Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Kandahar Designs

Last week we received a donation of some clothing primarily from the 1970s to the 1990s. Amongst the items was a late 1970s striped grey cotton ‘A’ line sundress with the label ‘Kandahar Designs – Boston’. A few google searches resulted in an interesting back story

In 1970 or 1971, Eli Zelkha was heading down to Florida for spring break with Archie — (his last name is never revealed), a pre-med college mate from Colgate University in upstate New York. On the trip down they talked about what they would be doing that summer. Archie had $5,000 and suggested the two go to Afghanistan to buy ‘cool stuff’ to resell. During their summer they purchased a very expensive Bengal tiger skin rug, scores of antique 19th century Afghani rifles, and 800 men’s wedding shirts from dealers in Kabul.

When their purchases arrived in the United States, the tiger skin rug was confiscated, there was no interest in the rifles from collectors, and the shirts were used, stained, and mis-sized. All they could do was try to salvage what they could from the shirts, so they dyed them to cover the stains and then consigned them through boutiques. One shop offered to share his booth at an upcoming New York sale in lieu of payment for some shirts, and the shirts were a hit. Mademoiselle magazine snapped some up for a fashion shoot, and other fashion mags and leading stores followed.

The next problem was filling orders. By 1972, Eli and Archie had moved from being importers to manufacturers when they hired tailors in Afghanistan to make the items to order. As the interest in ethnic clothing grew, especially after Yves St. Laurent’s success with ethnic-inspired collections, the two expanded the business, hiring fashion designers to remake Afghani clothes and textiles into Western styles, like sundresses.

The venture was a huge success until 1979 when the Iranian revolution lead to Russia invading Afghanistan. Even though ethnic fashions were already cooling in popularity, Eli bought out Hindu Kush, a competitor clothing business that sourced similar clothes. He then attempted to shift production to different styles of clothing, but the business failed.

There is a great article that tells the story in more detail, as well as the video below, with Eli Zelhka telling his story first hand. BTW, the owner of Hindu Kush was Tom Freston who went on to found MTV in 1981, and Eli Zelhka went on to head the team that invented Ambient Intelligence in 1998.

Fashion in Song: Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down (1950)

Sally’s bangs are a euphemism, not a hairstyle, but the title doesn’t know that… Written by Fred Maddox and first recorded 1950 by Maddox Brothers and Rose.

Well, I met a gal from Old Kentucky
She was happy and go-lucky
Sally let your bangs hang down
She called me honey-bunny
Just to make me spend my money
Sally let your bangs hang down

Sally she could land ’em
She’d love them and she’d leave them
Sally let your bangs hang down
I’ll find out what Sally’s got
Makes a man think she’s so hot
Sally let your bangs hang down

Now I’ll haveta be confessin’
Sally always kept me guessin’
Sally let your bangs hang down
She jumped up on a fanny
And she rode away with Willie
Sally let your bangs hang down

He saw Sally changin’ clothes
She was in a perfect pose
Sally let your bangs hang down
She caught me a-peepin’ in
I don’t think it was a sin
Sally let your bangs hang down

Sally she can land ’em
She loves ’em and she leaves ’em
Sally let your bangs hang down
I’ll find out what Sally’s got
Makes a man think she’s so hot
Sally let your bangs hang down

Sally she can land ’em
She loves ’em and she leaves ’em
Sally let your bangs hang down
We’ll find out what Sally’s got
Makes a man think she’s so hot
Sally let your bangs hang down

That Time Cher’s Mom was on Lucy…

In the Lucy episode “Lucy Gets a Paris Gown”  the gang is in Paris. Lucy and Ethel are enchanted by the work of French fashion designer Jacques Marcel and Lucy pretends to go on a hunger strike until Ricky buys her a Marcel original. Of course Ricky finds out she is pretending, so he and Fred play a trick on them. They make their own fashionable frocks out of potato sacks that Lucy and Ethel wear with pride until they realize the outfits are not real. The episode ends when the four are sitting in a cafe and see two models wearing Jacques Marcel creations that knock-off the burlap originals Lucy and Ethel wore the previous day. 

One of those models, wearing the Marcel version is Georgia Holt, born Jackie Jean Crouch in 1926, but best known as Cher’s mother!  Holt worked as a model in the 1940s and ’50s and did a few uncredited appearances in movies and TV shows in the 1950s. 

I totally stole this story from METV if you want to check out the original.

Fashion in Song – Button Up Your Overcoat (1928)

Although the title is about clothing, the song is about taking care of yourself, and buttoning up you overcoat against getting cold. Originally written and published in 1928, it was used in the Broadway musical Follow Thru in 1929 starring Jack Haley and Zelda O’Neal who reprised the song for the 1930 technicolour film version, released September 27, 1930, seen here:

Listen, big boy
Now that you got me made
Goodness, but I’m afraid
Somethin’s gonna happen to you

Listen, big boy
You gotta be hooked, and how
I would die if I should lose you now

Button up your overcoat
When the wind is free
Take good care of yourself
You belong to me

Eat an apple every day
Get to bed by three
Oh, take good care of yourself
You belong to me

Be careful crossing streets, ooh, ooh
Cut out sweets, ooh, ooh
Lay off meat, ooh, ooh
You’ll get a pain and ruin your tum-tum

Wear your flannel underwear
When you climb a tree
Oh, take good care of yourself
You belong to me

Button up your overcoat
When the wind is free
Oh, take good care of yourself
You belong to me
Boop-boop-a-doop

When you sass a traffic cop
Use diplomacy
Just take good care of yourself
You belong to me…

Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Max Raab

Max Louis Raab was born in Philadelphia on June 9, 1927 to Herman and Fanny Raab, who owned a family-operated apparel company that specialized in making shirtwaists – affordable blouses worn with skirts by women of all classes for a variety of tasks and trades.

When Max returned from wartime service, he began working with his brother for the family business. Max soon realized that the postwar world was upwardly mobile and tastes and pocketbooks were allowing for a higher end product, especially for the younger teenage consumer in the growing post war suburbs. 

Max defined the new suburban preppy look by taking the tailored man’s shirt and turning it into a full-skirted shirtwaist style dress for women. Their new upscale country look was perfect for the suburbs that was neither the city nor the country, and was launched in 1958 under The Villager label. Around the same time he also launched Rooster ties, which made square ended straight grain ties in great textiles.

The Villager dresses were typically made in cotton or cotton blend fabrics, the style was the ultimate WASP dress, appropriate for the office, school, home or date night. The style was also quickly picked up by Hollywood, who used shirtwaists as go-to looks for TV moms.

Produced in men’s shirting, and then prints from companies like Liberty of London, textile artist Marielle Bancou Segal was brought in in the mid 60s to create prints in the textile studios of Kenmill, in New England. The brand was typically sold through a shop-within-a-department store locations that catered to the preppy chic customer. A younger line was created in the 60s called Lady Bug fashions that featured turtleneck sweaters, kilts, tights, slacks and simple dresses. The look grew into a collegiate look popularized by actresses like Ali McGraw, who wore Villager clothes for the filming of Love Story in 1970.

1970 was also the year, Raab recognized that fashion was heading a different direction and he sold all his companies to Jonathan Logan and turned his interest towards film production. Max returned to the fashion industry in 1974, setting up the company J.G. Hook, which specialised in women’s sportswear, often with a nautical flair. In 1989 he opened Tango, a necktie manufacturing company.  Max Raab was dubbed ‘The Dean of the Prep Look’ by Women’s Wear Daily. In 1998, Max sold off his share in the company and retired. He died in 2008. 

Fashion in Song – Absolutely Not (2001)

Canadian singer songwriter Deborah Cox’ hit that recognizes the power of clothes was released on the Dr. Doolitte 2 (2001) soundtrack, with a dance version becoming a hit later the same year.

Always waitin’ for someone
To make me happy, pick me up
I realize that someone is me
What you call life, that ain’t livin’

Bless the child that’s got his own
It’s my season, now I stand alone
Just thought that I would let you know
Some things you just can’t control

Should I wear my hair in a ponytail?
Should I dress myself up in Chanel?
Do I measure me by what you think?
Absolutely not, absolutely not

If I go to work in a mini-skirt
Am I givin’ you the right to flirt?
I won’t compromise my point of view
Absolutely not, absolutely not

Told myself I won’t complain
But some things have got to change
Not gon’ be a victim of
All your social push and shove

Right or wrong, you judge the same
My picture never fit your frame
What you thought, you’ll never know
You can’t see me with your mind closed

Should I wear my hair in a ponytail?
Should I dress myself up in Chanel?
Do I measure me by what you think?
Absolutely not, absolutely not

If I go to work in a mini-skirt
Am I givin’ you the right to flirt?
I won’t compromise my point of view
Absolutely not

Now I see, that life means more to me
More than fancy clothes, more than you’ll ever know
All the ugly words that I heard you say
Made me stronger everyday
Now I live my life for me

Go to work in a mini-skirt
Am I givin’ you the right to flirt?
I won’t compromise my point of view
Absolutely, absolutely not

Should I wear my hair in a ponytail?
Should I dress myself up in Chanel?
Do I measure me by what you think?
Absolutely not, absolutely not

If I go to work in a mini-skirt
Am I givin’ you the right to flirt?
I won’t compromise my point of view
Absolutely not, absolutely not

Should I wear my hair in a ponytail?
Should I dress myself up in Chanel?
Do I measure me by what you think?
Absolutely not

All my ladies say
Oh, ooh
Woah, oh, ooh

Faceinators

Started a new Facebook page for the Fashion History Museum yesterday that is tracking the rise of face masks in 2020 as a fashion born out of necessity. This is going to be with us for a while and there is a lot to document and remember about the rise of masks and the reactions, from anti-masking protests and politically charged masking to fun and even campy-masking looks.