co founder of the Fashion History Museum in Guelph, Canada, wrote a must read book about vintage paper dress titled Ready to Tear: Paper Fashions of the 60s. In the book, Jonathan explains the history of the paper dress, which we associate with the 1960s, but actually can be traced to the 1800s.

An image of a paper raincoat from the 1920s caught my eye, especially after watching Irina win tonight's Project Runway challenge with her stunning trench coat.

Like this week's Project Runway show, creating something wearable out of paper takes risk, creativity, and innovation. Proof positive that the last time we saw something new in fashion design was up until the mid 20th century.


August 28, 2009

Q&A with Vintage Fashion Historian Heather Vaughan

In the world of vintage fashion, there seems to be three camps: the wearers, the collectors, and the scholars. The wearers and the collectors can be the same person - I wear the vintage I collect that is in my size and that is flattering for me. But the scholars are usually in a very well educated world of their own. They study and write about fashion history in such great depth - curating museum collections, publishing articles in scholarly journals. And yes, some even hold PhDs in fashion.

Heather Vaughan is one of these supremely intelligent fashion addicts. Her addiction to revolutionary and historically important designers such as Schiaparelli and Adrian have led her down a path of study where jobs are scarce, but passion for fashion is abundant. Meet fashion historian, curator, and writer, Heather Vaughan.

heather-smiling1-224x300.jpgDebutanteClothing: Being a scholar of fashion isn't an obvious career path. What led you here?

Heather Vaughan: My beginnings as a historian of fashion began with an interest in theatrical costuming and script analysis as an undergraduate. I had a passion for the 'why' of the costume and how it reflected character. It was the basis of my interest in the socio-cultural forces behind clothing and dress. Linked with that was my interest in history and how history has changed the socio-cultural forces that affect fashion choices of the individual. I came to examine why it was that I loved 'vintage' clothing so much and found that really, it was about these 'things' being objects of and from the past: made, purchased and worn by specific people at a specific time. The object as evidence of history was the theoretical framework that drew me in and kept me interested. In particular my love of writing about this subject is what keeps me wedded to it.

DC: Are there schools or programs of study you would recommend to an aspiring fashion scholar/historian?

HV: I am asked this question frequently, so I'm glad to have it asked here. It really does depend on what you hope to do with the degree after you use it, and where you want to do it. For me, New York University's Visual Culture: Costume Studies program was perfect for me. It was heavy in history, art, and museum studies. There are many other programs that focus on other elements: fashion industry trending, textile history, theatrical costuming, etc. I will say however, that some of the best programs (both PhD and M.A.) seem to be in the United Kingdom: the Courtauld, and the Royal College of Art to name just a few. Others in the US include F.I.T., Bard, Oregon State University, Kent State, and the University of Minnesota.

I do want to caution others considering this as a career path: this is not a growing field. Jobs are few and far between, so if you are considering one of these programs I would strongly recommend talking to a graduate of the given program to find out what their experience was, and what their job prospects have been. Above all, do your homework. Read Anne Hollander, Aileen Ribeiro, Valerie Steele, Lou Taylor, Christopher Breward, JoAnn Eicher, Roland Barthes (the Fashion System), and Fred Davis to figure out where your interests lie. Or better yet - read what's been written by the professors at a given school to see what their slant is. It can go a long way to getting you to the best place.

DC: How does a writer and historian differ from other fashion journalism roles?

HV: That's a good question. For me it's very clear - I don't write freelance articles for newspapers or magazines. I write long in-depth papers for academic journals and conferences. I also really avoid 'current trends' as much as possible-something that is often the focus of fashion journalists. I'm a firm believer that you can't really see a trend clearly until it IS history. Journalists write for the sake of disseminating the most current, up-to-date state of the fashion world. They write what I think of as 'fast fashion' - what's happening now, tomorrow, in the future. I like to think I write 'slow fashion' - contemplative academic pieces that may take a while and lots of thinking and research to put together. That's not to say fashion journalists don't do research or think - they just have less time to do it in.

DC: What is a typical day in a fashion historian's day look like?

HV: Ha - well, I am not a typical fashion historian, so for me it's a nine to five job in an unrelated field, with most of my 'fashion historian' hat time in the evenings. Computer research is ever-more a part of my day. A good number of academic databases (historic newspaper articles and photographs are more and more available online). There is the odd day with a trip to a library or museum to do additional research. Recently, I made a trip out to the Library of Congress for a week to do research for a book project. There are occasional trips to conferences to present papers as well. More typically, an historian associated with a specific museum will involve cataloging, care of collections, research, preparing for exhibitions and other similar tasks.

DC: What is the best part of your career? The worst?

HV: The best part is the objects. Far and away, if I get to examine and explore a the seams, construction and design of an actual piece I am a very happy camper. Being an independent makes those opportunities rare but incredibly valuable. The worst is not having enough time in the day to do all the research that I want to. If I could spend all day, every day doing historical or object research I would be extremely happy.

schiaparelii-va-126x300.jpg schiaparelli-shocking-pink-199x300.jpg Schiaparelli gowns

DC: When it comes to research and study, which are your favorite fashion icons?

HV: It's hard to reconcile those two ideas - because to me, the most interesting research and study is done on the people who are not icons of fashion design (necessarily). I like to know and understand designers who may not have been given the amount of recognition that perhaps they should have. I like to shed light on portions of history that have not yet been studied. For example, I recently began some research on a little studied San Francisco based designer who worked between 1880 and 1918. She was very well known to the inner circle of San Francisco's high society of that era, but no one today would call her an icon.

That said, my favorite designers would have to be Elsa Schiaparelli, Gilbert Adrian, Philip Tracey, Roger Vivier, Andre Perugia and Alexander McQueen. (I like designers who bring a strong artistic sense to their designs).

DC: A common complaint on reality fashion shows is that aspiring designers do not know their fashion history. How important is it for current designers to know fashion history?

HV: Given the popularity of Marc Jacobs, who borrows constantly from fashion history, I would suggest that it is in their own best interests to know their fashion history. It's like sampling from a song that you don't know all the words to: you could be missing something big, or saying something you don't intend to. Learning from those who came before you is hugely important in any field, and those who want to get ahead should learn from histories mistakes.

Knowing art history is also hugely helpful for designers, and museums are a wonderful source of inspiration for any kind of design work. As an aside, I believe that Zac Posen interned at the Met's Costume Institute to get a better handle on fashion history. Knowing how Vionnet and Madame Gres mastered the bias cut, and how YSL transitioned from the strict Dior hourglass silhouette to the more 'relaxed' trapeze line is important for any young new designer to learn.

DC: Which current designers do you feel will be worthy of study in the future?

HV: I've already mentioned Alexander McQueen, but I also think Galliano, Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, Philip Lim as well as Isabel and Rueben Toledo . Many of these designers already have a long and distinguished history in the fashion world, so its hard for me to think of them as not already having been studied.

DC: Every decade has a look that epitomizes the era. What do you feel will be the "look" of the 2000s?

HV: Unfortunately, all that comes to mind are things I have disliked about the 2000s: leggings; Uggs; high-waisted jeans; and oversize aviator sunglasses.

DC: You are a regular contributor to, a blog about fashion history. What other plans are on your horizon?

HV: Beginning in October, I will be focusing fairly intently on the research and writing for a book project combining the study of both fashion and costume design in the 1920s and 1930s in Hollywood and New York. I'll also be continuing my work for Worn Through and the Costume Society of America's Western Region.

Check out Heather's writing at and find out what she's working on at her website

August 27, 2009

Kerry Taylor Auction Sept. 15 - the Marit Allen Collection

It's that time again! Kerry Taylor auctions is having a sale on September 15. This auction is a collection of clothing from the 1960s to the 1990s belonging to the late British fashion journalist, model and costume designer Marit Allen. If you are a swinging 60s fan, or just can't get enough of Biba, John Bates, Mary Quant, or Zandra Rhodes, then this auction is a must attend.

If you've ever dreamed of working in fashion, either in magazines, costuming or styling, or for some of you ambitious girls, all of the above, than Marit is someone to look up to. Check out her bio from

Marit Allen

Marit Allen was an extraordinary person. In her lifetime she managed to have two extremely successful but very different careers but both linked by her love of dress - firstly as a fashion journalist and Vogue editor in the groovy London of the 'Swinging Sixties' and latterly as a world renowned film costume designer. Those who knew her and worked with her also commented on her generosity of spirit and kindness - rarely found traits in the competitive worlds of fashion and film.
Marit was born in Cheshire in 1941 of an English father and Norwegian mother. She always had a passion for fashion magazines and after school and a brief period studying in France she moved to London determined to pursue her ambitions as a fashion journalist. She lobbied Queen magazine until she gained an interview with the owner Jocelyn Stevens. Marit's unique personal style always turned heads with her impish, gamine figure, large owl-like specs (at a time when most people would rather squint myopically than ruin their look by wearing them) and short skirts. She looked the part - she got the part. He awarded her the post of fashion assistant under Beatrix Miller for the meagre sum of £5 a week (apparently one was expected to have a personal income to supplement this). Reflecting the new interest and enthusiasm for youth that were evident everywhere she created the "About Twenty" pages with Caterine Milinaire. This was unlike anything previously seen in Queen. Marit was so good that in 1963 when Beatrix moved to Vogue she took Marit with her.

Click here to read more!

Here are some of my favorite looks:

vintage 1960s Biba coat

vintage Biba ensembles

vintage John Bates Coat

Who: Kerry Taylor Auctions
What: Marit Allen Collection
When: 15 Sept. , Preview Sunday 13th September 12 noon - 4.30pm; Monday 14th September 9.30am-5pm
Where: Kerry Taylor warehouse - Unit C25, (second floor) 40 Martell Road, West Dulwich, London, SE21 8EN
Contact: Telephone: 00 44 (0) 208 676 4600
Fax: 00 44 (0) 203 137 0112

August 25, 2009

Vintage Betsey Johnson Videos and Top

Betsey Johnson has released a collection of fashion show videos from her archives. They are so much fun to watch and I challenge you to walk away after just one. When you think about how long Betsey Johnson has been in the business, you can bet her energy and stamina have kept the label going strong since the 1970s!

Without sounding all Project Runway on you, you can see Betsey Johnson in her collections year after year. When you see a BJ outfit, you know it's her. Her designs are always fun, youthful, quirky, romantic but with a bit of edge.

As a fashion collector and vintage dealer, I'm always thrilled to find any form of media that contains a piece I own. It concretely dates the garment. Imagine my surprise when I saw the matching skirt to a vintage Betsey Johnson top I own. I shrieked! At 6:20, we enter the Kibbutz room in the multi-themed room fashion show of Fall 1982. I didn't see my top but it doesn't seem like we get to see all the models.

The top may not have a lot of value - I don't collect Betsey Johnson pieces for that reason. But I am so proud to own a piece of subculture fashion history.

vintage betsey johnson punk label top

Betsey Johnson and Vivienne Westwood are the doyennes of high end, subculture fashion. They brought street, music -namely punk -influence to the runway. Even BJ's label is punk rock!

August 12, 2009

Vintage Couture - Q&A with Vintage Couture Dealer Katy Kane

katy kane

When it comes to vintage couture, Katy Kane has earned her fashion stripes. Katy Kane has been in the business of desirable and collectible vintage couture for 25 years. Her website,, is an archival fantasy of stunning vintage fashion.  She has worked with auction houses and museums and has sold some of the finest fashion of the 20th century. Step into the mind, and the archives, of one of vintage fashion's premiere dealers. Meet Katy Kane!

Debutante Clothing: You've been in the vintage and antique clothing business for many years. How did you get started?

Katy Kane: I grew up going to auctions with my Mother, so I guess that becoming an antiques dealer was inevitable. Thirty years ago very few people were interested in antique clothing, so I picked up gorgeous pieces for a few dollars each. Pretty soon I had more than I could wear so I opened a small shop, then a bigger shop, then an even bigger shop. I had a retail store for over 20 years.

DC: How has the vintage fashion marketplace changed from when you first started?

KK: When I first stared the clothes really were antique clothes, 1820's dresses, gorgeous Victorian ball gowns, Edwardian tea gowns, Irish and Battenburg lace pieces, fabulous French flapper dresses, 1930's bias cut lame dresses and the occasional 1940's suit or dress. Couture meant Worth, Doucet, Callot Souers, Poiret, 1920's Chanel, Fortuny, Babani and Gallenga.

maggie rouff
Maggie Rouff silver & gold mylar

DC: Have you always specialized in designer and couture fashion?

KK: No, I sold Victorian and Edwardian dresses, many were worn for weddings in the 1980's and 90's, country calico dresses, were very popular, Victorian petticoats were worn as skirts, 1920's afternoon dresses and drop dead gorgeous 1920's beaded dresses were also popular.

DC: What do you personally collect?

KK: I collect paper dresses from the late 1960's. If anyone has the Rocket ship dress please call me! I cycle some vintage pieces through my closet from time to time, but I really am a dealer not a collector of vintage clothing. I only have 1 piece that I will not sell.

vintage paper dressescat paper dress
vintage paper dresses

DC: You now have a relationship with the luxury antique site How did that come about?

KK: I was invited to join last winter, I do antiques shows all across the country and I am the only clothing dealer at these shows, so that is how they knew me and my reputation for Vintage & Couture clothing of the highest quality. The vintage section debuted July1.

DC: You sell most of your collection at trunk and vintage/antique shows as well as your site, What is the biggest difference, as a vintage dealer, between selling in person and online?

KK: There is really no comparison between the experience of selling in person versus selling online. Interacting with the customer face to face, seeing their style of dress, their coloring and size are huge advantages that make the experience more successful for the buyer as well as the seller. Once they are in the dressing room { I always have a dressing room in my booth} you can get a sense of what will really work for them, what will really bring out their individuality.

On the other hand online selling is so convenient for the buyer and the seller. You are always open, the stock is constantly changing, the overhead and labor are much less than at a show.

DC: How has this economy affected the vintage fashion market?

KK: The vintage clothing market has slowed down just like all areas of our economy. As sellers of vintage we do have the opportunity of providing the customer a superior product with great value, more bang for their buck, so to speak. Vintage & couture clothing quality and construction is far superior to most contemporary garments. The buyer has something totally unique, and it is the most chic form of recycling.

DC: What seems to be the hottest sellers for you?

KK: Anything unusual and out of the ordinary is the best seller for me, whether it is a rare couture piece or a funky handbag, a great 1950's party dresses, a bias cut lame evening gown, a beautifully hand embroidered shawl, an Op Art piece from the 1960's or an over the top cocktail dress from the 1980's. The items that sell the best for me are the truly unique pieces.

vintage donald brooks feather dress
vintage donald brooks feather dress

DC: You've worked with several museums and auction houses. In what capacity do your work for them?

KK: I have worked with several auction houses that do not have full time vintage and couture departments. I have cataloged auctions and served as a consultant.

DC: When it comes to investing in vintage fashion, what advice can you give shoppers?

KK: My advice would be to buy the best piece that you can afford, quality is always better than quantity. I tell my customers not to buy a piece if they are not sure, because they won't wear it and then they won't come back to me as a customer.

DC: What is on the horizon for Katy Kane and

KK: Katy Kane hopes an amazing collection of beautiful clothes is on the horizon, followed by a group of lovely women who must own this collection. is working on an Archive section for the site and will finally be adding a long overdue links section as well. Please email if you would like to link to my site!

vintage geoffery beene
vintage Geoffrey Beene dress

July 16, 2009

Bagology - the Psychology of Handbags Circa 1945

While doing research on the history of make-up for an article I am writing for Today's Vintage magazine, I stumbled upon this hysterical article published in the New York Times circa 1945 about the psychology of bag - what they contain and how you hold it says a lot about you.

And if you think we carry a lot of junk today, warranting huge totes, follow the link at the end of the article to check out what was carried in 1945. You'd be surprised!

The original copy of this article is from the NFAA archives.
Printed January 21, 1945, The New York Times, by Anita Daniel

circa 1945

Inside Story of a Handbag

Chapters of the mysterious science of bagology which is said to
throw new light on the ways of womankind.

vintage lady carrying handbag 1945A woman without her handbag feels as lost as a wanderer in the desert. And she wants it large. If she cannot get it in leather-now growing scarce-she will take it in fabric, fur, or even plastic. The handbag is the movable base of her supplies-the depot of her expected needs. These eventual needs may reach out to a degree far beyond any man's power of imagination. A woman's handbag is a mysterious dungeon. It's the key to her real self; the prosaic answer to many poetic conceptions.

A magician does not want to explain his tricks. There is an aura of taboo about a closed handbag. Every woman has an uneasy look if somebody glances into its sacred privacy. A decent man should always tactfully stare at the ceiling whenever his companion opens her bag. He will, of course, have to concentrate on that ceiling pretty often. The typical handbag of a typical woman contains a certain number of fundamental things-plus her own individual touch. It is that individual touch that fills the bag. Some item is pretty sure to roll out the moment the bag is opened.

Every woman's handbag is a lost and found department in itself. It is strange, but things actually disappear there, as by magic. They finally reappear on the surface after three or four investigations and complete pell-mell of the contents. Every bus driver is fatalistically resigned to having a lady barring the passage while searching for a nickel in the depths of her handbag. And every man knows about the two-minute drama ever repeated: "Heavens, I must have lost my watch...(or my twenty-dollar bill, my keys, that important letter, etc.,etc.)!" It usually has a happy ending. Nothing gives a man more self-satisfaction than such an experience. The whole myth of the superiority of men is built on the fact that a man never carries a handbag. Men keep women in eternal dependence by buying them beautiful handbags. What female heart would not melt at the sight of a luscious alligator bag, or soft suede or brocade?

A man carriers everything in his numerous comfortably deep pockets. It is estimated that a man wearing a suit with a vest and an overcoat has twenty pockets. No wonder he can never lose anything!

Women have also adapted pockets to their suits and coats. But the most genuine are just fit to put hands into. The others are good enough for a chiffon handkerchief to peep out of or they are faked. No woman's suit pocket is meant to hold her belongings. Every bulge would endanger the slim line and the smart effect. So women continue to carry handbags. As long as women do not wear men's suits with pockets, they will remain women. And men will continue to feel superior. The first thing Adam purchased for Eve was a handbag. It was his sweet revenge for the apple.

A young man I knew-the sensitive type-once told me that he was about to propose to a girl, when, accidentally, he had a glance into her handbag. It shocked him to such a degree that he spontaneously canceled his proposal. His whole image of the pretty girl had changed after he had seen the untidiness of her powder-dusted, lipstick-spotted handbag. Worst of all, a fruit drop had stuck to the lining.

Money is the thing you will miss most frequently in a woman's handbag. Nowadays it is hardly worth while for pickpockets to steal it, except for the fact that an astonishing number of women carry their precious belonging in handbags. They do it for fear they may be stolen from closets or drawers. That is why we read so often of handbags lost in taxicabs, containing jewels worth thousands of dollars. It is a strange time when women wear junk jewelry around their necks and carry their precious jewelry in the zippered department of their handbags.

Some psychologists think the way a woman carries her bag is characteristic. "Bagology" is quite a science. There is the strap type, the shoulder-strap type and the woman who tucks her bag under her arm. There are a great number of women who hold their bags both by the straps and pressed under the arm.

Seen from the psychologist's angle,
the way a woman carriers her purse demonstrates the entire scale of characteristics, from light-mindedness and generosity to caution and greediness. One analyst warns men against women who keep their bag rolled around the wrist and the hand firmly clasped around the lock.

In the good old times, when the definition of a "lady" covered very definite limitations, it was ladylike to carry as little as possible. In sentimental English novels of the last century, whenever a lady opened her bag it was to give money to the poor. Or to take out a small prayerbook, an embroidered handkerchief or a tiny bottle of smelting salts, as it was considered very ladylike to faint once in a while. Today's ladies have a far more varied program.

The first time I saw Mrs. Roosevelt I was deeply impressed by the sight of her bag. There stood the First Lady, very tall, very straight, very distinguished in her gray tailored suit. In one hand she carried roses that had been presented to her; in the other, her bag. What a bag! It was of dark leather and of tremendous dimension, practically bursting with invisible contents. It clearly spoke of the activities of the First Lady. One glance and you knew the President's wife had a full-time job.


July 6, 2009

A Shocking Steamy Schiaparelli Summer


Paris continues to heat up with steamy temperatures well into the low 90s. I thought that since everyone might be on vacation already that I might get lucky and pick up a bargain last week at the Haute Couture and Schiaparelli auction that was held in Paris.

Much to my surprise everyone who was anyone was there, and why wouldn't they be? Silly me! Who needs to be somewhere in the country side or the South of France when there was auction like this. Over 300 lots of haute couture and an amazing amount of rare dresses by Elsa Schiaparelli were on the block.

As I entered the room I knew that regardless of the hammer prices I would witness a moment of fashion history and reminded myself that true collectors and dealers never sleep, never stop searching and certainly never take vacations or if they do, have been savvy enough to set up pre arranged phone bidding from the comfort of their beach chairs.

As I waited impatiently in front of the door, I turned and saw Marisa Berenson the famous actress and model from the 1980s. Elsa Schiaparelli was her grandmother so I wasn't too surprised that she was also there to witness a moment in fashion history.

As I entered the room and searched for my seat I realized that I was sitting directly behind her (gasp! if you read my last post about auctions you'll understand why I gasp so much) Did they make a mistake with the seating, I thought? How have I ended up in the VIP section, I thought to myself and calmly reminded myself to take deep breaths.

Seated in front of Ms. Berenson who by the way is more beautiful in person than any photo I've ever seen, was another ex-model and successful fashion designer Inès de la Fressange. Hmmm... even they aren't on vacation - this would be an exciting auction!

As the lots flew by in a flurry of bidding surrounded by the Shocking bright pink walls I anxiously listened as the bids continued to mount faster than the temperatures outside. I felt goose bumps on my arms as I watched determined bidders spending more euros than some people make in a year on rare creations by Paquin, Lanvin and Chanel.


The true highlight was lot 200. A beige Schiaparelli jacket from 1937 with a Jean Couteau designed embroidered by Lesage. This magnificent design showed a woman with gold metallic tresses covering one arm of the jacket with her hand encircling the waist of the jacket. An estimate of 12,000-15,000 was noted and I nearly fell off my seat as I watched the hammer go down as the hammer price hit 140,000 euros.

I was so thrilled to have had the chance to witness such a moment and at the same time a bit sad that I might never see this jacket come up at auction again. A bit shocking but that's just part of the thrill of a steamy summer in Paris.

Happy Summer everyone!


Jeanne Suica collaborates with a major auction house in searching for and evaluating pieces for upcoming auctions. Clients worldwide who may be interested in selling or consigning their items can email her images and questions regarding their items via her site

June 8, 2009

Tracey Ullman to Wear Claire McCardell to CFDA

Diane Von Furstenburg has asked Tracey Ullman to be the host of the annual Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) awards on June 15. It's no wonder DVF chose her. The insanely funny Ullman is often spoofing fashion players as an obvious form of adoration for fashion. The New York Times states" She is a big collector of Claire McCardell, one of the originators of the American fashion industry, and can casually drop into a conversation references to Christian Lacroix's financial troubles, Iris Apfel's eccentric style and the insistence of fashion magazines to churn out issues about how to dress for your age."

Ullman is such a huge Claire McCardell fan and collector, that she might be wearing Claire McCardell to the awards. My esteemed colleague and fellow fellow fashion dealer, Angela of Dorthea's Closet Vintage, recently sold Ms. Ullman a gorgeous Claire McCardell dress in black with bow details.


The Vintage Fashion Guild has provided a fantastic biography of Claire McCardell.

I was lucky enough to acquire one Claire McCardell in my vintage fashion career. I hope to score many more. The thing about Claire McCardell, her designs and her philosophy about fashion, is that she would find herself right at home in these tough economic times.

She wanted to design clothes that were practical yet beautiful and also affordable. Fashion for the every day woman. We are bombarded with supposed new looks every season - must haves, trends to wear. But McCardell's designs are so timeless, that the fashion industry in 2009 still finds much inspiration from her work. Diana Vreeland once stated that one of her dresses was "pathetic". She later supported the understated designer.

McCardell was not out to create a "New Look" or a shocking statement through waist lines and crinolines. She wanted to design for real women, with practical needs for fashion. ''We look at her as the founder of democratic American fashion,'' said F.I.T. curator Valerie Steele in a 1998 article in the NY Times.

Given that the honored guest of the evening will be Michelle Obama, a woman who mixes American contemporary designers with mass produced, affordable fashion, I think Claire McCardell would've been proud to have her creation appear on stage for an award ceremony that celebrates the casual elegance of American design.



**UPDATE** Tracey will wear two other dresses - one a Claire McCardell inspired design by Doo Ri Chung and a Donna Karan.

May 29, 2009

1960s Swinging London

by Mademoiselle Robot


In the mid to late '60s, London had the swinging bug, and by swinging, I don't mean those sexy parties that often have a big "ADULTS ONLY" sticker on the doors. We are talking cultural revolution, wild optimism and a very rich youth culture. It was a reaction to post war austerity and a celebration of the recovery of the British economy. I have been thinking about the Swinging '60s a lot recently, as we are in the middle of a financial crisis which is already resulting in an outburst of creativity, especially in Fashion. I wonder what the atmosphere will be like when the crisis is over.

Swinging London saw fashion and photography finding their place in Queen magazine, putting designer Mary Quant under the spotlight. She is mostly known for being the "inventor" of the mini skirt and colored tights, but this is a disputed fact, as the mini skirt is also attributed to André Courrèges or John Bates, and the colored tights to Cristobal Balenciaga. Mary Quant's role was mostly to bring those items into the mainstream. Her shop, Bazaar, was a well known shopping stop for the whole of the Chelsea set.


Twiggy, aka Lesley Hornby, was discovered in 1966 and modeled for Mary Quant. Together they created a high fashion mod look and took the fashion world by storm with Twiggy's androgynous looks.

The Swinging '60s Guide:

Queen magazine - It is a publication focusing on British "high society". It was created in 1862. In the late 50's, it was taken over by editor Beatrix Miller and restyled to appeal to a younger, more hip audience.


Mod - The mod scene developed when British teenagers began to reject the British culture around them. From the mid '60s, the media often used the term "mod" to describe anything that was believed to be popular, fashionable or modern.


Twiggy - She is the first supermodel and was discovered at age 16 by Nigel Davis. She is mostly known for her atypical looks, short hair and unusual make up style.


Parisian expat in London, Mademoiselle Robot is a magazine Editor turned fashion blogger.  On, she offers style tips, interviews of artists and designers, outfit ideas and she even launched her own TV channel!  Her blog has been featured in the Independent, A nous Paris, Modepass and many others.

May 11, 2009

Vintage Find - 1950s Sexy Gingham dress

A Vintage Dress Brigitte Bardot Would Approve Of

There is only one other vintage pattern besides florals that screams summer for me. Gingham. In 1959, a gorgeous little French girl single handedly put the sweet little checks on the fashion radar. Brigitte Bardot was married to Jacques Charrier in the pink and white gingham dress designed by Jacques Esterel. The pattern was an excellent choice for Brigitte. She made sweet look sexy. After her daring choice for nuptial dress, women all over the world were willing to wear such a domestic looking pattern.

Although this week's vintage find is not pink, I think Brigitte Bardot would approve of this black and white alternative. While the A line skirt and innocent checks make this a perfect choice for a daytime outing, the neckline is what makes me swoon. The suggestive neck and bust lines are pushing the threshold of cuteness and tip toeing into the realm of bombshell. Not too sweet, not too sexy. And isn't leaving something to the imagination even more seductive than giving it all up? This dress has Brigitte written all over it.

1950s black white gingham dress
available at Calendar Girl Clothing /
ends 5/17

April 24, 2009

Private Tour of Valentina: American Couture and the Cult of Celebrity

by Suzanne Reinhardt Kuhn
Mr. and Mrs. (Valentina) George Schlee, mid-1940s
Albumen silver print
Courtesy of the Estate of Valentina Schlee

This first ever retrospective of Valentina: American couture and the Cult of Celebrity opened at the Museum of the City of New York on 14 Feb, 2009 and runs through 17 May, 2009. The exhibit seeks to provide the missing link in the history of American Couture, by showcasing this legendary talent who has thus far been shrouded in mystery.

I was thrilled to attend a private curator-led tour of the exhibit last week. Having never heard of Valentina, my curiosity was definitely piqued. We were able to see designs she created around the same time Coco Chanel was revolutionizing women's fashion, however we rarely hear of this innovative designer and her extravagant lifestyle, nor how she too was revolutionizing how women dressed. Valentina was America's first couture designer, never creating a ready-to-wear line, only couture pieces for friends and those she deemed worthy of her creations. A character for sure, but a talented, creative and charming character!

Born in Kiev in the Ukraine, Valentina spent time in Europe as a dancer. When she arrived in America, Valentina Sanina Schlee, known professionally as Valentina, had a rudimentary knowledge of sewing. She seized the chance to reinvent herself in New York and show her many talents. She believed in timeless fashion, not fad, and her designs remain timeless to this day. Valentina is accredited with creating American Couture, and went on to create wardrobes of the rich and famous including actresses as Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn, Merle Oberon, as well as socialites such as the Duchess of Windsor, and Mrs. Randolph Hearst.

She also created the idea of modularity in dressing; add a bolero, and you've got a new look for your old dress. Add an apron or overskirt -- yet another look. One of the most amusing things in the exhibit is an interview clip with Edward R, Murrow, where she transforms her very stylish, elegant, gown into something more suited for dinner with friends. She unbuttons the neckline, tucks it in, pulls it slightly over her shoulders, then splits the overskirt to reveal two long apron strings which she pulls to the back, ties in a bow thus creating a modified bustle. The skirt underneath is a simple black sheath. The bonus is that you get to hear the charming Valentina herself describe what she is doing. The look is so creative and honestly wish I had it myself! To me, this was the mother of investment dressing. Buy a few pieces and be able to switch them up for a different look fits right in with today's lifestyle (and budgets.)

You'll also find a selection of her trademark tricorn and coolie hats, which really finish the looks beautifully. I'm a total sucker for old Hollywood and seeing clothing made for and worn by Katherine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Lillian Gish, Rosalind Russell - all favorite actresses of mine - gave me great joy. The workmanship that went into these creations was remarkable; I can only dream to one day own my very own Valentina!

Phyllis Magidson, the museum's curator of Costumes and Textiles had the daunting task of choosing through the family's personal collection of clothing and photographs after Valentina's death, as well as acquiring other items for the exhibit. She did a remarkable job of presenting Valentina in all her glory, between the clothing and photographs of Valentina by the most renowned photographers of her day such as Horst, and Cecil Beaton, to the informative exhibit.

There is a book by the same title that coincides with the exhibit written by Kohle Yohannan, foreword by Harold Koda, and published by Rizzoli. It is available through the museum and can also be ordered online.

Croquis, 1947
Pencil and gouache on paper
Artist/Designer: Valentina
Costume design for Katharine Cornell as "Cleopatra"
Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Katharine Cornell

Katharine Cornell
Antigone (1946)
Olive green silk matte jersey, draped self scarf edged with wild mink
Designed by Valentina, fabricated by Karinska
Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Katharine Cornell, 65.100.48

Dinner Ensemble, late-1940s

Navy silk satin dress, matching bolero
Label: Valentina
Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Irene Worth, 86.63.3abc

Evening Dress, ca.1949-50Sapphire-blue silk velvet
Label: Valentina
Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Irene Worth, 86.63.2

Evening Gown, mid-1940s
Scarlet silk jersey one-shouldered gown, matching drape
Designed and made for donor by Valentina

John Lee
Valentina, early 1940s
Albumen silver print
Courtesy of the Estate of Valentina Schlee

Suzanne Reinhardt Kuhn is the editor of Idee Fix and's newest contributor bringing you the best in vintage style from New York. Look for more articles from Suzanne coming soon!

Photos © C. Bay Milin

April 21, 2009

Spain's First Lady of Bakelite?

I'm constantly talking about how much I admire Michelle Obama's sense of style. But I may have found myself a stylish First Lady contender. I didn't know much about Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's wife, Sonsoles Espinosa, until I read about her on by way of's Twitter feed. Willow Lindley of the Huffington Post is right - the woman is quite chic with her short hair and fashion forward clothing including draped jersey dresses and satin trimmed tuxedo jacket. But what really caught my eye was her statement making jewelry, especially what appears to be Bakelite accessories.

image source:

Without touching or smelling them, the bangle and chili pepper looking pin look like Bakelite - that iconic butterscotch color, the swirling details. Is it me, or do many First Ladies seem to love vintage? We know Michelle Obama wore a Victorian pin on inauguration day. Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko often wears Victorian or Steam Punk influenced fashion. Do you suppose history not only influences future policy in their respective countries, but their wardrobe as well?

image source:Xinhuanet

On a completely separate, ironic and silly note, Zapatero in Spanish means shoe cobbler and his wife's name is SonSOLEs. Ha!

April 2, 2009

Exclusive from London - Kerry Taylor Couture Auction

special guest post by Jeanne Suica

I'm back from London and wanted to report on the latest from Kerry Taylor Auctions in London and an exciting upcoming auction in the USA.

On March 10 she held one of the mini auctions at her warehouse which featured over 300 lots of historic and ready to wear now fashions. Her mini auctions held a few times per year offer bidders a wide array of articles by great designers at usually less expensive prices than the two major auctions she holds in conjunction with Sotheby's.

A rainbow of colors and designers which was straight out of the current fashion magazines we all know and love. The star of the day was a wonderful Hermes black crocodile bag from 1986 which sold for £5200. Other eyecatching lots included a day glo orange suit by Chanel circa 1980 and a highlighter yellow silk suit by Claude Montana both under £200. An example of history and fashion repeating itself was the voluminous shoulder suit by Thierry Mugler which sold for £500 looked so similar to the new Dolce & Gabbana extended shoulder jackets and tops so prominantly featured in the spring ad campaigns.

Her next auction will be held on April 28 and will feature items from the Amanda Wakely Archive collection. An on line catalog will be available approximately 1 week before the auction at

For those of you who may have won the lottery or are celebrity collectors check out Julien's Auctions at Over 2,000 lots of The King of Pop Michael Jackson personal belongings and memorabilia will be going on the block on April 22-25.

Happy bidding!


Jeanne collaborates with a major auction house in searching for and evaluating pieces for upcoming auctions. Clients worldwide who may be interested in selling or consigning their items can email her images and questions regarding their items via her site

March 12, 2009

Hobnobbing With Vintage Fashion Bloggers

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As much as I love wearing and collecting vintage clothing, discovering the history behind the fashion is my favorite party. Unearthing and saving vintage fashion from death by landfill is my equivalent of finding fossilized bones in Hollywood - and my discoveries are prettier!

Because there is such an academic side to vintage clothing, I try my best to associate myself with people who are very knowledgeable. I belong to two organizations that really are the upper echelons of vintage clothing - Vintage Fashion Guild and Costume Society of America. In their Spring newsletter, CSA published a great list of bloggers to note and I was thrilled to see some of my faves on the list.

Liebemarlene Vintage Look Book - if you don't follow Rhiannon's blog, go there NOW! She is too cute too ignore.

A Dress a Day - This blog is a fun read. Nothing but vintage dresses and patterns with lots of eye candy.

Worn Through - This blog is a highly intelligent read with really insightful blog posts about fashion history and vintage influence. Written and edited by fashion historians and academics, one read will give your IQ a bit of a boost.

- The famous celebrity vintage hot spot blogs about current inventory.

A couple blogs on the list that I hadn't read before, but plan to be a regular subscriber:

Jewel History - Lori Ettlinger Gross is the author of Brooches: Timeless Adornment. She blogs about jewelry and fashion, both vintage and contemporary.

Paula Baxter's blog - New York Public Library;s Curator of Exhibitions and Coordinator of Education has a blog. Get ready for some serious fashion history lessons.

March 11, 2009

Going, going, gone... Paris vintage clothing auction report

This is a special guest blog post from vintage clothing auction correspondent, Jeanne Suica...

Paris has been buzzing with the results of two major Yves Saint Laurent auctions that were held a couple weeks ago. The collection of Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent which was held at Christie's broke a few major records in the antiques and art market. Did anyone say financial crisis? Not here! A pair of candelabra brought 253,000 euros and a chair fetched a sum of 21.9 million euros. Sadly, I couldn't even get close to the preview, there was a two hour wait to even get a peek of the fabulous collection.

I had better luck at the clothing and couture auction which was held a few days later at Hotel Duorot. The collection of 943 lots included a handful of haute couture pieces, many Rive Gauche items, accessories and a good amount of jewelry from 1962-2002.

vintage yves saint laurent haute couture
Lot 564 Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture N 46547 Automne Hiver 1979-1980
Collection Hommage à Pablo Picasso

vintage yves saint laurent haute couture

Lot 46 Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture N 1757 circa 1963 (ivory and black)

Continue reading "Going, going, gone... Paris vintage clothing auction report"

February 26, 2009

Valentina - American Dream to American Couture

"Fit the century, forget the year."

Most of us are familiar with the famous Italian designer, Valentino. However, few of us are familiar with a relatively obscure, but equally talented designer, Valentina Sanina Schlee (1899-1989).

When it comes to fashion design, not fashion as it relates to the masses, fashion magazines and media seem to push the familiar, the collections with mass appeal. This is a business after all. But Valentina did not buy into trends and fads. Her designs and cutting edge work led to her being regarded as a pioneer in American couture.

A Russian immigrant, her life was a true American dream story. Valentina went from an unknown, to a celebrity fashion designer due to her fashion forward designs. Her clients included Greta Garbo and Mrs. Hearst. She reminds me of another immigrant, fashion forward designer plucked from relative obscurity until she was worn by one of the most famous women in the world - Isabel Toledo.

Valentina was a designer beyond her time, and stylistically, cared very little for trends. Much like Dame Vivienne Westwood, Valentina exclaimed, "I hate fashion!".

It's a shame that the fashion business thrives on pumping trends rather than form, art, quality and design. If Valentina Sanina Schlee were alive today, there is no doubt fashion bloggers would be typing their fingers to the bone about her fashion forward designs.

Check out Market Publique's blog post about this amazing and fascinating designer.

Valentina's work will be on display in an exhibit at the Museum of the City in New York titled, Valentina: American Couture and the Cult of Celebrity, February 14 through May 17.

In the meantime, check out this fantastic video featuring the author of the book by the same title, Kohle Yohannan

February 24, 2009

Monsieur Yves Saint Laurent Auctions in Paris

ysl art collection christies

Some of you may remember the American show "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" hosted by Robin Leach. Each week Mr. Leach would lead viewers through the homes and destination spots of the rich and famous providing a sneak peek into a world that most of us would never be privileged enough to see in real life.

Growing up it was one of my favorite shows along with dreaming about attending couture shows of Yves Saint Laurent, one of my favorite designers. Yves Saint Laurent passed away last year leaving his business partner Monsieur Pierre Bergé with a phenomenal collection of art, antiques and collectables that they had amassed together.

Now if you want a peek into the world of the rich and famous, all you need is a metro ticket or two...

Acclaimed as one of the most important private collections formed in the past century, this collection will be auctioned off over the course of two days, including 233 lots of furniture, paintings, drawings, sculpture and jewelry from Renaissance, Old Masters, Art Deco and Ming Dynasty.

One of my favorite items is lot 246: a serpent vase by Jean Dunand with an auction estimate of 25,000-30,000 euros. (Note to self: call my credit card company and ask them to increase my spending limit).

Definitely worth the trip and better than a museum in some cases. And the best part is that it's free to attend and a great learning experience for anyone interested in antiques, art or fine collectables.

A fully illustrated catalogue including a comprehensive downloadable brochure can be found at

The Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé Collection
Christie's in Association with Pierre Bergé Associés

Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées
Avenue Winston-Churchill, 8th
M° Champs-Elysées Clemenceau

Preview Dates February 21-23
Sale Dates February 23-25

For those of you who like fashion, the memory of Yves Saint Laurent continues with what most of us know him best for: his timeless and elegant creations. If you need to update your wardrobe, are a collector, or just want to browse, you should attend the Yves Saint Laurent Couture preview or auction.

It's one of the few clothing auctions in Paris this season at Drouot Richelieu, the destination place for antique dealers and collectors in Paris. This auction is advertised as a couture auction and one of the few that I've seen dedicated to one designer, at least in title. I imagine that there will also be ready to wear items, both gently worn contemporary and vintage, along with a good amount of accessories and jewelry as well. To date, the catalogue is not on line so may also include other designers.

An online catalog is usually available at two weeks before the auction and a print catalog may also be available for purchase at the preview. Not as organized as Christies in particular for their on line catalogs (generally only select items are photographed and the quality of the photographs and descriptions leave much to be desired) this auction may be worth checking out if nothing else but to be able to try on some of YSL's finest creations.

Couture Yves Saint Laurent
Drouot Richelieu
9 Rue Drouot, 9th
M° Richelieu Drouot

Preview dates February 24 and 25
Sale dates February 26 and 27

And for those of you who may not be in Paris in late February or may not have a huge amount to spend but are looking for that special Yves Saint Laurent piece, you'll find Yves Saint Laurent pieces on, and

Happy Bidding!

Contributed by Jeanne Suica
permission to repost from Secrets of Paris

February 19, 2009

New Vegas Mall - 20th Century Fashion Exhibit

vintage las vegas

An exhibit of 20th Century fashions from the turn of the century and each decade following will be on display at the Charleston Antique Mall, in Las Vegas, Nevada, starting in March, 2009. The presentation will run for four weeks. The public is invited free of charge everyday from March 22 through April 18.

The antique mall is located at 307 W. Charleston Blvd., in the downtown Las Vegas art district and is housed in the historic building that was originally a 7 UP bottling plant back in the 1950's.

Antique and vintage outer wear, bridal wear, day, evening, leisure and lingerie wear, hats and accessories of all types will be part of the century of fashion display.

Starting with late Victorian pieces, the exhibit will go on to include clothing styles from the 1910-1920 decade, the ever-changing trends of the 1920's, the very fashionable 1930's and into the stylish 1940's.
Some of the garments from the early eras will be on loan from collectors.

With the current rage for vintage and retro clothing, mid-century fashion designs and the iconic styles of 1950's and 60's will be the highlight of the exhibit.

The exhibit committee is composed of several antique dealers with various backgrounds that encompass fashion design, expertise in retail trends, and collecting antique, vintage and retro style clothing.

For more information call the Charleston Antique Mall at 702-228-4783


February 16, 2009

Vintage Find - Bakelite Heart Pin

red heart bakelite pin
available on, $195

This week made me think of hearts, plastics, and the economy. Of course I had hearts on the brain because of St. Valentine's Day, but this year, the calendared day of love was over shadowed by fear of the crumbling economy and the letter du jour - the lay off notification.

The last time we saw this sort of economic climate was the Great Depression. While we are not technically in a depression, news of mass lay offs and plummeting stock markets are frightening. It's unbelievable, just as it was in the 1920s when everyone was sipping champagne, people were doing the Charleston till dawn, and living the Garçonne lifestyle. Then Crash!

But what did this do for fashion? Fashionistas who once donned feathers and beads had to learn to mend and reuse. Fashion became minimal and modest.

As we enter an era where we are spending only on the basics and trying to find ways to perk up our wardrobes with inexpensive details in order to save money but still look fab, I am reminded of the amazing little accessory made of the most mundane material that brought joy to frugalistas everywhere - Bakelite jewelry.  Bakelite accessories were a relatively inexpensive way to wear highly decorative and whimsical jewelry.  Bakelite was such a hit that even women with money started buying the plastic beauties.

This week's vintage find is a perfect way to bid adieu to another Valentine's Day and to welcome wonderful, colorful accessories that brought a whole generation of frugal but fashionable women joy and dazzle to a closet of basics in one of the darkest economic times in history.

January 30, 2009

Q&A with Director of Vintage Couture at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers

When it comes to vintage clothing, couture and designer finds are the treasures that entice us to check one more thrift, visit one more estate sale, rummage through one more church bazaar. But when you find something so amazing that Ebay might be too small potatoes for your vintage find, it's time to hit the auction circuit.


Abigail Rutherford is the Director of Vintage Couture and Accessories at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, one of the premier auction houses in the US. Located in Chicago, Ill., Leslie Hindman hold vintage couture and accessories auction three to four times per year. Rutherford is currently seeking lots for their upcoming couture auction April 19.

Abigail was gracious enough to take a few moments from her busy schedule to answer a few questions about couture and auctions...

How did you get your start in vintage couture?

Here at Leslie Hindman- My background was in Art History so this seemed like the perfect liaison between my two loves, fashion and art!

What's the best part of your job?

Uncovering the treasures that people bring in and learning the history behind each one, it is fascinating!

When it comes to designer and couture vintage, what do you look for in auction consignment pieces?

There are two categories that I look for- collectability and wearability. Both categories sell equally as well.

What are hot sellers right now at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers?

Evening and cocktail as well as Chanel and Hermes accessories.

What's been the highest closing auction you've come across?

Hermes crocodile Birkins always garner the highest price, they can be comparable to prices of Picassos!

What's been the strangest auction piece you've seen?

A see-through mesh evening gown from the 40s that sold for $4000 against an estimate of 200-400, I was stunned watching it go up at auction.

How does Chicago's vintage marketplace differ from New York?

New York has a very strong retail market, but is without an auction resource. Leslie Hindman is the premier auction resource in the country catering to clients worldwide. It should also be known that when buying at auction you are paying fair market value, which is closer to a wholesale value rather than a retail value, therefore the vintage couture at auction is less expensive than a retail venue that would be marking up these garments.

What types of bidders come to Leslie Hindman auctions?

There are a huge variety of bidders from all over. They are generally associated with museums, institutions, retail venues, or just private individuals looking to collect.

What should one do if they are interested in selling a vintage piece at a live auction?

Go to our website at and there are instructions for the consignment process!

Any tips for vintage bidders?

Always request more information on the piece, whether it is measurements or general condition, this information will better equip you when you go to bid!

leslie hindman auctioneers
Leslie Hindman Auctioneers
1338 West Lake Street
Chicago, Illinois 60607

January 18, 2009

Vintage Roadshow - Raquel, Peggy, Coats & Vogue


Couture Allure shows how to recycle a vintage coat.

Debutante Clothing digs through the vintage Vogue archives and finds wisdom on handkerchiefs and reputations.

Here's Looking Like You, Kid shows off retro platform shoes that Raquel Welch could "Fathom".

Market Publique gives you an inside look at their Listing Page.

iKonic Vintage visits the swinging 60's with the first fashion video starring Peggy Moffitt wearing Rudi Gernreich.

January 14, 2009

Handkerchiefs Are Like Reputations - Vogue 1922

vintage vogue magazine cover 1922

"Handkerchiefs and reputations are exceedingly easy to lose. Both are lost in about equal numbers daily. All the reputations lost are very good ones - and the more irretrievably lost they are, the better they were. The handkerchiefs lost should be better. Imagine a lady saying, 'My reputation is gone, but I don't care. It wasn't any good'. Yet that is exactly the attitude she takes toward a lost handkerchief.'"

January 8, 2009

Silence is Golden - Lagerfeld's Silent Coco Chanel Movie

Karl Lagerfeld has paid homage to Gabrielle Coco Chanel in this short silent film. Although it isn't truly silent - you'll hear sound effects - the film is beautifully made. I'm hoping Lagerfeld will create sequels because this seems to be incomplete. I would love to see the rest of Chanel's life captured in modern black and white.

January 6, 2009

Print Master Alfred Shaheen dies at 86


The LA Times this weekend announced that the master of Hawaiian and Polynesian prints, Alfred Shaheen, has passed on December 22, at the age of 86 due to complications of Diabetes.

Every vintage picker and buyer knows the feeling of scoring a vintage Shaheen. One of the most coveted labels in vintage clothing, and especially in Hawaiiana, Shaheen revolutionized print manufacturing when he struck out on his own with four seamstresses and equipment he made himself.

Shaheen patterns were innovative. He traveled and sent designers to exotic locations to find the best textiles and patterns in the world. He was determined to create beautiful garments, often traced with gold details, that were unlike anything ever seen before.

"I wanted a certain look that was different from everyone else's," Shaheen said in an interview for Hope's book. "I would not do hash prints or chop suey prints. I avoided bright or garish colors."

Alfred Shaheen was a 20th century fashion icon who has forever changed our notions and appreciation of Asian and Hawaiiana fashion. You made our world colorful and exotic Mr. Shaheen. Rest in Peace.

December 17, 2008

5 Reasons We Loved Bettie Page

Bettiepage2.jpg bettie_cheetahs.jpg

Bettie_Page_3.jpg 11909whip2.jpg

On Thursday, December 11, one of the most revered images of the 1950s passed. Bettie Page is probably one of the most recognizable images, besides Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, and to be honest, I always like Bettie Page more than Marilyn Monroe. Bettie had such an irreverent, innocent nature, that her cheesecake and S&M pictures could never take away the sweetness that exuded from this leather clad, girl next door. It's this very dichotomy - sweet and seductive, innocent and naughty - that makes her such a beloved icon amongst men and women. We all wish, and so do our male counterparts, we could embody the good girl in public-bad girl behind closed doors (or on film) persona.

1. Her look
Any rockabilly girl worth her salt has had the Bettie Bangs at some point. We grow them out, but we always come right back. A raven colored haircut fit for a young girl, meets red lips, and a pretty smile -- it's part of the retro uniform.

2. Her humbleness
After being institutionalized at Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, she could not believe how popular she had become. She couldn't understand how modeling 10 years prior could have made her so famous. She had no idea.

3. Her figure
Bettie Page was curvy, soft, natural. The way women should be. [Editor's Note: I meant not overly skinny. Women look good with some healthy meat on their bones!]

4. Her costumes
No one wore cheetah prints the way Ms. Page did. She had fun acting and dressing the part in a sensual but tasteful way. She was a jungle girl, a dominatrix, and a beach babe all rolled into one.

5. Her ability to leave it all behind
After being sexually abused, mistreated, divorced, and being committed, she dedicated her life to her faith. She left all the glitz and glamor behind for what she felt would be a better life.

You will be missed Bettie

December 10, 2008

Vintage Dresses - Silhouettes Over the Decades

The following post is by Penny Lecomber, the owner and editor of Penny Lane. I was so impressed by her use of vintage in her every day wardrobe, that I asked her to write a guest post for me. Enjoy!

Hello! My name is Penny and I have a little blog called Penny Lane,
but today I'm going to be doing a guest post here on Debutante
Clothing. Like most (or all?!) of you reading this, I am a vintage
lover, so I decided to do a post about the evolution of the silhouette
from the 1920s to the 1980s, because all of us have a different era
that is our favourite, and in this post everybody gets a taste of what
they love most!



Clothing changed with women's changing roles in modern society,
particularly with the idea of new fashion. Women got the vote in 1920
and were entering the workforce in record numbers so the dresses
evolved into a silhouette that now sported shorter skirts with pleats,
gathers, or slits to allow motion to rule women's fashion for the
first time in history.

The Feminine Liberation movement had a very strong effect on women's
fashions. Most importantly, the confining corset was discarded,
throwing away the hourglass shape and creating a more linear
silhouette. For the first time in centuries, women's legs were seen
with hemlines rising to the knee and dresses became more fitted. A
more masculine look became popular, including flattened breasts and
hips, short hairstyles such as the bob cut.



The lighthearted, forward-looking attitude and fashions of the late
1920s lingered through most of 1930, but by the end of that year the
effects of the Great Depression began to affect the public, and a more
conservative approach to fashion displaced that of the 1920s. For
women, skirts became longer and the waist-line was returned up to its
normal position in an attempt to bring the silhouette back to the
traditional "womanly" look.
Other aspects of fashion from the 1920s took longer to phase out.
Cloche hats remained popular until about 1933 while short hair
remained popular for many women until late in the 1930s. Feminine
curves were highlighted in the 1930s through the use of the bias-cut
in dresses. Madeline Vionnet was the innovator of the bias-cut and
used this method to create sculptural dresses that molded and shaped
over the body's contours as it draped the female form.



Wartime austerity lead to restrictions on the number of new clothes
that people bought and the amount of fabric that clothing
manufacturers could use. In Britain, clothing was strictly rationed,
and the Board of Trade issued regulations for "Utility Clothes" in
1941, and in America the War Production Board issued its Regulation
L85 in 1942, specifying restrictions for every item of women's

Most women wore skirts at or near knee-length, with simply-cut blouses
or shirts and square-shouldered jackets. Popular magazines and pattern
companies advised women on how to remake men's suits into smart
outfits, since the men were in uniform and the cloth would otherwise
sit unused. The 40's silhouette is quite like the 30's with the nipped
in waist, but this time the shoulders are more of a square shape due
to the blazers.



The Second World War left women craving for glamour, style and swathes
of fabric where scraps of material had once existed.When the French
fashion houses reopened after World War II, Christian Dior introduced
the "New Look" silhouette, with a very small waist and big skirts.
Because war restrictions on textiles ceased, the New Look silhouette
included longer skirts, either full or fitted. Emphasis on the waist
and soft shoulder lines also marked Dior's influence at this time.
Young women started to look less like their mothers in the latter part
of the fifties. Brightly patterned dresses with tight waists and wide
skirts were popular. This style was suited to Rock'n'roll dancing. For
Rock'n'roll and Jive dancing, the circle skirt, which swirled up
reflecting the energy of the dance, was also highly fashionable.


60sphoto1.jpg 60sphoto2.jpg

Fashions in the early years of the decade reflected the elegance of
the First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. In addition to the pillbox hat
women wore suits, usually in pastel colours, with short boxy jackets,
and oversized buttons. Simple, geometric dresses, known as shifts,
were also in style. For evening wear, full-skirted ballgowns were
worn. These often had a low décolletage and had close-fitting waists.

For casual wear, capri trousers were the fashion for women and girls.
After designer Mary Quant introduced the mini-skirt in 1964, fashions
of the 1960s were changed forever. The mini dress was usually A-line
in shape or a sleeveless shift and was popularised by models of the
time including Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton. Hemlines kept rising until
by 1968, they had reached well- above mid-thigh and were called
micro-minis. The silhouette was quite like the 20's in regards to the
boyish, linear shape, but this time the skirt length was much, much



The decade began with a continuation of the hippie look from the
1960s. By the mid-Seventies, as the economy improved, silhouettes
narrowed, and hemlines dropped again from mini skirt to just below the
knee, and later to midi (mid-calf length) and then to maxi (floor
length). The 70's silhouette was quite a mix of all previous decades
but with small changes such as ruffled edges or puffed cuffs.
Fashion influences were peasant clothing, such as blouses with laces
or off-the-shoulder necklines, inspired by those worn in the 17th
century. Yves St Laurent introduced the peasant look in 1976, and it
became very influential. Clothing became very unstructured and fluid
at this point. Embroidered clothing, either self-made or imported from
Mexico or India also enjoyed favour. Punks were first seen in the
70's, and a lot of people were also into 'disco' fashion.



The 80s saw the arrival of 'Power Dressing' and with it came shoulder
pads. The reason behind the sudden popularity of shoulderpads for
women in the 1980s may be that women in the workplace were no longer
unusual, and wanted to "power dress" to show that they were the equals
of men at the office. There was quite a few styles and silhouettes
that were re-visited in the 80's; there was quite a lot of 50's style
dresses and the skirt suit of the 40's was back, but this time the
shoulder pads were huge!
In the 1980s, rising pop star Madonna proved to be very influential to
female fashions. In her Like a Virgin phase, millions of teenage girls
emulated her fashion example that included brassieres worn as
outerwear, huge crucifix jewellery, lace gloves and tulle skirts.
Short, tight Lycra or leather mini-skirts and tubular dresses were
also worn, as were cropped, bolero-style jackets.

December 9, 2008

Lessons from Edith Head - How to Dress Your Family for Success

In the last chapter of How to Dress for Success, Edith Head gave us the perfect formula for dressing to get and keep a man. But what about him? What about what we want our man, and our offspring, to look like? They are a direct extension of us.

"The woman who is always elegantly coiffed, meticulously dressed and fashionably turned out while her mate and offspring look like orphans of the storm deserves, and gets, little credit for her sparkling appearance."


Clothes Make the Man

Miss Head acknowledges that if your husband is a Dapper Dan, you needn't worry. However, if your guy is a Sloppy Joe, you may need to take matters into your own hands. She advises you pick out his clothes and lay them out for him. Especially if you want Sloppy to climb the career ladder.

She also suggests you get him a subscription to Esquire "for the articles". He won't be able to avoid the fashion so hopefully picks up a fashion cue or two. Give him advice on what looks good on him, but be gentle and tender. Don't take my approach - "You're going to wear THAT?" It doesn't work.

Formula for Having a Better Dressed Husband
1. Take an active interest in how your husband looks and in his wardrobe. Analyze both him and it.

2. Learn about men's fashions. Know about fabrics, styles, features and prices. Shop men's departments and men's magazines.

3. If your husband's wardrobe concept needs improvement, work with him (rather than on him) to educate his tastes, change habits and turn his indifference into enthusiasm.

4. Shop with him and for him to make sure his clothing i becoming, well-fitted, flattering and properly coordinated.

5. Most important of all, help to keep his wardrobe in condition - clean, pressed and mended. A well-groomed man looks successful and has the best chance of being successful.

Tomorrow...children and teens!

December 3, 2008

Vintage Q & A - What's wrong with zippers and bows?

One of my lovely, vintage loving friends emailed me with a fascinating question:

dancinglady.jpgDear Deb(utante):
Recently, I watched the movie, "Dancing Lady" (1933) with Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Franchot Tone and Fred Astair. Check it out at
It's not a great movie - except for the CLOTHES! Joan Crawford is a burlesque dancer (stripper), waiting for her big break on Broadway. She meets a drunky society guy who wants to clean her up and take her home to Mom, so he pays for her to get into a Broadway show, but it turns out she can really dance! And she falls in love with the director (Clark Gable). But that's not my question - the society swell tells her at the start that she's got to clean up her burlesque ways if she's going to make it in high society. First, he tells her to "buy a dress without zippers" and then to "stop wearing shoes with bows on them." Why? I've just been puzzled by this since I saw the movie. I think it may be that shoes with bows were the equivalent of "hoochie" shoes back then, but I really don't get the zipper comment. Can you help?
Curious in Orange,

Dear Wanda,
Well now I have to see this movie! Joan Crawford as a burlesque dancer - perfect! My feeling is that zippers on women's garments were meant for easy on, easy off action - if you know what I mean. Show girls would need to get their costumes off in a snap, er, zip.

elsaschiaparreli.jpgZippers were introduced to women's fashion in 1935 by Elsa Schiaparelli. An innovative designer, Schiaparelli loved using unusual fabrics and details. She had the zippers dyed to match the fabric. Up until this point, you saw zippers on men's trousers and corsets. This is probably another reason why zippers weren't considered appropriate for a "lady".

Bows on shoes were often found on dancers shoes as well, not on the toes of upper crust ladies. They weren't considered very chic in the 1930s. But good old Elsa, always pushing the envelope, loved bows as well. In fact, her knit sweater with a bow tie pattern.

Just one more example of why following fashion rules leads to boring, cloned style. Elsa Schiaparelli would have been proud of Joan Crawfor's tarty character.

Got a vintage question? Send me an email!

December 3, 2008

Vintage Roadshow - Couture Contortionists and Chic Attendants


Couture Allure brings you 12 looks from one vintage evening gown.

Debutante Clothing shares Edith Head's advice on how to dress to meet and keep a man.

Glamoursplash takes a flashback to fashion in the air during the 60's & 70's.

The Vintage Traveler asks the question:is walking in a vintage wonderland with the Etsy Vintage Street Team.

iKonic is walking in a vintage wonderland with the Etsy Vintage Street Team.
Are you a vintage fashion blogger? Share your vintage blog posts with us - Join the Vintage Roadshow!

November 27, 2008

Vintage Life - Decorating With Vintage and Thrift Store Finds

I started collecting vintage housewares and furniture way before I moved out of my parents' house. One time I came home with some rattan end tables and my mom furiously wondered where I thought I was going to keep them. I think I was experiencing more of a sense of saving these thrift store finds rather than actually having a design eye. I just bought what I felt was interesting and useful.

Fast forward, and now I am pleased when friends come over for dinner parties or cocktails and they praise my little home.

One of my favorite bloggers, Mademoiselle Robot, was featured in The Independent newspaper for her creative home decor. That girl can mix eras and textures like a pro. She even went as far as giving some decorating tips for people interested in this aesthetic.

I was so inspired by her blog post that I wanted to share some of my favorite thrifted and discount items. Just like my wardrobe, I never do top to bottom vintage. It's more pleasing to the eye to mix and match.

5 Tips for Decorating with Vintage

  1. Buy what you love.
  2. Your home should be pleasing to your eye. You have to live there. If you don't love your decor, you will not feel comfortable in your own home. If you love that moose head, use it!

  3. Don't be afraid to mix wood tones.
  4. The 1957 Better Homes and Gardens decorating book reminds us that wood is a color. This doesn't just apply to vintage, but vintage furniture that was meant to last was made of wood. Check for tones in the wood grain that may be complimentary to one another.

  5. Be patient. Shop often.
  6. My furniture did not come home with me in one weekend. That's one of the luxuries of buying new - you can get a catalog looking living room in one shopping trip.  But in order to achieve decor with character, you may have to be patient for the right piece to come along. Check your local thrift store, flea market, and even Ebay, often.

  7. Mix it up.
  8. True design comes from mixing unexpected elements, colors, and textures. With vintage furniture, you run the risk of looking like you live in a time warp - same goes for vintage clothing.  Don't be afraid to mix decades, vintage and modern, and shapes.  I tied the straight and rounded lines of my dining room together with a really inexpensive ceiling lamp at IKEA - it has a straight wooden base with rounded white plastic light shades - a perfect blend of both lines in the room.

  9. Don't be afraid to re-purpose.
  10. The goal of decorating with vintage is two fold - owning quality constructed pieces and creating a one of a kind look.  If you happen to find a fabulous dresser, but have no room or need for one, try re-purposing it as a storage credenza in the living room.  Or use a telephone stand as a holder for remote controls.  We re-purposed a wardrobe cabinet as a TV cabinet.  My husband just sawed out the inner drawers and we use the lower drawers for media storage. It would be a shame to leave a beautiful piece of furniture or accessory behind simply because you have no use for it  in it's current purpose - get creative.

vintage living room decorating livingroom.jpg vintage TV cabinet converted convertedcabinetshot.jpg diningroom.jpg credenza.jpg

November 23, 2008

Independent Fashion Bloggers - Links à la Mode : November 23

This week we've got finding the perfect coat on Retro Chick and The Bare Skinny. A Few Goody Gumdrops knocked me out my chair with the most amazing diamond necklace I've ever seen. Hello, Lover, Hello Pantone... finally they are getting into shoes. 39thandbroadway explains the mystery that is behind sizes, it's not your vanity. Debutante Clothing shows us safety pin couture, and The Coveted gives us all the reasons we need not to fake it.

  • 39thandbroadway - The truth behind your size label and your vanity!
  • A Few Goody GumDrops - A Few Goody Gumdrops is drooling over the all diamond necklace from Mauboussin!
  • Being High Maintenance, not Bitchy - How to capture classic 3.1 Phillip Lim style for less
  • Capitola Girl Jewelry Blog - The Steampunk-stylings of two indie jewelry artists who take wire-wrapped rings to another dimension...
  • Debutante Clothing - Debutante Clothing finds vintage inspiration from couture safety pins
  • Diary of a Style Addict - is coveting Rihanna's look on her new "Rehab" video
  • Dogmom's Dish - Tokidoki's Simone Legno In San Francisco
  • dreamecho - Weapon of Choice: Cultural Commentary, Trivialization and Personal Responsibility in Fashion
  • fashion fille - A realization of the blogosphere's current sequin obsession.
  • fashion in my eyes - In Maglia E Meglio,Christian Louboutin for Rodarte
  • Fashion Pulse Daily - Fashion Pulse can't wait to get its hands on the Hayden-Harnett handbag collection for Target in December; get a sneak peak now!
  • Flights of Fab Fashion Fancy - Flights of Fab Fashion Fancy is loving these young, easy, chic looks from Sandro-a trendy-chic Parisian brand!
  • Hello, Lover... Shoe Daydreams - A special limited-edition collaboration between Pantone, the definitive guide to color and SeaVees, the purveyors of California casual
  • In Life and In Fashion - Why I am inspired by the woman who invented the wrap dress.
  • Independent Fashion Bloggers - Geek Chic: Best Tech for Fashion Bloggers
  • Iole in fashion - Sex and The city...again!
  • Little Black Book - Fashion Palette: a must for aspiring designers and persons hoping to make it in the fashion industry.
  • Mademoiselle Robot - With Christmas approaching, it is useful to know how to wear sequins without looking like a Christmas tree!
  • Or False Glitter - - Cherry Lip Lolita: youthful yet provocative beauty
  • PONY RYDER - A story behind Laurel S. sign up with NY model management.
  • Retro Chick - Baby it's cold outside: A Guide to buying your perfect Winter Coat.
  • Shopping and Info - Shopping and Info found some great clutches that look like Angelina Jolie's from the Changeling Private Screening in London
  • Some Like It Fashion - Going for Gold: The metallic look has evolved and given birth to a new trend. Some Like It Fashion discusses the merits of metal within clothing.
  • Style Discovery - "Transformation: Fremantle High Street Collective 2008″. Local fashion delight brought to you by Style Discovery from Perth, Western Australia.
  • Style Symmetry - Eyeliah calls cream and yellow a trend to watch!
  • The Bare Skinny - Hitting the Trenches to Find the Perfect Coat
  • THE COVETED - Faking Confessionals...and reasons why not to do it....
  • The Ongoing Project - Developing your personal style, part 3
  • The Subadult Years - A personal look at the effectiveness and limitations of the eco-friendly fashion trend in Toronto.
  • Your Style Star - 5 Simple Tips For Surviving Holiday Parties

November 21, 2008

Past & Present - vintage and contemporary jewelry at

yoox costume has done it again. This time they have curated a gorgeous collection of some of the finest vintage and contemporary jewelry. The Italy based online retailer is showcasing vintage costume jewelry from some of the most collectible designer names.

The collection, titled Past & Present features vintage pieces from Coppola e Toppo, Trifari, Monet, Miriam Haskell, Chanel, Kenneth Jay Lane, and Correani. Many of the pieces come from precious private collections like that of the jewelry historian Deanna Farneti Cera.

The selection is presented through six themes, all of which illustrate the most significant trends of next season: Black, Cuffs & Bracelets, Graphic Themes, Chains, Pearls, and Glamorous Ornaments.

"Jewelry lifts our spirits and transforms the clothes we wear. Once dismissed as a poor imitation of fine jewelry, costume jewelry came into its own in the 20th century, with its own glamour and its own design tradition-adventurous, stylish, bigger, bolder."  Holly Brubach

Be sure to check out Natalia Brilli's interview. She discusses her inspiration for her leather based jewelry line and how she uses vintage haute couture techniques to create her exquisite collection.

Deanna Farneti Cera
, costume jewelry historian and author of many collecting books, not only contributed some of her own private collection, but she also gives some insight into the world of collectible costume jewelry.

She claims there are two types of people who purchase costume jewelry. One buys without much thought but with the purpose of purchasing something elegant that matches an outfit or their appearance. The other is the type that puts thought into each purchase - the collector. This buyer selects pieces based on themes, periods or styles.

I think I am more of a theme shopper. I have tons of buckle bracelets and I can't seem to stop. It's funny how you realize in hindsight that you have amassed a collection without knowing it when you continue to buy what tickles your fancy.

Check out the Past & Present article where you can find the videos and a ton of great historical information.

Sale ends January 31, 2009.

November 18, 2008

Lessons from Edith Head - How to Dress To Get & Keep the Job

I've been curling up with a few fashion books lately - D.V. by Diana Vreeland and How to Dress For Success by Hollywood costume designer, Edith Head.

When I won this book on Ebay, I thought it would be a funny read - a social shock at how much we have evolved as women when it comes to expectations of beauty and style. Ha! There are some rules that just never change. And considering Ms. Head is one of the most celebrated costume designers and stylists of our time, she ought to know a thing or two about style.

edith head

For the next 13 weeks, I will be posting the chapter summaries for each chapter of How to Dress for Success.

Tim Gunn, move over. We're about to take some style lessons from the gal that's been around the catwalk a few times.

In this chapter, Edith Head discusses how to dress appropriately for the type of job you want, but once you get to that rung in the ladder, buck the trends and be yourself. She gives a wonderful anecdote of dressing Sofia Lauren for her role as a poor housekeeper in the film Houseboat. Head says, "Believe me, this took more doing than making Olive Oyl into a sex symbol. It's harder to make a sow's ear out of a silk purse than vice versa."

Here is her Success Formula for How to Dress:

  1. Decide what kind of job you really want and prepare yourself for it.
  2. Decide if you are qualified for it. If not, look for one you can handle.
  3. Find out the "image" of the job - how women in that field or firm look and dress. Ask someone who works there. If you don't know anyone, go at noontime or at 5 P.M. and watch the women who work there leaving. Find out the general "look" of the employees.
  4. Dress carefully for your appointment in what you have found is the generally accepted look.
  5. Above all, be well groomed and look like a girl or woman who would be a credit to the firm. Then do a good job!

November 16, 2008

the Vintage Roadshow - Twiggy, McQueen and Budget Living


Couture Allure talks about dressing well on a budget in the 1950's.

Debutante Clothing finds a chic '50s hat she can actually wear.

Freudian Slips Vintage showcases recent vintage finds.

Glamoursplash writes about Twiggy - the 1960's Supermodel and Icon.

iKonic Vintage explores Target's upcoming Designer Collaborations.

November 3, 2008

Vintage Shoes - the book, the contest

vintageshoes.jpgI've got footwear on the brain. Vintage footwear. I recently came across Caroline Cox's magnificent book Vintage Shoes-Collecting and Wearing 20th Century Designer Footwear.

Booth Moore of the LA Times just did a write up on the book as well. I thumbed through it at Borders and I have to tell you, it is GORGEOUS. The images are a feast for shoe lovers.

I've also mentioned a few times that I am blogging over at Fantastic Toe Shoe Community. I have the tough job of finding beautiful vintage and vintage inspired shoes and gushing over them. What a life huh? It's a really fun site for those of us that love shoes but love our worn in footwear as much as we love fantasizing about Louboutins.


So I am thrilled to announce that Fantastic Toe is hosting a giveaway contest just for Debutante Clothing readers!

You'll win a brand new copy of Caroline Cox's book, Vintage Shoes just for showing us your shoes: real life or wishing for.

Here's what you have to do:
1. sign up for an account at and enter promo code "Debutante" in the form so we know you're entering the contest
2. if you upload images of your "collection" of shoes, you get an additional entry in the contest. they can be your real shoes or shoes you love
3. 1 picture = 1 additional chance to win, so the more pics you post, the better your chances of winning
4. post a link to your Fantastic Toe page in the comments below

That's it!

The contest will end on 11/14, so sign up! I can't wait to see everyone's footwear. I bet we can write a book of our own.

October 30, 2008

Vintage Roadshow - Frank Usher, vintage hair, and booties

vintageroadshow.jpgThe Vintage Roadshow is back! And we're having a great time sharing vintage goodies. Check it out...

Debutante Clothing scours the web for booties with vintage appeal.

Freudian Slips Vintage showcases vintage Frank Usher dresses.

iKonic Vintage finds how-to videos on perfecting that vintage hairstyle.

Love blogging about vintage? Join the Vintage Roadshow!

October 29, 2008


When vintage fashion historians of the caliber of Katy Rodriguez and Mark Haddaway get together to curate an auction for Christie's, you know the catalog is going to be brimming with he most coveted fashion of the 20th century.

The authoritative vintage duo of Resurrection NY and LA fame has curated the collection which will go under the hammer Thursday, October 30. Titled Resurrection Avant Garde, the collection feautres some of the most cutting edge designers of last 60 years. This auction is basically mecca for all of us interested in vintage clothing.

Some of the most intriguing, and potentially highest fetching, pieces are rare examples of space age and modern design from Paco Rabanne, Rudy Grenreich, Courreges, and a particularly rare "satellite cape" by Pierre Cardin. In other words, the who's who of cutting edge fashion design of the '60s.

Thumbnail image for pierre cardin chritie's
I'm always fascinated by the uber mod, space age designs of Pierre Cardin. If I had a home big enough to house mannequins displaying collectible garments, I'd invite people over to take a look at my "sculpture". Or maybe I'd just sit and stare at them with a glass of wine. One can wish. I'm particularly interested to see how much the 1967 Paco Rabanne wedding dress goes for. It is estimated at £10,000. The eccentric wedding dress was designed for a Middle Eastern bride, but she never wore it. The dress is a cacophony of small white leather rectangles and aluminum, but for the anti-bride, it's a beautiful work of art.

Other avant garde fashion history makers will include my favorite Vivienne Westwood, with pieces from her Sex, Seditionaries and Pirates collections, and the most famous names in avant garde fashion, Norma Kamali, Zandra Rhodes, and Issey Miyake, British favorite Ossie Clark, and the late Yves Saint Laurent will also be on the auction block.

vintage norma kamali
Rather than give you a fashion history lesson, check out the Vintage Fashion Guild's Label Resource, as they have one of the most comprehensive history guides with label images on the web. Maybe I can even recommend some fashion history books in another post!

You can check out some stunning images at Be sure to check out the Christie's page and peruse the hundreds of pieces of eye candy for you vintage viewing pleasure.

I'd love to see your faves!

photos: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

October 28, 2008

Vintage Fashion Ad - French Lingerie

Let's play a game!
Add a funny, clever, witty, intriguing caption for this ad...

source: A Slip of a Girl

October 22, 2008

Dame Rosamond Bernier Brings Her Vintage Closet to

rosamondbernierdior.jpgRosamond Bernier, the glamorous lecturer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, has led a life of art, high culture and equally high fashion. Dame Bernier will be letting the world into her closet as she unloads some of her envious wardrobe on today.

The 92 year old socialite and lecturer hobnobbed with the likes of artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró and Georges Braque. One can only imagine the caliber of her dinner parties. has become a major resource in collectible vintage couture so it makes perfect sense that founder, Federico Marchetti, would encourage Mrs. Bernier to grace the site with her legendary wardrobe. One of the most talked about pieces in the sale is a haute couture 1959 Dior water-color dress with matching purse. This was the time when the late Yves Saint Laurent designed for the house of Dior. is no stranger to the wonder of vintage Dior as evidenced by their recent vintage Dior collection.

As an added bonus, Rosamond Bernier will comment on each featured item from her wardrobe, sharing her recollections of how and when she acquired it and the noteworthy occasions on which she wore it. Provenance and a good story is always a plus when purchasing vintage!

The sale will also feature a Zandra Rhodes dress from the early 1970's, a Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel red wool bouclé suit from the early 1980's and a Kenneth Jay Lane leaf necklace, circa 1970.

The sale starts this Thursday October 23 at around 9 a.m., EST at

October 17, 2008

Event - Santa Monica Vintage Fashion Expo 10/18-10/19

Vintage Fashion Expo.jpg

If all of you West Coasters were a bit jealous of East Coasters having a ball at the Manhattan Vintage Fashion Show last weekend, now it's your turn to have a vintage romp.

The Santa Monica Vintage Fashion Expo is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and October will be the 3rd stop in California for the crew and dealers. 90 dealers total will attend and of course collectors, designers, stylists, historians and fashion press will be there. And because of the proximity to Los Angeles, the show is usually peppered with celebrities.

The October show will also include a fashion show presented by Deborah Rush entitled "Obsessed with Dress in the 20th Century". Also, be sure to attend the live period dance demonstration and instruction given by James Zimmer. Come and learn dance styles of the 1920's - 1940's.

I'll probably attend Sunday, although I hate to miss the fashion show. I'll be sure to take pictures.

Santa Monica Vintage Fashion Expo
Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
Regular Hours: 10:30-6 Sat. & 11-5 Sun., tickets $10.00
Early Buying: Sat. 9:00-10:30 a.m., tickets $20
Students admitted free on Sunday with student I.D.

October 7, 2008

Thanks to Bloggers, Met's Costume Institute Database Goes Online

metdior.jpgIf you've ever fantasized about traipsing through the massive archives of Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, too nervous to touch but elated to be in the presence of such artistry, then you are in luck.

The Costume Institute has just expanded it's database and has made it available online. Yes, to us commoners. The 31,000 piece collection is almost completely available at the Met's website under Collections.

Keeping their white gloved finger on the pulse of the web, the curators realized how wide their audience was after the "blog.mode: addressing fashion" exhibit back in December 2007. "We have grown so much and would like to house everything properly, and in conjunction with that, we started to document things that hadn't been reviewed since they first came in in the Forties. Once we got the information together, we thought it would be ideal if the general public could log in and, for instance, find all of our Christian Diors," said Harold Koda, curator in charge for the Costume Institute.

I love that the mecca of all vintage and antique costume archives is willing to learn and grow with the blogosphere. It just shows how powerful a medium this can be. Koda said that, in the same vein as "blog.mode," the Costume Institute also hopes to gather more information on pieces in its collection, as well as corrections, where appropriate.

And apparently, some corrections do need to be made. While transferring information to their new database, some very early Vionnets were found that had been cataloged incorrectly since the '60s because the archivists had missed the label.

::raising hand:: Can I have that job?




October 1, 2008

Vintage Vogues Go to Auction

vogue 1970As a fashion historian, nothing beats the glossy archives of vintage fashion magazines. In fact, when I was researching the brown velvet and white mink I. Magning Norman Norell coat I scored, I was able to pinpoint the year the coat was created because of the power of the internetz and vintage magazine collectors.

VoguecoverFeb61B.jpgIf you're like me and your fashion obsession goes beyond actual clothing, check out the collection of rare vintage Vogues going to auction at The collection features Vogue UK magazines from 1946 to 1967.

Sometimes you can find a lot of vintage Vogues on eBay, but be prepared to fight tooth and nail, because any vintage fashionista worth her salt loves the history as much as the frocks.

Soruce: Vogue UK

September 10, 2008

Vintage Bally Posters

Part of the reason it's been so quiet here is that I am hauling half my stock over to the Pomona Antique Row in downtown Pomona, CA. I have rented a small space at the Pomona Antique Mart (formerly Robbins) on 2nd Street. I really do need to get rid of stuff that I am just too lazy to photograph and keep the goods I think Debutante Clothing customers will want -- if they're still around since I've been so bad about stocking the online store as well.

In the process of crafting a cute little tag for my antique mall items, I came across some vintage Bally posters that are so graphic and sophisticated that I had to share. I won't pretend to be an art historian, or even mildly educated in the art world -- we have Jennine of the Coveted for that. But these posters remind me of Soviet propaganda posters -- with legs!

ballymulti.jpg BallyOrange.jpg
ballyred.jpg blallyblonde.jpg

I ended up using the red and black version, since I think she most resembles the model in my header.

September 4, 2008

Tales of Vintage Clothing Murder - To Cut or Not to Cut?

I am a member of the Vintage Fashion Guild. The VFG is a professional organization for sellers, journalists and curators of vintage fashion. The wealth of knowledge amongst its members is truly astonishing. If you are a vintage afficianado, I highly suggest you spend some time on their message boards or reading one of their many resources. You do not have to be a member to join the conversation - you can participate as a "friend".

A question was recently posed by a friend about cutting up vintage garments. I am going to stay very neutral, so bear with me. The VFG and its members, which includes me, does not promote the permanent alteration of vintage garments.

Some argue that some vintage is worth more than others and much of the most current vintage, meaning stuff from the 70s, is massed produced and would never really become all that collectible.

I know there are many vintage wearers who do permanently alter vintage dresses, especially the length, in an effort to make it more wearable in today's times. The problem is that essentially, you are damaging a potential piece of fashion history. As a self-proclaimed vintage expert, I feel I have the knowledge of what is potentially collectible and what is not. But what about the poor girl who hacks off the bottom of a Biba maxi in order to make it modern? It makes me faint just thinking about it.

And then there are people that I just want to shake...


and the original...


I know, I know -- it's not like it's a New Look dress from the '50s. But just because you wouldn't wear a caftan, even a Dior one, doesn't mean it should be hacked to death. What's going to happen in 30 years, when '70s clothing will become the equivalent of today's '20s flapper and '30s chiffon dress -- highly coveted but rare? Will we loathe the day we decided to take scissors to the hemline of a collectible piece, before we knew it was collectible?

With all due respect to E2, Michele Meunier and Olivier Chatenet, a Parisian design team, and, I get that they are trying to breathe new life into an old garment. Maybe I'm just looking at this too much as a historian and not through the eyes of a fashionista.

And go ahead and call me a label whore, but I can't help but wonder if murdering or at least mutilating desirable vintage names like Dior is worth it. Is this a crime against fashion history?

August 20, 2008

Chanel Lifetime TV Movie Receives Bad Reviews

Several biopic projects depicting the life of Coco Chanel are in the works. Along with a made for TV movie on Lifetime, a film starring Audrey Tatou and Alessandro Nivola will be released next year.

But critics have not received the Lifetime series warmly.

A NEW made-for-television film, Coco Chanel - which claims to be "freely inspired by the truth" - has been savaged by critics for its lack of structure, factual inaccuracies and "wooden" acting.

Mademoiselle would not be pleased!

source: Vogue UK website

June 26, 2008

Vintage Fashion TV - Vintage Swimsuits

Vintage swimsuits have got to be one the best designed garments ever. They accentuate and minimize where needed. Maybe I'm biased because I love to play up my upper body, but would rather cover up as much as possible on the bottom.

Check out these hot to trot (down the catwalk) swimsuits from 1956. Oh, and check out the amount of men at this particular runway show (and their expressions).

June 15, 2008

Vintage Find - Beautiful Mourning - Victorian Drop Earrings

You know you are a style icon when people will wear black because your husband died. After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria decreed a 40 year mourning period which resulted in a great demand for fashionable and affordable black jewelry.

These Victorian era earrings are a perfect example of finding beauty in everything -- even in the morbid.

victorian earrings

Ukrain prime ministerAnd with the resurrection of the "steam punk" movement, my normally mid century taste has been piqued by the prim and proper Victorians. When Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, looks so sharp in neo-Victorian, I'm intrigued.

earrings available at Amber's Attic

June 12, 2008

Royalty and Debutantes Circa 1958

"You could tell I was no debutante" -- the words Debbie Harry crooned and the source of inspiration for While I used the word debutante for my shop and blog in an ironic, I buy fab clothes (often used), have envious style and still have money in my pocketbook, sort of way, I can't help but admire dreamy dresses worn by real debs of the past.

guestsweb.jpg © Desmond O'Neill Features

And apparently, Kensington Palace loves the debs too. Dresses worn by debutantes in 1958 are on display as part of an exhibition titled "The Last Debutantes", celebrating the 50th anniversary of the last court presentations to the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

And of course couture abounds -- stunning examples of couture dresses by Worth, Dior, Pierre Balmain and Jacques Heim are featured.

debutante dresses

debutante dresses
Credit: Richard Lea-Hair / NTI / HRP

But if living vicariously through gazing at beautiful frocks isn't enough, the exhibition also offers a sample of the dizzying but glamorous life of a debutante by offering etiquette, dance and curtsey classes. God forbid you fall on your ass in front of the Queen.


Christian Dior dresses the lucky girl (left) and her lovely mother (right) too. And the former debutante, Margaret Chilton, is reunited with her Christian Dior evening gown that she wore at her coming out ball in 1958.

formerdebweb.jpg Credit: Richard Lea-Hair / NTI / HRP

vintage worth dress vintage Worth dress

If you happen to be in London, do check out the phenomenal display of couture and society living (it's the closest I'll ever get). And don't fear -- you have an entire year to check out the exhibition.

Where: Kensington Palace, London, 0844 482 7799 or book online at
When: Opens June 11 2008 until June 2009
Cost: adults £12.30, students/seniors £10.75, under 16s £6.15, under 5 FREE, family ticket (up to 2 adults and 3 children) £34.00

Admission to the exhibition is included in the Kensington Palace ticket price.

June 11, 2008

Daytime Shoes and 1920s Exotic Dancers

I swear, that title was not a ploy to get you to click. They do have something in common.

For the month of June, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is spotlighting Asian images in film. Last week, I watched a film called Piccadilly starring the beautiful Anna May Wong. I am not familiar with her work, but I was fascinated by her breakthrough roles in early cinema.
anna may wong
Piccadilly is a silent film from 1929 set in London. Shosho, Wong's character, is a poor dishwasher from the wrong side of the tracks who works in an extravagant club called "The Piccadilly". After catching the attention of her boss, who runs a very tight ship, while dancing on top of a table in the kitchen, she becomes the center attention as the new exotic act. Her exotic beauty and sensuous dancing mesmerize the audience, including her boss.

Of course, being a fashion historian and vintage lover, I was totally captivated by the costumes. But not so much by the dancers' costumes as you would expect. I was even more intrigued by the costumes of the simple folks - we're so used to seeing this fantasy of what people wore at the time. In cinema, even the down trodden seem to dress better than what was worn in real life. But this film really captured the essence of what I imagine was worn by the working class.

In one scene, Ana May Wong is wearing a simple skirt and a knit sweater with an adorable keyhole neckline punctuated with little rhinestones. She wore a small beret pulled over her severe bangs. And although her stockings had runs, her shoes were simply adorable. Her mary jane shoes buckled at the top of the foot rather than the side.

This pair of Farylrobin Gia shoes look exactly like Shosho's shoes, except these come with a modern open toe. These shoes are perfect with a little dropped waist dress - a much more unique alternative to gladiators for the summer.


By the end of the film, Anna May has ditched her shabby rags and grows accustomed to the life of an exotic dancer - in those days, her type of dancing was a bit risqué. Anna May clutches fur-trimmed coats and the finest cloches graze her brow - right before the jilted dancer she replaces seeks her revenge. I won't tell you the rest. Go out and watch it.

June 3, 2008 Launches Vintage Dior collection

vintage diorToday, launches its newest vintage installation. Yoox traces the history of the maison Christian Dior with a selection of Vintage clothing and accessories. Through July, you'll get to feast your eyes on a carefully selected collection, curated but none other than Holly Brubach, a woman that I thank my writing instructor Sally de Lourenco for introducing me to her work.

Holly Brubach is a talented writer who has the keen ability to write prose about couture but in such a sassy and entertaining manner that non New Yorker socialites like me can appreciate. She curated the last vintage sale which featured vintage Chanel pieces, which incidentally flew off the virtual shelf.

"The limited time YOOX.COM Christian Dior Vintage Sale will feature a selection of hard-to-find signature styles and classic everyday treasures. With the expertise of Holly Brubach, renowned fashion critic and creative consultant for YOOX.COM, items were collected from a variety of sources such as estate sales, private collections and auctions from prestigious houses like Christie's New York. Pieces that were once hidden in one corner of the world, will now be available to anyone with internet access."

vintage diorvintage dior

June 3, 2008

Vintage Dior and Internet Serendipity

Has this ever happened to you? Some important event happens in your life, maybe not directly affecting you, but significant enough for you to stop and think, and then 2, 3, 4 other things happen that are related in some way to that initial event?

Sunday, the beloved Yves Saint Laurent dies. His career started when he took over the House of Dior.

Today, I read a thread on eBay's Vintage Clothing and Accessories board, which I tend to stay off of because it's a bit drama ridden, where a woman was asking for help on some of her 106 year old granny's dresses. One of them being a 1958 Christian Dior haute couture dress -- the first year Yves designed for the house. Oh, and she has 20 more in NY. Cue fainting.

Then, I received an email from about their new collection of vintage. And who should the designer be this time? That's right -- Dior. More about this collection and sale later because I am especially excited about it.

It is bitter sweet, with the passing of Yves Saint Laurent, but it almost feels like the vintage cosmos are lining up to bring us some fashion contentment.

vintage dior haute couture

June 2, 2008

Vintage Find - 1970s Yves Saint Laurent Ruffle Blouse

In the mid 1960s, a talented young man opened his very first design house in the capital of haute couture, Paris.

After working at the house of Dior, Yves Saint Laurent went on to start his own line. While many will argue that his designs weren't cutting edge, one cannot deny the quality of his designs were impeccable. He was also one of the first designers to understand the importance of Ready to Wear in terms of business and customer needs. His answer to the world of Haute Couture that was out of reach for so many was his Rive Gauche line.

In honor of Mr. Saint Laurent, this weeks Vintage Find is a beautiful blouse from the height of his career.

This 1970s ruffled, wrap blouse is indicative of his ability take a wearable staple to a new height of luxury with details such as silver lame and chiffon.

1970s ysl

available at

April 28, 2008

Levi's Jeans - Vintage or Reproduction?

vintage levisLevi Strauss & Co. has found a lucrative niche in their 100-year-old clothing line -reproduction jeans.

Levi's® newest addition to their line is the 1966 646™ bell bottoms as seen on vintage maven Nicole Richie. Levi takes selvage, dead stock fabric and manufactures a whole line based on the original 1966 pattern. The new/old line of jeans retails for $78-$154 and comes in two colors.

However, a quick search on eBay reveals that original vintage Levi's® 646™ bell bottoms have sold for as little as $17.99 up to $170, with a few pairs being new-old stock.

As much as I love vintage clothing, sometimes I am in favor of reproductions because clothing from very early decades is impossible to find in good condition or in wearable sizes. But I am torn about the 1966 646™ bell bottom Levis, which truthfully are more of a flare than a bell bottom. Do you think it's better to buy them new or vintage?

(Photo ©

April 28, 2008

Vintage Find - Chunky Hearts Bakelite Necklace

I was so thrilled when I saw models walking down the runway dripping with chunky, bold plastic accessories at shows like Yves Saint Laurent and Phillip Lim. I anticipate that chunky plastic jewelery will be as big a hit in 2008 as it was in the '20s and '30s.

giant_accessories_ysl.jpg giant_accessories_phillip_lim.jpg

Chunky, clunky and beautiful plastic necklaces and bangles are the accessories of choice for Art Deco lovers. We can thank Leo H. Baekeland for creating the wonder plastic that was used in everything from radios to billiard balls. After the Depression (or "Economic Slow Down") women who wanted to cheer up an outfit wore inexpensive, but beautiful Bakelite jewelry. And the pretty little plastic baubles caught on - even rich ladies wanted an arm full of colorful bangles.

Bakelite jewelry seems to only go up in price and you can still find it at thrift stores, which goes to show how resilient the plastic is. I just found a butterscotch swirled bangle with an embedded serpentine metal ring. Score!

The vintage find for this week is a gorgeous set of butterscotch and caramel Bakelite necklace and earrings. The tortoiseshell like hearts really take this necklace the realm of fashion versus collectible. And at only $200 for the set, it's a steal!

available at

April 22, 2008

A Marimekko Mystery - Earrings ??

By now, everyone who loves the bold, graphic prints of Marimekko has heard of the amazing collection at H&M.

I also wanted to share with you the Marimekko concept store because colorful shapes and patterns shouldn't just be worn on your body! They carry a slew of punchy patterned lifestyle products from linens to art work.
Marimekko art
But I am totally stumped on this pair of earrings I acquired. They are marked marimekko® DESIGN BY AURIFEX.



Are they vintage? They must be licensed and not truly Marimekko. I can't seem to find any information on them. Marimekko experts - help!

April 19, 2008

More Vintage Hair Styles

vintagehair.jpgA few months ago, a reader emailed and asked about tutorials for vintage hairstyles. I came across more great video tutorials collected by Miss Pumpkin.

The young woman doing the Rosie the Riveter style has the most amazing hair! I'm jealous at the massive amount of locks.

Which is your favorite look? Do you have a link to a great vintage hair tutorial? Share!

Photo: Jupiter Images

April 14, 2008

Vintage Find of the Week - 1950s Ballerina Dress

Some may argue that fashion is not art. But when your skirt looks like an abstract painting depicting dainty ballerinas and graceful dancers, how can one think otherwise?

The 1950s brought about some of the most beautiful abstract prints of flowers, dancers and a number of other figures that make girls' hearts go zing. This full skirt vintage dress by Lilli Ann, available at, could fit right in with the watercolor florals and illustrated prints found on the runways of New York and Milan this spring. Wear an original!


April 2, 2008

Vintage from LA to NY

Wow. I don't post for a couple days and mainstream media, specifically newspapers, are all talking about vintage! Yippee. Someone's getting it.

dita.jpgThe New York Times interviewed her vintage highness, Dita Von Teese. She spills on burlesque, her divorce and why she got in trouble with PETA!

lizgoldwyn.jpgMeanwhile, the LA Times reports that one of my favorite vintage enthusiasts, Liz Goldwyn, is curating a vintage collection of hats and sweater clips for Opening Ceremony. I bought Liz's book "Pretty Things". You can tell how much time and devotion she put into that book. Just looking at the pretty pink cover and embossed gold lettering makes me happy.

30sshoejonathan.jpgAlso in the LA Times, a photo editorial on shoes! From the 1920s to the 1980s. Vintage Fashion Guild member, author and (my guess) a tad bit of a shoe fetishist, Jonathan Walford shares some of his prized treasures in this great visual timeline. Be sure to check out Jonathan's book, The Seductive Shoe: Four Centuries of Fashion Footwear.

The good thing is that more this could lead more fashionistas into the wonderful world of vintage, which is just good for eye candy. The bad thing is that more fashionistas will be wearing vintage, which means less for me.

Enjoy the links!

March 26, 2008

Manifique Courreges Space Age Fashion Show


Before Viktor and Rolf tortured their models by making them walk the runway pre-equipped with their own lighting (models need a union!), Courreges was outfitting women in completely unwearable, but utterly breathtaking designs that transformed the models into a walking sculpture.

photo courtesy of NY Times

March 20, 2008

YSL - the fusion between fashion and art

yves saint laurentYves Saint Laurent is undoubtedly one of the greatest French fashion designers of all time. The talent designer is best known for his Le Smoking suit. He is also one of the first to popularize Ready to Wear with his Rive Gauche line in 1966.

Unlike other French couturiers, Yves Saint Laurent took inspiration from the street for his couture collection. But he was equally influenced by art and paid homage to some of the greatest modern, cultural and classical artists of our times with literal fashion interpretations of their creations. His jersey dresses became canvass as he transformed evening wear into wearable art.

The chic ladies at Dos Mujeres y Un Vestido have written a fabulous blog post curating the works of Yves Saint Laurent alongside the original inspirations.

Go fire up your Babblefish because you don't want to miss a single palabra.

February 23, 2008

Saks and the Decades of Style

Saks Fifth Ave. has a beautiful fashion editorial on their website using modern, vintage inspired outfits spanning the 1920s through the 1990s. I got a good giggle out of the 1990s spread because it reminded me of Elaine on Seinfeld with her lace up oxfords and minimal garments.

Decades of Style.jpg

February 17, 2008

Vintage Find - Chunky Mary Janes

I love all of the vintage inspired booties, shoe boots and mary janes I am seeing on the runways. I love a decorative vamp but appreciate a wearable shoe that looks stylish.

i think these white leather 60s mary janes have to look of a fashion forward shoe witht he comfort of a low chunky heel. Pair these with a pair of bright tights and you'll look like you just stepped out of an edgy magazine.


available at

February 11, 2008

Vintage Find - 60s Courreges Shift

Shift happens! And if you're lucky, it happens in an ultra cute way, wrapped in a mod bow.


available on eBay

February 10, 2008

Valentine's Day Poiret Auction

poiret_03_L.jpgLast year a popular exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art renewed interest in the French couturier Paul Poiret, interest that is likely to continue on Feb. 14 with a sale of his original clothing designs in Paris.

Now Poiret's grandchildren have consigned 124 of his designs and some paintings to Beaussant-Lefèvre, an auction house that uses the Drouot premises. The clothes belonged to Denise Boulet-Poiret, Poiret's handsome wife, who can be seen wearing them in period photos in the catalog.

December 13, 2007

Vintage Chanel Part Deux at

One of my favorite online stores is Where else can you find unheard of in the States Italian designers mingling with luxury vintage? This is the best of both worlds.

Currently, is offering their second installment of Simply Coco Chanel, a collection of covetable vintage and previously owned Chanel dress, handbags, and jewelry from the Holly Brubach's personal stash.

I imagine Ms. Brubach's time at the New York Times afforded her first eye view of each season's collections. I mean look at it all. Maybe it's just that I am not from NY, but how does someone amass so much Coco? But like Holly, I feel very confident when I do buy Chanel, all two pieces. Looking at the prices her pieces are commanding on Yoox, the only other brand I know that retains such great value is Honda, and well that's just not chic enough.

vintage chanel at yoox

November 25, 2007

Worth Collection at Bullocks Wilshire Tea Room

Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to attend the runway show of the Worth Collection at the historical Bullocks Wilshire Tea Room in Los Angeles.

The Tea Room is perched on the 5th floor of the art deco Bullocks Wilshire, now home to Southwestern Law School.

vintage Bullocks Wilshire

The Worth Collection was shown alongside fashions from the 40s to the 70s to show the bridge between then and now as a way bring the collection to a younger audience. I just loved the idea of mixing the new with the old in honor of one of the most beloved shopping destinations in Los Angeles history.

ladies vintage clothing

Well heeled ladies in tea appropriate suits mingled with young, fresh faced attendees. The theme was carried throughout the event beautifully.

1940s vintage nightgown

Leather jackets, pencil skirts and smart business casual suits for well healed ladies shared the runway through the tea room with vintage ensembles such as a 1950s brocade dress and jacket trimmed in mink, a 1940s champaign, bias cut negligee and robe, and a 1950s wedding gown.

worth3.jpg worth4.jpg
1930s graphic dress worth collection red jacket

The Worth Collection is a line of ready to wear clothing for the busy woman who wants to dress well, wear quality clothing, but doesn't have the time to shop for herself or would like to entrust someone with sophisticated taste to pick some things out for her. A Worth representative will invite customers to view the exclusive collections in their home, much like you would shop in a designer's salon in a major, high end department store, such as Bullocks.

From a business standpoint, the the business model is a smart idea. Women get unique merchandise that isn't sold in mass at a department store, they can purchase quality items with reasonable price tags because the the overhead is low, and the quality seemed to be luxurious-leathers, fine wools and modern silhouettes made the line attractive.

November 12, 2007

The Vintage IT Bags

Can you really claim any bag is an "IT" bag if it's only IT for one season? An IT bag should be iconic, recognizable in a few decades and be beautiful as well as utilitarian without need of celebrity convincing.

Here is our top 5 list of the IT bag of all times:

1. Lucite Box Purse
Described as wearable sculpture, these beautiful little bags can be intricately carved or sculpted into whimsical shapes like honeycombs.

available at

2. Exotic Skin Kelly Bag
For a serious dame, only a serious bag will do. Exotic skins in a no nonsense, structured shape lets the world you are the boss, and yes, you do wear the pencil skirt in the family.

Black alligator Kelly bag by Bellestone
available at

3. Huge Satchel
By the time the 1970s rolled around, women were on the go-working, raising families, and doing their own thing-calisthenics, self help classes. That requires a lot of stuff and only a big bag will do.

available at La

4. the Clutch
It's diminutive size only allows the ultimate feminine materials: money and lipstick.
1950s Dorset Rex Hand Painted Clutch
available at

1980s Judith Leiber Alligator Clutch
available at Decades Inc.
email or call for price

5. the Icon
Regardless of times or place, these bags were meant to be icons. They represent women we all, deep down, aspire to be.

available at
Black Hermes Kelly Bag

Chanel 2.55
A weekly search on eBay will bring up some gems. But be careful-fakes turn up all the time. You can rely on bags sold by La Poupette authorized sellers to be genuine.

July 15, 2007

Mary Ann Magnin - the Woman Behind the Man

MaryAnnMagnin.jpgRecently, I was lucky enough to acquire a beautiful and rare vintage Norman Norell for I.Magnin coat. I'm still doing some research on it, so I will post pictures when I figure out what I will do with the coat-sell it at or an auction house specializing in vintage clothing and textiles.

As I was doing research, I came across this fascinating and amusing article about Mary Ann Magnin, Mr. Isaac Magnin's wife, in a 1936 issue of Time magazine. Isn't the "internets" grand?

What's even more interesting, from a business perspective, is that the retail store was only in the red twice as of the publication of this article-once during the San Francisco fire and the other during the San Francisco earthquake.

And with stores online going under, even with such low overhead, maybe retail store owners need to look at the Magnin model to stay in the black. What was their secret? Possibly that I. Magnin had exclusives with designers. That's right. Exclusive Hattie Carnegie and Norman Norells.

But back to the woman behind the man.

Late in the 1870's, the Magnin's set out for San Francisco. There Mrs. Magnin picked a shop between the business and residential districts to catch the trade both ways. Isaac Magnin carved and Mrs. Magnin sold notions. An energetic, dominating woman, handy with her needle, Mrs. Magnin began to make and sell fancy baby clothes, gradually branching into trousseaux. The shop followed the fashionable neighborhoods, and before long I. Magnin & Co. was a San Francisco institution. Eventually the business took on a corporate existence, though the public was not let In until 1919.

The most amusing anecdote in this article was how Mary Ann Magnin, with her enterprising ways, decided whom to leave the store operation to after Isaac's death. She consulted a palmist.

While most of the spotlight shined on the name I. Magnin, the real credit belongs to Mrs. Mary Ann Magnin, who was business savvy enough to find a good store front and started an enterprise from notions and baby clothes.