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Lady Violette

The Romantic Lifestyle

Posts Tagged ‘Fashion’

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

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.

Violette Fantasies ~ An Exquisite Violet Wedding Kimono, Cake & Dance Dress

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Violet Wedding Kimono

This is one of the most beautiful purple, violet, lilac, wisteria, clematis  inspired ensembles I have ever seen! Just gorgeous!

I do not know anything about the garment except that it is a vintage lightweight summer wedding kimono as that was the only caption I found on the picture.

It is so pretty. I want one!

Violet Flavored Wedding Cake!

And here is a beautiful and delicious purple wedding cake ~ violet flavored of course~ to serve at the reception!

Bottega Veneta Spring 2012

And a modern purple dance dress to wear to the after celebration from the Spring 2012 Bottega Veneta collection. They are one of my favorite design houses.

I am just exploring violet and purple options this evening. Violet is my favorite color of course. The color seems so very rare and exotic but I find that I can locate quite a lot of it in my home, in pictures online, and in stores when I go out shopping. It is also currently being featured in fall 2012 cosmetic collections. That is nothing new. They just like to try to make it seem that way to get you to buy more products.  Eye shadows, blushers, check colors, powders and lipsticks are all available in assorted purple and violet shades this fall. I already have a lot of them from past years so I must get mine out and start playing with them again to see what looks I can create. I have plenty of purple makeup products and I do not want to buy more! I’m glad that the media is saying it is a great color though because I have always thought so!

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.

Restoring Vintage Reptile Purses & Skin Bags From the 1950’s Using Vintage Scarves for Handles & Ties

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Lady Violette de Courcy's Collection of Vintage 1950's Reptile Handbags with Scarf Wrapped Handles

I have several reptile skin handbags from the 1950s that are in good condition except for one thing – without exception the handles were all unusable because they were made out of a thin strip of leather with the reptile skin glued over the top. That skin had deteriorated from use, age, and the glue used when they were made. In many cases it was too cracked and had broken off and it looked terrible. This is why other people threw these handbags away and I managed to get them for very reasonable prices.

My first try was to take them to a good shoe and leather repair shop to find out what they could do to replace the handles. I actually visited three shops for estimates. The verdict was unacceptable as they could not, match the skins and any other repairs they suggested wouldn’t be as pretty and would cost way too much – more for fixing one bag than I had already invested in my entire collection of 6 of them! I didn’t think these shops were being very creative!

I love the styles of these purses. Very lady like and formal and to be carried not flung over your shoulder. They are just so feminine and civilized. And, of course this is currently in style on the runways if anyone cares about that. New ones are being designed by all the big names and cost a small fortune.

Late 1940’s Vintage Crocodile Skin Bag With Scarf Wrapped Around Damaged Handle & Tied at One End

Of course I developed my own solution – both affordable and pretty as can be while remaining well suited to the original era of these purses. I am getting asked about it and getting compliments on my bags every day I use them. So here is what I did.

Example One: The Crocodile bag pictured above had a badly split, but still attached handle. I simply took a very long and tough oblong shaped scarf which is a synthetic chiffon from India in a leopard skin print and pulled it through the metal link on one end of the handle until it reached the middle of the scarf (so both ends were equal lengths. I then double wrapped the handle by wrapping one end around, then overlapping it by wrapping the other end around until I got the entire handle covered. At the end I tied a secure and attractive knot to hold the scarf in place and create the decorative scarf tie ends as shown. None of this gets in the way of opening or closing the bag. The handle is now reinforced and no one can see that it is broken under the fabric. This took a lot of fabric. The scarf I used is 76 ” long and 18″ wide!

Vintage 1950's Navy Bag From France With Handle Repaired Using a Belt & Scarf

Example Two: The elegant navy bag above is actually leather, not snakeskin. I love the hardware on it! It is a burnished gold with little stars embossed on it like a piece of elegant costume jewelry. It’s leather handle was unusable. I had to remove it. I was left with a metal ring on end to which the original handle had been attached. The circumference of the metal rings was not very big.

My solution was to take a very thin vintage belt that I happened to already have that would fit through the rings. It also happened to be red and it is what is now under the scarf. It doesn’t match the bag at all but it doesn’t have to as it is completely covered  by the scarf. The job of the belt is to create a strong secure handle. I simply pulled it through and buckled it! The buckle is hidden under the scarf at the V on top of the handle. The length is perfect buckled on the smallest size of an S length belt.

I then took a large square silk scarf in a pretty complimentary print, folded it in a triangular half, then brought each end inwards to the center folding to create a long skinny scarf folded rectangle with the points at each end (such as you would to tie it around your neck) and pulled the scarf through the belt halves at the top of the V in the middle of the handle. I secured the scarf with a knot at the middle of the buckle, then began wrapping each side individually downward, tightly covering the belt and pulling its two sections together, until I got to each of the ends with equal scarf point lengths remaining. I carefully knotted them to look about the same and dangle down artistically on each side of the bag. This makes a very secure handle with double strong leather straps inside the silk scarf wrap. I think it is also very attractive. The scarf I used is slippery shiny soft silk and is a huge square. It is a small geometric print with large paisleys on it and a navy border around the edges. It just happened to work out well for this particular bag.

Vintage 50's Snake Skin Bag With New Handle Made of a Silk Cord Belt Decorated with a Chiffon Square Scarf Tie

Example Three: This Bag is in Perfect Condition Now! I removed the completely broken down original handle and pulled a brown silk cord belt I just happened to have through the metal loops doubled it and knotted it at the correct length letting the ends with the decorative knots on them hang down on one side. I then took a small vintage 50’s silk chiffon square scarf in complimentary browns, gold, orange, white, and green colors and pulled it through the knot and tied it into a fluffy little floppy bow to decorate the one end of the purse. Voila! I have given this purse a new life and I didn’t spend any money on expensive repairs.

The cost of the above purse and renovation was: $9.95 for the purse at an estate sale. (Good price due to broken strap!) 99 cents for scarf at a thrift shop. And the cord belt I already had on my miscellaneous belt rack. I spent $11 total on this lovely spring bag! It is very clean inside and even has its original coin purse, mirror and comb intact!

Beautiful Real Black Patent Leather Vintage 1960's Bag From England

Example Four: Here is Real Black Patent Leather Purse. It is from England and I think it was made in the 1960’s. It is large and roomy and perfectly clean inside. The handles on this one were in great shape with no problems at all. The clasp is a pretty silver with an embossed design like a piece of jewelry. This bag needed no repairs. It is gleaming white leather inside. I doubt if it was used very much being that there isn’t a scratch on it. I got it an an estate sale for a very good price because the kids selling it thought it was terribly out of style. I offered $10 and they accepted. I got it home and I liked it but it did remind me of my grandma! She always says “Get me my handbag, Dear…” and it is huge black bag quite similar to this full of everything under the sun. It weighs a ton the way she packs it up. She takes it to town sitting on the passenger seat of her Oldsmobile and it gets her through the day! It gets its own seat. She would never put it on the floor. It gets its own chair at restaurants too! That is how large and important it is to her.

Anyway, for days when I have to carry around 50 pounds of daily gear myself, I now have this bag to remind me of my Grandma! I wanted to jazz it up though which is why I tied  on this perfect for spring shiny black silk square scarf in a big pink dahlia print. I wear a lot of pink and this ties it all together with the shiny black bag and black patent leather pumps. The scarf brings the giant bag up to date and gives it a now fashionable Mad Men Style vibe. I can see Joan Henderson carrying this to the office in one of her bright pink wiggle dresses circa 1960. The scarf choice is perfect for this bag as it also has little jacquard polka dots in black on black which you can just barely see in this photograph.

I simply tied this large silk square scarf in a self knot loop pulling the ends through once and let the silken tails flow long and gracefully down to the front on one side. Tying a scarf to your bag makes you more conscious of how you tote your purse and forces you to behave in a more ladylike manner to show off the both the scarf and the bag. It is good self discipline. Like finishing school for the carrying your scarf tied purse.

Palizzio New York Snakeskin Bag Decorated with a 1950's Scarf Tied on One Side

Example Five: This is a beautiful late 1950’s vintage snakeskin bag from Palizzio New York. It is in good condition except that the handle is getting the same kinds of age related problems described above and will soon probably go. I am being careful with it. I will wrap the entire handle when it becomes necessary. For now I am decorating it simply with a same vintage large silk square scarf tied in a soft and sensual large floppy bow on one side.

I have a big hatbox full of vintage scarves in many shapes and colors that I ruffle through for an appropriate match to tie on my purses, baskets, in my hair or around my neck. I also use them as sashes, wrap my jewelry in them to keep it clean and safe and a bit padded, put them over small tables and sometimes drape them over a lampshade to soften the light or add a touch of color to a room with the light glowing through the colors of the scarf fabric. Scarves have a million uses! I use them to wrap bundles and presents, as bracelets and necklaces, as a sling when I broke my arm. I have even learned to tie large ones as skirts, dresses and halter tops. They make great summer wear. I love using them as shawls and stoles and as wrap around skirts. For these reasons one can never have too many of them. There is warmth in the winter months too. It always helps to have a warm scarf around your neck or a shawl draped over the shoulders of your woolen coat to make you even warmer.

I believe everyone needs an ample scarf collection. I find most of mine in thrift stores and consignment shops. I get amazingly nice ones for very reasonable prices from these sources. I look at the scarf racks every time I go into these places. I have even found really beautiful designer scarves this way. I even have three gorgeous Hermes scarves that I found in thrift stores. But, honestly, many non famous designer scarves are just as beautiful as those made by big names. I always look for cotton, silk, pure wool, Pashima, cashmere, wool challis  and occasionally blends. But the natural fibers tend to produce superior bows and stay tied better. Scarves are one of the best buys you can find in thrift shops. Only yesterday I picked up 6 of them for 99 cents each. This was at least $150 worth of scarves had I purchased them as new retail merchandise. And they are all in perfect condition. I make it a practice to buy vintage only if it is clean and in very good condition. I think many scarves are given as gifts and are often not even worn. Then, when people clean out they pitch them. This is to our great advantage as vintage and thrift store shoppers because we can find real beauties for exceptionally good values. And scarves can transform your wardrobe very easily as you will have seen if you are following all my scarf tying and scarf using posts in this blog. I actually call them my transformers.

Palizzio Very New York Snakeskin Purse - Vintage 1950's - With a Scarf Wrapped Repaired Handle

Example Six: A beautiful Snakeskin bag from Palizzio’s Very New York collection circa 1950’s in a black and brown combination with gold hardware. The handle on this purse was completely damaged – broken, cracked. unusable. I removed it and replaced it with a narrow vintage belt, then pulled a long chiffon print scarf through the ring on one side and braided it around the belt from one side to the other completely concealing the supporting structure of the underlying belt in the wrapped fabric. I did a two strand braid using the belt as the third braid strand. You will be able to figure that out if you know how to braid using three strands. Just start in and the method will become apparent as you work. When I got to the end of wrapping the handle I tied what was left into the bow at the side and additionally embellished it with a butterfly brooch. The Butterfly looks like he just flew in and landed on the flowered scarf! The scarf I used here is silk chiffon 76″ long x 18 ‘ wide. It has a black background and is printed with yellow, medium blue, cream and red accents in stylized flower and paisley patterns.

As far as what types of scarves to use for each bag and handle, this is pretty hard to advise without seeing the purse you intend to wrap and the selection of scarves you have at your disposal. I can suggest that you will need to use large scarves as the wrapping, braiding and tying uses up a lot of fabric. As I was beginning to do this I tended to choose smaller scarves and it wasn’t always working. I would end up without enough scarf at the end to tie a nice decorative bow or streamer. The best advise I have is to experiment. And don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right with the first attempt. I have had to work at some bags with a couple of scarves to end up with one I liked to use.

I have wrapped each of these bags ahead of time so that they are ready for me to shift my contents into quickly when I want to change out my purse for a different one. That way I do not have to fiddle around trying to get a perfect wrap and bow tie job done as I am trying to rush out the door and get some place on time. I keep my entire collection of purses and bags all tied up and ready for use. I also keep my hatbox of vintage scarves all cleaned and pressed and folded at the ready for use when needed.

Black Vintage 50's Snakeskin Bag with Vintage Cacharel Silk Foral Print Scarf & Antique Onyx, Silver & Marcasite Brooch

Example Seven: This is a very sweet small black snakeskin purse with silver hardware. It is vintage 1950’s. The original handle is still barely functional.I decided to decorate this one with a small silk 18″ square floral printed Cacharel scarf to make it ready for spring. The scarf is black with a lavender inner border and pastel flowers that resemble little violas. Some have light silky grey bits in the flowers that I think look nice with the silver accents on the bag. A plain pretty scarf didn’t seem like quite enough decoration so I added the my antique silver and onyx brooch/pendant also trimmed with sparkly marcasite stones. I am only using it this way because it has a good safety setting so I know it won’t come off and get easily lost! You could also sew a nice decorative button on over the knot if you had one you liked to use there. This handle will last awhile longer but, as you can see in the photo it is bending where the snakeskin is creasing. These are the places that show the aging effects of the drying skins and eventually break through. There isn’t really anything you can do to prevent these age related effects from eventually happening. I just recommend keeping an eye on your bag handles and silk scarf wrapping them when it becomes necessary. By no means throw out these beautiful purses just because the handles aren’t perfect any longer!

Handle repair alternatives: I looked into attaching chains to use as handles but I didn’t like the heavy metal hanging down over the snakeskin and I thought it could easily damage the rest of the purse. The character wasn’t right either, to my way of thinking, on a feminine vintage purse. I prefer the look of a soft and feminine silk scarf. I also thought about making a beaded handle and I may eventually try that. I have seen a raffia wrapped one that someone else did. She used the raffia you can purchase to use for tying up presents and making bows and wrapped the handle as I do with the scarves. She finished it off with a big poufy raffia bow and lots of extra raffia ends sticking out. She called it a festive look for hitting the clubs in Miami with her retro 50’s snakeskin bag. It would be cute with the right outfit! I am in cold Seattle and not hitting Miami clubs so I need a more day to day social, going shopping, going to work, or attending a meeting looking purse. The scarf ties on my lady like snakeskin, crocodile, alligator and leather purses work well for me with my style of vintage coats, dresses and suits. I think they look both lady like, fashionable and professional which is the look I want to pull off. I get lots of compliments on the look I achieve so I can only guess it must be accomplishing the effect I want and working out the way I want it to. What people say to you out on the streets is always a good gauge of how well your fashion choices are actually working!

In the summer I go all out tying my colorful vintage basket purses with bright and cheery scarves. I’ve shown some of those on my past blog posts and will do more as summer approaches. If you want to see all my scarf tying posts search for them on this blog. Ditto my vintage purse posts. I have done quite a few. I am always putting up more as I am a big scarf wearing fan. Everybody can learn to use their scarves. There is no reason to have them languishing in a dresser drawer or eventually giving them away to a thrift store! Get them out and use and enjoy them!

My Personal Spring Collection of Seven Vintage Scarf Tied Skin Bags

Inspiration: Here is my entire lineup of seven vintage reptile, patent and leather bags that are now tied up with vintage scarves and ready to use. Four of these had seriously damaged handles and could not be used at all until I had done them over in this way. Now they are all ready to grab and go! (By the way do not use leather cleaner on reptile bags! It ruins them. I use only a dampened with water soft cotton cloth.) Personally I really like the shapes of these purses. Again, they are so finished looking, lady like and girly. This is a perfect example of restoring, redoing, reusing and enjoying nice things from the past isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Identifying Types of Lace – Alencon Lace on an Exquisite Silk Satin Dress

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Vintage 1980's Flutter Sleeved Silk Satin Dress Trimmed in Alencon Lace

I have recently become interested in figuring out what kind of lace is in items in my collection. Here is a lovely silk satin crepe dress – vintage 1980’s – that features an Alencon lace border around the bottom of the skirt and additional appliques of matching lace at locations of hips, shoulders and the back closure.

Closeup Photo of the Alencon Lace Border

Here is a closeup of the lace border on the hem. It is 50 inches in circumference and 5.5 inches wide which is a considerable amount of this very valuable and exquisite lace.

Note the Glass Seed Beads and Glass Rice Shaped Pearl Beads Added to further Enhance the Lace.

The beading was added to enhance the lavish lace decoration after the lace was applied to the dress. The hips are further enhanced with matching Alencon lace appliques which additionally are embroidered with the beads and little hanging beads shaped like Baroque pearl teardrops.

The Appliques of Alencon Lace on the Hips Also Feature Hanging Pearl Drops

These little suspended pearl beads actually swing and add movement to the dress as the wearer moves. The detailing is extraordinary! It is common to use small amounts of this lovely lace in this way to embellish bridal veils and gowns, make lace cuff bracelets and decorate sashes, thereby enjoying the beauty of small amounts of this lace which is very expensive in large pieces or quantities. I have found it listed at about $150 a yard and higher lately. That was before the addition of beads and pearls!

The Side View of the Dress Showing Lace Embellishments on the Hips, as Well as the Hemline Border and at the Shoulder.

Here is a side view of the decorations at the hips.

Alencon Lace Applique Decorating the Shoulder.

Here is a closeup photo of the flutter style double layer sleeves.

The Shoulder Applique Showing the Addition of the Beads

And a closeup of the shoulder area Alencon lace applique.

Beautiful Tiny Scalloped Hem Detailing Compliments the Alencon Lace on the Satin Crepe Flutter Sleeves

Note the lovely tiny scalloped hemming on the edges of the flower-like sleeves making them tie in with the flowers in the lace motif!

The Back View of the Dress.

And finally, the back view of this lovely well made dress with a tiny bit of bead embellished Alencon lace used to decorate the back single button closure as a final accent in subtle beauty.

Signed LDavis Ltd

I know nothing yet about the designer/maker of this dress but here is the designer’s label ~ the artist’s signature to this artistic dress creation. Please let me know if you know anything about this designer. I have looked all over the internet and have not been able to locate them. I would like to know more. His or her work is incredible! And deserves appreciation!

This classic dress is a size 10 in contemporary Misses sizing. It is listed for sale in my Etsy Store ladyviolettedecourcy.

You can access the listing by visiting http://www.etsy.com/listing/98344007/exquistie-ecru-silk-satin-antique-beaded

More coming on Alencon Lace soon ……..

An Esquisite Irish Crochet Dress From The Turn of the Century Featuring Roses and Shamrocks in the Hand Crocheted Lace Medalians

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

A Linen Dress Featuring Irish Crochet From the Turn of the Century - in its Original Condition as I Found It.

I have just picked up a real treasure. I love finding such lost beauties. With a lot of restoration work it appears to be salvageable. The style is from the the early 1900’s. The embroidery on the linen is known as eyelet embroidery and was very popular at this time. The lace edging on the sleeves and the narrow inserts are crochet lace. This has been confirmed by lace collector and expert Shirley Whitcomb whom I asked to help me identify the laces and techniques used in this dress. She also suggests the lace book suggested below should you want to learn more about lace. I assked her to recommend some sources to me so I could better educate myself as I have suddenly become lace fascinated!

Close Up of an Irish Crochet Lace Medallion

The larger medallion inserts are Irish Crochet that was inspired by the 17th century Gros Point needle lace-like my wedding gown. (I will post pictures of this soon.) Only all of this lace is handmade crochet lace. You can identify Irish Crochet lace by the shamrocks and the multi petaled roses.

Note the Shamrocks and the Roses

An excellent guide to lace identification is “Guide to Lace and Linens” by Elizabeth Kurella. She has written a number of very good books on the subject.To purchase it go on www.lacemerchant.com.  It is so amazing to hold some of the older laces and feel the love and patience that went into each stitch. It is a very under appreciated art form- probably because it was made by women.

The Back is Fastened With Metal Hooks and Eyes and is Pleated to Accommdate a Bustle

This dress has pleating in the back to accommodate a  bustle. There has already been a lot of repair work done at one time in its history. This project appears to have been abandoned before it was completed because the dress is currently in rough shape: unable to be fastened up the back, no hem or fabric left on it for a hem, just a torn and frayed edge where the hem border and fabric about three inches deep was removed

Note the Carefully Repaired Areas Under The Arms! A Sewing Lesson in Themselves!

The areas under the arms have been patched quite expertly and the original hem has been taken out – probably to get matching material for repairing other sections. I will have a lot of patching and extending to do to bring the dress back to life…

Much of the dress is originally constructed by hand and will have to carefully stitched back together by hand. Areas of broken crochet thread will have to be invisibly redone. And the hem will have to be repaired by attaching a new piece of fabric where the original one was cut off and used to restore the underarm areas.

The Bodice Heavily Decorated with Crochet Lace.

Here is a close up of the bodice. These photos are my before photos showing the original condition of the dress when I discovered it.

We will eventually be able to compare them to my restored version when I get it put back together.

To be continued!

 

 

 

Dainty Victorian Lace Vintage Cotton Gloves ~ An Inspiring Recent Lady Violette Flea Market Find

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

A pair of fine cotton knit lace long dainty Victorian gloves perfect for a garden party!                                                                                                                        

I recently found this amazing pair of delicate cotton lace gloves. They must be from the turn of the twentieth century. They are a machine made fine cotton knit with several different lace patterns going up the arms – almost like a sampler of different lace designs. I have had several photos taken to show the design and construction. The gloves are very old – near to falling apart – so can only be used as study pieces in the service of making similar pieces.

Note how the gloves fastened at the wrist with two snaps ....

They fasten on the inside of the wrist with two snaps – now nearly disintegrated – but this was where a lady would undo the glove and roll it back ( or have her escort assist her in doing so) to expose just her hand for eating or drinking at the garden party – without removing the gloves, a custom I described in a recent previous post.

Note the three lines of decorative ecru stitches on the back of the hand ...

I like the three lines of decorative ecru colored stitches on the back of the hand – I assume they assisted in shaping the glove as well as adorning it.

The gloves are about a modern size 6 – very small – and have hardly any give. They are in good condition considering their age, but not tough enough to last for more than one wearing. There are a few holes which have been expertly mended by hand ~ a touch I happen to like myself as it adds to their authenticity as a treasure of the original owner. Therefore I have decided to save them as study pieces. I intend to create a hand knitted summer glove pattern that is inspired by this lovely pair of vintage gloves. I am currently searching for the right yarn to use for this endeavor. Does anybody out there have any ideas on an appropriate yarn? I will be happy to take suggestions. When I finish making my pattern I will post it on my blog for other people to use.

Utterly beautiful feminine long vintage Victorian gloves

These gloves were knit as a flat piece, then sewn together. There is a seam up the outside of the arm, then along the inside edge of each finger. The seams  are very hard to see when the glove is worn which is as it should be. The thumb is also knit as part of the original piece but seamed together at the side gussets during the finishing process. The seams are finally cut very close to the edges upon finishing them so that they fit close up against the hand and become nearly invisible. All in all it is a very elegant and you are unaware of the seaming and construction of these gloves when you are wearing them.

The final effect is one of elegance and refinement.

I intend to knit my modern version on five needles in the round to avoid seaming. I also intend to use very small needles – probably size 0 to 00 – and the finest yarn I can find. This original pair has become a bit stiff with age – like a pair of cotton sock does. I am hoping to avoid that by using a blended yarn with some nylon in it for durability. I also intend to use small glass pearl buttons instead of snaps. I have ordered the tiny buttons already. The original snaps were made of the kind of metal that oxidized over time and now looks really bad! Pearl buttons and button holes should be a big improvement!

I think these gloves would also be lovely made up in bright colored yarns for winter use ~ such as royal blue or magenta. That will be period accurate as well because such colors were proper during the time these gloves were originally made. They were made in bright colors to show off the new dyes at the beginning of the industrial revolution. I hope to made a bright blue pair to wear with my long black velvet hooded opera cape lined in blue silk plaid to wear to next winter’s holiday parties. I will honestly have to start making them in the summer if I am to get them done in time for the holiday season.

Viktor Jessen’s Creative Editing of Gaite Parisienne – Amazing!

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Here is an Interview of Vida Brown by Mary Neal with footage of Vida Brown dancing in Gaite Parisieene. Vida was one of the dancer’s performing the part of the Flower Girl in the Gaite Paisienne film of Viktor Jessen. As Vida watches the film with Mary Neal who is conducting the interview she points out who is on stage in the part of the flower girl and how this is constantly changing! As she says at one point, “Have you ever seen anything like it?” Viktor just substituted one performer for another mid dance, even mid phrase if he had to to cobble the entire ballet together.

It must be remembered that he filmed the Ballet Russe for 10 years following them all over the country, attending performance after performance in order to do this! I find I do not mind the cast substitutions and rapid changes as the performances are so infectiously delightful the entire experience is just fun and joyous. Vida Brown didn’t mind it either, as she is smiling and laughing with delight throughout the film and as amazed as we are! She points out who is dancing when as they make their entrances and exits. It is amazing. The characterizations are very good. All the dancers are great! There is so much sheer joy and dancing with pleasure and abandon that dancers can only do if their technique is pure and perfect and they are performing a lot! The Ballet Russe performed constantly and traveled all over the country doing so. Those dancers got a lot of experience and owned the stage! So different than today. I just love seeing their great confidence and joy in performing. Of course some of the best ballet dancers in the world at that time were members of the Ballet Russe. The casting is perfection.

I recommend this film highly even though it is indeed a cobbled together version of the ballet with cast members changing (in mid phrase sometimes!) –  and the sound is not dead on, but it is a fascinating picture of what the ballet looked like on stage at the time. Gaite Paisienne was an incredibly influential ballet, it was the image of what ballet is for tens of thousands of people, and seeing it helps put that mid-20th century period of ballet in context.

Massine, the choreographer said, “It was popular in the United States because we gave the audience something they could relate to onstage: the working people, the waiters, the dancers, the cabaret, the charming shop girls, the dandies and the soldiers. It was rowdy and fun and full of an infectious energy. The Americans loved it. It was a great success in America, but it was not popular in Britain where the taste was more restrained and the audience wanted subdued ballets.”

Alexandra Danilova Was Champagne & What Was in That Tray of Gloves!

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Arts
COLLECTIONS>FREDERIC FRANKLIN A wonderfully entertaining review with commentary of Frederic Franklin on Danilova ~ so worldly yet so utterly charmant!

DANCE VIEW; Alexandra Danilova: She Continues To Be Champagne

By Jennifer Dunning
Published: September 10, 1989

Alexandra Danilova is an indisputable legend in a time when legends in ballet are few. Recently named to receive a Kennedy Center Honor this winter, she soon will be presented with the Handel Medallion from the City of New York. In a career in dance that has spanned more than seven decades, from her days as a student at the fabled Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg (now the Kirov in Leningrad) to her teaching at the School of American Ballet in Manhattan, Madame Danilova, as she is referred to by many, has become an exotic institution in American dance and a link between very different eras.

There are new ways of thinking about dance today. Dancers are no longer so much the bearers of magic to a humdrum world as a part of the social fabric of that world, particularly in cities outside New York. But a century ago, ballet was represented in this country by exotic emissaries from foreign lands who settled in America to teach the art of chorus-dancing and deportment. There was the bewitching Anna Pavlova and her innumerable tours to every corner of the United States, as well as the Diaghilev company and the beloved Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

Madame Danilova is a product, of course, of the hardy yet unfailingly glamorous Ballet Russe. For many Americans, she personified the company, and box-office success was guaranteed by her partnership on stage with Frederic Franklin, the company’s English premier danseur. In his history of the company, ”The One and Only: The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo,” Jack Anderson, a Times dance critic, writes that a 1944 Columbus, Ohio, engagement by the troupe was billed as ”Mlle Danilova, Frederic Franklin and Company.”

There was a piquant radiance about Madame Danilova that is undiminished today, epitomized in her heart-shaped face with its large, heavily lidded eyes. She was famous for her slender, tapering legs and well-turned feet. She was known best for her portrayals of three seductive characters in ballets by Leonide Massine – the Cancan Dancer in ”La Boutique Fantasque,” the Street Dancer in ”Le Beau Danube” and the Glove-Seller in ”Gaite Parisienne.”

Madame Danilova’s Glove-Seller knew, as Mr. Franklin put it, that her tray of gloves contained ”all kinds of stuff – contraceptives, everything.” Seeing her dance the role in a filmed record of ”Gaite Parisienne” by Victor Jessen, a balletomane and camera buff, reinforces that observation. Here, too, is a performer who is as self-contained as she is abandoned, dancing as much, it seems, for herself as for her audience. Effervescent miming and her relationship with Mr. Franklin, her ardent yet gentle Baron, add to the fascination of her dancing.

She was a spirited Swanilda in ”Coppelia.” The role of Giselle was not her forte, though her Swan Queen was considered hauntingly sad. She was champagne, her admirers proclaimed. Her famous legs were described by Lincoln Kirstein as being like ”luminous wax.” She was gaiety and elegance and wit.

”She has by nature and by artistry a wonderful legato that gives to all the sharp accents and spurts of cancan steps that the part calls for a musical grace none of the younger dancers have learned,” Edwin Denby, the noted dance critic, once wrote of Danilova in a review of ”Le Beau Danube.” ”In comparison to her they seem to trust to luck for their balance, and so their dancing loses flow and sweetness. Danilova makes her temperamental vivacity count because the movements are so well placed. Where others look happy, she scintillates. But it is her feminine presence, her air of dancing for the delight of it, that captures the audience’s heart.”

But her legend goes back farther than the Ballet Russe. Madame Danilova developed as an artist at the Maryinsky or Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg, the cradle of 20th-century ballet and the leading interpreter of the ballets of Marius Petipa. She was also a participant in – and knowing observer of – the experiments in ballet that erupted briefly with the explosion of new art forms in Russia during the 1920’s. One of those experimentalists was George Balanchine, a fellow classmate at the Maryinsky, with whom she soon joined Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, thus becoming involved in another of the century’s formative artistic ventures.

It was all that experience that Madame Danilova brought to the School of American Ballet, where she taught dances from the classical ballets of Petipa and provided a vibrant connection to that hallowed but very distant-seeming past. To watch her in class at the school, where she has taught since 1964, was to see the transformation of coltish young American girls into dancers of distinctive style, often through the merest suggestion of detail.

That past is still vivid to Madame Danilova, but no more vivid than the world she lives in today. Though she retired from the School of American Ballet this year, she is still very active. Early next month, for instance, she will travel to Louisville, Ky., to participate in a seminar on the Imperial Russian Ballet, followed by a week of teaching master classes at Ballet Midland in Midland, Tex.

Ballerinas were dazzling public figures when Madame Danilova danced, and few were so conscious of their debt to the public. There is an edge of teasing to her charm today. Her conversation is laced with the gaiety and elegance of her dancing, its tart wittiness as well as its candor. There is a sense, too, of the aloofness, noted by Robert Greskovic in The New Dance Review, that is an essential part of Leningrad dancers. Madame Danilova is never less than a star, a prerogative maintained with graceful equanimity.

At 85, she has slowed her pace. But she has lost none of the sometimes poignant indomitability learned from a life lived in a world torn by revolution, war and the vagaries of her profession. It is a life captured with much of Madame Danilova’s spirit in ”Choura,” her autobiography, which was published in 1986, and in ”Reflections of a Dancer: Alexandra Danilova,” a 1987 documentary film by Anne Belle. A friend tells of a bad fall Madame Danilova had at home in June, in which she fractured her right knee. She was unable to summon help for many hours but finally managed to reach the friend, who took her to the hectic emergency room of one of New York’s hospitals. There, she waited again, in considerable pain. At last, a very young doctor approached her. ”How old are you?” he asked. ”Guess,” she answered. ”Are you 70?” he ventured. ”Close enough,” she said imperiously, winking at her friend.

Films of The Glove Seller in Gaite Parissiene ~ Additional Commentary

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Apparently I was having some trouble with the link to the Waltz of the Baron and the Glove Seller the link should be working now. It was working when we tested it, but I just redid it and tested it again.

I have since added the last two additional posts with the history and the libretto of the ballet and another post with a Warner Brother’s film of the Ballet Russe Production. To my knowledge this blog is the only place all this information and footage is gathered together and presented in one location on the web or any place else. I will continue to add to it as I locate more.

Some things to observe:
Note how the Glove Seller blows into the glove to open the fingers before slipping in onto the Peruvian’s hand! I love the many authentic nuances she has used to fill out the performance.

Unfortunately Warner Bros. did not see it fit to film her little glove shop stall which, in the original ballet set is filled with gloves of all shapes and colors hanging from the awning style roof and backdrop and displayed on the tray like table top that is slanted toward the audience and shows many gloves looking very enticing and colorful!  I am hoping to find a photo of that part of the set to post. The flower girl also had a stall of colorful flowers and flowers in buckets French street stall style that they don’t show in the film! Too bad because they were absolutely charming sets! And of course made you want to buy both gloves and flowers in every possible color and style!

If you look closely you should be able to see a pair of long black gloves tucked into the belt of the Glove Seller’s white ruffled dress during part of the dancing!

In the Ballet Russe redition there was much mime work in the role of the Glove Seller showing the customers her gloves for sale in the stage production. And some customers buying them and putting them on – adding them to their costumes and dancing with them on for the rest of the evening. Apparently Warner’s felt this was too still and boring for film audiences – another mistake on their part as the mime scenes in ballets as well as operas are very important to the dramatic rendering and telling of the stories.

I was taken to a stage production of this ballet by my mother when I was about 5 yrs old and it was so colorful and lovely I still remember the costumes and dancing. The Glove Seller was enchanting! She was charming and elegant beyond description! A great actress. The audience applauded with a standing ovation before she even began to dance. She was so loved and respected for her interpretation that this became a customary part of the audience behavior and really set the mood for exalted dynamic dancing. I did not see Danilova dance her role as she had retired by the time I was born and taken to the ballet! I was witness to her tradition in the performances I saw. Because she had passed her role on to other dancers and taught them her interpretation.

As you can see the colorful vintage ballet costumes were just lovely!

My mother had seen the original productions with Franklin and Danilova and talked a great deal about the impact they had on her. She loved the ballet and The Ballet Russes.

So far I have not been able to find a portrait of Alexandra Danilova in her glove seller costume.

I am sad that Warner’s didn’t get her performance on film. We have to thank Viktor Jessen, the invisible amateur filmmaker who, in the 1950’s dressed all in black and filmed the Ballet Russe production from the wings over and over for two years with an old wind up super 8 camera night after night and finally pieced together all the footage of the Danilova/ Franklin performance that is all that is available today! If he had not done it there would not be any record of Danilova’s dancing that role!

It is truly only within the last decade that it had become customary to regularly video tape dance performances. Most of the old famous ones are only memories passed down by those who saw them. My mother talked so much about Danilova that I felt as if I had seen her perform the role myself! Her impression was so strong that it was conveyed from one generation to another in this way! Amazing when you think about it!

Unfortunately film really cannot capture the mystery and beauty of live dance performances. It is impossible. But something is much better than nothing!
I am so grateful to this ballet fan of old ~ Mr. Jessen, for diligently filming the production he loved so much!

Interesting to note, the Ballet Russe would not announce who was going to be dancing the role of the Glove Seller before the performances so Jessen arrived and set up his camera and waited backstage to see who would come out! If it was Danilova and Franklin he would film it. If not, he would pack up his equipment and leave! He recorded the orchestra playing the music at a different performance, then grafted the tape and the film together! It isn’t always right on, but it is pretty good considering his early primitive equipment! Once again, you have got to love the guy and his dedication!

Another interesting note, Jessen was so quiet and unobtrusive that the dancers were not aware he was there, in the wings, filming them. Thankfully the management allowed him to do so!

I hope you enjoy the beautiful and colorful vintage dance costumes which are captured nicely in the Warner’s Bros. Production No wonder people loved going to live theater and seeing the gorgeous clothes as well as the performances. Remember the audiences dressed to the nines for the occasion as well.

As a child I was told that we must dress up our very best when we attended the theater to show our respect for the dancers, actors and musicians who have gone to so much super human effort to create this magnificent production for our enjoyment. I was told we owed it to them, to show our appreciation by looking beautiful as well!

I agree with this philosophy to this day. Attending live theater is a special occasion and a privilege and an opportunity to show our respect and appreciation to the performers. My mother said it was our responsibility as audience members to dress beautifully as that was our part of the entire performance and experience. I have always enjoyed upholding my end of it by dressing up for the occasion! And I really enjoy seeing other people who dress up too.

A couple of years ago I attended a performance of Pacific Northwest Ballet and a bevy of about a dozen teenage girls were attending the event together. They had all dressed up in 1950’s long vintage tulle pastel ball gowns and real fur stoles and jackets, complete with high heels and vintage jewelry and little tiaras to attend the ballet. They had all had their hair done and made it a real dress up occasion and they were absolutely lovely! Obviously! As I still remember them and am writing about it today! It was a rare sight to see these days. I think they will all remember the event for their entire lives as well! What fun!

Since there are few occasions now that demand us to dress up it is a great idea to create our own, as this group of girls did. I am sure they had as wonderful a time deciding what to wear and getting ready as they did watching the ballet. I didn’t carry a camera to the performance ( you are not allowed to photograph the dancers) but I wish I had to photograph the audience! I think I will try to smuggle one in my evening bag just for this purpose in when I go again!

Violette

Ballerina Alexandra Danilova Dances The Glove Seller in The Ballet Gaite Parisienne

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Portrait of Ballerina Alexandra Danilova

Speaking of gloves and elegance – there used to be a profession called Glove Seller! In fact there was even a ballet featuring a glove seller as a central character. She was danced by Alexandra Danilova, the great vintage ballerina.

I have always loved the old style ballets and performances like this one by the legendary Ballet Russe dancers Alexandra Danilova and Frederic Franklin. Here they are dancing the Waltz Duet for the Baron and Glove Seller.

I was lucky to be able to study ballet with Frederic Franklin at the National Ballet in Washington DC and later with Alexandra Danilova at the School of American Ballet in NYC. I was the recipient of Ford Foundation Scholarship awards to both of these schools. They both taught ballet and this kind of beauty to their students – every day in every class. SAB is the official school of The New York City Ballet Company.

As dancers and later as ballet teachers they taught us about life and living, not just dance. They transmitted the charm and elegance and joy in life that you see in this lovely performance to their students and to those audience members who were lucky enough to see them perform. I was born too late to see them dance on stage in this ballet but they transmitted the same essence to me through their classes. I hope you will be inspired by this beauty!

And yes, in case you wondered, Alexandra Danilova did often wear gloves in person. She dressed in memorable color coordinated leotards, tights, skirt, matching hair ribbon  and dyed to match ballet slippers to teach her classes at School of American Ballet – I particularly remember her in an elegant light blue/ turquoise ensemble.  She was George Balanchine’s second wife. And a great favorite of my other ballet teacher, Igor Schwezoff, who was also madly in love with her to the end of his life. She was the very essence of feminine beauty and charm and I only knew her very late in her life. One of the most important reasons she was there ( at the school) was to transmit her special elegance and qualities as a woman to the younger dancers and she made an indelible impression on us.

More about this ballet coming soon.

Lady Violette’s Vintage Glove Collection

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

I have been writing about vintage gloves lately so I thought it was time to share some pretty examples from my own personal collection.

Here is my basketful of cloth gloves in pretty spring colors. I have another collection of leather ones which I will share soon.

Lady Viollette's Personal Collection of Vintage Cloth Gloves

Antique Kid Gloves Bookmark From Foster, Paul & Co.

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

This elegant antique bookmark advertised Foster’s Kid Gloves and  featured palmistry as well!

Antique Bookmark Advertising Foster's Kid Gloves

How to Wash Your Vintage Leather Gloves ~ From A 1940’s Woman’s Home Companion

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Interestingly here are the exact directions as I wrote them yesterday that my grandmother passed onto my mother which were then passed on to me for washing my vintage leather gloves! I guess it was common knowledge back in the day! On the blog Livin’ Vintage: as Found in Washing Your Vintage Leather Gloves  is a wonderful article, with old black and white photos to illustrate the washing process from a 1940’s Woman’s Home Companion. Enjoy! And happy spring cleaning!

It is true that washing a pair that has previously been dry cleaned is disastrous! I did it and they shriveled up as tiny horrid looking mummy hands! Photo coming soon! Yuck!

Leather Gloves Will Wash ~ From a 1940's Woman's Home Companion

Collecting, Cleaning & Caring for Vintage Gloves ~ With Some Advice & Photos From Circa in Australia

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

A Clothesline Full of Freshly Laundered Colored Vintage Gloves From Circa Vintage Clothing ~ photo Nicole Jenkins

While looking for more information on fitting, finding, and caring for vintage gloves I came across these wonderful photograph and a source of more information from Nicole Jenkins of Circa Vintage Clothing in Australia. Nicole writes extensively about The Joy of Gloves, explaining some past fashion history, telling how gloves were fitted, as I explained previously, to your shoe size, what length to wear with which dress style, how to clean them, etc. She also carries some new vintage style cloth gloves in her store in larger sizes so that ladies whose feet are larger than a size 8 can – luckily – find gloves that will fit! I am going to contact her right away to find out what she currently has in stock! I am always searching for real vintage gloves and nice modern ones with vintage style. * I did check out the store and she currently has 21 pairs of beautiful vintage gloves in stock! Just gorgeous and beautifully photographed too! go to Circa Vintage Clothing on the link above and search for gloves to view them.

Crescendoe Fashion glove Advertisement ~ Circa 1951

My grandmother and my mother often wore cream or white leather gloves for special occasions and I distinctively remember them telling me how to put them on and how to care for them. You were to ease the glove on carefully like a second skin. At first it seemed a bit tight, but as it warmed to your body temperature it would stretch and mold to your hand to “fit like a kid glove.”

If the glove became just the slightest bit soiled you were to change to another pair. You were advised to wash the soiled ones as soon as possible, while wearing them on your hands, as if you were washing your hands, in very gentle soap, in a basin of lukewarm water. Rinse thoroughly, remove from your hands with care and roll up in a clean dry white towel to absorb excess water. You could blow into them, as if blowing up a balloon, to puff them up a bit from the inside. Then you were to lay them out, flat, away from heat and sunlight, to dry. When almost dry, preferably not quite completely dry, you were to put them back on and ease them over your hand, smoothing out the fingers and lengthening them, to cover you hand comfortably. The gloves looked a bit wrinkly after hand washing, but looked fine and elegant again after a few minutes on the warm human hand had eased out the wrinkles. With proper hand washing and care a high quality pair would last a long time. I still have several pairs that have lasted 40 ~ 50 years and are in excellent condition. Of course colored gloves should always be washed and dried separately from white ones lest the dye run and inadvertently tint the white and cream ones! Washing directions from a 1940’s Woman’s Home companion will be posted on my blog tomorrow complete with photo illustrations.

In the Joy of Gloves Nicole Jenkins tells of collections of gloves she has come across when buying entire wardrobes for her shop. That must be fun! Reading this made me remember reading a biography of film actress Vivian Leigh. Miss Leigh loved white gloves and generally went through about three pairs a day, as she changed them regularly to keep them pristine. The most amazing thing was, that when she died, 500 pairs were found, neatly lined up in drawers in her dressing room!

I would absolutely love to have 500 pairs of vintage gloves arranged and ready to wear like that!

On that note I will end this post with Nicole Jenkin’s photo of her freshly laundered white gloves hung out to dry!

Freshly Laundered White Gloves ~ photo Nicole Jenkins

A Beautiful Handmade Quilt of Vintage Gloves by Artist Susan Lenz

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Handed Down ~ a quilt made of vintage gloves by artist Susan Lenz

Today I found a fascinating work of art~ a quilt made by artist Susan Lenz using vintage textiles including a paisley shawl, and many pairs of vintage gloves.

Visit her blog artbysusanlenz for the story. This would be a great use for gloves you may have inherited or collected that are too small to wear! I love it!

A Vintage Glove Lover’s Tips for Fitting, Buying, Wearing and Collecting Vintage & Contemporary Fashion Gloves

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Vintage Violette Gloves

I love vintage gloves myself and am fortunate to have a friend who was a real glove seller in the days gloves were a fashion mainstay. In my quest for gloves I have discussed the fitting and finding of vintage gloves with her and want to share the valuable information she has to offer.

I have recently been trying to buy vintage gloves online. Sizing and condition are always difficult to access without being able to inspect the gloves and try them on in person. Often the online sellers do not know the sizes of the gloves they have up for sale and do not know anything about measuring or fitting gloves. Thus, I have had some successes in buying vintage gloves online and and some failures!

In an attempt to get better at this I have been researching the topic of fitting gloves – both vintage and contemporary. I am talking about finer designer gloves and hand made gloves of all materials.

Fortunately I have an elegant 96 year old friend, Eloise, who worked for I. Magnin and Nordstrom Best for decades. At I. Magnin she sold gloves! Leather, ones, cloth ones – all types and styles from famous designers and glove companies during the heyday of fashion gloves. She began her retail career right out of high school at the age of 17. I decided to ask her to share her knowledge and experience.

Eloise told me that they always advised people to buy gloves the same size as a woman’s shoe size. They often had to help gentlemen (her word!) buy them as gifts. She never had them returned as this worked. They always fit. She remembers that the lady who received the gloves as a gift would often come in wearing them! In those days a good sales lady also kept a record of all her customer’s sizes and often had them conveniently written on a card to give to husbands (or other gentlemen!) Gloves were a very popular luxury gift item. How nice!

I wear a 6.5 to 7 shoe depending on style and maker and sure enough I wear the same in gloves – depending on style and maker. I like to keep my nails longish. She said they advised women to go a size larger for long nails if needed for finger length. Of course, one must keep in mind that the gloves will get bigger all over, not just in the length of the fingers, as you go up in size. 

I tried this, but my hands are too slim through the palm and I cannot go bigger than a 7. Thus, I have several size 6.5 and several size 7 pairs that fit. These are all European designer gloves, many leather.  Eloise – wears the same size and we both tried on a pile of her vintage gloves to test this.Sure enough, she was right!

Christian Dior fits perfectly in size 6.5 and has longer fingers than some of the others. Hermes also fits perfectly in 6.5. These two brands ran a tiny bit larger than some of the others.

I recently bought a new pair of Ralph Lauren leather designer gloves this winter and had to get size Small. They are nowadays labeled S,M, and L – not sold in as refined and exact sizing as they used to be. However, some companies are still making their gloves in classic sizes. It is valuable information to know your correct glove size nowadays when buying new designer gloves as well as vintage gloves. I visited the Neiman Marcus website and expensive leather gloves from Europe are still sold there under the classic sizing methods.

“And men, it is valuable for you to know your woman’s glove size in case you want to get her an always appropriate gift of gloves!” from Eloise. She says that the stores told them to tell the customers that gloves were always an appropriate gift for a woman. They are warm, practical, considerate, elegant and luxurious, and not as personal or expensive as a piece of jewelry! A pair of lovely gloves is an appropriate gift for every lady in your life – your sweetheart or wife, your mother, your aunt, your grandmother, your secretary, your teacher, your daughter or niece. It is great gift for birthdays, Christmas, Valentines day! Could this be why there are still so many vintage gloves available? Were they received as gifts and tucked away for special occasions or seldom worn? Eloise says it was perfectly normal for women to own dozens of pairs. After all, until the late 1960’s, you never went out without wearing a pair! 

Most modern gloves are just huge on me! Way too wide through the palm. In fact they are so loose they actually fall off easily. Price does not make a difference here! I tried on many pairs of gloves this winter from many pricey companies and high end stores. I searched and searched and the only pair I found that would stay on and I liked were the Ralph Lauren  pair I bought.

I am a perfect candidate for vintage gloves because I need the narrow palm width. When I find a pair in good condition that fits I am very happy! 

The only problem with some vintage leather gloves I have had is that the thread used to sew them has rotted. I slipped my hands into a beautiful pair of elbow length brown suede gloves from the 1950’s and they split. They were not too small. Eloise explained to me that two things happen, the thread rots and the leather also gets old and ready to go. Same as with vintage leather and fur coats.

After Eloise worked at I.Magnin’s she married a furrier. She helped in his business and even learned to make fur coats. She now teaches designing and sewing leather and fur coats at a college in Seattle. Her husband had to close down his furrier business in the 1980’s due to lack of demand. 

After her first husband, the furrier, died, Eloise began dating his best friend whose wife had also passed away. Two years ago they got married! He was the former head of a department the University of WA. and very well off. He is 2 yrs older than Eloise. She told me to say this! “Tell younger women there are still plenty of nice eligible men out there! ”

They are an adorable couple! They are both very healthy. They attribute this to good living! They travel a lot, but when home go for early morning walks at 6:30 AM in the dead of winter for 6 miles every day! She gets to wear her fur coats to stay warm! (They are not running into any PETA fanatics on their early morning walks!) They invited me to join them! I cannot do it and get to work on time! They are quite amazing. She is peppier and prettier than many 28 year olds!
Eloise wears her gorgeous designer clothes, accumulated throughout her retail career, daily. She is still a vintage size 10 which is really tiny and trim. She is a great seamstress and has a sewing room where she is always working on some cute project. The last time I visited she was making a wide belt out of a vintage real leopard skin. She has quite a few priceless fur pelts left over from the furrier business. She has helped me to identify the types of fur in several of my own vintage fur coats.

Please note, those of you who love animals, Eloise also loves them. She respects the furs she has and takes very good care of them as her way of showing her love. She is not buying new fur pelts.

Eloise is a gold mine of first hand knowledge and experience related to vintage fashion and clothing. She is also a great example of feminine charm!
When she remarried she moved into her new husband’s home and had to downsize a bit. She gave me over 200 vintage sewing patterns – all of which she had made for herself over the years. She likes to design and sew her own clothes and does a fantastic job. Fur coats too! She makes them! Every pattern she gave me was marked with the date she made it and the occasion she made it for. And a sample of the fabric she used was attached to the pattern envelope. It was so interesting! Her entire life was documented in her sewing patterns. I now have this amazing documentation and am keeping it safe! I want to make some of the dresses.

The first pattern in the collection was her graduation dress from high school and the last was a Vogue pattern for a tasteful black and white Oscar de la Renta cocktail dress from the late 1990’s. Her high school graduation dress was more like a ball gown would be today! It was a floor length peach silk satin bias cut evening dress with a smocked bodice, dramatic puffed sleeves and a wide sash tied in a huge bow down the back. The year was 1933! She also saved the dress! And she gave it to me! It is perfectly preserved. I could wear it tonight if I had an occasion to wear it to! With long white gloves, of course!

But back to gloves and glove fitting!

Eloise’s advice on gloves is to start with your shoe size. This is what they did with the gloves that are now vintage gloves when they were initially selling them.  She was trained to fit them properly when she began selling gloves at I. Magnin when she was 17! Of course there will be some exceptions of women with different sized feet and hands, but it is a good guideline that is statistically quite reliable. 

I think this is great information on glove fitting advice. I have just begun to tell people about it, but we need to spread the word.

I want to buy more vintage gloves but it is very hard to buy them when the online sellers cannot identify the size or condition of the gloves (as far as rotten thread and skins!) I have now bought 2 pairs that were too old to wear and split immediately. 

Obviously this is not because I have huge hands! My glove size is 6.5 or 7 and I wear a size 5 ring and have thin hands!

By the way I have seen gloves listed online in their original plastic bags. Eloise also told me that the gloves came in originally in plastic bags, but this was just intended to keep them clean in shipping and until they were sold. Not for permanent storage because the plastic bags are non archival – which has contributed to the rotting thread problem. People really should have taken them out of those bags and stored them in a drawer. She recommends wrapped in a silk or cotton scarf.

They also had satin glove boxes or silk envelope type containers back in the day in which to store your gloves. It is interesting to see the original plastic bags with the glove company name on it, but the gloves themselves should not be kept in those plastic bags! If you have the original plastic bag you should remove the gloves and keep it, separated from the gloves, in an envelope made of archival paper.

Also, from Eloise and based on my own experience as well: Measuring the glove laid out flat tells us very little about the size and fit. All the materials including different types of cloth and leather stretch or mold differently on the hand – the pro glove makers knew about this and their sizing back in the day was reliable and based on these varying and differing materials that they used. Complex! But it makes perfect sense!

Personally, I wear a 6.5 to 7 N shoe depending on style and maker and sure enough I wear the same in gloves – depending on style and maker. I like to keep my nails longish. She said they advised women to go a size larger for long nails if needed for finger length. 

I tried this, but my hands are too slim through the palm and I cannot go bigger than a 7. Thus, I have several size 6.5 and several size 7 pairs that fit. These are all European designer gloves, many leather.

Eloise- wears the same size and we both tried on a pile of her vintage gloves to test this. She has over 100 pairs! 

Christian Dior fits perfectly in size 6.5 and has longer fingers than some of the others. Hermes also fits perfectly in 6.5. 

I recently bought a pair of new Ralph Lauren designer leather gloves this winter and had to get size Small. Contemporary size Small is vintage size 6.5 – 7. Most modern gloves are just huge on me!

This information on vintage gloves and glove fitting is based on my own personal research and experience and the experience of my 96 year old friend Eloise, who sold fine gloves for many decades. We are only offering to share our personal experience. That is all it is, personal experience. that we have found valuable and think will help other women.

I was told, recently, by an old man who is selling vintage gloves on his website that, “That information doesn’t apply anymore!” How would he know? We tested it and it worked for us! We are women and we like to wear vintage gloves! A lady selling gloves in her online store wrote me and said, “Well, that was then, we have all gotten much bigger!”  I also disagree with her statement! Some people may have gotten bigger, but some have stayed small! I have and so has Eloise and I know plenty of younger women who are fairly small! I am pretty sure these sellers are not wearing the gloves themselves!

I also know that there were medium and larger sized vintage gloves as well. I have come across many pairs that are too big for me. People of all sizes have always existed! This information is provided to help those who wear a bigger size 8 or 9 shoe and glove, or larger, find the correct size as well! It should apply to anyone. It is the place to start when you are beginning the search for vintage and contemporary gloves that will fit and are in good enough condition to wear now!

Eloise also suggests: “Put a little bit of talcum powder on your clean dry hands in order to help you slide them into a pair of tight white leather gloves. After you get the gloves on the heat of your hand will naturally stretch your glove a little bit and mold the leather to a perfect fit. This is a good thing to do after washing a pair of leather gloves to get them on and softened up to wear again. Be sure they are completely dry beforehand!

She goes on to explain,  A fine leather glove should fit snugly and should not bag on the hand. Fine, soft glove leather will mold to the hand and stretch with it. This is where the phrase, “It fits like a glove!” came from. When removing a glove do not pull on the cuff, instead, fold back the cuff at the wrist of the glove and gently ease it off the hand and over your fingers.

What is button length? In the world of gloves the length of the glove from the base of the thumb at the wrist, or from the beginning of the thumb gusset, (which is the same starting point) to the hem of the cuff is measured in a term called “buttons” where one button is slightly longer than an inch. This term is derived from an antique French glove maker’s unit of measure. In other words, a four button glove is not decorated with four buttons, (although it could be as well!) it is approximately four inches (actually a tad bit more than four inches) from the base of its thumb to its hem!

Consequently the length of a glove is traditionally expressed in “buttons”, the antique French unit of glove measure which is slightly longer than one inch. It originally must have come from the spacing between the placement of buttons. Button measures are customarily taken from the bottom of the thumb seam or gusset to the top of the glove, and the actual length of the glove in inches from longest fingertip to cuff is 6 to 7 inches longer than the length in buttons. The various traditional lengths are:

2-button: Also known as “shorties”, these are wrist-length gloves, generally 8 to 9 inches long – from fingertips to cuff.

4-button: These gloves are 10 to 11 inches long and cover the wrist, reaching a couple of inches up onto the forearm.

6-button: 12 to 13 inches long, these gloves reach well up onto the forearm. Many “gauntlet” type gloves (i.e., these gloves with flared armpieces in the style of equestrian gauntlets) are this length. A favorite vintage length for daytime wear. In vintage fashion these were worn over ones coat or dress sleeve or, as a dramatic fashion statement in the 1940’s. against a bare arm with a short sleeved dress.

8-button: 14 to 15 inches long, this type of glove reaches to the upper forearm. This is also known as the “three-quarter” length glove, and is the style most closely associated with the actresses in the 50’s who often wore this length with sleeveless or strapless evening gowns.

12-button: Approximately 18 to 19 inches long, this type of glove reaches up to and just over the wearer’s elbow. Known as “elbow-length” in common parlance, and many have mousquetaire wrist openings, but not to be confused with:

16-button: 22 to 23 inches long – this is the classic  length for an opera glove and as a general rule comes with the mousquetaire wrist opening.

21-button: 27 to 29 inches long, this glove generally reaches all the way to the wearer’s armpits. This is possibly the most dramatic length of glove, and is generally worn only with strapless or sleeveless evening outfits. It is so long it almost doubles as a sleeve!

What is a mousquetaire? – It is the buttoned opening at the wrist of the fitted long opera glove. It allowed one to remove the hand and fold it back in order to eat or drink, usually with the assistance of one’s escort, then replace the glove for the remainder of the evening. You also needed this opening in order to put on and remove the gloves. A button hook was sometimes needed to button or undo the little buttons as well. These very long gloves were put on at home and usually worn for the entire evening as they were difficult to both don and remove!

Eloise and I will provide more information soon on the wearing and etiquette of vintage gloves.

For more interesting information visit Wikipedia on the Evening Glove.

In this article and several others I have found reference to measuring your hand for glove size with directions on how to do so. Eloise and I both tested this and also got the exact same results as we got with the shoe size is the same as glove size method! We also had several other women try it with the same results! The measurement method yielded the same size as the shoe size comparison method!

Good luck finding gloves that fit. And, if you have other glove fitting information please share it with us!