26
Jun
2014
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, 1960s, Film, Style icon 1 Comment

Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy – one of the greatest collaborations in the history of fashion.

I’ve been treating myself to some Audrey films lately: first Sabrina, and then Charade. She’s wonderful!

I was travelling on the Metro in Paris, when I noticed the headlines: “Audrey Hepburn est morte”, so for me Audrey and Paris will always go together: I’m sure she would approve. She loved Paris, and Paris loved her – both Sabrina and Charade feature scenes in Paris and it was here that she met the young Givenchy at his first, informal fashion show. Audrey was sixteen but she didn’t forget: “when the time came and she could choose, she thought, ‘That’s the guy.’”

Audrey was impossibly slim and chic, and yet, childlike and joyous. You got the feeling that she would be enormous fun, that she didn’t take herself too seriously and that for her, dressing well was about taste and quality – and then wearing couture like it was the most natural thing in the world!

She became Givenchy’s muse and wore his designs in her films – here are some snaps I found on Pinterest. I love her style, it’s simple and elegant and uniquely Audrey. Fussy clothes would swamp her delicate frame but these allow her to shine.

She said of Givenchy “His are the only clothes in which I feel myself. He is far more than a couturier, he is a creator of personality.” Something tells me that Audrey had copious personality, it was Givenchy’s fashions that offered the freedom to express it.

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27
May
2014
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, 1960s, Contest, Film 7 Comments

Next week sees the opening of new film “Grace of Monaco” and Entertainment One Australia have offered some double passes to Circa readers.

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“Grace of Monaco” is a fictionalised version of events in Princess Grace of Monaco’s life in 1962. Six years after Grace Kelly married Prince Ranier, she was mother to two children and sought to return to Hollywood for the Hitchcock film “Marnie”.

I read a fascinating biography of Grace once, and her life was a complicated and enthralling one. She was an interesting woman. I also enjoyed the exhibition a few years ago of her personal wardrobe that was on display at the Bendigo Art Gallery – the trailer reveals a beautiful film full of luxurious and historical settings and costumes.

If you’d like a double pass to see this film, which opens on June 5th, simply leave a comment on this post about your favourite Grace Kelly film and why you like it – and the winners will be the best responses. There are four double passes to win and entries close Saturday May 31st at 9pm Melbourne time. Passes are valid at most screenings in Australia.

Good luck!

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I also have several two-for-one tickets for “The Broken Circle Breakdown”: “the story of Elise and Didier, two unconventional star-crossed lovers, who fall for each other despite their differences. He talks, she listens. He’s a romantic atheist, she’s a free-spirited realist”: just come into Circa and request one. Opens May 22nd.


28
Nov
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, 1960s, Designers, Vintage 101 1 Comment

The other day I listed a new frock on the webshop, a beautiful and very well made dress by Sharene Creations.

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I’ve seen a few Sharenes and it’s an unusual name so with the help of Lesley Sharon Rosenthal’s excellent book “Schmattes” and the internet, I learnt a thing or two about the owner, Simon Shinberg.

He was “mature, worldly, sophisticated, well groomed and elegant” and “a lively energetic person” according to the young model who later became his wife.

Shinberg’s parents were well established with their own fashion business “Paulinette”, which had shops in Howie Court (Melbourne), Chapel Street (Windsor) and Carnegie. Simon started designing costumes for the Princess Theatre in the ’40s and then set up his first label “Simonette” in the back of Paulinette’s Chapel Street shop.

His first styles were the “shortie” swing coats that were fashionable in the late ’40s and he sold them to major department stores in Sydney like Mark Foys, Snows, David Jones and Farmers.

His father suggested he learn about making dresses so together they set up a manufacturing company called “Shinberg Manufacturing” producing tailored fashions for the Kay Dunhill label at the Myer Emporium, amongst others.

In the early ’50s Shinberg opened his next label – Sharene Creations.

In 1957 he produced costumes for the British performer Sabrina for her Australian tour and she was photographed many times in his fashions – here she is in one of her Sharene Creations gowns.

Sabrina (Norma Sykes)
Photo source and more information here.

Mr Shinberg travelled to Paris, and like many young designers visited the couturier shows to learn about the latest styles. With the help of a capable pattern maker, he was inspired to interpret the trends for Australians.

He was amongst the first to bring Givenchy’s new style “Le Sacque” to Australia and David Jones sold 8,000 of his Sack dresses in 1958! The Sack dress was a major change in silhouette from the heavily waisted dresses of the ’40s and ’50s and the waistless silhouette came to dominate the next decade.

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The Age, 1953 – the dress on the right has a very similar silhouette to my dress, with the sloping extended shoulder sleeve and skirt.

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The Age, December 1957 – Sharen’s Sack dress on the left won the top prize in the wool awards.

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Australian Women’s Weekly, 1961. Wool Gold Medal Award Contest: You can win a 350 pound wardrobe! You can see by the prices that Sharene was a quality label.

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The Age, 1964

In about 1964 Mr Shinberg started up a third label called “Mr Simon”, which produced the young and groovy fashions sought by the daughters of his original Sharene wearers – Mr Simon grew and became a major label through the ’70s and ’80s. I hope to cover that label in a second blog post with some examples of his work!

I was sad to discover that Simon only passed away a few weeks ago – he certainly left his mark on our cultural landscape. His clothes were beautiful. I’ll add more Sharenes as I find them, and you’re welcome to send any pics you have of your Sharenes too. In particular, I’d love to find a sack dress!

Sharene Creations label 1950s


24
Sep
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, Calendar, Sale 2 Comments

In a couple of weeks, I’m going to have a short holiday and take a week off from the shop – this presents an opportunity to do a webshop only sale!

As you know, I have too much stock – and so this is a chance for you to pick up a bargain. Pieces that I’ve for a while and would like to see find a good home, pieces that are perfectly fine but not what Circa usually sells, pieces that have a little damage, perhaps a mark or need some work so if you don’t mind your vintage having had adventures before it finds you, or you’re happy to do a little fixing or upcycling, now is your chance!

Everything will be a one off and it will be first come, first served. There might be some menswear and non-clothes items too like furniture or bric a brac.

What: Garage Sale – Circa Webshop
When: Saturday October 5th (12noon) to Tuesday October 15th (10am)
Where: Circa’s online emporium
Cost: All pieces priced to sell!

Here is one of the gorgeous pieces that will be available – along with many more. All sales will be final, with no returns – and as the shop will be closed, online sales only with no fittings.

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Elegant early 1950s jacket with white on cream print.

Pencil it into your diaries, there will be more snaps of included items as we get closer to the date!


6
Sep
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, Shop talk 11 Comments

Are you excited about the federal election tomorrow? I’m not.

I’ve been involved in almost every election (state and federal) since 1977 due to my unusually political family. At one stage or another, for one reason or another, I’ve campaigned and handed out how-to-votes for the Liberals, the ALP, the Democrats and the Greens.

My personal political leanings don’t change, more that I like to support friends and family, who have previously included a senator and currently include a couple of MPs. I even stood myself once, for the local council!

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Around half of the population is going to be disappointed tomorrow, as their candidate or their party fails to get elected. I remind myself of this because it will hopefully soften the blow as I expect to be one of those people and not winning is never a nice feeling.

The fact is that I live in a fringe world, with fringe interests – and until the majority of the population get over their perception that vintage (because most of it has been worn before) is undesirable and until we can stop buying $5 new dresses made by exploited workers in other countries and until we wake up and realise that we can’t just keep producing new things, filling up landfill forever…well until then, I will continue to dwell happily in my little fringe world caring about things that are unimportant to many.

So it should come as no surprise that most of Australia thinks, and votes differently.

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Like me, if you’re feeling a little sad about what tomorrow might bring – here are some ways to make life a little easier.

1 – Join the political party of your choice and get involved. Each has a process for members to influence policy, and the more that agree with you, the more of a difference you can make. It’s hard to achieve much when you’re yelling from the sidelines.

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2 – You don’t need to be a member to help out with the campaign. You can even turn up on polling day and help out the volunteers of your preferred party. It can be quite fun on the booth, with a sense of camaraderie and it’s refreshing to find that the how-to-voters get on well, regardless of their political differences. You all share one important thing: you care about the result and are doing your bit.

I’ve met some great people on different sides of the spectrum that I would never meet normally. Minor parties (or major parties in electorates where they have small followings) are generally short of volunteers and thankful for extra helpers. Befriending the people helping other parties means that they might cover you for short breaks too – and (if no one is looking) even hand out your How-to-votes. I’ve done that several times.

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3 – There’s nothing better than the feeling that everything’s going your way – but if your party isn’t winning it can be a challenge – remember that your turn may come again with each election and that lending your support can help increase this likelihood, and even when you don’t win, you’ll feel better to have been involved.

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4 – Many polling booths are hosting sausage sizzles and cake stalls – check this site to make your voting experience a little nicer, and perhaps come home with a souvenir of the day, all whilst supporting your local community.

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5 – Why all the frocks? Because when you’re not feeling so happy, do things that make you happy – go for walks in the park, eat Italian gelati whilst gazing out to sea, visit the NGV or watch an escapist film. Drink gin or champagne (in responsible doses of course!) in the company of like-minded loved ones.

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Lucky me, I’m enjoying taking pics of beautiful St Clare in vintage, so here are some of my current favourites. I hope you enjoy them regardless of what tomorrow brings!

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31
Aug
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, Customers 6 Comments

Okay, so it wasn’t me or my shop, it was one of our frocks but the story stands – here’s St Clare in one of our cotton print ’50s frocks, with her beau Mikelangelo. If you live in the right Melbourne neighbourhood, one of these arrived in your letterbox this week.

Melbourne Leader

This lovely dress is part of the Empire Vintage Collection – and is available in the Melbourne salon or the web shop. I love it.

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You can read the article online here. It talks about their current show about Johnny Cash called “Song of the Outlaw” and will next be appearing at the Lorne Festival of Performing Arts – we recently caught it at the Newport Sub-station and it’s worth seeing. Don’t be late though. On our night, a bloke was so unhappy about missing “Ring of Fire” the band performed it as an encore. Lucky him, but it was great to hear it again too.

One of the nice things about working with St Clare, is that I get to dress her for her many events – and she takes excellent care of them. It adds to the unique history of the pieces. Here are some more Circa Vintage pieces that are ready for new homes after gracing the stage.

The following pics are all reproduced courtesy Tim Chmielewski and were taken at the final Tin Star gig at the Corner recently.

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St Clare wears late ’40s silk brocade ballgown.

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St Clare wears 1970s cotton seersucker halter neck dress with fruit print.

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St Clare wears late ’60s fringed suede lace up vest.

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St Clare wears cotton voile ballgown with ruched bodice.

To even up the balance a little – here’s Mikelangelo in a black self-tie bow tie from Circa. Tying lessons available on request.

Mikelangelo bow tie

Photo reproduced courtesy Mikeangelo. If there’s a more glamourous couple in Melbourne: please introduce me!


29
Aug
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1940s, 1950s, Vintage 101 3 Comments

When I ran Sydney vintage clothing shop “Albert and Gladys” in the late ’80s one of the biggest sellers were ’50s rope petticoats – and they’re still the biggest nostalgia item at Circa, as older ladies see them and get taken back to another time.

They seem to have been de rigueur for a certain era, and were more popular than the big, boofy nylon tulle crinolines trimmed in lace and satin. If you’ve worn both types you’ll know what I’m talking about – the tulle petticoats are lovely but the scratchy nylon puts little rips into your stockings so it’s best to wear a slip underneath them, plus they tend to rip easily.

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They do look fabulous though: here’s a nice example from Mags Rags – I’m sure this one won’t hurt your stockings.

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Image source

We have one at Circa we use for photo shoots and it often needs little repairs. Vintage versions are often shabby if they’ve been worn – I still have all of my old crinolines, that I wore under floral cotton dresses in the ’80s but they’re no longer in good enough condition for resale, so I keep them for old time’s sake.

Cotton rope petticoats on the other hand, are incredibly robust – ladies boiled them up and starched them so they stuck right out, and even when you ripped them badly, they were easy to mend or patch. I’ve often wondered why more haven’t survived, but during the ’60s they were probably thrown out.

Rope (or corded as our American friends call them) petticoats are very full and have rows of rope sewn into casings, to produce a stiffness. They were an early form of hooped petticoat, and go back a long way, as rope has always been an easy to acquire product and they’re simple to make – ladies wore them during the Renaissance and Regency/early Victorian eras before steel hoops came in but in modern times, they’re associated with the late ’40s and ’50s.

One row of rope will give weight to a hem, which will then hang straightly but swing out when dancing, as evidenced here in this late ’40s ballgown worn by Candice DeVille in a fashion parade for the launch of “Our Girls” a book by Madeleine Hamilton.

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I’ve sewn many rope petticoats and dresses, and the key is to sew the rope in very tightly. If the casing is too loose, the rope becomes floppy. Sometimes you get many rows of rope, sewn together in parallel rows – as in this re-enactment petticoat found on Pinterest.

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Image source

For mid century petticoats the ropes are generally further apart in as in a tiered peasant-style petticoat, as they are in this late ’40s skirt, now available in the web shop.

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Wearing petticoats feels wonderful, you just want to swish around in them – and dancing is even better. Once you’ve tried it, I guarantee you’ll want to wear them more often!

I used to wear two or three at a time and once had trouble at a party, when my skirts were too wide to fit down the hallway of a Newtown Victorian terrace house. Ah, that was a great night :)


23
Aug
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, Customers, Designers, Television 7 Comments

I was on TV last night – did you see me? A flash of pink hair and that was about it for me, but you got to see more of Circa and Miss Kate, who modelled a gown for Channel Seven’s “Formal Wars”.

The show has a simple plot: money is given to the parents of a teenager, to organise and choose everything for their high school formal. The gown, the hair and make up, the date and the transport. It’s set up for conflict of course: how many of us shared taste with our parents at that age? How many parents have a different idea of how their children should dress? Using the word “war” in the title is a give away too: drama ahead!

Laura was shopping for a vintage dress for her daughter Tanya, and Danielle from A Vintage Outing took her to a few Melbourne vintage shops, where she saw some beautiful frocks – she came to Circa too and we were fortunate in that one of our gowns was chosen.

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Let me tell you a little about this gown – I bought it about seven years ago, as part of a lot of 200 vintage dresses from Rose Chong. That was a fun day – dresses from the ’30s to the ’60s but this one was one of the three best.

It was made in the late 1950s in Flinders Lane by top fashion label Raoul Couture and you might have seen it featured in my blog post on the designer. The fabric is the finest quality silk in a soft oyster colour, and it was hand beaded with prong set crystal diamantes, glass beads and sequins around the waist and hips – an unusual feature, as beading usually embellishes the bodice of a gown.

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The bodice was heavily ruched and the skirt featured a ruched ruffle to the rear, like a bustle – this gown is all about creating an hour glass shape, by adding bulk to the bust and hips (and bottom) to emphasise a tiny waist. Classic 1950s styling. The interior is fully lined with built in petticoats and boning to the strapless bodice.

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A couture gown, originally it was created for one special lady to wear for a special event. It would have been very expensive. It’s likely that it was only worn once before making its way to Rose Chong. I’m not sure when Rose bought the gown, but many of her special and older pieces have been in her collection for a decade or three. The best vintage was stored upstairs and mostly used for film and TV, where this gown probably appeared in some Australian productions. It was certainly used a bit because when she found her way to me, she needed love.

We replaced the boning, which had become tired over the years, with proper sprung steel corset boning. The ruching on the bodice needed some repositioning and restitching and the hem and the petticoat were bedraggled from touching the ground so we rehemed both. The beadwork needed hours of work: securing loose beads and replacing lost patches. The centre back zipper was replaced with a new one. Then it was dry cleaned by a specialist dry cleaner.

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I imagined that this beautiful gown would be worn by a bride – it’s a sophisticated gown that tells you a lot about the time that it was made, and the quality of the lady who wore it, but the wonder of vintage is that a gown like this doesn’t have to come with a high price tag.

I feel a personal responsibility to find good homes for my frocks, where they will be worn and appreciated but sometimes they have other roles to play.

I was pleased when Laura chose it for her daughter’s formal, and we tailored the dress to fit her – which was tricky, because we didn’t know her exact size, but we did our best. We also rehemmed the skirt and petticoats with rolled hems to remove the bulky – but authentic – 1950s style hem.

It’s not the sort of gown that most modern teenagers would choose for their formal but for some, it is a treasure.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to Tanya’s liking! There were tears, but not just over the dress – poor Tanya found the whole experience a challenge. Thankfully the situation was saved by an unorthodox choice of transport – when the camel arrived to take her to the formal, all was forgotten. Good work mum!

It made for an interesting evening for me too: I suspected that there would be a rocky ride but was caught off-guard by the negativity, most of it focused on Tanya and her difficult journey but some was reserved for the Raoul Couture gown. Here’s one of the nicer tweets:

Well, Aussie_Kardash, I probably wouldn’t like your idea of a nice frock either. Thankfully not everyone agrees:

Thanks Amy! It takes all sorts to make a world.

If you missed it last night, The TV episode is available for viewing online for 28 days.


15
Aug
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, 1960s, Vintage 101 8 Comments

Today I’m listing part of a collection of fabulous beaded cardigans from Empire Vintage.

I consider beaded cardigans to be an vintage fashion essential, but they’re getting harder and harder to find in good condition these days.

When I first started out collecting,, wearing vintage fashion I befriended all the lovely old ladies who worked in the local op shops. A particular favourite was a North Perth op shop which seemed to be full of treasures: the darling ladies would put presents aside for me.

One of their gifts ended up in my book “Love Vintage” – a ’50s cardigan with embroidered grub roses. It was a particular favourite because it went so well with my floral ’50s frocks and I wore it and mended it until it was in shreds – in fact, the condition is now so poor that Tira and I weren’t able to take a full photo of it for the book, it’s that shabby, so what you see is a detail of the embroidery. Even though I’ll never wear it again I can’t bear to part with it. It holds too many personal stories.

I like to say that I’ve made all the vintage fashion mistakes, so that you don’t have to and this story is particularly embarrassing – those wonderful old dears in North Perth, who did a great deal to help me on my voyage of vintage education, one day presented me with a beaded ’50s cardigan. It was cream with diamantes and pearls and other beads and quite wonderful…but beaded cardigans were very much out of fashion at the time and it seemed too fancy for my teenage wardrobe so being a sewer, I did something awful of which I’m still very ashamed of: I removed all of the beads and threw the cardigan away.

Are you horrified at me? Can I mention that I was only fifteen? Needless to say, I never did get around to using those beads and shame of shames, I still have the bag – it’s a very big bag, there are a lot of beads on a decent ’50s cardigan – but maybe now in my role as vintage vendeuse and restorer I can use those beads to fix up other cardigans and pay penance?

I’m still shocked at myself.

Back to beaded cardigans – I’ve had many since then, including a black one that I was wearing in my UK passport photo in 1991, along with an angora scarf and an early ’40s princess line coat with shoulders like rocket launchers – I still have the coat, although it quickly proved too heavy to wear so was substituted with a ’60s peacoat from Camden markets that I liked in crimson silk. The beaded cardigan was worn until it was in shreds. You can’t say I don’t love my vintage.

But really, back to beaded cardigans. It’s a common myth that they are a ’50s fashion but most of them were made during the hey day of beaded fashions: the ’60s. I’ve heard there were big workshops holding as many as a hundred Chinese ladies in Hong Kong, meticulously hand sewing beads on Western fashions – a forefront of our current “Made in China” days. They were made in standard designs or to order, and sold to fashion companies around the world who put their own labels in them: this is why you’ll find similar designs from different designers.

The last time beaded fashions were so popular was the ’20s, when the best work came from Paris but the French were doing them mostly with beading machines. It horrifies me to think of those poor Chinese ladies, hand beading – which is a slow and laborious task – when there were machines that could have done the job. Their wages were cheap of course, but I do worry about the toll it took on their hands and their eyes.

I can’t do much to prevent the exploitation of workers in other countries – other than purchase responsibly – especially when it was fifty years ago, but I can cherish the work that these ladies have left us with, and preserve it for a future generation.

Here are some things you may not know about beaded cardigans:

1950s beaded cardigans
- tend to have more shape (difference in size between the bust and waist)
- sit on the waist rather than the hips.
- sleeves are more likely to be shorter too: bracelet or three quarter length, to show off gloves and bracelets.
- colours and designs show more variation, with soft pastel shades popular.
- usually just the body is lined, but not the sleeves.

1960s beaded cardigans
- are boxier in shape (less difference between the bust and waist)
- sit on the hips rather than the waist.
- sleeves are long, to the wrist.
- colours and designs are more standardised: instead of pastels they tend to come in cream or black.
- fully lined with the sleeves and body.



How to look after your beaded cardigan:

- Firstly, gently hand wash in luke warm water and wool wash or dry clean. You need be sure that there aren’t any critters in it, as moths love the soft fibres.

- If you can’t launder or dry clean right away, put into the freezer for a week – especially if you find any moth nibbles.

- Dry flat on a towel: the beads are heavy especially when the garment is wet and can pull it out of shape if you line dry.

- Press with a warm iron, carefully avoiding the beads and pearly buttons if present.

- If you’re missing pearly buttons, they can usually be found at haberdashers or craft shops. I keep a stash as they’re very handy.

- Check for loose beads and secure using a beading needle (very thin and long, see your haberdasher) and a strand of matching thread.

- If there is only minimal bead loss, simply securing the existing beads will probably be all that you need to do but if there are visible patches, replacement beads can be found at bead shops, haberdashers or online. Many vintage beads of the ’50s and ’60s are indistinguishable from modern versions and come in a wide range of colours.

- another option for larger bead loss is to apply a beaded applique.

- beads and appliques also are great for covering mends, moth holes and marks, not just for beaded cardigans but in general.


2
Aug
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, Style icon


Photo courtesy Tim Hamilton.

This is me last night – having the time of my life!

I’ve given quite a few talks about the subjects I’m passionate about: fashion, social history, textiles – but the lovely people at ACMI invited me to talk about my first true love, my love of Marilyn Monroe and her costumes and it was a dream come true.

They provided a slide show of 16 costumes from “The Asphalt Jungle” in 1950 to the last costume MM wore in public – the glittering Jean Louis silk souffle confection she wore in 1962 to sing “Happy Birthday Mr President” to JFK at Madison Square Garden.

Oh what fun! My inner fifteen year old could not believe that after all the years of scouring libraries, ordering in books, waiting for that elusive film to be shown on TV – back in those terrible days when we were at the mercy of free-to-air TV and that was it – sketching my favourite gowns and boring friends silly talking about it – I would find myself in a place where I could share Marilyn’s stories and receive a happy, enthusiastic response!

Happy Day indeed.

So now that I’ve been encouraged, you’ll have to endure more Marilyn content I’m afraid – actually, if the response to the talk and previous posts is anything to go by, most of you won’t mind at all – so today I wanted to share with you some of my favourite MM pics, from what is known as Milton Greene’s “Black Sitting”.

You’ve seen what Bert Stern managed to achieve with three days with Marilyn, imagine what her co-producer and manager Milton Greene achieved in four years? Over that time there were fifty two photo shoots and this may be the best of all – I certainly love it, and it encapsulates what I consider to be essence of Marilyn.

You may recognise the image above – it was featured on the front cover of Norman Mailer’s “Imaginary memoir of Marilyn Monroe” called “Of Women and their Elegance”, a semi-fictional book that like many (all?) fails to capture the real Monroe, but it’s filled with glorious images of MM and other women by Milton Greene.

Worth it for the eye candy although the text made me a bit stabby. Men seem to have difficulty seeing the world through a woman’s eyes, especially when it’s a woman like Monroe on whom people liked to project their ideas. Excuse me if I now attempt to project some of my own ideas on her!

I consider Monroe to be primarily a model: she wanted to be loved, and understood that the eye of the camera was an effective medium to receive mass love. When she first started as a model, she would take home prints and spend hours minutely exploring what did – and didn’t – work in her pose and expression. It was a painstaking process that perfected her art – by the time she was cast in her first film she had a very good idea of how to communicate what she wanted, down that lens to the audience.

Photographers would speak of how strong the connection was, they frequently felt that they were literally being seduced and at any moment she would drop her clothes and magic would happen. That even in a room of photographers, each man would feel as if he alone, could have her.

It was an illusion of course: despite the many stories that paint Monroe as a loose woman, her goal was always to be “fabulous”. She wanted to be famous and loved and her hard work and ambition got her there. If she slept with anyone in the pursuit of her career, it was usually a love match as it was with Johnny Hyde, her first agent.

Much of what has been said and written about Monroe tells us more about the culture she was a part of, with it’s conflicting ideas of who a woman should be. We still have a lot of difficulty with female sexuality and allowing women the freedom to express themselves as men do.

Marilyn lived in a very constricted post WW2 world where women’s primary role was as consumer and home-keeper, replacing the stocks of humans and tending to their needs. She had to balance sexuality with an unthreatening demureness.

These photos show Marilyn at the height of her powers – taken in February 1956, there was a fifty foot billboard of her “Seven Year Itch” subway dress pose gracing Times Square and she had just thumbed her nose at Hollywood by relocating to New York where she was studying The Method at the Actors Studio, turning down more “dumb blonde roles” that she considered below her abilities.

She set up her own production company with Milton Greene and was soon to marry Arthur Miller. Her next film would be Bus Stop, her first serious acting role.

Marilyn Monroe was a movie star – she had worked hard and now she had a level of control over her career and her life.

These photos show a woman who is comfortable with herself and who she is – less of the ’50s cheesecake pin up movie star who yearned for approval, and more of the “eternal woman”. They’re relaxed, sexy, playful and natural – timeless. In many she’s not even recognisable as Monroe.

Milton Greene left us in 1989 and since then, his estate has done well out of the photos – like many photographers, the time he spent with Marilyn made his name, reputation and fortune. A large collection of photos has just been auctioned for $2 million but no images from the Black Sitting were included.

Thank you Marilyn and Milton for leaving this wonderful legacy behind.


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