What Exactly Is Couture & Haute Couture Fashion?

the clothes created by coutureFor them, buying French couture has become a status symbol, something to rack up along with their brand-new BMWs and their hacienda-style villas …— Vogue

The Vogue quote taken from the Miriam Webster dictionary gives a subjective definition, but it still leaves it to the imagination. Does it include ready to wear? Is it high fashion from certain places only? Is there a difference between couture and haute couture?

The real couture refers to clothing that was essentially commissioned from one of the famous couturiers, similar to any other work of art. The term haute couture means high dressmaking, high fashion, or high sewing. The work is done by the most experienced and capable dressmakers, made by hand, using opulent fabrics, trim and needlework. The garment is often created in consultation with the client and is custom fitted.

In France, the term haute couture is a protected name and can only be used if the fashion house adheres to strict standards. The original and famous haute couture in the nineteenth century is credited to Charles Frederick Worth in 1868, with rare and coveted pieces in high demand among serious collectors. Few garments in the modern era are made with such lavish decorations and attention to detail. Although Worth made the concept famous, haute couture dates back to the seventeenth century Kings and Queens, specifically Marie Antoinette who had her own private dressmaker.

In 1930 and again in 1945 the description of haute couture included the following criteria: made to order with one or more fittings, atelier employing a minimum of fifteen full-time staff and twenty technical staff, and a presentation to the public of at least fifty original designs each year.

Today there is a list of about twenty members on the official French list. Those considered to be in the high fashion or couture category are famous designers such as Chanel, Dior, YSL, Schiaparelli, Courreges, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler, Patou, and several others. Made to order clothing is far less common today than it was a hundred years ago since it is so labour intensive, the profit margins are reduced, which also reduces the incentive to do custom orders.

There was a time when it was very trendy for wealthy women to order a haute couture dress from a Parisian dressmaker. However as time has gone by and most garments are sold pret-a-porter, which means ready to wear as opposed to made to measure, true haute couture is now quite rare. The more common pret-a-porter label applies to designer clothing made by famous designers, and is often a sub-title on the garment label.

As it is with other subjective terms, haute couture can refer to a made to measure garment from a well known or famous atelier. If the item is made in France, they have specific criteria to be met by an organization known as the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture with a list of official members. With more stringent legal parameters France provides us with the history of the term, the original outlines, and the closest definition.

In other countries the definition does not have legal parameters, therefore the reputation of the designer, attention to detail, workmanship, originality, and overall quality are the things to consider. Almost all famous designers have a range of ready-to-wear clothing with some fairly casual items and others that are very expensive and detailed. For example you can find vintage Alexander McQueen or Thierry Mugler dresses ranging from a thousand dollars to twenty-five thousand, so prices can vary widely.

High end designer clothing that is not made to measure could be called couture instead of haute couture, meaning it is ready to wear, and made to very high dressmaking standards, with attention to detail and hand finishing. Perhaps it is more accurate to claim an item is couture quality, when describing well made fashion pieces. Although the term is often misused or misunderstood, when it comes to high fashion – it is generally not one to be used or worn loosely!

The following pics show some close-up examples of vintage needlework and detailing in fine garments.

Chanel Evening Top With Sequinned Detail 1990’s
1950’s Fine Embroidery On A Skirt & Top Set
1960’s Mike Benet Gown With Satin Skirt
Distinctively Yours 1960’s Pleated Smock Dress – Canada
1950’s Priscilla Of Boston Linen Dress With Embroidery At Waist
The Under Side Of A Trimmed Kaftan
Jacquard Kaftan With Hand Stitched Trim & Tiny Buttons

London In The Sixties ~ Alice Pollock & Ossie Clark

London in the sixties and seventies brought us some of the most incredible fashion pieces – outfits that matched the arts and culture of the time. Alice Pollock was a London fashion designer and retailer who opened a boutique called Quorum. She teamed up with fellow designer Ossie Clark and featured other up and coming designers. They brought together an eccentric and creative group of designers and flourished. Their fashion shows were known for visual extravagance and theatrics.

The boutique was opened in 1964 and went strong until the 1970’s. Celia Birtwell was part of the partnership as a textile and fashion designer, known for her bold styling and attention to detail. In the late sixties they adapted to another look when the designs became more subtle, and mini skirts were replaced with maxi skirts. Tragically, many years later in 1996, Ossie Clark was stabbed to death by a former lover.

The Alice Pollock blouse featured in this post is part of the Quiet West collection. It is made of a rich creamy sunglow coloured synthetic fabric with a deep crinkling throughout. The style and attention to detail is quite remarkable. It has covered buttons down the front and on both sleeves. The most distinguishing feature of this blouse is the collar.

Is Sterling Silver Really The Poor Woman’s Gold?

There is an old adage referring to sterling silver as being the “poor man’s gold”. But for such a title, sterling silver could not be described as the next best thing to gold, because there is such a difference between the two. Regardless of the huge difference in value, there are many reasons to choose sterling silver over gold.

Sterling silver lasts a long time and cleans up beautifully. Whereas in my opinion, the thing to avoid is gold and silver plated jewellery, because over time the plating wears off. Jewelery should not turn into junk within ten or twenty years. As a matter of fact, fine jewelery – if taken care of should last forever. For example, the new Hermes bracelets are plated with platinum, which is not a good deal for seven or eight thousand dollars each. They will not stand up to the test of time.

Sterling silver is a more relaxed medium for artists, allowing creative freedom in the design, to include clunky and large pieces, and best of all – the extensive use of coloured gemstones. You don’t see that in gold jewelery very often.

The modernist lines, open work, and carving in some sterling silver, is quite remarkable. There is time-consuming finesse in the workmanship involved. Sterling silver can be worn with any outfit, from casual to ballroom. From bold and heavy to delicate and cascading, it can be matched to the style of an outfit and the personality of the wearer. It does not have the look of being overtly gaudy or ostentatious – yet there is enough pizzazz in some of the designs to turn heads.

For a fraction of the cost of gold – you get artistic workmanship second to none. Personally I would rather buy a unique artisan sterling silver piece of jewelery over and above a platinum plated Hermes bracelet any day, regardless of how much money I had to spend.

Therefore in my humble opinion – the oxymoron in the old gold adage, is that the gold plated jewelery is really the poor woman’s gold, even though it might be very expensive.

And sterling silver? If it is well crafted, nothing beats it for everyday wear. For special occasions – there are some sterling silver gemstone statement pieces that can rival any other jewelery design or materials.

The silversmith world is full of master craftspeople who exhibit endless creativity and lasting value in the pieces they compose. In truth, there is no other metal with such an illustrious history of design.

I’m writing this early in the morning, and am not thinking too much about wearing either silver or gold. But the latest song I have enjoyed playing and singing, is the Emmylou Harris song called “Gold” from her “All I Intended To Be” album. The chorus line “No matter how bright I glitter, baby – I could never be gold…” Makes sense to me!

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2018). 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.

 

Fabulous Fifties Frippery ~ Samples Of Evocative Adornment

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2018). 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.

 

Randy Collection Black Silk Cocktail Dress With Subtle Plisse Frills ~ Made In Montreal

What is to love about this dress? It has so many features to praise. The fabric is a deluxe black silk velvet, top and bottom – contrasting with a crispy silk taffeta for the centre part of the skirt. It has a subdued shoulder definition, more like dresses from the forties, as opposed to being eighties or nineties. It is most likely early nineties. It does not have the original belt, so I decided to photograph it with some different options to see which one looks best.

In addition to a nicely defined shoulder and neckline, giving a perfect balance to the hips, the accents on the dress have an Edwardian touch. There is ruffled plisse trim on the cuffs, hemline, and also accenting the bottom velvet portion of the skirt. The skirt itself is lined and has a hint of the French bouffant silhouette.

This obscure Canadian designer deserves much credit for the creation of such a beautiful dress. The only other one by this designer I could find is a 1960’s empire waisted floral maxi dress (also gorgeous). It would seem this Montreal designer peaked between the sixties possibly up until the early nineties. It is a pleasure to share this beautiful and timeless dress.

Wide Fabric Belt With Oval Rhinestone Buckle

Vintage Stretch Belt With Faux Pearl Accents

A Wide Silk Sash

Trim On Skirt & Cuffs

Charting Coastal Ideas ~ About The Inside Passage Legendary Map

The Inside Passage Map is a soulful and romantic map integrating cartography, poetry, visual art, historical research, inspiration, nature and different cultures of people.

A unique portrayal of the west coast has been created. The goal was to create a beautiful collector’s map with a diverse range of information and ideas.

At the heart of the map is the desire to bring recognition and appreciation for the power and harmony within lyric poetry – by bringing it to you alive – as art.

Points of Interest

The Border – Intricate and full of detail, the design alternates between panoramic west coast scenery and flowers, with sea life weaved in between. The decorative cameos, which are centered in the border, contain ghosted flowers and verse. This tiny poem is referred to as the “rhyming riddle”. If you follow the rhyme of each line within each cameo, you will be able to figure out the correct order of the verse. It was originally written as a twelve-line poem. It captures the overall theme and design of the map.

The Legend Box – The legend box gives the title and the main poem, which together, create a parallel between both the outer and inner conditions that we face in our lives. The third line of the poem refers to tragedy and death (swallows sleep). Wind O’less means windowless and refers to the inner person. Inside of ourselves – unseen by other people, the waves of emotion, the cycles of despair, and contractions of grief are compared to the waves of the ocean in force and rhythm. The Inside Passage poem was born of this understanding. It is a sequel to grief-written poems called Lunar Tunes and Window Pain.

The Quiet-West Crest – The bottom center of the legend box is a crest designed to visually express the profile and goals of Quiet West Publishing. Firstly it contains a scrolled map to represent the historical BC coastal collector’s map concept. An open book contains reductions of actual stained glass windows with images of ladies wearing brimmed hats. Above the book a paintbrush and pen are crossed, combining the literary and visual arts. The rising sun represents the hope we have for each tomorrow.

Cartouches – The eagle, sighted frequently along the west coast is shown flying down to her nest and represents responsibilities to future generations. The bear, shown to the left of the legend box, is near Tatshenshini – Alsek Park. This region, which is home to countless species of wildlife, is one of the most important protected wilderness parks in the world. To the left of the compass rose, there is a scene depicting trade between the European and Haida people. The costumes, along with the illustration of the Haida settlement in the background are historically and culturally representative. The Nuu-chal-nuth people are featured in the whaling expedition scene. This dramatic cartouche was placed in close proximity to Quatsino Sound, the historical whaling harbor on northern Vancouver Island. The face in the wind represents the stormy and treacherous conditions on western Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula. Cherubs hover over the globe to show the location of the Inside Passage and to represent a stylistic feature commonly used on seventeenth century maps.

The Compass Rose – The interesting and elaborate compass rose design was created by placing a borrowed seventeenth century brooch on a hand-made European lace doily. The brooch was brought to Canada by Scandinavian war bride Elinor Thun. She wrote the description as follows: “This particular brooch is more than eight hundred years old, and came from a western fjord in Norway at Siem, near Bergen from the maternal side of my family. It is known in Norwegian as “solje or kappe-brosje”. Brooches of these types were used by men and women to hold their capes in place. Jewelry of the day was worn as an expression of wealth, and would sometimes be given as gifts from one king to another. The Vikings were great travellers and the designs show an eastern flair which would eventually weave itself into the culture of the Norse-lands.” Elinor Thun Ueland 1994.

Cartography – The map was created by using an extensive amount of historical reference material, by translating poems into images – and by merging art with technology. Land contours and shoreline details were carefully blended to create emphasis and depth. Mossy greens, white mountain peaks, rich earth tones, hand lettered names, and locations of notable shipwrecks bring harmony and intrigue into the map.

Whether your interests are philosophical or artistic, this map demonstrates originality and lasting value. It is a truly great work – to honor one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Please note: Maps to be made available on Amazon. In the meantime contact quietwest@yahoo.com to purchase. The price is $60.00 for the map and shipping in North America. Size is 24″ x 36″.

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2018). 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.

Cynthia Rowley Leather Trousers ~ With The “Bee’s Knees” In Brocatelle

These awesome Cynthia Rowley lambskin trousers are decorated from the knees down in a vivid floral brocatelle fabric. Bright enough to create a buzz around bee-ing so evocative and animated in these “dancing garden digs”. Check them out!

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2018). 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.

A Piece Of Canada’s Finery In Fashion Design ~ 1960’s Surrey Classic Hooded Velvet Coat In Deep Violet

Every Surrey Classic coat I have come across was beautifully made, with unique buttons, contrasting lining, and luxurious natural fabric. In some cases the designs reflect our Canadian conservatism. I guess being Canadian, I might have seen more of them than the average person. I assumed they are well known, but after checking on Google a few times, I cannot find the designer history (so far).

From memory, based on what I have seen over the years – I am guessing they were making coats from the late fifties until the late seventies. Many of them are camel hair or cashmere wool blends, and often in subtle, neutral toned plaids. But in the sixties they did a series of stylish cotton velvet coats in bright colours – to include hot pink, cerulean blue, indigo and purple. Below is an example of one of their velvet classics – a double breasted hooded design. It looks like a good, all-season dress coat for Vancouver’s west coast weather!

It features a square cut hood that hooks up at the neckline, adding a practical and coveted detail, as it prevents the hood from blowing off while walking against the wind and rain. The buttons are open with small, square, lucite inserts. The back has a wide half belt as an accent, to offset the slight gathering and flare of the skirt. Best of all – it is in a rich and absorbing African Violet colour – certain to be a head turner, like walking in full bloom!

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.

Arella A 1970’s Western Outfit That Flirts With The Fringe

With a voice, boots and a guitar – this would be a great outfit for a Western or Bluegrass performer in any era. If this outfit could sing – she would sound like Emmylou Harris!

Cape Like Top With Studded Pattern & Patterned Cut & Stitching

Great Detail On This Outfit

Zig-Zag Cut & Stitching On Both The Top & Skirt

A Bona Fide 1950’s True Blue Poodle Skirt ~ From A Wool Felt Dying Breed!

The 1950’s dyed wool felt poodle skirts have been copied many times over the years, using a wide variety of different fabrics for both the skirt and the appliqués. They were especially popular among the swing, rockabilly and jive dance enthusiasts. The original ones are easy to spot, as they demonstrate a stand-alone authenticity. The real ones have been few and far between in vintage circle (skirts) for a long time, probably since the seventies. The reason they are so scarce is likely due to the difficulty in cleaning this type of wool. It is prone to all things that make one shudder – such as shrinkage, moths, and stains that become embedded into the fabric. To make matters worse, the colour will immediately begin to bleed out when immersed in water (death for the dogs!). I have seen a few poodle skirts over the years, but mostly they were in poor condition. This is the only one that has made it into the Quiet West collection. I love the way they managed to make the dog’s hair and tail so distinctively curly on the appliqué!

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.

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2017). 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 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:

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.

 

DSC_0424Nadelle, Montreal
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.

Alexander McQueen ~ Fit For The Inclusion In Savage Beauty ~ A Very Foxy Silk Scarf

Alexander McQueen committed suicide in 2010, at the age of forty. His suicide was on the heels of his mother’s death. Their funerals were just two weeks apart. In the following year, many accolades were given to him, through exhibits and the media. He had illusory visions, translated into designs for movies, celebrities, and most notably – incredible theatrics for his own shows.

The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art did a tribute to Alexander McQueen in 2011, in a show titled Savage Beauty. The exhibit turned out to be the most popular exhibit ever held at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. When it was over, there was a public rally to reopen it. When I read about the show, and looked at some of his designs, I associated it with this unique Alexander McQueen silk fox scarf. It is so alive, and life size – it looks like the hair of the fox stands up, three dimensionally, and like his eyes are looking up at you.

In putting together a designer collection, and learning a bit about the lives and history of some of the famous designers, it becomes apparent; there is often a tragic correlation among them, similar to the music industry. The most talented, have a window of time, where they step out and shine. Briefly, the conditions are optimal, to work on and share their talent – and eminent creativity. Then, tragically, they are gone. From plane accidents, to overdoses and suicides, their lives are cut short. As it so often is with human nature – the recognition and appreciation after they are gone, is greater than when they were here…

DSC_0469DSC_0474DSC_0468DSC_0479Copyright 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.

Ciner ~ Among The Most Glamorous Mid-Century Costume Jewelry

There will always be artisans and master craftsmen who make beautiful jewelry. The biggest difference between today’s costume jewelry makers, and the early mid-century jewelry makers; is that, jewelers like Ciner, before he started making costume jewelry, was a designer and master craftsmen, who made fine jewelry using precious metals and gemstones. He was not just artsy – he knew the trade, and the commitment to task required to make high quality jewelry.

Emanuel Ciner started his jewelry making company in 1892 in New York City. In the thirties and forties, when glamorous costume jewelry became the craze; Ciner, along with several other fine jewelers (such as Panetta and Marcel Boucher), started making jewelry to emulate the real thing. They used designs and production standards on costume jewelry that is equivalent to settings in platinum and gold, replacing diamonds and gemstones with exquisite Austrian Swarovski crystals. The faux pearls were developed in Japan, using a fine nacre-like glaze, set in multiple layers, over glass beads – thus replicating the lustrous sheen of real pearls.

This level of quality and finery in adornment, attracted the celebrities, who loved the glamour and the spotlight. Ciner continues to make jewelry to this day, but apparently the vintage pieces, in particular, the necklaces, remain the most sought after by collectors. The necklace in this post was made after 1955, and is fairly heavy. The pieces in this post are most likely late fifties and early sixties.

Ciner Dramatic Mid Century Ear Clips with black centers surrounded by pave crystals

Ciner Dramatic Mid Century Ear Clips

Ciner Ear Clips 1950’s or early 1960’s

Ciner gold tone bamboo patterned necklace - signed

Ciner Gold Tone Bamboo Patterned Necklace – Signed

Ciner Gold Tone Choker Necklace - Signed

Ciner Gold Tone Choker Necklace – Signed

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:

https://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:

https://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.

Featuring Gene Shelly’s Boutique International California ~ A 1960’s Thousand Hour Gown

DSC_0413DSC_0422DSC_0441DSC_0447DSC_0396DSC_0456DSC_0285Copyright 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.

Roger Freres Elegant & Exclusive ~ Open Weave 1970’s Formal Gown Made in France

Featuring French couturier Roger Freres – a stunning late sixties or early seventies formal gown, made of a most unique and decorative textile. The fabric resembles blue and white string, wound and looped into a lace-like theme pattern. It may be described as macrame or guipure – but is not like any other fabric I have seen. The material and design is enhanced with a concentric floral motif to accentuate the hemline, bodice and sleeves. The patterned, open weave fabric is draped and fitted over a thick ivory satin – which makes the dress fairly heavy.

When I bought this dress, I was fascinated by the fabric and design, but was not familiar with the designer. I soon learned that vintage Roger Freres dresses are a vintage rarity. The few I have seen in doing research on this designer – are listed on 1stdibs. Each dress is exquisitely unique – made with the highest standards and most incredible fabrics. Check this one out and see for yourself – if you have ever seen anything like it!

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DSC_0313DSC_0305DSC_0317DSC_0315DSC_0286Copyright 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.

Chanel Vintage Pate de Verre Earrings ~ Three Dimensional Pale Pink Flowers On Hoops

Pate de Verre is an art glass technique where a mix of molten glass and enamel is poured into a gold dipped frame. The method was first introduced in Paris by Maison Gripoix in 1869. The process is delicate and time consuming, however, the results are quite stunning. The jeweler has many options – such as adding a subtle opalescent shimmer, in a dynamic range of colors. Each component of poured glass encased in a gold frame, is treated as a gemstone – and polished to smooth perfection.

The Chanel Pate de Verre earrings in this post are an impressive example of poured glass artistry. They have individual flower petals, in perfect symmetry – encased in the miniature gold frames. As an extra touch – each earring has a tiny gold Chanel logo on one of the flower petals. The additional ingenuity of the design, is in how they dangle. They consist of smallish gold hoops with a rounded stopper at one end. The three dimensional Pate de Verre flowers slide onto, and dangle from the hoops.

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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 Designer Ronit Zilkha’s Story – A Poignant Insight

Certain designer labels seldom turn up in western Canada’s second hand clothing market, with London’s Rhonda Zilkha being one of them. I have found one item so far with her label. When I started researching her history, I was surprised to see the list of celebrities who wore her designs, in particular Princess Diana – because she was consistently gracious and model-like in the way she dressed and carried herself.

Ronit Zilkha’s story in the link below, provides us with an honest and poignant insight into the fashion industry – as she gives a detailed description of the rise and fall of her own label:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1233459/When-empire-collapsed-I-numb-shell-shocked-fashion-queen-Ronit-Zilkha.html

Below is a black maxi skirt with a front slit by Ronit Zilkha, likely from the nineties:

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DSC_0392Copyright 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.

A Looming Canadian Love Story ~ Marni Knits

In 2013, the founders of Marni Knits in Toronto, retired and closed shop after more than fifty years in business together. The story of this company is so inspirational because it shows us; not only the teamwork and longevity surrounding their union and marriage, but also, that their designs and creations came from a true “hands on” labour of love. The following CBC story provides the background and history of this sweet Canadian love story – giving us a glimpse into how they managed to knit their lives together:

 https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/after-50-years-toronto-couple-quits-knit-wear-business-1.1320559

Below is an example of a hand loomed dress by Marni Knits. So far, it is the only Marni Knit item in the Quiet West Vintage collection. It is estimated to be from the seventies:

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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.

Wrapping Our Heads Around Scarves

There are scarves everywhere. Hundreds of them steadily turn up in every thrift store. A high percentage of them are boring. By boring, I mean there is no sensation that is evoked from the fabric. That, combined with a lack of strong visual appeal, is what creates the first impression. As part of the hunt, I have developed some shortcuts, based on the first impression. Although it sounds crazy – I skim the masses and look for a scarf that is alive. Alive with the sensation of the fabric, vibrant colours and an intriguing design. Then I check the hem, labels, corners, and look for signatures.

And sure enough, sooner or later, out of hundreds – one stands out in vibrancy and touch. It feels luxurious and the colors interplay beautifully within the canvas of the design. The edges are hand rolled and hand stitched. Such a scarf, when folded and draped, still captures and blends the components of the design.

To share a few things I have learned about luxury scarves:

Consider the fabric – Natural fabric is the most luxurious. It absorbs and captures the colors more vibrantly than synthetics. Silk and cashmere are also the warmest and softest to wear around your neck.

Consider the design – When laid flat, a scarf is like a canvas. The more colors and complexity, that which embodies detailed and sophisticated artwork – the more luxurious the scarf. The identification of artists among the famous scarf makers like Hermes, is a specialty of its own. What makes a luxury scarf really stand out in my opinion, is the way the fabric drapes and folds, bringing out smaller components of the design, that seem to blend beautifully no matter how you fold, drape or tie it.

Consider the colours – The most expensive scarves have the most number of colours, usually in a dynamic and vibrant range. Similar to offset printing, the more colour, the more expensive it is to set up and run the press.

Consider the finishing – No matter how you fold or tie a scarf, the finishing or edging is apparent. Luxury scarves have hand rolled and hand stitched hems. This complements and frames the scarf with a rounded softness and impeccable corners that do not have loose threads and linear flatness. I have read that it takes a good seamstress at least an hour to hand sew the hem of a scarf. But the time it takes would vary quite a bit, depending on the size of the scarf.

Expanding fashion horizons – Some scarves are truly beautiful works of art. The little bit that I have learned does not delve into the artistry of individual designers too much. But the artistry captures the imagination and makes you realize that it is an entire arena of fine arts, with much to be learned and appreciated.

The first two images in the post feature a silk Hermes scarf by H d’Origny, an artist well known for designing silk ties. He is now in his eighties. The two scarves featured below the Hermes, are scarves that in my opinion, are among the finest examples of luxury scarves. Both are vintage signed Louis Feraud scarves. The others are some more examples of beautiful scarves with interesting designs.

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The Image

The Impressionistic Image

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.

 

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