Saturday, August 30, 2008

1961 Branell Mink Trimmed Suit

My attempts to find information about the Branell label have turned up nothing except items for sale on the web. But isn't this suit from 1961 simply stunning? This ad appeared in the September 1961 issue of Vogue magazine.

The ad copy reads, "American Chic: circa 1961. Branell expresses it in a blend of Dacron polyester. Opulence! and purely American opulence - lean, limber, understated. Hilda Altmark of Branell, one of America's designing greats, finds new imagery for this look in Raefords' Dacron polyester, worsted wool and nylon, trimmed with dyed mink. Shapes it, here, in a blouson dress and eased jacket. Today, tomorrow, and tomorrow, this costume will have the same sure opulence, Because it blends wool and nylon with the enlightened chic of Dacron. About $350. At Best, & Co., New York; Joseph Magnin, Juklius Garfinckel, Gus Mayer, Montaldo's."

There are a few things we can talk about here. First of all, the list of stores that sold this suit includes some of the elite department stores across the country in 1961. At $350, this suit was quite an investment. The same suit would cost you about $2500 today. Certainly, Branell was an upscale brand worn by women with money to spend.

This ad shows the DuPont logo prominently in the lower right corner, and the headline states that the suit is made from a blend of Dacron polyester. "Dacron" was DuPont's registered trademark for its polyester fiber, which was introduced in the US in 1951. The polyester fibers would give added shape retention to the fabric, to help avoid the sagging and bagging that can happen over time with a natural fiber such as wool. The polyester would also help with resistance to moths.

The model is wearing a high crown pillbox hat by Mr. John, and white DuPont nylon gloves. The jacket is trimmed with black mink at the hem and has a mink wedding ring collar.

Get the look with this black wool suit trimmed in sheared beaver fur from another famous suit maker, Jack Feit. Available at our website. Click the picture to see the listing.

Friday, August 29, 2008

1961 Paulette Mink Hat

Paulette is considered one of the great French milliners. She opened her first shop in Paris in 1921, and by 1939 was designing for royalty and the Hollywood elite. She continued making hats into the 1980's.

This hat from 1961 has a rounded mink brim. It was sold in the Saks Fifth Avenue Paulette Shop. As featured in the September 15, 1961 issue of Vogue magazine.

Get the look with this early 1960's mink hat by another famous milliner, Irene of New York. Available in our EBay store.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

1961 Laurence Kaye Persian Lamb Jacket

Laurence Kaye was a prominent furrier on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan. He opened his own fur salon in the late 1950's and worked there for nearly 30 years until his retirement at age 82 in 1986. He made furs for Christian Dior and Hubert Givenchy, as well as for his own exclusive salon.

This Persian lamb jacket, shown in the September 15, 1961 issue of Vogue magazine, is cut very simply and closes with a single button at the neckline. Perfect to pop over a simple black day dress, or a long column of an evening gown. The model wears long kidskin gloves, a turban hat, and carries an alligator Kelly bag. So simple, so elegant.

Not into real fur or skins? You can get the look with this faux Persian lamb stole and alligator embossed patent vinyl bag, now available on EBay. Click the pictures to see the listings.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

1961 Eva Rosencrans for Ben Reig Evening Gown

Eva Rosencrans worked in partnership with her sister-in-law, Nettie Rosenstein in a wholesale business named Nettie Rosenstein starting in 1931. They worked by draping dresses directly on medium sized live models, which meant that their designs flattered average American women. Another unique aspect of the business was that each dress was sewn by one seamstress from start to finish, rather than by assembly line. They kept the line exclusive by only selling to one store per city.

In 1961, Nettie made the decision to leave the clothing business in order to concentrate on accessories. At this time, Eva Rosencrans went to design for Ben Reig. She was known for her luxurious but simple designs. This evening gown was featured in the September 15, 1961 issue of Vogue magazine, and was probably from her first line for Ben Reig.

"Liquid black: silk evening dress from the Ben Reig collection, designed by Eva Rosencrans." The dress has a draped bodice with straps that come from the side seams below the bust, criss-cross at the upper edge of the bodice and then encircle the neck. The skirt is softly gathered onto the waist and a tulip slit shows the leg from the knee to the hem. Love those long black kid gloves and the full length mink draped casually over the chair. The model is not wearing a hat, but has long dramatic chandelier earrings.

Get the look with this 1950's black velvet cocktail dress with its halter strap that can be worn many ways. Available at our website. Click the picture to see the listing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

1961 Leslie Morris for Bergdorf Goodman Coat

Leslie Morris was hired by Bergdorf Goodman in 1931 and worked in their custom design department well into the 1960's. She traveled to Paris every year for the couture collections. She was considered in the top rung of American designers in the 1930's, 40's, and 50's on par with Sophie of Saks, Mr. Leone of Bendel's, and Wilson Folmar of Jay-Thorpe. I can find no evidence that Morris' name was ever put on the labels sewn into the garments, although it appeared prominently in advertisements for Bergdorf's.

This ad for Bergdorf's is from the September 15, 1961 issue of Vogue magazine. "Leslie Morris designed this flare-shaped city coat in rich black wool. Exclusive in our Made-to-Order Collection on the Second Floor." Well-to-do customers would go in to the store and have garments made specifically for them and to their measurements - the equivalent of couture. Note the 3/4 sleeves worn with long gloves and the large alligator bag, as well as the high bubble hat.
Get the look with this 1960's coat in Forstmann wool with genuine mink fur collar and cuffs, now available in our EBay store. Click the picture to see the listing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

1963 Halston Hats

Before Halston became a fashion sensation with his own label in 1968, he was a milliner. He worked briefly for Lilly Dache, but moved to Bergdorf Goodman in 1958 where he was their custom milliner. In 1966, he was given his own in-store boutique, where he also began to offer clothes.

These two floral beauties were custom designs for Bergdorf's by Halston and were sold as Made-To-Order designs. Silk petals and leaves are attached to Guipure lace in two styles, a helmet and a wide brim design. This ad appeared in the March 15, 1963 issue of Vogue magazine.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

1963 Sally Victor Hat

From the March 15, 1963 issue of Vogue magazine. This turban hat, by Sally Victor, has swathes of red and gold velvet intertwined in the folds of white chiffon.

You'll notice that with dramatic hats like this and the Lilly Dache posted yesterday, the models' hair is pulled away from the face and tight to the head. They are each wearing dramatic make-up and statement earrings, which are needed to offset the high voltage drama of the hats.

Get the look with this late 1950's red satin cocktail turban, now available in our EBay store. Click the picture to see the listing.

I love vintage hats, can you tell?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

1958 Lilly Dache Hat

Do I really need to say anything?

Friday, August 22, 2008

An Ode to My Grandmother

Hallie King with Barbara and Nancy in 1930

When asked who most influenced my life, I always answer, "My grandmother, Hallie Jessie King." Her birthday was August 8th, and this month marked the 105th anniversary of her birth. My fondest memories of my grandmother come from the summer I turned 12 years old, when she was in her 60's; a summer that changed my life, and set me on the path to where I am today.

My grandmother was born in 1903. She had two daughters, Barbara born in 1927, and my mother Nancy, born in 1930. My grandmother was one of 13 children born to a postmaster in Walling, Tennesee. She learned to be frugal as she was growing up, and used those skills during the difficult years of the Depression. She was an RN, and worked during much of my mother's childhood. My grandmother was the ultimate example of "make do and mend". Even during later years, when times were better, I remember her darning the elbows of her sweaters and the heels of my grandfather's socks. And she would use a sewing needle until it became gently curved to the shape of thousands of stitches in her fingers.

I am the oldest of 5 sisters. For my first 6 years, we lived near my grandparents in South Bend, Indiana. I remember weekend sleepovers on my own in the built-in bed in grandma's sewing room, where I was surrounded by fabric scraps, button boxes, sewing patterns, and a myriad of notions that held a mysterious fascination to me. I remember playing in grandma's attic, where the formal gowns grandma had made for her daughters' school dances were stored, along with hats, shoes, and old clothes to dress up in.

When I was 6, my family moved to Dallas, and my grandparents were too far away to visit. The relationship waned as it became one of letter writing, often times forced by my mother who wouldn't allow me to go out and play until I had scrawled a hasty note to grandma and grandpa. I was busy being a child, and though my interest in fabric and sewing remained, it was pushed below others, like playing with Barbie dolls and learning to ride a two-wheeler.

When I was 11, my family moved to Milwaukee, which was near enough to my grandparents to allow occasional visits. They would drive up to spend time with us, and once, my mother braved a bus ride with 4 young girls to visit with her parents, whom she missed terribly. I remember Grandpa would build a fire in the outdoor grill and allow us girls to cook our "weiners" on a stick. Then we would roast marshmallows and chase fire flies in the dark until it was time to take a bath in the huge old tub and go to sleep with several of us in that bed in the sewing room.

The summer I turned 12, I was allowed to go and stay with my grandparents for an entire month all by myself. I realized years later it was a really big deal to not have to compete with 4 younger sisters for the attention of grown-ups. I was the center of my grandparents world for one magical month, and it changed my life. My grandfather would take me to the grocery store and allow me to choose my favorite green grapes and Eskimo pies. And my grandmother taught me to sew.

I remember the magic of going to the fabric store, and sitting down to choose a pattern. Then learning about which fabrics were best, and being allowed to choose the one I liked, a cranberry colored corduroy. Each afternoon, grandma and I would work on sewing my dress. It was a basic shift style with long sleeves and gold buttons up the front. I remember the thrill of learning how the pattern pieces worked together to make a dress, and watching it emerge day after day. I wore that dress all through the 6th grade, and was so reluctant to let it go when I outgrew it.

After returning home, I began to save every bit of my babysitting money so I could have a sewing machine of my very own. It took me two years, and by that time, my family had moved on to Boston. When I finally got my sewing machine, I didn't have my grandmother close-by to help me, and had to learn on my own, but the basic lessons she gave served me well. I learned more through trial and error, but I perservered and sewed all my own clothing during high school. I sewed most of my children's clothing when they were little. In fact, I've never stopped sewing. It still brings me great joy.

That summer influenced me in other ways too. I wound up going to school for fashion design, and when I marched down the aisle to "Pomp and Circumstance", my grandmother received my thanks and smiled down on me from heaven. And when life brought me to a place where I could finally be my own boss and do what I loved, all my life experiences and a bit of serendipity brought me to vintage clothing, where I am surrounded every day with fabrics, buttons, hats, and special dresses that were lovingly stored in attics.

My grandmother works beside me in spirit every day, and I smiled this morning when I realized my own favorite sewing needle has a gentle curve from thousands of stitches in my fingers.

Hallie King With Me on My First Birthday

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Correct Foundation Garments for 1950s Dresses #4

The final post in our series on correct foundation garments ends with a focus on sleek thighs. "Study the liquid lines of the dresses - they're newest in soft, covered-up wools for day-into-party wear. The brilliant red colorings (not for the timid) and subtly revealing cut (nice for the shapely) demand the firmest sort of discipline for hips and thighs. Pretties to aid and abet: long-legged panty girdles to comfortably coax and wheedle you into the willowy-wand shape that's needed."

The dress on the left has a flounce skirt in a printed wool/orlon jersey. The dress, by California Girl, sold for $30 (about $228 today) was sold at Hahne & Co., Newark, and Haggarty's, Los Angeles. Her long necklace is by D'Arlan.

Under this dress, the model is wearing a Youthcraft panty girdle with red stripes on white and a Madenform cotton bra.

The solid red dress on the right by Jonathan Logan is in wool crepe. This dress sold for $15 (about $115 today) and was available at Lord & Taylor, May Co., and The Broadway. She wears a Coro necklace.

Under this dress, the model is wearing a Jantzen panty girdle of nylon and Lastex with a Jantzen cotton bra.

I hope you've enjoyed this series of articles. Remember, these photos all came from Seventeen magazine - so proper foundation garments were expected to be worn by young girls, not just grown women. Can you imagine wearing a girdle to high school?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Correct Foundation Garments for 1950s Dresses #3

Today's focus is on smooth hips required when wearing a dress with a lowered waist. "Shimmy bodices that drop their waists down to hip-level...or lower, then meet rippling, flounced skirts. The silhouette-makers needed: hip-firming girdles, rounded bras."

The dress on the left has a gathered flared skirt below a dropped waist. It is by Youth Fair and sold for $15 in 1958 (about $112 today). It sold at Abraham & Strauss, Brooklyn and Rich's, Atlanta. The model wears a Castlecliff pin on her collar.

Under this dress, she is wearing a Hollywood Vassarette open bottom girdle with double panels of power net at the back and sides and a front V-shaped panel of nylon satin overlaid with point d'esprit lace. The Hollywood Vassarette bra is in nylon with lace cups.

The dress on the right by Teena Paige has a dropped waist, permanent pleated skirt and a sailor collar. It sold for $18 (about $135 today) and was available at Altman's, New York and Macy's, San Francisco. The model wears a Castlecliff pin on the collar.

Under this dress, the model is wearing a Peter Pan panty girdle of nylon power net woven in elastic stripes. The Peter Pan cotton bra has contour cups.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Correct Foundation Garments for 1950s Dresses #2

Continuing the series on the correct foundation garments, today we have two party dresses from 1958. The focus on today's spread is the tiny waist needed with fuller skirts. "Take a look at the luscious, jewel-toned dresses. See how their sculptured bodices and dome-shaped skirts show off your middle? They call, obviously, for a trim mid-section of your own."

The green satin dress on the left is a "princess sculptured" dress with self-fabric roses at the neckline and hem by Parklane, which was offered at Franklin Simon, New York and Jordan Marsh, Boston. The dress sold for about $30 ($225 today).

Under the green dress, the model is wearing a Formaid of Boston torso bra that molds from bosom to hips. With that, she wears a Saramac petticoat. Note that the petticoat has a flat panel from waist to hips and the long-line bra is worn over it.

The blue jacquard dress on the right has a "closely carved bodice and dome skirt that opens in a back pleat". This dress is by Carol Rodgers and sold for about $13 ($97 today). This dress was available at Burdine's, Miami and Altman's, New York. The skirt of this dress likely has the stiff Pellon interfacing, as the model is not wearing a crinoline under it.

Under the blue dress, the model is wearing a Sarong Two nylon girdle that trims the waist with a high elastic waistband. Crisscross front with open bottom gives walking ease. Power net sides and satin elastic back. She is also wearing a Perma-lift strapless cotton contour bra.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Correct Foundation Garments for 1950s Dresses #1

If you've ever purchased a vintage dress and wondered why it doesn't fit correctly, maybe you're not wearing the proper foundation garments. Prior to the late 1960's, clothing was styled and cut with the understanding that women would be wearing girdles and shapers underneath. In the October 1958 Seventeen magazine, there is a wonderful editorial spread photographed by Frencesco Scavullo that illustrates what type of foundation garments work best with several dress styles. I'll be featuring the photos and information from this spread this week.

The magazine is referring to these as "shaft dresses" (never heard that term before). "Newest shape for a shaft to take - the high-rise Empire waist, which looks prettiest over a softly rounded bosom, asks just supple control from there down."

The red dress is by Lanz in a lined rayon crepe. See that band across the bust? The magazine calls this a "bosom yoke" and it drops to a V-neck with a bow in the back. The dress was about $40 (about $298 today), and was sold at Bonwit Teller, New York, Vandervoort's, St. Louis, and The Crescent, Spokane. The model is wearing red DeLiso Debs shoes.

Under the red dress, the model is wearing a Formfit nylon bra with circle-stitched lace cups and a Formfit nylon elastic net panty girdle with a wide waistband and satin elastic vertical stretch panels front and back.

The model on the right in the top photo is wearing a blue wool jersey "shaft dress" by Jerry Greenwald. The front is gathered into a satin band at the Empire waist. In back, the dress is slit from V necline to hem, revealing a satin underslip. This dress also sold for about $40 and was available at Saks Fifth Avenue. That's a long, skinny brooch by Castlecliff pinned to the center of the satin band and the shoes are by Capezio.

Under the blue dress, the model is wearing a Lovable "lightweight all-in-one for a long, slim line with easy control." Made of Helance nylon yarn with embroidered cotton broadcloth cups. This appears to be an open-bottom style.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

1958 Simplicity Pattern Ad

With all the interest lately in vintage patterns and sewing, I thought you'd like to see an ad for Simplicity Patterns from the October 1958 Seventeen magazine I've been posting about. Featured here is Simplicity pattern 2687.

The ad copy states, "You can see the admiration in his eyes...your dress is terrific! And when you tell him you made it yourself, he'll be even prouder.

Sewing is such a wonderful way to have the color, the fabric, the style that does the most for you. (The kind of clothes men notice.) And you can expect even your first dress to turn out perfectly with Simplicity Printed Patterns. They're marked piece by piece with such easy-to-follow directions, it's like having an expert to help you at every step.

What fun to have a divine new dress for every dance without feeling extravagant! And there are hundreds of Simplicity styles to choose from. You'd hardly believe it, but both dresses here are made from the same Simplicity Pattern, No. 2687."

All I have to say is, "Yes, Virginia, butt bows did exist before the 1980's!

Friday, August 15, 2008

1958 Jonathan Logan Dress

Here is another ad from the October 1958 Seventeen magazine. What girl wouldn't want to wear this to all her holiday dances and parties? Jonathan Logan is a favorite label of mine. I find his dresses quite frequently, which leads me to believe that his dresses were considered special enough to save for years.

The ad copy says, "Pure pure silk faille. The demure back-buttoned jacket hides a decolletee dress that swoops out prettily from a tiny waist. Green, blue, black, red. $29.95" The ad also states that the dress was available at Lord & Taylor, so you know this was a high quality label in the 50's. $29.95 in 1958 equates to about $225 today.

The model is wearing a matching bandeaux hat with a green bow on the top of the head. The dress has a matching sash type belt with a large round fabric covered buckle. The waist length bolero jacket has a V notch at the front hem and a Peter Pan collar. It buttons up the back. The model is wearing black patent kitten heels in the original photo. And I'm sure there is a stiff crinoline under that dress, although it is not overly full so the pleats hold their shape.

I think I've sold this dress in black before. I wish I could find it again. But you can get the look with this emerald green party dress available at

Thursday, August 14, 2008

1958 Coats by Shag-Glow

Continuing our perusal of the October 1958 Seventeen magazine, here is an ad for Shag-Glow coats. The ad copy reads, "The Long and Short of it, Luxurious Shag-Glow Coats, You'll love the genuine comfort and soft warmth of these coats...made of the finest 100% pure wool fabric. Moth proofed for the life of the garment. Long about $35 - Short about $25. Colors: Burnt Orange, Winter Sea Green, Burnt Yellow."

$35 in 1958 is about $261 today. $25 in 1958 is about $187 today, so these would be considered nicer quality coats. Shag-Glow was a label put out by Hampshire Fashions on 7th Avenue in New York. The "Faribo Woolen Fabric" was an exclusive fabric by Faribault Woolen Mills.

These are simply styled day coats, worn in this photo with matching hats and gloves. I love the color names, although they look simply orange, turquoise, and brown to me! All three coats have raglan sleeves, the orange with a deeper dolman armhole. They have simple collars buttoned all the way up. The orange coat has a curved pocket and a half belt buttoned on at the sides. The brown coat has a vertical welted pocket.

Want the look? Here is a similar coat at Couture Allure on EBay.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

80s Shoes, Belts, and Purses This Week at Couture Allure

We recently were lucky enough to find an estate purchase of TONS of vintage 1980s clothing and accessories. Most of the goods were new, never used with the tags still attached. The woman just loved to go shopping, and she had wild taste!

You'll find most of the accessories up for auction this week at Couture Allure on EBay. Check out our Buy It Now listings in our store while you're there, as several of the belts and party dresses have been listed for your quick purchase this way. And you'll find most of the belts over at our Retro Vision Vintage store on Etsy. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Another 1958 Teena Paige Dress

3 pages away from the ad I posted yesterday, there is a second Teena Paige dress ad, this one for The White House in San Francisco. The ad copy states, "Basketweave textured 100% wool Blouson Sheath with face framing collar. Novelty pin accents tab. In red, royal, copper. $17.95" That's $134.00 today.

This is another dress that I would have dated as early 60's if I came across it today. I associate that rolled collar with the 60's, but I've learned something! The dress bodice has little faux pocket flaps below the bustline. The one shown has a gold Maltese cross pin, which came with the dress. The model is wearing short white gloves and a bronze wide bangle bracelet with matching earrings.

There is a coupon attached to order the dress which states, "Please add 40 cents for postage and handling." That works out to $2.98 in today's dollar. Wake up call to the USPS!!!!! Today, it would cost us $10-$15 to have this dress shipped from California. Jeez.

Monday, August 11, 2008

1958 Teena Paige Dress

Here is another ad from the October 1958 issue of Seventeen magazine. This dress is by the Teena Paige company, a New York manufacturer of dresses for teens. The description of the dress states, "Bouson Sheath...contrasting printed "tie-silk" cotton sateen bow and matching belt. In sagproof 100% wool jersey by Lebanon. In camel, turquoise, and coral." Included in the ad is a coupon to order the dress from Best's Apparel in Seattle, WA for $14.95. Using a cost calculator, this dress would be $111.50 today, so this was not an inexpensive piece of clothing.

I like the touch of the belt matching the ascot tie. So often, the belts are missing when I find vintage dresses from this era, but I really think this printed belt "makes" the dress. The blouson bodice probably has a straight underbodice or lining so the blouson holds its shape. The model has a short, curled hairstyle and is wearing short white gloves and gold bangle bracelets pushed up to the elbow. She is definitely wearing a girdle for that smooth look around the hip area, and the dress has either been tightly clipped around the knees or the photo was airbrushed before publication!

"Sagproof wool jersey"....I wonder how they did that before the invention of spandex or lycra? After all, no one likes a saggy butt on their dress after they've been sitting in it!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Vintage Vera Scarves

Do you love Vera scarves? We've just listed 15 of her scarves in our Retro Vision Vintage store on Etsy. And if you want to learn more about Vera, my friend and colleague Lizzie at The Vintage Traveler recently interviewed Vera's nephew for her blog. Enjoy some eye candy there, as well as right here!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

50s Prints in Fall 2008

By now, I'm sure you've seen several of the looks from Michael Kors Fall 2008 line. I love the prints, but maybe that's because I work with them all the time in my business as a vintage clothing dealer. That's right ladies, these prints come straight out of the late 50's and early 60's. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Kors had authentic vintage prints copied by his fabric suppliers for use in this season's offerings.

If you read this blog regularly, you can probably guess what I'm going to say next. Why not wear authentic vintage instead of new copies that are not as well made nor as charming as the originals?

We've got lots of these darker floral prints coming up in the next couple of months, but the two dresses here are available now at Click the pictures for a direct link to the dresses.