Saturday, February 26, 2011

She's a Betty

Betty is 99 years of age. That in itself is cause for respect, but if you had to follow her repeatedly up a flight of stairs in her own home you would find even more reason for respect.

I was fortunate to meet Betty last year as she was preparing to leave her home for a retirement home. I presume she has some health issues that make staying home tricky, but she seemed to be doing pretty well, with the help of her niece.

Betty has clothes that were a conspicuous result of being a manager at one of Spokane's late-great department stores, The Bon Marché, to which she had been lured from The Crescent department store when The Bon, as it was called, was just moving into the area. She told me she "set up The Bon" for its opening in 1946.

On her style, Betty said that she wasn't fond of fussy, frilly things. Her clothes have just so many cute details and extra flourishes, they are of very good quality, with a number of the better American department store labels such as Suzy Perette and Lilli Ann. Materials are mostly wool, cotton and silk.

Cotton piqué dress with Matisse-like print

On how she obtained her clothing, Betty said that her husband and she were from rural Idaho, and grew up poor on small farms. Her husband was an Air Force pilot during WWII, and I had the sense from talking with her that they felt very fortunate to be together, to have survived The War, and to be better off than they'd ever been before. Betty said her husband spoiled her, buying her very nice clothes. Of course, her work image had to be important to Betty.

I have quite a few more to show still, but here is a sampling of Betty's items that I have sold or am selling.

All photos with links in their captions will take you to the item still for sale, the rest have been sold.

60s items, a wool knit set made in Italy for The Bon Marché; silky dress by Ranelle

Late 40s Prestige Junior cotton dress; Alex Colman cotton top and full skirt

Venito di Roma knit suit; Lana of Austria handloomed wool outfit

Billy-Dee black cotton dress; McKettrick sundress and bolero

50s brown rayon dress; brown print R & K Originals dress, also from the 50s

Lilli Ann Knit coat and dress; Leslie Fay circle print wool dress

Kimberly wool & mohair outfit; equally sunny suit by Hanbury Ltd.

40s spoof news-print blouse, about which I blogged (here); 50s red faille coat dress

Yellow print embroidered sheath dress; Jerry Gilden Spectator yellow print sundress

Navy and white knits: Schrader dress with button-on jacket; Lilli Ann dress and coat

A third Lilli Ann dress & coat set from the 60s; cream knit dress by Corona Vienna

Suzy Perette sheath dress

Betty was and is a very petite lady—most of her clothing is size 2 to 4—but her sincere kindness is generous in proportions. She found it hard to give up her clothes, symbols that they are of her good and productive life, her loving marriage and all the respect she has earned. Knowing that others would actually wear and enjoy her clothes today pleases her and really eases her in letting them go.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if a new wearer of Betty's clothing has as long and happy a life as she is having, and passes the clothing on to another generation when she is 99?

The women I meet to purchase their clothing bless me not only with their clothes, but with their stories, photos and memories. I have highlighted others in the past, such as Lovely lady lot, You're a sight to see Mrs. Gordon, I love my vintage clothing sources, A tiny fraction of Mrs. Alexander's clothing, Another favorite source and The suitcase lot.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Get the Look: Audrey Hepburn

I get a little emotional around Audrey Hepburn. Not only was she one of the most unusually beautiful women on screen, but her true nature was unusually beautiful as well.

Look at her just being herself in this screen test from 1953...the one that landed her the role in Roman Holiday.

In considering how to emulate her look, I have chosen a small wardrobe of vintage items that seem to really express the style of Audrey Hepburn:

1. A perfect Little Black Dress

You know the inspiration, and how perfect can you get, both Givenchy dress and characterful woman?

2. While we're at it, fabulous sunglasses

Make them big, and black.

3. A neat and high quality handbag

4. A statement hat

Just google "Audrey Hepburn hat"

5. Flats

How else to do that modern dance in Funny Face?

6. A black turtleneck


7. A gorgeous evening gown

Here you have a number of inspiring images to choose from, many by Givenchy, all completely elegant.

8. And you'll need long gloves to wear with that gown

9. A wonderful quality 60s suit

Charade features a number of Givenchy suits and coats in strong colors and perfect cuts.

10. Some awe-inspiring jewelry

Audrey's regal side showed (for the first of many times) in Roman Holiday.

11. A white shirt and capris

Keep it classic and you will never be out of style, just as Audrey always seems absolutely perfect.

I can't begin to write the last word on Audrey...I feel barely capable of writing the first word, but I have an overwhelming feeling that what made her an extraordinary actress and beautiful person came from inside her. We can all gain inspiration not only from her grace and elegance, but the fun she seemed to have, her curiosity, and her generosity, concern and love for others.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My new theme-o-matic is here!

Q: What becomes of my monthly themes once the month ends?

A: They become theme-o-matics!

I'm happy to say that the third denisebrain theme-o-matic is up and wholly functional. Included are some favorites, including Campy (aptly subtitled by a reader "early Barbie goes camping. Oh, and meets a bear"), Wild Thing (showing my roots) and Wonderland (in which I unwittingly anticipated the release of the Alice in Wonderland movie).

Click on image to take you to the theme-o-matic...and sound on for the full effect

There have been two other theme-o-matics, so if you're in the mood...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Save the matching set!

1944 purse and shoes set from the Bata Shoe Museum website

Every now and then I feel compelled to plead the case for an endangered vintage item (Save the maxi dress!, Save the umbrella!).

Once while shopping at a vintage clothing store I found a 1950s dress I really liked. While looking at the jackets on another rack, I found a mate to my dress. Excited, I took the two up to the counter and thought I was telling the salesperson something wondrous, that there were perfectly matching items that had not been put together by the store...but I had reunited them!

Then she told me, sympathetically, that outfits are the kiss of death. Jackets are separated from dresses and skirts, shoes from purses, because people would never wear these together and wouldn't consider buying them together.

I bought the dress and jacket and went away shaking my head at the apparent lack of imagination that would make an outfit so unwanted. With a great pair of items you have the option of wearing them separately of course, and I realize that can be more modern. Frankly though, I am always looking for things that seem fresh in fashion and what could be fresher than something not everyone is doing? Matching items can look more formal, but there are times when that sort of put-together is just the thing.

Why break up a perfectly great relationship, especially after its been intact for up to 50 years and more?

Top & skirt from Mod Chic Vintage on Etsy

Purse and shoes set from JessJamesJake on Etsy

From my own web store, a 1960s silk dress and coat

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mais oui, un jardin des roses

My February theme is up, and with Valentine's Day approaching, I promise you a rose garden!

{click the photo to view...sound up for Edith Piaf!}