Patent Fashion – Personal Flotation Device, 1915

na_1718_2Perhaps not a fashion, but it is worn… Moved by the tragedy of the Titanic, Norwegian-born former sailor (who had been shipwrecked three times), John Edlund (1874 – 1957), invented a personal life saving device and patented the idea in 1915.

Edlund created his idea when he was living in Claresholm, Alberta – about as far from an ocean as you can get. The device doubled as a valise when not in use for lifesaving. Unfolded, the passenger could climb in and then walk into the water from the ship’s deck – seeing their way through a small glass looking-hole. Edlund was offered a fee for his design, but he turned it down to pursue his own marketing campaign. The idea was profiled in many publications in Canada and the U.S. and there was some interest in it during the Great War, but the idea eventually sank.

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Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Victor Haffenden

A few months ago the museum was given a sleeveless, scoop-necked, full length white cotton lace dress with a blue cummerbund sash, worn in 1955 as a wedding dress. It didn’t look particularly ‘bridal’, but the donor, who had also been the wearer, said she wanted something she could wear as a summer evening dress afterwards. She also said she had the dress custom-made for her by a London couturier but couldn’t remember his name. I later found the label – but was it Haffeudell, Hallendell, Hallemdeu?

After a lot of different combinations, I finally figured out his name was Haffenden, not Holleudeu

After trying many different spellings, I finally figured out his name was Haffenden


Victor Haffenden, 1897 – 1965

Victor Haffenden was born in 1897. By the late 1940s his name appears in theatre programmes as a costume designer for several different West End productions, usually for the lead actress. At one point I found an advertisement for one of his fashion dresses from a Singapore or Hong Kong newspaper but I have since lost that link. I also found him on a genealogy site. The site says Victor died in 1965 at the age of 68. Usually I like to find a bit more about somebody before posting, but I have reached a brick wall. If anybody knows  more about Victor Haffenden, let me know!

(Added September 21): Ask and ye shall receive!  Daniel Milford-Cottam who works at the V&A, and whom I have known via the computer for almost 15 years, unearthed Victor’s back story. Turns out Victor Harrod-Haffenden is Australian, from North Bondi. He had musical training as a child, and played the piano, as well as wrote songs that were performed by his sister, a well known soprano in her day – Madame Lily Payling. By 1935 he was working as a dressmaker in Sydney, when he took a year long trip to Europe. While in London he accepted a position to take over an existing dressmaking firm. His work is occasionally noted in later years, and both he and an Elizabeth Haffenden (no relation) both made costumes for West End theatre productions. However, Elizabeth is the more famous of the two Haffendens and went on to win Academy Awards for her film costuming of Ben Hur (1960), and A Man for All Seasons (1966).

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Wartime film on good grooming

Posted in Beauty & Cosmetics | 2 Comments

As Seen In – 1942 courting dress

This dress was worn in 1942 by a woman who lived in Niagara Falls, Canada but during the war worked across the border in U.S. This was her favourite ‘date night’ outfit that she often wore while being courted by her future husband.

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1001 uses for Scotch tape – #731


Someone in the 1950s thought this idea up — it’s better than a bowl…

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Housekeeping update re: readers of this blog

I had an open door policy for anyone to sign up here but the internet spoiled that trust and I was being bombarded with countless offers every day for everything from knock off Vuitton purses and ways to make $5,000 per month from home, to promises of a larger penis, or at least a good time with some woman in Russia who saw my picture and thought I looked sexy… So I have cleaned house and removed the 12,000 users. I suspect at least some of those users were not bogus, so if you got thrown out with the spammers, sorry about that.

I am not a techy guy, but I know there is some way to have users prove they are human beings and not spiderbots or heartless advertisers (or a couple of guys in Nigeria who really want me to help some poor widow cash a cheque.) So the next time I find a 9 year old who can help me, I will reinstate a sign-up for this blog. In the meantime, my spam mail has PLUMMETED to (near) nil.

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Summer Scandals

The Monokini 1964                                                        The Burkini 2016

The Monokini 1964

The Monokini 1964

The Burkini 2016

The Burkini 2016

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Glossary – Parfilage (drizzling)

As Rococo taste became ever more fantastic in the late 18th century, the cost of brocaded silks and metallic embellishments became prohibitive. And so it became the fashion in France for wealthy women, equipped with tools including a stiletto, knife, and pair of scissors, to pick the gold and silver from the brocades, laces, galloons (braid) and fringes of their old gowns to reclaim the metal threads. This was not a practice done in shame, suggesting a lack of funds, but an obsessive pastime commonly practiced in the company of friends, like embroidery.


Enamelled case for drizzling pick and scissors, late 18th century

Known as parfilage in France, where it originated and was commonly practised by the 1760s, it grew in popularity and geography. Lady Mary Coke noted an evening she spent at Princess Kevenhuller’s in Austria during the winter of 1770 where “All the Ladys who do not play at cards pick gold: tis the most general fashion I ever saw…”

Madame de Genlis, wrote in her 1782 novel Adèle et Théodore a scene in which a male character describes ten crazed parfileuses “tearing away my coat and packing all my fringes and galloons into their workbags…”

Refugees from the French Revolution may have imported the practise into England in the 1790s where it was called drizzling, but as the fashion for metallic trims and brocades fell from fashion by the early 19th century, so did the practise.

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Worshipful Company of Glovers of London

There are amazing collections in the hands of private connoisseurs, corporate collections and tiny museums that aren’t well known. I have been collecting links to their online sites for years, and now I am going to share. First up, the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London:

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Sonia Rykiel 1930 – 2016

2022756_deces-de-la-creatrice-sonia-rykiel-a-lage-de-86-ans-web-tete-0211229118594-672x372Twice bestowed the Legion of Honor by French presidents, Sonia Rykiel (pronounced ree-KYEL) was a recognizable icon of French style with her pale face, masses of red hair, mascara-rimmed eyes and almost always dressed in black. Rykiel was born Sonia Flis in Paris on May 25, 1930, the oldest of five daughters. Her Romanian born father was a watchmaker and her Russian born mother a housewife. At 17, Rykiel got a job as a window dresser in a Paris store, and in 1953 married Sam Rykiel, who owned a Paris boutique.

13 Apr 1973, Paris, France --- Fanny Sweater. Paris: Fashion's hottest item this year is the new, long "fanny sweater," and meeting sweater craze head-on is designer Sonia Rykiel, whose mini-sweater dress for evening is presented at showing of her collection here. Right: fanny sweater is tamed somewhat by coupling it with just below the knee pleated skirt worn with fake fur coat. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

13 Apr 1973, Fanny Sweater by Sonia Rykiel

According to Rykiel she began designing clothes n 1961 while pregnant with her second child and couldn’t find any maternity clothes that appealed to her. Rykiel wanted something that celebrated her pregnancy not hide it, so she designed an outfit that consisted of a fitted bodice and flowing skirt.

She was one of the early proponents of the French ready-to-wear boutique movement and began selling some of her early designs through her husband’s store. In 1968 the couple divorced, and in May of that same year Rykiel opened a boutique on the left bank selling maternity and knitwear, in the trending neighbourhood of St.-Germain-des-Prés. Her clothes, designed for the liberated, working-woman-on-the-go in mind, took off in the 1970s. Rykiel became best known for re-inventing knitwear into flattering, sexy designs that hugged the figure and made the body look slimmer. Her clothes were soon donned by women of all ages for everyday use.

00-holding-sonia-rykiel-in-vogueRykiel product lines expanded in the 1980s to include clothing for men and children, perfume and cosmetics, lingerie, and accessories. By 1990, the business had grown into a global enterprise of 200 retail outlets. Her daughter Nathalie became the company’s artistic director in 1995 and its president in 2007. Rykiel retired in 2009, and in 2012, Fung Brands, an investment firm backed by two Hong Kong billionaires acquired 80 percent of the company.

Rykiel died at the age of 86 on Thursday (August 25) from complications from Parkinson’s.

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