Monday, January 25, 2010

Vintage 1930s Gowns: Caveat Emptor, Caveat Venditor

Recently, on the wonderful blogs, Wearing History and It'll Take the Snap Out of Your Garters, some interesting vintage-related topics cropped up that I thought I would take up again here on my own little blog. One of the subjects related to the humorousness of unfortunate vintage loving folks showing up at vintage re-enactment or vintage society-type evening gatherings wearing what they think are 1930s evening gowns that are actually either dressing gowns, hostess gowns, or even nightgowns or slips.

What I noted there is what I will note here: assuming these folks were not trying to be avant garde or deliberately just doing their own thing (which I personally respect), buyers of vintage certainly may want to make sure they know the difference between these types of items (especially 1930s-40s varieties of these) if they are wishing to be historically accurate and especially if they want to avoid paying a pretty penny for an item they think is a Jean Harlow evening gown when it is actually a nightgown etc etc. I say this with full awareness that, in my humble opinion, telling some of these items apart can be very very tricky. HOWEVER, as I will also again reiterate, vintage SELLERS (myself included) need to stay on top of their products and do their very best to ensure they are not misleading customers into thinking what they are buying is a "Jean Harlow" evening gown when actually the item is a vintage slip or nightie!!!

Now, no one is perfect. I openly admit that I am relatively new to the vintage buying game and there's lots of info to learn about when it comes to vintage clothing. BUT I try my darndest to make sure I am as close to possible in terms of accurate date or provenance as possible...and if I don't know, I ask, I research, I admit as much in the listing. (That reminds me, if any of you vintage or textile experts out there ever see anything in my shop that you don't think I've described correctly in terms of decade or fabric or whatever, I'll always appreciate a courteous convo through my shop to that effect!!!).

Now, back to the point above: lest you think this type of mis-listing is not going on as I type this, I have some images to show you of items being sold on Ebay and Etsy right now. Before I do, though I want to state that I'm not including links to the sellers, as my goal here is not to be a Ms. Smarty Pants know it all or to "tell" on other sellers; in fact, if you are a seller and I've showcased one of your garments here, please know that I am not trying to humiliate you. I just think it's useful to show some examples of what both buyers and sellers may want to try to be more aware of when dealing with these types of garments.

Okay, have a look at the images below...all of these items are being sold right now to the public as "1930s gowns." One of the listings for one of these does go on in the body of the description to admit it might be a night gown. So, just for fun, I am going to pose the following questions: Are any of these items actually 1930s evening gowns? If so, which one is the evening gown or which ones are evening gowns? Which are nightgowns? Hostess gowns? Dressing Gowns? How can you tell? What aspects of fabric, detailing, etc, would you say leads you to your conclusion?


Stumped? You're not alone; Here are some tips I hope Lauren from Wearing History doesn't mind I copied from her blog for what to look for when trying to figure out the difference between a 1930s evening gown and other types of gowns (esp. a hostess gown and a nightgown).

"If it's satin, got trapunto on it, and a big zipper up the front it's NOT an evening dress. Just because it's cut on the bias doesn't make it an evening dress either. If it's peach, got little flowers on it, and has ties at the waist your best bet is nightgown. Especially if it's got a tag in it saying the bust size."

Any other tips or tricks for garment identification? Stay tuned....I'll try to reveal the actual identities of the above garments in a little while.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dreamy Deco in Toronto: Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion and the Palais Royale

I still have not had the pleasure of enjoying deco high tea at the Windsor Arms in Toronto (as previously blogged about) and so that may be what I would like to do for Valentine's Day. However, I'm now thinking an even more amazing and romantic Art Deco venue for this lovey-dovey occasion would be Toronto's Palais Royale. Before I get to more on the Palais, however, I wanted to mention another Art Deco structure that sort of led me to discover the Palais Royale. Briefly, while driving into Toronto last weekend to sleuth some vintage, I caught a glimpse of this amazing building on the lakeshore which I have since discovered is a 1920s Bathing Pavilion. Oh boy am I going back there this summer, vintage suit and parasol in tow, for some pics. In the mean-time, here's a little peek at this astounding structure.

Okay, back to the Palais Royale. As I was researching the Bathing Pavilion, I discovered that there used to be a whole amusement park down at the lake front known as Sunny Side Amusement Park. In conjunction with the construction of the Park, the Palais Royale Ballroom had been erected. Apparently, it was THE place for amazing ballroom dancing in the 1920s and 30s. ALL the big names in Big Bands played there in the 1930s (including the Count Basie Orchestra---see below for a 1930s photo of his bus backed up to the door of the Palais for set up or tear down).

Anyway, I read that the Palais went through a period of disrepair, but it is now a swank deco venue for dinner and dancing (note: I hate the music on their website, though). Hello, Cupid!

I leave you with a video clip of the best lindy hopping EVER, from the movie Hellzapoppin', set to Count Basie's "Jumpin' at the Woodside." WOW!

My Vintage Spring/Summer Dream Wardrobe

Here is a sampling of my dream 1930s spring/summer wardrobe, brought to you by the New York Public Library's Digital Gallery. They have a huge collection of similar vintage fashion plates online!

1930s Fashion Plate from NYPL

1930s Fashion Plate from NYPL

1930s Fashion Plate from NYPL

1930s Fashion Plate from NYPL

1930s Fashion Plate from NYPL

1930s Fashion Plate from NYPL

1930s Fashion Plate from NYPL

1930s Fashion Plate from NYPL

1930s Fashion Plate from NYPL

1930s Fashion Plate from NYPL

1930s Fashion Plate from NYPL

1930s Fashion Plate from NYPL

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

1930s Vogue Knitting

Although my 1930s suit (worn for afternoon tea/Tea Time Tuesday #1) is crocheted, not knit (and I'd give my eye teeth for that first suit, for the record. Notice the deco pattern), these images inspired my tea time look. I just love that these are in colour!

vintage vogue knitting 1

vintage vogue knitting 5

vintage vogue knitting 3

vintage vogue knitting 2

Images from RhiannonMars' photostream on Flickr.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hairstyles I'd Love to Wave Hello To!

I'll keep you posted if/when I get my vintage hairstyle all sorted with the help of my vintage curling/waving iron! In the mean-time, in my next post, I'm putting up some inspiring 1920s and early 30s hairstyle pics from Life Magazine's online archive.

Wave-ing Goodbye to My Lazy Approach to Vintage Hair

For quite a while now, I have been planning to try to clean up my act where my vintage hairstyle is concerned. To explain: I am fairly lucky in the locks department, in that I have a natural wave pattern in my hair that is somewhat similar to the Marcel wave look popular in the 1920s and 30s. This wave is even more prominent when my hair is shorter. Given that I have recently discovered I really feel absolutely at home in late 20s and early 30s frocks, this is rather fortuitous. However, it has led me to stop trying out ways to make my hair more polished and era-perfect. Part of this laziness has to do with the fact that when my hair was a tad shorter than it is now, I could get away with loading on the products to create a slicker 20s look. However, even with short hair, I am just really oafish when it comes to doing my own hair. I've always envied girls who can french braid their own hair (like my friend in middle school used to do). That is just not me. Still, I crave a more authentic and finished look.

Where I'm at now, as part of my New Year's Resolution, is to strive to keep my vintage style relatively lower maintenance by continuing to work with my natural assets, but at the same time, to complete my vintage look by adding a bit more curl in the right places and by banishing my cowlicks, flyaways, and rogue "wings." I've purchased the book Vintage Hair Styling, as well as the wonderful Early 1930s Hairstyles from Wearing History on Etsy, and I've feverishly tried to read their instructions and follow the images. However, I found myself feeling the way I used to feel while studying math or physics (two of my worst subjects: like a spatially challenged blockhead. Surely, I thought, there must be a way I can still get an "authentic" vintage look without having to labour with metal hair clamps and without having to fiddle around with rollers (or my own fingers--I can't even do finger waves on myself...unless you can call me getting spitting frustrated and giving myself the finger in the mirror, finger waves!!!).

The other day, I had a mini-revelation: I saw a photo of Jean Harlow getting her hair done by a stylist on set. What was the stylist using? Maybe a metal clamp of some sort, but to me it looked like A CURLING IRON. Bells and whistles went off in my head. DUH! Women of the past, like many women of the present, were open to innovation and modernity, especially when it comes to making beauty rituals less arduous and tortuous. After doing a bit more reading I realized that actually the whole Marcel wave technique is also achievable by using a hot iron (makes the waves more prominent and makes them last longer than finger waves!!!) I've since found other photos showing women from the 20s and 30s using irons on their own hair or having their hair styled using irons. Here's one:

With this reassuring information in mind, I have since purchased a working, unused early 1930s curling and waving iron. I suppose I could have bought a modern one with a smaller barrel, but I thought a vintage one would be fun (pray I don't get electrocuted or burn my hair off or something!!!). There's another one for sale on Etsy, by the way.

Long story short: in the next while, I am going to try to "wave" goodbye to my lazy approach to hair and make my crowning glory truly worthy of such an appelation. I'm hoping this new appliance will be the key to tidying up my act. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Baroness Goes Under Cover, Solves Deco Brassieres Mystery

Being slightly indignant that vintage starlets with such clearly ample bosom could be so much more innately perky than I, I decided to do more research relating to my questions about what 30s women were wearing as undergarments while donning backless dresses for sport or for evening wear. Perky breast envy aside, I'll tell you why I did so: as I was reading everyone's comments for my last post, I remembered something from yesterday, when I was doing a listing for a sheer 30s evening gown that has a very open back. As I was taking the dress off, I noticed a really unique detail at the top inside portion of each shoulder: basically, they are bits of fabric with a snap at one end. These snaps fit into a snap sewn into the top inner seam of the shoulder. My immediate revelation: HEY, these are to keep a woman's bra and slip straps in place. As I was sitting here, I thought: Hmmm, maybe the slips were cut with low backs and enough under bosom support to serve in place of bras. Well, after even more sleuthing, you won't believe what I've uncovered in the way of images of actual 30s bras....I don't know how readily available these items were, but perhaps not all 30s women went au naturelle? I am absolutely astonished by the ingenuity of the lingerie designers of these items! These look like pieces of architecture!!!

This first image below is from the site It is a picture of a "Scandale" bra by Soutien George (from France). The bra came with an original package which has the following information on it: "The Scandale bra is an absolutely new conception. The cups are independent, they model the bust and are a perfect shape for the breasts. It doesn't move about and is ideal for sport. It's light, perfectly moulded, leaving the back bare, it is also ideal for the evening." Now THAT's what I need!

Next images: French brand Ferraro Paris bra with really low back. The cups are sheer and soft, thereby perhaps giving the look of bralessness? Maybe this was Myrna's Secret?

Next, the Kestos style bra, circa 1936, from Symington's Avro range. Apparently, according to the Leistershire County Council's website (which is where I got these two images), "the Kestos bra was very popular during the 1930s as it was very brief, light, and comfortable. The simple cups are constructed with a simple dart and the fit was adusted across the back." The back straps look low enough to wear under sporty or dressy backless frocks.

Next up: images of a 1930s bustier already sold online. Again, the back looks like it could be low enough for wear with a backless dress.

Last image from Dandelion Vintage. This is an asymmetrical bra. Not sure what the back looks like, but apparently the one cup design was for dresses with one strap. Just another example of deco bra ingenuity!

If I find anything more, I'll be sure to share! Oh, by the way, I understand the divine Wearing History is going to be putting out some 30s lingerie patterns for sale on Etsy soon, so we may be able to make our own deco knickers!