Canadian Fashion Connection – Paul Minichiello

Redesign of the RCMP uniform as suggested by Minichiello in 1973

Born in Campo Basso, Italy in 1940, Paul Minichiello apprenticed at a local tailor’s shop before immigrating to Vancouver in 1954. He worked for nine years at Tip Top Tailors as well as other tailor shops before opening his own shop Paul’s of North Shore, on Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver in 1964.

Minichiello, c. 1975

He specialized in making fashionably cut suits for young men and quickly built a reputation as the ‘Pierre Cardin of Lonsdale Avenue.’ In 1971, he had a visit from Sonny & Cher, who ordered suits for Sonny for their upcoming TV show. Other celebrity clients over the years included Eric Clapton, Gordie Howe, and Wayne Gretsky. Paul died in 2014, but the business continues to operate under his daughter’s direction.

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Fashion in Song – Ballad of the Garment Trade (1962)

From 1962’s Broadway hit ‘I Can Get It For You Wholesale’

If you don’t want to get nervous
Do yourself a great big service
Stay away please far from seventh avenue
You can lose your sense and reason
Guessing what style for next season
Yes, the dress business will make a wreck of you
It’s a battle of fierce and grim
That depends on the ladies’ whim
What’ll miss and misses america’s answer be
Will she say with a tossing head
And that rare guy wouldn’t drop dead
Or she’ll say: yes, this dress is really me
On guessing what, a day will say
A sheer impossibility
This poor kid’s brave, he worked away
And try to build that industry
How crazy, bold and reckless
Can human beings be…
Hip, hip, hooray! for the garment trade
Hear the cheer to push the music hits us everyone
Day after day… they go on this way
To the cockeyed way the job that must be done
Off to the fray on the brave crusade
Gallant ladies’ garment trade
Though in health got speed
In a gesture breed, made all answers on parade
What a business what a sack game
Yet it’s about as much your business is a crap game
Snapper, zipper, bowler, button
All we know is what the experts know from nothin’
So the last line you got pie with
Coming right up is another you could die with
If you’re right the dough could flow in
If you’re not you haven’t got a pot to sew with
Off to the fray on the brave crusade
Gallant ladies’ garment trade
Though in health got speed
In a gesture breed, made all answers on parade.

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Film & Fashion – Victoria & Abdul

This is a great film and I highly recommend it, but I have a few minor grumbles about some of the costuming. The best costumed crowd scene is the State dinner in the opening. Dignitaries dressed in their finest attire recreate an 1887 jubilee dinner. However, as the film progresses, the best costuming moves almost entirely to the two main characters.

The costuming of Victoria, played by Judi Dench, and Abdul, played by Ali Fazal is exceptional. Costume designer, Consolata Boyle (The Queen, Florence Foster Jenkins, The Winslow Boy) likes to use layers of texture for Victoria (white and black tulle, black crape, and various weights of lace and sheens of black silk) and Abdul (light-catching satins, crisp coloured silks, and nubby heathery tweeds). But while Victoria and Abdul take centre stage, the other players become almost invisible, even ignored by the passage of time.

The viewer is never made to feel like the story takes place over 14 years. It seems only a year or two have passed when the film ends in 1901. The costuming of household and family members could have been better to suggest a passage of time. Two ladies-in-waiting to Victoria, the Baroness Churchill, and Harriet Phipps, wear essentially the same dresses and hairstyles throughout the film. Family members, including the fashionable Princess Alexandra, whose clothing could have easily expressed a passage of time, never appear in the film. Alexandra was even instrumental in the real story of Abdul’s letters to and from the queen after the Queen’s death – a missed opportunity.

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MOMA’s take on fashion

Is Fashion Modern? is MOMA’s first foray into a fashion exhibition since their 1944 exhibition Are Clothes Modern? While their 1944 exhibition, curated by Bernard Rudofsky, focussed on the meaning of dress as an aspect of human subconscious expression governed by habit, this year’s exhibition looks at 111 articles of dress and accessories that had, or currently have an impact on contemporary clothing.

This is not an exhibition about design or art, but rather an exhibition of everyday clothing and its relationship between fashionable aesthetics, function, culture, identity, politics, economy, and technology. Blue jeans, pantyhose, and the LBD appear alongside the sari, kippah, and keffiyeh.

I won’t be seeing the show. It’s not that I disagree with the premise, in fact it is everything I find fascinating about fashion – its relationship with everything else in the world. However, is an exhibition about the sociology of everyday dress in the right venue at one of the world’s leading art museums? The topic borders on the mundane as virtually every artifact could be found for a scavenger hunt via a visit to a local thrift shop. There is something very bloggy about the topic. It is subject matter that lends itself well to a top 100 list of fashion hits from the past century. It could be one of those online features you have to laboriously click through to see the next picture.

There is a valid argument that the museum is elevating the sociological story of fashion into a topic of conversation, but how many of the 111 artifacts will be remembered by visiting patrons? This is really a topic best kept between the covers of a book – and I bet the catalogue is great, but when I go to a museum I want to see nice things I can’t find at a thrift store. 


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Fashion Humour

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Real fashion by Hans Eijkelboom

These photos that capture mainstream fashion, seasonal trends, and personal styling are the work of Dutch photographer Hans Eijkelboom. His work is currently on show until January 7, 2018 at The Hague Museum of Photography, and are available in his book Hans Eijkelboom: People of the Twenty-First Century. His collage prints comparing similar outfits captured on the same day in various cities are a great companion to the sartorial shots taken by fashion bloggers and will become important historical documents for understanding real fashion:

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Battle of the Sexes and Tennis Fashion

The Women’s Tennis Association founding as recreated in c. 1972 in the film

We saw Battle of the Sexes last night – the film about Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King’s 1973 tennis match – an event I remember well the first time around. The film is very entertaining and remains pretty true to the facts, although some liberties are taken with the timeline (Everything is set in 1972-73 rather than the actual September 1970 – September 1973 time frame.)

The costuming by Mary Zophres is good. I have always contended that recreating recent pasts for films is actually harder than distant periods because your audience will know what’s wrong. I remember 1973 well, and Zophres captured the feeling in all its pastel poly pant suit glory. There are a few pieces here and there I didn’t love on extras but you have to look hard.

The Women’s Tennis Association founding in 1970

One of the characters in the film, played by Alan Cummings, is Ted Tinling. He was an interesting character with a lot of influence in the world of tennis fashion. When Tinling was a teenager he spent winters in the French Riviera playing tennis. He learned to become an umpire for tennis matches, and as his status grew, doors opened for him at Wimbledon. Tinling became a tennis historian, consultant, chief of protocol, and also tennis dress fashion designer for the International Tennis Federation. He was responsible for breaking the rules about all-white tennis dresses.

Tinling passed away in 1990 at the age of 80. It was only after his death that it was learned, rather surprisingly, that the 6’7″ effete Tinling, who was known for his extremely fashionable clothes, had also served as a British Intelligence spy during the World War II.

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Hervé Léger (Leroux), 1957 – 2017

Hervé Leger with model wearing a bandage dress at his last 1998 runway show

Hervé L. Leroux, born Hervé Peugnet, founder of the French fashion house Hervé Léger died earlier today.

Hervé Peugnet was born May 30, 1957 and trained in sculpture and hair styling before switching to fashion design. He was doing hair for a Chloé fashion show when he was hired by Karl Lagerfeld to work at Fendi and later Chanel. When he founded his own business in 1985 Lagerfeld suggested he change his last name to Léger because Peugnet was too difficult for Americans, his target market, to pronounce.

Cindy Crawford wearing a LBD version of the bandage dress in 1998

Léger and fellow designer Azzedine Alaïa pioneered the ‘bod-con’ look of the 1990s. Léger’s iconic bandage dress, using knitted lycra strips sewn together to make girdle-like dresses that molded to the wearer’s figure debuted in 1989 and were hugely successful by 1993.

Hervé Léger was acquired by the American owned BCBG Max Azria of the Seagram Group in September 1998. Hervé lost the rights to use his own name and changed his surname to Leroux for the new label he started in 2000. He was also the creative director of Guy Laroche from 2004 – 2006.

Lubov Azria, wife of Max Azria, revived the bandage dress in 2007 after learning how the dresses were constructed by buying back examples on eBay for the company’s archives. BCBG Max Azria went bankrupt earlier this year.

Hervé L. Leroux was 60 years of age when he passed unexpectedly.

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Myth Information – Hughes’ bra and ‘The Sale of Two Titties’

Garson Kanin wrote that when he was walking with George S. Kaufman down Broadway in 1947, he spotted one of the billboards advertising The Outlaw, and remarked: “They ought to call it ‘The Sale of Two Titties'”.

Although Howard Hughes finished producing The Outlaw in February 1941, it would not be widely released until 1946 because of censorship problems over Jane Russell’s breasts. How much of the censorship was real and how much was hoopla manufactured by Hughes is hard to tell.

Russell’s breasts weren’t particularly large, but Hughes had lighted the sets and staged scenes to make gratuitous use of her assets. Wanting to accentuate her cleavage, Hughes reportedly designed an underwire bra to push everything up. However, Russell repeatedly said in interviews that she wore her own bra, with padding. There are no existing designs or patents for this underwire creation that I can find. A couple of articles say the original design is in a ‘Hollywood Museum’, but never cite which one (presumably the Frederick’s of Hollywood Lingerie Museum.) Russell said his bra was uncomfortable, suggesting she had tried it on and it did exist, but this is the only evidence beyond hearsay reports.

Although the industry censors, guided by the Hays Office known as the Production Code Authority (PCA), approved the film for release in 1941 (after a half minute cut), many state censors apparently wanted further revisions to reduce gratuitous cleavage scenes. Hughes shelved the film for two years but released it in early 1943 in San Francisco amidst an orchestrated flurry of opposition he incited to help sell tickets to his mediocre film. After a week, the film was pulled and shelved again. United Artists distributed the film when it was released again in the spring of 1946.

Victorians had banned cleavage as a feature of fashion and it remained mostly hidden until the early 1960s. Instead, the ‘sweater’ girl look of the late 1940s and early 1950s with the identifiable torpedo-shaped breasts was the bust-line silhouette of the day – a silhouette often attributed to Howard Hughes influence. However, the real bullet bras were usually circle stitched to create a cone effect without the use of wires or padding. Underwire brassieres were not common until cleavage came back in style in 1963/64 (the film Tom Jones lead the way) and the Wonderbra was first marketed. Even the fashion doll Barbie looked out of step with styles when fashion moved away from the bullet shape bustlines.

The bullet silhouette: late 1940s – early 1960s:

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Fashion in the house – c. 1865

I thought this photo was interesting because it’s a rare view for the period of a well-dressed couple in their reception room. Most 1860s photos were done in a studio – this type of candid shot doesn’t become common until cheap brownie box cameras appear around the turn of the century.  The gentleman is in an informal pose with his right foot atop his left knee, creating a place to rest the book he is reading. 

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