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Lady Violette

The Romantic Lifestyle

Posts Tagged ‘Making Art’

Edward Hopper Inspired Portrait Cloche Hat Pattern by Lady Violette de Courcy , Part 2 ~ Knitted Bow Tutorial

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

My Edward Hopper Inspired Portrait Cloche Hat Decorated with a Knitted Bow

The Edward Hopper Inspired Portrait Cloche Hat is trimmed with a knitted bow which both adds a decorative vintage touch to the hat and conveniently covers and conceals the side seam over the right ear. The pattern for this hat is in yesterday’s blog post here.

Cast on 18 stitches on Size 8 US needles and work 12 inches of stockinette stitch to make a piece of fabric for the bow.

To make the bow cast on 18 stitches on size 8 US needles in the same bulky weight yarn as you use for the hat. Work in stockinette stitch for 12 inches, then bind off. (Stockinette stitch is Knit one row, Purl one row.) Cut the yarn but leave a tail of yarn about 12 inches long to sew the center seam of the bow together.

Do not block the piece of fabric you have made for the bow. You will want the selvedge edges to curl in order to create a nice soft plump looking bow.

Sew the center seam together on what will be the back underside of the bow when it is attached to the hat.

Turn the bow and fold ends inward toward the center. Sew the ends together along the center seam which will be on the underside of the bow when it is sewn to the hat.

Turnover and cinch the bow fabric together in the center with a piece of yarn to create the bow tie shape.

Turn the bow so that the right side is facing upwards. Place a piece of yarn under the center of the bow and tie it together to cinch the bow together in the middle.

Gather together , cinch and tie yarn on the backside to form bow.

Bow should be about 6 inches in length.

You have created a fat puffy little bow about 6 inches long. Smooth the edges and both sides of the bow with your fingers to make the shape pretty.

Place bow on side seam of hat to check the fit.

Set it over the seam of the hat to be sure it is long enough to cover the sewn seam and conceal it.

Wrap yarn tightly around middle of bow several times to create the center. Tie securely on back side and tuck in ends.

Next: Wrap a generous length of yarn around the center of the bow several times tightly to create the middle section of the bow. Tie it firmly on the back side so it will stay put. Tuck in the yarn ends. Your bow is now finished and ready to sew onto your hat.

Center the bow over the side seam and make sure one narrow edge is along the edge of the brim fold and the other is along the edge where you picked up and knit the stitches to create the crown of the hat. I think it is a good idea to try the hat on at this point and make sure you like the position of the bow.

Place bow on hat and sew in place.

When you are satisfied with the placement sew the bow to the hat using yarn and a large yarn needle. Sew the bow on securely but only sew through the bottom layer of the bow fabric so that the top layer of the bow fabric is free and stays puffy and full. I sewed my bows to the center along the side seam of the hat and sewed it down along both short ends ~ sewing along the bottom of the brim and attaching the other end of the bow to the joining stitches along the crown.

Only sew the bottom part of the bow loops to the hat. Leave the top sides of the bow free and open so that you can put your fingers inside to plump up the bow.

I left the top loops of the bow free so that I can shape the bow with my fingers by reaching inside them to plump up the bow.

The bow will cover the side seam and the wearers right ear when the hat is worn.

When wearing the hat the bow should be placed over your right ear. It should completely cover and hide the side seam of the hat.

This type of bow can also be attached to a barrette or hair comb and used as a hair ornament. You can make these bows larger or smaller and use them to decorate hair ornaments, hats, gloves, the backs of little girl’s dresses, and sweaters, even gift boxes! Knitted bows are very pretty and very easy to make. Small ones can even be used to decorate mittens and booties or baby shoes! I made one and applied it to the back of a little girl’s knitted coat at the top of a pleat. They are easy to make and have many uses.

The Edward Hopper Inspired Portrait Cloche Hat in two color ways designed by lady Violette de Courcy

Edward Hopper Inspired Portrait Cloche Hat and Free Knitting Pattern ~ Part 1, by Lady Violette de Courcy

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Edward Hopper Inspired Portrait Cloche Hat Designed by Lady Violette de Courcy

I created this Edward Hopper Inspired Portrait Cloche Hat to attend an art museum opening of Edward Hopper’s paintings. I wanted to make a hat in the style of the ones the women in his paintings wore. I also wanted it to look like a proper 1920’s – 30’s formed felt cloche hat, rather than a knitted cap so I made it very thick and sculptural with a turned back rim and graduated shaping. I made a very thick sculptural bow to cover the right side seam of the hat. It comes down over the right ear and has the added benefit of being like a very warm ear muff!

 

This hat is very thick and warm, but I may have to try making one with a bow earmuff on both sides now! I’m thinking of ways to keep even warmer on my 4th day of being completely snowed in! And it is still snowing out! We are in the middle of a huge snowstorm in Seattle and I am taking advantage of using this time to post my recently knitted stuff on Ravelry! You can take a look at my  Lady Violette Ravelry project page here .

 

I’m really happy with the way this hat turned out. The construction was an experiment that fortunately turned out perfectly and is exactly what I had in mind. I am writing the pattern so I can offer it to other knitters who would like to make one. I am making this pattern available to you as a free pattern ~ a kind of Happy Valentine to all you knitters out there. I hope you enjoy it.

I wear this one with a vintage navy blue 1930’s coat in wool gaberdine and a purple wool dress. The outfit is totally inspired by the women in Hopper’s paintings who are always dressed in strong clear distinctive colors. I get a lot of inspiration for my clothing from painters. I like to recreate the moods of the paintings in the way I dress. I can also wear this hat with a purple wool wrap coat with a big ruffled collar. This is more of a 1970’s look, but also very successful.

Size: This hat is made with slight negative ease. I made it to fit myself with a 21 inch head but it fit a 22 inch and 23 inch head just fine as well because it stretched, comfortably, to fit. Note: When you fold the brim back you should try on the hat and adjust the amount of fabric you fold back to the individual wearers preference and your opinion as to what amount of fabric turned back looks the best. Based on my knitting experience I do not think you will find it necessary to adjust the number of stitches or the gauge to fit people within the above size ranges for a comfortable and attractive fit. That is between a 21 – 23 inch head circumference. Please note: I am very finicky about patterns being written clearly and correctly. I have tested this pattern by making it twice myself. I have finished knitting a brown one as well and will photograph it to add to this post within the next few days.

Yarn: Use a BULKY weight yarn.  I used Baby Alpaca Grande Hand Dye from Plymouth Yarn in the color way of Blue/ Purple. This is a Bulky weight yarn. The hat and big bow took 2 skeins. Thus the yarn for this hat cost $40 plus sales tax! Each ball retails for $19.95. Rather expensive for a knitted hat but soft, warm and really beautiful so well worth it. The hat itself takes well over 1 skein of yarn and with the bow you will use about 1 and 7/8 skeins. These skeins are 110 yds each. If you are substituting another bulky yarn with the same gauge you should begin with 220 yds.I plan to use the small amount of left over yarn to make small bows like the one on the hat to decorate a pair of purple gloves I have made. There is just the right amount left over to accomplish this.

Needles:  sizes: US 10.5 – 6.5mm, US 10 – 6 mm, US 9 – 5.5 mm, US 8 – 5 mm, US 7 – 4.5 mm. ( Yes! You will need all 5 sizes of needles to create the sculptural shaping required for this hat!) I used 10 inch long sets of straight needles for the brim of the hat and a set of longer size 9 needles for the crown. I think they are 15 inches long. They are the long old fashioned straight needles and I found it really helpful to have the extra length to handle all the stitches at the beginning of the crown section.

EDWARD HOPPER INSPIRED PORTRAIT CLOCHE HAT

Using 10 inch long straight needles as I did or your choice of alternatives:

Work the BRIM:

1) Begin by casting on 42 stitches on size US 10.5 needles

2) Change to size US 10 needles to work the brim:

Mark wrong side with a small safety pin to help you keep track of your work:

Row 1: (Wrong Side) *K2, p1,: repeat from * to last 3 sts, k3.

Row 2: ( Right Side) Work stitches as they appear.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until fabric measures 14 and 1/2 inches from beginning edge;

Change to size US 9 needles and continue in ribbing as established until fabric measures 16″ from beginning edge;

Change to size US 8 needles and continue in ribbing as established until fabric measures 17.5 ” from beginning edge;

Change to size US 7 needles and continue in ribbing as established until fabric measures 20″ from beginning edge.

Bind off all stitches in established rib pattern still using the size 7 needles.

The Crown will look like this from the top when finished !

Work the CROWN:

Using long set of straight US #9 needles, Right side facing, begin at Cast On edge and Pick Up and Knit 68 stitches evenly divided along the selvedge to the Bind Off edge.

Rows 1,3,5,7, and 9 : ( Wrong Side) Purl.

Decrease Rows:

Row 2: K1, *k4, k2tog; repeat from * to last stitch, k1 = 57 stitches total.

Row 4: K1, *k3, k2tog; repeat from * to last stitch, k1 = 46 stitches total.

Row 6: K1, *k2; k2tog; repeat from * to last stitch, k1 = 35 stitches total.

Row 8: K1, * k1, k2tog; repeat from * to last stitch, k1 = 24 stitches total.

Row 10: K1; *k2tog, repeat from * to last stitch, k1 = 13 stitches total.

Row 11: P1, *p2tog; repeat from * to last 2 stitches, p2 = 8 stitches total.

Break the yarn, leaving a 10″ tail. Weave tail through remaining 8 stitches twice, then tie off on inside.

SEW SIDES OF HAT TOGETHER:

Thread yarn on a large eye yarn needle and sew sides of hat, including the sides of the crown, together in method of your choice,  being careful to match the lines of ribbing together.

FITTING AND FOLDING BACK EDGE OF BRIM:

Try on hat. The seam should  be on the right side. The narrower portion of the graduated size ribbing should be in the front of the hat. Turn edge of brim back approximately 1.5 to 2 Inches. It should be turned back the same amount all the way around. How much is a matter of desired preference. I turned the brim back so that the edge rested on the lower portion of the 6th ridge of ribbing. Make sure it is evenly turned back all the way around and the hat and brim are adjusted to your preference. Thread yarn needle with yarn and starting on Inside of hat, under the folded back brim, insert needle all the way through the brim inside of a ribbing channel. Then insert needle from front to inside so that you are making one invisible stitch through all the layers of the brim to tack it down securely and hold the folded back brim in place. Tie this single tacking stitch down, then cut the yarn and repeat the process about 4x evenly spaced inside of the hat to keep the folded brim securely, but invisibly in its folded back position.

MAKE BOW:

Using US #8 needles cast on 18 stitches. Work in Stockinette Stitch until piece measures 12 Inches in length. Bind Off. Sew the two 18 stitch long edges together.  Fold so that the seam is inside and  underneath and in the middle of the piece. Take a generous length of yarn and wrap this piece in the middle cinching it together to form a stylized bow. Secure on the wrong side under the seam. Place this bow over the side seam of the hat vertically and sew it down firmly to completely cover the seam on the turned back section of the brim and the side seam of the hat above it. Sew it down firmly all the way around. It should be worn placed over your right ear.

I have added a Part 2 to this pattern, The Knitted Bow Tutorial

FINI

The bow sewn into place covering the right side seam of the hat. Bow is placed over the right ear when hat is worn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

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

Igor Schwezoff photographed by Franz Ziegler c.1934

Igor Schwezoff photographed by Franz Ziegler, c.1934

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Igor Schwezoff photographed by Mono of Amsterdam, c.1934

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo of the author, Igor Schwezoff and the title page

Photo of the author, Igor Schwezoff and the title page

Borzoi, by Igor Schwezoff

Borzoi, by Igor Schwezoff

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.

 

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

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Confessions of  Head Turner”

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

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

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

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

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

She is the Rodin of the sculptured hat.

When you wear her hats heads turn.

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

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

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

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

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

www.theprincessofwow.com

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

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

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

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Magnificent Ode to Janis Joplin Necklace

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

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

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

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

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

Janis loved opulent fabrics in deep rich colors.

Legendary Ode to Janis Joplin Antique Black Leather Boots

Janis also loved collected and wore antique boots.

Ode to Janis Joplin Real Victorian Brown Leather Boots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos for this article are by Violette de Courcy

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

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

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

This is the Purse I Carried to Tea in This Story

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

This is the Purse Marelle Carried to Tea in This Story

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

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

The Lady Violette, a Divine Chocolate Cream Creation

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

Red Cherry

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

Chocolate Filagree

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

Petits Fours

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

French Vanilla

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

Creme de Menthe

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

Pistachio

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

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

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

Bittersweet Chocolate

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

Lemon Cream

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

Maple Sugar

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

Black Licorice

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

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

Sugar Icing & Florentine

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

Whipped Cream

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

Molton Fudge

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

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

Time Will Tell Purse

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

~~~~~~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The photos  in this post were taken by Marelle herself.

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

 

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!

 

Why Do Women Like to Buy, Collect, Carry and Covet Designer Handbags? By Lady Violette, Pursenally

Monday, August 13th, 2012

El Roi Molded Wood Handbag in Rainbow Hues Lined in Black Silk with Silk Tassle & Strap designed by Fine Artist Tim Woods of Beverly Hills. From Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

Many woman regard designer handbags as works of high art and amass grand collections of them from their favorite luxury designers, from both the present and the past.

It is common knowledge ~ in the high fashion world, not in the modern world of everyday life for the majority of people! And I know this! ~ therefore I continue, tongue in cheek with:

It is common knowledge that handbags from the following four categories are coveted as works of art and social status symbols:

Bottega Veneta Forest Green Nappa Leather Intrecciato Foldover Clutch with Optional Shoulder Strap Handbag From Italy Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

Category #1) The commercially produced and successfully marketed contemporary designers such as Prada, Chanel, Gucci, Hermes, Bottega Venta, Fendi, Nancy Gonzalez, Jimmy Choo, Manilo Blahnik, Valentino, Alexander Wang, Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, Chloe, Lanvin, Christian Louboutin, Salvatorre Ferragamo, Balenciago, Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana, Reed Krakoff, Tom Ford, Burberry, Akris, VBH, Brunello Cucinelli, Henry Beguelin, Nina Ricci, Michael Kors, Jason Wu, Louis Vuitton, Judith Leiber, and a handful of other high end designers are some of the ultimate status symbols in today’s high fashion society.

Collection of Handbags by Designer Isabelle Fiore from Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

Category #2) Cole Haan, Coach, Dooney and Burke, Emma Fox, Juicy Couture, Kate Spade, Milly, Longchamp, Lancaster, Tory Burch, Furla, Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg, Lauren Merkin, Frye, Brighton, Hobo, B Makowsky, Isabella Fiore, Lulu Guiness, Mon Sac, Marc by Marc Jacobs, MICHAEL Michael Kors, and several more make the current social status grade on the currently produced bridge level as fun, “everyday use bags” that are a little more casual and sporty, still ultra classy, but not quite as expensive as the very high end names above, while still being well made and recognizable on the street as a casual high status label. To the majority of people in the world these are also considered very expensive handbags. Let’s face it, realistically, a $300 ~ $400 dollar handbag is still pretty pricey for many people and some bags in this category are many times that price.

Collection of Tooled Leather Vintage Handbags & Wallets From Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Collection

Category #3) There is another category ~ the beautiful well made vintage handbags from the great designers of the past and these come in every material, shape, size and price range. There are many designers in this category. Some are well known and others are long forgotten, but their work is distinctive, immediately recognizable as vintage, sometimes museum quality, usually well made and often quite affordable. Vintage is synonymous with class and glamor. It is very very cool to find and carry a gorgeous vintage handbag. It requires moxie and self confidence and makes a fashion statement of strong individuality.

A Beautiful Selection of Dainty Vintage Gold Evening Purses ~ All Made by Whiting & Davis Over Several Past Decades From Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

When you carry a vintage or artist made bag you state that you are a fashion original and do not follow the crowd. This is the ultimate cool. Many of the high end commercially successful designers in categories #1 and #2 admittedly find inspiration for their current work from vintage designers of the past.

The Lady Violette ~ One of a Kind Fine Art Handbag Designed by Multi Media Artist La Marelle

Category #4) Finally, there are the fine artist designed and hand made one of a kind handbags individually produced by living artists. When you carry one of these bags you are actually carrying an original piece of artwork around with you as part of your wardrobe! You are making a public statement that you are an art collector and a supporter of the arts. This can also make the outfit you are wearing into a work of art in itself and it is a sure conversation starter. It is fun and different and  can be very avant garde. All kinds of interesting handbags designed by artists working in many different media fall into this category. I have selected two handbags ( above and below) by the artist La Marelle to illustrate this category. The first photograph in this post of the Rainbow Hue Wood Purse by Beverly Hills Artist Timothy Woods is another excellent example of the genre. So is the petite black purse, further down, by Rita Diana for Mylinka. She has developed a fan base and following amongst Rock Stars! Artists handbags like these are becoming increasing well known and collectable. It is fun to see something you bought because you liked it show up a year later on the Red Carpet when the artist/designer you discovered is suddenly popular with celebrities! This has actually happened to me and it can happen to you too!

The Mona Lisa Handbag Designed by Fine Artist La Marelle ~ A One of a Kind Art Piece Made From a Reclaimed Vintage Purse Made New Again

Fine artist designed and made handbags are usually one of a kind or are produced in small limited editions. They are often handmade of rare or unusual materials.  They are always interesting. They are fun to find, discover and carry and they often generate interesting reactions from people! As an example I had a man follow me for an entire city block in New York in order to ask me who made my quirky surrealistic purse when I was carrying my Man Ray handbag. The artist who made my bag was a friend of mine who was inspired by Man Ray’s work and my encounter led to her getting a commission from my follower. You should be prepared to answer questions when you carry an unusual artist made handbag! They are not for the shy!

Vintage Collection of East Indian Clutch Bags Circa 1950 ~ 60 Made From Black Velvet, Metallic Embroidery, Semi Precious Stone Cabochons and Decorative Braid from Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

All of the types of bags and purses described are Fine Designer Handbags!

So why do women like them? Why have mere purses in which to carry your money and a few items you need during the day reached such status? There are several reasons.

The first thing another person sees about you is your body and your face. After they see your face they subconsciously size up your body and what you are wearing. You are carrying your handbag so it is immediately seen/viewed as a part of your silhouette and an important element of your entire visage. Visage is a rather archaic French word that means what you look like all in all. I think it is the perfect word to express what I am trying to convey with this statement. This entire process happens in a matter of seconds and no one involved actually realizes it is happening at the time. It is the instantaneous impression you are making.

Vintage 1970 Botegga Veneta Shoulder Bag of Softest Italian Nappa Leather with Decorative Wood Button and Trim from Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

Thus a handbag is seen by everyone who sees you because you are carrying it, quite obviously, and thus it becomes a visual part of your clothing and ensemble for that day. This is why the term “wearing a handbag” has come into use versus carrying one. I personally know I am not wearing a handbag or a purse! I know I am carrying one. But I am constantly hearing the term “wearing a handbag” , so I have begun to think about the origin of this statement and what it means. I have concluded that it refers to carrying a handbag or purse that is coordinated with or compliments the ensemble of clothing you are wearing at the same time. As such it has become another venue in which designers and stores can seduce women into buying a slew of expensive handbags so they have the proper one to tie in with each outfit! This translates into more sales of fancy designer handbags and purses. Which is exactly what the fashion designers and fashion retailers want.

A Hand Knitted & Felted Handbag Made By Artists in Bolivia of 100% Wool from Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

Artists are more interested in creating intrinsic style. They realize that the bag you carry can make or break your total look. It is at any rate an extremely important part of it. Thus, for an artist or serious designer, the handbag has become another canvas on which to express his or her true sense of style. And for the wearer of fashion who is more interested in projecting serious style than following fashion like a lemming a handbag can be an extension and expression of great taste. It is always a lovely feeling to perfectly express your own great taste. And it is the ultimate compliment to have someone admire that.

A Beautiful Bright Blue Seed Beaded Butterfly Motif Evening Purse Made Entirely by Hand in Paris During the Late 1800s. From Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

It is not , of course, a life or death matter to grab the wrong bag to go with a lovely dress as you run out the door to an event, but it definitely makes a difference and when you have chosen the right one to compliment your entire ensemble you stand out as elegant and totally chic making the person with the wrong bag look as if she should have stayed at home! That simple fact should explain how important it is to take the time and effort to select the right bag!

An Exquisite Caramel Colored Bottega Veneta Intrecciato Clutch of Italian Nappa Leather from Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

Each of the top big name designer lines has a distinct look that is instantly recognizable, along with their own unique designer label, to the consumer/ collector in the know. Carrying one, or wearing one, whichever verbal terminology you care to use, instantly catapults you into a certain social class. You look as if you know fashion and are fashionable. You look as if you have style and can afford such expensive items and therefore have attained an enviable income and/or social standing. Such as a high paying job or a wealthy husband, or any number of other instant but not necessarily accurate impressions. ( It is possible to rent an expensive handbag by the week and change them up every week to look as if you have a never ending supply of new and expensive designer handbags and purses even if you are living from paycheck to paycheck while working for a temp agency!) The truth is that people treat you more nicely if you make these kinds of positive style impressions. I have experimented with it so I can attest to the experience first hand. People treat me better and with more respect if I am carrying an expensive fancy designer handbag and wearing nice clothes than if I am toting my stuff around in a recyclable canvas grocery bag. Even if I am wearing sweats and coming from the gym if I am carrying a distinctive expensive looking bag I am treated as if I have class and am a rich lady. An expensive distinctive looking handbag really does makes a difference in how you are treated by society. Everyone likes to be treated with respect ~ and envied by their friends who covet their fancy handbags ~ so why wouldn’t they want to carry a distinctive  designer bag? There is absolutely no reason!

Well, there is one reason, actually. If you want to go someplace and be incognito, or if you want to avoid being mugged or robbed in certain locations, you should deliberately slum it. You can actually do this and still be stylish, just don’t look like you have money. It can be done and I highly recommend it when in a situation that calls for caution.

A Darling Petite Black Leather, Sequins & Silk Fine Art Limited Edition Handbag Made By Artist Rita Diana for Mylinka from Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

As stylish, fashionable and/or artistic women we have several choices before us. and it is ultimately our choice to make. We can either capitulate to the type of fashion and sales pressure the mass media wants us to and buy lots of high end commercially produced designer handbags from expensive retailers or we can be relatively rebellious and only carry one or two, or a small few, or those types of high end designer bags and collect any number of different vintage and artist made handbags and purses that we “pursenally”  like a lot and can mix with our outfits in ways we also personally like and can financially afford without killing ourselves with stress of the decision making or financial variety – both of which are ultimately unattractive and unwise.

A Rare and Delectable White & Crystal Clear Vintage Lucite Box Handbag Made by Patricia of Miami in the Early 1950's from Lady Violette de Courcy's Personal Handbag Collection

This is what I have chosen to do myself. I have amassed a goodly collection of well made and beautifully designed vintage purses and handbags. I happen to like vintage designer bags and artist designed and made bags most because I am an artist myself and I love originality and high quality. I also love handmade things. I have also collected a few fancy big name designer handbags that I have acquired from time to time because I really liked the designs and colors of the particular bags I have chosen. I have never bought a handbag simply because it was a status symbol but I have acquired some over the years that are status symbols simply because I liked them. I am very fond of the vintage purses and artist made handbags that I have in my personal collection, and I am equally fond of the good quality well designed big name designer handbags that I own.

As just one example there is a lot of specialized knowledge and work involved in the complex process of making an exquisite intrecciato nappa leather Bottega Veneta handbag and I admittedly enjoy the lush, soft, luxurious and very real “Oh, so rare!” results immensely! I admittedly enjoy then so immensely that I have acquired several of them, admittedly six to date. They are soft and lovely and I enjoy cuddling them like a child with a special teddy bear. I have them because I have earned them, and I deserve them, therefore I allow myself to enjoy them often. This is a pretty good example of why women want and enjoy their own personal special designer handbags. The same reason a child loves a certain special to her stuffed animal! Perhaps, in this particular personal case, because it is leather, very soft, and extraordinarily tactile.

The Handbags Shown in this post from the Lady Violette de Courcy Personal Handbag Collection are not currently for sale.

The handbags in this post designed by La Marelle are for sale in her Etsy store Hopscotch Couture.  To visit her Etsy store and view her work go to: http://www.etsy.com/shop/HopscotchCouture.

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

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

The photographs in this post of Lady Violette’s Handbags were taken by Lady Violette de Courcy and Fredric Lerhman. The photographs of La Marelle’s Handbags were taken by Marelle.

 

Meet LaMarelle ~ An Artist Who Coutures Her Own Gallery of Unique Designs From Treasures of the Past

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

HER TRUNK RUNNETH OVER! ~ A Still Life Assemblage by La Marelle Featuring a Grandiose Selection of Her Coutured Vintage Designs: photograph by Mike Burnside

 

I have a talented friend named Marelle, an artist and designer, whom I want to introduce to my readers. La Marelle loves vintage fashions and accessories as much as I do! I met her on Etsy where we both have shops. Marelle finds previously owned, loved and gently used vintage purses, handbags, hats, shoes, jewelry and hair ornaments and waves her magic wand over them to couture them into new transformed pieces using the original old piece as a base or canvas, on which to create a unique new piece of fashionable wearable art. She describes what she does to a vintage item to recreate it as one of her own the process of couturing it.

Every item Marelle coutures is different and one of a kind. She has tremendous range and creates items inspired by sources as diverse and varied as the contemporary rebellious youthful street punk scene, to the elegant era of the court life at Versailles, or the refined Victorian period. She is inspired to new levels of interpretation by each vintage piece she finds. Her imagination seems boundless! She is also a painter.

This photo is of a still life composed (by Marelle herself, of course,) of her handbags, shoes, collars, gloves, compacts, photographs, jewelry, perfume bottles and other objects d’art pouring out of a transformed vintage trunk that has been appropriated for a display presentation of her work for the photographer Mike Burnside when he visited her recently in her in her old four bedroom Victorian house and studio where she both lives and works in a small town in northeast Pennsylvania. I like this photo because it reminds me of a pirate’s chest overflowing with choice vintage treasures!

Marelle’s work is so diverse and extensive – she currently has over 400 pieces listed for sale in her Etsy shop alone ~ that I have decided to introduce her in today’s post, with the beautiful still life photo shown above; and follow up with several additional posts that showcase and describe in depth more beautiful individual examples of her work. In this way I will be able to lead you through an extensive  tour of La Marelle’s Gallery viewing and savoring one work of art at a time.

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

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

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

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

The photo for this post was taken by Mike Burnside from Burnside Photographic, Harvey’s Lake PA,  www.burnsidephotographic.com

Be sure to return to my blog soon to see future posts featuring more pictures and descriptions of Marelle’s work.

 

 

Adorable Soft Silk Evening Purses Made From Vintage Men’s Neckties And Where You Can Buy One!

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

A Darling Black & White Tuxedo Style Silk Evening Purse with a Removable Rosette Made Out Of Three Soft Elegant Vintage Designer Neckties by Marlee M Fowler of MM Fun Purses

My last two posts have been about wearing and making ladies silk purses and other feminine accessories out of vintage silk men’s neckties. There are several tutorials online explaining different ways of doing this if you want to make one yourself. Alternately, you can buy one already made up and ready to take out on the town. All of these purses are one of a kind because it is virtually impossible to find duplicate vintage ties! I like these evening bags because they are petite, light weight, and totally unique. You will never see another one quite like yours and it will give your outfit an individual creative twist.

If you want to buy one, you can visit Marlee Fowler at  her company MM Fun Purses. Marlee will be setting up shop and selling her wears at  Street Fairs and Arts and Craft Fairs around the Edmonds, Everett, Marysville and Lake Chelan area for the remainder of this 2012 summer.  She has a nice selection of colors in various styles already made up to choose from. Here is her schedule for the remainder of this summer:

July 29              Everett Market

August 10 -12   Marysville Home

August 18         Edmonds Market

August 19         Everett Market

September 8    Edmonds Market

September 9    Everett Market

September 15   Chelan Wine Tasting Event

If you need further information about finding her you can reach her at MM Fun Purses Designed for You. Marlee M.  Fowler, Retiredfowlers@alo.com. Her telephone number is (425) 345-5513.

An Attractive Unusual Clutch Style Rectangular Shaped Evening Purse Made Out of Five Vintage Silk Ties.

Marlee Fowler makes cell phone pouches, evening bags such as the black and white one above in the first picture, and soft clutch bags such as the one in the picture above. Please view my last two posts to see other examples of her evening purses and other styles of handbags.

How Do You Select Ties To Make a Purse From Men’s Silk Neckties?

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

A Rack of Fantastic Vintage Silk Ties That I Have Collected in Thrift Stores, Estate Sales and Yard Sales. Incidentally, the Blue Ties That I Select for the Following Example are Hanging in this Picture!

People want to know! They ask, so here is how I did it! First collect a goodly batch of silk neckties in an outrageous variety of prints and colors. Whatever you like. I got most of mine at thrift shops and estate sales. Store them hanging up so they stay straight on the bias. I store them on hangers and take them out of the closet and transfer them onto a hanging rack in a well lit area so that I can see them clearly. I choose each tie individually when I am shopping, so that it stands alone, to be worn as an elegant man’s necktie as it was originally intended. I began collecting ties so my boyfriend would have a nice collection to wear.  Now he has so many it can be hard for him to decide which one to wear in the morning!. This can be visually confusing. Even overwhelming! Especially when you are trying to get dressed for work in a hurry at 6AM in the morning! I usually make us an espresso so we can wake up enough to see what we are doing! I do not mind helping him choose a tie and coordinating clothes. In fact I enjoy doing it. He is dependent on me for help and advice in the styling department. He likes having my opinion. He has certain favorites that he likes to wear repeatedly. Some are exceptionally nice worn as conventional neckties. Those will never be made into other items like belts, purses or handbags. Others are fair game for use in fanciful creations.

I Make an Initial Selection of Ties That Appeal to Me for Making Into Accessories Such as Belts, Hair Bows. Purses, Corsages, Hat Bands, Rosettes, Bows, etc.

I begin by selecting some that I think I would like to see made into evening purses and flowers. I pull all of these out and set them on my ironing board so that I can contemplate them more carefully. It takes three ties in a coordination color to make an evening bags like the brown or wine red ones I posted yesterday. I looked over my initial selection here and saw that I had a lot of blue ones and blue grey ones so it made sense to cull those out for further examination as a blue grouping, a blue and grey grouping. and a grey grouping. I decided to trey that.

A Selection of 5 Blue & Blue/Grey Combination Silk Neckties. I Like This and am Considering Trying it Out for a Possible Clutch Handbag . Not Only do the Colors Need to Work Well Together. The Silk Fabrics Must Combine Well in Terms Of Weight and Character. The More Ties You Add the More difficult It Gets to Achieve a Strong Overall Balance.

Here is what I got. I then experimented with grouping them in different ways to study the way the colors looked combined together. I have actually found that it is quite difficult to find five or three of these busy patterns that work well together.

6 Ties Combined in 2 Different Groupings of 3 Fabric Patterns Each is a Possibility

I have so many blue and blue and grey colorway ties that I am contemplating whether or not I can make a bigger clutch bag utilizing 5 or even 6 ties. Or perhaps two small evening bags that are each use different blue silk ties . Here are some of the combinations I put together.

This is Beautiful Combination of Three Blue Silk Ties For an Evening Purse. I am very Pleased with The Variety of Prints and the Different Shades of Blues and Greys Combined Here. I Know I Would Like This Combination in a Finished Product. All Three of These Silk Ties Have Similar Heft So they Would Sew Together Well and Also Hold Up Well Together

Three Ties in Coordinating Blues Silk Patterns is Very Attractive in my opinion. I spread them out on a white cloth background so that I can study the way they look together without the distraction of another color. By now I am tired of looking at all these busy patterns  together. They have begun to op and it is giving me a headaches! I realize I need to take a break from it and go do something else for awhile, than come back to look at the combinations  again, when I feel fresh, to make a final choice of which ones work will work together.

Here is Another Combination of Blue Ties. See How different it Looks From the One Above? There is Only One Different Tie and This Combination Totally Changes the Visual Balance and Final Effect.

The silks used in making ties have very strong distinctive patterns and are designed to be worn alone one at a time with a shirt and jacket. Each pattern and colorway is originally meant to be an accent to an ensemble of men’s clothing. They were never designed to be combined and used three to five together at one time in the making of a purse and that will then be worn with an ensemble of other clothing as well! They were definitely not initially conceived to be used in this way! And t is actually very difficult to select several that go together for this purpose. You must actually try doing it to really understand what I am saying! Tie silks come in a large variety of weights and textures too. The soft. lighter weight ones sew and press better and make better looking final purses and effects. They also seem to twist into nicer looking rosettes and flowers more readily. The thicker, crunchier ties in fabrics like brocades are more difficult to handle when sewing a purse. For this reason you will need a large selection of ties if you want to start making your own purses and accessories. I do not think you can gather them  together in one short trip to a thrift store! You will have to start a vintage tie collection and slowly gather it together over time.

I select ties carefully when I am shopping. I only buy beautiful ties that are in very good condition and are really clean. I choose each tie as if it is going to be worn alone. I began collecting ties for my boyfriend to wear so my criterion is , ” Will this tie be wearable? Is it a nice addition to our wearable tie collection?” I bring them home and I offer them to my boyfriend to see if likes them and wants to wear them. He gets first pick. He likes the majority of them! When I decided I wanted to make some into other items he asked me if I would pull out what I wanted to use, then ask him if it was okay to take these out of the wearable as single ties collection. I agreed to this arrangement because I am really happy that he is enjoying wearing them and dressing nicely! His fashion sense has greatly improved and he dresses nicely much more often since I have accumulated this large collection of ties for him to choose from at home! He hates to go shopping and would never buy them for himself. He hasn’t the patience to sift though racks of ties in places like The Goodwill and The Woman’s Assistance League and Children’s Orthopedic Thrift Shop. I, on the opposite end of the spectrum, enjoy the thrill of the hunt! When my blue tie purse is finally sewn together I will, of course, post a picture of it! And who knows …. by then I may have decided to combine my blue ties in yet another way! It will be interesting to see!

The Combinations Are Endless! Which Ones Will I End Up Using? I Need to Take a Break Before Making a Final Decision!

 

I visited Marlee Fowler’s booth MM Fun Purses after making the above selection of ties for myself from my own collection. I showed her my tie choices and we discussed all the topics I mentioned above. She confirmed that she has had the same experiences in difficulties of finding ties that work well together, and handling characteristics of the different types of silks used in making the ties. I wanted to find out if her experiences were the same as mine! She maintains an inventory of over 300 ties at all times to work from. I have not counted my own collection but I assume it is about the same number! We both recommend that number as a good base collection from which to work if you want to be choosing different color combinations on a regular basis. In choosing my blue ties, above, to make a blue purse or two, I decided that it is feasible to decide on a color scheme first, then go shopping for ties that fit into that scheme! You could, for example, buy only blue ties, until you felt you had the correct array to choose an appealing purse combination from. This would probably be a good way to go if you only wanted to make one or two purses for yourself and a gift. You would have to exercise strict self discipline to avoid being seduced by the appealing colors and patterns outside your chosen color scheme!

I Also Notice That The Color Combinations and Patterns Can Look Quite Different Under Different Light Conditions and In Person Versus in Photographs! All These Factors Have to Enter Into the Way You Choose to Combine Ties in the Final Design of New Handbag or Other Article Made Out of Vintage Ties Because the Patterns are Very Complex and the More of Them You Combine in One Article the More Complex They Become. It is Quite a Challenge!

If you do not want to go to the effort of collecting ties and sewing them into a purse yourself you can buy one! I am not making purses out of neckties for people to buy, because I have too many other projects taking up my time, but Marlee Fowler does so and sells them at her booth MM Fun Purses. You can reach her for information about her Street Fair appearances and sales here: Marlee Fowler at Retiredfowlers@aol.com. She makes and sells several other types of purses and handbags as well. I will be posting photos of her booth and her upcoming schedule of appearances within the next few days. Please check back for this.

 

Lady Violette de Courcy on Using Mens Vintage Silk Ties to Make Rosette Corsages, Petite Evening Bags & Elegant Purse Embellishments

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Handbags & Rosettes Made From Vintage Silk Ties

I have been collecting men’s vintage neckties. I am really enthused about the use of men’s ties in my own wardrobe and as women’s accessories. I intend to find more ways to use them and make more things out of them! This idea is still in the experimental stages but I have decided to share some of the results here. I will be showing more nice examples from my tie collection in the near future. I am interested in exploring the use of the beautiful tie fabrics for accessories for the upcoming fall and winter seasons since they look so great with wools, tweeds, velvets, furs, knitted fabrics  and silks!

I began collecting ties about  year and a half ago when a friend of mine asked me to help him update his wardrobe and we went shopping for new clothes for him. He was on his way to Tokyo on business and had to update his look to meet with men in the Japanese design and advertising industry who are very style and fashion conscious. He had not bought new clothes or dressed up for business in years so this was starting from the ground up! We only had a weekend to do it because he had not told me he needed this sooner! This was a difficult assignment because we didn’t have much time to find things and we had no time at all to get anything altered! Men’s pants usually need hemming and jackets need fitting, etc.

Petite Silk Evening Bag Made From Three Brown Colorway Vintage Silk Neckties and Embellished with a Removable Clip on Rosette Also Made From One of the Neckties. The Rosette Can be Clipped to Other Items as a Corsage or Worn in the Hair! The Bag measures 6 x 6 Inches and Has a Handle Drop of 5 Inches. Bag made by MM Fowler.

Surprisingly we began on Saturday and actually succeeded in shopping for, buying and accessorizing a very nice hip and modern business wardrobe for him. I got his entire wardrobe for a week put together and altered ( because I was able to do this myself) and got him coordinated, styled and packed and on the plane on Monday morning! It was a big success. Everything looked great and his look was a hit. This is an important part of doing business in that environment. This endeavor was a big job because it included every bit of his clothing, a haircut, shoes, every tiny detail. Because we were in a big hurry I did not have any time to hunt down vintage clothing and accessories. We had to shop in department stores and new retail men’s shops. When it came to selecting and buying ties he went into sticker shock! He could not believe how much a new designer tie cost! He was stuck and he had to buy three of them for over $125 a piece and they were not particularly fantastic designs.

This was my chance to explain to him that vintage shopping was far superior to shopping for new things both in terms of prices and interesting selection. He wasn’t sure! He doubted me! So I set out to prove myself! ( Of course I knew this could be done! I am an expert at it!) Every few days when I went out shopping for myself or my vintage clothing clients I found him something great, a vintage treat, to add to his wardrobe. The kind of things I found were beautiful designer ties, men’s silk pocket handkerchiefs, men’s foulard silk scarves, shirts, shoes, cuff links, coats, umbrellas, hats, leather belts, gloves, winter scarves, cashmere sweaters. etc.  The list goes on and on! He was shocked in a good way !

Sweet Little Cross Body Evening Bag Made of Three Wine Red Colorway Vintage Silk Ties and Embellished with a Removable Silk Rosette Corsage. Handbag Measures 6 x 6 Inches & Has Shoulder Length Straps Made From Two of the Ties that Can Be Attractively Knotted to the Wearer's Desired Length. Bag made by MM Fowler.

In a fairly short time I amassed a lovely selection of designer ties, historic ties, art ties, you name it! Utterly fantastic ties. The fabrics are beautiful! As a result my friend really got into ties. He wears a different one every day and he is, after a year and a half, somewhat famous for his sharp ties. His work takes him all over the US and sometimes to foreign countries. He travels a lot. A few carefully chosen ties can greatly extend his wardrobe on the road. He is having a lot of fum with ties. And yes, some men still do wear ties! He is an exception in that he likes to wear them more regularly than most. He has even taken to tying a full Windsor knot these days. Personally I like this look on men a lot! I like a man to dress in elegant clothing and I wish we would see a lot more of it!

Detail of a Straw Handbag with Wooden Handles Tied with a Silk Scarf and Further Embellished with a Silk Rosette Attached to a Clip Made From a Vintage Silk Necktie! Rosette made by MM Fowler . Tie made by Lady Violette.

Meanwhile, with all these beautiful ties in the house, I developed a great appreciation for the beautiful tie fabrics and the way these ties are made. I soon understood why ties are so expensive! I also could not resist finding ways to use them and wear them myself. I sometimes wear one as a necktie for a menswear look, I sometimes wear one as a belt or sash, and I sometimes use them to embellish a handbag.  Now I am experimenting with wearing them as embellishments on hats, handbags and purses.

This experimentation in using men’s ties as women’s accessories for myself lead me by chance to find a lady in Edmonds WA at the Saturday’s Farmer’s Market who makes several kinds of purses and other items and makes various things out of repurposed neckties. Her name is Marlee and she also collects ties for the beautiful fabric! I bought the two evening purses and the flowers used in these photos from her.  She made ties into rosettes that I can use as little corsages and made these two little evening purses  entirely out of vintage silk ties. Her name is Marlee M Fowler and her company is MM Fun Purses. Marlee Fowler can be reached at Retiredfowlers@aol.com. You can find her at her booth at the Edmond’s WA Saturday market on July 28th! She sells other types of purses, table runners, pillows and other home decor items as well as silk tie roses and purses.

Each of the rosettes takes one tie to make and each small purse takes three ties to make. The tie has to be carefully taken apart so as not to damage the fabric and the item you make out of it has to carefully cut and sewn together. This takes considerable skill as handling silk fabric is tricky. It is slippery and unravels easily. I spoke to Marlee Fowler about her experience making and selling her necktie items. She said it has been tough because most people are not willing to pay enough for them to make it make economic sense for her to produce them. Ties are expensive to acquire and there is a lot of time involved in making each item. Each piece has to be custom designed because she is using different ties made of different fabrics each time she makes a new one. I asked her if she had made skirts or larger bags and she said, each time, “”I can’t do it because it requires too much tie fabric – thus too many ties, which cost too much and it takes too much time and people are not willing to pay for it.”  She has been showing her items and selling them at street fairs for a long time.

I met another man, last year, who had tried making and selling items from ties also and reported the same problem. This is why you do not see accessories made of men’s ties for sale everywhere! Or anywhere for that matter! You see them hardly anywhere. For this reason you may have to make them for yourself. I have looked online and have found many tutorials on making skirts and dresses out of ties. These are big projects that require a lot of ties and have to be custom fitted to the individual for whom they are made. Another point Marlee made was that it takes a lot of ties to come up with a few ties that look good together and coordinate in color and fabric type to combine in making one purse. She has a collection of about 300 ties to work with at any given time. I asked her where she gets her ties. She said at thrift stores and rummage sales, at estate sales and yard sales and consignment shops. These are the same places I find the ties I collect. I have been buying mine in and around Seattle. She has been buying them in the same area and in Arizona where she spends her winters since she is retired.

I usually pay between $2.99 and $10 per tie myself. Sometimes as much as $14 or $16. Marlee finds them at the same price range here, but in the Southwest, where she winters, she can get them at a sale that goes on in one place for $1 a piece on one day a year. That is a lucky break, but it is not consistent! The other important thing is that you have to pick through a lot of second hand ties to find any that are nice enough to use. Then you have to check them carefully to find any flaws such as stains of tears or pulled threads that render them unusable. I would never buy a silk tie that was in need of cleaning because it costs $10 to have a tie dry cleaned and it is uncertain whether any stains or marks will actually come out. Silk ties cannot be washed! Nor can any other ones. Ever! Do not try it. It would be a disaster and ruin the tie.

I understand what is involved in hand making lovely things like these and I do not have any problem paying a skilled artisan or crafts person to make me something special. I greatly appreciate the materials and the skills involved and the fact that such a person is willing to make something like a purse from silk ties. Apparently I am in the minority because I constantly find that people just do not want to pay a fair price for something well designed and hand made. They will willingly pay a great deal for a commercially produced designer original from a luxury brand name. And they will willingly over pay for mass manufactured  overpriced low end commercially produced items, but they don’t want to and won’t pay for a unique well made handmade artist designed  item. Over and over again I find artisans who tell me they cannot continue to make something special and beautiful to sell it because people refuse to pay enough to make it worth their time. The people who say this either do not know how difficult it is to make something, or how much time it takes, or are not thinking about the hours it takes to make an item and the skills involved. They also do not seem to understand the cost of the raw materials the artist needs to acquire in order to make such items. In this case 3 to 5 designer silk ties. This is why you do not regularly find certain beautiful things on the market. Many things are too beautiful and too special to be sold in any big store! I urge you to buy from people who make custom items such as Marlee Fowler on a regular basis in order to support their work. This is the only way they will be able to continue to produce it to make it available for us to buy.

I have asked Marlee if she would make up some special order items I would like done to my specifications using some of the ties from my own collection. She said that she would. So I am going to be placing an order for several items I want to use myself and some to give as gifts. This should work out well for both of us since I will supply her the ties I want her to use at my expense and she will be able to charge me whatever she thinks is fair for making the items I request. Maybe special order work is the way for someone like her to go? We shall see! I am, at least happy to have found someone who is willing to make up some of the silk tie design ideas I have spinning around in my head! Because I am not finding time to do it myself ! I am looking forward to what we come up with together!

Currently I am really enthused about the use of men’s ties in my own wardrobe and as women’s accessories. I intend to make more things out of them myself – like actual clothes. This idea is still in the experimental stages but I have decided to share some of the results here. I am hoping this idea catches on! I will be showing nice examples from my own extensive tie collection in the near future. I am interested in exploring the use of  beautiful tie fabrics in women’s wear and for more accessories for the upcoming fall and winter seasons since they look so great with wools, tweeds, velvets, furs, knitted fabrics  and silks!

Please check back soon because I will be posting Marlee Fowler’s summer 2012 Street Fair schedule and pictures of her booth within the next few days. If you are interested in acquiring one of her Silk Tie Purses this summer you should visit her booth. She has a good selection in many colorways and styles of silk tie evening bags and cell phone purses, rosettes as you see below, and other items already made up to choose from. Marlee M Fowler and her company is MM Fun Purses. Marlee Fowler can be reached at Retiredfowlers@aol.com.

Rosettes Made From Vintage Silk Ties with Clips Sewn to the Back That Can be Used to Attach Them to Many Things. The Rosettes are made by MM Fowler.

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

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Personal Spring Collection of Seven Vintage Scarf Tied Skin Bags

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

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

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

Closeup Photo of the Alencon Lace Border

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alencon Lace Applique Decorating the Shoulder.

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

The Shoulder Applique Showing the Addition of the Beads

And a closeup of the shoulder area Alencon lace applique.

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

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

The Back View of the Dress.

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

Signed LDavis Ltd

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

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

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

More coming on Alencon Lace soon ……..

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

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

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

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

Close Up of an Irish Crochet Lace Medallion

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

Note the Shamrocks and the Roses

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bodice Heavily Decorated with Crochet Lace.

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

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

To be continued!