Carla Zampatti (1942 – 2021)

Carla Zampatti’s name probably doesn’t ring a bell unless you are from Australia where she is so well-known that she is being honoured with a state funeral in New South Wales. 

Born in Italy in 1942, Carla Zampatti’s family immigrated to Australia in 1950. In 1965 Carla produced her first small fashion collection and in 1970, she founded her ready-to-wear boutique-style business Carla Zampatti Pty Ltd.

She became one of the first Australian designers to include swimwear in her collections, and over the years became an Australian fashion institution, dressing Australian celebrities including Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett. She passed away this week after a fall at the age of 78.

Canadian Fashion Connection – La Marquise Handbag Co.

Jack Sverdlove founded La Marquise Handbag Co. in Montreal in 1946. Sverdlove had been born in Russia in 1907 and immigrated to Canada where he married his Montreal-born wife Gabrielle in 1947. Jack’s company specialized in making handbags from imported tapestry. In 1976, as tapestry and handbag styles fell from popularity in favour of leather shoulder bags, the company was forced to reorganize its debts. It is not known exactly when the company ceased production, however, the last AGM was held in 1981 and Jack died in 1987. The company was officially dissolved in 1993.

La Marquise handbag, c. 1960s

Canadian Fashion Connection – Givenchy

Eight years ago a picture of a brocade suit with a Givenchy label from the early 60s was posted on the Vintage Fashion Guild by Kelly-Anne. I was sure her suit couldn’t be a Givenchy because, although the brocade fabric was nice, the construction was standard factory work typical of the era. As well, the skirt had a Canadian union manufacturer’s tag. 

At the time Kelly-Anne posted her pictures in 2013, there had been more than a few incidents of less-than-reputable online sellers removing designer labels from men’s ties and sewing them into dresses and suits. I myself was once duped into buying a suit with an added designer label. In my case, the dealer, who rarely dealt in vintage clothing, took the suit back without an argument, and she may have bought it that way herself. However, there were a few well-known sellers who were regularly making these alterations on purpose, concocting fake stories to accompany the label about how they got the garment from the original owner who had worn it for her going away outfit, or graduation ceremony, or bought it on her first trip to Paris… One dealer in Israel was notorious for this, but despite being regularly reported to Etsy she sold her fakes for years without repercussion. 

After vociferously declaring that the Givenchy suit must be a fake, and suggesting Kelly-Anne confront the seller (who had a story about the original owner), the discussion petered out and the thread slowly slipped away into the backlog of Vintage Fashion Guild archived conversations. But then, three weeks ago, Modamuzesi, a collector from Lebanon who owned the same suit in a different colourway but with the same label, showed up with evidence that the suit was, in fact, a licensed copy of a Givenchy design.

He posted a snippet from the August 30, 1960 issue of Women’s Wear Daily, that noted Marvin Warsh, vice-president of the Toronto clothing manufacturing firm J.H. Warsh & Co. Ltd., signed a contract with Givenchy to reproduce clothes under Givenchy’s boutique label for the Canadian market. The line would become available that October through better stores across Canada and retail between $50 and $100 (the equivalent of $450 – $900 today).

Elsa Peretti (1940 – 2021)

Born in Florence on May 1, 1940, Peretti began a career as a model after moving to Barcelona in 1964. In 1968 she went on to New York where she ended up in the social circles of Warhol and Halston. 

In 1971 she began making jewellery for Giorgio di Sant’Angelo and Halston, who introduced her to Tiffany & Co. in 1974. Her most iconic pieces designed for Tiffany & Co. include the heart necklace pendant, and the bone cuff. As a child, Peretti would take bones as souvenirs from a 17th century ossuary, that her mother would make her return. “Things that are forbidden remain with you forever” she once said, explaining the bone cuff bracelet designed to emulate the wrist.

Silver was her favourite medium and she believed in making affordable jewellery that could be worn out on the street “Women can’t go around wearing $1 million.“ Peretti’s design aesthetic was pure modern minimalism ‘take away, take away’ was how she described her process to Vogue in 1986.

Peretti spent most of the last 35 years in Spain designing jewellery, establishing a vineyard, and running a charitable foundation focused on the environment, wildlife conservation, and fighting poverty. Elsa passed away March 19 at her home in Spain.

Jessica McClintock (1930 – 2021)

Jessica McClintock, 2007 (Joanne Ho-Young Lee/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

The 1970s prom dress owes its look to one designer – Jessica McClintock. In 1967 Eleanor Bailey and Carol Miller established Gunne Sax – a boutique line of junior wear in San Francisco. The name was an amalgamation of ‘Gunny Sack’ (a burlap bag), and ‘sex’.  Despite early success for their line of mod-inspired dresses, the two partners had a falling out and in 1969 Carol Miller left and Bailey sold the business to 39 year old Jessica McClintock. 

McClintock’s look was very different – but her hippy-inspired granny-gowns with laced bodices and flounced skirts that resembled a combination of Medieval maiden and saloon girl were an instant success. The dresses became a standard of 1970s proms and weddings. Hillary Clinton wore a Gunne Sax wedding dress when she married Bill Clinton in 1975. 

As the romantically styled calico gypsy/prairie dresses fell from favour in the late 1970s, Jessica McClintock’s style became more mature, and her name became the new label for the company. McClintock worked until her retirement in 2013, building the brand to include perfumes, accessories, bedding, furniture, and lighting. The brand was licensed and remains active with her son Scott managing the label. McClintock died February 16, 2021.

The New York Times wrote a very nice obit with more info.

2020 Academy Award Costume Design Nominations

What is very clear to me with this year’s nominations is how unfair it is to judge a category like costuming. All five of the nominees are very different types of productions. It’s not even comparing apples to oranges – it’s judging an entire fruit basket.

Emma is as near to historically perfect as one could hope for in any film. Alexandra Byrne (Elizabeth, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange) did a magnificent job of recreating Regency fashions, often based on extant examples of costumes from museum collections. Frankly, this is not my favourite Jane Austen novel (of which the best filmed version is Clueless IMHO…) I found this film forced and unfunny, however, the costuming was a feast for the eyes and worth the price of admission by itself. This is an excellent example of what a competent costumer can do when they are given the time to research and recreate period dress.

The costuming in Mank is good but not perfect. The costumer, Trish Summerville (Hunger Games, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) did a fantastic job of finding interesting sheens and textures for this black and white decade-spanning film with a large cast. However, there were historical errors, like a street scene set in 1929 or 30 (can’t remember which) where the fashions clearly dated from the late 1930s. I wonder why mistakes like this happen, surely the costumer knows what fashions look like in 1929, so why the egregious error? Perhaps it’s a last minute directorial change? Also, there are small anachronisms, like bulky-knit sweaters, which were not in fashion in 1940, chosen more for looks than authenticity.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a play turned into a film with less than a dozen speaking parts and almost no costume changes. A couple of brief street or crowd scenes were added to dilute the ‘stage play’ look, but it still feels like a play. Ann Roth (The English Patient, Cold Mountain, The Bird Cage, 9 to 5) has been in the business for fifty years and is a well known costumer, but the difficulty level is not high on this film. It’s not as comprehensively and flawlessly researched as Emma, nor does it have a large cast of characters over a broad range of time, like Mank. It is also not a creative fantasy film like our last two nominees.

Mulan, costumed by Bina Daigeler (The Zookeeper’s Wife, Volver, Mrs. America), is a costumer’s dream in terms of budget. The cast of thousands and budget of millions allowed her to create an historically-inspired fantasy-world largely from her imagination. The costuming for the Chinese legend is very loosely based on the Northern Wei period (5th century – around the same time the Roman empire was collapsing). There is a modern interpretation and many construction techniques used in creating the costumes which makes it impossible to compare it to the three historically-set films limited by the periods in which they were set.

Finally we have Pinocchio. Massimo Cantini Parrini was the costumer, and despite him having won many awards for his work in Europe, I have never heard of him nor seen any of the films he costumed. I also can’t judge this film because I have not seen it, nor will I as I can’t find it on any of my online services. I also can’t find enough stills online to get a good idea of the film’s costuming. However, looking at stills from other films he has done, like Tale of Tales, his work is amazing. Let’s face it though, this film is the long shot. The nomination will bring attention to his work and maybe some offers to do some Hollywood blockbusters, but ultimately, awards are popularity contests and he isn’t well known right now.

So, we have a costumer with a lot of awards from his home country but not well known in Hollywood; a seasoned professional of a small film with a highly trending topic (black history); a fantasy with stupid amounts of money thrown at it by a mega corporation (Disney) with probably an even bigger advertising budget to promote it; a black and white period film with artistically effective but flawed historical costuming; and a beautifully researched period-perfect but boring film. Frankly, it could go to anyone. I would pick Emma but don’t hold your breath – I suspect Mulan or Ma Rainey have better chances.

Added April 26/21: And I was correct, Ma Rainey took home the best costuming Oscar.

2020 Costume Designer Guild Awards

I feel like all I have been doing this past year, when not working, is streaming films and TV programs, so I thought for sure this year I would know all the candidates for the 23rd annual Costume Designer Guild Awards, and yet there are still many on this list I have to watch. That said, if you haven’t seen Emma, the costuming is SUPERB. Here is the complete list of the nominees for the 23rd annual Costume Designers Guild Awards. Winners were announced April 15 and are marked in red.

Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film

Jenny Beavan

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Michael Wilkinson

Bina Daigeler

Massimo Cantini Parrini

Wonder Woman 1984
Lindy Hemming

Excellence in Contemporary Film

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
Trayce Gigi Field

Birds of Prey
Erin Benach

Da 5 Bloods
Donna Berwick

Promising Young Woman
Nancy Steiner

The Prom
Lou Eyrich

Excellence in Period Film

Alexandra Byrne

Judas and the Black Messiah
Charlese Antoinette Jones

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Ann Roth

Trish Summerville

One Night in Miami
Francine Jamison-Tanchuck

Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Television

The Mandalorian: “Chapter 13: The Jedi”
Shawna Trpcic

Snowpiercer: “Access is Power”
Cynthia Summers

Star Trek: Picard: “Absolute Candor”
Christine Bieselin Clark

Westworld: “Parce Domine”
Shay Cunliffe

What We Do in the Shadows: “Nouveau Théâtre des Vampires”
Amanda Neale

Excellence in Contemporary Television

Emily in Paris: “Faux Amis”
Patricia Field & Marylin Fitoussi

Euphoria: “Part 1: Rue – Trouble Don’t Last Always”
Heidi Bivens

I May Destroy You: “Social Media is a Great Way to Connect”
Lynsey Moore

Schitt’s Creek: “Happy Ending”
Debra Hanson

Unorthodox: “Part 2”
Justine Seymour

Excellence in Period Television

Bridgerton: “Diamond of the First Water”
Ellen Mirojnick & John W. Glaser III

The Crown: “Terra Nullius”
Amy Roberts

Lovecraft Country: “I Am.”
Dayna Pink

Mrs. America: “Shirley”
Bina Daigeler

The Queen’s Gambit: “End Game”
Gabriele Binder

Excellence in Variety, Reality-Competition, Live Television

Dancing with the Stars: “Villains Night”
Daniela Gschwendtner & Steven Norman Lee

Paul Tazewell

The Masked Dancer: “Premiere – Everybody Mask Now!”
Gabrielle Letamendi & Candice Rainwater

The Masked Singer: “The Semi Finals – The Super Six”
Marina Toybina

Saturday Night Live: “John Mulaney/The Strokes”
Tom Broecker & Eric Justian

Excellence in Short Form Design

Apple: Shot on iPhone by Damien Chazelle – Vertical Cinema “The Stunt Double” short film
April Napier

The Killers: “Caution” music video
Samantha Kuester

Selena Gomez: “Boyfriend” music video
Dawn Ritz & Kenn Law

Tim Burton Themed Halloween Party short film
Dawn Ritz

The Weeknd: “Blinding Lights” music video
Ami Goodheart

Fashion in Song: Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers (1914)

This World War I song is about Susie who sews shirts for soldiers, but her shirts aren’t very popular with the soldiers. The music was written by Herman Darewski, and the lyrics were by R.P. Weston. When the song was performed as singalongs for soldiers, the tongue-twisting verse was sung faster than last to induce laughter.

Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts For Soldiers
Sister Susie’s sewing in the kitchen on a “Singer”,
There’s miles and miles of flannel on the floor
And up the stairs,
And father says it’s rotten getting mixed up with the cotton,
And sitting on the needles that she leaves upon the chairs.

And should you knock at our street door
Ma whispers, “Come inside.”
Then when you ask where Susie is,
She says with loving pride:

(fast) CHORUS
“Sister Susie’s sewing shirts for soldiers
Such skill at sewing shirts
Our shy young sister Susie shows!

Some soldiers send epistles,
Say they’d sooner sleep in thistles
Than the saucy, soft, short shirts for soldiers sister Susie sews.”

Piles and piles and piles of shirts she sends out to the soldiers,
And sailors won’t be jealous when they see them,
Not at all.
And when we say her stitching will set all the soldiers itching,
She says our soldiers fight best when their back’s against the wall.

And little brother Gussie, he who lisps when he says “yes”,
Says “Where’s the cotton gone from off my kite?
Oh, I can gueth!”


I forgot to tell you that our sister Susie’s married,
And when she isn’t sewing shirts
She’s sewing other things.
Then little sister Molly says,
“Oh, sister’s bought a dolly.
She’s making all the clothes for it
With pretty bows and strings.”

Says Susie:
“Don’t be silly”
As she blushes and she sighs.
Then mother smiles and whispers with a twinkle in her eyes:

(fastest) REPEAT CHORUS[4]