Monday, September 28, 2009

Happy Birthday Bonnie Cashin!

One of the youthful Cashin's 1920s costume sketches for a dance
group (visit The Bonnie Cashin Foundation
website for more about this career-starting venture)

I love Bonnie Cashin.
She wanted women to be able to move freely in her clothing, and so designed styles that were pragmatic and yet without a trace of staid practicality. Cashin's aim, in her words, was to create "simple art forms for living in, to be re-arranged as mood and activity dictates." Her designs and directions in fashion were supremely innovative; they seemed not so much a product of her time as an inspiration of her own adventurous lifestyle and inventive imagination.

This is the 94th anniversary of Cashin's birth (she died in 2000) and if anything her ideas just seem fresher all the time. Here are a few images to celebrate the day:

Bonnie Cashin for Adler & Adler, c. 1940, from UCLA Library collections

Lounging pajamas inspired by her costuming for Anna and the King of Siam, 1946, from UCLA Library collections

Rayon crepe dress, organdy coat by Bonnie Cashin, hat by John Frederics, photographed by Cecil Beaton, 1950

An Adler & Adler Bonnie Cashin design , ca. 1950, which I sold several years ago

"Rain puff," this nylon jacket was eminently practical—it was nearly weightless and could be washed at home—but maintained a touch of the exotic with its
Japanese-lantern style sleeves.

Bonnie Cashin for March and Mendl, 1956. Image and text from UCLA Library collections

Late 60s canvas and leather coat with a trompe l'oeil shoulder bag pocket, Beverley Birks Collection [2011 update: this is currently available in my web store]

Bags (Bonnie Cashin for Coach) ca. 1968

Leather coat and calfskin jacket. This and the above photo by way of forums/

Leather-trimmed unlined cream wool jacket labeled A Bonnie Cashin Design
for Sills and Co.

This tufted paper Noh Coat with leather ties was cut from several paper bathmats, late 60s, image from UCLA Library collections

60s houndstooth coat, for sale at

African art-inspired intarsia cashmere designed for Ballantyne, late 60s

Coat with bag pockets at, 1970s

Mohair skirt and scarf with signature "dog leash" clasps, 1977,

I wish I still had this suede-trimmed wool plaid coat!

For information about Cashin, a wonderful site, and great photos, The Bonnie Cashin Foundation can't be beat. Also highly recommended is Chic is Where You Find it: UCLA Library Bonnie Cashin Collection of Theater, Film, and Fashion Design

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Vintage sister dresses

Some time ago in my blog, I talked about one of my all-time favorite vintage clothing sources, a woman named Jacqueline who was, and at a ripe old age undoubtedly still is a wonderful dresser. Her mother Ailene was a very fine seamstress. This photo shows the mother and daughter out shopping, as photographed for a San Francisco paper during WWII.

Recently I sold some cotton dresses from Jacqueline, and I believe these were made by her mother, either for herself or her daughter.

The dresses sold to a couple of my favorite customers, Jen and Janine, two friends who live across the continent from each other. Neither had the faintest idea that the other was buying a dress from this same great lady, but now they are thrilled to have what they are calling their Vintage Sister Dresses. Recently they met up at a convention, and wore their dresses:
Now I am hoping to be able to see Jacqueline, to show her these two women looking so very pretty in her dresses. The charm lives on!

Many thanks to Jen and Janine for allowing me to share this story!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I'm in love (with my eCouture dress)

I just received my first purchase from Hollis Jenkins-Evans' eCouture line, exclusively on Etsy, and I am smitten. Not only is the dress beautifully recycled from existing parts, but it is completely stunning, edgy, interesting and with a vintage soul that I find impossible to resist.

As Hollis says on her Etsy profile:
"I believe unwanted clothing contains beauty. Used clothing made of natural fibers is the gold from which I create modern fashion. Whether classic or fun, my pieces are individually inspired and created, using wool, cotton, linen, silk and rayon with recycled buttons and trims. I believe in recycling labor, too. My aim is to reuse the best and most labor intensive construction features of the existing garment whenever possible."
(Hollis is a vintage clothing expert, costumer and seamstress extraordinaire, who knows of what she speaks.)
"I am inspired by the resourceful women of the past who altered, restyled, made do, reused, and were never, ever wasteful. Their clothing was treasured for years, and I hope mine will be too."

Doubtless my dress will be treasured forever! It is recycled from a black silk dress, embellished with vintage buckles (one at the base of a strap, one at the gathered up hem) mother of pearl rings and jet buttons.
"All eCouture by Jenkins & Evans clothing is made from 100% recycled clothing. It is purchased locally, keeping even more clothing out of landfills and rag bins, cleaned , then refashioned and sewn in our KY studio. We do not destroy vintage clothing, we reuse only modern garments. Each piece is therefore a custom, one of a kind garment."
I must say, nothing in my closet is more beautifully constructed, nor more unique.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Friends in the 1980s

Now that I am finished exploring 80s fashion and its impact on fall trends for 2009, I have collected some 80s photos of real people.

Here they are, showing their own 80s styles, with Cyndi Lauper to accompany them. Many of these are vintage fashion people...I said I would not name names...except one.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Back to (Old) School!

It's back to school time at denisebrain—And I do mean Old School! Come by denisebrain and study the classics, and don't worry, it's as easy as ABC!

To get inspired, please watch my monthly promo Back to School (sound up for the The Jackson 5).