Wednesday, September 28, 2011

the rag trade

1947 Carole King dress ad, from Silverbluestar's Flickr.

If you have worn or owned a vintage dress with a Carole King, Doris Dodson, or Minx Modes label in it, there's a possibility that at some point it passed through the hands of my grandmother, or one of my great aunts or uncles.  In the mid-1930s, the concept of junior fashions was born in St. Louis, Missouri (I was born there, too--but a bit later) making it, for a time, an unexpected hub of the fashion industry.  A 1940 article in the Palm Beach Daily News had this to say about St. Louis' burgeoning dress business: "The junior dress industry in St. Louis today employs more than 6,000 people and is growing as rapidly as trained help can be found for the machines.  The industry is entirely a local project.  There has been no outside capital to subsidize it.  Eighty percent of the designers employed are young girls fresh from the art school of Washington University [in St. Louis]."

None of my relations designed the dresses--I don't think any went to art school, either--but my great aunt Margaret (seen in the above photo with her brother and nephews) worked as a bookkeeper for the Forest City Manufacturing Company, which owned several junior dress lines.  

My mother remembers her Aunt Margaret saying she worked for "Grace Dozier Durocher's company." Grace was married to Leo "The Lip" Durocher who played baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals.  She was head designer for the Forest City Manufacturing Company, and later had her own line in the company, Carole King.  I didn't find a lot of information about Grace.  She and Leo Durocher were married for nine years and divorced in 1943.  I thought this divorce notice--from the October 11, 1943 Milestones section of Time magazine--was pretty funny: "She [Grace Dozier Durocher] said that The Lip was 'constantly of nagging disposition,' and asked no alimony."

Here's Margaret with her niece, my mother.  (I'm loving the scalloped trim on Margaret's dress here.)  Margaret would bring home sample dresses from work for her three eldest nieces, one of whom was my mom.  The dresses would all be the same style/cut, but in different colors.  My mother would get the last pick, and usually ended up with the pink dress.  She was happy though.  No one in the family had a lot of money, and a brand new dress that wasn't a hand-me-down was something rare.

My grandmother Marian (in the center of the above photo) worked in the St. Louis dress industry, too, doing piecework sewing.  My mom told me that a couple of her uncles also worked in the industry as fabric cutters.

It's a little sad to think that this industry that employed many of my family members no longer exists in St. Louis--or even in this country, really.  My grandparents and my great aunts and uncles had very little money to spare, but they still managed to dress well--in clothing designed and manufactured right here in the US!  Amazing.


Monday, September 26, 2011

bags and shoes

A sneak peek at the shoes and bags coming to the Etsy shop soon!

1970s Garolini satin and rhinestone high heels.

Au lait leather cone heel loafers.

1980s Etienne Aigner tassel brogues.

1960s loopy lace black suede pumps by Geppetto.

1950s red, white, and blue scalloped high heels, by Society Debs.

Black leather brogues.

Tooled leather floral messenger bag.

Beaded evening bag.

1950s pewter gray Lucite purse with carved lid, by Charles S. Kahn.

Tooled leather handbag.

Bejeweled wooden treasure chest box purse.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

o autumn

...laden with fruit, and stainèd
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
--William Blake, To Autumn

I know it's not officially autumn yet, but it sure feels like it is.  We've been experiencing misty mornings and cooler temperatures since September started, easily getting me in the mood to populate the shop with cozy items.  I'm with Blake: Welcome, autumn.  Come in and sit awhile.  Don't rush off!

1950s riot of flowers shirtwaist dress, by Virginia Reel.

Marled farmhouse and chickens sweater.

1980s abstract print dress with sash waist.

1960s mod celery green wool coat.

1950s sky blue dress.

Floral print bolero jacket.

1960s dragon print shift dress, by Mr. Paul.

1950s green and brown plaid wool knife-pleated skirt, by Ernest Donath.

1940s black crepe and lace dress, by Pickwick Fashions.

1950s white lace blouse.

1960s mod abstract print dress with Peter Pan collar.

1950s barkcloth fishing scenes blouse/jacket.

1950s russet brown print dress.

Lace and satin ribbon-trimmed pointelle sweater, by R&K.

Mod pink print dress with Peter Pan collar and rick rack trim.

Houndstooth weave cardigan, by Devon.

1940s floral print rayon dress.

Salmon pink short sleeved cardigan with white trim.

1960s camel and gray plaid dress.


Monday, September 19, 2011

harris tweed

I spent part of my weekend watching a fascinating documentary about Harris tweed produced by BBC 4 television.  (The documentary is in three hour-long parts that can be viewed on Vimeo.  The first part can be seen here; part two is viewable here and here; and part three is here.)

Harris tweed is "cloth that has been handwoven by the islanders of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra in their homes, using pure virgin wool that has been dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides" (source: The Harris Tweed Authority).  Yes--this cloth is still woven by hand on the islands of Scotland's Outer Hebrides.  A single inspector drives around checking that the tweed is being made to standard and places the official seal on the fabric.

Harris tweed comes in over 8000 patterns, with colors that mirror the landscape of Scotland.  The tweed is sturdy and warm and holds its shape.  It's a classic that, sadly, has fallen on hard times.  Though the fashion industry has changed greatly with the rise of cheaply-made, mass produced clothing, the way Harris tweed is made has changed very little.  And--arguably--it shouldn't.  

The BBC 4 documentary I linked to above is about the people who now make the tweed, and those who are making attempts to rescue the industry.  Moments of this documentary made me angry and frustrated, but in the end, tweed aficionados like Savile Row tailor Patrick Grant and fashion designer Deryck Walker gave me hope. 


Thursday, September 15, 2011

street peeped!

Photo by Phil Oh/Street Peeper
Most mornings I like to peek at a few street style sites.  One that I never miss is Street Peeper, which features stylish folk from all over:  NYC, London, Paris, Chicago, Tokyo.  Imagine my excitement when I peeped Street Peeper this morning and saw my dress--well, a dress I sold--featured!  It's worn by blogger Ann Somma of Holier Than Now.  The dress is from the 1960s and is by Johnnye Jr.

Here's my product shot--not nearly as fun and exciting as seeing it on a real live lovely person in NYC!

Thanks to Ann for buying and wearing the dress--and to Street Peeper for featuring Ann in it!  You gave this little ole Michigan vintage seller quite a thrill.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

sure footed

Shop preview--boots, shoes, and a Vera scarf!

1980s flat black pirate cuff boots, by Borsalino.

1970s taupe wedge tassel loafers, by SAS.

1980s basket weave brown ankle booties.

Tribal/folklore flats by Pappagallo.

Children's Doc Martens oxfords.

Etienne Aigner kiltie brogue flats.

Flat cuff top boots with chains at the back.

1940s beige perforated tassel-bow pumps, by Selby.

1960s Vera red foliage scarf.



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