If you're going to be in southern California over the holidays, you may want to take in the costume exhibit: Hollywood Costume, on now through March 2, 2015 at the Academy Museum in the historic May Company building at the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire. They don't permit photos, so this video will have to say it all, and don't miss the website, which has lots of little tidbits about this show that originated at the Victoria and Albert Museum and now includes over 150 costumes in its final exhibition showing.
This is the first of several David Crystal magazine advertisements from 1959 for dresses created in knits. They have such gorgeous illustrations in primary colors that I had to share and a Holiday red seems like the best place to start! (more to come)
p.s. The illustration is original, but the graphics are mine.
This Lilli Ann suit jacket dates from 1958. It's signature fur trimmed bodice drape can be found on several jackets from that era. This one is a soft wool crepe in a pastel mauve color. Dyed to match silver fox fur trims a diagonal drape that crossed the jacket hem with a pearl button detail.
I have a few detail photos to share that fill in any gaps that the general full view misses. What is always interesting about a good Lilli Ann suit jacket are the signature details, going beyond what most jackets of the era show. These jackets tend to appeal to a flamboyant, dramatic and self confidant customer who loves feminine and sexy details to her outfits.
Rather than a simple strip of fabric, the wool has been pleated from a wider shoulder down to a narrow hanging "scarf" with a "pom pom" of fur at the end. A narrow band, like a belted edge, encircles the jacket hem. Where the scarf crosses that band it has an overlapping piece that is fastened with a pearl button in a bound buttonhole.
The swag is accented by the diagonal hemline at high hip level. This diagonal hem continues around the back, creating a well integrated design from all angles that is flattering to many body types. This diagonal is seen in several other Lilli Ann jackets, so it must have been a popular silhouette for that label.
How this jacket was accessorized can be seen in the original magazine advertisement from 1958.
The 3/4 sleeves are designed to be worn with a longer glove proportion. The original skirt was narrow and below knee length, and worn with simple heels. Small pearl earings complete the ensemble, a scale that enhances but does not overpower the pearl button accent at the left hip.
In the early 1960's we can find advertisements for for similar styles from Lilli Ann. Like those shown here, this jacket was probably designed as a cocktail suit, to be worn to formal luncheons or semi-formal evening events where pearls and fur were appropriate. The soft pastel color would be a spring look. The label photo shows the texture of the wool crepe and the type of lining typical for a Lilli Ann jacket.
PS, I have more on this Lilli Ann style in the following other blog posts:
The Lilli Ann label carries with it an aura of mid-century feminine mystic. While photos of jackets with that label are easy to find, close up details are not often shown. This example is a well fitted short body suit jacket in a silhouette that was popular during the early and mid-1950's. I have seen similar styles with the Lilli Ann label that used the same shades of wool, so it is probably part of a suit collection that was created in the same fabric.
I wanted to share the details of this jacket, showing how the diamond appliques are applied around the hemline and at the lapel of the collar in a unique extension beyond the edge.
This front view shows placement of the diamond details, with some closer views below:
The diamonds were appliqued onto the jacket body after the darts were sewn, covering up those seam lines. The edges are held in place with zig-zag stitching.
This diamond motif is carried across the back hem as well, rather than it being just a front view element.
Finishing the details are self bound buttonholes and covered buttons (rather than rhinestones) and turn back cuffs. While these details are common for the period, the textiles used and subtle fabric arrangement lend an air of quality in the mono-chromatic color scheme of the jacket, relying on graphic design rather than shiny textiles, bright color or bling to complete the jacket's details.
P.S You can find out more about this jacket and Lilli Ann in these other blog posts
I've recently listed a shelf of fun little fashion books that you might want to add to your library or give to a friend. They all have great details and unique content that make for great reading or nice browsing on a rainy afternoon. If you find something you like, there's more details and inside photos in each listing at my Etsy shop: Pintuck Studio.
“Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette” by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell has been getting a lot of press recently in anticipation of the book’s release this coming new year. Most recently “Mourning Attire: when black became the new black”, a review by Matt Stevens, discusses the trend in 1774 following the death of Louis XV to wear black mourning attire, but at a new level of fashion sense. This trend brought about black being worn by the high fashion society, thus introducing it into popular culture.
French: 1785-90, striped silk dress with English fichu of cotton: collection of LACMA
Ms. Chrisman-Campbell will be speaking on the topic of her new book December 6, 2014, at the Bowers Museum in Orange County, California. This is an opportunity to hear the author share her thoughts on this new book.
Europe: Redingote dress, c. 1790, of silk, with English fichu of cotton: collection of LACMA
If you love this era, you'll want to take a peak at Chrisman-Campbell’s Pinterest page on this topic, which collects images on the book’s subjects from various museums and other resources. Both gowns shown here are included in this Pinterest collection.
Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell “Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette,
Yale University Press, April 2015
The Article: page 30.
"Mourning Attire: when black became the new black", by Matt Stevens, Huntington Frontiers: Fall / Winter 2014, The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
Georgia Bullock was a California fashion designer. She was born in the small town of Whittier, Ca. in 1918 and raised in southern California. In the mid-1930’s, while in college at USC, she worked as a floor model and sales associate at a major department store in Los Angeles. After graduating, she was hired by Bullock’s Wilshire, followed by a milliner and later an established fashion designer. Knowing that she wanted to pursue fashion design, she studied at Frank Wiggins Trade School in Los Angeles. During this time both her work experience with customers along with her technical training prepared her for a career in fashion.
About 1941, with an idea for a basic black dress and $50 in cash, she and her partner Dorothy Phillips started a dress company with this one design. This new company would give her additional experience with buying trips to New York and selling wholesale. This small business lasted two years, so that by 1943, at 25 years old, she was in business for herself. She did most of the work herself in her little factory to start, but by 1945 she was quoted in national newspapers as a California fashion designer and selling her designs nationally. Her business would grow, moving to several factory locations in Los Angeles as her needs progressed. This suit was advertised in the mid-1940's.
“In my own designing, I try constantly to stress fit and flattering lines, rather than the specious and merely startling. I want to give the ready-to-wear customer the opportunity to buy good lines in the same sort of basic costumes (as custom made fashions).
“Now that the designers, newly freed of wartime stringencies, can create radically different styles in great variety, women have an ideal opportunity to choose the unhackeyed, to insist upon buying, not what is the rage but what is exactly right for them.
“California has a background and atmosphere which promotes a new, fresh feeling in our styles” she says. “American women are so different from European women, in shape and posture, and way of life. We, in California, are, I think, particularly well equipped to interpret much that is typically American”.
Her philosophy would shape the kind of fashions she designed, always keeping in mind her customer’s figure and lifestyle, working to create designs that would flatter them.
She was married with a baby by 1948, but continued to design. In the early 1950’s she had her own manufacturing plant in Hollywood. In addition, Georgia took a design position with the well known label “Nellie Don” in 1953, located in Kansas City, the largest manufacturer of women’s clothing. It appears that she was able to work from Los Angeles for this venture while still working on her own line.
The “Georgia Bullock” label would symbolize the effortless style of the well-to-do woman who could afford the best in design, fabrics and fit. During this time her style tended toward suave and sophisticated. During the early 1950’s she widened her line to include sportswear with a elegant sense of style. Catering to the country club crowd, she presented her fashion shows on her own tennis courts at her home in Holmby Estates. These fashions were carried by the high end department stores, such as Saks, I. Magnin’s, and Bullock’s Wilshire.
In 1958 her fashions were worn on the Danny Thomas television show “Make Room for Daddy”. This symbolized her connection to the entertainment industry and to her ability to self promote as well.
Her career continued to grow, with clients nationally. By the early 1960’s, she was living in Malibu, creating fashions for the California beach, country club and resort lifestyle.
In an important move, in 1963 she launched her “Miss Georgia” line. These designs were less expensive with price points around $50 (her “Georgia Bullock” label sold for twice that). They were more fitted, showing clean lines, long sleeves or capped sleeves, while her own label was more complex and fashion forward.
1961: Bright cotton prints were shown for patio, poolside and at home dresses were seen to knee or ankle length with hem flounce. Georgia kept artist smocks in her lines for at-home wear, often in gay prints. Wraparound dresses, jackets in printed cottons, pants and long slim dresses with adjustable belts were also popular.
Mid-1960’s “Barefoot styles”: she described her at-home fashions as something that should be worn barefoot, much like her own beach lifestyle. It included artist smocks, eyelet pants, and hostess dresses for the bare foot.
1964: Her high end line showed the“costume look” with a jacket or coat and dress in slim sheaths, princess lines, pleated styles, lowered waistlines. Overblouse silhouettes and longer jackets to hide hips were part of her figure flattering strategy.
In 1966 she would receive the Designer of the Year award for her work. Georgia’s final years as a designer were in the 1970’s. At that time she continued to show her lines at her home, then in Palm Springs or at the beach town of Carlsbad.
Georgia Bullock was considered a couture designer for the designs under her own label, never sacrificing quality fabrics and styling or catering to fads. She continued to live in southern California until her passing in 1991. During her career, her name was well known nationally and she had full page magazine advertisements. Overall, she will be known for her classics: designed with a good fit and in fine fabrics. Georgia’s designs were was popular for her blazers and jackets, sheath dresses and ensembles, but also the colorful casual lines, designed for her own California lifestyle.