Friday, September 27, 2013

Fabric of the week: Duvetyn, blanket cloth

Thinking about a winter coat yet? I know just the fabric for a soft and warm coat; and it’s much more likely to be a vintage coat because such finely-finished wools are not so common now. 

Duvetyn, blanket cloth

The name duvetyn comes from the French word duvet, meaning down. Wool or wool-blend commonly, the finish is napped, sheared and fulled. This creates a downy nap which covers its weave which is usually right-hand twill. It is softer and more lustrous, though its nap isn’t quite as long as that of fleece. 
Cotton duvetyn is usually called suede cloth. 
Uses: Coats, uniforms, suits; the heavier blanket cloth for blankets and Hudson’s Bay “point” blanket coats 
See also:
Wool duvetyn
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photo by Hoyt Carter

This cashmere duvetyn coat is new to my Etsy shop. I wish you could feel the softness of this elegant fabric!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Vintage Convergence, Ceil Chapman edition

I’m not going to lie...this dress is one of the most incredible I’ve ever seen in my 14+ years as a vintage clothing dealer. I put the dress on and can say  Y o u  F e e l  I t . You are very, very special, collected and glorious in this Ceil Chapman ball gown.

I was informed by a colleague of another of the same gown having been sold on a website, and this website (the formidable also showed a Vogue ad featuring this dress, dated 1952.

You can tell that the model in the Vogue ad feels it too. What a gown.

Monday, September 23, 2013

2013 Fall Vintage Inspiration

Happy Fall! Happy? Well, yes, even though I hate to see the summer exiting. This is my neighborhood in a month or so, making it all worthwhile:

and besides, I really like vintage coats and jackets.
New Yorker cartoon by Victoria Roberts

Then, there is that annual Rite of Autumn, the Vintage Fashion Guild’s Vintage Inspiration. I have been working on this bi-annual collection since 2007, always trying a little something new. 

This fall, as usual, we chose modern trends inspired by vintage fashion, and collected vintage items that our members have for sale. What’s new is that each of these themes include 25 clickable links to items for sale. It’s like the VFG’s fall pop-up shop with more than ever to be inspired by and/or purchase. I created the graphics for it, and looking at these items pretty well melted me in the process.

I truly crave this orange and green houndstooth coat from the 1940s, in the Ruby Lane shop of The Vintage Merchant. Wouldn’t it look smashing with my neighborhood fall leaves?

and while you’re shopping for me on Ruby Lane wink I certainly would not say no to this gorgeous necklace by the great Miriam Haskell, in the shop of Marzilli Vintage. It would also look lovely with autumn, don’t you think?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fabric of the week: Simplex

If you have noticed the soft feel and firm stretch of a pair of gloves, you have most likely noticed simplex, a fabric used most commonly for vintage gloves. 

Made on a tricot machine, simplex is a firm knit that shows plain stitch knits on both sides, instead of tricot’s zigzag reverse. 
Uses: For gloves, cotton simplex is used after shrinking and sueding. It is heavier than tricot, generally, and appropriate for bottom weight and more tailored items of clothing. 
See also:
Simplex, showing both face and reverse of fabric at edge of glove
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain, photo by Hoyt Carter

Beaded simplex gloves in my Etsy shop

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fabric of the week: Cotton velvet

Here is something that once puzzled me: What is the difference between cotton velvet and velveteen?


Made of cotton, velveteen has a smooth, soft, short-cut pile on a plain or twill weave ground. Velveteen is related to cotton velvet, but of weft pile weave rather than velvet’s warp pile weave. It is related to corduroy but without that fabric’s vertical rows of wales. Velveteen’s dense pile is slightly flatter and shorter than that of cotton velvet. 
Uses: Dressy but less expensive (than velvet) in women’s and children’s clothing

Cotton velvet
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photos by Hoyt Carter

Do you see the vertical lines in the cotton velvet? And the horizontal lines in the velveteen?

That’s how I was able to determine that this coat in my web store is made of cotton velvet.

To be truthful, I am not sure if I would be able to discern some fabrics with any accuracy if it weren’t for this tool, a linen tester. Highly recommended if you want to know the thread count of a fabric, as well as magnify it. Obviously a magnifying glass would do just fine for close-up viewing:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fabric term of the week: Shadow stripes

This fabric term of the week allows me to highlight one aspect of the VFG Fabric Resource, the contributions by Claire Schaeffer. If you don’t know of Claire’s work, here is the brief Amazon biography:
Claire Shaeffer is a respected author, lecturer, college instructor and columnist. She frequently contributes articles to sewing magazines, and has authored many books, including Sew Any Patch Pocket, Couture Sewing Techniques, Sew Any Fabric and The Complete Book of Sewing Shortcuts. Claire Shaeffer makes her home in Palm Springs, California.

Her books are enjoyable reads, interesting, highly informative and skillfully researched. Claire is an expert on couture sewing techniques. To put it a little less dryly, she’s all over the place behind the seams!

A few of Claire Schaeffer’s most recent books

I am acquainted with Claire Schaeffer through the Vintage Fashion Guild, of which she is a member, and when she offered a number of definitions from her Fabric Sewing Guide for use in the VFG Fabric Resource I certainly jumped at the chance. It was difficult taking all the best-known fabric resource materials and summarizing without copying. I felt like I was trying to reinvent the wheel. Claire’s succinct definitions, of which I used about 40, were (and are) a huge asset.

Shadow stripes 

Subtle stripes created by weaving the stripes with the same-color yarn with a different twist, weave or with blended yarns slightly lighter or darker. 
From Fabric Sewing Guide by Claire Schaeffer. Krause Publications, Cincinnati, 2008. Used by permission.
©Vintage Fashion Guild - photo by Hoyt Carter

 New in my webstore is a 1950s shirtwaist dress by Anne Fogarty, the fabric made of cotton with shadow stripes, as well as printing.

 The front of the bodice is cut on the bias, so the shadow stripes make a flattering V. Tiny tucks on the vertical add to the visual interest. (Attention to detail—just one of the many reasons to love vintage clothing!)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

FAQ extraordinaire: Why “denisebrain”

This is really the FAQ I most receive: Why the heck are you called denisebrain? I feel I should post an explanation about once a year and it has been over a year now, so here goes. Besides, I have a few new images to share.

My name isn’t Denise Brain, but it has been a bit of a nickname for me. I am a professional horn player and teacher, and Dennis Brain is one of the greatest horn heroes any horn player could ever have. Tragically, the Englishman was only 36 when he suffered a fatal crash in his sports car in 1957. He had already become arguably the greatest hornist of modern times.

Dennis Brain by Norman Parkinson, 1953

In 1999, when I was first prompted to provide a user name on eBay, I was helping a student bid on horns and my first thought was the nickname denisebrain.

From eBay, to Etsy, to my own website called, I have had no competition for the use of this name! I don’t use the name denisebrain flippantly—I feel the utmost respect and awe for the inimitable musician who inspired it. 

It isn’t always easy for others to understand my love for both vintage clothing and the horn, but I have a simple premise that ties these in my mind: I am attracted to beauty. I love the quality and beauty of vintage clothing and I consider the horn capable of the most beautiful sounds in music.

Tying these together further for me, I am growing a small collection of vintage clothing and accessories featuring horns of all types and eras (other than the all-too numerous Ugly Christmas Sweaters with horns that is!) and here are some:

I made these earrings out of Christmas ornaments

I’ve worn the earrings for many a concert over the years (Jim Hendrickson photo)
50s modern print circle skirt
50s instrument print dress...and my most beautiful accessory
50s Vera scarf
70s photo print dress

Some, not all, of my vintage horn pins!

My latest horn print comes from my good friend Anna Newman (who does the most interesting collection of things: R & D at DreamWorks, independent film producer, vintage clothing maven and horn player).

This dress has the Serbin label and dates from the 1980s. It didn’t have its front buttons, but who needs them when you have so many horn pins! 

If you ever see a vintage horn print item, I’d be very grateful if you’d let me know about it!

By the way, guess who else played horn? 

Debbie Reynolds playing French horn by Allan Grant

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The September Issue

Do you eagerly await the September issues of your favorite fashion magazines? My theme for this month is an homage to that very special issue.  {click image to view, sound up}

Monday, September 2, 2013

It’s Labor Day...have you looked for the union label?

Thanks to legions of union garment workers, we had a thriving clothing industry in the United States, now essentially off-shored.

The delivery may be out-of-style in this 1981 ad, but the message still sounds right:

Look for the union label
When you are buying a coat, dress or blouse.
Remember somewhere our union’s sewing
our wages going to feed the kids and run the house,
We work hard but who’s complaining.
Thanks to the I.L.G. we’re paying our way.
So, always look for the union label,
it says we’re able
to make it in the U.S.A.

You can still look for the union label, in vintage clothing.
Just a few of the choices with ILGWU (International Ladies Garment Workers Union) labels at denisebrain this week:

1950s to early 60s party dress by Jr. Theme, with the union label used 1955-63
1960s coat with the label used 1963-74
1970s dress with the label used 1974-95