Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ruth Donnelly and the Fantastic Dress.

Ruth, serving early 1920s realness.

Admittedly, you most likely do not know who Ruth Donnelly is, but chances are your great-grandmother would! 
She was a rather fantastic lady, to be frank.
She was an actress of the stage, and later of film. The beak of her career was certainly in the 1930s and 1940s--and that is where this fantastic little piece of history comes into play. 
The dress.

This particular dress was worn in the Paramount motion picture "Cross My Heart", a film from 1946 also starring fellow talented beauty, Betty Hutton. (Unfortunately the movie is credited as "Cross YOUR Heart" on this particular clothing website, but I have correctly identified this movie).

The dress itself is a lovely green crepe, and in excellent condition--visibly showing little to no wear.

What I absolutely love about this site is (albeit sometimes getting names of the movies wrong), each item comes with documented proof of where it has come from. It's a remarkable verification, especially if you are spending substantial money on an item worn by a bygone start such as this lovely lady.

Part of the proof is the identification tag on the inside of the dress. This is a dead giveaway that the dress is not a reproduction, as back in the day Paramount had special tags sewn into every costume worn on set. The names of these actors and actresses were always printed on the inside with ink.

I've watched "Cross My Heart" and it is absolutely hilarious! In the film, Ms. Donnelly plays Betty Hutton's character's mother--a role which Ms. Donnelly unfortunately repeated in many films in the 1940s. Yet, the dress is a size 6...what mother do YOU know wears a size 6?! Impressive.

Unfortunately, the movie has not been restored in technicolor, so it retains it's original black-and-white cinematography. You can actually see the dress being worn by Ms. Donnelly in this excerpt from "Cross My Heart" this I found on Youtube! It appears to be worn with two dress clips on either side of the breast where the fabric is pinched. These clips have been removed, and are not to be bought with the dress--but it certainly doesn't take anything away.

Cheers to Ruth Donnelly, and this amazing dress! 

A Look at the 1920s Wedding Dress

Dainty lace and a sweetheart neckline in 1929.
 It is now time to take a look at one of the decades of which I am most fond--the 1920s--and of a particular piece of this history that is growing in demand these days--the 1920s wedding dress. 

You can see the actual listing here.
Finding an authentic 1920s wedding dress that has not been tampered with or altered is as difficult as capturing the illusive Chupacabra.

These dresses are quite rare because the 1920s served as such a time of folly and decadence, that the following decade (the 1930s Depression Era) was a time of conservation and repurposing. Old dresses were torn up and used for pillows, blankets, and dish cloths--but the dresses that survived intact are truly a marvel to see!

Certainly, these items are now in high-demand. The gilded, whirlwind of an age, and the time F. Scott Fitzgerald once called "an intoxicating study of lunacy" is something that makes all of us 21st century children stand in awe and relative confusion.

The lost film Wedding Bills (1927). 
Fashion in the 1920s was fleeting, modern, and thoroughly comfortable. This was an era when the modern woman was breaking into her own, and the corsets were coming OFF, GIRLFRIEND. The sleek silhouettes promoted androgyny, thin, slick figures, and flattened breasts--a new spin on sex appeal. 

Fabulous, 1927.
Flapper styles heavily influenced the decade-long period in fashion. Skirts, whether above the knee or well-below it, fell away from the body in light fabrics. Particularly for the wedding attire, dresses were made of silks, satins, laces, and very airy gauzes.

Dresses were typically worn with a "French cap", with or without a veil, or decorative crystal brooches to reflect the Art Deco influence of the day. 

The boyish influence of the entirely straight shirt-dress created a casual elegance that was rather known to the world of wedding fashion--a novelty that was pioneered most tirelessly by our lady, Coco Chanel

The fad took the 1920s by storm. 

In order to correctly date a wedding piece from the 1920s, you must take a concentrated look at a few different factors. 

First, is fabric. Fabrics in the 1920s, particularly wedding fashions, were quite consistent. Weddings were usually held in the spring or summer, purposefully, to blend with the above-ankle trend of the times--and so the fabrics used were particularly light-weight and easy to wear. Popular fabrics included thin silks, satins, laces and even slinky rayons.
Some pannier action from the mid-1920s.

Second, is the style of the particular dress. Dresses from the earlier 1920s would reflect more of an Edwardian era--using more and thicker choices in fabric. Dresses from the middle of the 1920s would have the highest hems, as this was the time when the Flapper styles were most popular. Hemlines would be seem to fall again to the ankles around the latter 1920s, as a more conservative outlook would once again influence the fashions of the 1930s.  

And thirdly, is the label--if there is one. Most dresses that are found from this era, particularly wedding dresses, curiously enough will have no label. Most wedding dresses of this time were made by a particularly appointed seamstress, and were not bought in a store. If there is a label on the inside of a dress, I would research it. The only labels inside of these dresses I have ever come across are always extremely rare and most certainly French--as French designers were always very stringent about labeling their works of art.

Vive le mariage!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Guest Article:

A month or so ago, I had asked my friend Arwen (a fellow enthusiast of all things old) to write a guest article on her favorite retro, vintage, or antique find. 

Alice Blue Gown 
Arwen Miller
February 20, 2013

In October of 2001, while living in Colorado, I was frantically trying to come up with a costume idea for a friend’s Halloween party. We were both costumers in theatre, and she was having a contest, so whatever I decided on, it had to be good. However, I was poor, and therefore hoping to incorporate some of the costume pieces I already owned. 

The problem was, how could I do this without repeating a costume from a previous year (being a costumer, I considered this cheating)? I already owned sparkly red horns, a trident, and a red feather boa, so I was hoping to do something with a devil theme…without going “sexy devil”, of course. “Sexy” Halloween costumes were for people who lacked creativity. And yet, if I was a costumer, and I was supposed to be so creative, where were the ideas? …the cheap ideas, that is.

I was wandering around the Pearl Street area of Boulder when I passed a Buffalo Exchange, a hit-or-miss consignment store whose typical stock consisted of late-90s clothing and shoes that were the sartorial equivalent of a Third Eye Blind or Matchbox 20 CD; i.e., nothing I wanted anything to do with. There, in the window, was my inspiration: a fluffy confection of a dress with a full tea-length skirt and ruched cummerbund of sky-blue chiffon, and a bodice covered in velvety sky-blue millinery flowers. It was in pristine condition and appeared to be a prom dress or debutante presentation dress from the 1950s. 

Three thoughts hit me at once: 
1) What is such a gorgeous piece doing in a Buffalo Exchange? 
2) They’ve gotta be charging at least $45 for that dress; there’s no way I’ll be able to afford it. 
3) It doesn’t matter what that dress costs; I’m going to own it, and I’m going as Devil In A Blue Dress for Halloween.

I went into Buffalo Exchange and looked at the tag on the dress; it said $15.00. 
$15.00?!? No way! 
Apparently the people who ran Buffalo Exchange had no idea what they had on their hands. I went up to the counter and asked the girl to take the dress off the mannequin and hold it for me until the next day (which was payday—yeah, I was that poor).

“We’ve had a lot of people looking at that dress,” she said. “I don’t want to hold it unless you’re serious about buying it.”

“I promise I’ll be back,” I said, “I don’t have the money right now, but I get paid tomorrow, and I need to have this dress.”

The next day I was back, $15.00 in hand, and told the employee at the counter about the dress I’d put on hold the day before.

“It’s a good thing you’re actually buying this,” she snapped. “I’ve had a ton of people come in to ask about that dress today.”

“I didn’t have the money yesterday; I had to come back,” I replied, and got my dress and got the hell out of there before she had the chance to give me any more attitude.

Other than a few yellowish spots hidden among the billowing folds of the skirt, the dress was in great condition, especially considering how old it was. The skirt took 15 whole minutes to iron. I wished I could wear it on a regular basis, but there weren’t many opportunities to pretend to be a debutante in Boulder. 

I carried my red trident, wore the dress to my friend’s Halloween party with a red bob wig, the sparkly red devil horns, a red feather boa, red 1950’s gloves (an earlier vintage find), and red velvet flip-flops to which I’d sewn red marabou feathers, and won first place in the costume contest—a mini bottle of Kahlua. 

Not too shabby for $15.00.

The Wonderful World of Etsy: A Tale of Three Stores.

I was introduced to Etsy in 2009, when I still had yet to figure out that I could make a decent little piece from what I was really good at--creating and collecting. 
I was still relatively new to the idea that you could get online and access stores from all around the world that sell items you've been looking for your entire life! (Well, perhaps not your ENTIRE LIFE, but at least for quite a long time.) Welcome to the beauty of the internet! 

I have been a lifelong Etsy enthusiast since, and I'm writing today to share a little bit about my top three favorite retro, vintage, and antique stores (in no particular order) that anyone in the world with a computer and internet access can reach! 

Nashville, TN, United States

This is a great store with a great story! According to the store's About Me section, this Etsy store was opened as a way to generate income to save nineteen rescued rabbits! For a little more about the store and a closer look at some of the items, you can see here.

What I enjoy particularly about this store, is that there is absolutely nothing frilly and lacy about it. If you're looking for a nice leather piece of yore, or something a little on the John Wayne side, this is the right place to look! 

There is generally a wide selection for men, but if you're a lady looking for something edgy to add to your wardrobe, you're definitely going to want to check this out.

The theme of this particular venue is very Old Hollywood meets the Wild West with aged neutral pieces, and a penchant for the rustic rather than the glamorous. 

The boots alone just make you want to gag, I've never seen such an extensive and precise collection of retro and vintage boots--in several styles and leathers!

These guys do a lot of good work. They also have another Etsy store up to help the bunnies, called Wild Rabbit Vintage. If you are a lady with a flavor for frillier pieces, Wild Rabbit Vintage might be more your style.  

Regardless, these guys are great. Check them out! 

Seattle, WA, United States

Ladies, ladies, ladies...this is more our speed. 

The word "mitu" (mee-too) means "sweet" in the Native American language of Gujarati. It's the perfect word to describe the docile, understated, feminine quality of this store. 

This carefully curated, unique collection of wearable items is the labor of love of owner Katie, who shares with us her taste for the pretty and the perpetually stylish. 

This store is for a Grace Kelly personality with an Audrey Hepburn sense of simplistic, realistic, and authentic taste. 

Her selections of accessories, dresses, tops, skirts and more completely translates to today, with vintage items from yesteryear adding a little zest to the modern outfit. 

Not to mention, the selection on this site is completely affordable to the girl on a budget. A vintage Oscar de la Renta for $62?! Are these people entirely coherent?! 

Even the sale selection is out of this world!

Also, if you're the proud mother or papa of a mini-fashionista--there's a wee little selection for kids! Cute kelly green socks, mini corduroy pants, and a pink jumpsuit are some of the things you can expect to see for the babes. 

Connecticut, USA

For my third and final pick we are going to try something a little different!

If we so choose to step away from the clothing, we may take a moment to focus on something that perhaps may look as though it hasn't changed a single day since the moment of its creation--that is, that fabulous and seemingly endless world of retro, vintage, and antique jewelry. 

Mag Wildwood (you might recognize that infamous name from Breakfast At Tiffany's) is the epitome of technicolor madness with old-world decadence, and the perfect theme of this darling store. 

If you loved digging through your grandmother's jewelry box as a child, this could be your dream come true. The colors and details in these items are so rich and powerful that your purchase might make you feel like you're suddenly transported to another time and era. 

Feast your eyes on carefully dated, lovingly handled items ranging in era-brilliance from the Georgian period to the age of Art Deco. 


Monday, February 18, 2013

Hurro! Allow myself to introduce...myself...

Hello, You Fancy People, 

My name is Ashlee, and I am your almighty Admin! Fear not. I have created this blog on the whim of an idea that I have had for many, many moons. 

Basically, I love old shit. I love ALL old shit. I want to share my love with all of you! 

This is going to be a very informal, yet entertaining, glance at things in my everyday life that stimulate me (and many others). I'm looking forward to sharing my whims, favorite articles, quirks, stories, things like this, and even items from my own collection--with all of you! 

How about a little about me? 

This is my handiwork!
I was born in Ft. Myers, Florida, and moved to a small town in the Bayou Country of Louisiana when I was a wee child. My entire family lives here, and even though I've been all over the world, there is absolutely no place like home. I have muddy water running through my veins, the temperament of a true Cajun woman, and lots of entertaining ideas that keep me up at night. 

    I currently live in Lafayette, Louisiana, where I pursue my day jobs (an event coordinator at a historical village, an assistant at a public relations firm, and THIS. If you spend as much time on social networks as I do, then you may prefer to check my stuff out here.) 

This is my life-partner, Richard.
     Yes, I have one Etsy store up and running--dedicated to my jewelry designs--but as this blog progresses I will soon be adding another store to my repertoire  This store will be aptly named Wee Frolic, so BE ON THE LOOK OUT!  It will feature items for sale from my own antique, vintage, and retro collections. 

For the time being, however, I am enjoying the humble, intriguing, and often odd life of a twenty-something. There's always something to do when you're starting out--even when you have very little money to do it.

It's a crazy world out there, y'all. I'm super excited to be a part of it. 
We live yonder.

I'm also super excited about where this blog is going to take me, you, US, and everyone else. 

And if you like what you see, and want to be friends with me (NO CREEPERS PLEASE), you can friend me like so