I don’t really watch the Academy Awards for the films, the artists, or even the fashion. I watch it for the excitement and the feeling of impending springtime it’s come to represent. It really is a show that brings more than the sum of its parts! In honor of the season, I’m bringing you some of my favorite fancy, mid century vintage gowns, all in spring pinks and greens.
Like most people, I get my style cues from so many different sources I can’t keep track of them all. More, I’m sure a huge proportion of my influences are so subliminal I couldn’t articulate them if I wanted to. That said, the spirit of self-exploration has taken hold and inspired me to try. So with that, I’m presenting my first style influences. Not the first in the chronological sense of my life, but the first I’m bringing to the blog: Piero Gherardi – art, set, and costume designer for many of Federico Fellini’s iconic films – and the luminous Anita Ekberg, one of the talented female stars of my favorite Fellini, La Dolce Vita (1960).
Since Ekberg just passed away, she’s a logical first choice. The designs that she – and everyone else in La Dolce Vita – wore also happen to be some of my favorite clothes ever. Her strapless velvet gown from the famous Baths of Caracalla and Trevi Fountain scenes is legendary, but I’d love it even if it were 1/1,000,000th as famous as it is. With its sweetheart neckline, carefully-engineered bodice, and sweeping, diaphanous silk underlayers, it’s truly a dream dress. The way Ekberg whirls through the Caracalla scene, it’s almost like the dress has taken on a life of its own.
My other favorite Ekberg ensemble from the film includes the off-shoulder, v-neck lace top her character, Sylvia, wears during the press suite scene soon after her arrival in Rome. It’s perfect – just the right balance of structure and femininity, balanced delicately on the pinnacle fulcrum of the best fashion era that ever was or will be – the late 1950s and early 1960s.
It helps that Ekberg didn’t have a standard body. While not exactly plus, she had bigger curves than the average actress and looked amazing. This inspired me, as a girl who is nothing if not curvy.
Though all that remains of it today is its domed rotunda from 1909, City of Paris is one of those venerable old department stores that everybody from San Francisco seems to remember. From 1850 and the boomtown days of the California gold rush to the early 1970s, the store was an integral part of the culture and economy of the city. Legendary columnist Herb Caen deemed its massive Christmas trees the official Christmas trees of the city, and even people who never bought a thing at City of Paris were very familiar with the store and the high-end French and French-inspired goods that it was known for.
City of Paris is gone, but its beaux-arts rotunda and glass dome (which is reminiscent of those at Galeries Lafayette in Paris ca. 1912) live on at the store’s former site on Union Square, now Neiman-Marcus. The glass features the motto and crest of the real city of Paris in France: a ship and the words “Fluctuat nec Mergitur,” Latin for “It floats but does not sink.” This reflects not only the attitude of the business itself, founded by Frenchman Felix Verdier, but also the literal founding of the store. Verdier brought his first load of goods to sell from France on a ship called Ville de Paris. In fact, the story goes that Verdier managed to sell everything from the ship itself thanks to eager men flush with money from their gold rush successes, making the Ville de Paris, in effect, his first storefront.
When I was in college in the mid-1990s, I shopped at I. Magnin on Union Square. I didn’t buy much – mostly makeup – but I had as good a time as anybody at this bay area institution. I was really thin then, so I could try on the Armani and Chanel and look good in it. More fun than anything, however, was the beautiful bones of the store.
The sleek marble facade and remaining post-deco interiors from 1948 gave the place an air of sophistication that a brand-new build – no matter how opulent – just couldn’t match. The downstairs “main hall” had several gorgeous painted glass murals by artist Max Ingrand and bronze balustrades reminiscent of a trans-Atlantic ocean liner. In fact, the main floor reminded me an awful lot of the Queen Elizabeth‘s interiors, barely a decade older.
When Macy’s – I. Magnin’s parent company – closed the store in 1994, I was gutted. I managed to happen upon the fixture sale in early 1995 and purchased the only remaining piece of I. Magnin I could afford or logically use – a large white flag with the I. Magnin logo (which I still have).
Years later, I found a beautiful 1940s vintage lace dress with I. Magnin labels and promptly fell on it. It got me thinking about the store and how much I missed it. Nowadays, everything from the original I. Magnin building, designed by Timothy Pflueger, has been overrun by the Macy’s next door and its boutique lessees downstairs. Well, almost everything. I did discover that one original 1948 interior space remains – a women’s bathroom.
Happy new year! I always overdress for the holidays, and last night was no exception. I wore a beautiful lipstick-red vintage silk gown from the 1950s. It’s got a Frank Starr label and was apparently made to measure in a Washington, DC, dress shop.
It’s finally autumn here, so I’ve been busting out the cold weather fashions. Last August, when it was still millions of degrees outside, I ordered two of Betty Le Bonbon’s fabulous winter-weight midi length skirts. I’ve been eagerly waiting for the day I could wear them, and that day is finally here!
Tassel Twirl Magazine just launched a sister publication called Calendar Girls. Dedicated to seasonal pinup imagery, the magazine’s first issue focuses on autumn and Halloween. There are two great covers to choose from, and two photos of me inside by Miss Missy!
I’m a Halloween cat, wearing Deadly Dames capris, Laura Byrnes lace bolero, Chelsea Crew shoes, and a Goddess vintage style longline bra.
A little while back I showed you two lovely Stop Staring! cocktail dresses suitable for holiday wear. I promised a third option from Collectif, and that’s what I’m reviewing for you here! Meet Penny, an attractive sweetheart front-cross halter strap wiggle dress made from stretchy black bengaline.
Bengaline is a comfortable, flattering fabric that works incredibly well in vintage wiggle dress styles. The Collectif Penny is no exception. The cut and construction are fabulous, and the fit is very good. This is the kind of dress that is snazzy enough on its own – look at that bodice! – but dresses up really nicely given its neutral color and sleek lines.