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Lady Violette

The Romantic Lifestyle

Posts Tagged ‘Art & About’

Portrait of Igor Schwezoff, Ballet dancer and choreographer, 1940, Colonel de Basil’s Ballets Russes Australian Tour

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Igor Schwezoff Russian Ballet Dancer & Choreographer 1940, Photographer Spencer Skier

I am pleased to present this classic and elegant photo of Russian ballet dancer/choreographer Igor Schwezoff taken in 1940 in Australia during Colonel de Basil’s Ballets Russes Australian Tour.

This beautiful portrait was taken in order to be used as a head shot and publicity promotional photo for Mr. Schwezoff as a dancer/ choreographer and for his ballet Lutte Eternelle which received its professional premier by Colonel de Basil’s Ballets Russes in Sydney on 29, July, 1940, during the third Australian tour of the company.

Having left Soviet Russia in the late 1920s, Schwezoff travelled widely, briefly running ballet schools in Amsterdam and London. He wrote his acclaimed autobiography, Borzoi, published in London in 1935. He then joined de Basil’s Ballets Russes in 1939 as a soloist and worked with the company for two years. Lutte Eternelle was the first of his works to be danced by the de Basil company. This one act ballet was a revision of an earlier work by Schwezoff that was originally staged in Amsterdam by the performing group from his ballet school. Both the earlier production and Lutte Eternelle were well received by both critics and the public alike.

To my knowledge this photo has not been published before. It is from the private collection of Mr. Ian Bevans who worked in some PR capacity with the Ballets Russes during their 1939 – 40 Australian seasons. He was a dedicated balletomane who befriended members of the ballet company and collected and saved photos of many of the dancers taken during their historic stay in Australia.  Mr. Bevan’s friend, Mr. Kurt Ganzl kindly gave these photos to me. Mr. Bevans collection includes action photos, posed press photos, professional head shots of the dancers, some happy snap shots and some personal Christmas cards from Toumanova and Skibine. Some of the photos are autographed and some are inscribed with personal messages. All of them are fascinating bits of classical ballet history. I am grateful to Mr. Gansl for sharing them with me and delighted to be able to share them with other ballet fans on my blog. I plan to post more of these beautiful and rare ballet pictures on this blog soon.

 

Back side of Igor Schwezoff Portrait, 1940, by Photographer Spencer Skier

The back side of the photo of Igor Schwezoff by Spencer Skier, Collin St. Melb, 1940.

If anyone knows more about this photo or how it was used would you please contact me? I am a former student and friend of Igor Schwezoff and am currently researching details of his life and career.

 

 

Russian Boxes and Khokhloma

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

I have a small collection of Russian lacquered boxes and hand painted khokhloma dishes. I enjoy the red and black colors and the glow of the qold against the shiny black lacquer.

Somehow they seem to warm me up during the icy cold of winter. I display them on top of several small bookcases. I keep small treasures such as special buttons in the tiny boxes.

Russian Lacquer Boxes and Khokhloma Dishes from Lady Violette's Collection

Valentine’s Day Red Dress by Dior

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Valentine’s Day is coming up and I am thinking about what I want to wear!

This is perfect! This is it! A gorgeous RED COCKTAIL DRESS by DIOR, 1950.

Christian Dior Cocktail Dress 1950

 

Photos of Igor Schwezoff from His Autobiography, Borzoi, and Some Comments About the Book and His Life Afterwards….

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Igor Schwezoff’s book, Borzoi, is illustrated with three photographs of the author.

Igor Schwezoff photographed by Franz Ziegler c.1934

Igor Schwezoff photographed by Franz Ziegler, c.1934

The portrait on the frontispiece and the author as a dancer in costume were taken by Franz Ziegler, A.R.P.S, Court Photographer, The Hague.

Mr. Schwezoff was about 30 years old when these photos were taken.

Borzoi is the story of his life from the time he was born in 1904, through his early life, ballet training and dance career in Russia and his escape on foot through Manchuria into Shanghai and finally via train to Germany. The book covers the first 26 years of his life – from 1904 through 1930. It begins when he was born and ends when he arrives in Europe. Borzoi ends here with the author hoping for success and a new life in the West.

What follows is not in the book. I know these things from personal narrative. Igor Schwezoff was my teacher and wonderful friend for the last 20 years of his life. He lived another 52 years after writing Borzoi and there was certainly enough interesting material and life experience over those next years to fill another book or several of them, but he never wrote one. He told me, several times, when I asked him about it, “You will have to do that…”

After arriving in Europe he continued his itinerate career as a dancer, choreographer, teacher and occasional writer working with many well known dancers and ballet companies throughout the world.

He initially arrived in Germany where he had some family members and a small amount of money awaiting him from an inheritance. He acquired immediate work here and there as a ballet dancer in night club acts and in the German film industry, including a role dancing in the prologue of Leni Riefenstahl’s film Das Blaue Licht which was released in 1932. That filming  job only lasted 4 days. It was interesting for the fact that Leni Riefenstahl selected him for the role and she choreographed it herself. It was initially shown as a filmed dance prologue to the story in the film. Leni was a dancer /choreographer herself. She played the lead role in this movie. An actor played the part of the male lead in the actual movie but Igor Schwezoff played him in the danced prologue. This has apparently been cut from currently available releases of this old film. I have not seen it and do not even know if the footage still exists. If it does it is probably the only film footage of Igor Schwezoff dancing, ( I am dying to get my hands on it if anybody knows anything more about it. Please contact me if you do!) Schwezoff is not listed in the film’s credits which is a common situation with dancers to this day. However I have seen mentions of his performance in the film  in several historical dance references. He told me that, when he worked with Leni Riefenstahl, he had no idea who she was or what her alliances were. It was just a small dance job for him at the time and she was just a filmmaker and dancer/choreographer. He was appalled when he later found out how notorious she was and played down the fact that he had appeared in her film not often mentioning it. This film was extremely popular in Germany and catapulted Leni to fame as an actress and film director. And as Adolf Hitler’s ideal of womanhood. It was one of Hitler’s favorite films ever. It was after making it that Leni became strongly affiliated publicly with the Nazi party and it’s official filmmaker.

The film industry and active Berlin night club life assured him employment as a performer, but the political atmosphere made him exceptionally nervous. He was also anxious to join fellow Russian ballet dancers and get back to his real work in the serious ballet theater versus performing pick up work in films and club acts.

This led him to the Netherlands to find Bronislava Nijinska with whom he traveled to Buenos Aires where he became principal dancer at the Teatro de Colon under her direction. When she left he followed her to Paris, then back to the Netherlands where she was working with a group of Russian ballet dancers teaching and choreographing in Amsterdam.  He performed with Nijinska’s group, took her daily classes and set up his own studio in The Hague teaching advanced students and assembling a small company of professional level dancers called Ballet Igor Schwezoff (1934 – 36) on whom he choreographed the initial version of his ballet, La Lutte Eternelle. The first version of this work was initially performed there.

From Amsterdam he and several other Russian expatriate ballet dancers traveled to London as war was too much in the air in the Netherlands and he eventually set up a studio in an old church basement with a piano in it in London, where he conducted daily classes and rehearsals. Some very famous Russian dancers who were in England at this time came to these classes for dancers must take daily class to stay in performing condition and Schwezoff offered the best pure classical ballet technique classes with the perfect amount of philosophical content.

He was a gifted teacher and the best dancers gravitated to his studio. Money was very tight for all of them. Many could not pay him for class, but he accepted them anyway. For the talented he practiced the Proletarian Method of Dance Class Payment: From each according to his ability, To each according to his need.

While on an earlier trip to London in 1934 he saw the notice for the £1000 award being offered by Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd. publishing company for the best autobiography in the English language. He thought people would like to know what the Russians had lived through in the last few years and he thought he had led a rather exceptional life people might like to read about so he decided to try for the prize. He was also driven by the extreme need for money.

Fortunately, although he had a heavy Russian accent, Schwezoff spoke fluent English because he had been taught both English and French by his mother and an English governess while a child in Russia. Over 500 manuscripts were submitted to this competition and his story, Borzoi, actually won the coveted prize!

Here is some of the backstory. The charming decorative designs and endpapers in the book illustrating scenes from Russian life and the day to activities in the life of a ballet dancer are from drawings by David Gray, a ballet loving artist whom Schwezoff befriended in London who also helped him do a preliminary edit of the book before submitting it to the competition. This was an important step in the preparation of the manuscript to be submitted to an English publishing company by a non-native English speaking writer who had only been living in England and speaking to English speaking natives in English for a couple of months. Schwezoff felt that David Grey’s contribution to the manuscript was so important to helping him win the competition that the book is dedicated to him with the inscription, “To David Grey who has helped so much.” David also believed in the book and kept him going writing it so that it would be finished in time to meet the entry deadline when the going got rough as it does for all writers.

Borzoi is also a marvel of a book not only because it is a good story and an exceptional read, but for the the fact that it was conceived of and completely written and illustrated in the course of a single month!

The prize money was much needed by the writer and provided him the motivation he needed to write his amazing story in record time. This was the first real money he had ever made in his life. In those days it was a great deal of money.

Borzoi was published in 1934 and immediately provided a great boost to Igor Schwezoff personally and to his career as a dancer. It was chosen by the London Book Society as a favorite and a sponsored read and enjoyed several reprints and re-editions over the next 20 years. Schwezoff was a notoriously charming guest speaker and enjoyed making appearances as a celebrity author which in turn brought audiences to see him perform as a dancer. And all this got him invited to a lot of delicious dinner parties where there was no shortage of tasty food which he thoroughly enjoyed. He was making up for lost time when he didn’t get enough to eat during his years in Russia.

Quite suddenly, due to the popularity of Borzoi, Igor Schwezoff was a well known writer and a famous dancer and he had more money in his pocket than he had ever had before. He was very appreciative of this. Best of all writing Borzoi opened doors for him socially and made people in the general public who read the book aware of him as a dancer. This book got him noticed.

He was now a famous Russian dancer and choreographer receiving offers of employment in dance companies all over the world. As a result of writing this book about his early life people outside of the immediate professional ballet world knew about him. Consequently, he was never out of work as a dancer, choreographer or ballet teacher again!

He was never out of work as a dinner party guest either! He was always a charming guest with his colorful Russian accent, fluency in several languages, delightful observations, spellbinding real life stories and genuine appreciation of good food!

Writing his autobiography at the early age he did it, instead of at the end of his life,  turned out to be an important career move and wonderful publicity for him as a dancer/choreographer/teacher.  There were many other Russian dancers in Western Europe and the United States at the time he was dancing. In fact the two Ballets Russes companies were full of them! As far as I know none of the others wrote an autobiography of their early years in Russia and about defecting at that time. Borzoi was a first in that genre.

He danced and choreographed in Monte Carlo taking some of the dancers from his London studio with him.  After this, while in Paris, he and some of them, joined Col de Basil’s Original Ballets Russes as a soloist from (1939 – 1941) and traveled with them to Australia. More about this later! There is a fascinating story explaining how it happened in a successful attempt to get the ballet dancers to safety during the war. Initially planned for several weeks the tour to Australia essentially stranded the dancers there for two years due to WWII. That, in itself was quite an adventure ….. I have a collection of previously unpublished photographs of Igor Schwezoff’s work during this period which I intend to post on this blog soon.

After his Down Under  experience , Schwezoff moved to New York ….. and a lot of other traveling and performing and choreographing to other places throughout the world ensued. More about that later, too ….

I knew Mr Schwezoff for the last 20 years of his life and he told me constant stories and life adventures that happened to him during the time that came after his arrival in Western Europe and after the publication of Borzoi, I kept asking him why he didn’t write a sequel to the book. He said he was, at this time, too busy to get to it. He really saw himself primarily as a dancer/teacher/choreographer who had happened to write a book about his early life. He did not really see himself as an author, although he did write the occasional article and treatise on ballet. The most important one is a self published booklet titled ” Quality Versus Quantity” about ballet dancer’s technique and artistry of which I have a copy. It includes reviews from his performances and performances of his ballets as well as the title essay.

Schwezoff was totally dedicated to the dance and in a way it is a shame he did not write more because he was such a good writer. He was extremely intelligent and fluent in Russian, English, French, Dutch, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. He spoke  enough Japanese to get by in Japan and teach there. He traveled and taught in many countries and was a firm believer in learning and speaking the language of the people with whom he was working so that they could understand, fully, what he wanted of them. He picked up languages easily, initially because it was expected that one speak French in Russia if from an aristocratic family and it was spoken in his home from the time he was born as the day to day life language. As I mentioned earlier his mother and a pretty young English governess employed by his family taught him English and he was extremely motivated to learn English as a youth by his ardent crush on this lady just slightly older than he was, who would reward him with a kiss for every English word well learned. She certainly knew how to motivate her young student!

There were ballet dancers of every nationality in the ballet companies at this time, as there often are today, and it was common to hear them talking to each other in one native language, then turning and chattering with another colleague in another language. Conversations were easily conducted in three languages at once. Dancers picked up each other’s languages as they worked, traveled and lived together. It was an extremely stimulating and colorful environment. Ballet classes and rehearsals are traditionally aught and conducted in French to this day so all ballet people pick up a certain amount of French.

The photo above, in dance costume, with exotic head dress, is not identified as to what ballet it is from in the book and so far I have not been able to identify what role he was performing in it. I failed to ask him when he was alive, I do know the picture was taken during his tenure in Amsterdam where he worked with Bronislava Nijinska, performed and ran a dance studio and began preliminary work on his ballet La Lute Eternelle. If anyone who sees this photo has any further information on it, such as what ballet it is from, could they please contact me with it… Of course it is entirely possible that he threw the costume together for the photo shoot and it isn’t even a costume from a real ballet. That was done from time to time in a pinch. There is even a photo of Bronislava Nijinska wearing one of her brother’s costumes from Papillon for a totally unrelated dance publicity photo shoot.

Also, more photographs of Igor Schwezoff would be most appreciated. As would any other information and documents pertaining to his career and his life. ( Many thanks, here, to the people who have been answering my pleas in this regard and are sending me the photos and other materials they have pertaining the Igor Schwezoff .)

 

This photograph of the author “Taking a Dancing Class” is by Mono of Amsterdam.

Igor Schwezoff photographed by Mono of Amsterdam, c.1934

I put the title in quotes because it is more like the author posing in the ballet studio while taking a cigarette break from a dance class.

It was characteristic of this era to photograph an artist, dancer, or actor, elegantly posed with a cigarette whilst gazing dreamily into space. At this time the cigarette was considered a sophisticated prop.

The sophisticated and fashionable set was not worried about the health hazards associated with smoking in those days, if they even realized they existed.

It was also a characteristic of Mr. Schwezoff’s, throughout his life, to smoke a great deal. Cigarettes were a rare luxury in Communist Russia which he allowed himself to indulge in heavily once he escaped.

Food was a rare luxury too. Good food, especially so, and Schwezoff appreciated it for reasons beyond taste. He had not been properly nourished during his teen and young adult years due to extreme food shortages in Russia.

He was extremely health conscious regarding diet, but the consequences of cigarette smoking were of no concern.

As you will find if you read the book he suffered from extreme food deprivation and sketchy nutrition as a growing teenager and young adult in Russia which caused him nagging physical problems and health difficulties throughout his life. As a result he stressed proper nutrition and getting enough high quality food to eat to his students. The emphasis was on Quality Versus Quantity just as it was in dance technique. He never had a weight problem, nor did his students. I called it Thigh Quality Food meaning high quality necessary nutrition that would provide what a dancer needed but not put extra weight on your thighs.

Schwezoff loved good food and he became an accomplished cook. As a ballet teacher he stressed having a strong healthy body which included eating properly. He even cooked for us on a regular basis. Teaching us that we should work our bodies very hard during the week, but take one full day off each week from dancing to rest them and regain our strength. On that day we were to eat a high protein high calorie dinner. These dinners he often prepared himself. His ideas on diet as a dancer and building and maintaining one’s strength worked for me.

Once, Sol Hurok, the impressario, engaged Schwezoff to travel with the ballerina Tamara Toumanova from New York to Paris to prepare her for an important two week booking he had secured for her at The Paris Opera. Tamara and her Mamon who accompanied her everywhere, (even after she became an adult,) were in California when the arrangements were made. It was conducted by telephone and letter. A contract was signed and the Toumanova’s set out for NYC to sail to Paris.

Schwezoff was engaged to give Tamara daily class on shipboard during the sailing and rehearse her in her roles, especially as Odette/Odile in Swan lake, and get her performance ready during the 2 week sailing. She was to step off the ocean liner in France looking gorgeous for the  paparazzi and ready to perform at the Paris Opera House the very next day. She was to be dressed up in couture and furs, and dripping with pearls when she disembarked for the waiting press. She was expected to play the part of the glamorous ballerina to the hilt – a role she enjoyed immensely!

When Tamara arrived with her mother at Sol Huroks booking offices in NYC to meet him and Igor Schwezoff and pick up her cruise ship tickets, they were in for a surprise. The glamorous dancer who was a one of the famous Baby Ballerinas and a fabulous technician, had changed drastically. She was 5′ 4″ tall and  40 lbs overweight! Her thighs were as big as the columns of the Parthenon! Tamara Toumanova was supposed to be a goddess, not a temple! This was a terrible emergency. Hurok discreetly asked the famous dancer and her mother to wait a few moments and he called a private conference with Scwhezoff in another office. He asked him, in utter desperation, “Can you slim her down to her previous girlish figure and get her Swan Lake performance ready within just two weeks on the cruise ship? ” Schwezoff agreed to try. The two men then went out to continue the conference with Toumanova and her mother in which Hurok very discreetly explained to Tamara that she would have to lose the weight she had gained while vacationing in California before the ship hit France in order to maintain her reputation as a beautiful woman and a ballet star. She understood and agreed to try. This was a grave situation and the careers and reputations of  everybody involved depended upon her delivering the goods – that meant, appearing in Paris as the quintessential embodiment of a perfect ballerina. To this end she was told that Igor Schwezoff, the ballet master, would be put in charge of her every minute. He would train her physically, rehearse her for hours a day, and be in charge of approving her diet and every bite of food and drink she was allowed to consume.  He would weigh and measure her every day to monitor her progress. This was not cruel. This was the necessary reality of being a ballerina. The body is a ballerina’s instrument and she must be responsible for maintaining it perfectly. Toumanova and her mother understood. Schwezoff got to work with her that very day. The next day they set sail for Paris.

Schwezoff worked like a sculptor reshaping Toumanova’s body and technique. She was a beautiful well trained dancer and a true artist. Both of them had tremendous powers of self discipline. And Schwezoff had tremendous powers of exerting discipline on his dancers in such a way that they enjoyed it and didn’t even realize it was happening to them until they began to feel and see the results. This journey was a success. Tamara Toumanova stepped off the ship looking beautiful, performed her two week booking in Paris to rave reviews and never gained too much weight to perform again. Incidentally, she was never a terribly thin dancer. She was extremely strong and had a womanly figure with a lot of muscle. She had been trained to become a professional ballerina since her birth. The reason she had made one slip and gained weight this one time, was that she was growing and developing as a woman, and eating a little too much while on a short vacation from ballet. It would never happen again. Tamara Toumanova was a great artist and totally dedicated dancer. She was also responsible for supporting her parents financially which was often the case in the old days. Whatever she learned from Igor Schwezoff on this trip about maintaining her physical condition she practiced successfully for the rest of her life. (I have rare unpublished photos of Toumanova that I will be posting on this blog in the near future.)

Among Schwezoff’s famous ballerina pupils were Yvonne Mounsey, Lupe Serrano and Yoko Morishita. ”It was as though he were carving a sculpture out of the human body,” Miss Morishita once said of his teaching. ”He showed me which muscles were not important, so that I could forget about them, and which were important, so I could learn to stretch them out and use them. His whole approach was to make a distinctive shape of the body.”

I myself, began to study with him when I was 12 years old. I had a naturally fine boned body and the perfect ballerina look, and I was very flexible, but I was not yet really strong. I had received a foot injury in another professional ballet school . I had broken a bone in my right foot and was having trouble getting back. Schwezoff brought me back quickly and taught me how to work my body so that I would become very strong and would never become injured due to dancing again. He told me that I would come across many teachers and choreographers with many working methods during my career as a dancer, so I must learn how to work, and how to protect, my particular body type myself, no matter what I was asked to do. He told me I, and I alone, was responsible for this. He told me I had to learn how to do it and to put that knowledge into practice every single day of my life. I did what he told me to do and it worked for me.

I also learned a great deal about how to teach other dancers from him as did many of his students. This is how dance is taught. The knowledge is transmitted, personally, from one dancer /teacher to his student, and then from  him or her to another. I worked with another teacher, at the Joffrey Ballet, Maria Grandy, who had studied with him a decade before I did. She could instantly tell I was working with him. She could see it in the way I moved. She called me aside and told me, “He is a great teacher, perfect for your body.” Maria Grandy has had a long career as a ballet professor at The Julliard School in NYC. She is passing on what she learned from Igor Schwezoff to her students there. That is the way it is done! Classical ballet is taught and passed down, , essentially in narrative form and through physical contact, from one generation of dancers to the next.

For current dance students, teachers, performers, dance historians and balletomanes it is a wonderful thing that Igor Schwezoff wrote his early biography for us. Everyone interested in ballet or what life in Russia was like during the time it takes place, should read it. Everyone, interested in dance and the art of ballet, as well as people who do not think they are interested in it (yet!) will benefit from reading it. I think anyone reading it who knows nothing of ballet will still enjoy it and benefit from the story in many ways.  And that will benefit the art of ballet because those readers will become curious about it and wonder what it is all about. Schwezoff was a great person as well as a dancer. Borzoi is a great book in general.

By the way, The book is sometimes also known as Russian Summersault! It is the same book.

I have many never before published photos of Igor Schwezoff working in the 1940’s that I will be posting on this blog soon.

Igor Schwezoff – Autographed Copy of his Biography, Borzoi, London, 1935

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Today I want to share some photos of my autographed copy of Igor Schwezoff’s biography, Borzoi. This book is a second printing of the first edition. The book was first printed in August of 1935. It was reprinted in September of 1935. This copy is from the September 1935 printing. For the record there were several subsequent printings of this book.

Borzoi by Igor Schwezoff won the prize offered in 1934 by Hodder and Stoughton for an autobiography written in the English language. It was chosen as the prizewinner out of nearly 500 manuscripts submitted for that competition.

Mr. Schwezoff wrote the story of his early life, ballet training and dance career in Russia and his escape through Manchuria into Shanghai and finally Germany. The book covers his life from 1904 through 1930. After arriving in Europe he continued his career as a dancer, choreographer, teacher and writer working with many well known dancers and ballet companies throughout the world.

I was fortunate to be Mr. Schwezoff’s student in Washington DC and New York City and we were friends for almost 20 years. He passed away in 1982.

This is one of several copies of his book, Borzoi, that I own.

I am researching Mr. Schwezoff’s career from 1930 – 1982 and am seeking other materials related to Igor Schwezoff and his career. I would appreciate anyone who has any further information, photographs and documents sharing it with me.

I will be posting more pictures of Igor Schwezoff on this blog soon.

Igor Schwezoff's autograph on the frontispiece dated 1935, London

Photo of the author, Igor Schwezoff and the title page

Photo of the author, Igor Schwezoff and the title page

Borzoi, by Igor Schwezoff

Borzoi, by Igor Schwezoff

Ballerina Lubov Tchernicheva’s ~ Cleopatra Portrait Gallery

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Lubov Tchernicheva as herself

Lubov Tchernicheva (1890~1976) was an extraordinarily beauty and a great star of the Ballets Russes. The studio portrait above was taken sometime between 1930 and 1937 and is from the Geoffrey Ingram archive of Australian ballet now in the National Library of Australia. She trained in Russia, then danced with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes from 1911~1929.  She was married to Sergei Grigoriev, the company Regisseur. She attempted to retire in 1929.

However, in 1932 Rene Blum coaxed her back to continue dancing as first ballerina and serve as ballet mistress for Col. de Basil’s Ballets Russes. Her husband served as Regisseur for this company as well. The couple worked for the Col. de Basil Ballets Russes troupe from 1932~1952. They performed and worked with de Basil’s Ballets Russes in their popular tour of Austrailia, throughout the United States and Europe. An extremely popular dancer her public simply would not allow her to retire!

In the 1950s this extraordinary ballet couple worked together staging Fokine’s Ballets for other companies.

Fortunately for dance lovers and historians Lubov Tchernicheva left her personal papers and ballet records to the Harvard University Library and her husband, Sergei Grigoriev, left his to the United States Library of Congress.

Tchernicheva also had amazing costumes for many of the roles she danced! Fortunately many striking photos of her were taken in many roles and survive.

The Ballets Russes Cleopatra Costume by artist Sonia Delaunay 1918

My favorite photos of Lubov are as Cleopatra originally known as Une Nuit d’Egypt and premiered by Diaghilev’s troupe in 1908. The ballet was revived in 1917 and exquisite and truly fantastic (as in a product of the artist’s Egyptian fantasy) new costumes were designed for the revived production by Russian artist and textile designer Sonia Delaunay. These Cleopatra costumes are the version Lubov wore in these photographs.

Lubov Tchernicheva in her Cleopatra costume designed by Sonia Delaunay

In the days these old photos were taken the ballet dancers often had to assume a pose in the photographers studio and hold it for a long time while the glass plates of film were exposed. By a long time I mean as long as 20 minutes while the photographer got set up and  organized and then slowly exposed the film. It must have been sheer torture!

Tchernicheva reclining elegantly as Cleopatra

It is hard to hold perfectly still in an an exotic pose, no matter how static, without twitching or swaying a tiny bit. I know because I have posed for photographers who were trying out the old techniques.Dancers were really happy when fast film was developed so that they could be photographed in action!

Tchernicheva strikes a pose a l'Egypte in the photographer's studio

 

Tchernichova’s strong aristocratic profile is amazing and perfect for the character of Cleopatra! And the headdress! it must have taken practice to perform in such a costume – it does not look like it allows for freedom of movement. It looks to me as if the dancer had to adapt to working within the confines and limitations of the costume. Fashion is often like that as well! It is interesting to note that this ballet set off a fashion craze for all things Egyptian in Paris and London. Society ladies were even getting Egyptian tattoos in intimate areas of their bodies!



An Autographed Portrait of Igor Schwezoff from his Ballets Russes Days

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Autographed Photo of Igor Schwezoff circa 1937 - 1941 during his days with the Ballets Russes.

Today I located this long lost autographed portrait of Igor Schwezoff from his Ballets Russes days circa 1939 – 1941. It has been hidden away in the personal papers and memoirs of the Russian ballerina Lubov Tchernicheva for over 70 years. In a final generous act for her devoted fans, Tchernicheva, donated her personal collection of dance momentos to The Theater Collection of the Houghton Library of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

Lubov Tchernicheva (1890 – 1976) was a leading dancer with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes from 1911-1929. She was married to Sergei Grigoriev, the company Regisseur. She retired in 1926, but was coaxed out of retirement by Rene Blum to star again and serve as ballet mistress for Col. de Basil’s Ballets Russes. Her husband served as Regisseur for this company as well. She continued to perform with this group from 1932-1952. She was essentially such a popular ballerina her public wouldn’t allow her to retire!

During this period, from 1937-1940, that the company spent an extended period in Australia where Igor Schwezoff staged his ballet Lutte Eternelle as I described in my previous blog post.

In the 1950’s the Grigorievs worked together restaging Fokine’s ballets for other ballet companies.

Lubov Tchernicheva was a great beauty and a beautiful dancer. She was acclaimed for her pure classical technique and acting abilities and excelled in exotic roles that tapped her dramatic skills. She caused a sensation in 1918 as Cleopatra in costumes designed by Sonia Delauney.

She dedicated her entire life to performing and teaching the art of ballet and was especially appreciated by other dancers for her generosity with her knowledge, skill and dance experience.

Lubov Tchernicheva was one of the dancers Igor Schwezoff referred to as “The Eternal Greats”  whose portraits and performance photos hung on his studio walls to inspire his students to excel.

In honor of Lubov Tchernicheva I will put up a gallery of some of these beautiful photos in my  next blog post.

Igor Schwezoff’s Ballet La Lutte Eternelle

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

I was fortunate to studied ballet with the late great Russian ballet master Igor Schwezoff in Washington DC and New York City.

La Lutte Eternelle Choreographed by Igor Schwezoff to music by Schumann in the Version Premiered and Performed by the de Basil Ballets Russes at the Theatre Royal in Sydney, Australia on July 29, 1940

Today I found this photograph of one of his early choreographies and the accompanying description quite by chance while looking for a photo of the ballerina Tamara Toumanova. Very few photos of Mr. Schwezoff’s work are known to exist so I was very happy to locate this wonderful picture! This photo was posted on the blog  Kurt of Gerolstein as La Lutte Eternelle: a ballet by Schwezoff. The author apparently found it in a box or old news clippings and dance photos and says that, knowing nothing about ballet and caring nothing about it he thinks it may be of interest to somebody else! Thank you Kurt of Gerolstien! It certainly is of interest to me and will be to other people who worked with Igor Schwezoff! And I want to know what else was in that box!

Mr. Schwezoff was born in 1904 in St. Petersberg and trained in the Marinsky Theater School. In 1931 he defected from Siberia through Manchuria to Harbin, China. He then made his way to to Western Europe where he danced with Bronislava Najinska in Amsterdam and ran his own ballet schools in Amsterdam and London. While in Amsterdam he choreographed his initial version of La Lutte Eternelle to Schumann’s Etudes Symphoniques. While in London he wrote his biography titled Borzoi describing his early life in Russia and his harrowing escape to the west.

Mr. Schwezoff traveled widely and eventually joined the de Basil Ballets Russes in 1939 as a soloist and choreographer. He restaged his work La Lutte Eternelle for this company during their Australian tour. The Australian cast featured Georges Skibine  ( also known as Yura Skibine) in the role of Man, Nina Verchinina as Woman, Tamara Toumanova as Illusion, Sono Osato as Beauty, Marina Svetlova as Truth and Boris Runanine as Will. Other members of the cast were Slava Toumine , Paul Petroff and Oleg Tupine. The cast pictured in the above photo includes Nina Verchinina, Georges ( Yura) Skibine, Slava Toumine , Paul Petroff and Oleg Tupine.

The costumes and scenery were designed by the sisters Kathleen and Florence Martin of Melbourne. The costumes were made by Olga Larose, the company wardrobe mistress and the sets were executed by G. Upward. The press found the production work to be a first rate success which carried through the symbolism of Schwezoff’s choreography. One critic in Melboursne called La Lutte Eternelle  a ballet of wholly perfect dancing in which splendid movement is guided by great music. The Schumann score was orchestrated by Anton Dulati, the Hungarian conductor.

The ballet’s theme dealt with man’s progress towards an ideal beyond worldly things explored through allegory. The key roles included Truth, Illusion, Beauty and Will.

La Lutte Eternaelle was well received by both the public and the press in both the initial Amsterdam ballet school production and the professional revised world premiere staged for the de Basil Ballets Russes and premiered in Sydney at the Theatre Royal on the 29th of July in 1940.

Mr. Schwezoff notably performed the role of the Old General in the popular David Lichine ballet Graduation Ball during this 1937 – 1940 Australian tour of the de Basil Ballets Russes. Fortunately some photos of him and other notorious cast members in these performances exist in the records of the Australian Public Library.

If anyone reading this has further information about Igor Schwezoff or photographs of him and his works I would love to be notified as I am trying to complie all the biographical information I can about him. Please post a comment if you know more!

Mr. Schwezoff ultimately worked in major ballet companies all over the world and became one of the most important and influential teachers in New York City. His classes were frequented by many well known professional ballet dancers. He passed away in 1982 at the age of 78.

 

Ballerina Tamara Toumanova Wearing a Vintage Fur Coat in a Dress Rehearsal

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Tamara Toumanova trying to keep warm on the freezing cold stage during a dress rehearsal of Aurora's Wedding from The Sleeping Beauty

While researching a ballet in the 1937 Ballets Russes Repretoire I came across this charming photo of ballerina Tamara Toumanova wearing a vintage fur jacket while trying to keep warm on a freezing stage during a dress rehearsal for Aurora’s Wedding scene in The Sleeping Beauty. The cavernous old theaters were often very cold which is one reason ballerinas and opera singers needed to have a cozy fur coat on hand at all times! I love this photo because it illustrates such a practical and personal use for a fur coat!

This image is from the Geoffrey Ingram collection of ballet photographs from the Ballets Russes Australian tour, 1936-1940 and features Tamara Toumanova, Michael Panaieff, Anton Vlassoff and Oleg Tupine, 1940.

It’s Spring So Let’s All Get Inpired to Wear Hats Again & Consider the Princess WOW! Hat Collection Funding Campaign on Indiegogo, too!

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

A Classic Handmade Feather Beret From Lady Violette's Personal Hat Collection in Brown and Green Handmade by Millinery Artist/ Designer Princess WOW!

I was going through my own collection of hats this weekend while getting out some pretty ones for the spring season when I received a notice from my milliner friend Princess WOW! about her Indiegogo campaign efforts. She wanted my help to spread the word. I am glad to do so through this post, but I also want to get people back into the mood to wear hats! Easter is around the corner – a classic time to wear a pretty hat and hats just generally inspire people, cheer them up and make them feel better. As the flowers begin to bloom again in the spring women should take inspiration from them to bloom beautifully in pretty hats and colorful scarves as well! It is a wide open opportunity to express ourselves in the performance art of wearing a hat which is always fun, easy and a lift for the spirits of both the wearer and those viewing her wearing the hats! Hats, are an innocent and easy way to bring people pleasure. Wearing a hat is fun and takes some personal style and confidence – as demonstrated by the young lady in the picture at the end of this post.

Making hats is a special skill ,as is marketing them, as you can find out by reading this: Mindy Fradkin attended New York’s prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology to learn to make hats in the classic way from old school masters of the craft. She is now Princess WOW! – A Milliner Extraordinaire –  working to raise money for her new collection of beautiful artistic hats through an Indiegogo fundraising campaign. This is a worthy cause if you love hats, hat makers and designers and you can participate on a small or large level. Here is the link to the campaign which is an interesting thing to know about in itself. I am hearing more and more about artists and businesses raising money for their projects in this manner and having read her funding campaign now understand more about how these work. If you are curious about that as well as helping her raise the funds she needs I suggest you check it out too! Mindy Fradkin is Princess WOW! the hat designer, and she has done a good job putting her proposal together. I have known her for years and own over 20 of her beautiful timeless hats myself.  I can testify to her design brilliance and reliability. Of course it costs money to put together a collection and even more to attend high end craft shows where people can go to see and buy your hats. There is much more detail to the millinery business than putting decorations on a hat! Go here to read about what she needs to do and gain appreciation for the business side of millinery as well the beauty of handmade hats.  http://igg.me/at/princesswowhats.

I love wearing hats myself and have amassed quite a collection of artist made and vintage ones over the last two decades. I have been a personal client of Princess WOWS! hats since the early 1990’s! I wrote an article about what happens to me when I wear one of her hats for a magazine in New York years ago.  Here it is again, to get you into the mood of wearing a Princess WOW! hat yourself.

“Confessions of a Head Turner” – or What Happens When I Wear a Beautiful Hat.

“Confessions of a Head Turner ” was originally  written by Lady Violette for Princess WOW! when she was primarily  known as Mindy Fradkin’s Important Hats. It was published in 1995 in Breukelen Magazine in NYC  with accompanying photos of  Lady Violette wearing Mindy’s hats. It still holds true and it is still fun, so we decided to bring it out for contemplation if you find yourself considering wearing hats again this spring and summer as we do. (We being Lady Violette & Princess WOW! and our young model Mademoiselle Coco.)

Over the years we became good friends through out mutual love of hats and our design work together. It is also interesting to note that, years after I originally wrote this piece, Princess WOW! met her husband, artist Roland Mousaa, because he saw her wearing one of her hats while waiting in a line to be seated at a restaurant. Just as I wrote, something special always happens when you wear her hats! A real life adventure!

Now Mindy Fradkin is Princess WOW! and her main focus has changed from making hats to her work for The Smile Revolution but she still makes and wears her own hats in her concerts and performances and for private clients. Lady Violette has taken good care of all her Important Hats and Princess WOW! hats and still wears them regularly. We love hats! And spring is coming! A new hat for Easter has always been a tradition! So, it has gotten me  thinking a lot about hats ~  Hats off to Princess WOW!  And a stroll down memory lane with ~

“The Confessions of  Head Turner”

I love to wear Mindy’s Important Hats. I never go without an Important Hat. I have two dozen of them. They make adventures happen.

I meet men. Men follow me. I feel mysterious, like a heroine in a novel. Like Zelda Fitzgerald or Greta Garbo. In an Important Hat you create an indelible impression… you become an enigma, unforgettable, memorable…

It’s evocative of romance and another time. A hat is an emphatic statement. Jewelry is more subtle, smaller, meant for close up. A hat can be seen across a street or restaurant. At a distance in a gallery or museum. It casts the wearer’s magic spell…

In giving up hats, women gave up coquetry. Mindy’s hats bring it back, but they are not vintage, not ingenue. They are totally modern & sophisticated, they’re history, too…

They’re true art, completely original form and construction. The simplest looking design transforms a face.

She is the Rodin of the sculptured hat.

When you wear her hats heads turn.

I began collecting Mindy’s hats if 1992. Now I can’t stop!! Each hat represents a different facet of my inner personality to the viewer. They allow me to express the different aspects of my character.

Together Mindy and I continue to discover more ~ a great talent in a designer for her client.

Thank you Mindy for presenting my many inner characters to me and to the the world… To love me you (I mean anyone,) must know me. Your hats project aspects of my inner soul to the outside world (when I choose to do so by wearing one.)

Lady Violet de Courcy, Ballet Dancer, Jewelry Designer, Writer and Mindy’s Muse

Mindy Fradkin-Mousaa, now The Princess of WOW! & renowned hat designer and comedienne performs using her hats, in shows and concerts and at “Hat Happenings” regularly around New York City. She also currently works for The Smile Revolution raising conscious awareness for the healing power of a genuine smile. She is a singer, songwriter, and concert promoter but still creates wonderful extravagant hats for private clients and participates in select craft shows  You can contact her at:

www.theprincessofwow.com

For INSPIRATION here is something to think about! Madamoiselle Coco below, who is 4 years old, wisely says, “You can wear hats anytime and all the time.”  Here she wears a white vintage hat with a veil while out doing errands on a Saturday morning.  She says “You can always wear a hat. It makes every occasion special. You do not need a special event or an occasion such as a wedding to wear one! ” Here she is getting a manicure at the local village salon where her unique personal style and lovely vintage veiled hat garnered quite a few compliments! This stylish young lady already has a collection of special hats! “When you wear a lovely hat people smile at you and stop to talk to you and compliment you on it. They tell you how much they like it and they want to meet you! Sometimes they even tell you that seeing you in your hat makes them feel happy! Wearing a hat is definitely worthwhile!”

A lovely young lady - Mademoiselle Coco - wearing a vintage hat with veil shows us that we can wear hats as we go about our regular activities everyday!

Marlene Dietrich in a Fabulous Fur Hat ~ “Fur is Fabulous” Isn’t it?

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Marlene Dietrich in a Fabulous Fur Hat!

“Fur is Fabulous” is my personal favorite quote ~ I made it up myself for myself ~ and tonight I came across a great photo of Marlene Dietrich in a fur hat that I want to share with you. I suspect this might actually be a fur muff that she plopped on top of her head like I did to create a fur hat during a photo session. Anyway, I like it!

Fur is Fabulous~ photo by Leigh LeDare

Just for fun, here is my own Fur is Fabulous picture of me wearing my black fox fur cuff spontaneously plopped on top of my head during a photo session as a hat.

Inspiration – Gorgeous Greta Garbo in a Beautiful Fur Trimmed Coat

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

Greta Garbo in The Torrent Wearing a Fur Trimmed Striped Coat

Great Greta Garbo.

She did not say I want to be alone. That was a misquote. She wanted to be let alone by the press and the crazy fans. And crazy men.

Here is a lovely photo of her in The Torrent. She is sporting a unique fur coat. At least the hem is trimmed in fur. And the cuffs. I cannot tell what the rest of the coat was made of. Perhaps it is a knitted coat as it is striped and so fitted. I love the whole outfit. Hat, coat, shoes, silk stockings. And the color tonalities. They had to think about how they would photograph in black and white. The stripes and the shading of the different colors in the zone system of greys makes me wonder what colors the coat was in real life color.

The Torrent was Garbo’s first American film. A silent in black and white.

Look at her eyes! Lovely!

Vintage Tweed Coat by Sabrina With Lush Natural Coyote Fur Collar ~ Circa 1967 ~ Identifying Coyote Fur

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Vintage Wool Tweed Coat by Sabrina ~ Circa 1970's With Lush Natural Coyote Fur Collar

Here is a beautiful vintage winter tweed coat with an extravagant natural coyote fur collar made in 1967 by the Sabrina Coat Corporation in New York. The fur is very long and fluffy and is composed of all the brown, tan and cream colors in the nubby tweed fabric. This is a great warm winter coat for cities like New York and Chicago where it gets really cold because it is double breasted, long and full.

The Double Breasted Design of This Winter Coat Provides Extra Warmth and Protection as it Covers the Chest with Four Layers of Fabric Counting the Tweed and the Millium Lining Crossed Over Each Other, While the Criss Crossed & Overlapped Coyote Fur Encompasses the Shoulders, Neck and Chest as Well as Framing the Face.

The double layer of fabric and fur where it crisscrosses across the chest is a great wind barrier and the huge fur collar is soft, snugly and luxurious.

Long Full Skirt with a Generous Amount of Fabric and Wide Back Pleat Layers Well and Fits Over Anything InCluding Sweaters, Skirts, Pants and Suits

The long full skirt fits over everything and is swishy and glamorous as well! It is lined in blush colored satin Millium lining fabric which is insulated for extra warmth. Millium is a trademarked lining fabric which allowed for extreme warmth without creating bulk and was favored for use in women’s suits and coats when a tailored fitted look was desired. The extravagant coyote fur collar creates a flattering portrait frame for the face of the wearer! I feel beautiful and glamorous and very warm when I wear this coat! It is a coat one can wear out in the dead of winter in the coldest place and be warm and comfortable while enjoying being outside.

Shiny and Elegant in Itself the Specially Designed and Insulated Millium Lining in a Feminine Blush Color Satin Finish Fabric Adds to the Warmth and Beauty of This Well Designed Vintage Winter Coat.

Short jackets just do not keep me warm enough in winter! I need a long coat to keep me warm all over. I also love the way this coat is belted, creating a small nipped in waist when the self fabric belt is tied. It has a 1950’s influenced New Look silhouette with the small waist and long full skirt. This coat features a wide pleat in the back of the skirt giving extra movement and fullness.

Generously Sized and Completely Functional Side Pockets are Big Enough to Really Carry Things In and Have the Added Benefit of Being Securely Closed With the Opening Underneath the Overlapping Decorative Placket at the Top. Pickpockets Would Have to Work Hard to Get Into Your Pocket So You Would be Well Aware of Their Annoying Presence. These Pockets Are Big Enough to Carry a Pair of Gloves, a Scarf, a Pretty Vintage Handkerchief, a Folding Pocket Comb, a Compact, a Lipstick, a Cell Phone, Keys, a Change Purse and a Small Wallet Without Creating Unsightly Bulges or Adding to the Impression of the Size of Your Hips. Of Course They Are Also Thoughtfully Lined in a Warm and Soft Flannel Fabric to Help Keep Your Gloved Hands Even Warmer if Needed! They Knew How to Make Good Working Pockets Back in the Day!

The two huge side pockets are also very functional. You could carry your life in them if you needed to! This coat was made in the days when they still did hand bound buttonholes which is a detail I love and sewed a few extra buttons inside the coat in case you needed to replace one.

Well Made, Laboriously Hand Tailored Bound Buttonholes Add to the Quality and Beauty of This Elegant Circa 1970's Coat.

The buttons are also sewed on extremely well! Originally. I always check the sewing on all the buttons of vintage items when I acquire them to be sure they are very securely attached. If any are loose I sew them on by hand so I won’t lose any. It is hard to find replacement buttons and the extras sewn into the lining are a real sign of quality construction.

An Extra Replacement Button is Sewn Inside the Coat Just In Case You Lose One. Also Note the Beautiful Big Sabrina Coat Corporation Label and the Still Attached Cleaning and Care Instructions. I Just Love the Elegant Labels in My Vintage Clothing and It Really Adds to the History and Value of a Garment if the Original Designer Label and Care Labels Are Still Inside a Vintage Piece When You Acquire It.The Labels Can Also Help You to Date the Clothing and Research Its History. Some People Collect Label's in and of Themselves. I Photograph My Favorite Ones and Keep a File of the Images.

The coat is beautifully designed and tailored and it fits over anything I have tried to wear underneath it – from a dress to sweaters and skirt or a sweater and suit jacket worn together. It is rare to find a pretty coat that is cut to fit over a suit without creating a bulky unflattering look.

The Side View Illustrates The Influence of Dior's New Look with Its Nipped in Belted Waist and Longer Full Flowing Skirt on the Lines and Silhouette of this Very Figure Flattering and Feminine Coat.

I acquired this coat at an estate sale during the summer. It is in excellent condition and very clean. I question whether it was ever worn before I bought it because it is in such good shape! I recommend looking for winter coats, suits and vintage furs during the summer months because they are bulky and people who are selling them will want to do so during the summer in order to get rid of them. When you buy a winter item during hot summer weather you can often get a good price because the seller doesn’t want to have to hold onto that big warm hard to store coat for another 6 to 9 months when winter sets in.  The same principal  applies to buying vintage swimwear.  Buy off season when the demand for an item is lower in order to get better prices.

Note the Classic 1930's Influence on this 1967 Tweed Midi Length Winter Coat with its Face Flattering Natural Coyote Fur Portrait Collar. This Coat Was Made at the Height of the Influence on Fashion of the 1967 Movie Bonnie & Clyde.

I think this style of wrapped and belted wool coat with its glamorous and warm natural coyote fur face framing collar is timeless. I have seen similar coats in old black and white movies worn by Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Faye Dunaway wore them in the 1967 movie Bonnie & Clyde which is set in the depression era 1930’s. Faye Dunaway was incredibly glamorous in that movie and influenced fashion accordingly the year the film came out. She wore such coats over tweed midi length skirts with sweaters and textured stockings and T-strapped or gillie shoes. She wore her gleaming blond hair in a sleek Garbo influenced bob with berets and cloche hats. Many portraits exist of Garbo dramatically framed by the gigantic fur portrait collars like this coyote collar. The year 1967, when Bonnie & Clyde was released, every fashionable woman wanted a 1920’s ~ 30’s influenced fur collared winter coat and sexy clinging midi length tweed skirts. In the dead of winter tin 1967 these coats were worn with narrow high heeled taupe suede boots and knitted or felt cloche caps and berets.

Vintage Skunk Fur Stole & Muff ~ Circa 1940s ~ Vintage Fur Identification: Natural Undyed Black/ Brown and White Skunk Fur

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Natural Skunk Fur Stole and Matching Muff ~ C 1940s ~ From the Lady Violette Vintage Fur Collection

I have an extensive collection of vintage furs and people always wonder what kinds of furs they are. Some are quite unusual and seldom seen these days. I have decided to research all of them thoroughly and have consulted a professional furrier Rene Vogel for authentification. Mr. Vogel is a second generation Swiss custom furrier who was the house furrier for Nordstroms when they were still selling furs and I. Magnin when they were still in business and selling furs. He has decades of experience having been in the business himself since 1969, as well as growing up around it because his father was also a furrier. He is very familiar with the styles and types of furs worn over the past decades in both Europe and America. Rene Vogel now works independently by appointment and his business is Furs by Rene. He is located in the Seattle area. He can be reached at 425- 322-9638. He does custom designs, restyles, alterations, repairs, storage and cleaning. His email is rdcvogel@msn.com

Jacques Nam ~ Polar Bear Fur Coat & Coats of Fur for Children ~ 1912

I plan to work my way through my own collection of furs and post each fur with extensive photos and a description in the hope of helping people to make correct identification of furs they have or would perhaps eventually like to acquire! And for the purpose of correct historical identification of the furs used in creating these spectacular vintage fashions. I think the use of furs is a fascinating part of our social history. At this point I will explain that I do not buy or wear new leather or fur clothing, I only recycle vintage. Many of the furs I have now I inherited from family members and elderly friends who know I have an interest in them. My interest is in identifying the furs accurately, preserving and repairing them if necessary, wearing them when it is appropriate, and education about furs and their place in history and society ~ in other words, social studies. I do advocate wearing a recycled fur if you wish to wear one and I feel we show our respect for the animals used in the making of these old furs by learning about them and caring for them properly. I personally feel it shows more respect to an animal who was made into a fur coat years ago to wear it respectfully than to bury it in a landfill before its beauty and useful life have naturally expired. Wearing an antique of vintage fur out in public gives you an opportunity to educate people on the topic of furs and the preservation of endangered species. I see this as an animal rights and environmental education opportunity.

Skunk Stole Made of 24 Skunk Pelts & Matching Muff Made of 6 Skunk Pelts

This fabulous vintage 1940s fur ensemble is a very dramatic black/ brown and white skunk stole and muff. The stole is comprised of 24 skunk pelts arranged with 3 pelts sewn together side by side width wise by eight pelts lengthwise creating a rectangular stole that is 13 ” wide by 86 ” long. The matching muff is comprised of 6 skunk pelts joined side by side and formed into cylinder which is lined in heavy black satin and stuffed with down feathers. The natural pattern of white against black/ brown fur in the skunks coats creates an interesting zigzag effect when the pelts are joined together side by side.  The coloration in this ensemble is natural, not dyed. It is black with very dark brown undertones and cream patterning when you hold it in bright natural light. In the photo below the skunk fur muff is placed on a black ultra suede upholstered sofa and is in bright natural light which allows you to see that it has brown tones within the black ones.

Cozy Muff is a Cylinder of 6 Skunk Pelts Joined Side by Side, Lined in Black Satin and Stuffed with Down Feathers to Keep Your Hands Warm! There is a Black Bakelite Bangle Attached so You Can Secure The Muff By Wearing it on Your Wrist Like a Bracelet. It is Beautifully Warm!

Skunk was often dyed solid blue black in order to disguise its identity and called ” American Sable” because some people did not like the identity of a skunk associated with their elegant fur garment. Personally I really like the natural coloring and the pattern produced by joining the skins side by side and end to end. I also like the softness of the natural coloring versus dark blue/ black because it is more flattering to my skin tone and easier to wear than stark blue/ black.

Back View of Vintage Natural Skunk Stole Circa 1940s

Here is a back view of this stole on a mannequin showing the length and proportion it had when worn. It is 86 ” long by 13″ wide ~ a glamorous and generous size for wrapping around the shoulders or draping for a highly dramatic entrance to an event over a bias cut 1940s evening gown. In writing this piece I choose to call this a stole but it can also be considered a scarf and a shawl when you are deciding how to style and wear it. You could even use it as a gigantic muffler or as a throw over a piece of furniture in your interior decor. There is an art to using furs and if you get creative you can figure out many ways to wear them and other interesting ways to use them. It is important to recognize the furriers skill as an art form and experiment with ways to wear his creations.

In former more elegant time periods it seems that women dressed with a great deal more attention to the beautiful effects they were creating and the lasting impressions they made. The ability to do this was considered a valuable talent and a respected female accomplishment. It was viewed positively as one of the feminine arts. Of course many men did this too. In my opinion many more men used to give attention to the way they dressed than they do so today.

Jacques Nam ~ Evening Coat Trimmed in Skunk Fur and Tailor Made Children's Clothes

Many men and women were employed in the professions that helped these fashionable women to achieve their great degree of elegance.  Consider the couture designers of clothing and furs, the jewelers, the textile manufacturers, the perfumers, the shoe designers, the milliners or hat makers, in fact the designers of every item these refined and beautiful people consumed and needed! Consider the craftsmen and trades people who supported the fur industry ~ the trappers, the tanners, the taxidermists, the fur dealers, the trade companies, the exporters and importers, the furriers, the seamstresses, the stores and shops and sales staff and models and photographers and illustrators and fashion editors! And so on, as there are undoubtedly many more categories of middle men and support people than I have quickly thought of here. The amount of work involved in the fur industry in the past and and the numbers of people employed by it and involved in executing it is amazing to contemplate in retrospect. The fur part of the fashion industry has been as large and complex as any other part of the fashion industry in past eras. Now it is barely hanging on.

It is a now dying art form and profession and most of the furriers have closed shop in American cities. It is difficult to find a professional furrier to work with you anymore. I learned today that the only one left working in Portland, OR is Nicholas Ungar and the only one I know of in Seattle is Rene Vogel. The others have had to close down due to lack of demand for real furs. You may read in the press that fur is suddenly in demand again, but there is not enough demand to keep a small professional craftsman in a relatively large city in the United States in business. What is shown in a European fashion magazine’s artistic photo layout is no real indication of what is happening on a business level for these artisans and small business people. Antique dealers who sold vintage furs in Seattle four years ago have completely stopped and the last exclusive Fur shop in Bellevue, WA closed 2 years ago due to lack of adequate sales to stay in business. The department stores no longer have fur salons. All of them used to.

Jacques Nam ~ Fox Fur Stole ~ 1912

This is why I consider my beautiful vintage furs to be real treasures. They are rare and lovely and, in my opinion very worth the difficulty and expense of collecting, caring for, storing and maintaining. It is important to point out, here, that the furs need to be regularly cleaned to maintain the suppleness of the leather and keep the pelts from drying out and disintegrating. That means once every couple of years at least. During the summer they need to be put in cold storage for temperature and humidity control. It costs about $100 to clean a fur garment and about $60 a year to store it professionally during the summer season. You must also repair any little damages or stresses such as torn pocket edges or little splits that occur in the pelts as soon as you discover them. This must be done by a professional ~ the furrier ~ in order to be done properly. We need these guys! Furs are really quite delicate and need to be treated accordingly. They should be hung on wide padded hangers in a cool dark place with plenty of air circulation. They should not be exposed to light as they will oxidize and change color ~ very quickly. Like fine art which they are, too, they need to be stored in the dark.

There are a lot of details and lots to remember about caring for and wearing vintage furs but it is all interesting and ultimately well worth it! Like any area of special interest collecting vintage furs requires discipline and commitment. Like caring for a live pet requires love and attention, so does properly maintaining your fur and the way I see it doing so is also respecting the animals from which it came.

Jacques Nam ~ Sable Fur Scarf ~ Dress with White Fur Cuffs and a fur Trimmed Hat ~ 1912

I envision several ways of wearing my skunk fur stole and muff; first as an elegant evening wrap over a dark black/brown full length bias cut 1940s evening gown; second as a warm shawl and extravagant extra layer of warmth wrapped over my 1950s brown and black with cream tweed skirt suit along with the matching skunk fur muff to keep my elegantly vintage gloved hands even warmer; and third and finally, as a deco patterned black and white fur scarf over a slim calf length black wool coat with a high black fur collar and deep black fur cuffs as they did in Paris at the turn of the twentieth century. In those days they often mixed fur types and colors to achieve unusual color and textural combinations and proportions and it worked beautifully. They also combined furs with textiles in ways we would consider unusual today to great dramatic effect. Studying the way furs were worn in history gives you many new ideas on ways to use a vintage fur if you have one. Inspiration can be taken from any place and any time period. If you have any vintage piece I encourage you to experiment to find ways to wear it combined with contemporary items for a look all your own that is distinctively new and one of a kind to you today. The three outfits I create for myself with my skunk  fur stole and muff and other clothing that I own each draw their inspiration from different past fashion eras. I do not copy those eras to the letter. I draw from them and apply them to myself to achieve a look that I feel is appropriate to my personal style and life today.

 

Jacques Nam ~ Chinchilla Toque and Scarf ~ 1912

After I finish photographing and documenting my furs and identifying what types of furs they all are. I intend to style them and photograph them on human models showing several different and relevant ways in which each one can be styled and worn today. I like to experiment with this ahead of having to be somewhere all dressed up on a schedule! I find preparing and planing in advance really saves me time and cuts down on stress when getting ready for an event. And I also enjoy the planning and experimentation part of dressing. I do not enjoy being pressured however so I try to prepare in advance! Remember, “Rushing is not glamorous!”  is one of my favorite quotes.I think it is a great luxury to be able to get ready in a leisurely manner.

Side View Shows the Repetitive Art Deco Pattern Created When the Skunk Skins are Joined Together Side by Side and End to End.

A side ways view above shows the repetitive patterns of the skunk skins in the little V shapes that are created when the furrier joined them together. I think the designs of the joined furs look very Art Deco. I imagine descending a curving staircase in that long black/ brown satin bias cut 1940s evening gown wrapped in this beauty or making a red carpet entrance in it ~ Just imagine the photo opportunities!  I think the press would go insane! Or at the very least mad! An actress would definitely catch their attention if she were wearing these unusual pieces on the red carpet today! They are so simple, yet so elegant and all because of the natural beauty of the humble little skunk!

Any actresses out there, or their stylists, please contact me and arrange to use my skunk fur ensemble for such an event rather than having a new one made. I in no way wish to advocate the creation of a new skunk fur ensemble by showing this vintage one on my blog. Alternatively it might be possible to make a similar one out of faux fur, but I have personally never seen faux fur of this type.

Jacques Nam ~ Evening Dress with Polecat Fur Mantle Trimmed in White Fur~ 1912

My authentic skunk stole and matching muff are lined in a black satin with an embossed  leaf pattern. The stole bears a small label sewn in the side seam for the the Seattle store Jay Jacobs Seattle where it was originally sold. It has the original owners monogram initials HV appliqued on the lining. I find it interesting that they sewed in the owner’s initials as an applique that could be easily applied with a few well placed stitches or removed easily by picking out the threads that hold it in place and changed to another owners initials should this garment change hands! I’ll have to look into changing them to my own! Jay Jacobs Stores existed from 1941 to 1999. This ensemble was created and sold in the early 194os.

I acquired this skunk set about 20 years ago from an elderly friend of my mothers who was no longer able use it. She had worked at Jay Jacobs first store store in the early 1940s and bought it during that time. I have found elderly lady friends to be a great source of older fur styles. They are often happy that I show interest in the furs they treasured and the periods of time when they acquired and wore them. I have acquired several beautiful furs and other articles of vintage finery this way. I always promise to keep their fur, take good care of it and wear it out, to special events as they would have done back in the day. I promise, essentially, to treat it like a beloved pet. And I wear it when I go to visit them which they love!

In the olden days skunk would sometimes smell, well, a little bit skunky, if it got wet! However the furriers found a way to eliminate the natural odor of the skunk animal so an elegant wearer was only identifiable by her French couture perfume.

The interesting historical tidbit on skunk fur below is courtesy of the Vintage Fashion Guild’s Fur Resource on skunk where close up photos of several colors of skunk fur and several other vintage garments made of skunk pelts are also pictured. This section was written by Pauline Cameron and Katie Kelmsley.

“Skunk fur is rather long, with coarse, glossy guard hairs of about one to two inches, which have the qualities of strength and longevity. Normally the under-fur is grayish underneath the black guard hairs and white underneath the white guard hairs. If the more valuable all-black pelts were not used or available, the entire pelt was dyed a uniform, glossy black.

Jacques Nam ~ Badger Fur Trimmed Tunic, Skirt,and Printed Stole ~ 1912

Skunk fur has been used in the fur industry as early as the mid 1800’s, gradually increasing in popularity into the 1900’s when it exceeded production of the most traded fur – Muskrat. As the United States recovered from the Great Depression a strong market for fur trimmed cloth coats created a demand for skunk, with pelts doubling in price into the early 1940’s. Previous to the 1950’s it was sold under different names including Alaskan Sable, and American Sable.
After the identity of the fur was known, Skunk took a dive in popularity. This continued into the early 1970’s at which time the offbeat, unconventionality of it seemed to restore its appeal for a brief time after which it went out of use again. An upsurge in the popularity of Skunk fur has taken place with fashion houses such as Prada and Fendi using the black or brown-and-white varieties in items from handbags to throws and long, sweeping coats.

The hop growers loved the skunk because they ate the hop grubs that damaged the hop vines. The hop growers of the state, centered in Madison County, petitioned the State Legislature to pass a law giving the skunk a closed season. Thus the skunk became the first New York State furbearer to have legal protection!” “Many times a farm boy could earn more in a season’s trapping than his father made in a year on the farm. Skunks saved some farms during the Depression by the income from their pelts.“ Norman Evans, Stories From Old Georgetown.”

 

Jacques Nam - Full length Coats Trimmed in Beaver, Otter, Opossum or Ermine and a Long Fur Boa or Scarf~ 1912

Scarves, Stoles and Muffs in Skunk were also popular in fashionable cities in Europe in the early 1900s. The French fur fashion illustrator Jacques Nam did charming drawings for fashion plates and magazines depicting elegant women wrapped in in furs surrounded by the animals from which they were made as if they were darling personal pets. The greatest value in these pictures is seeing how the fur garments were initially meant to be worn when the designs were conceived and the clothing was made and accurate pictures of the animals whose pelts were used. Jacques Nam’s animals are very accurately rendered even though it is his fantasy that a woman would be walking her pet skunks, muskrats or leopards along the boulevard like two pet dogs while wearing an ensemble of a skunk stole and muff! You can get a lot of charming ideas of ways to wear your vintage furs by looking at his work.

Jacques Nam ~ an Evening Mantle in Mink with an Ermine Cape Collar ~ 1912

Note the fur stoles and muffs on the center woman below. That one makes me want to wear my skunk set with a straight long black dress and an amazing large brimmed black vintage hat trimmed in a cream ribbons and a soft tuft of black and brown feathers chosen to compliment the natural colors in the skunk fur. And dainty little shoes in a combination of cream and black with brown feathered shoe clips… Pictures like this make my imagination run wild on ways to wear my vintage furs!

Google Images gallery of Jacques Nam’s work.

Jacques Nam's Illustration of Fur Stole and Muff ~ about 1912

Finally I want to point out that I have included the Artist Jacques Nam’s illustrations in order to introduce you to his work and trigger your imagination in how to wear vintage fur styles. Much of his work is sheer exotic fantasy and would be great fun to own and wear, but, if one decided to reproduce it today I feel it would be best to do so in faux furs. I think this is entirely possible to do using vintage patterns available on Etsy and eBay.

I saw a Polish Folk Festival fashion show of native Polish costumes a couple of weeks ago. One of the men’s full length wool capes was trimmed using a 1940s woman’s vintage squirrel evening stole to make a wide shawl collar at the top, almost like a second short cape, that just covered  the man’s shoulders. Thus a vintage woman’s stole was used to make a contemporary man’s fur trimmed cape. And it was gorgeous! The costume designer had recycled the original stole, using every bit of a second hand fur to create an elegant wide fur collar on a new garment. It was absolutely stunning! This is a perfect example of using an old fur garment to inspire you to create a successful new one! I spoke to her after the event and she told me she had bought the shawl at the Goodwill for $37! I am just waiting until I have two similar pieces to put together to create a sweeping floor length wool cape with a vintage fur collar!

A Fashion Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket Part II ~ Philosophy & Ensemble

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

The Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket Inside Worn Outside is a Customized Vintage Fur Coat Made For Janis Joplin

The Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket ~ a Customized Vintage Fur Coat, Eight Strand Ode to Janis Joplin Love Bead Necklace, and The Styled for Janis Joplin Vintage 1930's Persian Lamb and Fur Felt Hat.

 

I recently posted photos of this Fantastic Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket in my first post about her contribution to fashion  The Fantastic Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket ~ One Way to Use Vintage Ties and Furs.

The Back of The Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket Inside Worn Outside

Today I am showing the rest of the opulent characteristic of Janis Joplin Ensemble and The Janis Joplin Accessories that go with it.

The Front of the Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket with the Fur Side Out

Janis loved beads and piled on many strands at once. She was even photographed for Rolling Stone wearing only her necklaces and joked that you couldn’t tell she was nude because she was covered with beads.

The Magnificent Ode to Janis Joplin Necklace

Here is the beautiful eight strand Ode to Janis Joplin Bead Necklace of silver, marcasite, garnets, Swarovsky crystals, rubies, and antique and contemporary glass artist lamp work beads. The ornate clasp is antique silver studded with marcasites.

The Antique Silver & Marcasite Clasp on the Ode to Janis Joplin Necklace

The Ode to Janis Joplin Necklace Over a Wine Silk Burnout Velvet Blouse & Midnight Blue Velvet Tiered Gypsy Style Skirt

The necklace is worn over a wine burnout silk velvet blouse with a dark blue velvet bohemian style three tiered gypsy skirt.

The Crazy Quilted Inside of The Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket is Made of Many Kinds of Beautiful Antique Fabrics and Pieces of Needlework Which Make It a Unique Piece of Bohemian Style Handmade Textile Art.

Janis loved opulent fabrics in deep rich colors.

Legendary Ode to Janis Joplin Antique Black Leather Boots

Janis also loved collected and wore antique boots.

Ode to Janis Joplin Real Victorian Brown Leather Boots

Here is a brown pair of real Victorian Boot Janis Joplin loved and a black pair.

Janis was notoriously quoted in ” FASHION NEWS: I went out & bought myself a $35 pair of boots. Oh they are so groovey!! They’re old-fashioned in their style-tight w/buttons up the front. Black. FANTASTIC! When I get back, I’m going to rent a sewing machine & make myself some sort of beautiful/outlandish dress to go w/them. ”
– Janis Joplin, September 1966

The Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket & The One of a Kind Eight Strand Ode to Janis Joplin Bead Necklace Worn with A Characteristic Janis Joplin Style Ensemble of a Wine Burnout Velvet Blouse and a Midnight Blue Velvet Skirt is Opulent and Amazing!

Here ~ in the gorgeous exotic fabrics Janis Joplin loved ~ is the Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket with the full ensemble of vintage midnight blue velvet three tiered gypsy skirt, vintage wine burnout velvet blouse, custom made one of a kind eight strand Ode to Janice Joplin Necklace of love beads, real Victorian boots and two men’s silk ties worn overlapping each other as a neck scarf. Her fans loved her homemade dresses, skirts and bell bottom pants, and piles of jewelry. And, of course, her customized vintage real fur jackets and hats.

Ode to Janis Joplin Vintage 1930's New Orleans Hat Trimmed in Persian Lamb and Custom Decorated for Janis with Burgundy Ostrich Feathers and A Jeweled Antique Brooch

To top off her outfits Janis often wore vintage fur or felt hats. This Ode to Janis Joplin Hat is originally from New Orleans and is trimmed in curly black Persian lamb fur and decorated with a fantastic jeweled antique brooch, and ostrich feathers! It was picked up at a thrift shop on a jazz festival tour of New Orleans and further embellished with her trademark curling ostrich feathers dyed a rich pink red and a gigantic jeweled brooch. Like everything she owned it is personalized and one of a kind. Janis loved to add colorful ostrich feathers in this form or in elaborate feather boas pinned into her hair.

Janis Joplin sewed! And she shopped in thrift stores. She sought out fabrics, notions and vintage clothes that inspired her. She put things together in her own way. Because she was on stage she inspired the people who saw her live in the 1960s to do the same thing for themselves in their own way. Everything was individually  done in this way of dressing and one of a kind, This look was very personal. You had to create much of it yourself from found objects so how you combined things became highly personal. You could not go out to a mall and successfully create such a look.  Janis Joplin made and designed many of her own costumes. She also worked with a designer friend to help execute her ideas as she became more successful. She always dressed as a performer ~ simply because she liked to ~ both on and off stage. For her life was really a continual performance. And she dressed accordingly. To her clothing was another form of her artistic expression and she derived great joy in expressing herself this way.

Her fans loved her style. Her influence on the way people dressed in the 60s effected the entire world. She became one of the 100 most influential people in fashion of all time. Because of the way she herself dressed and how much people liked that. Other people wanted to express themselves and their own individuality in a similar way. How she dressed epitomized  freedom of choice and self expression and inspired the rest of the world to do the same. No one copied her exactly. That was not the point of her influence. The main point she got across to other people was it is a good thing to be yourself and dress in your own way.

She collected fabrics. She loved exotic materials such as silks, velvets, brocades and metallic jerseys. She wore luxurious leathers, furs, and many beads and jewels.~ particularly armloads of bracelets and many rings on every fingers all at the same time.  She wore fluffy colorfully dyed ostrich feather boas in her free flowing long naturally wavy hair. The custom made Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket is hand sewn and skillfully embroidery stitched with many of these types of collected fabrics, including ribbons, hand crocheted lace doilies, embroidered birds and flowers and thrifted Italian silks taken from vintage men’s neckties. People loved Janis Joplin for her music and for her fashion sense. And most of all for her sense of freedom of self.

Janis Joplin’s self made image and often home made style and fashion choices perfectly symbolized what was going on in the world and society at the time. She became the bohemian fashion queen of the hippie movement. She had been ridiculed as unattractive and ugly during her high school years and it must have been tremendously empowering for her ~ in a good way ~ to be admired and respected for her artistic taste and fashion sense! She would probably be amazed to know what long lasting effect she has had on fashion today. Janis Joplin was also innocent and pure in her fashion choices because they came from her heart and soul in the same way her music did. It was improvised spontaneously in the same way she interpreted her songs. Janis always put her own unique twist on things!  Her fashions were in no way commercial or mass produced. Her lovely clothes were lovingly chosen and made either by herself or by other artists. She spearheaded a movement to dress the way you wanted to that swept across the world. In her way she was the ultimate dress reformist. And she accomplished this as a side line to her music and unintentionally. She became tremendously influential in fashion just by doing her own thing.

Slashed Fur Sleeves Patched With Silk From Vintage Italian Designer Neckties.

“Do Your Own Thing” incidentally became a catch phrase of the times! And the basic theme and message of many songs and stage musicals like Hair, and Do Your Own Thing, and OH! Calcutta. I think Janis would have loved that! Janis Joplin’s style was not commercially created by stylists and promotion experts.  She did not have a huge clothing budget or makeup artists and hair stylists following her around at all times. She did not get done up with hours and hours of preparation for interviews and personal appearances. She refused to wear makeup because she hated the way it looked and felt and she allowed her hair to naturally do its own thing – which meant grow and be wavy and simply put some scarves or feather boas in it to add color and volume.

I think she got dressed like some 3 – 5 year old girls do! They have a closet full of clothes and a costume box and left to their own devices put on and mix up colors and styles wearing whatever appeals to them with no care for what others think every time they get dressed. They often look great in a mix of colors and accessories worn in unconventional ways. It is all done quite spontaneously and I hear grown ups say, “Wow! That looks great! I wish we could wear those things and those colors and fabrics together!” And the mother of the child says, “I don’t choose her clothes or accessories. she does it all herself!”  I, personally believe that Janis Joplin got dressed in this same way. And, as she made more money and could afford to buy what she wanted she became all the more colorful and free and self expressive in her clothing choices.

These were simple natural choices for her that were fun and lighthearted and easy for her to accomplish. She had a tremendous natural ease and vulnerability and that was very appealing. It came through in her singing and dancing of course, but it was also how she looked. It amazes me to consider this in contrast to the singers of today – such as Lady Gaga, Boyonce, Gwen Stefani, Rhianna, Madonna and many others who have such commercialized, highly manufactured, expensive to produce and high maintenance personal and stage styles. Janis had none of this “Professional Help.” It is important to realize that she was completely responsible for creating her look herself. I find it hard to see the person under the modern stars styling whereas Janis Joplin was personally completely exposed at all times.

In The Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket- Slashed Furs Reveal Black Cloth Sections of Inner Darkness Beneath the Outer Layers. Rich Deep Colors of Soft Silk Like the Depths of Janis Joplin's Voice and Amazingly Warm and Beautiful Yet Damaged and Vulnerable Furs Enable the Artist to Wear Her Soul On Her Sleeves.

Janice Joplin sang as if she cut herself open and showed us the very insides of her own self and soul in her music in every performance she did. This was the essence of her style and way of dressing as well. Thus, in the Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket the slashed skin sleeves and torn furs revealing sky colored satin embellished with birds embroidered in psychedelic colors of thread perched next to dark rich silks and patches of exotic brocade that symbolize the person and artist Janis Joplin was to those who saw her in the clothing. There are some important patches of personal darkness too in exposed inner sections of black fabric that are open to view under the the torn away outer sections of the amazingly warm and beautiful, yet vulnerable and damaged fur. The Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket is really just like she was ~ original, unusual, delicate, beautiful but rough and exquisite and raw and different all at the same time.

It is important to note that Janis had no aversion to wearing real furs or leather and openly did both. She also loved animals and most notoriously owned a beautiful and affectionate sheep dog. Janis loved her dog. And other furry animals. As far as I know she only wore vintage furs made from pelts of animals killed long before that she rescued from thrift shops. I think she felt, as I do, that rescuing an old fur and giving it new life by wearing it or making it into a beautiful new article of clothing was a way of honoring the already long dead animal from whom it came.

Two Beautiful Men;s Vintage Silk Ties Are Overlapped and Used as a Woman's Scarf Encircling the Lapels of the Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket. The Navy Paisley Tie ifs Vintage Liberty of London and The Wine Colored Floral is Vintage From the Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection.

In Janis Joplin’s  characteristically creative personal way of repurposing materials she loved beautiful thrifted silk men’s ties – a vintage navy blue paisley patterned one from Liberty of London and a vintage burgundy floral one from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection are overlapped and used as a woman’s scarf to frame the neckline lapels on the fur side of the Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket. This “scarf of ties”  treatment works in nicely with the crazy quilting of velvets, brocades, lace, ribbons, embroidery and antique silks used in the jacket. some of the silk patches in the jacket came from old neckties as well.

Janice influenced other people to do their own thing and express themselves through their clothes as much as she did. Many people, especially in the 1960s and 70s did so really well. Because, like she did, they “got down! ” They got down and dressed themselves with things they found and made and put together in their own way.They created their own version of an artistic and eclectic look. And this really worked. People were very often beautifully and very individually dressed  in that time. It was a very experimental period. People wore things they really loved with boldness and confidence. It was wonderful to see the things they came up with.

Ever since she came on the scene she has been copied commercially. The mass market has tried to benefit from her style and vision by mass producing cheap imitation versions of her look. They usually look like chap imitations too! It is not exactly a mass produced look! To achieve it and pull off something with a similar success you have to get to the soul of the matter of self dressing. You can do it inexpensively or using expensive fabrics and jewels. You can do anything as long as it is honest and original, preferably self made, found or artist made. It is best done by artists that are your friends or do work that is meaningful to you personally.

You will not be able to go to a mall and assemble pieces to give you such a look. If you do that, or follow the conservative commercial version of “Getting The Janis Joplin Look” as advised in a teen or adult woman’s fashion magazines and certain advice online your attempt to achieve the real Janis Joplin Look will fail completely! I have seen some ridiculous articles and advice columns in magazines and online with utterly tepid versions of the look. You cannot be conservative about this. You have to be absolutely fearless as Janis was. She actually often used very fine luxurious fabrics, furs, beads and jewelry and had a passion for beautiful old high quality boots. She found many of her beautiful fabrics and clothes antique and second hand and this can still be done. As an artist Janis gave old things a new life in her assemblages. Her clothes and outfits were actually artistic collages of wearable items and they became art with her interpretation. Again and again and again her fashion interpretations were like her musical interpretations ~ original and unique with a very personal twist. That is the secret to achieving her look. If you can do that for yourself you will be able to achieve a truly Janis Joplin inspired personal look.

All the Ode to Janis Joplin Clothing and Accessories pictured are from Lady Violette de Courcy’s personal collection, The Lady Violette de Courcy Vintage Clothing Collection.  She is a writer, art and vintage clothing collector and fashion historian.

Photos for this article are by Violette de Courcy

A Charming Little Beaded Dance Purse from the 1930’s from Lady Violette’s Vintage Purse Collection

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

A Charming Dance Purse from the 1930's. Hand Beaded With Needlepoint Embroidery. Made in France. From Lady Violette de Courcy's Collection of Vintage Handbags

Here is a lovely little beaded bag from the 1930’s. It was designed to take with you when you went out dancing. It is 5 inches across and 3 inches tall. It was meant to be held in your hand by slipping the back side of your left hand delicately through the little strap on the back of the bag thus enabling the front of the bag to show against the shoulder of the dark suit of your partner as you danced with your left hand resting gently on his left shoulder in ballroom dance partnering position. I don’t suppose the dancing could get too wild and vigorous while holding such a purse! When the dancing got more athletic the purse would probably have had to be relegated to the tabletop! I picture this as a style meant for civilized ladylike dancing at social occasions.

The Back Side of the 1930's Beaded Dance Purse From Lady Violette de Courcy's Collection

The flowers are done in needlepoint using very tiny stitches with silk thread. They are outlined with marcasite beads against the groundwork of tiny white glass seed beads. Small glass pearl beads were used in the center of each flower. The beading is done on a linen base. The bag is lined in white silk. It is made completely by hand. This one was made in France. Beautiful beaded and embroidered bags like this were hand made in Europe ~ mostly France, Austria, and Belgium ~  by women artisans for women to to use. It was an art form of beautiful objects being made by women for women to own and appreciate and use during special occasions in their lives. Such bags were often given as elegant gifts.

One of the reasons I love these bags so much is that they are fine examples of what my late father called the Feminine Arts ~ these include the arts made by women and the arts worn by women and, simply, the arts of being a woman. At the time these bags were made being elegant and charming and dressing beautifully was considered an art form and women were greatly appreciated for doing so. Putting oneself together in an artistic way was valued and appreciated. My father, who was an English professor, reminisced on this when he viewed my collection of vintage purses a couple of years ago in his 80’s. While viewing them he remarked, ” If a man wanted to be with a beautiful woman in those days he knew he had to support her .”  (Shock! What a novel and quaint idea that is nowadays! What happened to that custom?) He continued to say, that, a successful man knew that a woman would bring the very things he lacked, being that he was a man, to his life ~ these things all fell into the category of female attributes that my father called the Feminine Arts ~ and that he, as a man, could not acquire by any means except being with her. These things could not be bought at any price if a man were alone. These “Feminine Arts” included  love and companionship of course. It was his firm philosophy that taking care of a man and supervising a household while bringing these elegant and elusive feminine qualities to a man’s life was a full time undertaking and should be supported, respected and rewarded as such by a man. He was acknowledging how much effort success in the Feminine Arts required and that is was also somewhat costly and well worth the price.

Unfortunately modern men often feel just the opposite and condemn women for their interests in these very same areas. They do not realize what richness the Feminine Arts can bring to a man’s life as well.

Beaded Blue Evening Bag Made in Hong Kong in the 1950's From Lady Violette de Courcy's Collection

The World Wars disrupted the purse making and beading crafts, of course. But after WWII the remaining artisans who knew how to do this kind of work went into business again. Demand for beaded evening purses was high during the 1950’s and 60’s. Styles changed with the times of course, but the workmanship was still beautiful. At this time workshops opened in Asia ~ notably Hong Kong ~ in order to meet the demand. Again the bead work and other handiwork was exquisite. Pictured above in an example from my collection of a beaded clutch evening bag made in Hong Kong in the late 1950’s. It is made with iridescent dark blue glass beads with the colors of an oil slick radiating from their centers. It is densely beaded in a swirl design and is spectacular!

Such elegant purses are the perfect compliments to modern, vintage or vintage influenced evening wear and in their small way take us back to the romantic times when ultra feminine women were appreciated by manly caring men! Every time I look at one I am reminded of my late professor father’s philosophizing on the Feminine Arts …. When I carry one I feel like I am in one of the old movies with that type of plot. Incidentally, my father grew up in NYC watching a lot of those old movies. They went to the movie theater every Saturday and watched several features back to back. He would often describe entire scenes, decades later, that had made deep life-lasting impressions on him including the leading ladies fashions. The manners and elegance depicted in the old films really had a strong influence on young people growing up in those days. Even if they were not living in elegance it made them appreciate and aspire to it. The films and film fashions of their youth definitely had lasting impact on both my parents.

 

Touring Lamarelle’s Gallery of Delicious & Delectable Purses Curated by Lady Violette

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

This is a visual feast! These beautiful vintage purses have been artistically embellished  and reinvented by my dear friend and soul mate La Marelle. La Marelle is a designer who “coutures” vintage purses and other vintage items that she finds to create new works of wonder each as delectable and enticing as the incredible pastries in a deluxe French bakery. Every one of her designs looks good enough to eat!

This is the Purse I Carried to Tea in This Story

Last night I dreamed that I was having tea with Marelle in an elegant turn of the century tearoom in Paris named Pastisserie La Marelle; and these purses were actually little cakes that were brought out to guests to select from a pastry tray and served to actually eat on exquisite antique French flowered china plates. Elegant teas served in magnificent ornate tea pots and delicate vintage bone china tea cups and saucers, each one a unique design, accompanied the delicious purse cakes made of butter cream and chocolate and vanilla cakes and icings and filled with rich custards layered with tart berry souffles and layers of candied oranges and lemons. Some were embellished with cherries or peaches and nuts and other fruits, and some with sugared flowers and leaves. These miniature purse shaped cakes were wheeled out on an ornate antique pastry cart by child waiters dressed in tiny tuxedos with coat tails who asked guests with impeccable manners, ” Would you like to choose a cake Madame?” And of course we did! They came ’round again when you had finished one to offer you another.

This is the Purse Marelle Carried to Tea in This Story

Our little waiter was named Aubrey, after the artist Aubrey Beardsley. He was about six years old and he explained, “You can eat as many as you like because these cakes have no calories! They just look good and taste wonderful! ” Of course we chose another, and another, and another as soon as we had eaten the one that came before! Marelle and I feasted on purse cakes and talked for hours and at the end of the afternoon agreed that we must come here regularly, once a week, and do this again. We made a reservation to return for another tea and cake date next weekend.

Now let’s have a look at some of the delicious purse cake selections on the pastry menu and while you are visually feasting on these delectable designs keep in mind that these cakes are available as a real purses in La Marelle’s couture store. The details and location will be given at the end of this story.

The Lady Violette, a Divine Chocolate Cream Creation

There is my favorite, the Lady Violette, named after me, and our miniature waiter Aubrey expertly explains that is concocted of rich but light chocolate and mocha cakes layered with chocolate and raspberry butter cream inside and elaborately decorated with glace frosting in two shades of chocolate stripes, light milk chocolate and dark bittersweet chocolate, on the outside. It is then trimmed with a pure dark chocolate coin purse, a butter cream ruffle along the closure flap and an edible marzipan perfume bottle. The handle and strap are made of edible caramel and chocolate flavored strips! The gold and silver accents are made of edible metallic gold and silver dragoons. The label of the perfume bottle and the woman’s portrait face on the coin purse are made of almond flavored marzipan! He assures us these are not at all fattening saying, “We make these cakes without calories because this is a couture bakery and we know that our customer’s love to partake of elegant deserts and designs but must keep their figures in order to wear their couture ensembles.”

Red Cherry

Aubrey shows us cake purse after cake purse, each one as different and as interesting and intriguing as the one before. Each one looks incredibly delicious!

Chocolate Filagree

We ask how they have managed to remove the calories while retaining the integrity of these elegant deserts. He explains that this is a top secret scientific process! He also assures us that it is done without removing any of the taste you would expect from an elegant European pastry!

Petits Fours

He does tell us that he and his artist father developed it in their California cooking laboratories using all organic ingredients and the latest scientific baking methods, then brought these to France at La Marelle’s request.

French Vanilla

He further explains that they decided to unveil the results of their research in Paris because this was the home of the world’s best pastries and couture, and, if it was a success there it would ultimately become an international success. He had quite the business acuman for such a young man! We were very impressed!

Creme de Menthe

He also tells us that he has always loved international cuisines and teas and is able to pursue his other interests in the arts while working at this restaurant in Paris. He is studying sculpture when he is not working. We ask him if he is not a bit young to be living away from his parents and siblings and his home in CA and working in Paris?  As ladies, we have begun to feel motherly concern toward him as he is such a sweet and intelligent little boy.

Pistachio

He assures us that he is fine living in Paris and loves it here,! Plus, he says, his little sister, Madamoiselle Coco who really is named after Coco Chanel, will soon be joining him to study fashion design. He is a year older and wanted to come ahead to establish an apartment on the Left Bank and get everything set up for her before she arrives. We ask him how old she is. He tells us she is five years old! And he goes on to say that she is already well known for her fashion designs and styling capabilities in Southern California! She even owns a La Marelle Couture Purse which was personally made for her by the designer herself because she felt an instant report with Coco and wanted her to have it.

Coco's Purse ~ Cream Chantilly ~ Custom Design by LaMarell

Coco is the youngest fashionista owner of a LaMarelle Couture Purse that we know of. He told us that many people stop Coco on the street to ask her about her La Mareele handbag and find out who designed it. It has been quite the conversation piece! I am sure that happens to anyone who carries or wears one of La Marelle’s couture creations!

Bittersweet Chocolate

Again we express our concern that they are both a bit young to be leaving home, aren’t they? He assures us that their parents visit often because their mother loves Paris and their father is an artist who shows in modern art galleries around the world. Young Aubrey tells us he has helped his father set up his art in his shows all his life. He explains that that is one of his areas of expertise so he is always available when a show needs to be hung. He also loves to attend the gallery openings and explains that he would never miss one. He also explains that he himself loves to dress up in special attire to attend these events. We are charmed by him of course!

Lemon Cream

Young Aubrey assures us he is mature enough to handle this adventure, “Look at me he says, I have a job, I support myself, I am a specialist of sorts already.” We are quite impressed!

Maple Sugar

And he tells us he is ageless from eating many of these cakes! Aha we think! Women ( and men) will like that aspect of these delicacies as well! Will they not?

Black Licorice

He keeps showing us more and more cake purses and describing the ingredients and flavors with amazing baking expertise. Honestly, we are quite impressed by his knowledge! He also tells us we can eat as many as we like and that it will make us all the more creative, fashionable and colorful if we eat more of them. Wow!

I ask him, ” Is it okay then to be a glutton for both designer handbags and pastries?” “Yes, definitely!” he assures me,”It will make you very healthy and very beautiful!”

Sugar Icing & Florentine

As he serves us, pouring more tea whenever we need it without being asked, and assures us that he feels quite capable of taking care of his little sister after she arrives! He says, “We have always been best friends as well as brother and sister and I am eager to see her develop her design talents. She has always expressed herself artistically with her clothes. She does such amazing things that people stop us on the streets to give us compliments. She is a natural!”

Whipped Cream

“Where?” we ask, “is she going to study?” As we continue to daintily devour beautifully decorated and deliciously flavored ornate and tasty purse shaped cakes!

Molton Fudge

“Right here” he answers, “where I can watch over her with The Great Couturier La Marelle!”

I was quite surprised! I looked quizzically at Marelle, herself, sitting right across from me and asked, “Is this a dream or is this really happening?”

Time Will Tell Purse

And she smiled like the Mona Lisa and said in her charming voice,  ” You shall see! You shall see! Time Will Tell!”

~~~~~~~~

Then I woke up! And I wrote down the details of my dream immediately so that I would not forget this fantastic story. And who knows? It very well might come true! Parts of it already are happening for these delicious looking purses are already available to purchase and carry as real calorieless fashion design indulgences from La Marelle’s Shop Hopscotch Couture. And all the people cast in this dream story are real people with the real names and the real talents described and attributed to them in this story.

Here is where you can view more of Marelle’s work and purchase many of the purses featured in this post as well as others. Marelle is cooking up new ones on a regular basis. She is always whipping up some fantastic dreamy new frothy creation! Feast your eyes and visit her shop. And remember that these delicacies have zero calories! Just as the fantastic little waiter in his tux and tails described them!

Marelle’s work is so diverse and extensive – she currently has over 400 pieces listed for sale in her Etsy shop alone.

By the way, La Marelle means hopscotch in French, so Marelle named her shop on Etsy Hopscotch Couture. To visit her Etsy store and view the entire gallery go to: http://www.etsy.com/shop/HopscotchCouture.

Marelle sells her work in her online Etsy shop above and also accepts private commissions. She can be contacted  by email at lamarellegallery@aol.com or by telephone at (443) 825.6353.

Her work can also be seen on her website at LaMarelleGallery.com. There is a link on there that will take you directly to her Etsy store as well.

Read More about Marelle and her paintings and designs in this article from The Weekender at http://www.theweekender.com/stories/Marelles-Hopscotch-Couture-One-of-a-kind-finds,61685

The photos  in this post were taken by Marelle herself.

Be sure to search my blog to see recent past posts and return to view upcoming future posts featuring more pictures and descriptions of Marelle’s interesting and imaginative work. I know you will find it all very tasteful!

 

Fashion News From Janis Joplin September 1966 ~ One of Lady Violette’s Favorite Quotes

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

“FASHION NEWS: I went out & bought myself a $35 pair of boots. Oh they are so groovey!! They’re old-fashioned in their style-tight w/buttons up the front. Black. FANTASTIC! When I get back, I’m going to rent a sewing machine & make myself some sort of beautiful/outlandish dress to go w/them. ”
– Janis Joplin, September 1966

 

A Fahion Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket & One Way To Use Vintage Ties and Furs

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

The Amazing Lining Side of the Janis Joplin Jacket

The Front of The Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket ~ Crazy Quilted Fabric Side Out

Recently I decided to treat myself to a night of reviewing every recording of Janis Joplin now known to mankind. This took all of one night until wee hours of the morning. And WOW! was she great. As great and as gritty and wonderful as ever. In the process I came across some absolutely ridiculously bad modern fashion advice posts advising young girls who were not there at the time Janis was alive and ticking on how to achieve her Hippie Goddess look. They were bad. I mean just awful! Not the real deal at all And it made me furious.

For example they showed 6 foot tall 16 year old blond models with short haircuts wearing tons of makeup and pale silver grey sequined silk bell bottoms with a modern grey silk chiffon tank top. The bell bottoms were very subdued and conservative and cost $600. The tank top was bland and conservative and cost $1000. Another look was a plain white blouse with jeans. Plain and dull! Again mass produced, conservative and expensive. Janice would have puked to put it mildly. She hated this kind of shit big time. She dressed in colorful rough style hippie chic clothes made of velvets and silks and wore lots of love beads and feathers in her hair and piles of bracelets. She also wore leathers and furs. Everything she wore was colorful and had a rough edge because she had a rough edge. She was thrown together. If she didn’t start out that way she got that way by the end of the night. Why? Because she was a hard rocker, a soulful singer and she lived and worked her clothes into the ground. She was not immaculately groomed and clean. She was not styled to death like today’s singers. She often wore jeans, a shirt of some kind and a leather vest. She was kind of a mess. She was often ridiculed for her disheveled looks. In the beginning she wore simple dresses, but, by the end she was wearing velvets and beads and colorful silks and vintage fur jackets and piles of jewelry. By the end she was a tattered and torn hippie girl in full blown rebel hippie attire. She did briefly hire a costume designer/stylist but she also fired her soon after for some disagreements over lifestyle. Probably good advice she didn’t take as it turned out. Janice was not one to be told what to do. She was a full blown individual. This was why she was great but it also brought her to her unfortunate too early demise. Every time I think about that I get really sad and depressed. There was nobody else like her and there never will be again. This amazing jacket is the same. There is only one and there will never another ~ just like its talented namesake. Long live her Blessed Legend!

Janis Joplin In Her Furs With Her Famous Painted Car

Therefore, I want to show you this wonderful WOW! crazy quilted vintage fur jacket that I have had for many years. It reminds me of the great Janis Joplin and her fashions so I have named it after her. It is something I am sure she would have worn. If she were still here today I would make sure to give her this fabulous jacket. Alas, she is not so we will have to appreciate it in her memory….

Detail of the Left Shoulder on the Fur Side of the Ode to Janis Joplin Jacket.The Silk Patches Are Made of Recycled Vintage Silk Ties Hand Stitched Into Place. The Slashes in the Fur Pelts Are Intentional to the Deconstructed Design of the Piece.

It began as a fur jacket in the 30s or 40s. Then, in the 60’s somebody began to crazy quilt it to create an amazing piece of wearable art. The patches are made up of old silk ties, crocheted vintage doilies, needle point pieces, embroidered birds on silk ~ probably old pieces from China, newer silky burgundy satin fabric to line the sleeves, and other interesting bits and pieces in true crazy quilt style. Some of the bigger pieces of the patch worked lining side were stitched together on a zigzag sewing machine, but most pieces are hand sewn together. The seams are then hand embroidered over with several different types of embroidery stitches to cover the seaming and add to the decorative effect. The sewing and embroidery are technically very nicely executed. The various techniques and fabrics used in this creation are true to the techniques of Victorian Crazy Quilting.

The Back of the Crazy Quilted Side of the Reversible Janis Joplin Vintage Fur Jacket

The jacket can be worn with either side out. I have shown it both ways on my dress form. With the lining and patchwork crazy quilted side out you get a crazy quilted jacket with fur showing through here and there and very soft fur on the inside.

The Front View of the Fur Side of the Janis Joplin Vintage Fur Crazy Quilt Jacket

With the crazy quilted side on the inside and the fur side out you get a most interesting semi deconstructed fur jacket with occasional vintage silk jacquard pieces. I say deconstructed because the fur of the jacket is slashed in some places. This was either done purposely or occurred on its own due to the age and condition of the fur pelts. The fur is delicate at this point in time. It tears easily if you want to tear the pelts apart to make them more ragged. I have handled it carefully in order to preserve it in its current very attractive and incredibly interesting state. It is truly gorgeous and a real conversation piece.

The fur is soft and supple. It isn’t dry or losing its hairs. However the leather under it seems to be fragile and could be tearing of its own age related accord. This makes me wonder if the artist who created this coat began her crazy quilting process in order to patch the fur jacket and artistically extend its life for her own use as well as for the overall crazy quilted artistic look of the piece. I also wonder if she wanted a way to use the pretty silks in vintage ties she had collected. I think she did. As a woman I am always on the lookout for way in which I can use the fabric in men’s ties I have accumulated for myself. It seems like such a waste to me to let men have all the fun of wearing those beautiful fabrics! I want to participate!

Some of the Gorgeous Vintage Silk Tie Fabrics

I actually really like the look of the slashes in the fur with the black vintage fabric originally used to back it showing through. It is very cool looking. Sometimes the maker sewed into it with colored threads and stitches of her choice in random places. It appears to me that the original artist who turned this jacket into the piece of art that it is today was treating it as a work in progress and continually added patches and embroidery as she saw fit or as it became necessary to reinforce a slashed or torn section of the fur. One could certainly continue working on the coat in this manner if she is a talented seamstress. Alternatively one can wear it as is or display it on a dress form or hung on a wall as a piece of textile art. I have hung it on the wall in my bedroom as an ode to Janis Joplin for the last few months. I am sure that dear sweet talented wonderful Janis would have loved this jacket!

A Slashed Fur Sleeve Creatively embellished Embellished With Fabric From Silk Ties!

There is currently a rather large slash on the fur side of the right sleeve. Currently it looks really cool on, but it may need to be reinforced in the future with an additional patch made of a bit of silk tie material or some fabric glue to attach the fur pelt to the fabric underneath it. I will be consulting my furrier friend Dorothy who is an expert on such matters and on sewing with vintage furs as to how to handle this. The left sleeve also features several slashes. the attractive black fabric shows beneath these slashes on both arms. These slashes have been on the sleeves the entire time I have owned the jacket. I acquired it in 1978. I have both worn it occasionally and used it as hanging wall art since that time. I have been careful of it and the condition is the same today as it was when I initially acquired it. It reminds me of Janis in a million ways.

Two Sturdy Fur Hooks Close the Jacket at the Center Front of the Stand Up Style Collar and At The Bust Holding it Together Inconspicuously At The Center Front.

The jacket closes with two sturdy metal vintage fur hooks in the center front. It is a very warm and very dramatic coat. I have worn it over a patch worked silk halter top with no sleeves or a sleeveless silk camisole. It is plenty warm with a thin blouse or top worn underneath even on the coldest day. I wore it with jeans and wine leather vintage boots. I wore my long straight hair parted down the middle hanging freely. I think it is a perfect statement piece to wear to an avant garde art gallery opening or to an art party or a rock concert. And I think it would be a great piece to wear to a Janis Joplin memorial event in her honor. It could be worn over a velvet skirt in true Janis style or a silky printed dress. Just channel Janis to figure out an outfit that would work with it! Listening to her music helps in this process…….

Fabrics in the Crazy Quilted Sections of the Janis Joplin Jacket Include Doilies, Embroidered Silks, Needlepoint Pieces, Crochet, and Other Choice Textile Tidbits as Well as Vintage Silk Ties and Rich Burgundy Satin all Juxtaposed with the Vintage Furs.

This gorgeous one of a kind jacket is a wonderful example of wearable art created with upcycled vintage silk ties.

I want to point out that this is originally an old fur jacket from the 1930s or 40s. I am not sure what type of fur it is, but am in the process of trying to find out. I will most likely be able to get it identified by my friend Dorothy who is in her late 90s and worked in a high end fur shop for decades both designing, sewing and selling real fur coats and other pieces when fashionable real fur was in its heyday. This is an important fact to note! This is not a jacket made of new fur! It is a vintage real fur jacket whose life has been extended tenfold by a dedicated fabric artist and talented seamstress who combined it with other beautiful vintage fabrics salvaged from various vintage sources and lovingly hand stitched to create a new work of art. In its unique way it pays honorable homage to the little animals whose fur was used in the creation of the original coat and honors them by making their furs into a work of art extended to last as long as they will hold up.

Very Old Needle Point Flowers Are Skillfully Incorporated Into the Patchwork Design.

By patching and sewing and re~sewing and overlapping and strategically placing the original furs over and over again the life of this fur coat has been extended much longer than it would originally have lasted. It has become the ultimate statement in recycled clothing and fabrics and wearable art. It is not only wearable art it is worthy of hanging on one’s wall as a unique modern art piece in its own right. It pays homage to the animals whose fur were used in its creation as much as it does to the champion of original hippie style Ms Janis Joplin herself!

An Antique Hand Crocheted, Cross Stitched and Over Embroidered Doily That Has Been Put Into The Back Lining as a Featured Piece of The Ode To Janis Joplin Jacket

Who was the talented and determined artist/seamstress who turned this coat into a crazy quilted modern art piece? Unfortunately I do not know. I acquired the jacket in the late 1970’s. Therefore I know it was created as it now exists prior to 1978. I firmly believe it to be a lovingly handmade jacket created by an artistic soul as an ongoing piece of textile art for her own personal use during the 1960’s and 70’s. I know it is handmade, I know it is not a product of the later Grunge era. It exudes hippy era cool. It is the real thing! I know Janis Joplin herself would have loved it and would have worn it had it been hers and that it is from her era and undoubtedly inspired by her personal style and her music and that is why I have named it after her.

A Colorful Hand Embroidered Chinese Bird on Pale Pink Silk Cloth Embellishes the Left Front of the Crazy Quilted Side of the Jacket. I Like To Think of Him as The Gift of Song

Fortunately this beautiful whimsical coat has outlasted its inspiration and namesake. It is well cared for and is in clean beautiful condition as well. Its current vintage condition is the result of its age and the age of the fur pelts used in its creation. The slashed and torn pelts are an integral part of the design and are an intentional characteristic of this vintage work of wearable art.

Size: It is a size XS to S and will fit a woman of modern size 0 to 4. It would have fit Janis as she was a small woman. She was not a 6 foot tall blond Scandinavian model type! I do not recommend anyone ever wearing it over thick sweaters or beaded tops as they might catch on the slashed sections of the furs. I recommend wearing it over slippery fabrics such silk or satin blouses or tops and dresses and bare skin. It is very warm over such base pieces even in the dead of winter. One should  refrain from wearing it over jagged jewelry as well. It would be best to put on smooth pieces of jewelry  after putting on the jacket. Flowing and soft silk scarves make hippie era appropriate accessories and will not damage the delicate fabrics, slashed furs and embroideries in this fragile piece. An art piece jacket like this should be handled with care and respect for its age and the delicate materials and amazing amount of time required in its creation. If handled with care one will  get many more years of enjoyment out of this piece as I have since I personally acquired it in 1978. It has brought me many years of enjoyment and will do so for anyone who owns if it is well cared for.

The Front Collar Area of The Fur Side of the Janis Joplin Jacket - Quintessential Janis Joplin! Just Add a Silky Vintage Scarf to Coordinate With the Outfit You Are Wearing With This Spectacular Jacket And You will Be Done

Should any repairs ever need to be made I recommend using pieces of fabric from vintage ties to do so and stitching them into the piece by hand. I will always include several vintage ties with this jacket that could be appropriate to use for future repairs if needed. I have known women who owned and wore pieces of this type over the years and they were consistently making little adjustments and repairs to the garments as needed. This is part of the process of owning and enjoying such a piece and not at all negative or damaging to the piece. In fact it is part of maintaining such a piece of vintage textile or wearable art. You will find that you will be able to add your own charming touches to this jacket or one made in this manner as time goes by. It is perfectly appropriate to sew on a ribbon or beads or a piece of velvet that strikes your fancy as time goes by. Families who have inherited crazy quilts are also advised to do this! Constant additions of interesting bits of fabric and trims are encouraged in the crazy quilting process.

An Example of the Real Janis Joplin Style at Her Fashion Peak

If Janis were alive today I would give her this jacket! I know she would have loved it! It is as unusual, vulnerable, one of a kind, inspired, damaged, fantastic, soulful, ragged, rough, amazing, beautiful and original as she was.

I love you Janis! You are amazing! And you continue to inspire!

If you are reading this and are not familiar with Janis Joplin’s music I encourage you to look into it, listen to her and get to know what she was about.

Anna Pavlova’s Lace Dress

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Anna Pavlove in Lace

While doing some research on the ballerina Anna Pavlova I found this formal portrait of her wearing an extraordinarily beautiful lace dress with a train and a lace shawl or cape. This is not a wedding dress. It is just one of the many glamorous gowns she collected and wore in her normal non dancing life. She loved fashion and dressed exquisitely. And made sure she was photographed in fashionable attire as well as her dance costumes. And she spent a fortune on jewels, furs and designer gowns. It was necessary part of building her image. This gown appears to be an empire waist creation with short sleeves that is belted with a soft cumberbund under the bust. The skirt is longer that floor length in front and extends into a flowing train behind her. The shawl or cape is a diaphanous lace creation. I cannot find any information on the designer of the dress or the occasion for which she wore it. Knowing Pavlova she may have acquired it solely for the purpose of wearing for a photo shoot. She carefully constructed her public image as a star ballerina and artistic beauty through publicity photos designed to present her as a great beauty. This was a common practice for stage performers at the time. ( As it is today!)  There are many photos of Helen Haze in equally exotic fashionable attire as well. These women were well aware of the powerful allure their images held for their adoring public. I love this style and era of fashion.