I have been watching The Paradise on PBS; I admit that I began watching it as a fix. I missed that other series about Mr. Selfridge. Imagine, all the way from Marshall Field to London. The spirit of the age (the Zeitgeist) is palpable in both series – the optimism in modern science, technology, and industrialization influenced style, fashion and taste. The world, they believed, was a better place for all of humanity. And in many ways, their world view was well-founded on the evidence around them – electricity, communication, transportation and medicine. Their style was a visual display of modern luxury – new luxuries like turning on a light past dark and reading! It was a revolution.
THE LUXURY OF VINTAGE FASHION
Today, the marketplace is brimming with readily available and fashionable clothing; yet all too often, fine craftsmanship has disappeared – at an affordable price. Part of the appeal of vintage fashion is that we can enjoy beautiful materials and workmanship without breaking our budget. And, there is also social responsibility – vintage goods of all kinds are integral to a sustainable economic system. Whew! Having said all of that, vintage clothing is a part of history.
I enjoy the theater of dress – and the theater created by Mr. Selfridge and the ficitonal, Mr. Moray. I marvel at the clothing Ginger Rodgers wore as she danced away the night, Katherine Hepburn in pants that flowed like a skirt and followed every curve. And so on . . . like Ingrid Bergman, who looked beautiful no matter what she wore – and still looks beautiful behind a mink stole on a mannequin in a small, very small vintage store. Hmmm, that brings up fur and the bad wrap it has in today’s world (no pun intended) . . . The allure of the forties was elegance. Growing up, there were women who attended church with a fur coat – my great aunt was one of them. It was Chicago. In Chicago, winter is cold – no matter what the temperature, the wind off the lake is cold. . . the antidote before the new man made ultra loft fillings was fur. Fur is warm . . . Last winter, I wore a vintage fur jacket and now, I do not think that I could give it up. I hate being cold when I am outside – and I like being out of doors.
When I run across beautiful things that are appealing and bring to mind an era of fashion then I can imagine that they would add personality, color and even usefulness in the present to a wardrobe. So it is with the sequined dress made in Italy with fine wool and hand sewn sequins that are 1/2 in diameter. I am not so good with a camera – capturing the play of light is difficult and so too, it is impossible to portray the fit. This dress is short enough and tight enough but not form fitting. . . . actually it is perfect!
I am also quite taken with the pure all out eighties look of the long dress that takes off from the psychedelia of the seventies. . . .look at the gold coins! Not the kind of dress to wear if you do not want to be noticed. . . . The colors are disco happy. Hard to imagine having a bad time wearing this dress. The detail in this dress is absolutely excellent – lined, the coins are hand applied as is the gold trim. I imagine that shimmery sandals would work well and still allow perfect comfort . . . my daughter, who knows so much more about fashion than I, suggested the fur stole. And of course, she is right – partly because, this dress seems to require an extraordinary occasion and a puffy coat, well, it would be out of sync . . . but a stole, like a mink stole would make it theater . . .
Lots and lots of new things in store that I hope to get online – lots of slip dresses, and new vintage imported from Austin, reminiscent of my hippie past.
More to read on culture, fashion and history. . . Here is a start.
See Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project – an exploration of the “covered” shopping areas new to Paris in the mid-nineteenth century. An overview at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcades_Project
Also, Daniel Roche, The Culture of Clothing. Overview at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Roche_(historian)