1950 German commercial from Felina – maker of foundation garments

Posted in underwear | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Canadian Fashion Connection – Penmans

Long John's advertisement from Penmans', 1902

Long John’s advertisement from Penmans’, 1902

Founded in 1868 as a woollen mill, by 1890 Penmans’ had grown to become the largest supplier of cotton and woollen knit goods, especially hosiery and underwear, in Canada. From the turn of the century until the 1960s, Penmans’ was also Paris Ontario’s largest employer. In 1965 Penman’s was bought out by Dominion Textile Inc., a Montreal-based manufacturing conglomerate. Sales started sagging and by 1980 the company was no longer working in the black.

"Pep Cat' by Penmans', jogging suit, c. mid 1980s

“Pep Cat’ by Penmans’, jogging suit, c. mid 1980s

In 1984 the manufacturing operation was moved to Cambridge where production shifted from underwear to leisure wear and licensed brands were added, including Yves St. Laurent’s active wear line, which debuted in 1987. The company’s name was also changed to Dominion Fashion Group, and HQ was relocated in Toronto. The old Penmans company name was retained for a line of Canadian-made leisure wear – jogging suits, sweat pants, sweat shirts, and lycra active wear. Walmart carried Penmans until 2010 when it was dropped in favour of its in-store brand George.

Posted in Canadian dress, sportswear | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Dressed for the Great Pumpkin…

Posted in fancy dress | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Glossary – Daggle-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

Posted in Glossary | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Designers/Couturiers | Tagged | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Obscurier Couturiers, Shoes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.”

Posted in Fashion myths, Shoes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Betty and Veronica make a dress… July 1975

Scan 133040001

Posted in Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

More Foncie Pulice

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

Posted in Photos | Tagged | Leave a comment

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

Scan 142840001 Scan 142840003 Scan 142840005 Scan 142840007 Scan 142840009

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged | Leave a comment