Friday, March 25, 2011

The Triangle Factory Fire at 100

One young victim's grave. The Hebrew Free Burial Association

Today is the 100th anniversary of one of the most significant events in garment-making and labor history.

On Saturday, March 25, 1911, near quitting time, a fire broke out on the 8th floor of New York City's Triangle Waist Company and quickly spread to the 9th and 10th floors. Within minutes 146 of the 500 employees had died in the blaze. The seamstresses—mostly young women who had recently immigrated to the US—were trapped, locked inside by the management. Numerous safety violations made their rescue impossible. The women who didn't burn alive jumped to their deaths, to the shock of the crowd on the street.

Detail, History of the Needlecraft Industry (1938), by Ernest Fiene, High School of Fashion and Industry. A mural commissioned by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). From the New Deal Network

The horror of the tragedy casts a shadow even to this day.

{See WNYC News Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, 100 Years Later for the many events taking place in New York this year in memory of the tragedy.}

After the fire, public sentiment strongly favored increased safety standards and humane working conditions, and workers flocked to strengthening unions. Progress was made, much due to that terrible March day.

{Must see: Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives at Cornell University's Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Website}

Shirtwaists, PBS

From the Cornell exhibit:

This incident has had great significance to this day because it highlights the inhumane working conditions to which industrial workers can be subjected. To many, its horrors epitomize the extremes of industrialism.

The tragedy still dwells in the collective memory of the nation and of the international labor movement. The victims of the tragedy are still celebrated as martyrs at the hands of industrial greed.

Period editorial cartoon

On March 25 I always sorrowfully remember the young workers. I strongly believe that a century later we should not be debating the importance of organized labor.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring has arrived at the Vintage Fashion Guild!

Have you ever noticed how often new fashions are inspired by vintage style? The VFG notices, and showcases members’ items that illustrate the vintage inspirations for modern looks.

This spring we’ve cheered a continuing love affair with fit-and-flare, and the 1970s could not be more back. Line up some vintage stripes for a graphically current look, and look right in white from all eras.

{Click to see the lineup}

Many thanks to the members of the VFG Site Committee for their work in putting this feature together. I'm the co-chair along with Mary of The Vintage Merchant. The other members working on this were Debbie of Catseye Vintage, Linn of Linn's Collection and Sharon of Living Doll Vintage—and thanks to all the members of the VFG for their great photos interpreting modern trends.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Continuing help for Japan

Thank you for all who have bid and bought my eBay auctions this past week, with proceeds going to help Japan. All my eBay listings this week again will benefit Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund - a GlobalGiving Project.

Some choices:

Ending tomorrow is the auction for this 50s atomic fruit print the best prints I've seen!

There are so many eBay sellers contributing a portion of their sales to Japan disaster relief that it's hard to decide where to begin. You could start by seeing the listings for GlobalGiving, and explore from there.

On a more personal note, I have read some comments on Twitter and Facebook about how Japan isn't asking for help, and/or doesn't need help.

I toured Japan with a music group in the mid 90s, and we were treated with incredible generosity and kindness. I was given armloads of flowers, and served meals more extravagant than an average Japanese person might ever be served in his lifetime. I was moved and humbled by my experience in Japan–by the people, the culture, the natural beauty and the history.

My heart has been aching at the news coverage following the earthquake, tsunami and unfolding nuclear disaster in Japan, and if there is any generosity I can show the people of Japan, I will show it, whatever skeptics might say.

Photos from my trip to Japan

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japan relief

My heart goes out to Japan, and all effected by the massive earthquake and tsunami.

Right now, 25% of my eBay sales are going to The Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund at

My eBay auctions can be found here: denisebrain on eBay

A list of relief organizations and what they are doing can be found here: How to Help Japan

Paper crane lamp found on weheartit

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Paper dolls and a prize from a doll

First: May I tempt you?

You may have seen my monthly theme, Doll Up in Vintage, well I have seven fabulous vintage fashion paper doll books with iconic designs of the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and the first seven buyers of $50 or more from any of my stores will receive one of these cool books! (Shop my stores by visiting

Update 3/17/11: 3 left!

Update 3/25/11: all gone!

Second: A few days ago I received a prize from a living doll, Lulu of Lulu's Vintage fame.

I won her blog giveaway pop & psychedelia collection, and I am loving these fabulous 60s brights! She sent me a scarf, a flower pin, a jewelry roll (with a print which is very similar to a half slip I own), an apron and a vintage advertisement, all splendidly bright. I look like a psychedelic housewife...which is pretty close to the true me! Thank you Lulu, you are so generous and cool!

The ad reads "A-hunting we will man-trapping Sportmaker separates"...Hmm, perhaps a couple years before Women's Lib took hold?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Time traveling in vintage style

Readers of this blog are aware I am fascinated to know about the original owners of my vintage clothing finds. I am interested in the wearable history of clothing in all aspects, so when I read a preview copy of The Time-Traveling Fashionista, by Bianca Turetsky, I was enchanted by the premise of the book's heroine visiting another era by trying on a vintage dress, and her transformation through experiencing this history.

The book is targeted at the tween set. Louise Lambert, the 12-year old heroine, is experiencing some pangs about not fitting in at her suburban Connecticut school, including being torn by her love of vintage fashion and not wanting to be teased for being different. Students at her school (and even her own mother) believe that vintage clothing equals old, possibly ratty clothing.

Then comes an invitation to the Traveling Fashionista Vintage Sale, run by two magical ladies–a bit like aunts, a bit like sorceresses–who assist Louise in actually inhabiting the life of another woman by trying on a beautiful pink gown from ca. 1911. Or is it all a dream?

Louise finds herself among the likes of the Astors on a splendid ocean liner...which she eventually becomes aware is the Titanic. Before she realizes that she is quite possibly doomed, Louise experiences some of Edwardian society's charms and peculiarities, and has a chance to talk with Lucy Duff-Gordon, Lucille, one of her favorite designers. (Louise has remarkably sophisticated taste in vintage clothing!) The detailed descriptions of the styles of the time are quite good and accurate, and the gorgeous illustrations by Sandra Suy are so much fun to come upon throughout the book.

I love the fantasy of time travel, and of inhabiting different lives and roles, so perfectly suited to vintage clothing. Kudos to the author for peppering the story with inspiring style icons, along with just enough information about their lives and work. Even with some artistic license, there is plenty of solid vintage clothing detail...enough to bring new young enthusiasts into the fold, and warm the hearts of those of us long in the business. The book would have been one of my favorites at a young age. It is heartening to have support and encouragement for one's interest in vintage fashion, and by extension, for just being oneself. I love that vintage clothing makes Louise special, and that she finds out for herself just how good her life is.

"Vintage is a way of wearing history, a means by which we can turn the past into the present, even the future. Through us old fashion lives again." -Hilary Alexander, fashion director, The Daily Telegraph, quoted in The Time-Traveling Fashionista.

Please note: A copy of The Time-Traveling Fashionista was given to me to review if I wished, with no quid pro quo expected.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Doll up in vintage

I don't know about you, but I loved paper dolls when I was young, and apparently so did The Mills Brothers, who inspired my March theme...Paper Dolls.

Please have a look...and listen!