Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Vintage secrets and out-of-date makes.

Yesterday I was invited to a private showing of the Alfred Shaheen archives here in Los Angeles.  I won't say too much since this wasn't "my" event, but it was astonishing, inspiring and visually overwhelming.
Vintage Alfred Shaheen
We got to touch these!
  Joss SticksHibiscus ForestTahitian Girl
We were given a chance to inspect the inner workings of virgin, unworn, sarong dresses (the iconic green dress above) and got a one-in-a-million chance to look at unwashed, uncut fabric that was essentially fresh off of the print line.  My fingers itched to take about a million photos, but it didn't feel appropriate, so the memory will have to be enough for now.

Stunning. 

And very inspiring as a seamstress.  

All photos from the Alfred Shaheen website.

This got my thinking about my own-very modest-collection of vintage pieces, none of which fit me or suit me any longer.  My instinct is very much "anti-archival."  If something doesn't work for you anymore then release it into the wild and let some other person enjoy it, but for whatever reason I haven't been able to let these pieces go.




Cowboy style bomber jacket that my ex boyfriend gave me as a "parting" gift.  

Interesting underarm gusset to allow the sleeve lining to have some movement and ease

Fabulous welt pocket with silk triangular appliques


1930s wool crepe day dress that my sister bought for me in a thrift store in Idaho.  I LOVE this dress, it may actually still fit.  Look at the seam lines and the details.


John Galliano's first design studio was at the end of the street I grew up on in London.  One day he donated a ton of dresses to our local charity shop and I bought this, even though I was 16 and had no place to wear a highly dramatic, Miss Havisham esque, ladies day dress with bustle and asymmetrical hemline.
The dress is shaped by pleats upon pleats, godets and tucks.  Sadly I wore the dress very carelessly and the silk fabric is dirty and giving way at the seams.  


Incredible bustle detail.  The back of the dress is about a foot shorter than the front.  It's a "statement" piece.

Givenchy dress that was owned by a princess in Luxemburg, but somehow was handed down to my stepmother.  Astonishingly small and utterly unforgiving.  There is not "ease" to be had.

I'm guessing this isn't the original zipper!  Surely Givenchy wouldn't be so sloppy.

Wonderful kangaroo pocket detail with big welted openings.

And then there's one's own vintage.  I made these tartan wool skirts when I lived in Miami, yes, Miami.  Let's just say I was a bit of an odd duck running around Miami Beach in clothing better suited to a brisk Highland fall. I'm not sure what I was thinking but for the duration of my time in Florida I dressed in cozy wools, warm tweeds and reassuring sweaters.  Part of this was aesthetics (I just love wool!) and part of it was not wanting to fight a losing fight.  Miami Beach in the mid-90s had a very distressing hierarchy whereby being a model trumped everything and anything else.  Clubs had seating sections that were "models only" and even the most insipid pretty girl from Nebraska knew she had you beat if she'd booked a few german catalogues.   I knew I couldn't compete with the model babes so I choose to go in a totally different direction, and people did respond to it ( even if in a rather perplexed way).

My grandfather's tartan.  I made a series of skirts in this fabric over the years.  This is the only one that remains... boy my South Beach roommate thought I was nuts!

This was my beloved stepfather's tartan.  He gave me the fabric for Christmas one year. I'll NEVER get rid of this skirt, even though I can no longer do it up...

When we were touring Shaheen I could swear I heard the fabric whispering, "sew me, sew me!"  But alas, it's not to be!

1 comment:

Catherine Daze said...

Great post, thanks! Really interesting to see the details in those.