Wednesday, April 25, 2012
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
Monday, April 23, 2012
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.
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.
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
Illustration: guache on illustration board, artist unknown
Thursday, April 19, 2012
"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
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
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Doesn't this Etsy treasury bring together a beachy feeling?
It really makes you want to pack up and go there right now! (hooray for Spring Break!)
This 1960's shell pink silk dress has great safari pocket details with hand knotted 'buttons' that give it that 'couture' Made in Hong Kong look. The fit is shifty and loose, or easily belted. It's currently up-listed for Spring in the Etsy shop, stop by to see it there.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
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, 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
Sunday, April 1, 2012
The "Malia" label from Honolulu was a cut above many other tropical fashions during its heyday. Begun in Hawaii around 1961, the company was owned by William and Mary Foster who met while at Stanford University. Bill started working with textile design, and later added the fashion lines to diversify his business. "Malia" textile patterns were key to the company's success, since they had a unique point of view, presenting a more modern trend conscious fashion that made the transition from resort to state-side easily.
This cotton sateen dress from the 1960's shows how the "Malia" style was very contemporary and young, with a more sophisticated look than traditional resort wear had at the time. Rather than re-styled palm frond designs that originated in the 1930's, they explored bright graphics and prints. The company also produced fashion that was very well made and was worth the extra cost to their customer. Manufacturing on the island was not cost effective, so the retail prices were high. But the unique styles and high quality put them in demand. Much of the company's success was based on their focus to create a dress that the customer could wear long after her trip to Hawaii was over.
In 1984, the company had 200 employees, but was still owned by the Fosters whose business was based in a converted bowling alley. Today the name carries uniforms only, having left fashion and textiles behind. We still have the wonderful dresses they produced during the 1960's and 1970's as the best years for this label.