No Accounting For Taste

Getting married, vintage style (part II)

vintage clothesJessica Lundby2 Comments

As promised, some clothing details from our recent wedding. I did two costume changes during the party, which could maybe have been dumb/crazy/excessive, but I was glad I did it. I actually changed back into my favorite dress at the end of the night because I was drunk and it was my favorite so there. 

Speaking of favorites, my friend Missy is a genius with hair, especially vintage styles. She styled me and my bridesmaids and I'm pretty sure we all looked fabulous. I also go to her for all my regular cuts and colors. 

I made my own veil, bandeau style, out of a piece of french netting, a blue velvet millinery leaf, and some brass hair pieces I found on Etsy. I will eventually list all the netting I have, along with my dresses that did and did not work out, in the bridal section of my shop. 

Dresses that did not work out. Yes. This happened, several times. For some reason, while I was engaged, I was obsessed with wedding shows on Netflix, particularly a TLC confection where women go to a high-end bridal salon to shop for wedding dresses. Maybe I was obsessed with this show because it was so far out of my experience, and I remember cackling maniacally whenever one of the consultants or fashion-type people would say something like "NEVER buy a wedding gown online." I grew oddly fond of these people, so what I'm about to say I say with all sincere friendly fondness: bitch, please. I bought a total of six dresses for the wedding, three that worked out and three that didn't, and one of the yes dresses I bought online. I think it helps that I'm a veteran vintage online shopper, so I kind of know how to interpret listings and what styles will look good on me. Two of the dresses I bought in real life ended up being no dresses, but only because I put on too much weight in the months before the wedding. One was this one:

I love this dress. It sort of fit me when I bought it at the Long Beach Flea Market oh, three weeks after getting engaged? But then over the course of the next year I proceeded to gain eight pounds, slowly, as one does, so that by the time I admitted it wasn't going to fit I had to buy a new dress. 

Sidenote: if you're curious why I didn't just wear one dress, there are three main points to consider. One, most of the dresses I bought were in the $40-$100 range. It's not like I was selling kidneys to bankroll my gown obsession. Two, there were three distinct phases to the wedding: the pre-ceremony cocktail hour, the ceremony and food time, and the dancing phase. I knew that my ceremony dress was very special, and I really wanted to wow people when I came down the stairs, and I didn't want my groom to see that dress during our opening cocktail hour. I also couldn't dance in it, since we were doing a swing dance that necessitated a short swingy skirt. Third, why not seize the opportunity to continue looking at dresses after you've already purchased a dress? I have no regrets. 

These 1930s navy blue crepe dancing shoes came from The Greatest Brick & Mortar Vintage Store in LA: Playclothes. They have silver heels and silver faux laces on the toe. 

I never really considered myself a ball gown girl. They're cumbersome and expected. But I bought this dress on Etsy from one of my favorite sellers, Beckiy of Trunk of Dresses, and I loved it. I don't think it was actually intended to be a ball gown, but the woman for whom this dress was originally made was at least three inches taller than me. The dress was a little too tall in the torso and in the skirt, and because it was too late to get it altered - originally I wanted to wear a 1930s silk gown for cocktail hour, but the aforementioned weight gain made that impractical, and I had to find something else at the last minute. So I bought a giant crinoline petticoat thing and made it work. 

1950s floral satin halter gown, by Mercia

1950s floral satin halter gown, by Mercia

I wasn't able to find out a great deal about the label, Mercia, other than it was a high end bridal salon in London. This dress is the same fabric, different style:

1951, John Chaloner Woods

1951, John Chaloner Woods

So I doubt my gown was even meant to be a ball gown, but at 5'4", it couldn't be helped. 

And OH RIGHT my groom was the most dapper. There's a funny quirk about my husband. He only wears blue and brown. Typically this manifests into blue on top and brown on the bottom, though sometimes the brown can be worn on top as well. White is acceptable as an accent. He is also tall, and wanted to wear a tailcoat (blue, natch) and generally be as close to 1930s as possible. 

Vintage Dior shirt, reproduction vest.

My dad's shoes.

My father in law was so well dressed that people asked me if he was hired as a period character.

My father in law was so well dressed that people asked me if he was hired as a period character.

We found the navy blue tailcoat and the pants on eBay. The tailcoat was 80s, but it was blue so we didn't care. I replaced the cheap plastic buttons with vintage brass ones, and because he got a little overzealous with his chest workouts, I sewed a brass chain on the front to make the open jacked look intentional. The pants are vintage 1930s but were gray, so I soaked them in cold coffee for hours until they became brown enough for him to wear. 

They're all waiting for me to come down the stairs in dress #2 for the ceremony. Bryan bought his groomsman vintage flasks and kept one for himself.

1930s silk charmeuse bias cut gown in ivory, violet and black floral print. From Nakia's Vintashee. 

Me with our amazing photographer, Suzy Fahmy.

My dancing dress was a 1960s lace tea length with a giant skirt that worked perfectly with our swing outs and passes. I originally purchased it at Paper Moon on Hollywood, a really wonderful shop with great stuff at great prices. A lot of early 20th century pieces, plus all decades through the 1960s. I became obsessed with having a vintage paper moon photo booth, a service they offer to weddings and parties (and hell, just your backyard on a Tuesday afternoon if you can afford it), but ultimately I couldn't afford it. Still a fun and fashionable party. I will be listing this dress eventually as well so someone else can experience this kind of joy. Dancing shoes are from Remix

And that's it! It was by far the most magical, fashionable and thrilling evening of my life. And, because all good things must come to and end, I'm happy it's over and grateful it was so perfect.

This is a Lilli Ann

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A few times a year, there are vintage clothing shows in Los Angeles, where vendors from the city and surrounding regions (sometimes as far as Washington or Texas) sell clothing and accessories, generally spanning the entire 20th century. Even though I was financially challenged in the last year because I was saving for the wedding, I still went to a few of these. The trouble with this is that I inevitably found something fabulous that I couldn't afford: for example, an insanely amazing Lilli Ann suit. I had to make the grown up choice to save the money for the wedding and not buy it, even though it fit me perfectly. I think it was this one:

Vogue, September 1956

Vogue, September 1956

Trust, I felt in this suit exactly like she does. Blissful, adored, graceful, ready to receive flowers and experience romance. I don't have a picture of me wearing this suit because I didn't want to want it even more, but I did become overly preoccupied with the idea of finding another one that fit me as well and was either less expensive or found after the wedding had been paid for. It's funny, because when I first got into vintage clothes, I didn't really care about designers or labels. But after a couple years of research and figuring out what I really like, I started to get more obsessed with having a few pieces from some recognizable names like Ceil Chapman, Claire McCardell, Don Loper and, of course, Lilli Ann. I think part of this has to do with my fondness for finding treasures, the thrill of the hunt and all that. It has to do with wanting quality pieces. But as a designer (of pixels, not clothes) it also has to do with recognizing talent and giving due credit. So when I wrote a really whiny post a while back about buying what I considered to be a knockoff suit, I was mostly focused on 1) being upset that work had been copied for profit, and 2) manifesting my guilt over treating myself to a beautiful suit while I was supposed to be saving for the wedding.

Now that the wedding is over and everyone got paid and I don't have to feel so guilty anymore, I realize that I missed an opportunity to appreciate both the shops and the garment itself. Regardless of who made it, that piece is still stunning and worth every penny. It's well made and I look fabulous in it, and I'm glad I got it. I had basically come to this conclusion quietly on my own (in fact, I went back to the store a few weeks later to buy an incredible Kahala two piece playsuit). But when I ran into the perpetually elegant couple that owns Joyride and Elsewhere Vintage at the expo yesterday, it finally dawned on me that I had publicly been a total jerk about it. Well, I'm not a jerk (at least I hope not), and I didn't make this clear enough before: these people know their stuff, offer incredible quality at very reasonable prices, and visiting their shops is fun enough that I happily made the 1+ hour drive more than once in a month. Also, what other shop in Southern California offers exclusively high quality vintage menswear and excellent customer service? There might be one, but I haven't been to it.  I don't know if I was just being a stressed out bride, or I assumed no one would read it (actually that's true), but when I bought another suit from them yesterday, I realized how dumb I'd been and that I had to make amends somehow. So this is me trying to do that. Oh, and here's the new suit - no misguided buyer's remorse this time:

Lilli Ann asymmetric brown wool fleck suit, circa 1958

Right? Perfectly tailored, incredible condition, everything you want to see in a Lilli Ann. Details, details:

Originally, this little tail probably had a fox trim on the end, like this:

From Harper's Bazaar, 1958

From Harper's Bazaar, 1958

but the fact that mine doesn't works out great for me, since I can't bring myself to buy or wear fur anyway. 

 

So. Turns out I got the lesson wrong before. While I didn't end up being able to afford some of the things I'd wanted for the wedding, like the 1920's themed photo booth and rented vintage lounge furniture, the party was full of joy and beauty and missing these things ultimately didn't matter. At the end of the day, I have two fabulous suits and an interesting piece of fashion history, and the memories of basically the best wedding ever. 

Getting married, vintage style

Jessica LundbyComment

A few weeks ago, I married my husband. I mean, he wasn't my husband before, but he is now. I now want a career in wedding and event planning and styling, like 83% of other brides with a modicum of taste and organizational skills. But I can specialize in vintage style weddings maybe? Anyway, when we first started planning, we knew that we wanted the whole thing to feel like a swanky 1930s cocktail party, with live jazz, liquor, decadent food and yes, resplendent 1930s fashion. I think we pretty much nailed it. 

The foyer of the house is where most of the action took place.

The venue we chose is The Maxwell House (aka Western Justice Center) in Pasadena. After looking at a few historic venues in Los Angeles, we quickly realized we couldn't afford any of them. Our budget for a venue was $3000 at most and we needed to bring in our own catering, and this eliminated places like Castle Green, The Langham Huntington, The Oviatt Penthouse, The Cicada Club, et cetera. The Maxwell House fit all our requirements: small but able to accommodate 120 guests, outside catering okay, tables and chairs provided, historic venue, within budget, and so beautiful that we didn't really need to do much in the way of decorations.

The house was built by George and Carrie Maxwell in 1929, a wealthy Boston couple who used the Mediterranean-style vacation home as a winter respite and entertaining space. Today, it serves as the offices for the Western Justice Center as well as an entertaining space - they maintain offices upstairs and rent out the restored first floor for weddings and parties. They were extremely easy to work with, and it was the perfect venue for us. 

The band that played: The Icy Hot Club. If you can check these guys out live and you're at all interested in gypsy jazz, do it. They were fantastic. We also went to go see them at Dapper Day two weeks before the wedding so we could actually get some dancing in. Worth it. So good. 

Speaking of dancing, it was really important to us (okay, me) to do a rad first dance. It didn't end up being our first dance, because we took some time before and during the wedding to practice. But it ended up being the best dance, and the best we'd ever done it. In fact, we'd never been able to make it successfully through the song without stopping until we did it for real. To learn what the hell we were doing, we took two months of private lessons from Dax Hock of the Lindy Loft. Not only are Dax and his wife Sarah incredible dancers, but incredible teachers as well. The group classes are fun, and the social dancing is fun, but what we really valued a ton were the one hour lessons we took each week, not only because we learned to dance (which we did) and we had fun (again, check) but because it was scheduled together time where we had to communicate, solve problems, and build skills together. Another thing that was so worth it and so good. 

wedding-table.jpg

I spent basically the whole year of our engagement collecting pieces of metal and glass for the tables. A lot of brass and glass, plus some special copper pieces, for florals and candles to line these tables and to serve as centerpieces for the large round tables in the indoor dining area. The flowers we bought at the downtown LA flower market - we did 26 table arrangements, plus the bar and buffet area, for about $340. Each table also had a few vintage Pasadena postcards for guests to leave us notes, and many did. 

I collected vintage postcards of the area to serve as a sort of guestbook, and designed a custom stamp for these little tent cards. 

Next time, the fashion.

The juniors department

vintage clothesJessica LundbyComment

Yes, this is another post about a suit. I just really love suits, okay?

Most of the time, if I see a juniors label in a piece of vintage clothing, I can pretty much be guaranteed that it's not going to fit my bust without even trying it on. Let's face it: I'm shapely.

Navy blue 1950s suit by Botany, Lord & Taylor Young New Yorker Shop Fifth Avenue, Melrose flea market • Necklace by Coro, etsy • Red slingback heels, FabGabs Portland • Oversized cateye sunglasses, TOMS

Navy blue 1950s suit by Botany, Lord & Taylor Young New Yorker Shop Fifth Avenue, Melrose flea market • Necklace by Coro, etsy • Red slingback heels, FabGabs Portland • Oversized cateye sunglasses, TOMS

I'm also short. So I am very glad that, when I found this suit for $20 at the Melrose flea market a couple years ago, I didn't bother looking at the label on the inside of the jacket. 

Because, damn. This thing fits extremely well.

OOTD: More big pants

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I guess it was sort of reproduction day around here. When I first started buying vintage clothes, a major motivation I had for doing it was that I don't like creating waste, and also I value history so much that preserving items from the past is tremendously important to me. So it was critical that every piece I buy be true vintage, no exceptions. And I still feel largely that way, but as I began to develop my style, I realized that a big part of 1930s and 1940s fashion was pants. Big ones. And the more I looked in my regular sources - online, local vintage shops and shows - the more I realized that authentic vintage wide leg pants from the 30s and 40s are incredibly rare. In all the time I've been doing this, I've maybe come across just one or two pairs of wide leg, high waisted gabardine or jersey pants in my size. One you've seen here, and the other was out of my price range. I think it's probably because they were such a wardrobe staple for working women, and because depression and war forced people to make do and mend, that by the time the 50s rolled around no one wanted to hang on to them anymore, used and mended and worn. 

So, in this narrow situation, I admit to buying reproduction pants. 

1940s style swing trousers, Vivien of Holloway • vintage pink linen blouse, etsy • 1930s style rose gold heels, Remix

1940s style swing trousers, Vivien of Holloway • vintage pink linen blouse, etsy • 1930s style rose gold heels, Remix

I have tried three sources so far for 40s style pants: seller Allure Original Styles on etsy (who doesn't appear to be taking any custom orders at this time), seller Time Machine Vintage on etsy, and Vivien of Holloway, a UK-based repro company. I bought the Allure pants second-hand so they weren't custom made, and they were a little too big in the waist and tight in the hip - if you look at her samples for sale they're extremely slim-hipped for the waist measurement. I haven't gotten my Time Machine linen pants yet, but I can't say enough good things about the two pair I have from Vivien of Holloway. They're not made to order, but there is a solid 12-inch difference between the waist and hip measurement, which works out great for me. I'm short, so I always have to get them hemmed one cuff's worth, but the price is fantastic for the quality–I think they usually come out to around $80 and the construction and fabric are beautiful. They do sell out quickly of reasonable sizes, so if you see something you like, snag it before it goes out of stock. 

As if this reproduction transgression wasn't bad enough, I'm also wearing some fabulous 1930s style reproduction heels in a rose gold by Remix, a fun but pricey shop on Beverly Boulevard. I love this store, and I love their shoes. I do have several pairs of vintage heels and they're great, but they just aren't that comfortable for all-day wear or dancing. But these–these are perfect for that.

left to right, 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s heels by Remix

left to right, 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s heels by Remix

The top though. The top is vintage. 

Estate find: Edmund Kara for Athena (?)

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Y'all. At the very same estate sale at which I found my colossal pants, I also found this amazing 1950s cocktail dress. 

I was afraid to steam this out any more in case it would damage the silk, but you can still get an idea of how incredible this is. The ruching, the construction, the design–it's really beautiful. All this ruching!

At first, I couldn't find a label in it. But then today as I was photographing it for etsy (It's way too small for me or I might keep it) I found this label:

Yes, this lining is crepe. Fabulous. 

Yes, this lining is crepe. Fabulous. 

When I saw this I thought, Aiheua? What the hell is that? But the columns tipped me off that it might be Athena, with the Greek thing and all. And then I hit a series of dead ends trying to research it, I guess because Athena is a kind of common word and also because it wasn't a very large shop. Eventually I found an address, next to two couturiers on Robertson Boulevard.

athena-beverly-hills.png

I didn't find a lot of other garments online with this Athena label, but this one is stunning:

And then I found this:

Seems pretty consistent, right? Except for the address being on a different part of Robertson. Maybe they moved; who knows. What's really interesting about this image is the source. A designer, artist and sculptor named Edmund Kara was working in New York in the late 1940s-early 1950s, as a designer for Lena Horne. After traveling around the world for a couple years, he moved to LA and began working as a freelance fashion designer around 1955.

One of the shops that used to make clothes for Lena was run by a woman named Athena, and she had a partner who was a rather well-known actress named Odette Myrtil. They owned a custom-made clothing shop on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, and I became a designer for them. Athena was going into wholesale suit manufacturing, and I was a [ghost] designer for her company.
— Edmund Kara, interview by David Jay Brown, March 29, 1996

Robertson, Wilshire, what's the difference? So that might explain the lack of another label - Kara worked without a credit for Athena (and another label 'Jewel') and took a lot of other freelance design work before moving to Big Sur in 1962. He also did dresses, like this late 1950's example:

So yeah, turns out he can do draping pretty well too. I don't really know if my dress was designed by Edmund Kara, but it's still a stunning piece of history. Look for it in my etsy shop soon. 

This is not a Lilli Ann

vintage clothesJessica Lundby2 Comments

This weekend, I took a road trip to Orange to attempt to find my groom some clothes for our impending nuptials. While I have more dresses than I need, we've had some difficulty finding him a complete outfit. So I heard about Joyride and decided to see if could find some pants.

Joyride men's vintage store, located at 133 W Chapman Ave, Orange.

Joyride men's vintage store, located at 133 W Chapman Ave, Orange.

Well, we did find some pants, which was a relief. Unfortunately, I also found this incredible suit at the women's vintage store, Elsewhere Vintage, a couple doors down. I say unfortunately because, duh, I'm trying to save money for the wedding and not buy more suits. 

Hat, Playclothes Vintage in Burbank, California • suit, Elsewhere Vintage in Orange • shoes, Remix

Hat, Playclothes Vintage in Burbank, California • suit, Elsewhere Vintage in Orange • shoes, Remix

When I first saw this suit at the vintage fashion expo downtown this spring, I immediately assumed it was a Lilli Ann. The tiny accented waist, the peplum, the incredible detailing on the pockets and neckline - everything pointed to Lilli Ann's signature style. And the seller was similarly surprised - the label read "Lilli Ann style." It fit so well that I bought it despite my better judgment, and when I got it home I began to research the label, Jovon Fashions.

At first, I couldn't find much - a couple other suits on etsy that had long since sold, but also looked like Lilli Anns. But then I found a newspaper article dated October 11, 1956 which reported a $4 million lawsuit by Lilli Ann against Jovon Fashions for spying and ripping off their designs. 

Lilli Ann Corp. of California charged in the action that Jovon Fashions, Inc. of New York had used unfair trade practices by inducing Lilli Ann employees to deliver sketches of models and extracting details of Lilli Ann models from buyers pledged to secrecy. The suit charged that Jovon also represented its models as copies of Lilli Ann coats and suits.
— Corona Daily Independent, October 11, 1956

Gross, right? I love the way I look in this suit, but not the way I feel. It has sort of a Slugworth kind of air about it. And if you're thinking something along the lines of "But wait, maybe Jovon designed these particular suits themselves, and the suit was frivolous?" If only it were so. 

Jovon's argument wasn't that their designs were original, but that copying was a totally accepted and common practice in the fashion industry, and since clothing isn't eligible for copyright (this is true - it's considered a "useful article" and useful articles are not able to be copyrighted. I got a B in copyright law so I pretty much know), they are free to copy their designs all they want and it's totally fine, don't even worry about it. WTF, Jovan? Ugh. I have no idea how this lawsuit turned out, since I gave up my Lexis-Nexis password to become a graphic designer. I guess that I will still wear this suit. It fits me better than my Lilli Anns. But I won't feel good about it. 

But look at these pockets! THEY'RE LITTLE STARS Y'ALL

What's the lesson here? If you're saving for a major life goal that is really important, don't let yourself be wooed by counterfeit suits. I understand that's a really specific lesson, but maybe it will help someone from making the same mistake. 

 

UPDATE: I've since become less of a brat! Read my updated post here.

Gym class

vintage clothesJessica Lundby2 Comments

When I was in school in the 90s (and the 80s, for that matter), we had physical education classes. We ran around the playground, or the gym, we probably played tennis and basketball and many other things I wasn't any good at because my coordination is poor and they didn't interest me. I don't remember having uniforms, though it's completely possible we did. It is highly unlikely, however, that they were anywhere near as cute as this 1950s gym uniform I found on ebay:

The label indicates that it's "Sanforized," a common term in the mid-20th century for what we now might call "pre-shrunk." Developed in the 1920s by Sanford Lockwood Cluett, the process involves moistening, stretching, heating, and expanding until the fabric shrinks uniformly and can be made into garments (or whatever) that won't shrink a great deal when washed. 

what I wore today: the biggest pants ever

vintage clothesJessica LundbyComment

Oh wow. I found these incredible 1940s rayon pants at an estate sale in Beverly Hills last week for $25. Each colossal pant leg measures a ridiculous 50" in circumference. It seems like these giant pants were the evolution of yesterday's beach pajamas. 

Gene Tierney, 1940s

Gene Tierney, 1940s

The wide-legged pants of the 1930s were tight on the hip and flared out straight from there, but in the 40s the silhouette became more relaxed, emphasizing a small waist rather than hips, which works out for big-assed me. 

Shoes and eyewear by TOMS • top from Playclothes 

NADA Fashions for Best & Co.

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I think I mean to keep up with this blog more often, but turns out when you work full time and do some freelance stuff and are planning a wedding that will happen in three months, plus take care of four dogs and try to keep the house clean, time is kind of tight. And even though I wanted to write about vintage swimsuits next, it didn't actually end up being hot enough outside to be considered swim weather yet. So instead here is a random good find: a 1930s beach pajamas/jumpsuit/pantsuit/whatever thing that I wore as overalls today because going backless off the beach feels weird. 

To be honest, I'm kind of obsessed with beach pajamas (google 30s beach pajamas if you have no idea what I'm talking about). These loose-fitting, open-backed one-piece (or matching two-piece) jumpsuits became fashion-forward evening wear in the late 1920s (thanks in part to Hollywood designer Gilbert Adrian) and omnipresent in the 1930s as resort loungewear.

They're also very popular right now, and I've seen them at vintage shows and online anywhere from $175 to $600. So, when I saw these on ebay with a starting bid of $40, I didn't really comprehend what I was looking at. The seller had them styled as overalls (like I'm doing here) and put them in the WWII category as a Rosie the Riveter style. It wasn't until I got them home and looked at the label that I began to realize these were a little older than that.

I haven't been able to find out a great deal about the NADA Fashions label, but from what I can tell, it was an in-house exclusive label by Best & Co., a children's and ladieswear brand established in New York in 1879. From 1908 to 1944, their flagship store was on Fifth Avenue at 35th:

Photo Irving Underhill, 1917.

Photo Irving Underhill, 1917.

The interesting thing about Best & Co. was that they were possibly the only upscale retailer that specialized in children's and young women's clothing. They did also design for misses and ladies' sportswear, but their main focus was the younger set. One common reference for the NADA label is Claire McCardell's 1938 Monastic Dress, marketed by Best & Co. as the "NADA Frock."

I also found these great advertisements for their Spring line in the Vassar school newspaper, from NADA's 1924 launch:

From these, it's pretty clear that Bests' goal for NADA was to appeal to upper-class young women by providing exclusive, on-trend quality sportswear. I love that they had previews/reviews with live models, but I do wish I could find some images from those fashion shows. From other label research it seems like Best shifted from the old English we see here to a more open script in the 1930s, which makes me think that maybe my loungewear here is possibly late 1920s or early 1930s. Aside from a couple split seams and some missing buttons, it's in great condition. Not bad for $50. 

Just a dress.

vintage clothesJessica Lundby2 Comments

This dress was a total impulse buy on ebay a few weeks ago. I think the starting bid was something like $35 and the measurements seemed right, so I bid and won and was completely delighted with it. It's pretty old and has some staining I need to address, and the first time I wore it, I sneezed and the whole side seam split open. No more lentil chips for me. 

Shoes were a great find from honeytalkvintage on etsy. Normally I couldn't afford their shoes, but these were in pretty bad shape, dry and cracking. Lots of coconut oil later they're lovely and wearable.

Shoes were a great find from honeytalkvintage on etsy. Normally I couldn't afford their shoes, but these were in pretty bad shape, dry and cracking. Lots of coconut oil later they're lovely and wearable.

A detail of the print, the rhinestone buttons, and the matching belt. 

I have to give props/a shout out/credit to my amazing photographer (and friend) Suzy Fahmy for her perpetual willingness and ability to capture me in such good light.

Heat Wave

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Whenever the heat hits here in Los Angeles, I think it must finally be the start of summer and I fling open my closet doors, gleefully tossing the wool skirts and trousers and jackets into storage and hugging my short dresses and playsuits close to my chest. Three days later I usually shuffle, head hung low, to the wool skirts and trousers and jackets and hang them back up when the temperature moves back from 95ºF to 65ºF. But this time–did it really happen this time? 

Bellevue matte honey sunglasses, TOMS • carved celluloid necklace, Venice flea market  •  1950s Loomtogs playset, ebay

It sure as hell feels like it. Even here at my office on the west side it's beastly hot at 93ºF. So I thought it a perfect opportunity to break out this little beauty, a 1950s play set (the shirt and shorts are separates!) that basically looks like new. I scored this on ebay last week and have been watching the thermometer creep up until it felt appropriately sweltering. Check out this crazy pattern!

The shirt gives you the option of tucking it in, with the matching belt, or you can tie it in a bow at the waist. I felt the tuck option was better for work. And the label is great. I've never seen anything else by Loomtogs, but it seems like they put out some quality goods. 

Check out that script. So cool. 

Next time, some high class swimsuits. Hello, summer.

homesewn

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Homemaker Comic Book Home Sewing on Etsy, $75. Either this is a pen name or Sally Stitch was bang-on with her life's calling.

Homemaker Comic Book Home Sewing on Etsy, $75. Either this is a pen name or Sally Stitch was bang-on with her life's calling.

I have a lot of home sewn clothes, but I pretty much can't sew at all. When I was in grade school I made a pillow for a 4-H project, and I'm pretty sure I had a significant amount of help from mom, who made all my elementary school Halloween costumes (like butterfly, cat, cheerleader, and, for whatever reason, raccoon). These days, all my home sewn clothes come from the 1940s, when making do and mending was not only fashionable, but, if propaganda posters reflect the attitudes of the day, you were basically hindering the war effort if too many of your clothes were ready made. Fine silks, rayons, and woolens were sold at fine stores on Fifth Avenue. Patterns were everywhere, as were the aforementioned propaganda and instructional materials like this one encouraging women to sew at home. 

Home sewn cotton floral print dress, $64 at Playclothes in Burbank

Home sewn cotton floral print dress, $64 at Playclothes in Burbank

I have had my eye on this dress for over a month, and last weekend I finally tried it on. The blousy top, wide waistband and neatly gathered skirt are so well made that I want to go back in time and take sewing lessons from this person. 

Somehow I doubt she would approve of my tattoos.

tea-stained napkins

DIYJessica LundbyComment

My honey and I are getting married in September. We've been doing a lot of planning and a lot of decision-making in the last 7 months, and it's funny how every small detail can matter. There are so many details to consider - what booze to serve? what glasses to serve it in? what plates, linens, silver? And for someone as visually-oriented as I am, all these details not only matter, but I love caring about them. 

Our colors are (roughly) blue, gold, and brown. So the bright white napkins I collected from estate sales and ebay were a little too high-contrast with the navy blue tablecloths (yes, I think about this). I didn't want to dye them and have it look kind of fake or forced, so I decided to stain them with black tea to get a subtle antique off-white. 

I have about a hundred of these napkins. Each pot can handle two, maybe three, and they take about ten minutes of soaking time to get a really solid stain. 

I'm about halfway through them. 

Lilli Ann part 4: short story

vintage clothesJessica Lundby2 Comments

1950s Lilli Annette Diminutive suit, etsy • 1940s pink blouse, etsy

I'm short. At 5'4", modern clothes are almost always too tall for me, and I used to have to buy petites or adjust shoulders accordingly. While I haven't really had this problem with vintage clothing at all, sometimes if I see a petite in something vintage, I'll try it, because it might be more likely to fit me. When I found this suit on etsy, I was surprised that Lilli Ann made a petite line.

Lilli Annette Diminutive (petite) label in a 1950s suit.

I can find essentially zero information about it, like when it was produced and how many were in the line, but as far as I can tell, Lilli Annette suits seem to be fairly rare. I've only seen mine and two or three others, plus a couple of jackets. It seems as though the diminutive suits were not simply resized versions of the original, but new designs altogether. This suit fits marginally better than others from the same era from shoulder to waist, but really, my late 1950s non-diminutive suit fits better than this one does just because it's a smaller size. But if you're short, and you've tried unsuccessfully to wear a Lilli Ann, give the diminutive line a try. I noticed that the materials aren't quite as nice as the main tall-lady line - the wool feels a bit cheaper, and the lining is acetate instead of crepe or silk or satin like the others I have. 

I'm squinting because it was bright and I forgot to bring my sunglasses, not because I have a general disdain for everything.

I'm squinting because it was bright and I forgot to bring my sunglasses, not because I have a general disdain for everything.

And that's it for suit week and my four lovely Lilli Anns. 

Lilli Ann part 3: close to the hip

vintage clothesJessica LundbyComment

lavender shirred 1940s blouse, ebay • navy blue Lilli Ann skirt from suit, etsy • 1940s platform strappy heels, dear golden on etsy

The really incredible thing about this particular Lilli Ann suit I have is the jacket. It's got wide shoulders and a very narrow hip, not fitted through the bust at all. A very different silhouette from last week. But this image is funny because I'm not wearing it. I'm not wearing it because I first want to point out how beautifully tailored these skirts are. Lilli Ann skirts typically fall at the knee or just below, and sometimes feel narrower at the hem than they are the widest part of the hip to force this incredible silhouette as a woman walks. And you can't walk very fast, but you do look good. 

Sidenote: perhaps you're wondering why in the hell I photoshopped myself into a Lilli Ann ad here. It's because my photographer and I decided to shoot in the studio where we had pro lighting instead of just going outside where there's natural light. I guess I wanted to change it up, and the studio was open, and I actually kind of hate shooting my outfits at work because, well, I'm at work and I'm directing someone to take pictures of me like I'm the delusional solitary fan of my own celebrity. It's weird. But then when I looked at the photos, the wood background was even weirder than me posing like Dovima outside the cafeteria. So, here we are. 

Anyway, the jacket:

1940s Lilli Ann navy blue suit, etsy

1940s Lilli Ann navy blue suit, etsy

and the whole thing:

Today's examples of slim, long jackets come from the August 1, 1950 edition of Vogue.

Vogue, August 1, 1950. 

Vogue, August 1, 1950. 

"Lilli Ann of San Francisco does the most exciting suits for girls on the go... dramatic suits, dream-tailored over custom inner bodies with couturier details and half-lined skirts. This one in finest gabardine has a wonderfully flattering yoke of tabs, comes in green, wine, toast, teal, black, grey, beige, navy, purple and dark brown... sizes 10 through 18... about eighty dollars... at fine stores."

Another from the same Vogue issue, August 1, 1950. Photo by Horst P. Horst.

Caption reads "How long is a suit jacket?" and then answers with "A short answer, one of the shortest, made by the box jacket; another, one of the longest, by the fitted jacket. Between these lengths, even beyond them, others equally correct." So, basically, suit jackets are any length at all. "Here, with a hat of toffee velveteen, brown glacé kidskin gloves, a belt of polished brown leather. Suit by Lilli Ann, $75; Aris gloves, both Saks 34th Street. The suit, also at Carson Pirie Scott; The May Co., L.A." The May Co.'s mid-city location is now LACMA. 

1947. Postcard of the beginning of the Miracle Mile, at Fairfax and Wilshire, with the May Co. store prominently seen in the background. The May Co. has a Streamline Modern style with gold corner towers. Built in 1940. Architects: A.C. Martin, S.A. Marx.

1947. Postcard of the beginning of the Miracle Mile, at Fairfax and Wilshire, with the May Co. store prominently seen in the background. The May Co. has a Streamline Modern style with gold corner towers. Built in 1940. Architects: A.C. Martin, S.A. Marx.

The next in our Lilli Ann series is a bit short, literally and figuratively. 

lilli ann part 2: the peplum

vintage clothesJessica LundbyComment

Late 1940s/early 1950s black Lilli Ann suit jacket that I probably overpaid for. 

I remember overhearing someone somewhere asking "Why on earth would you want to make your hips look bigger?" It wasn't my conversation, or I would have said something like, "To make your waist look smaller by comparison, silly." After Dior's New Look collection in 1947 and its "Tailleur Bar," a suit practically carved onto a woman's body in the jacket and luxuriously flowing in the skirt, silhouettes suddenly shifted from practical and trim–arguably a little masculine–to a hyper-feminized nipped waist and emphasized bust and hip.

Christian Dior by Willy Maywald

This is not to say that the peplum suit was new, exactly. In the 1930s and 40s (and I guess going back to ancient Greece) ladies were dressing their hips in some form or another. This Hattie Carnegie suit appeared in Harper's Bazaar in September of 1940.

Hattie Carnegie suit, Harper's Bazaar, 1940. Photo by Louise Dahl-Wolfe.

But after 1947, they were paired with a narrower, lower shoulder and more fitted bust and waist. Lilli Ann's designers were among those restructuring their silhouettes, and incorporated this new look into their suit designs as well. A beautiful example of a Lilli Ann with a fuller skirt currently for sale:

$262.50

$262.50

But back to the peplum. The super tiny waist with the broadly flared peplum became a Lilli Ann signature.

Another Dorian Leigh, 1954

And again in 1955

And again in 1955

Photo by Richard Avedon for Vogue, 1952

Photo by Richard Avedon for Vogue, 1952

There are so, so many of these. Want to find your own? Prices vary wildly, from like, pretty reasonable to worth it if you can afford it I guess. Let's start at the more fun end of the spectrum:

$195 on etsy. 

$195 on etsy. 

Love this one. I know, $200 might seem pretty steep for a suit. But when you see this

for $800, it sounds a lot more reasonable. Honestly, I've never paid more than $165 for a Lilli Ann suit, and that one was maybe not the best decision. I have paid as little as $60 by being in the right place at the right time. Let's move on, shall we?

Such a beauty. Asking $350.

Such a beauty. Asking $350.

Spirng 1959, $175

Spirng 1959, $175

I'm kind of obsessed with this one, and it's a good price. AND there's the ad for it:

Wow. $495 on ebay.

Wow. $495 on ebay.

Super wow. $545 on ebay.

Super wow. $545 on ebay.

Tomorrow we'll go a bit back in time to the mid-1940s, and a bit closer to the hip.

dogs 'n' toms

vintage clothesJessica LundbyComment

Maggie and I were featured on the TOMS blog today, where I seem to be laughing maniacally for some reason I can't quite recall. Maggie's leash is from RESQ/CO, on the TOMS Marketplace

I think I paid around $20 for this incredible 1940s ivory crepe swing dress on ebay. The belt, which you can't really see all that well here, is a handmade satin beaded belt with a peacock in the middle. I'll get a better shot of it after I have it cleaned, but it's amazing, and it came from my grandmother or her sister. 

welcome to suit week

vintage clothesJessica LundbyComment

Man, I love a good suit. Sharp, tailored, almost restrictive, a suit will force you to stand up straight and look as elegant or intimidating as possible. Think about Madeleine's gray suit in Vertigo. 

Transient

Now, I realize that this is actually Vera Miles, not Kim Novak. Miles was originally cast in the role but her pregnancy interfered. Still, it's a great view of the costume itself. Stiff, straight and tailored. Kim felt nowhere near as happy to see it as Vera looks here.

When Edith Head showed me that gray suit, I said, “Oh, my god, that looks like it would be very hard to act in.  It’s very confining.’  Then, when we had the first fitting of the dress, it was even worse and I said, ‘This is so restrictive.’ 

Ultimately, she found it worked to her advantage.

They made that suit very stiff.   You constantly had to hold your shoulders back and stand erect.  But, oh that was so perfect.  That suit helped me find the tools for playing the role. 

(Read the entire interview here). 

Madeleine's suit was designed by Edith Head, and it was not unlike the suit fashions of the time. I recently acquired a number of pretty incredible suits (the fact that they all came at once was something of a coincidence). I'm going to wear them all this week, just for fun. Here is the first one:

This is me trying to do my best New Look pose and not quite nailing it. An exquisite 1950s Lilli Ann suit. 1940s-style platform heels by Remix–sorry, our dog ate my 1950s pumps.

This is me trying to do my best New Look pose and not quite nailing it. An exquisite 1950s Lilli Ann suit. 1940s-style platform heels by Remix–sorry, our dog ate my 1950s pumps.

 I'm not typically a sucker for designer labels. I buy what I like, because I like it and it looks good on me, not because it's a known designer. Also, I can't really afford known designers. But I recently have become obsessed with Lilli Ann suits. Impeccably tailored and sometimes wildly inventive, a suit by Lilli Ann, particularly from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, is quite the coveted item. Even at the time, the label was synonymous with high quality, excellent fit, and signature style, like extravagant peplum jackets and tight pencil skirts. Adolph Schuman, a native San Franciscan and the son of a Hungarian Jewish delivery truck driver, started his clothing business in San Francisco's Chinatown (later the Mission district at 17th and Harrison) some time around 1934. Schuman and his first wife Lillian created the label as her namesake. After World War II, Schuman imported much of the fabric for his suits and coats from Europe. 

Schuman showed European weavers how to modernize their methods, then placed orders with six mills for their entire output during certain months. The success of the whole plan, he believed, would depend on three rules: 1) buy abroad only what can not be obtained in the U.S.; 2) buy only in areas where the cloth has been made by craftsmen for years (i.e., broadcloth in Normandy, worsteds in (northern France); 3) insist that mills pay at least 75¢ an hour to their employees. Under the plan, Schuman had imported $2,225,000 worth of European fabrics by May of 1953, creating steady employment for many European textile workers. Additionally the mills were able to provide Schuman with top quality cloth at $2 to $4 less a yard than the European wholesale price, meaning the Lilli Ann customer got a gorgeous suit or coat made of high quality hand loomed fabric. (Source)

The company's factory was also located in San Francisco, in the South of Market district, and employed hundreds of local workers, thus the business was critical not only to European textile mills, but to the city it called home. Schuman was the business brain, but not the designer. According to her obituary, Lillian Schuman herself was the company's first designer, though it seems fairly clear from the company's "Original by Jean" label used through 1943 that Jean Miller was the head designer. In 1961, she (or someone else lost to history) was followed by  Jeanne Taylor, who remained head designer until the company closed by 2000. I find it kind of baffling that there is so little information on Jean Miller, whose designs are now so sought-after and celebrated, or if there was an additional designer that I can't even find any information about (like perhaps some anonymous designs by Balenciaga?). Similarly, it's difficult to tell when or why certain labels were used. From what I can tell, the square Lilli Ann label

was used in the 1940s and early 1950s, and the Paris labels were probably used from at least 1957 into the 1960s (though I have also read that "Paris" was added to the labels as soon as "following WWII"). 

The label in the jacket I'm wearing above.

The label in the jacket I'm wearing above.

This is sort of a guess though, because I've seen suits from late 1950s ads with square labels, so it might be related to where the fabric came from. Honestly, I have no idea. I just know this suit is awesome and it was made before 1964, because it has the National Recovery Board label used from 1938 to 1964. It probably dates from 1957-1960, as the post-1960 lines started to get a mod influence. Whatever. On to the advertising!

Vogue, August 15, 1950. 

This is actually an ad for Talon, "the quality zipper" used in Lilli Ann suits, but it's still a great image. It's 1950, and it's fall, so it's the college issue. The copy reads 

"See how deftly Lilli Ann of San Francisco manipulates fabric to minimize your waist and hips, to magnify the soft lines of a feminine suit... to glorify your figure whether you wear size 10 or 20! Masterfully tailored throughout in worsted gabardine–with such nicety of detail as the supple Talon fastener that zips up the skirt placket so smoothly, closes so securely–thanks to its exclusive automatic lock. About $70."

Just so we're clear on how exclusive these suits were, "about $70" in 1950 was almost $700. Then, five years later, a decidedly more grown up tone to the art and the copy:

I know, my scanner sucks.

I know, my scanner sucks.

This is from Vogue, September 1955. Dorian Leigh, the model wearing the Lilli Ann suit here, was possibly the most oft-photographed in their ads. Copy says

"Fabric-of-France 'Bamboo', extravagant blend of mohair, silk and worsted woven in France for Lilli Ann... for this suit-of-the-season... Sleeves are pleated... buckles are hand-cut Austrian rhinestones... red, green, cognac, lido blue, banana... About one hundred dollars... At all stores where young and exciting fashions are being sold."

Again, "about one hundred dollars" in 1955 was almost $900. These were not everyday suits. I have gone through all my magazines and all the images of ads I could find online and haven't found any of my suits, but I'll keep looking. What will I wear tomorrow?

 

the sweater suit

vintage clothesJessica LundbyComment
Random chiffon scarf • carved celluloid necklace, Venice flea market • brown 1940s sweater suit, ebay • barkcloth sewing bag, my grandma • chambray platform wedges, TOMS

Random chiffon scarf • carved celluloid necklace, Venice flea market • brown 1940s sweater suit, ebay • barkcloth sewing bag, my grandma • chambray platform wedges, TOMS

Some days are gray and cool, and you mostly feel like staying home and sitting on the couch with some dogs and binge watching something on Netflix, eating snacks and not going outside. On those days, when I can't stay home and blanket myself in, I reach for the next best thing: wearing a blanket to work. 

No, it's not one of those horrid fleece affairs. It's a tailored, soft, detailed garment that is both flattering and forgiving. Give me a knit skirt and sweater set over jeans any day. It's one of those things I always buy if I find under $80 out in the real world. Sweater suits like this are somewhat risky to buy online, because their texture can either be very soft or very scratchy or somewhere in between. This particular one I scored off ebay and it happened to arrive barely worn but very soft. I love this piece. Actually, it's two pieces, but you know what I mean. These sweater sets or suits consist of a skirt, usually ribbed, with an elastic waistband, together with a matching sweater and sometimes - rarely, even - a matching belt. The material is almost always a bouclé knit made of wool, although I have seen acrylic versions as well. I have seen more without labels than with. There is often a metal zipper at the neck, but I have two with square necklines and no zipper, which I am currently selling on ebay:

$87 on ebay

$87 on ebay

Marinette was a high-end knitwear company in the 1930s and 40s

Marinette was a high-end knitwear company in the 1930s and 40s

Sold. Dig that crazy peplum!

Sold. Dig that crazy peplum!

There are also some great ones I'm not selling, but others are:

Gorgeous. $82 on etsy.

Gorgeous. $82 on etsy.


A beauty. $135.

A beauty. $135.

Love the color and the class on this one. How amazing would this look with red hair? $128.

Love the color and the class on this one. How amazing would this look with red hair? $128.

And, why not some barkcloth handbags?

$32

$32

$22

$22

If you find one like in mine in poor condition (like mine), Raleigh Vintage has a nice little before and after showing how well they can clean up.