Monday, September 5, 2016

Judy's Shops: L.A. Fashion Innovator Marcia Israel-Curley, a Book Review

Judy's was an innovative fashion shop for juniors that opened in Los Angeles in 1948. The brain child of Marcia Israel-Curley, the first tiny shop (12' x 7') would grow to become a national influencer in the fashion trade. I found a wealth of information on this retailer and her shops in the autobiography by her, "Defying the Odds".

Israel-Curley essentially invented a new way of selecting and selling fashion. She created a whole world of exciting new styles aimed at a younger customer. She let them feel like they had walked into a world all their own: the first true junior boutique. There she presented styles found nowhere else.

Over time, that one tiny shop grew into a chain of the hottest fashion stores nationally known. Each new mall built in southern California had to have a Judy's to bring in the public. With weekly new fashions, trend setting displays and attentive staff, Israel-Curley would pilot a massive business for several decades.

Marcia began her fashion career while in high school, and seems to be a child prodigy in the business. She went with her instincts and considerable intelligence to make business choices and innovations that were at the forefront of retail. She paved the way for future fashion ventures such as the Gap, Express and later the many other chain stores that catered to younger junior fashion tastes.

When looking for vintage, know that a "Judy's" label marks that garment as one that was sold to an upscale customer who sought out fashion trends before they happened. She loved the full shopping experience of Judy's and saved her babysitting money to spend on dramatic and eye-catching fashions that set her apart from her peers (who were shopping at Lerner's and other less fashion savvy shops).

If you want to read the whole story about this amazing business woman, look for a copy of "Defying the Odds" by Marcia Israel-Curry. It is a good read with a fast moving story. In addition, it helps to tell the big picture on how retail transitioned from the small shops of the early 1950's to the chain store giants in the malls of the 1970's. It was the beginning of modern retail as we know it today.

BOOK: Defying the Odds
AUTHOR: Marcia Israel-Curley
DATE: 2002

1979: Press Release: Buying Trip in China

1989: Press Release: Judy's chain sells

2004, OBIT: Marcia Israel-Curly, 83, Judy's Boutique Owner
2004:Judy's Boutique Owner Passes On

Saturday, August 6, 2016

YInMn: A New Blue for Fashion!

When a new pigment color is invented, like the brilliant blue of YInMn, it's a big deal.  It's truely a new blue for fashion.  In the past, vintage fashion, textiles and even illustrations were confined to the blues available at that time. Many were made from precious resources, such as the first blue created by the Egyptians. Lapis lazuli produces a blue that has been used for centuries.

The problem with most blues is that they are not permanent. They fume fade to pink or lavender. They bleed out in water and oil. Finding a bright blue that is fade resistant is news worthy. Recently a blue was discovered through an unrelated science research. You will want to read more about this news story, it's amazing to think that we now have a new color!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Don Loper: Inside a 1950's Cocktail Dress

Don Loper's dresses are popular 1950's styles with vintage collectors. They come in a wide range of silhouettes and textiles, so there's quite a variety to choose from. Looking inside a 50s cocktail dress can show so many great vintage sewing details.  This one is a gem, made from silk taffeta, hand draped and constructed with couture and hand techniques.  Clearly this gown was a custom order, made to fit the lucky lady who could afford it. Handwork, skilled draping, and couture techniques make this dress unique.  While it may appear to be conservative and plain, it's quite the opposite.

 Loper led a varied life and seems to have been a fashion wild card: a self promoting genius with a hat full of tricks, all aimed at the pot of gold in Hollywood. When he opened his salon in the late 1940's, he had already been a dancer, actor, costumer and several other talents.  It's interesting to take a closer look at one of his earlier pieces, rich with the elegance that he worked so hard to promote.

Closer views of the bodice and the back show the dramatic back neckline pleating as it starts on the wide shoulder and converges in a low "V" at center back. The front has a raised midriff seam and darts are all cut in one with unpressed pleats in the bustline.  The entire front bodice is cut in one piece, can you see how?

Inside the bodice, the true construction details emerge, and it's easier to see how the dress design was created.

The back interior as seen along the zipper. It's interesting to find that the zipper has been cut to size for an exact fit.  Cross stitching has been used extensively to flatten and hold the layers in place.

The final view below shows the open hem, with the details of flat lining clearly visible. The exact hem fold has been notched to reduce bulk at that edge.

--Fabric: silk taffeta in deep purple floral
--Bodice: lined in silk with self facing at neckline and armholes
--Skirt: interfaced (flat lined) in silk organza
--Zipper: hand-picked metal zipper, sewn down inside to the lining
--Couture construction methods used throughout this dress
--Flat Lining or Inter-Lining was used to back the taffeta, edges are trimmed with pinking shears or folded back and edge stitched

--Front: bodice is all one piece artfully draped to create bust pleats and midriff panel, tiny piping at pleats and waistline
--Back: “V” pleating is shaped in a floating panel from the shoulders, inside there is a waistline grosgrain ribbon ‘stay’
--Skirt: front has a smooth box pleat and a hip tuck in side seam
--Skirt: back has deep box pleats and is fuller than the front
--Hem: this dress was found with hem released, showing the original length

Dress measurements:
Waist= 29.5” / 75

Bodice Measurements
Back = 17.5” / 44.5 across at bustline level (about 1” below armhole at side seam)
Front = 20” / 51, with front bustline pleating ‘flat’, if spread, there are about 2” – 3” more, or 23” max for front

Bodice length: measure from the center of shoulder, over bust to waistline (shoulder seamline is slightly to the back)
Length = 16.5” / 42
Side seam = 8.75” / 22

Skirt length: waistline to hemmed edge
Front = 31.5” / 80

To original hem fold = 28” / 71

If you are interested in seeing more of his designs, I have another Don Loper post here where I share a wonderful green silk jacket.

I hope this inside view has helped you to see the quality and design skills utilized in creating this gown.  Clearly Mr. Loper must have had an incredible staff to help him produce such a piece.

 This gown is currently listed for sale on Etsy.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Vintage & Modern Sizes: Measurement Chart

How can you find your size in vintage fashion?  Interesting fact: did you know that there are NO STANDARD sizes in the US?  That's right!  Every brand can use their own sizing.  But many brands have sizes that are almost the same, and that's what I used for the MEASUREMENT CHART here.

In shopping online, for vintage or current styles, we need to rely on measurements, instead of sizes. The vintage fashion measurement chart here will help you find your best fit.  Because older fashions are sized differently than the clothes we buy and wear today it's hard to know what to look for when shopping for vintage. Understanding current fashion sizes and measurements can help when selecting vintage fashion in your size.


Using the first chart, take your body measurements.  It helps to have someone do that for you so the measuring tape is level.  Don't make the tape too loose or too tight.

Bustline: measure around the fullest areas to get the best fit.
Waistline: measure around the natural waistline.  To find your waistline, try tying a length of elastic around your waist, it will settle in at the smallest measurement.
Hipline: measure around the fullest part of your hips or thighs.  If this is a problem area for you also measure how far BELOW the WAISTLINE the measurement was taken.
Shoulder over Bustline to Waist: start at the center of the shoulder, this will give a good length for a dress or blouse bodice.  If the dress has no waistline seam, then measure to the hem.
Waist to Hem: find the skirt length you want and measure that down center front.

There are also optional measurements included.  Use them if you have ongoing fit problems in a specific area.


Below is a new updated modern commercial size chart that I developed from several top websites using both inches and centimeters (inches/centimeters). You can use this chart in several ways:

1) Check your own measurements with this chart to see your standard size in modern fashion.
2) Look up your current size, and find the measurement range, then take your own measurements to be sure.
3) If you are selling vintage or creating new fashion items, use this chart when you list it so your customers can find their own size.

RULE #1: Know your own body measurements.

RULE #2: Measure your own vintage fashions that fit best.
Use those garment measurements as a guide when shopping for similar fashions online.

RULE #3: Always add wearing ease when comparing your measurements to a fashion garment.
What is this?
Have enough extra 'wiggle room' in the garment so you can move and breathe!
Be sure that it is at least 2" or more larger in the bust than your own bust line and 4" or more larger in the hips than your own hip line.

A few things to expect when shopping for vintage:

**Our waistlines are bigger, so if this is you:
Expect vintage waistlines to be 'too small' in the waist if they don't have elastic stretch.
(You can let out back darts in most styles for a bit more waistline room) and shop by your WAIST measurement to find a good fit.

**Our Bustline and Back measurements are larger, so if this is you:
Expect bustlines to be tight even when the waistline and hips do fit and shop by your BUST measurement to find a good fit.

**Vintage fabric rarely stretches, so
Don't expect your vintage fashion to have more stretch room than it measures.

**Remember to wear foundation and undergarments suitable to the style, and you'll have that gorgeous vintage fashion for years to come!

Friday, May 20, 2016

HOW TO: Wash & Iron a Dress: Caring for Fashion, Wash & Press Techniques

How to clean and iron a dress or other styles of fashion is something we should all know. Although pressing was a skill most young girls learned as late as the 1980's, few people are taught this today.  Once casual wear, polyester and Lycra fabrics dominated the wardrobe, these techniques became unnecessary and forgotten.

The following suggestions should help anyone to learn how to wash, iron or press their favorite fashions, including vintage.  Please note that no technique is fool proof. Some fabrics and garments may appear washable, but are not. It is important to learn how to identify delicate garments. Even so, some fashions will 'fail' when cleaned, and may not be salvageable. Select garments carefully, and learn how to care for them. It is worth the effort.

1--Details:  Garments with tailoring or delicate details should be dry cleaned, while more simple dresses are often washable.  This gingham dress was washed and pressed.

Fiber:  What kind of fabric is it?  For the past 30+ years, apparel has had fiber content and care labels.  But these can be cut off, worn down or if it is vintage, not present.  Check the chart at the end of this post for more details about fiber, because learning to 'know what it is' can be essential when facing laundry tasks.

Fabric Color and Print: You'll want to test a bit of fabric first by wetting a hidden area with a damp wash cloth, looking to see if the fabric color rubs off.  Avoid washing dark colors or shiny fabrics like vintage acetate and rayons.  Luxury fabrics such as velvet, brocades and satins are not washable in most cases.

3--Seamlines: Check inside the garment to see if the inner seam lines are wide and not un-raveling.  Avoid washing garments with loose or raveling seam allowances inside the garment.

4--Linings: It may be safer to send lined garments to be dry cleaned because some linings can often shrink or wrinkle more than the outer fashion fabric.  Tailored jackets, vests, men's pants and women's lined skirts are best dry cleaned to preserve the inner tailoring.

5--Whites: Bleached cottons and linens were traditionally washed, and were often called 'wash dresses' in the early decades of the 20th century. Some vintage garments are not color fast, and contrast details such as bias trim, braid, ribbons and stitching may run or bleed into the main fabric. Avoid washing these, and use dry cleaning instead.


For modern ready to wear, medium water temperature in a washing machine will be fine. But for vintage, washing by hand in cold water and baby shampoo will make a good wash for natural and older fabrics. Rinse out the soap after hand washing, and hang the wet garment up to drip dry (try your shower head as a hanging 'rack'). You may find it easiest to wash in a bowl or bucket in your bath tub, then hand the dripping wet dress there.

If using a washing machine, select a gentle cycle and cold water. You may want to test your machine first with a simple garment to be certain that the agitation is not too rough on the fabric and seams. You also may want to pull it out before the spin cycle, as that can wring it with many tight wrinkles. If you want a damp garment, try rolling it in a big beach towel and pressing out the water.

Use a plastic hanger or a padded one and hang up to dry away from direct sunlight.  I have used an umbrella on sunny days to hang clothes outside.  On breezy days, hanging clothes to dry from the curtain rod of an open window works well too.  For soft delicate fabrics, try wrapping a towel around the hanger like a shawl first to create absorbent padded shoulders.  Long items can be dried if you throw a big beach towel over the top of an open door, then drape your dress over that, usually the waistline can be placed along the door's top edge.  This method also works for sweaters and jeans.

Press natural fibers such as linen, cotton, silk and wool while they are damp. This might be towards the end of the hang dry period. If that is not possible, after drying use a spray bottle with water to completely dampen the fabric again.

Using a Spray bottle or Steam iron:
Dampen the entire garment and let is sit to absorb the water. You can also use the spray bottle to dampen specific areas that need pressing. To start, press from the inside of the garment first. This will prevent shiny areas of the good side of the outfit at hems and facings.

Flip to the good side of the garment for details such as collars, bows and tucks. You may want to 'spritz' the fabric damp again before pressing these areas.

Using a steam iron can replace the spray bottle.  Be careful not to over steam or 'shrink' some fabrics.

Using a Press Cloth:
Prevent shine and get a wrinkle free skirt by using a press cloth.  This can be an old linen or cotton napkin, dish cloth or washed fabric.  Wet the press cloth and wring out the excess water.  Lay this out smooth over the garment fabric.  Lift and press with the iron, being careful to avoid the hot steam.

When the garment has been pressed, it may still be damp. Hang on a padded hanger to dry completely before wearing or placing in a closet.

These methods will keep your fashion garments and vintage in great shape, and help to avoid damages to your favorite pieces.


Natural fibers are available in several forms, the most popular are listed here.

Wool, cashmere:  Protein yarns made from animal fur.  Treat this in the same way your do human hair, so wash it in cold water using baby shampoo and hang to dry.  Press using steam iron or mist.  Press or seam while damp.  Use a hair dryer to dry damp spots.  Dark or bright colors can sometimes 'bleed' or  'run' into the wash water.  Fabric will shrink under hot washing and 'felt' or thicken under hot water agitation.  Store in dry, dark place and avoid moth or bug infestations that cause holes.

Silk: Protein yarns made from silk worm cucoons.  Treat this fabric like wool.  Colored fabric may fade or run in washing.  Laundry may wash out crisp texture and make it softer.  It can shrink in hot water.

Cotton and Linen: Cellulose yarns made from plant fiber.  These these are sturdy fabrics.  They will shrink in hot water.  Older washed garments most likely were shrunk when originally worn.  Older colors and prints may bleed color when washed.  Bright prints may fade in sunlight or repeated hard washing.  Press with steam or mist.  Avoid hot dry iron that may 'scorch' or burn fabric.  White only fabrics can be bleached.

Synthetic fibers come in many forms.

Rayon and Acetate: Cellulose fibers that are a by-product of wood pulp production.  These act somewhat like natural cellulose fabrics (cotton and linen) in that they absorb water and wrinkle.  Fibers can break more easily and seam lines may unravel.  These will shrink in washing and colors may 'bleed' into the wash water.  These are best dry cleaned, but many garments such as Hawaiian shirts are home washed.  Bamboo fabric is in this same category.  Older acetate and rayon fabrics are prone to fade easily, so keep away from light ans store in the dark.

Nylon: This will turn yellow with age.  It can be washed and hung to dry.  Be very careful about temperature while pressing, as this fabric can melt easily.

Polyester:  This is a byproduct of the oil industry, and it will attract oil stains that may not be removed easily (or at all).  This can be washed warm in a machine and dryed on warm setting.  Press using a light mix of water and white vinegar to remove wrinkles or press open seams flat.  Avoid a hot iron that will melt the plastic fibers.  When sewing a ball point needle may be required to avoid skipped stitches.

I hope this helps you to learn more about fashion fabrics and how to keep them clean and pressed!

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Close Up Look: 1930's Silk Party Dress

This wonderful silk print floor length dress dates from the pre-WWII era, late 1930's. Silk chiffon is printed in vibrant colors, and cut with a balanced symmetry, so that the design image is the same on both sides of this gown.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Cover Up Styles in Vintage Fashions

At one time a cover up was essential to wear over strapless and sleeveless dresses. This design from 1960 by the California designer Pat Primo is an example of how cocktail dresses might have been worn, with a little matching cover up to wear over a bare neckline.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Spring 1967 Fashions: Butterick Patterns for Junior Styles

Vintage fashion scrapbooks are a gold mine of trends and ideas for inspiration.  They are also a great way to see how accessories were worn, hem lengths, hair and makeup.  For getting a good idea of fashion from a specific time period, they are perfect.


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