Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vote for your favorite vintage clothing website!

It is your chance to vote for your favorite vintage web site. Two years ago denisebrain was fortunate enough to be one of the top ten People's Choice favorites on the great Lulu's Vintage Blog list. Last year, Lulu herself picked denisebrain for her own top ten. If you would be willing to cast a vote for me, please go to Lulu's voting post and leave a comment that names denisebrain.

OR, if you like, go and name yourself or some other seller that you think rocks the trade. You may vote for your top 10 sites.

It is so great to have a chance to see such a large collection of vintage websites listed in one place. I am working my way through each and every link on Lulu's list and learning in the process. I have the utmost respect and admiration for so many of these great sellers and their sites.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Vintage Fashion Guild's Vintage Inspirations for Spring is here! See how members of the VFG (me among them) interpret current spring trends with their vintage items.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day and denisebrain anniversary

Earth Day and I go way back—I remember being very excited about the very first one in 1970, and drew this poster for my father.

Fast forward to Earth Day 1999, when I decided to give the vintage clothing business a try. This is the first dress I sold.

You know that vintage clothing is generally better made and more interesting and beautiful than anything new, but today especially, remember it is recycling. That is one of the main reasons I love doing what I do.

Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Théâtre de la Mode, part IV: The Fashion Designers

Jacques Fath with one of his creations for the Théâtre de la Mode, 1945

The designers involved in the costuming for the Théâtre read like a who's who of Paris couture of the time, or a near who's who. Notably absent is Coco Chanel, who had closed up shop in 1939, believing that war was no time for fashion.

It was indeed a very challenging time for French fashion. After the Nazi occupation, raw materials, energy and transportation were at a minimum. In 1940 German officers seized the entire archives of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture. Balenciega and Grès were shut down on the grounds that they had used more than their allotment of fabric. Balenciaga reopened with the intervention of the Spanish Embassy, while Madame Grès had to quit making her iconic draped designs.

The German Reich was planning to uproot French haute couture, making it part of its regime, with headquarters in Berlin and Vienna. By 1944, the Nazis threatened to shut down the haute couture completely. It was only saved from extinction by the Liberation.

Remarkably, during the four year occupation the majority of haute couture designers had managed to remain in business, maintaining their creativity and keeping their skilled workers. When the Liberation came, the industry was prepared for its rebirth.

Prints came back in the form of polka dots, stripes, plaids, checks and historic patterns derived from Chinese vases, Delft earthenware and Renaissance velvet. Draped designs were also back, emphasizing necklines and hips. Small waists were emphasized with the V-line (for Victory). Jackets softened, hems lengthened, colors and elaborate decoration returned.

Some of the designers involved with the Théâtre were especially important prior to the 40s (Schiaparelli comes to mind first) while some younger designers were rising stars, important at and after the New Look transition.

Dior was part of the firm of Lucien Lelong from 1941 until December 1946. According to Nadine Gasc ("Haute Couture and Fashion 1939-46," one of the essays collected in the book Théâtre de la Mode), there is little doubt that Dior was responsible for a turquoise chiffon dress with white polka dots, with its low neckline and emphasis on the waist. The only difference between this and his New Look style of 1947 is the length.

Jacques Fath, among others, showed a pen silhouette.

Fath's "Poudre d'Iris," a beige wool jacket with mid-calf straight black skirt, currently on display at Maryhill (photo, denisebrain)

Long, full-skirt strapless gowns were back again, shown by a number of designers. Fewer showed a silhouette more common to pre-WWI times, a narrow long silhouette with wide-brimmed hat. Some, like Balmain, showed both. Either way, without a doubt, evening wear was back.

Dress by Balmain, 1946 (yes, those are tiny feathers; click on any
image for a closer view)

Eliane Bonabel showing a doll dressed by Balmain to Carmel Snow and Diana Vreeland, New York, spring 1946

List of the design houses contributing to the Théâtre de la Mode

Agnès Drecoll
Alice Thomas
Ana de Pombo
Anny Blatt
Blanche Issartel
Charles Montaigne
Freddy Sport
Georgette Renal
Germaine Lecomte
Henriette Beaujeu
Henry à la Pensée
Jacques Fath
Jacques Heim
Jean Desses
Jean Farell
Jean Patou
Jeanne Lafaurie
Jeanne Lanvin
Lucien Lelong
Lucile Manguin
Mad Carpentier
Madeleine Vramant
Madeleine de Rauch
Maggy Rouff
Marcel Dhorme
Marcel Rochas
Marcelle Alix
Marcelle Chaumont
Marcelle Dormoy
Martial & Armand
Nina Ricci
Pierre Balmain
Pierre Benoît
Robert Piguet
Véra Borea
One of my favorite dresses currently on display at Maryhill, a long bare-backed evening gown in vertical bias panels of pink, blue lavender, cream, black and gray rustic linen, by Calixte. The cowl could be worn as a hood. (photo, denisebrain)

Reference: Nadine Gasc, "Haute Couture and Fashion 1939-1946," Théâtre de la Mode

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I thank you...the manatees thank you!

With the help of my wonderful customers and a matching business sponsor, last night I was able to donate $290 to the Emergency Rescue Fund of the Save the Manatee Club.

Thank you so much! I'm overjoyed!!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Manatees continued...

Today's the final day of my manatee promotion, and I have great news: A business sponsor will match every dollar I am able to earn for the manatees!

25% of all my sales this week (Etsy, eBay and web store) will go to the Emergency Rescue Fund of the Save the Manatee Club, and now that sum will be doubled!

Please have a look at my Etsy store, because today (the last day of this promotion) I will chip in the domestic postage, and will offer $6.00 off any international shipment. If you see something you like, go ahead and purchase it and I'll reimburse your postage.

denisebrain on Etsy

Thank you so much for your help!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Save the manatee!

Q: What's the connection between manatees and vintage clothing?

A: Me, for one!

Some of you may know that I care a lot about manatees, and right now, due to the long cold spell in the Southeast, manatees are in dire need of rescue and rehabilitation.

Over the course of this week (April 2-9) I will donate 25% of all my sales (web store, eBay and Etsy) to help with this emergency need.

Please read this message from the Save the Manatee Club's Director of Science and Conservation for more information.

Please help me help the manatees!

Théâtre de la Mode, part III: The Sets

"Le Théâtre," the grand set originally created by Christian Bérard, gave the show its name. The recreated set is featured on the cover of a book devoted to the history of the exhibition.

The Théâtre de la Mode's artful dolls and their fashions were displayed in a series of décors, or sets, each designed by an artist or set designer.

The Théâtre made its debut in Paris on March 27, 1945 and it was still being shown when the war ended in May. By then 100,000 French had seen the exhibit, and it traveled to England, where it attracted even more visitors. Parts of the exhibit were shown in capitals throughout Europe and Scandinavia. In the spring of 1946 the fashions were updated and the show went to New York. Everywhere it went, the Théâtre dazzled and charmed, reestablishing French fashion leadership.

The last stop for the Théâtre de la Mode was San Francisco, where it opened on September 12, 1946. After the exhibition closed, the sets and dolls were stored at the City of Paris department store, and by the 50s, with French couture thriving, the exhibition was abandoned and presumed destroyed. It had served its purpose.

In fact, most of the dolls survived but the sets did not.

The sets now seen at Maryhill, on rotation, are recreations. Of the 12 original sets, 9 were recreated.

The variety in these sets is remarkable.

In Jean Saint-Martin’s "Croquis de Paris," the artist used wire to create his "sketch" (photo, denisebrain)

Maryhill’s Théâtre de la Mode is currently featuring Jean Cocteau’s Ma Femme est une Sorcière (My Wife is a Witch), and Jean Saint-Martin’s Croquis de Paris (Paris Sketch), both originally created in 1945 and re-created in 1990 by Anne Surgers. Also on view is Scène du Rue (Street Scene) created by Anne Surgers as a replacement for Georges Wakhevitch’s set The Port of Nowhere, 1945.

Anne Surger's "Scène du Rue" (photo, denisebrain)

Jean Cocteau's "Ma Femme est une Sorcière" (photo, denisebrain)

Cocteau's dreamlike set was a tribute to the French filmmaker René Claire. The dolls in beautiful gowns, exposed to ghastly gashes in the surrounding architecture were haunting—I'd even say disturbing—to me. The creation dates from the Paris of WWII, and one can only imagine the feelings this set must have stirred.

Detail of Cocteau's set, gown by Worth (photo, denisebrain)

Gowns by Mad Carpentier and Calixte (photo, denisebrain) click on any of my photos for a closer view

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hunting for vintage treasure

Time out from the Théâtre to introduce my April theme, The Hunt for Vintage Charm!