Thursday, February 28, 2013

How to wear an Oscar gown

Confession: I am not a big movie star follower, but I do look with interest at the photos from the red carpet at the Academy Awards.

One thing that tends to seem problematic is the juxtaposition of a glorious evening gown and a beautiful woman who is simply not used to wearing such structured, formal clothing. Should the clothes change to suit the casual style of Hollywood’s elite, or should Hollywood’s elite learn to move in these outfits?

I am not going to answer that, but I do want to make one statement: What you wear—whatever you are doing—should be something you feel beautiful in. You should be fine walking, climbing stairs, standing still, should be able to be yourself. In some cases maybe a glorified version of yourself, but yourself.

My favorite example of that from the 2013 Academy Awards is Amy Adams in the gown she inspired Oscar de la Renta to design. She showed him a number of ideas, and he connected to a vintage black and white photo of a model entering a doorway in a dramatic gown. I almost feel that I know the photo, but I can’t access the very one. This photo comes pretty close:

Nan Kempner in a gown by Jacques Griffe, 1949/Met Museum
Was Amy Adams’ dress modern? Not particularly, although the color is not something you’d see in the late 1940s to 1950s era that inspired it. This is not a novel dress. What I love is that it fits perfectly on Amy Adams, and she obviously loves it.

Her stylist said said that when Amy first put the dress on ‘you could tell that she was having that fairytale moment.’ When you love something you’re wearing, you float. Amy Adams floated in this gown!

André Leon Talley said Miss Adams’ dress got his best-dressed ‘top honors’. He wrote on ‘Her grand Oscar de la Renta skirt looks light and dramatic, the way a train should on a ball dress, and its powder-blue shade was the most sophisticated and subtle nuance of color on the carpet.’

Although I can’t find anything for sale online with such a dramatic train, you will find some vintage dresses that look delightfully princess-y by searching ‘vintage strapless ball gown’.

See you on the red year perhaps?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fabric of the week: Organza

The fabric of the week is a personal favorite, particularly if made of silk. It says party like almost nothing else.


Organza is a balanced plain weave similar to organdy in that it is crisp and very sheer, but it is not quite as stiff as organdy. It is also made of filament silk (or nylon, polyester or rayon) instead of cotton. When made of silk, the stiffness comes from the natural gum that remains on the filaments, while manufactured fibers require a finish. Organza is often used as a ground for embellishment such as embroidery, cut-work embroidery, and tufting (achieved in the weaving process) or flocking
Uses: Blouses, dresses, evening wear, bridal wear, girl’s dresses, facings, interfacings, linings for sheer fabric 
See also:
ChiffonMousseline de soieOrgandy

 ©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photo by Hoyt Carter 

70s dress with an organza outer layer, in my Etsy store—organza is perfect for the dress's ruffles

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fabric of the week: Waffle cloth

Cool in warm weather, texturally interesting, waffle cloth is a vintage summer wear staple. (It snowed yesterday here in Spokane, but I insist on thinking ahead!)
Waffle cloth 
A dobby weave cotton fabric with a small, waffle-like texture of raised squares woven into the material. Waffle cloth is synonymous with waffle piqué, and is related to all the other fabrics with small dobby-woven textures. 
See also:
Birdseye piqué
 ©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photo by Hoyt Carter 
New in my Etsy shop: 60s waffle piqué dress

Monday, February 18, 2013

Get the look: Sophie Ellis-Bextor in vintage

At the recent London Elle Style Awards, one dress caught my eye intensely...worn by singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor, it is a gorgeous rose print strapless dress from the 1950s.

She wore this same dress in her 2001 video Take Me Home. Actually, this whole video looks like an ad for wearing vintage—many beautiful dresses and she wears them well!

Some fashion critics thought Sophie’s choice of a lip bag and shoes in black was sort of weighing down the rose dress, but I see the point of adding a little humor and irony to the 1950s sweetness.

This cotton rose print sundress is from my sold archives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I had more than one of this dress! 

But there are other cotton rose print dresses from the 1950s, including these currently available:

If you like the graphic-ness of the print of Sophie’s dress, maybe this one in bold black and white will suit you. I’d be tempted to carry a red lip bag and wear red shoes! (Click on any of these to go to the listing.)

LolaAndBlack on Etsy
For rosiness, this beauty couldn’t be beat.
Thegirlcanthelpitusa on Etsy
If you like the sweetness of 1950s style, this dress ought to be yours.
La Belle Vintage on Etsy
Another wonderfully graphic rose print, and this one is in a larger size too.
Beautiful halter neckline, and rhinestones pick out one of the roses near the neck.
vintagegirlore on eBay
You may have noted that Sophie Ellis-Bextor wore her rose print 1950s dress for a video in 2001, and for an awards ceremony in 2013. The great thing about a good vintage item is that we no longer think of these as going out of fashion...or it is out in such a way as to grab everyone’s admiring attention!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fabric of the week: Tulle

Welcome to the the Valentine week edition of the Fabric of the week!

Today, a fabric in which many a woman has flirted, danced, walked hand-in-hand and even wed. 

Fine netting with a hexagonal mesh, tulle may be of silk (as it was originally), cotton or rayon, but most commonly nylon since the 1950s. In 1768, the netting was machine made for the first time in Notthingham, England. The French city of Tulle first produced its namesake netting by machine in 1817, much aided by the invention of the bobbinet machine in 1806. 
Uses: Bridal veils, evening gowns, crinolines, veiling, millinery trim 
See also:
Point d’esprit

Nylon tulle
Silk tulle
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photos by Hoyt Carter 
Printed tulle gown by Emma Domb, in my web store

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

The latest edition of the Vintage Fashion Guild’s Newsletter is out and it is the best ever! Allow me to gush: I am proud to be a member of this group, with all the exciting and interesting things members do from having photos purchased by Vogue, to providing clothing for television shows, to writing on couture sewing techniques. Find out about upcoming vintage clothing exhibitions, auctions and sales, and read articles by and about VFG members.  

Click for the VFG newsletter
Not that I don’t blow my own horn regularly, but there is a really nice piece in this newsletter about the VFG Fabric Resource which I published in 2012. Amanda Legare did an excellent job of distilling information about the resource. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fabric of the week: Ultrasuede

In 1970, a relatively expensive new fabric came into being, and was soon being cut into tastefully stylish clothing. Vintage items of Ultrasuede so often date from the 1970s, when designers and the public took a liking to its consistency, drape (you can easily tie a bow of it), dye- and printability and easy care. The title of the 2010 film Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston pretty neatly summarizes the the amalgam of decade, fabric and one designer particularly fond of the material.

Halston, his Halstonettes and plenty of Ultrasuede. Photo: Duane Michals/WWD
This is from the VFG Fabric Resource:
A trademarked fabric dating from 1970, Ultrasuede is a nonwoven fabric resembling suede. It is made of polyester, non-fibrous urethane and synthetic resins. It is created in a process involving needle punching microfibers into a felt-like ground. 
Uses: Coats, suits, dresses
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photo by Hoyt Carter 
70s Ultrasuede belted shift dress in my Etsy shop

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My Spanish heart

My February monthly theme is up, and I have Ralph Lauren to thank for it.

As usual, Lauren’s inspirations are vintage and when seen as a collection, slightly costume-y. For spring 2013 the collection was an hommage to a fanciful Spain and Latin America of the 1920s-40s. There were red roses, black lace, cut-out leather, black and red combinations, boleros, gold braid, ruffles, even matador jackets.

I have to admit, I was in love with the drama of it all!

So, without further ado, my brief trip to Spain:

click to view, sound up

The gorgeous song “Amado Mio” comes from the 1946 Rita Hayworth movie Gilda. It was written by Doris Fisher and Allan Roberts. The original, mimed by Hayworth, was sung by Anita Kert Ellis. My theme’s version comes from Pink Martini. 

Rita Hayworth’s Amado Mio

Stop by my Etsy shop starting on Monday...I'm rounding up items with bravura!
Red cotton full skirt, coming soon to my Etsy shop