Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Jorn Langberg

"Pioneer" collection for Christian Dior, London, spring 1970

“Pioneer” collection for Christian Dior, London, spring 1970

Christian Dior London, autumn 1969

Christian Dior London, autumn 1969

As Christian Dior’s business succeeded he expanded his fashion empire to include outposts, most notably in New York in 1948 and London in 1952. Designing for these lines initially came from Dior himself, but as the work load increased assistant designers were brought in. Both New York and London sold pret-a-porter suits and coats designed specifically for their markets and in 1958 Marc Bohan was hired to design this pret-a-porter line for London. But in late 1960 Bohan was given Dior’s Paris couture line after Yves St. Laurent’s departure from Dior.

In 1965 Danish-born Jorn Langberg was hired to design London’s pret-a-porter line. Langberg was born June 16, 1930 in southern Denmark. Despite his father’s disapproval, Langberg moved to London in 1953 to study fashion at St. Martin’s College for four years. He began working at Worth in Paris before returning to London to take a job designing ready-to-wear for Wallis Shops “I liked the immediate measure of success. When 250 copies of one dress are sold in a day it makes for an easy reckoning in the success or failure tables.”

After a year as chief designer, Langberg became the director of Christian Dior London. In 1967 Dior Paris created Miss Dior, a pret-a-porter line for younger women; Langberg created a similar line in London around the same time under the name Diorling, named after the Dior scent created in 1963. In 1972 Langberg began a men’s line for Dior London. Langberg remained as director of Christian Dior London until 1975 when Dior Paris dissolved the New York and London offices to refocus the business on the world wide licensing of luxury goods.

Langberg’s professional history gets muddy after 1975, although his name continues to pop up in various publications regarding the restoration work of his various residences and surrounding stylish gardens. Jorn Langberg passed away March 12, 2014.

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Fashion Hall of Obscurity – ADEFA

ADEFA label from late 1930s coat

ADEFA label from late 1930s coat

Shortly after Germany’s new Nazi government held a boycott of Jewish businesses on April 1, 1933 (primarily to test the public and international reaction to state-sanctioned discrimination), Georg Riegel, a clothier in the Konfektion (ready-to-wear) industry, invited colleagues to establish an association of German clothing manufacturers. Within a year, the organization was registered as the Working Association of German-Aryan Manufacturers of the Clothing Industry, known by its German language acronym ‘ADEFA’. The approximate 200 founding member firms began placing ADEFA labels in their clothing to identify their association. This was part of the campaign to encourage the purchase of Aryan-made products and purge the German clothing industry of Jewish ownership, workmanship, or influence.

ADEFA publicized in 1937 that Jewish firms were still clothing 14 million Germans, so to speed the process of aryanizing the garment industry an additional organization was founded by many of the same members in January 1938. The Working Association of German Firms of the Weaving, Clothing, and Leather Trades, or ADEBE, was founded to further the cause in the textile and leather industries, as well as the retail and wholesale trades. The Ministry for the Economy temporarily banned this new organization on the grounds it would interfere with the economy, especially as German clothing exports were dropping, but Nazi ideology overrode economic interests and the ban was lifted.

By 1938, ADEFA had more than 600 member firms and was actively funding the buy out of existing Jewish businesses. Beginning 1 April 1938, members of ADEFA were forbidden any business dealings with Jews, as defined by the Nuremberg race laws of 1935, and were required to display signs in their shop windows that stated, ‘Ware aus arischer Hand’ (made by Aryan hands). This statement also appeared on the labels which were now required in every garment made by an ADEFA member.

After the ‘Ordinance on the Exclusion of Jews from German Economic Life,’ on November 12, all Jews were compelled to sell their enterprises. Magda Goebbels, wife of the minister of propaganda and well known fashionista, realized her favourite Jewish couturiers would have to close and was heard to say “Elegance will now disappear from Berlin along with the Jews.” On August 15, 1939, the director of ADEFA announced that the goal of aryanizing the German garment industry was complete and declared that the organization of ADEFA was now dissolved.

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The Evils of Stilettos in 1961

Institute of English Misses, Bamberg, Germany, October, 1961

Institute of English Misses, Bamberg, Germany, October, 1961

I found this image on the Shoe Icons virtual shoe museum website that shows women removing their stiletto shoes before entering an historic building where their metal rod reinforced heels would leave pock mark impressions in the original floors.

The damage caused by stiletto heels was a problem the Louvre solved around the same time as this photo by requiring female visitors to wear plastic caps over the top lifts of their shoes. This idea was recently revived by the company Solemates.

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Canadian Fashion Connection – Pat McDonaugh

Green print cotton blend jersey two-piece dress by Pat McDonagh, c. 1975

Green print cotton blend jersey two-piece dress by Pat McDonagh, c. 1975

Born in Manchester, England on March 17, 1934, Pat McDonagh learned to sew from her mother. After studying psychology and literature at Manchester U. and the Sorbonne, she turned her hand to fashion, working in a boutique, modelling, and making clothes worn by Diana Rigg in the Avengers TV series, including a python buckled coat. McDonagh came to Toronto with her husband and children in 1966. With the help of a sample-maker, McDonagh started her fashion business from her basement, launching her line in spring, 1970.

For the past 44 years, McDonagh has been a fixture in the Canadian fashion scene, producing two collections per year for which she has received awards and accolades. With failing health, McDonaugh’s spring 2014 collection will be her last, and will feature ten heritage designs – updated classics from her past work.

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Unexpected sitters

Woman in riding habit, 1880s

Woman in riding habit, 1880s

It’s so rare to see non-white women wearing high fashions in 19th century photographs that its a treat to come across a blog like this one where the author has gathered some  exceptional 19th and early 20th century images of black women wearing extremely fashionable dress. Some of the women in the photos were famous singers and actors, but most were just middle class women with good taste, a healthy bank account, and a penchant for keeping up to date with latest mode.

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Canadian Fashion Connection – Goudies department store


Celadon oatmeal tweed suit labelled ‘Goudies, Kitchener’, c. 1961

Pronounced ‘gow’ as in cow, this Kitchener, Ontario department store began as Weeloh-Goudies Ltd. in 1909 when Arthur Russell Goudie (1884-1960) became the manager and vice president of a new dry goods shop. After a fire destroyed the stock in 1918, the store was reopened but just under the name of Goudies. In 1925 Goudies moved to a new location at the northeast corner of King and Queen streets and became the largest department store in Ontario outside of Toronto and Ottawa when it expanded in 1934 up King street to include more than 50,000 square feet of retail space. The store was at its height of success from the late 1940s to the early 1960s but with the completion of highway 401 in 1964, which connected Toronto to Kitchener within an hour’s drive, and the gradual decline of the local manufacturing sector, the store began to wane, closing in 1988.

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Let’s go the the Mall

Something foolish for April Fool’s Day! I don’t watch How I Met Your Mother so I only found out aboot this spoof video a couple of days ago (apparently it was done in 2011.) The costuming is pretty good!

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Northern Exposure – Inuit dolls exhibition

Sometimes it is the small exhibitions, created by curators with a passion for their topic, that make the best museum displays, and this holds true for a charming exhibition of dolls on display this month at the Joseph Schneider Haus in Kitchener. What makes the exhibition worth a visit is the surprising diversity and detailing in the styles of dress that are designed primarily to survive the harsh northern climate. The exhibition uses a clever and simple idea of a wall map to place the dolls in their location so the differences in regional dress are understood at a glance from the Eskimo people of Alaska, through Canada’s Inuit, to the Greenlanders in the east. The exhibition closes April 30.

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Moths? Freeze them.

I was giving a lecture last night about the historical use of felt in fashion and was asked about how to care for felt. As felt is made of animal fibres, moths are potentially the worst problem and so I explained my environmentally-friendly, sure-fire method of moth prevention. I discovered how effective this method was in February 1994 when I was moving between two apartments in Toronto in the middle of the coldest winter in decades (even colder than this past winter.)

I usually make sure I keep new acquisitions out of the storage room until I am sure they are pest free, however, something I acquired (I think it was a Canadian Women’s Army uniform) slipped in under the radar and within a few weeks the collection was all ‘a flutter’. As I went through the racks it was interesting to note that the moths preferred soft wools like cashmere over hard spun woolen twills, and gravitated to fur instead of wool, and were drawn to light coloured fur over dark coloured fur. The worst infestations were in a rabbit and ermine fur coat from the 1920s and two white fox stoles. Those items were too riddled to save and were thrown out. However, the rest of the collection was largely spared but needed treatment.

I had heard of the freezer method and as I was moving in a few days and the weather was in the negative double digits, I used the cold to my advantage by putting the collection into the truck the night before our move. The quick freezing didn’t give time for the moths to acclimatize and effectively killed the worms and adult moths. After a thorough vacuuming and inspection a 1950s cashmere blend suit had to join the fox stoles and ermine coat, but everything else was fine.

I should have posted this blog during the last few months when there was still plenty of cold weather around, but when its not below freezing outside, I use the freezer compartment of the fridge, but do it twice to be sure (freeze for 24 hours, thaw for 12 and freeze for 12) and I swear by this method. I even use it as a part of the standard acquisition process for all furs entering the collection.

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Yves Saint Laurent biopic is on my summer watch list

Scene from film showing Yves St. Laurent's first design for Christian DIor from fall 1955 collection - made famous by Richard Avedon when he photographed Dovima wearing the dress in front of two elephants

Scene showing Yves St. Laurent fitting model with his first design for Christian Dior’s fall 1955 collection. The dress was made famous by Richard Avedon when he photographed the model Dovima wearing the dress standing in front of two circus elephants.

A recent article in the Guardian interviewed Madeline Fontaine (best known for her work as the costume designer of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s films: Amelie, MicMacs, A Rather Long Engagement…) about her work on the upcoming Yves Saint Laurent biopic. Surprisingly, her name does not appear in the IMDB listing credits, and I suspect that is partly to avoid any Edith Head/Givenchy misunderstanding (Edith Head received a Oscar for the costuming of 1954′s Sabrina, even though the most spectacular gowns in the film were created by Hubert de Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn.)

Cover of Paris Match featuring the wedding dress from YSL's first solo collection for Dior, spring 1958. This was one of the few dresses that was recreated for the film.

Cover of Paris Match 1958 The wedding dress was one of the very few dresses that would have to recreated for the film.

In Yves Saint Laurent nearly all the designer dresses are original, borrowed from the YSL Foundation archives. This wasn’t some coup obtained through skilled negotiation, but rather a stipulation set out by Pierre Bergé to protect the image of the house of Yves Saint Laurent. According to Fontaine “he really did not want us to recreate any costumes. Of course, we could not make any alterations to the original pieces either, so we had to cast the models for the fashion show scenes in a very unusual way, by finding models that would fit the dresses.” Reproductions were created only when key pieces were missing, such as a wedding dress from YSL’s spring 1958 collection for Dior.

The film focusses on the years 1958 to 1976, YSL’s most influential period, and is based on a book about Yves St. Laurent by Laurence Benaim (a publication I have not seen and it doesn’t appear to be available on Amazon however, here are some copies available through Abebooks.) A clip you can link to through the Guardian article looks a bit Nouvelle Vague for my tastes, but even if the film is a complete bomb, it would be worth the price of admission just to see the Yves St. Laurent fashions in motion. The film opens in North America on 25 June.

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