Tie Silk Swatches, 1926 (Part III)

October 19th, 2015

At long last, the final pages in the 1926 tie silk swatch sample book. The bad news is that the book does NOT represent a spring/summer line of cravat silks, as I seemed to suggest in the first two posts about it; not only is its spine marked “Fall” in faint but clear letters (duh), but the examples in today’s post have distinctly autumnal colorways.

As for the good news: The last several pages in the book (mostly marked “Austria” or “Czecho Slovakia”) contain, to my mind, some of the most staggeringly beautiful swatches of all. Some of the brocades are so exquisitely detailed (and that’s an understatement), it’s almost hard to imagine entire ties fashioned out of them.

So…Happy Autumn, & enjoy!

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Tie Silk Swatches, 1926 (Part II)

June 3rd, 2015

The easily-distracted blogger returns! Because the paper in the swatch book is literally crumbling, with an archeological dig’s worth of manila chips and shards breaking off each time I turn a page, I’m going to plow straight through to the end capturing the gorgeous contents digitally… and then seek a conservator’s help before opening the book again! (I haven’t abandoned the spring/summer Globe Tailoring sample book and promise to share the rest of it before it goes “out of season”… :) )

I’ll present each page or pair of pages so you can see the range of color options the various patterns were offered in, and then show a closeup or two that shows the complexity of the different weaves and of the subtle but astounding color variation. What most amazes me about these swatches is their infinite variety, and what it implies about the vastly superior state of textile arts at the time (ie the existence of jacquard machines that could be reset over and over without bankrupting a company).

Without further ado then…

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Tie Silk Swatches, 1926 (Part I)

March 26th, 2015

And now… a interlude featuring the fabrics a tie might have been made of in 1926. Getting a feel for what early 20th century ties looked like can be tricky, to say the least, since for one thing the illustrations of neckwear options in period catalogs and magazines rarely (if ever) in color. But a sample book containing, on its brittle, crumbling pages, hundreds of tie silk swatches and dated, ever so helpfully, “1926″ on the badly faded, lopsided spine? That’s a giant leap in the right direction, not to mention a mouthwatering feast for the eyes.

Most of the pages in this sample book are marked either “Switzerland” or “Italy”, so I’m guessing those countries were the big tie silk manufacturers of the day. Each page shows a different design, in roughly 4 to 6 color options, with the color variations often impressively subtle. Also, the book begins with elegant but less distinctive striped designs before exploding with some wildly colorful and intricate brocades, so I’ll show the opening pages as collages to keep the overall picture-heaviness down. (As with the Globe Tailoring book, I’ll be sharing the book in–hopefully-more manageable installments).

So without further ado (and with the self-evident observation that textile manufacture just ain’t what it used to be), here goes. Enjoy!

The next couple of pages also feature stripes, but the silks were woven in Italy and with far more complexity and beauty than anything out there today; the chevron-like effect within the stripes is IMO superb:

This brocaded striped design hails from Switzerland:

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The Globe Tailoring Co. Sample Book: Spring/Summer 1926 (Part II)

March 15th, 2015

First in today’s lineup, a  young man’s “two button soft roll sack”, and the fabric options he could have it made in: Serges, silk mixtures, herringbone weaves, and tartans:

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The Globe Tailoring Co. Sample Book: Spring/Summer 1926 (Part I)

March 9th, 2015

Today has been outrageously warm and sunny, with streamlets breaking through the ice on the streets and the snowbanks beginning to recede at long last. To celebrate, I’m posting the first several pages of The Globe Tailoring Company’s spring/summer 1926 sample book. Since, opposite the oversized illustrations, the book features dozens upon dozens of amazing fabric swatches that beg to be seen in close up, I’ll need to break this project into chunks. Even so, the posts will be picture-heavy, so pour yourself a cuppa before settling in to enjoy!

(I’ll be interspersing the Globe Tailoring posts with ones showing silk tie swatches from a 1926 sample book, so you’ll have some idea of the cravats a gent might have worn with his “needle molded” suits…:)

Here’s the front cover of the book, which at a whopping 22″ x 17″ makes modern catalogs look hopelessly puny:

The”Fabric Index” and some introductory remarks, on the “Economy of Good Tailoring” and the launch of the “Deluxe Department”:

And the catalog itself (with each pair of pages followed by some closeups):

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The Mad Men Tie Gets Festive: Cerruti Designs from the Holiday 1960 Collection

December 23rd, 2014

Nothing makes my heart sing louder than a beautifully jacquard-woven necktie, whether it be a jazzy pre-WWII damask or an MCM skinny with heraldic designs. Recently I was fortunate enough to acquire swatch books with woven tie silk samples from the late 1920s and the early 1960s, and though I plan to share the contents in their entirety here over the coming months, since the more recent one—from Nino Cerruti’s early days—features some fabulous holiday designs, I’ll start with those.

In 1950, the 20-year-old Cerruti became head of his family’s textile factory (founded in the 1880s) upon his father’s sudden death. More on Cerruti’s bio to follow in subsequent posts; for today, what’s important to know is that the tie designs he created in 1960, either for his own company (presumably to be sold with his “Hitman” label) or for other companies such as Charvet and Damon, appear to have been manufactured by a Swiss textile concern, Naef Freres. I haven’t been able to find out exactly what the relationship was between Cerruti and Naef Freres  (which seems to have had a satellite in upstate New York), but I do know that Lanificio Cerruti was at that point just what its name indicates—a woolen mill, so tie silks needed to be made elsewhere. Cerruti established a knitwear factory in Scotland in 1961, but I don’t know whether he also owned or just subcontracted work from Naef Freres, which  goes back at least to the 19th century.

Without further ado, in any event, let me present the designs from Cerruti’s Holiday 1960/1 collection. Here is the book itself:

I was surprised to see how many of the designs were produced for legendary haberdasher Charvet. Unsurprisingly, they were tres elegant. The first is called “The Ring”:
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Which? Both!

June 8th, 2014

With the D-Day 70th anniversary celebrations just past and the post-WWII Paris souvenir handkerchief  below settling into its new home, I find myself with some nagging questions about it:

As you can see, it bears a Galeries Lafayette tag and depicts a young woman being courted by two uniformed GIs who present their  hearts to her like nosegays (and it looks as though she may be clutching a previous floral offering to her chest). The hankie has two text captions on it, the identifying phrase “Souvenir de Paris” and the question/answer “Which? Both!!”

Jonathan Walford, author of “Forties Fashion: From Siren Suits to the New Look”, kindly deciphered the hankie for me a few weeks back, explaining that the English text on it, together with the woman’s Phrygian cap and the French flag colors (red, white and blue) of her outfit, suggest that it would have been marketed to souvenir-hunting American soldiers at the end of the war. It does indeed seem to capture the jubilant mood of post-liberation Paris. But…

Who was the intended recipient of this slighly quirky bit of printed silk? The GI’s mother, sister or sweetheart, like other WWII–era souvenir hankies (often embroidered or printed with the helpful designation “mother”, “sister”, or “sweetheart”, like these examples from the  Handkerchief Heroes blog)?

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Vintage Fashion Malady #38: Ad Location Syndrome

May 10th, 2014

If you’ve been bitten by the vintage collecting bug, chances are you’ve gradually become symptomatic with a slew of related ailments. Perhaps you’ve heard of and actually experienced “Set Completion Syndrome”, where a lucky find of sparkly brooch with matching earrings leads you to obsessively seek out the matching necklace (and bracelet, and ring…)

Maybe you find yourself getting up at the crack of dawn (after tossing and turning all night with nightmares about your personal Holy Grail slipping repeatedly out of  your grasp) to put your name on a list to get in line for a high number at an estate sale (“Elbowing Others Out of the Way Syndrome”).

Maybe you return multiple times to a vintage clothing shop or antique mall till you finally break down and purchase something that leaves you without money to pay the phone bill, because it has been “calling” to you for days (“Siren Song Syndrome”).

Well, there’s a new one to add to the vintageaholics diagnostic manual. It involves a compulsion to pore over old magazines or catalogs as well as online till one finds a period advertisement for a vintage item one has taken a shine to, it’s called “Ad Location Syndrome”, and I’ve contracted a terminal case of it.

I’m not seriously complaining, though, because despite how time-devouring the endless trips down twisty garden paths can be, the thrill when I do happen upon what I’m in search of is beyond incomparable. Case in point: I just found the ad to go with a L’Aiglon dress with matching scarf I was preparing to list in my Ruby Lane shop, and learned things from it I would never have figured out on my own.

My dating hunch said the dress was a late 40s/early 50s cusper; turned out it was from summer 1950 on the dot. I didn’t congratulate myself too much, though,, since left to my own devices I would have never have surmised the scarf (called a “kerchief” in the ad) was intended for double duty, either on the head or on the shoulders. And I certainly wouldn’t have known that it wasn’t meant to be tied under the chin á la 1960s convertible-riding bombshell with sunglasses.

I also wouldn’t have tied the sash in back, creating the illusion of an apron (the ad describes the dress as having a “flower-strewn apron effect and camisole top”). Basically, the ad suggests the dress was meant to have a kind of “Country Miss” vibe, which I did not pick up from it as it dangled before me on the hanger mocking my descriptive skills.

Sometimes a picture—or an ad—really is worth a motherlode of syllables!

Ralph Rucci’s Tour de Force Costumes for “Close to Chuck”

February 24th, 2014

Just had to share my overwhelmed response to designer Ralph Rucci’s costumes for the ballet “Close to Chuck”, which I saw performed at the Boston Ballet yesterday.

Choreographed by Jorma Elo to a musical “portrait” of disabled artist Chuck Close by his longtime friend, composer Philip Glass, it premiered at the ABT in New York seven years ago but has been tweaked since by Elo to better incorporate the costumes in the choreography (they apparently weren’t done until the last minute in 2007). Here is a picture of one of Rucci’s costumes from the ABT premiere; the dancer shown is Vivienne Wong:

The costumes combined a black leotard with illusion panels and a taffeta wrap skirt horizontally corded in leather, under one corner of which was a silkscreened (I assume) version of the Chuck Close self portrait used as a backdrop for the second part of the ballet. (The male dancers wore the skirt also, though minus the leotard!)

The beginning of the ballet used a black/white/grey backdrop identical to the luminous red one reproduced in miniature on the skirts, save for the colorway; both backdrops consisted of a grid of hundreds of tesserae-like squares that appeared to contain abstract or amorphous forms, but which “from a distance” crystallized into an image of the upper 2/3 of the artist’s face. I’m not sure whether the backdrops were a full (or partial) blowup or scale copy of a Close painting on canvas, or whether Close (who designed the sets for the ballet) created them specially for the occasion. Here’s a scene from the Boston Ballet production with a view of the red backdrop:

When the dancers raised the corners of their cage-like skirts to reveal (or, literally, to unwrap) the image underneath, the combination of  lustrous fabric and mosaicized image combined to shimmering effect, almost as if it were composed of sequins, which perfectly captured Close’s pixellated artistic technique.

Rucci’s brilliant costumes were not only an essential part of the set (because of the way they linked to the backdrop), but also of the ballet’s thematic content; they symbolically represented the physical limitations the paralyzed Close has had to transcend in order to keep creating his art. (After all, when’s the last time you saw ballet dancers perform in stiff, floor-length skirts?)

Rucci is a true artist (he’s actually an accomplished painter who exhibits his work and designs all the prints for his clothes). I’ve gasped in awe at garments of his on display in museums (where they are the very definition of “museum-worthy), but my admiration for him has just increased tenfold. Bravo!

The Ghost of Christmas (Retail) Past… Part IV

December 17th, 2013

For my winter vacation this year, I’d like to slip inside the December 1948 Ladies’ Home Journal and visit for awhile. The issue captures a seemingly idyllic moment in US history when the nation was really beginning to enjoy its post-WWII boom. It opens with an editorial by none other than First Lady of Journalism Dorothy Thompson on the importance of expanding and strengthening the economy as the only true protector of our national security. And it is a veritable feast for the eyes—page after page of gorgeously executed Christmas ads and features that make me want to buy everything, cook everything, sew everything it suggests.

I apologize for the awkward cropping of many of the pictures in this post; the LHJ was too wide and too long for my scanner bed, and there were a LOT of full page ads! But the images speak for themselves regardless…

Needless to say, there were a slew of appliance ads, beautifully illustrated to depict their knack for leading to domestic nirvana:

This Norman Rockwell-ish if rather quirky ad (which I think is much sadder than it means to be)  depicts the impact of Plymouth ownership on one family (or specifically, on one poor kid), without even bothering to flaunt that year’s Special De Luxe Coupe in it!

The pages are bursting with images of delectable looking Christmas hams and baked goods, whether homemade from the ingredient being hawked or store-bought in a final state, such as this Jane Parker fruitcake:

The magazine itself has a spread on Christmas entertaining, with menus (and recipes, in the back) for a party for 25, a breakfast, and a dinner:

One of the most artistically done ads is for Coke; I wonder what my young father, who at the time was in his early years as a Maspeth, NY Coke bottling plant manager, would have thought of it:

As far as the LHJ features, in addition to beauty advice:

and tips on the latest party frocks to sew (with patterns available for purchase, natch), LHJ did a spread with socialites and celebrities modelling the latest in hostess fashions, including one of Rosalind Russell in a ruby pink moire and green taffeta creation from Joseph Whitehead:

Coty’s attempt to garner a chunk of the Xmas market for its perfumes included both a letter from its president explaining the art of fragrance selection and, many pages later, a full page ad displaying the options to choose from (the model’s red gown is from Traina-Norell):

Here’s another perfume ad, from Bourjois (I remember my mother, a schoolteacher, regularly being given Evening in Paris as a holiday gift in the 1960s):

This ad from Bretton watch bands offered a “Peewee” version of the “sweetheart” expansion bracelets so popular throughout the war:

The kiddie set above came in a lucite-look pocketbook; Pro-phy-lac-tic offered lucite (or “Jewelite”) dresser sets for both men and women:

Don’t know whether this Textron slip ad nods more to “A Christmas Carol” or to Salvador Dali:

Of course, there were ads for products to help with seasonal decor (and giftwrapping):

And ads for year round home goods, as well:

This Community silverplate ad couldn’t decide if it was holiday- or wedding-themed:

LHJ offered ideas for making your own gifts (more patterns to buy), from cloth blocks, dolls and stuffed animals for children:

to quilted satin slipper-and-pouch sets, or leopard velveteen belt-and-mitten sets, for adults and teens:

There was even a column on ideas for gifts kids, from tots to teens, could make/give to Mom:

And though there were no ads for liquor as the ideal gift, there was more than one that proposed sticking a carton of cigarettes under the tree:

However and whatever you celebrate this time of year, may it be filled with the calm and peace of a Victorian Christmas. And, among the delights 2014 holds in store for you, may at least one of them be vintage 1940s and tied up with an enormous bow!