Shirokiya Japanese Silk Kimono From The Showa Era ~ With Breathtaking Scenic Art

This silk kimono features a mountain scene with people – some walking, and others on donkeys or horseback, others with carts, as they wind their way down the mountainside. The scene is on the back of the kimono only. It is in a dark grayish-green base colour, with other muted blues and some luminescent colours blended into the grandiosity of the mountain scenery. Underneath the main image – there are abstract looking gold tone trees, giving an appearance of being uprooted and blowing in the wind. It is lined in a muted, lighter coloured silk.

Thankfully it has a label dating it to the Shirokiya department store in Japan somewhere between 1903 and 1940’s. It looks to be twenties or thirties to me. The store burned down in the thirties. Apparently the women in the building on the upper floor did not want to jump because they wore no underwear underneath the kimonos. As they looked down upon the growing crowd of onlookers – they could not bear to be so exposed. The story might be myth though – however widespread. Regardless – it led to a surge in the sales of western undies and pantaloons!

After doing a little more reading – this kimono would be from the Showa era 1929-80’s placing it in the thirties or forties, based on the label and artwork. Once you examine the imagery on this kimono – and then compare it to the earlier period kimonos depicting wealth, stability, prosperity and brightness – you can see this one has a more somber tone. Instead of having bright floral scenes and birds – it shows people leaving an area. It represents being dispossessed as opposed to being carefree, happy, stable – and able to demonstrate the artistic elements of a fanciful existence. There are no signs of light-hearted whimsy on this one. They are not chasing butterflies.

In looking at the political time frame that brought about the upheaval – it makes sense. This kimono would be from the thirties or possibly the forties – as displacement and unrest became increasingly prevalent in Japan, and the rest of the world. Nevertheless – it is a poignant and beautiful scene. Whatever emotions reside in the human spirit – will be expressed in the art of the time period. It is a deftly transposed reflection of their experience – and the overwhelming power that looms larger than they are. It creates a majesty all around them in the mountains as they weave their way to a destination on a downward journey.

It is a depiction of just one stream of humanity in our human history – as they were caught up and swept along by external forces beyond their control. It is another reminder, as we approach this Remembrance Day weekend – that peace and democracy has great value to all of us, regardless of what culture or historical time frame we come from.

Stroheim & Romann Exclusive Hand Printed Fantasy Garden Textile ~ With A Palette Of A Dozen Colours

This artful textile is labelled along one side “Stroheim Romann Inc. Exclusive Hand Print Fantasy Garden” and shows the colour palette with a dozen colours. Thinking in terms of offset printing – this is one expensive printing job! It never ceases to amaze me how some textiles can stay so vibrantly alive, almost increasingly so – as they age. The aliveness is in direct proportion to the time and effort that went into creating it.

Trifari & Alfred Philippe Designer History ~ From Cartier & Van Cleef & Arpels

Trifari became one of the world’s most recognizable names in collectible costume jewelery. Italian immigrant Gustavo Trifari founded the company in New York City in 1910. In 1930 Alfred Philippe joined Trifari as the head designer. Prior to joining Trifari, he had been with Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. Phillipe preferred using individually hand set imported Swarovski crystals. Similar to mid-century Ciner and Panetta jewelry – the designers first worked with precious metals and gemstones. When the glamorous era of the thirties caught on – the objective was to make costume jewelry of such a quality as to mimic the real thing.

After the war Trifari developed their own type of base metal called “Trifanium” . During the fifties and sixties the company continued to grow and thrive in the business of ritz and glitz glamour. In 1968 the legendary designer Alfred Philippe retired. Andre Boeuf (also previously from Cartier) became a lead designer. During the seventies notable designers Kenneth Jay Lane, Kunio Matsumoto, Marcells Saltz, and Jean Paris created designs for Trifari.

Trifari remained a family run business until the early sixties. It was sold to Hallmark in the seventies, and then purchased by Chase Capital (Monet Group). By 2000 Trifari was sold to the Liz Claiborne Corporation and moved production overseas. Certain luxury vintage costume jewelry will occasionally be unsigned (such as Chanel, Weiss, Sherman and some unknown early and mid-century master craftsmen and designers). One little known fact to share about Trifari – is that their pieces are always signed. The patent numbers and corresponding dates can be researched on Google.

The following are a few examples of Trifari jewelry in a range of dates prior to 2000.

 

The House Of Rodier ~ With More Than A Century Of Excellence In French Knitwear

The French designer Rodier has maintained a certain obscurity or subtlety over the past century. But once acquainted with some of their product, this brand is worthy of accolades for its long tradition of excellence in knitwear.

The House of Rodier was formally established in France during the mid eighteen hundreds. With a primary focus on knitwear, they began redesigning shawls of the Kashmir, which brought them acclaim for their creative divergency. The elaborately decorated shawls from the late eighteen hundreds through to the twenties, created stunning examples of the arts and culture of the time.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s Rodier assisted Jean Patou as he embarked on his career in fashion design. They also redesigned a fine knit jersey commonly used in undergarments, which was later made famous by Chanel. The looms of Rodier attracted much inspiration from other cultures. Like a laboratory of looms, they experimented with a variety of fabrics to include spun rayon called senellic. Some articles claim Rodier made sweaters for Chanel, Patou, Lanvin and other luxury brands during the post war years. Since inception – they were central to the “sweater and knitwear source” coming out of France.

Rodier created its first ready to wear line in 1956, and like all luxury brand companies has gone through many changes over the years. In the 1980’s they did an expansion with a focus on the US market. Over the following decade they spiced up their line and sold to multiple luxury boutiques.

As the century came to a close Rodier opted to do a number of licensing agreements. Alas, the tradition of excellence may now be compromised, which makes the earlier Rodier knitwear as distinctive and coveted as it was during Napoleon’s reign.

Below are some pre-millennial examples of Rodier sweaters:

When It Comes To Vintage Fashion Experts ~ Does Anyone Really Know It All?

As much as we can appreciate and learn from the expertise of others, beware of the collectors and sellers who claim to know it all. For those who are truly immersed in vintage textiles and design, it is a never-ending learning curve. When we seriously delve into the arts, like many other vast topics – it will increase our awareness of how little we know. A stubborn superiority will do nothing to alleviate our ignorance.

There are thousands of different types of fabric. Rayon alone has fifty different types and descriptions. The difference between hand loomed and machine loomed requires knowledge and a close examination of the garment. Fabrics such as mock crochet and many of the silk satin blends used in vintage clothing are now obsolete. Historical textiles from Egypt, India and Japan, for instance – can be traced back two or three thousand years. One could study textiles alone for an entire lifetime and still not know it all.

The same goes for jewelry. For example, there are thousands of sterling silver markings. I believe Mexico alone has around twenty-five hundred. Jewelry is fairly easy to transport and save – therefore it is more likely to survive the test of time. The country of origin in both textiles and jewelry design shines through in the product. Mexican sterling silver is artistically superb – especially the early and mid-century Taxco. Scandinavian and Navajo sterling silver has a very different and distinctive look compared to Mexican sterling silver. Gemstones in the jewelry also reflect the country of origin, such as the old turquoise mines, gemstones in the particular location, various treatments, settings, and alloys used.

One of the big questions in vintage clothing is in the perceived authentication of designer pieces. I don’t dispute that the vintage clothing market is complex, because it is and always has been in a state of flux and change. It is easiest to see this once you compare the same brand from decade to decade. Louis Feraud clothing from the sixties is highly desirable and recognizable. The eighties Louis Feraud is not as distinctive or as creative, however some of the scarves and certain pieces are drop dead gorgeous regardless of the age.

In my opinion the primary way to authenticate a designer garment is twofold – one is by the labels. The other is by the fabric and design. The best designer vintage has all labels to include the brand, fabric and where it was made. Pre-seventies clothing will often not have fabric content because it was not a legal requirement to have the fabric and care labels until then. Experience does help with evaluating the authenticity of a garment. However, if that information cannot be passed onto the consumer logically and without the pretense of knowing something they don’t know – how is that fair to the consumer or to the industry?

The art and history surrounding fashion design and textiles is as vast as any field can be. We are studiers and stewards of things that came before us – things we ourselves did not create. As human beings we are prone to making mistakes. There are hundreds of little tricks to help us identify things. If you use a jeweler’s loupe to examine fabric, it helps differentiate types of embroidery, the warp and weft of the fabric, loomed versus printed, damask versus brocade, etc. Gradually more and more criteria gets added to the list in your head when evaluating vintage garments. Anything that has covered buttons and/or silk lining warrants a second look.

A jeweler’s loupe will also help identify hand painted versus transfer decal, because you can see the dot pattern in anything that is printed. To determine if cinnabar is real, you hold the loupe at an angle and look for the layers in the lacquering. There is a very strong intuitive sense one gets from certain things. In some cases I will know immediately if the item is authentic – without looking at any labels. I do not buy anything designer with a Made in China label with the exception of vintage and antique Chinese silk embroidered pieces and Chinese export porcelain (and mud men). A small percentage of things in the collection are made in Hong Kong.

In many cases with jewelry I cannot identify markings that are worn or too faded. Another example is that designer labels like Dries van Noten were originally made in Belgium. Now many of the luxury labels are made in India. Dries van Noten also has clothing made in Romania on newer items. My philosophy is to be honest and up front about where an item was made and price accordingly. I do not consider famous brands to be authentic unless they are made in the country of origin. It may be a purist attitude but that’s how I see it.

In reality vintage designer clothing has become the crème de la crème of high fashion. Certain iconic pieces by Versace, Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, Karl Lagerfeld, Rudy Gernreich, Christian Dior, Valentino, Courreges as just some examples – are now fetching prices between five and twenty-five thousand dollars per item. Some of the well-preserved dresses from the twenties are now listed on various sites for several thousand dollars each. I checked a textile auction in New York and saw that designer dresses with significant damage from the fifties and sixties sold for close to a thousand dollars each.

The clincher is that certain pieces by certain designers at specific times in their careers – are like original or limited edition art pieces. They represent the creative genius that drapes the human form – with rich colors, textiles, fluidity of movement and multi-dimensional ideas. The art in design has no room for know-it-alls. It is one big mirror room – both dazzling and dizzying in scope. A vintage clothing collection reflects the culture of a country. Online collections of vintage clothing from different locations are a unique representation of local talent as well as the migratory nature of things from faraway. I love to look at collections of vintage kimonos from Japan. The artistic elements of the Japanese kimonos surpass most textiles. A collection of vintage kaftans from Morocco would create an awesome and inspirational show.

We are all partakers of fashion to some degree. Some of us like to keep fanning the flames of fame for those with vision because they created beautiful things with lasting value. We pluck what we pluck for many reasons. I believe it is best to be dedicated to learning and willing to admit and correct mistakes. Why? Curiosity is a driving force. The field is sweeping and boundless. The biggest mistake is to get arrogant and convey to consumers that we know-it-all. It is completely acceptable to cite ones credentials – with specifics, not braggadocio hot air. We are more or less prone to filling in gaps with mere conjecture. I do accept and respect the knowledge of others, but it is not based on what they claim to be, more on what they are interested in and have experience with.

To create a division between “us and them” from those who declare to be experts – is the kind of limit the arts neither needs nor accepts. Just as in poetry, we get to pick and choose our words. That’s the beauty of art. Quite simply when it comes to vintage fashion and design – no one knows it all. The flow and finesse surrounding beauty and creativity in the arts contains a central hypothesis. Since it applies to almost all things requiring talent or knowledge – not only in the visual arts, but also in sports, literature, music, academia and technology. The bottom line is – show me your stuff. Don’t tell me how great you are. When it comes to vintage fashion – we are talking about material things. Besides all that – it is probably wise and a better reality check, to let those with less of a cognitive bias, be the ones to decide how great we are.

The Finale ~ Celebrating Canada’s Best Mid-Century Designers ~ Montreal Is The Winner!

To sum up the Canadian Designer Celebration mini series, a high percentage of Canada’s best mid-century designs and designers, have their roots in Montreal. The more I delve into the collection, and the labels – the more I realize how much of our great fashion history can be credited to Montreal. When it comes to fashion, the French do not disappoint. Toronto as a second runner-up, retains a mid-century vibrancy, with its legacy of notable designers.

The Montreal designed little black cocktail dresses from the sixties, are as sleek, and as wearable today, as they were back then. The hallmark of a great designer, is in the timelessness of their creations. I will happily share some exclusive examples…Starting with a late fifties, or early sixties Irving Nadler lace cocktail dress with a cape style top.

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Irving Nadler, Montreal Late 1950's or early 1960's Cocktail Dress

Irving Nadler, Montreal Late 1950’s or early 1960’s Cocktail Dress

DSC_0302DSC_0313The next 1960’s little black dress from Montreal is aptly labeled – After dark Cocktails.

After dark Cocktails, Montreal 1960's black halter dress.

After dark Cocktails, Montreal 1960’s black halter dress.

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Another Montreal classic little black dress, 1960’s black velvet, with gold piping at the waist.  This one has the musical label – Beau Time Melodie Frocks.

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An impressive 1950’s full circle skirt by Montreal designer Val Hughes.

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To end the series on a brighter note, this very artistic, abstract printed silk skirt, is labelled Cocktail Montreal. Thanks to these fabulous and talented designers of the eras  – they put Canada on the runway, when it comes to mid-century chic.

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Celebrating Fabulous Canadian Hat Designers ~ Lilliput, Nadelle, Leopold, Andre & M’Sieu Leon

These wonderful hat designs are mid-century Canadian, made in Montreal and Toronto:

Lilliput, Toronto feathered fedora with velvet accents.

Lilliput Feathered Vintage Fedora in brown tones. made in Toronto, Canada

Lilliput Feathered Vintage Fedora – Toronto, Canada

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Featuring Nadelle, Montreal 1960’s velvet lampshade hat, and Nadelle 1960’s elaborate beaded turban.

 

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H072frontviewH072nadellesatinhatLeopold Original, Toronto 1960’s Velvet Hat With Big Satin Bow.

DSC_0478DSC_0469Andre, Montreal 1960’s Gold Brocade Turban.

H0058mainH068close2M’Sieu Leon, Montreal 1970’s Beaver Fedora.

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Accolades To Mid-Century Canadian Designer & Retailer ~ Madame Runge

Madame Runge was an upscale retail shop on South Granville Street in Vancouver, from the late thirties until the seventies. I believe most of the clothing designs they carried, were commissioned and made by Montreal designers. Some of the examples are; Harold Taub For Madame Runge, Silverworm For Madame Runge, Gerson For Madame Runge… Regardless of the different designers, vintage clothing with Madame Runge labels are of exceptional fabric, style and quality.

The last image in the post, is a 1960’s double breasted green wool coat. It shows both the Madame Runge label, as well as “Styled By Gerson Inc. Montreal”. Although Madame Runge was based out of Vancouver, it is a rarity now, to come across the label in Vancouver.

The first dress and coat set in this post has been in the Quiet West Vintage collection for about thirty years. The green silk fil coup dress below it, is a more recent purchase. One thing for certain, Madame Runge labels are, and always will be, sought after and treasured by vintage clothing connoisseurs.

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Madame Runge Dress & Coat Set

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Madame Runge Dress With Ruffle & Trim

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Madame Runge Close Up Buttons & Trim

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Madame Runge 1970’s Silk Fil Coup With Plunging Neckline

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Madame Runge 1960’s Double Breasted Wool Coat Co-Labeled Styled By Gerson Montreal

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Styled By Marek Gerson Inc. Montreal

Celebrating Canadian Designer Wayne Clark ~ Featuring A 1980’s Silk Chiffon Couture Cocktail Dress

This exceptional 1980’s Wayne Clark Couture dress, is made of layered silk chiffon, with  rhinestone embellished lace inserts in the bodice, and sheer balloon sleeves. The dress has rows of satin piping down the length of the skirt, satin cuffs, and matching trim on the bottom layers, of an asymmetrical hemline. The back is open, plunging to the waist, and ties at the back of the neck, with a dangling satin ribbon.

For those who love the floating and fluid movement of a silk chiffon skirt, and being well covered; in a pose to behold. Those watching your back, will know… A Wayne Clark dress – is worth its weight in the folds!

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Celebrating Canada’s Finest Designers ~ Gustave Sherman ~ A Cut Above & A Shine Beyond ~ A Lifetime

Gustave Sherman of Montreal made costume jewellery from 1947-1981. The company logo was “made to last a lifetime”. He sourced out, and used the highest quality Swarovski crystals, and set very high production standards. The backing on Sherman jewellery is heavily rhodium plated, japanned, or sterling. The stones are brilliant, cut with precision, into narrow marquise stones, with cluster elements, and stunning designs.  Sherman jewellery lasts to this day, and will last much longer, therefore the jewellery was made to last more than one lifetime.

Sherman jewellery has always been recognized as high end costume jewellery, and was sold through luxury retailers and jewellery stores. The jewellery continues to be highly collectible. Certain pieces, in particular full sets, and the colour Siam red, command high prices, and have set off bidding wars on Ebay. Gustave Sherman passed away in 1984. His legacy, and commitment to the highest standards in craftsmanship, has left us with sparkle and shine – to wear and to admire, for many years to come. From the Quiet West collection, the following are some fine examples of the lasting quality in Sherman jewellery.

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Sherman Pink Earrings & Matching Pin

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Sherman Script Signature

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Sherman Earrings With Blue Marquise Cut Stones

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Sherman Signature in Block Letters

 

Gustave Sherman stunning vintage necklace - signed

Gustave Sherman Stunning Vintage Necklace

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Sherman Signature On Necklace

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Sherman Bracelet With Coloured Stones

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Sherman Bracelet With Safety Chain On Clasp

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Sherman Signature On Coloured Bracelet

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Sherman Fabulous Large Rhinestone Pin - Signed

Sherman Fabulous Large Rhinestone Pin

Gutave Sherman Blue Crystal Pin Signed on the Back

Gustave Sherman Blue Crystal Pin

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Celebrating Canada’s Finest Designers ~ A Six Part Series ~ Featuring A 1960’s Kaftan By The Brilliant Claire Haddad

Claire Haddad: Born July 17, 1924 – May 17, 2016. Her bio states she is “an Order of Canada recipient, and fashion designer to the stars”. One of her dresses was on the front cover of Vogue magazine in April 1966, worn by model Veruschka von Lendorff, and photographed by Rubartelli. Based out of Toronto she was known for creating eclectic lounge wear, and luxurious high fashion sleepwear from the early sixties until the eighties. She was forward thinking enough to envision loungewear, worn as elegant evening attire outside the home.

From the Quiet West collection – it is a pleasure to share a fabulous 1960’s Claire Haddad kaftan featuring a desert scene on a vivd background of electrifying colours, which was so hip in the sixties. The trim is black, loopy cord, and outlines the neckline downward to the V opening on the front. The trim changes into looped cord buttonholes, for small, rounded black buttons. The two front slits and sleeves are also accented with matching trim. The overall portrayal is so sixties trippy – of swaying, shocking pink palm trees – and camels heading into a psychedelic oasis. It really is brilliant!

Claire Haddad 1960’s Kaftan

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Country Of Origin In Clothing Design & Manufacturing

The reality is that most luxe brands are now outsourced to China, India, Tunsia, Sri Lanka, Romania, Turkey, Bangladesh, and so on. In many cases, the label will have Italy or Paris written on it, but the fabric content and care label, will give the real country of origin. Items without a country of origin label; can be assumed to be outsourced, unless they are authentic vintage, and the item holds up to scrutiny in the textile, workmanship, and design.

With years of experience, in looking through racks of second hand clothing, the country of origin can often be recognized without even looking at the label. One of the rising values in the spectrum of the vintage fashion market is that – it is fast becoming the only place one can buy authentic luxury brand fashion items, from the original country of origin. Regardless of advertising to the contrary, there are inherent differences among the countries:

Canada & UK – tend to manufacture clothing of good quality and materials, however the style or design, often leaves much to be desired. Both countries have turned out some awesome luxury brand designers such as Frank Usher and Mulberry in Britain, and Claire Haddad and Wayne Clark in Canada. However, the frumpy, conservative and stodgy – is definitely in with the mix.

USA – with New York as a global fashion hub, the US has turned out many luxe brands, with vintage hats near the top of the list. Similar to Canada and Britain, there is generally good quality and workmanship, with some fantastic designs, and others to pass by.

China, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh – for the most part, the clothing is flimsy, fast fashion.

Japan – turns out the most beautiful textiles, with the kimonos being works of art. Textiles made in Japan, are not that common, but in my experience, tend to be of good quality and construction.

India – with a rich history in textiles, turns out the most beautifully embellished fabrics, using beads, embroidery, tiny mirrors, and appliqués, often on vibrantly coloured silks. The clothing is usually casual, like the summertime free flowing dresses and skirts, so commonly seen. The problem is – so much of the clothing from India, does not have proper closures. If they do, they may not line up quite right. In my opinion, it is like there is greater focus on the textile, than there is on the garment construction.

Switzerland & Belgium – are at the top of the list when it comes to cost of labor. Dries Van Noten is a luxe brand originally from Belgium, and now outsourcing to India. I have items from this designer, from both Belgium and India, and do notice a difference.

Germany – has made luxe brands such as Louis Feraud, and Escada (originally made in Germany, now made in India) and several other well known brands. They tend to make quality clothing, with some great historical designers, but with a tendency (like Canada and the UK) to maintain high values for quality, practicality and common sense.

Australia & New Zealand – are also very high in labour cost. Similar to Canada, and Britain, they tend to make clothing of good quality and workmanship. I seldom come across things from Australia and New Zealand, and have only picked up a few items made there.

Italy & France – I concentrate on finding clothing made in Italy and France especially, and would estimate less than 1% of items in the second hand market are made in France. There are a half a dozen French labels I don’t buy when they turn up, such as Morgan de Toi and Copine. Some of the Italian labels are also categorically not worth buying. But, for the most part, the best clothing items, superior in fabric, quality, design and workmanship – are made in Italy or France.

In summary, Italy and France can never be displaced, or replaced – when it comes to the innate and historical savour-faire in the soigné circles!

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2016). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I. Magnin & Co. ~ Among The First To Bring Parisian High Fashion To North America

As with many brand names, there is now an I. Magnin, making licensed product, using the I. Magnin name, without the Co. at the end, and without the same level of quality. Due to mergers and takeovers, it was bought out by Macy’s, who now uses the name or trademark, for a house brand of clothing. The original I. Magnin & Co. was a department store started by an enterprising couple in the late eighteen hundreds in San Francisco. After the earthquake and fire in 1906, the couple managed to keep the business alive by selling product out of their home during the period of rebuilding.

By 1912, the company had secured several retail locations in high end hotels. They expanded from there, creating a large, luxury brand department store footprint in the west. One of the most notable locations (they moved into in 1948) was in Union Square, and was referred to as the White Marble Palace. Once in the high end market (from 1912 on), they began importing the latest Parisian styles, attracting a growing and upscale clientele. The earliest I. Magnin & Co. items will have “Paris” or “Imported” on the label. They focused on couture, and bought from designers such as Christian Dior, Lanvin and Chanel. This was during a time when these designers were keen to get into the North American market.

The I. Magnin & Co. also designed and made luxury brand clothing in the U.S. The following link shows the many locations, and how much they expanded during the post war years:

http://www.thedepartmentstoremuseum.org/2010/11/i-magnin-co-san-francisco-california.html

The hat featured in this post is a gem from I. Magnin & Co. when they were still at their peak, in the Fashion Square concept that was started in 1944, following a merge with Bullocks.

The dress featured in this post is an earlier I. Magnin & Co. Imported dress. As an educated guess, I believe it is a 1930’s or early 40’s (pre-war) full length Lanvin dress with a softly draping, very wide full skirt, in a fun-ky fruit like print, with a matching hood! It’s gorgeous. The following link is a good article on the history and background of Lanvin:

http://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/education/jeanne-lanvin-1867-1946

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I. Magnin & Co. 1960’s Wool & Fur Hat

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Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2016). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Classy Canadians ~ Vancouver’s Fashion Historian Ivan Sayers

Whenever I meet someone and start talking about vintage clothing, they ask me if I know Ivan Sayers. One of the most memorable highlights of my vintage clothing experiences; was when he gave me a private tour of Panache 2000 fifteen years ago. It was the most beautiful display of vintage and antique dresses that one could ever imagine. Each one of the lavishly elegant dresses chosen for the exhibit, was posed on a white porcelain mannequin, that had been specially ordered. The show was taken on tour, was featured in several major fashion magazines at the time, and won a global designers award. The accolades were well deserved. Ivan Sayers is a life long dedicated fashion historian – with a keen eye for the sublime.

He is thought to have the largest private collection of vintage and antique clothing in Canada. For many years now – he has shared his wealth, and breadth of knowledge and inspiration in vintage and antique clothing. The contribution he has made to Vancouver’s history and culture is immeasurable.

In addition to the various shows and talks he gives, there are classes offered through Simon Fraser University. We are fortunate to have someone who can demonstrate both the tangible and the intangible, the theoretical, and the theatrical – the visuals, the hands on, and the transfer of knowledge. It shows us that the best of our material roots, full of provenance, change, story telling and travel, can be saved and suspended – depicting the talent and richness of each era.

 

January Feature of the Month ~ 1920’s Embroidered Piano Shawl

This gorgeous silk hand embroidered piano shawl is still luxurious and vibrant, almost a hundred years after it was made with painstaking patience. This one, fortunately, has been stored away from dust and direct sunlight over the years. Piano shawls have to be handled with great care to avoid knotting and tangling the fringe. Originally made to cover pianos, these shawls were used in elaborate fashion photo shoots in the twenties with a revival featured in Vogue magazine in the late sixties. The last two pictures in the post show the reverse side of some of the embroidery.

1920's hand embroidered silk fringed piano shawl

1920’s Hand Embroidered Silk Fringed Piano Shawl

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Reverse Side

Reverse Side

Reverse Side

Reverse Side

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2015). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Grand Tour ~ Italian Antique Mosaic Jewelry

Tesserae is the term that is used to describe one of the smallest components of stone or glass used to create a mosaic. During the Renaissance (14th-17th century) Italy – with its famous glass makers and master craftsmen, began to create micro mosaic jewelry. They created scenes and religious icons by arranging tiny bits of cut glass within a setting.

The real trend or popularity of wearing micro mosaic jewelry followed the Renaissance period into what is described as the Grand Tour between the 17th and 19th century. This promotional tour consisted of the European upper class traveling to Italy to take in the famed Italian arts and culture. During this time, the Italian peninsula became a popular tourist destination for the scenery, the enhanced social status, education and cultural adventure that was part of the Grand Tour experience.

Micro mosaics were used in other art objects in addition to jewelry. It was generally considered that the finer and smaller the tesserae, the more valuable the piece. The pin and bracelet in this post are examples of Italian mosaic jewelry. You can click on the image and then maximize it for a closer look at the tiny tesserae – as well as the detailed metal work within the setting.

vintage micro-mosaic pin made in Italy

Italian Mico-Mosaic

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Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2015). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Fashion Spin Cycles

In the eighties and nineties I organized a few vintage fashion shows and did some basic research in order to do the narration for each show. What I learned then, is that fashion has traditionally had a thirty-five year cycle, where the styles of one era would be revived and re-created again, with some innovative variations. Because of this, there were distinctive things that “dated” clothing. For example, in the seventies, we wore bell-bottoms that were so wide and long that the bottoms became frayed and you tripped over them while crossing the street. Or, when those high-rise jeans that fit snugly around your waist went to the other extreme, followed by several years with clothing racks full of jeans and slacks that were so low in the rise that they had a one-inch long zipper. If you wore the style from a previous decade – it was ridiculed. But, let’s face it – some styles are ridiculous. Absurd actually. But, it’s not necessarily their age that makes them absurd.

Sometime into the eighties the fashion cycle began to shrink. During that time the frequency of the changes in fashion began to increase. The thirty-five year cycle went to twenty years, then ten, and early in the millennium, I recall reading that it had shrunk to seven years. This rapid cycling has become known as fast fashion. The mass produced disposable end of the clothing market has been churning out vintage inspired trends faster than we can follow. The underlying reason for this is that constantly changing trends and low prices will drive volume sales and increase the fashion industries profits. But ironically, what it has also done, is to increase individual freedom and create a much broader horizon for individual style and choice. Sort of an “anything goes” scenario that is a fairly new concept in the  scope of fashion history. Therefore, this rapid spin of fast fashion might be losing its point, or its sustainability, as others predicted would happen years ago.  On the up side, it has resulted in a significant blurring of the line between what’s in and what’s not in style. Since things so often swing to extremes, and fast fashion is filling up the landfills – maybe now we can swing back to the foundational quality and garment care that our wiser forefathers embraced.

To be rational about all the vintage buzz, a high percentage of vintage clothing is not worth keeping or copying. Just because it is vintage doesn’t mean it has style. And just because it is second hand doesn’t mean it is vintage. When clothing is advertised as vintage inspired or vintage styled – it is simply a capitalization of a now popular buzz-word, in order to increase the sales of their mass produced clothing. The other thing to be aware of – is that a percentage of authentic vintage clothing is made with exceptional style, quality of workmanship and material – yet it may not have a designer label. I know this statement seemingly contradicts a previous post I wrote about licensing brands, fakes and knock-offs, but in that case, the reference is to designer and contemporary clothing. Vintage has a different knowledge base regarding fabrics and sewing techniques, with some unusual quirks in the placement and types of labels used. Some of the beautiful and professionally made dresses from the thirties, forties and fifties don’t have designer labels.

There will always be trends. I believe the trend that is developing now is one of a much more sophisticated consumer. One who is inclined to research, to be more environmentally aware – and will wear what suits her personality and body type without being swayed so much by the spin surrounding fashion trends. Perhaps another off the grid trend is a reduced willingness to sacrifice comfort or mobility for style. After all, it’s pretty difficult to look effortlessly chic with a grimace on your face, or by tripping over twenty-four inch wide bell-bottoms. The truly fashion savvy women will seek both form and function – without sacrificing too much of either.

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2014). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Parisian Patter ~ Chasing French Skirts

The French without a doubt have the knack for fashion, with an intuitive grasp of what is ephemeral – and an even better grasp of what is timeless. To take it a step further, the style magazines tell us that the trick to developing a Parisian look is to avoid trends and work toward developing a uniquely personal signature look. The individual aesthetic is something that involves a healthy assessment of what looks and feels best, from both an objective and a subjective point of view.

Regardless of trends, true confidence involves choosing styles that flatter your figure and show what makes you distinct. For some, knee length pencil skirts look fantastic. Others look and feel better in A-line or pleated skirts. In general, the Parisian style has its foundation in quality staple items and a neutral palette. When choosing staple garments such as skirt styles, the fit is most important. Adding some French fashion pieces to your wardrobe, that are tailored to your own individual style and figure – will quite possibly become favorite wardrobe staples for many years to come. Timeless!

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Philippe Salvet

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M Daquin

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Courreges

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It’s By A.A

 

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Lanvin

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2014). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Luxury Brand Licensing ~ Fakes & Knock-Offs

The fashion industry is a complex one, increasingly so as time goes on, since both the licensed brands and the fakes are outsourced and mass-produced in China. If the brand has a legitimate licensing agreement, then it can be argued that the item is legally not a fake. Therefore how do you tell what is fake and what is not on these high-ticket items? Do you stop to google the corporate history, bankruptcies and mergers before you buy that Armani or Fendi blazer? In a sense, mass produced luxury brand is an oxymoron. There is a fundamental contradiction when it comes to value.

The changes in the fashion industry since the nineties or so has been staggering. One of the biggest changes is the upsurge of luxury brand outsourcing. I believe that the mass produced licensed brands should not be passed off as anything other than mass-produced and should be priced accordingly. The notion that a blazer that is mass produced in China is in the same price range as a one-off blazer made in Italy, France or Germany  (with attention to detail, hand stitching and quality fabric), just because of a licensing agreement – is not fair to the consumer. The design is not everything. The fabric, workmanship and country of origin do matter.

As an example, a vintage Fendi blazer is made of 100% wool, has hand stitched trim and is very well constructed. It has all labels including where it was made. In contrast, a contemporary Fendi blazer that is a more recent purchase, has a nice style – but it is flimsy, a polyester blend. It has the Fendi label inside the jacket but no tags to indicate where it was made.

For those who are familiar with changes in the clothing labels over the past few decades, or with vintage clothing, you will be familiar with some of the early union labels. The American International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) was formed in 1900 to protect the almost all female working population from being exploited in sweatshop factories in North America. Canadian clothing from 1968 to 1984 also has the union label. These union labels are very valuable in dating vintage clothing. They also signify the North American history of the recognition of fundamental economic rights of  the women and children in “sweatshop factories” – garment workers who had been working under conditions of slave labour. It was part of the battle for women’s rights in general. This is an example of what a union label looks like. It is often found in the waist or side seam of a garment.

ILGUWunionlabel

Licensing luxury brand names is a goldmine for the licensor. But, licensed and mass produced luxury brand is not the same as the original brand. In my opinion, the country of origin – where the item was manufactured – should be a tag that is required on all garments. That way, a licensed brand can be easily identified and the consumer can decide if it is worth it. If an item is manufactured without such a tag – such as the newer Fendi blazer that I described – it does not have the quality, workmanship or label to indicate where it was made. In my opinion, that Fendi blazer is worth far less, and even in the absence of a country of origin label, it would not be honest to pretend that it is not Made in China, because after awhile you can tell, almost the minute you pick something up, if it is Made in China. It can look pretty in a picture, but it’s not the same as the real thing. You can’t expect to create a luxury product by paying low wages, with lower quality fabrics, using standards of mass production – without compromising quality.

Just like the old adage “Size Matters” – So do labels. Don’t be fooled by zero sizes and omissions of labels, or so-called authentic brand licensing. There is a big difference between the original luxury brand products and the mass produced imitations.

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2014). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

1950’s Wiggle Dress ~ Eye Popper ~ Stride Stopper

The wiggle dress was used to describe a 1950’s dress style that has a narrow fit in the waist and torso. The defining trait is that it is narrower at the bottom than it is at the hips. It is a style that emphasizes an hourglass figure and was favoured for the pin-up girl photography.

The reason it was called the wiggle dress is because you have to take small steps while walking – thus creating a gait that causes the hips to sway. It may have been a style that rose out of a vintage inspired revival of the hobble skirt, which was in vogue from 1910 into the twenties. The hobble skirt was long and very narrow at the bottom. Even more of a challenge! When the corsets and caged hoops went out, next came a dress design that made it faster to hop than to walk!  Now all that is needed with the fifties wiggle dress is five inch heels and there will be no running wild while wearing one of these outfits! It’s probably easiest to just strike a pose and look pretty.

Aside from hoops, corsets and bustles – the real wiggle dress is up there when it comes to impracticality. It feels like your legs are bound every time you take a stride. Nowadays, the wiggle dress is a term that is used to describe a variety of vintage and “vintage inspired” dresses. But, to reduce it to the origin of the actual wiggle – if it doesn’t constrict your stride – it’s not a wiggle dress! Here is an example of one. I did wear it once – and can attest to the baby steps it took to get anywhere.

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Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2014). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Fashion Freedom ~ Runnin’ Wild

If we look at an overview of fashion history over the past two hundred years – it is quite revealing. The pendulum did swing. It seems that the two world wars had the greatest influence on women’s fashion, which led to the fashion revolutions of the twenties and again in the sixties. When the men went to war, women had to take care of the farms, children, businesses – and in many cases, do the work of a man. It changed things. There was a period of liberation and newfound confidence that developed. Women did not have to be put on display in corsets and hoops. In danced the flapper era, bobbed hair and the Charleston.

The Charleston is a dance that became popular in 1923, when it was featured in the Broadway show called “Runnin’ Wild”. It became a dance craze associated with flappers, prohibition and the term speakeasy. The term speakeasy caught on when a newspaper described saloons and taverns as speak-easies. During prohibition there were many places that sold alcohol. They were raided frequently, but were so profitable – it made no difference. In fact there was a marked increase in organized crime associated with prohibition. In addition to the term speakeasy, the taverns were also referred to as Big ol Ben, Big Toad, Blind Pig or Blind Tiger. The viewing of the animal was argued to be the main attraction. The owner of the establishment would place an animal on display. The patrons would get served alcoholic beverages after they paid to see the animal. They drank and danced the Charleston – frequently with women dancing while the men watched. It is most interesting to know that a song that was written and composed for a Broadway Musical ended up having such far-reaching societal impact with a strong political message. People just refused to have no fun. And although that is a double negative – it turned out okay.

The Second World War was rife with so much propaganda and grief – it took years for the next wave of rebellion to percolate. When it did – the skirts got shorter and some went on acid Kool-Aid trips. There was a generation gap like never before. LSD was a popular drug during the sixties. A Swiss chemist discovered it in 1949. Once they became aware of the psychoactive properties, it went to big Pharma and was marketed by the drug company Sandoz. The drug was widely used recreationally as well as in medical research. The stories of the use of LSD in psychiatry, oftentimes on unsuspecting patients, so their reaction could be studied – was appalling. It was not until there was public outcry over bad trips, suicides and flashbacks associated with the drug, that they stopped using it. Sandoz stopped production in 1963 – however, it was used in medical research up until 1980. The drug was made illegal as a recreational drug in the late sixties.

The sensational death of Diane Linkletter (TV personality Art Linkletter’s daughter) in 1969 became widely publicized, when she supposedly jumped to her death from a sixth story window when high on LSD. This event became the catalyst for beginning the war on drugs. But, in digging a little deeper into the death of Diane Linkletter, I learned that she was not alone in the apartment. The toxicology showed that she did not have any drugs in her system. Many years later, her boyfriend who was with her at the time, was involved in another suspicious death involving a female celebrity. At the very least, it could be said, that Diane Linkletter’s death is a mystery. And the war on drugs was a pointless hoax.

Marijuana does not have the colored past that is associated with alcohol and LSD as far as drama and tragedy is concerned. It was made illegal long before the more potent drugs like LSD. In 1923 it was somehow placed under the Opium Act, yet it is clearly not an opiate. If you ingested a half a pound of it, it would not show up in toxicology studies as an opiate. Nor would it give the same symptoms of overdose as opiates. As we all know, there is a long history associated with attempts to have marijuana legalized. And similar to prohibition – no matter how many raids crop up – it is still profitable. The thing that seems odd to me is that marijuana is not a narcotic, therefore, how can it be classified as one? It would seem that all drugs, regardless of what they are used for, should be classified with some accuracy, and not lumped together with drugs that have completely different properties. After all, drug properties are supposed to be science.

Fashion and creative freedom stem from a certain level of rebellion. I would term it as a peaceful rebellion, since fashion statements do not usually harm anyone (with the exception of six inch heels!) Fashion – like music, poetry, writing, painting, gardening, and interior design – is all about self-expression. Oppression, contradictions, control, and hypocrisy all force change. The greater the effort to control, the more people will find a way to define themselves. Every individual is unique. We hope not to be changed by the rippling effects of conflict and war. We hope not to be robbed of our identity in any way. To allow others to define us is a mistake and waste of potential. From a purely practical perspective, not all styles and trends suit all body types. We can look back into the political context of the different eras that gave rise to the hemlines. Those individual statements contributed to a movement.

The distinction to be made about Runnin’ Wild – is that it was not so much about being bad, as it was an expression of freedom. After all, if you look at either the flapper style or the Charleston, they are hardly sinister. Even the flapper’s response to prohibition was not all that bad. They actually made a point…when they kicked up their heels.

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2014). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

The Old Spinning Wheel

The other night I was talking to a woman about how certain aptitudes seem to come down through the generations, like it is in your blood. She was telling me about her own history in Prince Edward Island coming from a background of artists and how she learned about, and developed an appreciation for beautiful things.

My earliest recollection of my Swedish grandmother, is of watching her spend hours upon hours, spinning and carding wool. I knew she found solace in the rhythmic constancy of the spinning. She also made beautiful quilts. She fashioned bits of satin into flowers of all different colours, to create a big bouquet in the center. Then she would embroider stems and apply the leaves. Sometimes she made the flowers out of a combination of fabrics – brocades, velvet or printed cottons. The quilt, with its layers of wool in the center, was her canvas.

The spinning looked simple enough. As an adult, I have not had a chance to study  many spinning wheels. When I did, I realized it is not that simple. I chatted with a woman who does spin, and is quite passionate about it. She said she had learned how to spin from watching You Tube videos, which makes a great deal of sense, since you can pause it and go over sections, you don’t yet grasp. She also explained, how at first it is a real struggle, like you want to tear your hair out. But then – when you get it, you can’t understand why you found it so difficult. I told her about my grandmother and how it almost seemed like spinning was an escape for her, and a way to relax – while shutting the world out.

From what I have read, spinning is an art form. Like other art forms, there is a variety of ways to approach it. In essence it is the art of twisting fiber, fleece, wool, silk, alpaca, angora, mohair, flax, etc. into a continuous thread. It can be spun thick or thin, plyed or unplyed, dyed, or left natural.

The You Tube website is called “The Joy of Spinning”. It turns out spinning does have an effect on the limbic system, and pathways in the brain, to create a sort of Zen-like state. You get into a flow, yet at the same time, you have to maintain concentration.

Although I don’t know how to spin yarn in the real sense, I am most convinced there is joy and relaxation to be found in doing so.

Because my Grandma proved something to me long ago…Our brains like to spin!

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2014). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How to Identify & Care For Vintage Hats

When I first started collecting vintage hats, it was enthralling to see all the different designs and colors. Hats from the thirties, forties and fifties were still fairly abundant in the late seventies and early eighties. It was considered “off the wall” to collect them. The general belief was that they would never be worn again. In fact, the key designers have retired or passed away, and many of the styles have never been made again. One thing remains true. Many people wear hats well. There are some gorgeous hats that have survived the test of time and chance.

Vintage Schiaparelli

1960’s Straw Cloche by Designer Schiaparelli

Schiaparelli Label

Schiaparelli Paris Label

1950's Beaded Beanie

1950’s Gold Beaded Beanie

How could they not fascinate us? A hat changes a person’s aura and creates a heady fashion statement that rivals no other part of the attire. During the 19th and 20th century, every design that could be conceived of was shaped into a hat. One of my favourite photographs is of a 1930’s hat that was listed in the Doyle Gallery in New York several years ago. It looked like a bees nest with bees buzzing all around it. There is a comic and whimsical element to a percentage of designs. Just as the hemlines went up after the war, the hats too, became either more utilitarian or more glamorous. The early 1900’s hats were still mostly wide-brimmed and decorated with flowers, berries, ribbons and even birds. The practice of taxidermy to place birds on hats was banned around 1909. Later on, in the forties – there was a bird revival. They used real feathers and made the body of the bird out of something else.

1940's Bird Revival

1940’s Bird Revival

During the eighties, when I collected hats that were mostly dated from the 20’s through to the 60’s – it was because those were the hats that were available and fairly abundant. I did not pay much attention to labels, but studied each hat and bought what I liked. Inadvertently, I did end up with some well known designer labels. Elsa Schiaparelli, Lilly Dache, Macy’s, Stetson Fifth Avenue, Christian Dior, Mollie Entwistle, and Jerry Yates – are some of the designers who made vintage hats to marvel at. There are many other more obscure designers who made hats to the same level of quality as the luxury designers. All were affected by the Second World War, which caused some to flourish and others to fail.

When looking for vintage hats now, I look first for a label. If it is made in China, it is not vintage, even though it may be a vintage style. A label for a quality vintage hat will be fairly large (usually) and will be made of fabric that is stitched into place inside on the back of the hat. Some of the labels have a small flower attached on the side of the label. If there is no label and you believe it is vintage, check the brim, inside the crown, to see if there is heavy grosgrain ribbon. Also, if the hat has any embellishments, evaluate what they are made of, since certain types of fabrics, ribbons, flowers, etc. were used that are not modern day. Sometimes the maker and country of origin is printed inside on the crown of the hat.

Mollie Entwistle Original Vintage Hat Label

Mollie Entwistle Vintage Hat Label

1920's Stetson Fifth Avenue

1920’s Stetson Fifth Avenue

Before I acquired some Stetson Fifth Avenue hats, for some reason I thought Stetson was associated only with cowboy hats. But, Stetson Fifth Avenue made some interesting and upscale hats of different styles. A large percentage of fall and winter vintage hats are made of doeskin felt. Some are made of sealskin, which is often dyed.

1940's Stetson Fifth Avenue

1940’s Stetson Fifth Avenue

In the seventies, hats from the turn of the century were not available to the average person, unless you were a dealer, collector or museum. Hats from the thirties and forties seldom turn up in thrift stores anymore. The hats with face veils often get torn due to the fragility of the veils. Rubber bathing caps – unfortunately, there are only a few that have lasted – since rubber sticks together and disintegrates over time.

1950's Rubber Swim Cap

1950’s Rubber Swim Cap

Most hats can be brushed with a soft bristle natural brush in the direction of the grain and steamed into shape. Unless they are for display, it is best to keep them in a box with some acid free tissue paper. Face veils, rubber bathing caps and feathers require extra attention. Be very careful when steaming hats with feathers and avoid it altogether if the feathers have been glued onto the hat.

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2014). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What Makes Vintage Clothing Collectible ~ It’s All in the Details

Black vintage dress with pink honeycomb sleeve detail

Vintage Dress With Honeycomb Sleeve Detail

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1950’s Ray Hildebrand

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1950’s Hand Embroidered Strapless Gown

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1960’s With Applique, Covered Buttons & Rhinestones

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1960’s Dress Featuring Black Lace on a Pink Background

1950's Hand Embroidered Designer Cotton Designer Dress

Leo Danal 1950’s Hand Embroidered Cotton Dress

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1960’s JS Missy Creation

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1970’s Richilene Silk Gown

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1950’s Black Cocktail Dress With Flowered Waist Band