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!
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….
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 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.
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!
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!
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.
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…….
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.