Monday, June 27, 2016

Finding Marilyn Monroe: 12 Style Elements to Try on for Size

This is supposed to be a Get the Look post, specifically how to get the look of Marilyn Monroe. However, emulating the enigmatic icon without devolving into mockery (think Vegas impersonator) could never be easy. There will always be only one Marilyn.

My suggestion? To find the part of her look that works for you, whether it is the elegant drape of her dress, the simple palette of colors, or the blond curls. Maybe there is something of her attitude that works for you.

Some elements to try on for size:

1. Embrace your curves, and wear clothing that fits exactly. How often have you seen a photo of Marilyn Monroe in something sloppy and over-sized? True, she had a perfect hourglass figure, but there is not a single one of us that wouldn’t look best in clothes that fit us exactly right.

Marilyn Monroe as Rose, costume test for Niagara, 1952, costume designer Dorothy Jeakins. Marilyn was known to wear her movie costumes in real life.

2. Diamonds just might be a girl’s best friend. Not that Marilyn always dripped in bling, but when she did, she glistened. Glittering jewelry seemed to augment the sparkle that was so much a part of her look and act.

3. Find a style and stick to it. Marilyn Monroe had a makeup routine, a hair color, a palette of hues and a personal vibe that were all part of her signature look. Find, hone, repeat.

4. Up the vampage. It’s a given that Marilyn dressed in ways that enhanced and flaunted her shape, but is it ever trampy? No. Think vintage vamp instead, including va-va-voom heels, sweater girl sweaters, halter necklines, finely-fitted sheath dresses and pencil skirts.

5. Classics always work. For many style icons this was true, so it is sometimes easy to dismiss this aspect of Marilyn’s style, but she was a great wearer of a camel coat, a white shirt, capri pants, a simple pullover sweater and other classics.

6. Go with a simple color palette. You don’t see a lot of photos of Marilyn wearing prints. She favored neutral shades and black and white, with stand-out shades of red, pink, green or blue for emphasis.

7. Oh, but don’t be afraid to sparkle. I mentioned diamonds, but also consider clothing in gold and silver. Do you have your headlights on?

The famous gold lamé gown designed by William Travilla for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953

8. Structure is another of a girl’s awfully good friends. Of course, it was the norm for the era, but we can all learn from the positive influence of the right underpinnings. At the very least, consider a swimsuit with a well-designed inner framework (vintage of course!) and the right bra under a sweater.

9. Find a signature red for your lips. Of all her trademark style elements, possibly nothing says Marilyn more loudly and clearly than bright red lips...and red lips are a whole lot easier than platinum blonde hair.

10. A fabulous shoe might also be in the running for a girl’s best friend. As Marilyn said herself “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” Strappy sandals, peep toes, slide-on mules...and who wouldn’t feel like conquering the world in Lucite platforms?

11. Show joy. It seems like fashion comes and goes on this point—first there’s a fad for smiling, then there’s a fad for pouting. Marilyn always appeared natural, healthy, and radiant. She gave joy—she still gives joy—with that beautiful smile.

12. Be bold. It took a heck of a strong woman to grow up not knowing her father, having a mentally unstable mother, living in a series foster homes, and laboring at a young age before being hurled into super stardom. If you want to be like Marilyn, persevere.

“I am trying to find myself. Sometimes that's not easy.” 

“I am not interested in money. I just want to be wonderful.” 
—Marilyn Monroe

Elliott Erwitt photo
Whatever part of Marilyn you find and make your own, I hope it makes you feel wonderful.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

If you want to dress up, Dress Up!

“I love that dress, but I would have no place to wear it.”

Since I hear that quite a lot, I am thrilled when I get to hear about people finding creative ways to wear the clothes they most love.

Meet Kymberli, who has a prom birthday party each year. She first wrote me in March saying “I have fallen deeply in love with the pale yellow frothy 50s dress”...doesn’t that sound like a princess thing to say?

Kym took advantage of layaway through my shop and when she received the dress she wrote “I just got my dress in the mail and I could NOT be more happy I literally broke down in tears. It’s more beautiful than I even imagined!” (I’m not going to lie, that’s one of the nicest things we vintage clothing sellers can hear!)

Straight out of the box—“I think it's going to fit well too”
“Sneak peak! So happy!”

Then the big night arrived, and here was the birthday princess:

“It was a dream!!”

Not to get all Nike-slogan on you, but Just Do It! Kymberli made a place to wear her favorite vintage dresses, and so can you.

I keep adding to this list, Reasons to Dress Up. I’m sure there are hundreds more.

1. DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) meetings, as Facebook reader Leigh Anne mentioned. The women love history and love seeing her vintage fashions.
2. Any historical society gathering: Think museum exhibits, boards, historical preservation groups.
3. “Put even the plainest woman into a beautiful dress and unconsciously she will try to live up to it.” - Lady Duff-Gordon
4. Dress for the every day theater of life like you are the leading lady.
5. All your regular clothes are dirty.
6. Go to a historic hotel for a drink.
7. “Life is a party, dress like it.” - Lilly Pulitzer
8. “It takes nothing to join the crowd. It takes everything to stand alone.” - Hans F. Hansen
9. “If you're sad, add more lipstick and attack.” - Coco Chanel
10. Being well dressed is a beautiful form of politeness.
11. #fancyfriday
12. Attend performances where the style of music is vintage, as blog reader Denise mentioned.
13. You will make people happy...maybe most especially yourself
14. Life is too short to wear boring clothes. 

Another reason to dress up? Stage a birthday prom!

Many thanks to Kymberli for allowing me to show these photos. For creative and inspiring wearing of vintage fashion, she wins the tiara!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Appreciation for the vintage travel poster

Before we traveled in cramped airline seats wearing t-shirts and shorts, before we started carrying tiny bottles of liquids in quart-sized plastic bags, before being charged for even a single piece of luggage—there were real holidays.

These holidays, which I know from looking at stunning vintage travel posters, featured men and women who would alternate between wearing hats and gloves, beach robes, formal wear and linen suits. They traveled not only by plane but by ocean liner and train, funicular and gondola. The scenery was majestic and unspoiled, the accommodations were opulent.

So maybe the traveling wasn’t that good but the posters were. They inspired dreams.

These vintage travel poster reproductions available from Venus Valentino

And why shouldn’t we aspire to see perfectly symmetrical palms against a clear blue sky while wearing flowered organza and carrying a parasol? 

Oh to travel, not just in space but in time—and into the realm of the great poster artists’ imaginations.

What vintage items make the cut when you have the chance to travel on holiday? What vintage travel-themed and tourist souvenir items do you love and collect? 

On Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, this week's denisebrain vintage fashion show is about wearable travel-themed vintage. Come join us...I’ve saved you a seat!