November 11, 2019 marks a century since the observance of Amistice Day November 11, 1919. Accordingly, the Mobile Millinery Museum is honouring the women who saw their husbands, sons, and sweethearts off to the Great War with an exhibit of Women’s Fashions 1914-1919.
As always, we can’t be everywhere, so enquire now about available dates for this one-hour, interactive presentation.
It’s no secret that I’m into vintage fashion, bigtime! And no matter where and why I travel, I find time to source some special pieces for the Mobile Millinery Museum & Costume Archive. This past July was not different; I picked up some stunning and historically important pieces on my travels which I will blog about later, but waiting for me upon my return, was a 1916 net lace wedding gown donated by Mississauga resident, Jim Spencer.
The dress with its hand crocheted baubles and beautiful star, sunflower, and vine lace motifs tells a tale of three brides. The gown which was first worn by Spencer’s grandmother in 1916 made a second debut at his mother’s wedding in 1945 and was further showcased by her daughter (Spencer’s sister) c. 1970.
A bit of fashion archaeology reveals some basic style changes and alterations: The original Gibson Girl silhouette was altered to more closely represent the princess lines more typical of 1940s styling through the removal of the dress’s original bridal collar and point sleeves. The sleeves are now straight cut with 2 remaining pearl buttons. The underdress of heavy bridal satin was likely created in the 1940s to replace a weighted silk one more typical of the Edwardian period and likely to have deteriorated over the years. Also, side seams appear to have been let out to accommodate the third bride whose 60’s era fingertip veil was donated with the gown.
The dress now stands ready to entertain audiences as part of our retrospective bridal fashion shows.
When I was a kid, my Great Aunt Ella introduced me to the wonders of big city sale shopping. She’d don hat and gloves, prepare her purse with chocolate treats to dole out at intervals, and take me on the streetcar to some of her favourite fashion haunts in Montreal. It was summer in the 60s, and for Auntie Ella, shopping was serious business. We’d spend the day elbowing our way through hoards of like-minded women and girls looking for the best deals and return to the 3rd story flat she shared with two sisters, exhausted but happy, with our multicoloured parcels and hatboxes.
The chocolate thing has stuck with me. Many times that bit of sugar and caffeine has kept me from fainting during an all-day buying spree; but, times have changed since Auntie Ella took me to those 1960’s cathedrals of shopping, and I’ve picked up a few pointers along the way.
Whether you’re shopping for funky vintage at spots like Vintage Soul Geek’s semi-annual garage sale or culling the overstuffed racks at Forever 21 on a 50% off day, you’ll want to dress for maximum ease, speed, and efficiency for trying stuff on – in the change rooms or right in the aisle. Here’s the Hat Show Lady’s head-to-toe guide to dressing for the occasion:
• Go Hatless: Even if the sale is outdoors, this is probably the only time I can be found without a hat. At the type of sale that I’m talking about, where other economy-minded fashionistas jostle and grab for those one-of-a-kind marked down treasures, a hat will get in the way. If you wear one, it may get knocked off, and if you put it down, a precious fashion hat may get crushed, lost, or stolen. Perhaps even sold! You need your hands free to dig for those bargains, so ix-nay on the chapeau.
• Abandon the Sunglasses: I know you want to look cool, but you will need clear vision to spot stains, fabric flaws, and colour variations.
• Wear Inexpensive Stud Earrings: This is a must if you plan to try the clothes on. As you yank items on and off over your head, an expensive earring can inadvertently slip off in the frenzy and be forever lost. A dangling one can snag a desired garment.
• Leave your Lipstick at Home: Just Google how difficult it is to remove a lipstick stain from fabric, and you will see the wisdom of leaving your lips bare.
• Wear a Simple Choker: A short collar-style necklace won’t get caught in a garment and will help you visualize the potential of any garment you try on in the mirror.
• Dress in a Simple Shift: If you don’t have a dress you can pull on and off over your head without fiddling with zips or buttons, get one. This will save you dressing room time and energy.
• Slip-on Shoes are a Must. You don’t want to fiddle with laces or shoe buckles when trying on pants. Again, this is a dressing room time and energy saving tip.
• Strap Yourself into a Fanny Pack or Purse that Converts to a Backpack: A traditional handbag will get in the way and risks being stolen if placed on the shop room floor.
Bonus Tip: Pack a snack; if the sale is as good as you hope it is, you will need to keep up your stamina.
What are your marathon shopping tops? Please post them below.
When Red Hat Queen Eleanor Rollinson asked me to perform my Retrospective Millinery Fashion Show at her district branch convention, I was thrilled and a little intimidated. In a room full of 200 red-hat, purple dress-wearing women, would my various millinery museum pieces be noticed? Even Evelyn had her concerns; she asked me to cut my presentation time by half as she was concerned that her audience of red haters might become bored.
Bored? At a retrospective millinery fashion show? In my 19 years of presiding over Mobile Millinery Museum events, it’s never happened. I was confident of my ability to hold these hat-loving women in thrall as six of their companions modelled beautiful couture hats from each iconic fashion decade. These fun-loving red hatters did not let me down.
Here are the top 5 reasons why I love those crazy- popular Red Hatters:
1/ The Red Hat Society identifies itself as a “play group for women”; and true to their tagline, hanging with Red Hatters makes you feel like a girl again. Dressing up is iconic girls’ play, so why should we give it up when we’re grown. No one does dressing up better than these purple-dress-wearing women who top their outfits with the zaniest red confections possible.
2/ The Red Hat society is bringing hats back, albeit one colour at a time. Since the Red Hat society was founded in 1998, the group has done much to boost the manufacture and sale of red hats and have now designated pink hats for members under the age of 50.
3/ Nothing stands out like black in a sea of red and purple. As I travel to present the Mobile Millinery Museum’s signature Retrospective Millinery Fashion Shows, I try to wear a different hat on each occasion, and I am partial to black.
4/ The red hatters can take a joke. I never tire of telling members that it wasn’t always easy to find a red hat; in fact, it was rumoured in Victorian times that a woman in a red hat might not be wearing any knickers. And sometimes, our Red hatter models raise their skirts to prove the red hat/no knickers rumour wrong.
5/ You have to love the irony. Though not licenced to the Red Hat Society, the poem “Warning” (an ode to non-conformity) by Jenny Joseph was the inspiration for thousands of women worldwide to dress alike in red hats and purple dresses.
Contact me for details.
A CNN reporter interviewing Vogue Magazine’s Style Editor this week remarked on Oprah’s Royal Wedding hat, describing it as “vintagey”. What a great word! It is high time that the word vintage, as it applies to “fashion”, was redefined. Perhaps in the interim, “vintagey” will do.
Sort of like vintage, but more important in its own way. I contend that the word ‘vintage’ has lost its caché. With so many vintage stores and thrift shops selling unremarkable pieces that have nothing to qualify them but their age, it’s time to take a new look at the concept of vintage, hence:
VINTAGEY (Blue Apple dictionary definition)
- Being or appearing to be an iconic or high-quality costume artefact distinct to a previous season or era.
- A costume artefact produced in a particularly distinctive fashion season.
- A costume artefact crafted to resemble that of an iconic era.
- “It has the vintagey feel of the 1940s”
Oprah’s “vintage” hat, which caused a stir at the
Royal Wedding, was identified as a 2005 Philip Treacy. That’s not so long ago; and strictly speaking, the topper might be more correctly referred to as “retro”. According to thefactshop.com (Sept. 8, 2016):
“Retro clothes don’t refer to a specific time period during which they were created. Instead, ‘retro’ relates to the style in which the items are made. Clothing which has been made recently with the intention of imitating the fashion of the past is considered retro.”
By this definition, there were a number of retro pieces worn at the royal Wedding: Doria Ragland’s beret (a classic style reproduced in different fashion decades with subtle variations), Gina Torres’ fedora (a 1930 & 50s women’s favourite originally designed for men), and Silver Tree’s reproduction lampshade (the much maligned ’60s hat designed to offset beehive hairstyles).
So, what makes Oprah’s high crowned Philip Treacy “vintagey”? If you were thinking that Oprah dug into her closet for a hat she has had around since 2005, you would be mistaken. Rather, Oprah’s high, sloping-crowned straw hat was a flattering selection, particularly suited to her silhouette, and iconic of 2005 Philip Treacy styling. Indeed, her hat was created by internationally renowned milliner Philip Treacy.
A distinction can be made between costume and millinery when it comes to dating style. Throughout most of the 19th and 20th centuries, period fashion silhouettes and style details for women’s costume generally prevailed for a decade before major shifts in hem length, waist elevation, and workmanship was altered. Millinery, on the other hand, which is highly reliant on trims or the lack of them, can show significant season by season alterations. An argument can be made, therefore, that the dating of vintage millinery can be accelerated, and perhaps referred to as vintagey.
For a decade by decade look at bridal fashion, shoe styles, and millinery see Accessorizing the Bride: Vintage Wedding Finery Through the Decades, In Step with Fashion: 200 Years of Shoe Styles, and 1,000 Hats, respectively.