Thursday, November 29, 2012

Harriet Love's Guide to Vintage Chic (1982)

Good morning!

I told you a week or two ago how curious I was about vintage clothes-buying in the sixties', seventies', and eighties' (vintage vintage, if you will), and mentioned the name "Harriet Love", who ran a store in New York from 1965 until sometime in the nineties'. Thanks to the magic that IS Interlibrary Loan, I was able to score a copy of her 1982 publication Harriet Love's Guide to Vintage Chic, and boy, is it a lot of fun! The book suffers, I think, from being printed in black and white with no color inserts-- some of these clothes would look so much more impressive if you could see the shades of the material...but in spite of the monochrome, it's still chockful of tips and pointers that are actually still relevant today.

Let's start with a look at the store. Could this not be a direct photograph of some boutique right now? Dig the hardwood floors and industrial hardware.

I miss mannequins with heads! Doesn't this western wear and circle skirt pair display look twice as eccentric by virtue of the fact that there are heads atop their plastic bodies? The skirt floating in the background's ceiling as window dressing is a particularly elegant touch.

Inside, Love shares not only a wealth of information on where to get, how to get, and what to get in terms of vintage and antique clothing, but also examples from her personal collection and those of friends. The shop stock is already making me a little woozy with how much I love it. Look! Figurative sweaters! Do you think they all got bought up in the eighties' and that's why we have never seen one in real life pre-1970's in date? (Remember my posts bemoaning this fact here and here?) At top left, a phalanx formation of penguins box in a pair of polar bears, and at bottom, OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THE ROMANCE SWEATER. "Straight from the heart" and "sealed with a kiss" had me at hello.

These two pretties were from a high-end auction, so I don't feel so bad that they were re-sold around the time I was born. At left, "A summer dress of eyelet embroidered white lawn, trimmed with narrow tucks and lace inserts, c. 1910 (estimated $150-175, sold for $350); at right, "a Fortuny tea gown with venetian bead trim". The latter has zazz to SPARE! Ugh, I love the way the train pools out at the wearer's little feet like a cloud...I hate the way I will never be able to afford something this beautiful. A girl can dream!

You have to take some of the photo illustrations and vintage-wearing advice with a grain of IS 1982, which is only a few years away from the late eighties', a time in my mind that represents a nadir in twentieth century fashion (I know, I know; I was technically there, too...but VERY LITTLE from that era warrants revival). Even sensible fashion-followers were being pressured into poodle-frying their hair and wearing Joe Namath sized football shoulder pads in oversized jackets...could you blame these women for being convinced that Edwardian nightshirts and Victorian dressing gowns as acceptable out-on-the-town wear? The girl in the lower right hand corner fairs a little better, but still looks like she might be participating in a regional dinner theater production of Somewhere in Time.

Now this...THIS is a little better. It's the same idea as the above pictures, in updating turn of the century clothes, but it looks a little more modern with her shoulder length hair, belt, and cowboy boots. 'Twas I, I might replace the cowboy boots with sleek black, flat, leather boots, but for 1982/1892, this look travels particularly well to the twenty-first century. At right, I love the super-thin-lined eyemakeup this woman is wearing, and her forties' satin bead jacket and camisole slip just look like elegant silk evening wear to me. Good work, ladies!

Ugh, black and white and wrong all over. I spared you the indignity of the second woman, who is cute as a button in spite of her perm, pairing a Virginia Woolf style 1920's tunic with bright white linen culottes and sneakers. It was awful, people. IT WAS AWFUL. Ditto on the gal at left (I don't think they're the same person, but I could be mistaken), who is wearing a chenille BATH ROBE as a greatcoat over her jeans and button up. This looks more escaped mental patient than vintage enthusiast, and I'm not afraid to shout it.

My favorite dress in the bunch (and the most mid thirties', MGM glamour dress of the book) was this midnight blue evening gown, floor length but sheer to mid thigh, and absolutely covered in sequins. I want to see the color version of this dress SO. BADLY. You could have cut the culottes woman altogether and given me another page of this dress! I swoon.

These ladies look super cool, too...the gal at left is serving Lillian Gish realness, and the woman at right looks like someone I would love to see onstage twirling a mike stand in the middle of some experimental art rock band. Do you see her rhinestone bow tie? I'm in!

One surprise? A cameo appearance by Geena (spelled "Gina" throughout the text) Davis! League of Our Own Geena Davis! In 1982, she was a model just about to have her big break in the movie Tootsie, and here she is instead modeling some great vintage looks. I like her so much as an actress in the baseball picture and Earth Girls Are Easy and Thelma and Louise that it's easy to forget she's six feet tall and g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s...of course she was a model first! Look at her expression in the even-more-sweaters picture at the bottom of the first montage.

Note how this dress on the left hits her at mid calf instead of at floor length, like I'm sure it was intended. We Amazon women have it rough!

Last but not least, I was practically bowled over by this excerpt, below. Yes, I want that monkey fur jacket on the right more than life itself, but more importantly, do you recognize the unnamed model on the left?

Could it be...another cameo of the not-yet-super-famous?


You coulda knocked me over with a feather! That HAS to be the Material Girl herself. In 1982, she would have already enjoyed some success with her dance single, "Everybody", but was still a year away from recording her debut album. Huh! Harriet Love could say she knew her when!

Which of these outfits would you most like to take for a test spin? Have you had any epiphanies lately related to the wearing or buying of vintage clothes? Can you believe Madonna was ever 24 years old and not famous enough to rate mention in a caption, God love her?

If you liked this taste of Harriet Love's insider opinions and snaps, this book is available for LESS THAN 15 CENTS on amazon. Go! Buy! Enjoy! :)

That's all for today...catch you guys on the flip 


  1. Replies
    1. Haha! I was so focused on the eightiesness that I completely overlooked that aspect! Well said.

  2. Oh man! I am so in love with that beaded tea gown! If I owned such a thing I'm pretty sure I would spend hours gazing at it. The 40s dinner jacket is so lovely. Same with the tunic shirt and the 30s dress. I love all the shiny, sparkly things. And the lady with the rhinestone bow tie just looks so tough and beautiful and amazing! Long live the interlibrary loan, seriously.



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