Dressed for the Great Pumpkin…

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Glossary – Daggle-tail

winter-50-dustDAGGLE-TAIL
As a verb, to daggle means “to befoul” or “dirty”, specifically with dust and mud. The adjective daggle-tail describes someone with their skirt’s hem defiled with dirt. As a noun, a daggle-tail is a slovenly woman. Websters dictionary, 1913

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Oscar de la Renta 1932 – 2014

Green silk evening gown with sequinned bodice, by Oscar de la Renta for Jane Derby, c. 1967

Green silk evening gown with sequinned bodice, by Oscar de la Renta for Jane Derby, c. 1967

Oscar Aristides Ortiz de la Renta Fiallo was born to a well-to-do family on July 22, 1932 in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. He moved to Madrid at age 17 to study painting at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. By the mid-1950s Oscar was working as an illustrator for Balenciaga before moving over to Lanvin in Paris to work under designer Antonio del Castillo.

Blue and white polka-dot gypsy inspired outfit, by Oscar de la Renta, c. 1972

Blue and white polka-dot gypsy inspired outfit, by Oscar de la Renta, c. 1972

In 1963 Oscar moved to New York to begin his career in ready-to-wear – where he correctly felt the future of fashion was heading. He started working at Elizabeth Arden and moved over to Jane Derby Inc., shortly before Derby’s death in 1965. Oscar bought Derby’s business with the help of investors found by his well connected wife –  Francoise de Langlade, editor-in-chief of French Vogue.

In 1969, the same year he became a U.S. citizen, de la Renta relaunched his business under his own name. For the next 45 years Oscar dressed Hollywood celebrities, royalty, and every first lady from Jacqueline Kennedy to Laura Bush. Michelle Obama only recently wore de la Renta for the first time after rejecting his designs for years after de la Renta publicly criticized her clothing choices for meeting Queen Elizabeth in 2009.

Oscar de la Renta died October 20, 2014, after a long battle with cancer.

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Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Maginel Wright

Maganela slippes, c. mid 1950s

Maganela slippes, c. mid 1950s, images courtesy of Sarara Brazil

Maginel (a contraction of Maggie and Nell) Wright was more than just the sister of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, she was also an accomplished illustrator of children’s books, Christmas cards, and magazine covers – as well as a shoe stylist. She married twice, first to Walter Enright, during which time she was known for her illustration work as Maginel Wright Enright. After divorcing Enright, she married Hiram Barney, and it was while she was known as Maginel Wright Barney that she turned her hand to fashion.

DSCN4034During the 1940s, Maginal began embellishing felt slippers with glass jewels and gilt-braid inspired by the colours and patterns of Serbian costumes that belonged to her sister-in-law (Frank’s third wife), Olgivanna. Soon Maginel was producing the shoes for resale under the label Maganela using leather soled felt ‘ballet’ shoes made by Capezio. The exact dates of her production are not known, however the shoes were sold through America House – a consignment craft store in New York that sold artisan pottery and rugs etc., which was in business between 1940 and 1971. Maginel passed away in 1966.

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Fashion Myths – Roger Vivier’s Coronation shoes

It has been repeated many times that Roger Vivier designed the shoes worn by Queen Elizabeth for her Coronation in 1953. Although he designed sandals for the event, the shoes were not worn by Queen Elizabeth nor even made at the time. Vivier’s design was purely intended for self-promotion – something at which Vivier has proven to be even better than shoe design.

 Roger Vivier's design for coronation sandals, 1953

Roger Vivier’s design for coronation sandals, 1953

Roger Vivier is more of a mystery than most fashion histories reveal. To begin with, his birth date varies between 1907 and 1911, and his curriculum vitae before 1953 is sketchy, made up mostly of freelance design work for various shoe companies and designers, including the American shoe firm of Delman, the Swiss shoe firm of Bally, and the French couturier Schiaparelli. There was also a brief stint when he worked as a milliner in New York in the mid 1940s.

1953 was the turning point in Vivier’s life. The sketch he did of a pair of sandals encrusted with rubies and diamonds for the Queen’s Coronation was mistakenly reported as having been made for the Coronation – a misconception Vivier never corrected. The thought of the queen wearing a pair of shoes designed by a Frenchman using real jewels, when the English people were still subject to postwar meat and sugar rationing is tantamount to a Marie Antoinette bread recipe. The big spend was on the coronation dress by English-born designer Norman Hartnell – heavily embroidered with gilt thread, crystals, sequins and beads but not rubies and diamonds.

Reproductions of the coronation sandals by Roger Vivier, c. 2012

Variation of the coronation sandals by Roger Vivier, reproduced in 2012

Never-the-less, the royal design propelled Vivier’s name and that same year he was hired to make a line of shoes for Delman in the U.S., and later, a line for Dior, via Delman. From this opportunity Vivier began creating an exclusive line for Dior in 1955, which bore Vivier’s name on the label alongside Dior’s, and from 1955 to 1962, when Vivier left Dior to work on his own, Vivier’s shoes became famous for their luxurious embellishment and innovative heel designs. Although these attention grabbing bespoke designs appeared in magazine pages, few were ever ordered. The vast majority of VIvier’s shoes were ready-to-wear and plain.

Arriving at Westminster Abbey for the Coronation

Arriving at Westminster Abbey for the Coronation

As for the Queen, considering the amount of preparation she did and precautions she took to avoid any potential problems at the coronation (including wearing the crown around Buckingham Palace for weeks before the coronation) it seems unlikely that she would even consider wearing high heeled shoes under the long, full dress that entirely hid her feet. In a recent discussion I had with Alexandra Kim, a former curator at Kensington Palace, Kim said: “there are no surviving (coronation) shoes that they know of and no record of them being Vivier… it seems highly unlikely that the queen would wear the shoes of a French shoemaker for this event and I also think that she might have chosen more comfortable/practical shoes for an event which was long, with a heavy crown to worry about and shoes that wouldn’t be seen.”

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Betty and Veronica make a dress… July 1975

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More Foncie Pulice

I spent a couple of hours on Sunday going through the Foncie Pulice website and  ‘borrowed’ a few more…

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What to do with metal hangers? A suggestion from Women’s Day magazine, January 1953

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It Came From Hollywood – exhibition of 1940s Adrian fashions

Scan 142820028The Fashion History Museum is mounting an exhibition of fashions by Adrian to accompany the Grand River Film Festival, November 3-7 at Landmark Cinemas, 135 Gateway Park Drive, in Kitchener, Ontario.

For thirty years Adrian costumed many of Hollywood’s most successful films including: The Bishop’s Wife, Philadelphia Story, Ninotchka, Grand Hotel, The Women, and The Wizard of Oz. Adrian entered the world of high fashion in 1942, selling an exclusive line of suits and gowns through 25 department stores across the U.S. Adrian retired from both his film costuming and fashion businesses in 1952 and died in 1959.

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Vintage Sartorialist – Foncie Pulice – Vancouver street photographer 1934-1979

I remember seeing Alphonso (Foncie) Pulice once in the early 1970s on Granville street in downtown Vancouver. He would take snaps of people as they passed by and hand you a card where you could pick up the snap the next day (for a fee). In my family’s photo albums I know there are several pics of my grandmother, mother, and other relatives photographed by Pulice between the late 1930s and mid 1950s. Pulice started as a street photographer’s assistant in 1934 and retired the day he turned 65 in 1979. What I love about street photography is that this is fashion in reality – no red carpets:

For more Foncie images there is this archives where you can look at hundreds of images.

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