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Lady Violette

The Romantic Lifestyle

Posts Tagged ‘History’

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

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

Ballerina Lubov Tchernicheva’s ~ Cleopatra Portrait Gallery

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Lubov Tchernicheva as herself

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

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

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

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

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

The Ballets Russes Cleopatra Costume by artist Sonia Delaunay 1918

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

Lubov Tchernicheva in her Cleopatra costume designed by Sonia Delaunay

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

Tchernicheva reclining elegantly as Cleopatra

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

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

 

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



An Autographed Portrait of Igor Schwezoff from his Ballets Russes Days

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Igor Schwezoff’s Ballet La Lutte Eternelle

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

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

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

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

Grace in Furs ~ Beautiful Grace Kelly Wearing Fabulous Furs

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

A Perfect Dress for Valentines Day!

Grace Kelly looked particularly fetching in furs. Here are a few examples. I love this red silk dress trimmed in mink cuffs, and, of course, my favorite photo of her in which she is wearing both furs and flowers together

Gracefully Wearing Furs and Flowers at the Same Time!

is the one I showed in my last post where she is wearing a spring hat decorated with roses with the most luxurious looking long sable fur coat on the planet. I love this picture because she looks both warm and happy!

The Famous White Mink Stole of the 1950's

Attending formal affairs she often wore this white mink stole which epitomized the 50’s chic and accentuated her blondness.

Grace at a State Event in Monaco with Her Prince

This stole looked particularly good with diamonds and long formal gowns required for state events. I think she fueled every woman’s desire to own a mink stole in the 1950’s.

Here is the amazing full length sable again ~ photographed in New York City with throngs of adoring fans looking on! Grace, as usual looking really warm and happy.

Grace After an Acting Class in NYC

This photo appeared in Life magazine and the caption read, ” Grace arrives home (to her 5th Avenue Apartment ) after an acting class.” Grace was not a starving actress barely surviving in NYC!

 

Grace in a Full Length Pastel Mink with Her Famous Kelly Bag

Shopping in Paris with Prince Rainier Grace was often caught by the paparazzi wearing spectacular furs.

Long Blond Mink on Beautiful Blond Grace Carrying the Kelly Bag Which She Made Famous

This next photo better shows the luxurious full length pastel mink fur coat which perfectly complimented her cool blondness. Graces life as a princess was the thing of fairy tales for most women. It was also her job, as Rainier’s wife to make Monnaco look good! She performed this job of princess as perfectly as she had performed as a film actress.

A Formal Portrait Again Featuring Her Favorite White Mink Stole

Monaco’s main industry was, and still is, tourism. Grace was tremendous publicity draw for Monaco. Her life was a fantasy for most women and they loved to read about her in the press. Of course her fashion choices were heavily emulated. Her spectacular designer gowns, jewels and furs were the things other women dreamed of. And she was the perfect real life model to show off designers work.

Strolling in Paris with Prince Rainier Wearing a Fur Stole Over a Wool Suit

I realize this was a job for her ~ she had to look perfect and be perfectly groomed at all times as the wife of Rainier and the Princess of Monaco. Grace did so gracefully. She never had any down time. Grace became the epitome of old world elegance as she aged.

The Epitome of 1960's European Glamor

She was always perfectly groomed and meticulously dressed and throughout it all she retained her personal charm. She epitomized her name.

The Grace Kelly look was famous for her gigantic Kelly bag, her designer sunglasses, (she had notoriously poor eyesight so she probably wore these because she really needed them to avoid eye strain and headaches,) her jewels, her exquisite Hermes accessories such as gloves, belts, and scarves, her beautiful designer evening gowns, day dresses and meticulously tailored suits, her hats, and the ultimate and most flattering fine accessory – Prince Rainier, the prince of a husband. Grace’s real life was like that of a heroine in a romance novel to the public.

Of course, it was a real life and it had its real ups and downs, such as unruly teenagers and her unfortunate untimely death. Real life always has its difficulties! But people like to dream and Grace Kelly was the dream girl of her time.

More Inspiration ~ Marlene Dietrich & Grace Kelly Wearing Flowers With Fabulous Furs

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Ultra Fluffy Bleached White Fox Fur Frames Marlene's Face ~ Note the Corsage of Violets!

Marlene Dietrich in all her beautifully lit beauty wearing beautiful luxurious face framing fox furs. I love the added accent of the violet corsage! Nowadays it seems oddly out of season to wear flowers with furs but this was not always so. Apparently women wore warm furs over flimsy floral dresses with floral corsages or flower trimmed hats in past eras. It was certainly charmingly ultra feminine. And solved the problem of wearing a sweet spring light dress while freezing to death on Easter!

Grace Kelly Shortly After Her Arrival in Monaco

This is one of my favorite photographs of Grace Kelly wearing what looks like an exquisite sable coat with an adorable 1950’s rose trimmed pill box hat and white gloves. She looks so fresh and girlish and happy! And warm! So you see, it is possible to wear a spring outfit and not freeze to death! I have found many photos of Grace in furs and she was obviously someone who preferred to be comfortably warm by wearing a proper coat! More Grace in furs coming soon!

Vintage Cream Racoon Fur Stole ~ 1955 ~ I.Magnin & Co. ~ Vintage Fur Identification: Sheared, Bleached and Dyed Natural Raccoon

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

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.

Beautiful Rich Cream Colored Circa 1955 Sheared, Bleached and Dyed Raccoon Stole From I. Magnin

This beautiful rich vintage cream colored circa 1955 stole from I.Magnin initially had me puzzled. The original owner thought it was beaver, but I had done a school report in Portland OR, when I was in the fourth grade, on beavers and their fur and I was not sure she was right. Sheared beaver is silky soft like butter and in my opinion this fur had a different feeling. So I took it to Rene Vogel, the furrier in Seattle, and he explained that it is, of all things, sheared, bleached and dyed raccoon!

Cream Colored Vintage Sheared, Bleached and Dyed Raccoon Fur Stole Shown with Vintage Sheared Brown Beaver Fur Muff Purse for Comparison Purposes

It is a dense fur and very soft, just not as slippery silky as beaver.  But the look is similar to sheared beaver so it is easy to see how the original owner would have thought beaver. Here is a picture of the raccoon shawl with my vintage sheared brown beaver muff purse placed beside it for comparison. They actually look very good together and I feel they could be worn together.

The Classic I. Magnin & Co. Importers Label in the Glamorous Cream Colored Sheared Raccoon Stole

The cream colored raccoon shawl was purchased at I.Magnin by a family friend of ours who wore it before and directly after her December 1955 winter wedding as part of her wedding and honeymoon ensembles. She told me she wore it over her green velveteen evening dress when she arrived for her rehearsal dinner, to the church over a cream colored wool suit when she arrived to get prepared for her wedding ceremony, and again over the cream wool suit when she departed for her honeymoon. She wore a formal cream satin wedding dress for the ceremony itself, but did not use the fur stole with it. The cream raccoon fur stole was her winter cold weather wrap for all her wedding related events and parties. She was a prominent Seattle socialite whose outfits and activities were chronicled regularly in the Seattle Times Society Section of the 1950s through 70s. She wore very glamorous clothes and kept a scrap book of photos of herself and her husband at all the events they had attended. She had saved many of the clothes as well.

When I Wear This 1955 I.Magnin & Co. Cream Sheared Raccoon Stole I am Wrapped in the Warmth of a Gorgeous Vintage Fur & the Memories of the Elegant Friend Who Gave it to Me

I.Magnin was her favorite store and she purchased almost all her clothes there. She relied on them for the level of taste and elegance she wished to project. She told me many stories about her shopping trips to I.Magnin and the items she had acquired there and gave me this stole, several Odette Barsa lingerie ensembles, and other items she had acquired there over the years. She was extremely sad when I.Magnin closed!

 

 

A Circa 1950s Label From Frederick & Nelson, Seattle

And when Frederick & Nelson closed! It was the end of an era and she was very aware that she was part of that era. It made her happy that I knew about I.Magnin and appreciated their level of style as much as she did.

A Beautiful Label in a Brocade Dress From I. Magnin& Co.

One day while thrifting I found several vintage items ~ a couple of cashmere sweaters and wool skirts in her size and in very good condition and I bought them for her ~ she was absolutely ecstatic to have some “New clothes from our favorite store!” She was so happy when I gave them to her she was jumping up and down at the age of 86 like a 16 year old girl would have! This lady was a very good friend of my mothers and, as a result of that, she and I became very good friends. We had lots in common! Consequently this beautiful soft cream colored shawl is not only wonderfully cozy it is full of warm memories of special times with a very special person for me. She had no children so I was like the grand daughter she wished she had had.

The Cream Sheared Raccoon Stole From I. Magnin & Co. 1955, is Lined in Heavy Beige Colored Silk and Has Two Silken Pockets, One at Each End, in Which to Put Your Hands to Keep Them Warm. These Strategically Placed Pockets Also Provide a Way to Hold the Shawl Close to Your Body to Gracefully Encircle Your Shoulders ~ the Way We See Them in Glamorous Circa 1950s Fashion Photographs.

The  sheared cream raccoon stole is lined in heavy beige silk and has two silken pockets, one at each end, in which you can put your hands to keep them warm and to hold the shawl together in front of you while you allow it to slide gracefully down low around your shoulders and encircling your body the way it is done in glamorous 1950s era fashion photographs. This works well. When I have a photographer present I will model it and show how that is done in person. I plan to photograph all my furs styled and coordinated with proper outfits on myself or other models after I get them all identified by type and era.

The Cream Sheared Racoon I. Magnin & Co. Fur Stole is Like Somthing a Hitchcock Heroine Would Have Worn in a Movie Set in San Francisco in the 1950s!

The Creamy Sheared Raccoon I. Magnin & Co. Fur Stole is Like Something a Hitchcock Heroine Would Have Worn in the Daytime Over Her Pastel Cashmere Separates and at Night With Pale Silk Brocades in San Francisco in the 1950s!

This is such a rich looking garment. There is a lot of depth in the creamy color and a slight striping effect as you can see in the photographs. It reminds me of the Alfred Hitchcock heroines ~ of Grace Kelly, Tippi Hedren, Eva Marie Saint, and Tuesday Weld ~ with their pale cashmere coats, cream and beige cashmere sweaters, pastel pencil skirts, and French rolled coiffed blondness and, of course, pale fur coats and stoles over cream colored brocade silk suits and dresses with white kid gloves. It reminds me of San Francisco in the 1950’s ~ where I. Magnin  & Co. was founded and had their first elegant store.

A Circa 1950s Label From The City of Paris Department Store in San Francisco For a Hat From Their Exclusive Midenette Millenery Salon Which Carried One of a Kind Couture Hats imported From France

And of The City of Paris, another sophisticated and elegant department store in downtown San Francisco, with an incredible French perfume department and a fabulous ornate mezzanine overlooking the ground floor and salons for each designer they carried arranged in  elegant salons branching off along the mezzanine. That store was magnificent, like an ornate theater in Paris with crystal and gold gilt and mirrors everywhere you turned! A miniature version of Versailles transported to San Francisco to feed the imaginations of western American women who really wanted to be in Paris.

 

The Lining and Pockets Are Made of a Beige Silk to Tastefully Coordinate With the Creamy Sheared Raccoon Fur Stole

After her marriage and honeymoon my friend occasionally wore her Creamy Sheared Raccoon Stole from I. Magnin & Co. to the Theater and to the Olympic Hotel in Seattle for Holiday Events. She recalled wearing it when she took a trip to San Francisco and dined at the famous restaurant at the Top of the Mark and attended a performance of The Royal Ballet from London featuring Margo Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev at the War Memorial Opera House. That was in 1962.

She acquired additional furs over the years so this one was not used often, just for special events, mostly around the Christmas and New Years Holidays. She said it was a good wrap to wear to winter parties where there were slight chills running through buildings but you still wanted to be glamorous and feel elegant.

The Creamy Color of This 1955 Sheared Raccoon Stole From I. Magnin & Co. Coordinates Beautifully with Pearl Jewelry and White Kidskin Gloves Making Any Color Dress Look Instantly Put together. The Vintage Muff in This Photograph is Sheared Beaver. It is Quite a Bit Older Than the Stole, But I Like the Way They Look Together. The Muff Will Be Discussed in a Future Post.

She pointed out that the cream color of this stole goes very well with pearls. You can wear it over any color dress with white kidskin or silk gloves and pearly jewelry and instantly look put together. This was how women thought about dressing in her day. I’m planning to use it to keep warm, look good and have a conversation piece at Holiday Cocktail Parties this winter.

This Creamy Sheared Raccoon Fur Stole from I. Magnin & Co.is 57 Years Old and is Still in Excellent Condition Because it was Professionally Cleaned When Needed and Kept in Cold Storage During the Summer Months by its Original Owner

This stole is in good condition after 57 years because it was well care for. The original and only owner before I acquired it put it in fur storage every summer and had it cleaned when recommended by her furrier. It is a good example of how long furs last when properly cared for. I am the future generation and I really appreciate the fact that she did this. The color is creamy as you can see in the photos. Because we did not see it when it was new we do not know if it was originally this color or lighter. There is a possibility that it may have darkened due to oxidation as it aged. There are no sections of distinctly different shades or color from one part of the piece to the next. In other words the current color and effect is uniform throughout the stole.

As described in the opening paragraph of this post I had this vintage fur stole inspected by Rene Vogel the professional Seattle furrier. Mr. Vodel identified the fur to be Sheared Bleached and Dyed Raccoon as stated above. He has decades of experience having been in the fur 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

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

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back View of Vintage Natural Skunk Stole Circa 1940s

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

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

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

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

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

Jacques Nam ~ Fox Fur Stole ~ 1912

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

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

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

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

 

Jacques Nam ~ Chinchilla Toque and Scarf ~ 1912

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Google Images gallery of Jacques Nam’s work.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Magnificent Ode to Janis Joplin Necklace

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

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

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

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

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

Janis loved opulent fabrics in deep rich colors.

Legendary Ode to Janis Joplin Antique Black Leather Boots

Janis also loved collected and wore antique boots.

Ode to Janis Joplin Real Victorian Brown Leather Boots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos for this article are by Violette de Courcy

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

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

The Amazing Lining Side of the Janis Joplin Jacket

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

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

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

Janis Joplin In Her Furs With Her Famous Painted Car

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the Gorgeous Vintage Silk Tie Fabrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anna Pavlova’s Lace Dress

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Anna Pavlove in Lace

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

The Dying Swan Lives Again

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Pavlova in her Dying Swan costume in a studio portrait

The Dying Swan was a beautiful signature solo choreographed for the ballerina Anna Pavlova by the choreographer Michail Fokine  in Russia 1905.

An amazing young dancer named Lil’ Buck performs his new variation on her famous dance. I think she would have loved it, actually!

Lil’ Buck performing The Dying Swan. He is extraordinary in his own right! Please enjoy!

Here is the History of the ballet, The Dying Swan.

The incomparable Anna Pavlova performing her original Dying Swan at the Marinsky theater in 1907.

Pavlova toured the world giving over 4,000 performances of this ballet to audiences who were seeing the art of ballet for the very first time. She created many fans for ballet in her lifetime.

Lil’ Buck is doing a similar thing in his own way in our modern times. He is exposing many young people to dance through his performances and inspired teaching. In a way this is a perfect vehicle for him. I think Madame would have approved!

 

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.

Violet, Violet Leaf & Ionones in Perfumes

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Violets, Violet Leaves and Ionones Used in Making Perfumes

Flowers are blooming as spring is finally coming and I have the loveliest little violets blooming in my garden.

I always want  to enjoy them all year long so search for perfumes that feature them. Here is a good description of violets used in the making of perfumes and how they work that I thought might interest people who love violets. The Perfume Shrine blog explains their use in Perfumery Materials: Violets, Violet Leaf & Ionones,

I was very lucky to find a vintage bottle of Caron’s Fleurs de Rocailles yesterday – from France in the 1960s and still good. The original formulation in a rare lovely glass bottle with stopper. I am happy! How I love vintage shopping! I admit it! And I will give you a tip, the vintage perfumes are often better than the newer versions. It is quite possible to find old ones in the original pretty bottles with still perfect contents. I have been doing it for years and have amassed quite a good collection at very reasonable prices, too.

You can find them at estate sales, thrift shops, and antique malls. People who don’t really like the scent or enjoy perfume, or are allergic to it, will sell them for a fraction of the price in perfume shops or department stores. The trick is, to keep your eyes open and your nose alert!Find a seller who hated his grandmother’s or mother’s perfume! And doesn’t appreciate the pretty little glass bottles!

You can always test the perfumes in stores to find out which ones you like. I have no trouble remembering the scents and how they are supposed to smell so I can easily tell if a vintage perfume is still good. You can learn to do this through experience. Good luck! As the weather improves yard sales will begin as well and bring more opportunities to find great perfumes at great prices…

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.”

Victor Jessen’s Film of Massine’s Gaite Parisienne

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Here is information on the production details and how to procure the film of Victor Jesson’s Gaite Parisienne. This is the production starring Alexandra Danilova,  Fredric Franklin and Leon Danielian in its entirety. I have just ordered it and can hardly wait to receive it!

Here is another excerpt from the film of the Cancan scene: Can Can From Gaite Parisienne as filmed by Victor Jesson.

Here is an interview from Frederic Franklin on the Jessen Film: Frederic Franklin Interview – the Jesson Film.

This is totally fascinating!  A total treat for vintage ballet fans!

Enjoy!

 

Viktor Jessen and How He Filmed Gaite Pariesienne

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Arts

HOME VIDEO/NEW RELEASES; Underground Ballet

By JENNIFER DUNNING
Published: August 21, 1988

GAITE PARISIENNE Starring Alexandra Danilova (in photo), Frederic Franklin (in photo) and Leon Danielian, with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Video Artists International, Inc. 38 minutes.

Victor Jessen’s ”Gaite Parisienne” is the maddest of ventures. Mr. Jessen, a Danish-born engineer and single-minded balletomane, surreptitiously filmed Leonide Massine’s ”Gaite Parisienne” at performances between 1944 and 1954, using a primitive camera that had to be wound up every 30 seconds. In 1954, he spliced the pieces together to make a film of the whole ballet, set to a single performance of the Offenbach score.

The three stars remain the same: the superbly chic and merry Alexandra Danilova as the Glove Seller, a radiantly romantic Frederic Franklin as the Baron and a surprisingly sexy Leon Danielian as the giddy Peruvian. Some subsidiary roles are performed by a variety of dancers, with a new face showing only at the completion of a turn or a new performance indicated only by a sudden shift of lighting, for instance, at the top of a lift.

The keen-eyed will spot other ballet luminaries within the ranks. And the performances are not only of historical value, but offer an instructive antidote to American Ballet Theater’s hyperactive recent production. This ”Gaite Parisienne” is not for the novice. But balletomanes will treasure it.