Monday, March 31, 2014

Simon Doonan, Professional Window Dresser + Role Model

Good afternoon!

I got a TON of stuff at Goodwill this weekend, but danged if I didn't take any pictures of it for your viewing pleasure. I know, I know, slap my wrist...I'll try and snap some tonight and have a veritable Ali Baba's cave of treasures waiting for you to see tomorrow. In the meantime though, let me tell you about the book I read. I finished Asylum by Simon Doonan over the past weekend, and let me tell you-- a pleasure! Cover to cover, just a fun read. It doesn't take much more than the subject line of "fashion" and the image of a straightjacket on the front of a book to convince me to read it...but to keep me reading it, that was nurtured along by Doonan's colorful reminisces of a social and professional life mixed up in the arts, and specifically, clothes.

Simon Doonan begins the book with an essay on trading vocational notes with a friend in the mental health care business. Unsurprisingly, there are parallels between his work in the fashion industry and hers in psychiatric wards. Doonan mentions certain colors as being "on trend"; his friend remarks that "finding patterns where patterns don't exist" is a sign of schizophrenia. Doonan makes a reference to the Maysles' documentary Grey Gardens and Little Edie Beale's fabulous fashion sense (I am myself nuts about that movie); his friend watches it and lays into Doonan about the exploitative nature of filming these obviously troubled women, seeing nothing glamorous about wearing a sweater as a turban while living in a falling down house with thirty cats in the Hamptons. It does seem to be all in the eye of the beholder...and in this case, I definitely buy into the madness that's so so exciting for Doonan and his crowd. I've been reading so many books lately from the sociology and psychology section of our library that I assumed it was a book specifically about the areas where fashion overlap with mental illness (think of how many great examples of crazy, mad, bad, style mavens there are out there), but I was delighted to find that the book is mainly just a collection of short essays by Doonan about...just whatever this witty, fabulous man found interesting. I felt like I was listening to really good gossip told by a very interesting person for three hours, pretty much my ideal situation plus wine, vegan pizza, and Nina Simone music (all these conditions were met this weekend). Bravo, Mister Doonan, for making my Sunday afternoon more vibrant!

With husband, designer Jonathan Adler (not shown: their dog, Liberace...I DIE....)

I'm always almost a little embarrassingly interested in how so-and-so got to be such-and-such in these books about highly successful people in creative fields. How did Joni Mitchell get to be Joni Mitchell? What did Gene Tierney have to do to become Gene Tierney? As fun as the "super famous, hanging out with Warren Beatty" chapter of any memoir and biography is, I love the Horatio Alger portions of these books best in my heart of hearts. Because, dagnabbit, wouldn't yours truly love to find herself ensconced in a first class seat on a midnight flight to Madrid, sipping champagne, ignoring phone calls from a French beau, and thrilled down to her tasseled gold loafers to be there? TELL ME HOW, BOOK. I'm reconstructing this from what I remember reading, but I think Doonan writes of his near desperation, post-school job of selling clocks and suitcases in a department story in some dreary corner of the British Isles, before landing a job as a window dresser in London through a friend-of-a-friend. He did a bunch of fantastic, punk rock style windows, which drew the attention of a store owner visiting from California, which in turn lead to a gig dressing windows at Maxfield's in Los Angeles. While he spent time unsuccessfully screen printing and selling t-shirts out of the back of his car, eventually Doonan's career trajectory took him to Barney's in New York City, the world famous department store, where he spent the next twenty some odd years creating some of the more memorable displays the company has known. While this sounds very a to b to c in summation, there were probably plenty of times where SD was sitting around, gluing eyelashes to fake rats and thinking, "What am I doing?! Where am I going?" which is, of course, something that interests me tremendously.

A very interesting essay towards the end of the book (most of which you can read in an excerpt here) recaps this vocational path along with a side note about the controversy he created when he called supermodel Kate Moss, who, at the time, was launching her Topshop ready to wear line through Barney's, "a working-class slag from a crap town, just like me" was his misfortune to be quoted without the benefit of the "just like me" ending of that sentence. The sound byte was supposed to support his belief that some of the wildest, strongest senses of style come from people who come from unstylish Kate's native Croydon and his own Reading. He talks, at length, about how many strong, creative types come out of the primordial ooze of otherwise nondescript, working class environments. Eventually, this marketing snafu is straightened out and Simon and Kate kiss and makeup, but he caps the essay with a thought about how, sitting next to interns at a fashion show, he realizes those glamorous lifesavers out of otherwise dull existences might not exist as much for us "commoners" anymore. From the essay:
In order to ascertain [the interns'] names, I peek at their place cards. Those surnames sound hauntingly familiar. They are boldface last names, the names of movie stars and Fortune 500 megamoguls.
“Are you by any chance related to X?” I ask one young lass who is wearing a $4,000 Alexander McQueen outfit.
“Yes. He’s my dad.”
“And are you the daughter of Y?” I ask another gal.
“Yes. But please don’t ask me to get you an autograph.”
As I survey these lucky-sperm-club members, my heart sinks.
If the kids of the famous start nabbing all the plum creative jobs, then what about all the marginalized freaks? What about all the outsiders, the kids of the unfamous, the working-class slags from bumf--k? What are they supposed to do? Who will offer them shelter? And, most important of all, what will be the effect on fashion?

Isn't that a downer? While I think talented people can come from any walk of life, I can't lie and say I don't feel a pang of unhappiness for the misfortune of fate that DIDN'T have me born as the progeny of a Swiss banking scion and former seventies' soap actress's happy union...because wouldn't I rather have had checked-out parents and a charge account with Bergdorf Goodman's than checked-out parents and five bucks on my person if I'm lucky during my formative years?  If I can't have the Alexander McQueen outfit, could I at least have as good a shot at a place at the table of the high and mighty as those who were already born there? He ends the chapter with a cheeky little open letter to fashion, pleading with it to "keep the door open to the self-invented superfreaks from the crap towns. This is the only way to keep fashion vital and creative", and don't you feel like getting up on a chair and applauding him.

So you could definitely say I found things to relate to in this kooky cultural gadabout's collection of essays-- and guess what? Mssr. Doonan has another five books for me to read sitting on my desk as we speak! Ah, the wonders of your public library system. Confessions of a Window Dresser, Nasty, Wacky Chicks, Gay Men Don't Get Fat, and Eccentric Glamour (the latter of which I tried to read a while back and never got enough into...second chance!) sounds like a welcome opportunity to wade in the water of his brashly outloud and above all STYLISH lifestyle. I'm looking forward to it.

What have you been reading lately? Seen anything in a book that particularly resonated with you? What do you look for in book covers and subject matters that really lure you in as a reader? Let's talk!

A video of my new best friend on decades of fashion here (do you remember him from I Love the Eighties' on VH-1?) :


That's all for today, but we'll talk again tomorrow with weekend finds all over the place. Have a great rest of your Monday evening! I will see you then. :)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Photo Friday: Dressed Up Like (Little) Ladies (1960's)

Good morning!

HOW ARE YA. The weekend looms ahead of us, kids! I am ready ready Freddy to rock and roll this coming Saturday and Sunday. Plans? None. But it beats the heck out of work! :)

Today for Photo Friday, I'm going to have to check in and take off, as I still have a half a day here at the old book factory to track down some of these errant titles that patrons have placed holds on (where can they be?). But I wouldn't leave you hanging! This flickr stream features slide after slide of these adorable little girls in the late fifties' and early sixties' (up to about 1965). I WANT EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE OUTFITS IN ADULT FORM. Gosh! I'm reminded of my mom's cousins, a family of three little girls who presented just as adorably as these four in the early sixties'-- hair done just so, bobby sox and saddle shoes, poofy little Easter dresses...done UP! My mom, the youngest of a brood including three boys and she the only girl, says she was always jealous of her cousins having sisters to borrow barrettes and sweaters and hair tips from. I'm just jealous of these little ladies and their fashion, PERIOD. Their mom must have been a swell of a dresser to keep her daughters so styling at all times.

Gotta hit the trail! Have a great Friday, and I'll see you right back here on Monday for more of the same! Take care. Til then!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Charles Aznavour Starter Kit (French Chansons)

Good afternoon!

How's tricks, kids? I'm sitting at the nonfiction desk here at NPL and let me tell you-- we are in a whirlwind of activity down here at the library! The major renovation of the third floor, which has been in the works for about a year or so, has finally gotten down to the physical tasks of moving shelving from here to there, making way for construction, and materials, patrons, and library employees alike are all in uproar. I'm going to batten down the hatches this afternoon, repairing books and doing paperwork in the back office while spending a little time in 1950's France, grâce à Hulu's magnificent collection of nouvelle vague French movies. What's up on the marquee for this afternoon? Tirez sur la pianiste (Shoot the Piano Player), which casts singer Charles Azanvour in the role of Charlie, the titular piano player. Charlie, a former concert pianist on the run from his own past, works in a Parisian nightclub and gets mixed up in an American noir transposed to a Gallic setting by auteur François Truffaut. Two French things I am obsessed with-- singer Aznavour, and director FT. 

Let me tell you about the former today!

60s CHARLES AZNAVOUR Rare Music Memorabilia Button Pin / Black White Vintage 1960s Concert Collectible 
In early high school, I was a disinterested if decent French II student at Hume-Fogg Academic High School, when a chance VHS checkout of the movie Jules et Jim at the old Ben West library changed my linguistic life. I fell, but hard, for France in the form Truffaut presented it to me...the language, the style, the WORKS. This obsession took me through AP French and almost a college major in the subject (I minored and lacked two classes and a thesis to call it my major...c'est la vie). For the first three years after I graduated, I taught high school French, a horse of a different color from my word-nerd days of taping paper to the bottom of the mandatory-subtitles on old movie cassette tapes to test and improve my fluency, but interesting... and while I left French as a day-to-day profession, you'd better believe I still think about the things I love about it on an almost daily basis. The fourth most listened to artist on my account (after Fleetwood Mac, George Jones, Ted Hawkins, and Stevie Nicks...I am a creature of habit, after all)? The French Frank Sinatra, Mssr. Charles Aznavour.

I know, I know, he shouldn't be smoking...but he's French! Come on. Isn't he cute?

Charles Aznavour was born Shahnour Varinag Aznavourian in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, a first generation French-Armenian. His parents were immigrants who opened a restaurant in France and supported their son's early interest in a musical career-- check this out for Frenchness, he dropped out of school at nine to follow his entertainment ambitions. At twenty two, he was discovered by Edith Piaf, with whom he toured the U.S., and embarked on a career that would span into the twenty-first century. He will be NINETY YEARS OLD when he plays the Greek Orpheum theater in Los Angeles this September, having clocked eighty-one years in the business. And I'll tell you, his consummate professionalism shows at every angle-- whether it's in his movie appearances or his crushingly romantic love songs, he's always the ne plus ultra of suavity.

Here's a super short playlist, for the new-to-the-artist set, of my very favorites of his songs. With a wide variety of song stylings to get you in mood for Aznavour, this can't miss!

1) "Jezebel"

Frankie Laine originated the English version of this song, but Azanour's version is about a hundred times better, with apologies to Mr. "Rawhide". The French version transports the melody from its lonesome cowboy original orchestration into something you could twist with Anna Karina to in some smoky boîte de nuit...and yet Aznavour's voice on the French version is both more substantial, sure-of-itself, and emotive than its American counterpart. I bought a Charles Aznavour best of in a fantastic Goodwill score of records two or three years ago, and this song stuck out from the others on the compilation as an immediate favorite. The soaring vocals on the lead up to the chorus, and the condemning, "Jehhhhhzabel, c'était toi...." gets me every time.

2) "Viens Pleurer (Au Creux de Mon Épaule)"

Oh, GOOD GOD, BEST RECONCILIATION SONG OF ALL TIME. I can't stand how romantic this song is. Aznavour's voice, the stripped down piano-and-bass combination in the sentimental little eyes well up with tears any time this song comes up on my iPod's shuffle setting. I love how freaking sad it makes me. From MOMENT ONE:

Si je t'ai blessée
Si j'ai noirci ton passé
Viens pleurer au creux de mon épaule
Viens tout contre moi
Et si je fus maladroit
Je t'en prie, chérie, pardonne-moi

Essentially: "If I hurt you/ if I [darkened your past...kind of like messed up things]/Come cry [in the hollow of, but on] my shoulder/Come close to me/And if I did something [clumsy] foolish/I'm asking you, forgive me"

And then a couple lyrics later:

Ne dis pas adieu
Nous serions trop malheureux
Viens pleurer au creux de mon épaule
Car si tu partais
Si mon bonheur se brisait
Mon amour, c'est moi qui pleurerais

Which is (again, my poor, bad-at-explaining-French grasp of the meaning) "Don't say goodbye/We would be too unhappy/Come cry on my shoulder/Because if you left me/My happiness would be broken/My love, I would be the one to cry".

[sound of me boohooing loudly] DON'T GO, CHARLES! WE CAN WORK IT OUT!! [bawling]

3) "Et Pourtant"

Another emotion-fraying track from his sixties' catalog...the title "Et Pourtant" translates into "and maybe" in the sense of "it's possible that", and links up beautifully with the chorus "Et pourtant, pourtant, je n'aime que toi"...In the song, le chanteur leaves his lover but returns to the chorus with a magnificently emotional delivery of "Possibly, possibly, I don't love anyone but you" in the sense of "you're the only one I loved", which, as I type it, is so wistful even in theory that it's choking my dumb little emotions up again. Ugh! Again, SO. ROMANTIC.

4) "Formidable"

This is a nice break from the heartache of the first four tracks, and even features English lyrics! While my tastes obviously tend to the maudlin, there are plenty of jaunty, cabaret type songs like this in Charles Aznavour's repertoire ("Je Me Voyais Déja" comes to mind). The words are so playfully written between the two lyrics, pitting against one another franglais and Frenglish like "You are the one, for me, for me, for me, forrrrmidable..." (formidable meaning "super", "great" and having a soundalike first two syllable to "for me")...the song is pretty much a mash up of the two languages as the singer ponders his wish to tell his beloved how much he loves her in both languages. "pour t'écrire dans la langue de Shakespeare" being "to write you in the language of Shakespeare". It's all delightfully play-on-wordsy but impressive for doing that IN BOTH LANGUAGES. Aznavour, by the by, is a polyglot who can speak French, English, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Armenian, Portuguese, Neapolitan, according to Wikipedia, and I've heard him sing in at least four of those languages! It reminds me of the Eddie Izzard sketch with the comedian's sardonic take on English/American attitudes towards bilingualism: "Two languages in one head?! No one can LIVE at that speed!"...look at Aznavour and his nine!

5) "Plus Bleu Que Tes Yeux"

This is one of those weird, posthumous tracks of a predeceased singer singing with a living singer, which I thought was a bizarre innovation in duets when Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole's "Unforgettable" came out and STILL consider a little spooky, but seeing as these two shared a stage in life many times, I guess it's ok if (and I think that's what went on with this recording) the two tracks were brought together for this unholy union, because HOW GORGEOUS are their harmonies? There is a completely terrifying video of Aznavour singing with a GHOSTLY AS ANYTHING hologram of "La Môme" that I've spared you, but you can still get a look at it via this link if you're feeling sinister. The song uses color metaphor after color metaphor to explain how sad and colorless the singer's life was before love came into it...can you sense a pattern here? The sentimental, heart-string pulling chanson is really where it's at for me.

Anyway! I have GOT to get back to work, but let's hear from you! Are you a fan of France or French music? Did any of these songs catch your interest the way they've caught mine? Have any allegiances to countries other than your own owing to a die-hard interest in the culture, the people, the place? Let's talk!

That's all for today, I'm going to go think about Aznavour's songs and fight back tears as I catch Shoot the Piano Player for the umpteenth time. Have a great Thursday! I'll see you tomorrow for Photo Friday! Til then.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

1920s Fashion from Good Housekeeping (1925)

Hello there!

How's tricks? I spent most of this morning listening to John Cale's Paris 1919 and wishing the wifi in this building had a corporeal form so I could have the satisfaction of throttling it-- pictures. from. phone. to. computer. What is so difficult about this transaction? It's what you were born to do, wifi!  At any rate, I finally did manage to upload the photos I'd taken with my secret iPhone spy camera of a tattered Good Housekeeping volume I borrowed from my coworker Amy's office cart yesterday, and aren't I glad? The slim lines and novelty prints of these almost ninety year old fashion suggestions, and the smooth bizarre melodies of the former Velvet Underground member are soothing my technology rage.

Wanna get a gander at frocks that were a hit before your mother (or maybe even grandmother!) was born? Let the show begin:

Good Housekeeping from 1925 is a mixed bag of interesting, first-half-of-the-last century articles for modern woman of the home. I enjoy flipping through Victrola ads ($50-$200...that was a lot of money then!), torridly romantic short fiction (this one's byline: "The Story of a Girl Who Left Home and Mother for a Man-- but Came Back in Time"), recipes ("Why Macaroni Belongs in Your Kitchen" caught my eye), and home decor suggestions (this one about textile panels is going to have me hunting for a new-old tapestry next flea trip)...but, as if you couldn't guess, my favorite articles are the fashion articles. Nestled in between the cooking suggestions and the very back the magazine's continuations-of-earlier-articles and byline ads, it's the real "meat" of the magazine for me.

An interesting thing to think about when looking through these fashion panels-- how narrow a scope of items, with how broad a variation of pattern and style, are represented in these sartorial suggestions!

Unlike today's modern fashion editor, the editor of 1925 doesn't have to worry about if capes go with culottes, or gladiator sandals versus six inch heels, or if parachute pants trump gauchos...there are the following categories of clothes and accessories in these pages:
  • Dresses
  • Skirts
  • Blouses
  • Scarves
  • Hats
  • Coats/Furs
  • Shoes
  • Jewelry
And that's it, buster! To me, the fascinating thing is how you would stand out as a woman particularly á la mode when the "mode" is very prescriptive. Today, you want to make a statement, go ahead and don your neon tribal print leggings, micro-mini, fun-fur vest, Kanye shades, and platform boots...eyes might be batted your way, but no one's going to haul you off "for a rest". And yes, while your mile long ostrich feather fascinator might have been "shocking" in the twenties', how do you miss offending and instead inspire envy in such a subtle fashion decade?

The answer? DETAILS, details, details. Fabrics, flounces, sashs, bows, hemlines, buttons, colors...all ULTRA important in these pieces. Which is why it's so boring to see women dressed up "like the Jazz age" in a stretch velour black tunic and a string of pearls. "But I wore a feather headband!" No way Mae Murray or La Swanson or other famous clotheshorses of the silent era would be caught dead in something so pedestrian. Bring on the dropped waist and the million buttons and the luxurious silk, sequined gowns. This pinterest board has an amazing collection of what some of the evening wear of the time could look like-- and not every one of them is some dearly expensive Patou designed art piece, some of them are just what a popular flapper with one good dress would wear to the Charleston competition (see: early Joan). I digress, however. I want that high necked, black velvet, flounces to the side dress above and center so bad I could actually die.

I read a quote the other day that maligned my dearly beloved Elsa Schiaparelli, but conversely very kind to Coco Chanel (who designed the cocoon coat in the center of the trio above)-- Balenciaga said of the two designers, "Coco had very little taste, but it was good. Schiap, on the other hand, had lots of it, but it was bad." Ouch! My idea is to have my cake and eat it too-- usually tasteful with wild flights of fancy incorporated with sedate materials. I love nothing more than wearing a black high-waisted pencil skirt with a wide belt, crazy 70s print polyester shirt, black bolero jacket with shoulderpads, and knee high black boots-- if you've ever seen me in person (or followed clothing posts on this blog), odds are you've seen this outfit! Four times out of five it's my work week uniform. I think that combination of good taste and bad keeps things whimsical without being silly. Lord, how I fear looking silly and would rather err on the side of caution. Which is kind of what you have going on here with the mid-twenties' clothes...notice no one is in yak-fur boots, but they still manage to look unique and dissimilar to one another while wearing similar clothes.

The fashion spreads, under the banner article "THE NATIONAL FASHION SERVICE" (how official sounding!), provide descriptions of the color and materials of these black and white illustrated ensembles, along with information about the label, sizes, and costs of the items. The caption to the above panel, for example, reads: 
Straight lines, boyish collars, and silk materials are one of the many fashion paradoxes. The femininity of Roshanara crêpe offsets the masculinity of line in the frock at the left, which is a combination of dark blue crêpe and roman striped stitching. The frock at the right shows the new slashed skirt and is as youthful in feeling as the rest of the present-day mode. It is made of black bengaline with a touch of red.
As I jot down the words "Roshanara crêpe" and "black bengaline" to add to my little list of words to better understand the meaning of later. 

The devil's in the details, as you can see in the lower panel...imagine being a 1920's reader in Kansas and seeing these New York City, up-to-the-minute fashions while daydreaming over a seamstress's sketch pad..."Ok, so let's see...wide peter pan collar on the one...ribbon high neck on the other..." and thinking up what your early fall wardrobe would look like and how jealous the other girls at the Friday night dance would be when they saw you Saturday morning downtown, chic to beat the band. "It's all the rage, you know" are words I wish I could come up with just once in organic conversation, without forcing it. Each issue includes a column about dressmaking, which offers advice and tutorials on how to drape the newest sleeve cut or what a particular stitch really looks like. And the seamstresses in Kansas rejoice!

Hats, as you could imagine, are of utmost importance. How it's worn, how it's trimmed, what it's made of, what shape...though me and my poor bucket headed self remain hatless except in the case of berets and wide brimmed things (which I wear with reasonable frequency), I can admire a cloche in just about every form it's presented here. Little bit of brim here...crazy feather there...and then scarves, ye gods, scarves...I have to learn how to wear one and look graceful as one of these twenties' ladies (as opposed to kooky as someone's grandmotherly art class teacher).


How about the leopard print trim on the pockets and collar of the suit at left. NOW. WE. ARE. TALKING.


Above, you see my favorite outfit out of the entire year. THIS, people, is what I wish I looked like when I left the house every day, society willing. I would trade the straight-up-and-down dress for an identically styled one with a full skirt and wasp waist, but other than that, oh, look, it's me in the illustration. I want to know how to wear a stole like this (and kind of like the little knock off-ish one I got at the flea that I keep obsessively mentioning) without looking like I just murdered Tod from The Fox and the Hound. Can it be done?! I intend to find out (or move to some country where this is more socially acceptable).

Last but not least, I wish this photo had come out less blurry because I am kee-razy about the last dress there. I think those are tasseled panels on either side of the dress, not to mention panne velvet, not to mention side bow...oh! My heart is too full. I was reading a fabulous book about early Hollywood the other day, The Shocking Miss Pilgrim by Frederica Sagor Maas, and while I was sick to death being jealous of her amazing life as a lady screenwriter in the pioneer days of the film industry, one tossed away anecdote wounded me the deepest. "Freddie" talks about having a dressmaker in town (I think her name was Antoinette?) to whom she would bring sketches and magazine clippings of famous gowns she'd liked copied from the East coast fashion houses, and by Godfrey, Antoinette would make them for her at a fraction of the cost! If I had access to a seamstress....I would probably have double zeros for a bank account, because every paycheck would have me running to her with a burlap sack of money in one hand and a magazine illustration of some 20's Lanvin robe de style in the other. If wishes were fishes!

Well, enough about me. How about you! Do any of these dresses catch your eye? How do you like 1920's styles? What's been inspiring you in the world of fashion or vintage goods lately? Let's talk!

That's all for today, but I'll be back here tomorrow (one day closer to the weekend). Have a great Wednesday! I'll see you then. :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Vintage Travel Souvenir Scarves (Cuba and Alaska, 1950's)

Good morning!

Just when I started to worry about swimsuit season (kale, kale, AND MORE KALE for you, Lisa), would you believe it's snowing in Nashville, today? Or it was when I left the house for work this morning. Blech! I thought we were through with this frosty weather! I realized I left something off my flea market list of scores yesterday, and isn't it a doozy to have missed-- not to mention, ties in with the cold weather we're having this morning.

Folks, ALASKA (in...scarf form!!):

Last weekend, there was a booth set up in the northeastern corner of Antiques Alley that I usually like. I've bought who knows how many things from the eighty year old woman who typically runs it, but she's been absent the last two or three times, and I hope she's all right and comes back (I need more panoramic photos and Victorian capes!). In her stead was a super friendly couple with cardboard signs all over that read "TWO FOR FIVE DOLLARS any item in the booth". Bargain-mad shopper that I am, I combed over the tables twice before I saw this scarf tucked under one of the display cases and trailing loose to the floor. Already overburdened with plastic sacks carrying the things I already showed you, I had to set my parcels down to free one delicate silk corner from under the wooden box, and when I did-- wow! I got a 1930's Ladies Home Companion magazine and this to add to my purchases, and was I ever pleased!

Isn't this even better than an enamel plate to take home to people, engendering the jealousy of those-who-didn't-go-on-vacation from those-who-did? Printed all along the textile in a horror vacui of travel pride, you can see images of things they have in Alaska, surrounding a political map of the state itself. Polar bears, crabs, moose, Inuit people, and a pretty floral border all along the edges.

How romantic does the "Land of the Midnight Sun" and our forty-ninth state look through the lens of this souvenir? As a perpetual twelve year old nerd in my heart, I love the idea of being able to point out to friends, if you bought this to remember your trip, "Wellllll, we started out in Holy Cross..." (tracing finger along the silk), "Took a sea plane out to St. Lawrence Island"...."Ran into a polar bear up at Skagway..." I have to admit most any of my knowledge about Alaska comes from stories my friend Kelsey has told me about visiting there with her parents in high school (her grandparents lived in Fairbanks in the fifties 'and they still have family up there), or the educational CD-ROM Yukon Trail. So if it's not about how to beat the dealer at Faro, I will admit, you might have me at a disadvantage over whatever you know about this gorgeous state. 

Totem pole, and a walrus at the top, a trio of seals at the bottom:

A dog sled team, and a friendly member of said team:

I just think this scarf is great! 

The funny thing about finding the Alaska souvenir is that it's the second one of its kind in my possession-- that means one more, and I've got a collection! :) This one is from "La Isla Encantanda", Cuba! I know even less about Cuba than I do about Alaska, but this scarf is a step in the right direction. And GORGEOUS:

I found this a few months ago at an estate sale in the back bedroom of a house in Green Hills. I can remember standing over, in that "Nope, totally looking at this print on the wall" side-eye stance I often take at estate sales, a girl who was examining the scarf, noticed the two holes, and abruptly put it back to move on to bigger fish. One of the only things that helps me in the race against resellers is their clientele's disinclination to buy items in less than mint condition. And who can blame them? If I had to pay thirty dollars for this scarf, and needed it shipped to Sacramento, it had better be in tip top shape! However, for two dollars, holes and all, I have no problem pulling the trigger on this exotic scarf. After all, it's traveled across the sea and probably fifty years since it was made, I guess a few condition issues are to be expected!

Look! At! The! Graphics! Though!

According to this (ALL CAPS!) information on the web:
Le sigh. Too bad! It looks beautiful in the illustration.

Remember when Pete Campbell was going to bring Jai Alai to America on Mad Men? Here you go, the sport in action:

Moro Castel "is a picturesque fortress guarding the entrance to Havana bay in Havana, Cuba", according to Wikipedia. More than the castle, I'm entranced by this girl's nattily dressed, 1920's companion than the 16th century historical site to the right. Also...take this for meta....what if the girl's head scarf...was a souvenir Cuba headscarf...?!?!?!?! The mind boggles.

The Gran Casino Nacional was closed by Castro 1960, but for its thirty year run before that, was apparently "the Monte Carlo of Latin America". Doesn't it look fancy in the illustration:

Now we're talking! Look at the rhumba here! I had (um, HAVE) the most debilitating crush on Desi Arnaz when watching I Love Lucy as a kid, and this reminds me of his traditional rhumba-ruffle shirt (I tried like heck to Google what one of those is called, but it kept trying to make sure I didn't mean ZUMBA shirt, and I gave up). Once again the colors and the drawing is just killer.

And last but not least, this poor, strangely distended couple. I think the artists must have gotten tired by the time they got to Varadero Beach, because...why are Nelson Eddy's and Miriam Hopkins's faces melting? WHAT IS HAPPENING (though this would make a good Universal Picture from the time...Horror in Havana!)

Anyway, I gotta get back to work (and then lunch! Will the lunch hour ever appear), but let me know what you think! Which scarf is more your speed? Do you have any of these in your collection? How do you WEAR one of these to its best advantage (so everyone can see all the cool details)? Have you ended up with an "accidental" collection like this? Let's talk!

That's all for today, but I will talk to you tomorrow with even more vintage rants and ramblings. Have a great Tuesday! Til then.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Weekend Finds: Flapper Coat and Various Goodies Edition

 Good morning!

Well, it was a flea market weekend, and you know what that means! I bought some STUFF this Saturday, folks. While it seemed like a lot to be carrying around the flea market, when I got it home, it seemed like only a few things! Same deal with grocery shopping, I always feel like I've secured enough pantry goods to feed an army, and get home with two or three bags actually containing the spoils of war.

Wanna see my favorite thing I got? That would beeee...this coat:

I was at the Antiques shed on Saturday morning looking through the one Andy Devine in overhauls guy's wares when the black fur of this coat peeked out from under some old rosaries and a couple of scarves. "Hang on, lemme go see what that is," I said to my dad (a frequent war cry on flea market weekends), and I carefully extricated the coat from its display. The fur is real and a glinting type of soft black pelt, but what really sold me was the high, opera collar and slim fitted shoulders of the thing. I feel like Gloria Swanson!

Below, an in-the-field photo of me trying the coat on. As is always the case, there is never a mirror around when you need one, so I had to throw the coat on and have Dad take a photo. This is the expression I make after this exchange has gone down at least twice: "Here, just press the button!" "The white button?" "The one in the center of the phone, at the bottom, just press it." "I don't know if it's taking the picture or not!" "Watch out, there's people walking behind you, you know--" "Oh, it took it, but your mouth was open, hold on, we can get a better--" ((death glare)) AND THAT'S when the photo is taken. Still, look how it looks like what I was already wearing to the flea market!

"How much do you want on this?" I ventured, already kind of in love. "How much would my wife ask for it, or how much would I be willing to sell it to you for?" Andy Devine countered. What wife?! I don't know if he was using this as a hypothetical bargaining tool or what, "My WIFE would want thirty five...I'll take twenty five. You see there's a little splitting on the collar, but it's in good shape other than that." "You wouldn't take twenty?" "I DARE not," quoth the bard. Something about that phrasing pleased me so much I wasn't even mad to give him his full price and carefully pack the coat into a thin grocery sack (which I then toted across the whole of the fairgrounds for the REST of the luck!).

When I got home, I admired the coat's lining, which looks like a sprinkling of constellations:

And the older-than-I-would-have-thought label. At first, I eyeballed the piece as definitely pre-1950, but when, exactly? Getting a look at that label and that collar, II revised my quote from the late thirties' to the late twenties' or maybe early 1930's. Imagine on a petite little flapperette, this would probably be an ankle-length garment! Taking to Google, I discovered McCreery and Company  began as a department store in New York City, opening its Pennsylvania location in downtown Pittsburgh in 1904. This store closed in 1938 (!!), making my second guess on the coat probably more accurate than the first. At any rate, how glamorous and romantic is the cut and collar! I hope we get a couple more days of frosty spring so I can wear this somewhere other-than-to-work.

In another barn, I found this Hopalong Cassidy napkin in a frame for $3. Isn't it interesting trying to conjecture where something like this came from? I thought maybe a fifties' parent had saved the pristine piece of party ephemera after a cowboy-loving child's Hoppy-themed birthday. The colors are so sharp, and the idea of a napkin making it sixty-some odd years without a scratch, was enough to make me snap it up.

Speaking of vibrant color, how about this over-the-TOP dinner linens set I found in the Swine barn? $10 for the table cloth and five matching napkins, but this may almost be too pretty to use. I've been collecting napkins and placemats (yup, just what I need, another collection) now that I have such a functional dining space in the kitchen, and when I came across these, well, I bought before I thought (but I regret nothing!):

While you're not getting the full effect of the print on my octagonal kitchen table, the tablecloth is a long rectangle bordered by roses and different scenic views of European countries:

Each napkin has four of these cities reproduced much smaller in each corner:

And then there's this mélange of European Union flags in the center. How many do you know off the top of your head? Most of the members of the United Nations are here!

This devil pin was in one of the sheds, and try as I might to find what I bet was a corresponding angel pin for the 1950's wearer's other shoulder (á la this set), I came up empty handed. Ah, well, maybe I'll come across one some time! I figure figural angel pins are probably far easier to come across than their, ahem, counterparts.

And last but not least, I was digging through a case of doll's clothes, marked 2/$5, when I came across THIS, and let out a shriek of delight rather than revulsion:

"What in the hello IS that?" you may be asking yourself (or me, which would also be fair in this context). It's a white fox fur for a doll! Among all the little print dresses and circle skirts for some fifties' Barbie, I found this swank little accessory. Crafted out of an unknown kind of real fur and with its own tail and snapping-clasp of a mouth, it's a twin to the horrible/fabulous black fur stole I found at Janurary's flea market, only in white and teeny tiny! And is it, or is it not exactly the right size and style for my 1920's handmade Virgin Islands doll:

Bien sûr que oui! And yes, I prefer that if I'm going to have one or two weird but antique dolls laying around, that they dress exactly as I do, haha.

Anyway! Enough about me! What did you find out in the world this weekend? Did you hit the flea market if you're a fellow Nashvillian? What's your favorite place locally to dig, dig, DIG for treasures or where do you have the most luck? Let's talk!

That's all for today, I gotta get back to the grind, but I will see you here tomorrow for more vintage tips and quips. Have a great Monday! Til then.


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