Bullocks Wilshire Department Store

Bullock’s was founded in 1907 in downtown Los Angeles by John G. Bullock. In 1929 an Art Deco branch on Wilshire Boulevard was opened that became known as Bullocks Wilshire. Bullock’s acquired I. Magnin, a high end San Francisco department store in 1944, and twenty years later, both were acquired by Federated Department Stores. The stores operated autonomously until 1988 when Macy’s bought the Bullock’s/I. Magnin business from Federated.

Although the Art Deco Bullocks Wilshire was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 the decline of Bullocks Wilshire had already begun as other luxury stores and boutiques moved to the west side of the city, leaving Bullocks Wilshire alone. Bullock’s was dismantled in 1989 and the Wilshire store converted to an I. Magnin in 1990. Two years later, the main floor of the store suffered severe damage during the Los Angles riots. The store was closed in 1993 and stripped of its Art Deco fixtures and fittings that were used in other Macy’s stores. Bowing to heritage preservationist pressure, most of the contents were later returned. In 1994 the building was sold to the Southwest Law School, which restored the structure, and adapted it for its own use.

The interiors shown here were done by Tony Duquette (see tonyduquette.com for more information about this designer) in the late 1930s. The inspiration was the four seasons for the season-less L.A. climate.

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Jane Austen’s Country Ball

This past Saturday we held our first, of what we hope will become an annual, costume ball. In honour of our exhibition The World of Jane Austen 1792 – 1817, the theme was a Regency ball. 85 guests, not everyone in period  costume, gathered at the museum for a drink of bubbly and viewing of our exhibition before heading across the street to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian church hall. With the exception of some air ducts and fluorescent lighting, the high ceilinged hall, held up by Ionic columns could readily pass for a real Regency Assembly room. To further set the mood, the room was lined with period advertisements and news stories of the day, written in a tabloid style for a bit of fun.

A program outlined the history of the food being served for the repast. The supper buffet included popular dishes of the period as well as items introduced during Jane Austen’s lifetime: Cheeses, beef, roast potatoes, and cole slaw were served with curried ketchup and, pear and lime chutney. Dessert included ginger ice cream and apple pie alongside shaddock jelly and a towering croquembouche. To drink, there was plenty of Mr. Schweppes’ carbonated sodas, first sold in London in 1792. In Regency tradition, all courses were served at once, so sweet and savoury could be enjoyed by guests at will.

Frivolities varied about the room. The highlight for many were the reels, quadrilles and even an early waltz – each danced with great enthusiasm. For others, a night of rowdy Dominoes, or taking part in several hands of the fashionable card games Loo and Speculation entertained. As the setting was the hall of a church, no betting was allowed – so everyone went home with their fortunes, jewels, estates, and race horses intact. In a snug room adjacent to the main hall we were delighted by charming renditions of Regency songs, sung by Holly Brenneman and Stephanie Vaillant, who also entertained us with tunes from her harp. (See photo above of Holly and Stephanie, flanking museum employee Sarah Coates, who did the lion’s share of organizing for this event.)

Three hours passed quickly and then it was done…

We want to repeat a period evening next year but although we considered repeating a Regency theme, there is strong interest in a Downton Abbey era theme…

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Fashion in Song – Shiny Stockings (1958)

Count Basie recorded Shiny Stockings in 1956 and released the instrumental piece on his 1957 album April in Paris, but its the 1958 recording with Ella Fitzgerald singing the lyrics she wrote for the song that is especially nice:

Those silk shiny stockings

That I wear when I’m with you

I wear ’cause you told me

That you dig that crazy hue


Do we feel the romance

When we go to the dance

Oh no, you take a glance

At those shiny stockings


Then came along some chick

With great big stockings, too

When you changed your mind about me

Why, I never knew


I guess I’ll have to find

A new, a new kind

A guy who digs my shiny stockings, too

Then came along some chick

With great big stockings, too

When you changed your mind about me

Why, I never knew

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How 1913 saw the fashions of 1913

From the July 26 edition of the English magazine The Sphere, this fashion report sums up the influences and changes seen in the Spring 1913 fashions. The key points include an acknowledgement of the hobble skirt; first introduced in 1910, the hobble was now universally seen with a slit at the hem (to ease movement.) Panniers, first seen in 1912, gracefully draped the hips, and draped skirts, inspired by ancient Greek sculptures, were an inspiration for many designers in 1913. Sashes were popular as well as V necklines, standing ‘Medici’ collars, and decorative (not functional) pockets. Most interestingly is a claim that the trouble ‘in the East’ is likely the inspiration for the introduction of embroideries. The reference is likely to the wars and revolts happening throughout the Balkans from Greece to Turkey.

The illustration used on the cover of the July 26, 1913 edition of The Sphere first appeared on the cover of the April 1 edition of Femina. Illustration by Bernard Boutet de Monvel. Thanks to Fashion Historians Unite for the scans.

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Canadian Fashion Connection – Alan Cherry

Alan Cherry with his daughter Lisa and wife Rosalyn 1988

For over 35 years, Alan Cherry was a Toronto fashion retailer known for his upmarket eye-catching fashions.

His grandparents emigrated from Russia to Toronto in 1906 and began a dry cleaning and tailoring business. His mother started her own women’s clothing store years later.

Despite dreams of becoming a hockey player, Cherry followed in the family business, opening his own eponymously named store at 711 Yonge St., just south of Bloor, in 1970. Cherry competed with high end clothiers like Creeds and Holt Renfrew. He carried expensive European imports, bridal wear and fur coats, and for several years, a line designed by his first wife, Rosalyn.

Cherry with his mannequins, 1982

Cherry made news in 1978 when 20 Saudi princesses visited his store – an event that incited wrath from the Jewish Defence League. Controversy surfaced again a few years later when he was confronted by anti-fur protestors. In response, Cherry handed out flyers from his store from the Humane Society and made a generous donation to the organization, but continued to sell furs.

His business was at its pinnacle in the 1980s. In 1982 Cherry commissioned an artist to sculpt his likeness that he used to create four mannequins for his storefront window. Later in the decade he opened another store at 55 Avenue road in Toronto’s fashionable Yorkville Village.

After a bout with cancer and a stroke, Cherry retired and closed his store in 2006. He died at the age of 80 in 2015.

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Fashion in Song – Shoe Shopping (2017)

A Country song this time — Shoe Shopping by Old Dominion was released this year on their album Happy Endings.

Some don’t last the way they should
Some make you feel good for a little while
And then you throw ’em away
Some are up on a shelf for some other time
Some are high dollar, some ain’t worth a dime
But you keep ’em anyway

Yeah, everybody’s looking for something
So how do I catch your eye, eye, eye?

If you’re shoe shopping, walk a mile with me
Slip a Cinderella slipper right on your feet
Take my arm, strut down the street tonight
(Strut down that street tonight)
If you’re downtown on the browse about
Looking for the perfect fit, how’s about
Some high-heel, high-top, pump ’em up, flip-flop
Heads-up, lucky penny loafer on a sidewalk
Patent leather, blue suede, tailor made, whatever you like
If you’re shoe shopping, try me on for size

You’re stepping on cracks, you’re breaking your back
You’re working so damn hard just to make it look easy (easy)
Come dance with me ’cause dancing’s free
Let me sweep you right off your feet
Whatever your style is, girl, that’s what mine is
I could go good with your eyes

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Film and Fashion: Tulip Fever

It has been a LONG time since I reviewed any period film costuming. I found dissing popular films stirs up a lot of controversy (I was not a fan of The Great Gatsby or Titanic…) however, I think Tulip Fever is important to mention because the costuming is superb.

The film takes place somewhere between 1634 and 1637 (it’s never clear exactly when, but the tulip mania bust of February 1637 is referred to after the bulk of the film’s storyline has taken place.) There is then a followup at the end of the film that takes place in the mid 1640s (again no specific date is referred to – only ‘8 years later’.)

The storyline is odd – a bit of a bedroom farce drama with a happy-ish ending, I didn’t hate it but the plot was somewhat inevitable. I’m not going to say anything else because the reason you should see this film is not because of the story – it’s because of the costuming and set dressing. The furniture, carpets, oriental porcelain, and pewter set off every scene like its a painting. Early 17th century Amsterdam is delightful to watch recreated here in all its glamour, grime and Vermeer lighting.

Michael O’Connor is a fantastically good period costumer. He took care in reproducing the fashions of every character, from tradesmen to lady, with a sense of flair and authenticity – nothing looks grabbed off a ’17th century’ rack at a costume rental shop. Lace edging, starched ruffs, embroidered bodices, suede boots – everything is exquisitely reproduced.

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Canadian Fashion Connection – The Great West Felt Company

In the days before down-filled nylon and double walled synthetic rubber boots, keeping feet warm in cold, snowy weather was made possible with thick felt boots. Felt is an excellent insulator, but only when the weather stays below freezing, its hygroscopic qualities kick in when the ground becomes slushy.

Girl’s boots, 1940s

The Great West Felt Company was one of many felt companies located near woollen mills in Southwestern Ontario. The company was founded in Elmira, Ontario by Oscar Vogt, born 1868. He had worked 25 years as a travelling representative for Shurly & Dietrich, a tool manufacturer in Galt, Ontario, before incorporating the Great West Felt Company in June 1910. The plant began operation in January 1911.

The principal market for their felt boots was Canada, with some exports to Manchuria and Russia until unsettled political conditions hindered trade. In 1923, the company boasted it employed 100 people and could produce up to 1000 pairs of boots per day. Brand names for their products included ‘Great West’, ‘Coldproof’, ‘Polar King’, ‘Snow Queens’, and ‘Bonspieler’ (a line of curling boots).

Mr. Vogt married at the age of 57, and died in 1927, at the age of 59. The company continued on successfully until after World War II, but when new materials like nylon and neoprene began to enter the market, sales began to faulter. It was also by the late 1940s that salting icy roads and sidewalks became common, creating wet, slushy conditions, unsuitable for felt footwear. The Great West Felt Company closed its doors in 1951.

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Fashion Faux Pas — Inappropriate Appropriation by Raf Simons of Calvin Klein

The Debrief recently uncovered a rip-off look at New York’s SS 2018 fashion week. A zippered cape-jacket with a drawstring waist ‘designed’ by Raf Simons for Calvin Klein looked remarkably like a line for line reproduction of Bonnie Cashin’s Body Container jacket that the late Cashin had designed for Saks Fifth Avenue in 1976.

Stephanie Lake, Cashin’s former protege and heir to the Cashin archive (and author of the recently published book about Cashin), reposted The Debrief’s comparison images and included a copy of the original design notes, saying “One of the very first things Bonnie told me, the first day we met, was “I did everything for a reason”.” Lake continues “Of the color, she described it as “bright, visible, and unafraid.” It was her answer to contemporary safety concerns, specifically thinking about riding a bike / skating around NYC, and also in terms of having large pockets in lieu of a purse. High crime rates at the time!”

Added September 21:

Bonnie Cashin Archivist Takes Issue With Designer Copies

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Exhibition: Mode Canada 150 September 13 – October 27

The FHM Pops Up in Toronto with an exhibition for Mode Canada 150 – Then, Now, Next.

Fifty garments from the FHM are currently on display in the new Yorkville Village in downtown Toronto (second floor overlooking Whole Foods). We are part of an exhibition honouring Canada’s contribution to the world of fashion (design, journalism, modelling, beauty…) along with the Fashion Incubator, and Ryerson University (who are handling the Now and Next part of the show). The exhibition is open to the public from September 13 until November 10. The hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, admission is free. If you haven’t come to the FHM because we are in Cambridge – now is your chance!

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