Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Merle Bassett: 1960's fashion illustrations

These bold and dramatic fashion illustrations were painted in the early 1960's by Merle Bassett, one of the best known illustrators of that time.  His career began in Los Angeles, studying art at Chouinard Art Institute.  He found his first job for Joseph Magnin stores in San Francisco, and later Neiman Marcus in Dallas.  He finally made his way to New York city where he would have a successful career as a fashion illustrator for several decades.

The illustration technique seen here uses strong black ink brushwork over a colored background that was brushed on first within the area, but not defining it precisely.

For more details on his fascinating career, you will want to read his own story, here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chinese Knot Button: How to Tie it

The Chinese Knot button is a great accent, as you can see on this pink silk dress. Making your own is fun. This button is also neat to use on hand bags, totes and other accessories where you may want an unusual button or accent.
I found this great little sketch in a vintage magazine and wanted to share it with you. It can be made using cord in matching or accent colors. As you can see, it is awesomely easy to weave the knot. When you have sewn off the ends, it's ready to add to your jacket, blouse or tote bag! If you are a skilled sewist, cloth covered cords also make up into gorgeous buttons. You can find this pretty shell pink silk shirt dress from the 1960's at my Etsy shop: PintuckStyle.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Alper Schwartz: Vintage Fashion Label

This silk duopuoni dress by "Alper Schwartz" is from the 1960's. The dress has exceptional details for a mass produced garment of that era. On close inspection, details emerge that contribute to the quality of this design.

Overall, it has an ultra-clean look, very monochromatic and smooth. This effect is enhanced by the soft champagne color.  To create a sense of simplicity, the pattern design uses a bias cut bodice where the fabric is cut on the diagonal. French darts taper the midriff and reduce bulk in the torso. The bias cut top would provide a slight stretch to fit, making extra darts unnecessary.

In keeping with the monochromatic look, the belt is self covered, reducing contrast and softening the line. The shoulders are smooth, using a type of kimono sleeve design to create an unbroken line in the bodice. Underarm gussets provide a good fit to the arm.
Overall, this dress is elegant, subtle and speaks of quality in design and construction.

In trying to find out more about the "Alper Schwartz" label, several bits of information were found, but I could find nothing on who designed this label, or how long it was produced.

My earliest sighting is in 1955, with an adorable navy silk dress with white linen collar. The fit and flare silhouette is created with a wide gored skirt, held out by petticoats so typical of that time. The bodice is fitted, with 3/4 length sleeves. This dress appears in an article promoting a local fashion show, where the dress is sold in the college girls boutique of the major department store in that town. This article lets us know that during the 50's, the "Alper Schwartz" label was sold in the upper tier regional department stores to junior customers who wanted current fashion styles.  A later dress from the 1950's is priced at $50.

This advertisement from 1963, for Joseph Horne of Pittsburgh, shows a very fashionable layout and illustration style that features one large coat dress, with two smaller. The coat dress is priced at $110, and the dresses are $90 each. This ad also lists Jack Feinstein as the company representative who was scheduled to hold a trunk show at the department store.  During this same time period, a label with "Tony Ruocco for Alber Schwartz" can be found, but this name does not appear with any other design position.

This fashion illustration from Fall, 1978 shows a navy wool knit dress with coat ensemble that sold for $260.  The design style reflected the current trend towards a slender silhouette.  This simple look suggests an affluent customer who wanted a subtle fashion statement.

By 1983, the "Alper Schwartz" line is shown in the same niche as Halston, Bill Blass, St. John Knits, Geoffrey Beene, Albert Nipon, Joan Leslie, and Adele Simpson. This would put that label in the higher priced ready-to-wear category, where quality and style are important to the customer. A 1985 advertisement shows a wool crepe jacket dress ensemble for $340. This certainly gives a good indication that the label offered fashion garments to a conservative customer who wanted quality workmanship and design.

The Alper-Schwartz company was manufacturing fashion by the early 1950's in Philadelphia. Owned by Samuel Alper it was later sold to Bernard Schwartz in 1956. Samuel Alper was a known Philadelphia dress manufacturer by the early 1940's. There isn't a record of his designers, beyond the "Tony Ruocco" name that appears on some labels during the 1960's.

The gorgeous champagne silk duopuoni dress from the 1960's shown in the title here is available through our shop on PintuckStyle on Etsy.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Another 60's Romantic Wedding Look

This 1960's bride creates her own world where Victorian romance and Mod style combine to create a fairy tale princess world.  

Illustration: guache on illustration board, artist unknown

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rudi Gernreich: On Exhibit

"The TOTAL LOOK" is a collection of 1960's fashions by L.A. designer Rudi Gernreich. Billed as the creative collaboration between Rudi Gernreich, his model Peggy Moffitt and her husband William Claxton, his photographer.  This exhibit displays her personal collection of fashions, photos and movies. This is on display at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art's annex at the Pacific Design Center.  The gallery site is a small two story building where the entry is into a dark gallery.

The opening gallery showcases tunics and full ensembles with matching leggings in animal prints. Ongoing is a large screen showing a short film with music from the 1960's featuring the clothes on Moffitt and other models.

Upstairs, a larger gallery packs a wide range of fashions into one space. His iconic topless swimsuit is there, of course, along with the famous photo of Moffitt wearing it. Grouped by style trends, his work during this decade is featured.

Many of his best know fashions are there to be seen up close and personal. The greatest impact might be  color and pattern worn head to toe, a style that Gernreich made famous. Bright, bold colors are paired with graphic black and whites for emphasis and drama.  Tunics and legs are usually color and texture coordinated, making for a 'Total Look' as the name implies.

These aren't fashions for the faint at heart, but they certainly capture a sense of fun and play that his fashions were known for. Beyond the bold and outrageous, there are many outfits that are wearable today (needless to say, often copied as well).

 The Total Look is on now at the MOCA site at the Pacific Design Center through May 27, 2012.

Want to know more?
You can see close-up photos of the KABUKI  dress shown here from my collection,
and pictures of some early Gernreich fashions, HERE.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Romantic 60's Wedding Look

This late 1960's fashion illustration of a fantasy bridal look captures so much of what we tend to think about that vintage era. Fanciful petal veiling, soft hair and bouffant gown makes for a perfectly romantic look that can be inspiring for us now.

illustration: guache on illustration board, no signature

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fred Astaire's Shoes: Wing Tip Love!

These aren't just any shoes. They are Fred Astaire's dance shoes from the 1930'S and 40's. They are classic in design and tiny in scale. The leather is finely sewn, obviously custom work. I think the look is inspiring, and on trend right now. Bring on a few wing tip copies, and I'm there!

Looking for a similar cut shoe, I found a great one by Aris Allen in two-tone brown and white that is alot like Fred's version of the wing tip. 

If you want the contrast laced area, here is that version by Aris Allen

For custom work, G-Wing tip has a huge selection of leather colors and types. The skies the limit with this shoe, so you can create your own signature look--now that's a fun idea!

For women's sizing: If you haven't tried on men's shoes before you should do that so you can pin-point what size men's shoe is most comfortable for your foot.  Often this includes wearing thicker socks.

p.s. Fred Astaire's shoes are currently on display at FIDM in Los Angeles, but since FIDM won't allow photos, I had to find the Astaire shoe pic online, but forgot to credit the source (sorry).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cole of California: 1950's Swimsuits

Cole of California, c. 1952 swimwear with elastic stretch. 

Doesn't this set look pin-up perfect? For the first swim suit of the season these styles are great. A bit covered up against the spring chill, but uncovered enough to catch a few rays!

Monday, April 2, 2012

W.E.: The Blue Striped Dress

I got a chance to see this dress 'live' and it's even more wonderful than it's pictured here. I think we will be seeing blue and white striped dresses in our future, inspired by this intricate play on stripes. If you spot one, let me know!