3
Dec
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1960s, Sewing, Shop talk 4 Comments

As a costumer I rarely use patterns when I sew – generally I just draft from scratch – and yet I’ve managed to accumulate over a thousand vintage patterns. I can’t resist them! Often when I go to see people’s wardrobes, there will also be patterns (and fabric, that’s another story) and they’re one of those things that can all so easily be thrown out.

Listing some of my patterns on the webshop today I noticed this style that incorporates a lot of what I look for in a frock: plunging V neckline, nice big full bishop sleeves, empire line, assorted lengths.

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I also wanted to pin down the date: was it late ’60s or early ’70s? Despite fashions changing rapidly during this decade, popular styles clung on, sometimes for a long time. As I’ve mentioned previously, vintage patterns can be much easier to date than finished garments because you have clues in the style of artwork, hair and make up plus accessories. The full hairstyle on the blonde suggests pretty close to 1970, as do her chunky heeled shoes (visible just under the hem of her long black maxi).

Google is your friend – I quickly found the Vintage Pattern Wiki entry – a great resource if you haven’t discovered it yet – which supplied the date. 1969, and reissued in 1970 – and a number of places you can buy it online. The prices were surprisingly high, suggesting a popular style or a premium for the “Vogue” brand.

Then I found a review at Sew Weekly by Mena Trott who had made the dress up – here’s a photo she posted. She called it the “Where’s my coke, Lester?” dress. You can see she’s made the neckline more demure, reducing the decolletage.

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Photo copyright Mena Trott.

Mena made it up in a heavy polyester, which didn’t hang as well as she would have liked. Perhaps she’ll try again in a lighter fabric? As anyone who sews can attest, the success generally depends on what fabric you choose – I’ve made that mistake many times, especially with trousers so perhaps that’s why I don’t wear them? It’s a good idea to follow the fabric suggestions on the pattern packet.

In another review Elona said…”I’ve made this one, and would like to note that with that decolletage and done up in a light, drapy fabric, it can be a stunning dressing gown, if you don’t have kids around the house.”

Gosh, how did we ever cope without the internet and all the information available?

Then I found an enthusiastic review by Urban Rustic who was fortunate enough to score some nice silk crepe at an op shop – perfect! Here’s the result:

Urban Rustic
Marvellous! Photo copyright Urban Rustic.

If that wasn’t enough, I found a pic of my favourite ’60s model, Jean Shrimpton wearing it in a David Bailey photo.

Jean Shrimpton

I think that’s twice in one week Miss Shrimpton has appeared in my blog. Photo copyright David Bailey, 1970. Mr Bailey was engaged to Jean in 1964, and together they produced some wonderful fashion shots.

If you’d like to try your hand at your own Vogue dress, the pattern is now available in the webshop: unless I decide to try it myself, of course!


29
Nov
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1960s, 1970s, Designers, Vintage 101 5 Comments

Today I’ve been looking into a new outfit, that’s just gone online – this “two piece dress” or top and skirt set by Melbourne designer Noeleen King.

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Noeleen was born in Ireland about 1933 and first learnt her trade under fashion designer Sybill Connolly. After migrating to Australia in the mid ’50s, she worked as a salegirl for five years before setting up her own label in Flinders Lane making “street dresses” with a small workroom and three machinists.

The following year she started making evening and cocktail wear, which sold better. True success came to her after five years, in 1965. With her Vidal Sassoon Eton crop hairstyle and lashings of mascara, her style was very young and hip. She was compared to Norma Tullo in importance for the era.

Noeleen and models Aus Womens Weekly 1965
Noeleen and models, Australian Women’s Weekly 1965.

Noeleen’s label primarily produced clothes she wanted to wear herself, and was described as “Medieval Mod”. Her customers were mostly teenagers and women in their early 20s – the largest size she stocked was SSW (Small, small woman, roughly equivalent to a modern size 8!). You can see the medieval influence in the outfit above, and sure enough, the size is “XXSSW” – equivalent to a modern 4 but don’t worry, we replaced the elastic in the tiny waist (it had deteriorated) now making it a size 8. It’s a very unusual style, with it’s double puffed, Renaissance style sleeves.

Aus Womens Weekly 1966
Jean Shrimpton in Noeleen King, Australian Women’s Weekly 1966.

Mary Quant was a friend and fan of Noeleen’s designs, and authorised Noeleen to produce her designs in Australia, under licence. The Vintage Fashion Guild have a copy of the Mary Quant/Noeleen King label if you’d like to see it.

Noeleen’s skirts came in three lengths: day (just above the knee), cafe (mid calf) and evening (touching the instep) – another way of saying “mini, midi and maxi”. The one above must be “evening length”. The long maxi skirt with a wide ruffle to the hem is quite fashion forward – this style was influenced by the ’40s fashions and became very popular in the mid ’70s.

nicole-de-la-marge-in-printed-cotton-dress-with-tiered-collar-by-noeleen-king-photo-by-norman-eales-may-1965-b
Nicole de la Marge in printed cotton dress with tiered collar by Noeleen King, photo by Norman Eales, May 1965 Photo source here.

In 1965 Noeleen was shipping her designs to the US and the UK from her factory of 80 machinists in the basement of 45 Flinders Lane and warehouse at 23 Lincoln Square South, Carlton. She lived in a South Yarra maisonette with her husband Ron (also her production manager).

Aus Womens Weekly 1965
The Australian Women’s Weekly 1965

Aus Womens Weekly 1969
The Australian Women’s Weekly 1969

Noeleen King label late '60s
Noeleen King label from the late 1960s.

Noeleen’s old factory in Flinders Lane is now a theatre and earlier this year a production was staged there about Noeleen’s life and label! I’m not sure when the label ceased, but I suspect it was the late ’70s – certainly, I can’t find any references to the company or fashions after then.

Thank you, Noeleen, I’ll be looking out for more of your beautiful fashions from the ’60s and ’70s.


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.

Sharene Creations dress 1950s 475

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.

Aus Womens Weekly 1961
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 1960s, Calendar, Exhibitions, Style icon

Recently I watched a James Bond marathon with back to back movies, starting with the first one “Dr No” and it revealed a lot about the appeal of the British secret agent.

Unfortunately I gave up once we got to the ’80s films but I’d already decided that they worked best as futuristic style porn – a fantasy world of riches and talent. I particularly enjoyed the architecture, interiors and of course – the wonderful costumes.

James Bond parties are not unheard of, and if you’re going to one I recommend for the ladies to go for a sexy but classy look: glamourous and revealing but still elegant. Emphasise one part of your body and remember that a little mystery goes a long way.

Soon the Melbourne Museum is hosting an exhibition of 50 years of Bond Style – as well as costumes, I hope to see gadgets and plenty of them, plus set designs. Hopefully a car or two – preferably the one from “The Spy Who Loved Me” that was also a submarine.

What: Designing 007
When: 1st November 2013 to 23rd February 2014, 10pm to 5pm daily (closed Christmas Day)
Where: Melbourne Museum, Exhibition Gardens.
Cost: Adult $24, Child $14, Concession $16, MV Member $14
More information here. Bookings recommended.

My favourite Bond films were the ’60s ones which were just glorious escapist confections, where anything was possible and the kitsch was unbelievable.

Here are some snaps – thankfully the latest film, Skyfall has rescued the franchise for me. Daniel Craig makes a splendid Bond and I loved Judy Dench as M. I’m going to have to go back and see some more of their work now.

Daniela Bianchi
Daniela Bianchi in “From Russia With Love”

Dianna Rigg
Diana Rigg in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”

Honey Ryder
Ursula Andress in “Dr No”

Honor Blackman
Honor Blackman in “Goldfinger” managing to combine the appeal of Lauren Bacall and Jane Russell and give it a ’60s update.

You only live twice
Sean Connery and lovelies in “You Only Live Twice”.


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!

Happy 1

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.

Happy 5

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.

Happy 6

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.

Happy 8

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!

Happy 2


4
Sep
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1920s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s 5 Comments

When I read the news this morning, I got excited because the Victoria and Albert boutique must be a vintage shop surely?

But no: Victoria and Albert designed their own range of contemporary fashion starting in North Sydney in 1964 and moving to Double Bay soon afterwards, where they traded for forty years.

auction 3

If you know Sydney, you already have a good idea of what sort of stock a North Sydney shop in 1964 and Double Bay for 1965-2004 is likely to have – they picked up a youthful clientele in the swinging ’60s and then probably catered to them as they got older. I would expect classic but conservative clothes, in very good, even couture quality.

Like many fashion designers, they kept historical clothing in their archives for inspiration -and (along with the groovy ’60s frocks), this is what I would be most interested in: see below for images of an amazing velvet cloak with matching bag, and beaded ’20s dress.

Auction Details
Sunday 15 September 2013 at 1:00pm
Shapiro Gallery, 162 Queen St, Woollahra, Sydney
Woollahra Hotel Function Room, 116 Queen Street, Woollahra, Sydney

Catalogue available online.
More information here. Images reproduced courtesy Victoria and Albert boutique and Shapiro Auctions.

I haven’t seen any vintage clothes with the Victoria and Albert label, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for them.

auction 2

auction 1

C536596-Patricia_Burkett


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.

Melbourne Leader 2

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.

St Clare TSG 3

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

St Clare TSG 2

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

St Clare TSG

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!


30
Aug
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1960s, 1970s, Costume Collections, Designers, Vintage 101 8 Comments

There’s nothing new under the sun, is there?

I’m reminded of this constantly when I see contemporary fashion ranges because they’re always similar to something that has been done before – currently we’re seeing a lot of the late ’70s to early ’80s and a smattering of early to mid ’90s.

For me, all of it was more interesting the first time around so it works best when a new spin or twist can be applied.

Today I read this:

Len Vogue 1974 3

It sounds like the current crisis, doesn’t it? Except that this is old news from The Age in 1974!

I was researching Len Vogue – because I find lots of Len Vogues and I wanted to know more.

Len Vogue opened in 1965 and closed in 1975 and supplied over 1,000 retailers around Australia including their own shops.

They became successful because instead of the usual system of the time, whereby retailers would order from sample ranges and wait for delivery, Len Vogue produced stock daily and kept a large amount available at all times.

They started off as Len Vogue Industries, and developed into Len Vogue Distribution as their grew their list of customers – and had a team of fashion designers and researchers to produce up to 30,000 garments a week from forty factories!

That’s a lot of frocks!

They were based at 31 Wangaratta Street, Richmond, tucked behind the Corner Hotel and a stone’s throw from Richmond Train station.

Because fashion styles go in and out, I really appreciate the certainties in the fashion world and if you can pin down the dates that a label operated, it can be very useful.

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I have this Len Vogue ensemble, just listed on the web shop today.

Dress and jacket ensembles came in during the ’30s and again in the ’50s to early ’60s and at first I wondered if this was from that later era? It has the princess seams, and shift silhouette that was popular in the early part of the ’60s but the candy stripe reminded me of this dress in the Darnell Collection, that is featured in my book “Love Vintage” and also last year’s “Fashion Meets Fiction” exhibition.

So I wondered if my ensemble could be late ’60s too? A google through the newspaper archives found the relevant dates so now I’m happy on when it was probably made.

This style is perfect for the races or a wedding, especially with some nice accessories.

Have you found any Len Vogues during your vintage adventures?

Len Vogue label

Update: Shel has sent in pics of her Len Vogue ’60s dress and label – thank you Shel. I love it! Readers, you’re always welcome to send me pics when I post about fashion houses – the more designs we can see of a label, the more it contributes to our knowledge of them.

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Photo reproduced courtesy Shel Wang.

Update: Rachelle has sent in a pic of her Len Vogue early ’70s sundress, and some articles from the Australian Women’s Weekly.

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Photo reproduced courtesy Rachelle Summers.

AWW 1968
AWW 1968 2

Australian Women’s Weekly – 1968

AWW 1972

Australian Women’s Weekly – 1972


15
Aug
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1950s, 1960s, Vintage 101 6 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.


5
Jul
2013
Posted by Nicole in 1960s, Style icon 6 Comments

Last week Bert Stern died – the photographer who liked to shoot models best, but received his greatest piece of luck during three days spent in a hotel room with an intoxicated Marilyn Monroe.

It was 1962 and Vogue magazine – who had spurned her for years, considering her to be too low class for their esteemed publication – hired him for a photo session that would change his life.

What would you do if you were Bert? Feed the movie star champagne of course – and keep shooting – 2,500 times.

Six weeks later she was dead and Bert was on the way to making his name and his fortune. He would go on to shoot many wonderful models and actors but never surpass the success of this session – a testament to his art and Monroe’s ability to seduce the camera.

You’ve no doubt seen images from the shoot – named “The Last Sitting” and eventually producing two books worth – one image graced the cover of the book I received for my 15th birthday – Marilyn by Norman Mailer.

This book has been reprinted many times but my copy is still at home, rather scruffy after many, many happy readings and almost fifty house moves. Thank you Jean! Such a wonderful birthday present, well worth scouring all the second hand bookshops in Perth to find it at last at Serendipity Books.

Or maybe you’ve seen the image gracing the cover of “American Dior” – now duly added to my required reading list.

I know this session so well and have seen images pop up on flyers for vintage sales, cafe openings and blogs across the world. Bert did very well out of them, even selling the images that Monroe herself crossed out with a red texta, indicating that they had been rejected and were to be binned.

Even the rejects look fabulous. I want one.

Monroe had been so generous with herself: she leans towards the camera with a mix of yearning, love, confidence and vulnerability – “I’m yours!” she cries and whispers – “you won’t hurt me, will you?” MM had been hurt and the next six weeks promised more betrayal but she was still hopeful, still professional (even at her drunkest) and still incredibly photogenic.

There are those who will tell you that Marilyn was a mess at this point in her life – she had been fired from her film “Something’s Got to Give” and spurned by her lover, President John F. Kennedy. He had passed her onto his little brother Robert, who was also seeking to extricate himself from her bed. She was allegedly mostly drunk or out of it on drugs – and in many of these images you can see that she’s had too much but still. Still. Fabulous.

There are those who will tell you that she was fat – the poster child for overweight beauty but these images show the truth: at 36 years old her face reveals lines, her body is wounded but she makes no attempt to hide her scars. Still fabulous.

Monroe was a woman who was comfortable in her own skin, indeed felt at her best when naked and it was an open secret in Hollywood that she preferred not to wear knickers, would never wear girdles and only wore bras to bed (to preserve the perkiness of her famous breasts). Her maid complained that she would greet visitors in the nude.

She shocked Clark Gable when she eschewed clothes for a scene in “The Misfits” where he kisses her in bed – and let slip the sheet so that his hand touched her breast. Her last (unfinished) film included a nude swimming scene – the first time a major star appeared nude in a film. Not surprisingly, she’s sans clothes in a large number of the Last Sitting images. Utterly fabulous.

Thank you Bert and thank you Marilyn – these images form a bridge between 1950s glamour and the realism of the 1960s. They reveal why Marilyn, in the 21st century continues to speak to us.


Unless stated otherwise, all content © Circa Vintage Clothing 2004-2014. ABN 37 840 548 574.