Thursday, May 31, 2007

Truly "vintage" vintage from the world's most elegant woman

This story was sent to me courtesy of my good friend Ni_de_Montreal; I've since discovered it's all over the Interwebernetything.

The gorgeous hot pink silk cocktail dress worn by Her Wonderfulness, Audrey Hepburn, Queen of Style, in Breakfast at Tiffany's recently sold for nearly $200,000 US to an "unnamed European buyer"--how mysteeeeerious!

This is the auction photo of the dress on the left.

And here is a screen cap of Holly Golightly in the dress, on a date with the dashing Jose da Silva Perreira:

I vote for the revival of the pink tiara...or any tiara, really. Can you imagine going on a date in a tiara? FABulous.

The dress looks slightly worse for the wear in the auction pic, but not bad considering it is more than 46 years old. A few missing rhinestones, a little fading here and there. But still profoundly iconic.

Audrey's black gown (opening scene, looking in window of Tiffany's, eating a danish) went for nearly $1 million and helped finance a school in India. Proceeds from the auction of her black feather-lined cocktail dress were used for medical supplies and other items in India.

Now that's some classy vintage. And that's just the way she would've liked it, I imagine.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Protecting the planet, one gorgeous item at a time

Did I ever mention that, in addition to filling your closet with items of style, originality, character, and quality, taking the "vintage route" is also an eco-friendly way to dress yourself?

Consider what we know about big-box store clothing (I won't name names, but the big-box stores I'm thinking about are all owned by the same parent company...):

--> Clone-like.
--> Not particularly well cut or tailored.
--> Mass-produced in third-world countries, often under questionable conditions.

Sure, we all need a simple white t-shirt or a cheap little tote bag now and then. But as consumers, we're becoming more aware of the back-story of that little tote bag:

I started out as an innocent cotton plant blowing gently in the (genetically modified) cottonfields of Sri Lanka. But they cut me down too young and I grew up to become fabric of questionable quality fondled by the angry hands of (underpaid? underage?) workers. I took hard knocks as excess product packed onto fossil-fuel-burning ships, trucks, trains, and planes. Then I went on to live a crowded, unfulfilling existance as a low-grade accessory crammed into a local big box store. I ended my life as an expendable tote bag in an 80s-style floral motif crushed and forgotten in the dusty depths of someone's closet...

Well...perhaps it's time to think twice about those easy, cheap, mindless little purchase that I, for one, make all too often.

It's hard to say no to a harmless little bag. The muzak, it lulls us. The fabric, it caresses us. The thrill of immediate gratification and the unspoken promise of something new!, it calls to us...But maybe the harmless little bag isn't quite so harmless after all.

In any case, why settle for clone wear when you can have something truly original? Enter vintage, and also enter local small clothing designers and producers. On a personal note, I find myself avoiding malls altogether these days. Even in the relatively small city in which I live, there are lots of wonderful little boutiques popping up--and guess what? Many of them sell new original clothing by small local designers as well as vintage and recycled vintage clothing. I really like how these mindsets (small/local/vintage) are forming a natural merger.

Ah...but the cost! you say. Let me tell you something about the cost.

A lifetime of shopoholism has granted me certain economic and psychological insights. We all have an invisible price safety-bubble. "If it's under $30/$20/$40, it's an automatic deal," we say to ourselves. So we never buy that amazing $100 handmade blouse we saw at the little boutique on the way to work. We walk buy it every day, loving it, wanting it. But we're not going to spend $100 on a blouse, dammit.

We think we're strong. We self-martyrize. But then one day we're at Le Chateau and we see a cute little wallet with strawberries on it...$10! It's on sale. Sure, it's a cheap plastic wallet, but we just want a little something new. After all, we were so good about not buying the $100 blouse!

...Oh, and there's a pair of shoes on sale at the Gap for $25. I mean, $25 for a cute pair of polkadot espadrilles! Those will NEVER go out of style! (After all...didn't buy the blouse...)

...And...I think I need a pair of white jeans for summer. I'll hit Old Navy after work. There's a pair for $39.99! They don't really fit perfectly, but they're just for bumming around in. (The blouse wouldn't have been practical like these...)

...Oh, and look what they have at the cash! The cutest little red and pink striped clutch! $5! Sold! (...would look cute with the blouse...)

...And I really could use a tote bag...I love that jungle print one...$15! Maybe I'll get one in each colour...(...blouse...)

You've just spent your $100. On a bunch of stuff you like but don't love, which will be out of style by the time you exit the mall. Eventually you find $20 in a coat pocket, see it as an omen of good fortune, and go buy the blouse anyways...

If this (purely hypothetical, honestly) story doesn't sound at all familiar to you, go rebalance your investment portfolio or something.

Grace & Cello
A friend recently shared this site with me. This Montreal design team makes beautiful eco clothing from wonderful fabrics (I LOVE that yellow shirt-dress). The cut, colour, and style is wonderfully Mo-ray-al. Montreal women are the Parisiennes of Canada, by the way. I think they're the most stylish in Canada, but that's just my personal preference. They haven't jumped on the hipster bandwagon. They have managed to maintain their originality. These two women have it in spades.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Pin up girls

Your faithful hostess (that would be me) is fanatical about vintage brooches and pins.

My growing "collection" started early in my teenage years: I inherited a few beautiful pins when my wonderful and much-missed great grandmother passed away. That inheritance ignited the costume jewellery flame and I've been a big fan of retro pins and brooches ever since.

Here are some of my favourite styles, and some brand names to look out for when you're at the antique market.

1. Art Glass

This is a common style of vintage brooch. Look for colours you absolutely adore (Swoony Pinkerson over here is a great example). I like to look for pieces that have an interesting mix of glass, beads, and metal trinketry (totally just made up that word).

Deco-style pins like this one (probably early 60s) often have lots of delicate trinketry, like little birds and flowers.

Vendome is one name to look out for. Isn't this blue flower pin with dangles just divine?

Juliana is another great brand. The turquoise, green, and gold colour scheme is gorgeous.

This style of glass bead is called "moonglow" and often appears on brooches designed as bunches of grapes. It comes in all colours and is a very pretty addition to any collection.

2. Swirls and Circles

These swirly pins from the late 50s/early 60s are really fun. They remind me of 50s picture hats--those dreamy broad-brimmed, sometimes fringed hats the elegant ladies would wear when out lunching or sunning or doing whatever elegant ladies did back then.

This is a Ciner brooch--again, a quality jewellery maker from the mid-century era.

These jewelled circle pins are also pretty in rootbeer and smoky art glass.

An elegant and simple silver Kremetz circle pin.

3. Enamelled

I don't know about you, but I really have a thing for enamelled pins. They're way up there on the Girly-o-Meter, but if whimsy is your thing, keep your eyes peeled for these because they're often quite unique and you're very likely to find yourself a one-of-a-kind.

This bird of paradise flew in from the 1930s.

An enamelled wisteria blossom.

A unique enamelled chatelaine pin.

4. Golden Flowers and Pearls

Miriam Haskell, a jewellery maker known for using organic shapes, flowers, birds, and animals, began designing in the mid-1920s. The shape and symmetry of this gold and pearl piece hearkens back to the art deco era that preceded Haskell.

Jomaz is a company established in the late 1920s by New York jewellery makers Joseph and Louis Mazer. Look for Pave-style jewels on Jomaz pieces.