Friday, February 17, 2012

February Outfit

Hello all! I'm starting a new feature today! Each month, I'm going to attempt to recreate a vintage outfit I find in a book, magazine, film, or...wherever! (Feel free to send me ideas!)

I'm starting with a picture I found in McCall's magazine, January 1964...because I'm excited for the return of Mad Men in just a matter of weeks! Here is the original:
From McCall's, January 1964, pg. 91. Photographs by William Helburn, pants by White Stag; belt by Elegant.
I love both of these looks, but there more to work with in that second shot! I've always loved browns (in fact, I asked my bridesmaids to wear brown). So, this outfit caught my eye. Also, it's that timeless look that could be from any decade, from the 1920s to now.

Here's what I put together:

Add caption
The photo doesn't show the bottom half of the lovely lady, so I used my imagination. Here we have a 1970s blouse by Koret of California (available here).  The sweater I've used is a really neat 1940s Red Cross pullover (available here ). Using my imagination, I pulled this skirt out of my closet. It's a 1970s pleated skirt by Bodin Knits (but here's a nice one in wool). Last, I've used some of my all-time favorite shoes, my brown suede Hush Puppies (argh... I can't find any just like them... any in your closet??). And the idea how long I've had that. Don't we all have some old standby brown belt that goes with everything?

Here's a closer look at everything:

I used to have these same shoes in black patent...I literally wore the sole plum off of one!
I love the mix of earth tones here, but any mix of colors would be great. And, as I said, there is just something always fashionable about all of these pieces, giving you a nice vintage look that might not even be noticed as vintage!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Celluloid Blossoms

This Valentine's Day, how about a basket of flowers? Celluloid flowers, that is. I picked up this brooch at an estate sale recently, and in researching it, I have been enjoying serious eye candy.

See at Wire 9 Vintage
 Celluloid, like Bakelite and Lucite, is a plastic that can be turned into incredible, jewel-like objets d'art. Unlike the other two well-known and collectible plastics, celluloid has been around for a very long time, first patented around 1870. Its creamy, slightly yellow appearance, its light weight, and its ability to be molded into intricate designs made it a perfect substitute for ivory. It would come to grace many boudoirs in the early 20th century in the form of vanity sets of brushes, mirrors, combs, hair catchers and manicure sets. I'm lucky enough to have my great aunts mirror with her initials (maiden name, of course!) on the back. I use this mirror daily, and this certainly is on my "what if there was a fire" lists of things to grab on the way out the door (after the kids!).

Probably from around 1915, and in use everyday!
 I suspect most of us into vintage *anything* has a similar mirror. If you don't, and you want one, these are quite common, and usually affordable. Of course, condition can be tricky, not only with celluloid, which can be treated shamefully through the decades, but with mirrors that can crack, completely break, or their silver can deteriorate.

Another celluloid treasure I have, also comes from Aunt Floy:

Isn't this a sweet little cameo, probably dirt cheap when it was made! But...check this out. I never thought to look around for information on this little beauty, since it's just been part of my life since I was about 16 or so. But in looking at it again for this post, I did a little search for "celluloid cameo pendant" and found some lovely ones, but none like mine...until this one, which I must say puts mine to shame (ooo...I thought I needed to clean it!), but does tell me, perhaps, that there used to be a fantastic chain with it!

Find this sweetie here: cameo. From about 1920.
Isn't that gorgeous?! But that little flower brooch up there also has another interesting aspect to it: It was made in Occupied Japan, which means it dates to a long time after celluloid actually had gone out of fashion. But a lot of sweet celluloid jewelry and toys was produced in those years, from 1945 to 1952.

This is what it looks like on a vintage-inspired jacket, pink, of course, for Valentine's Day:

Because celluloid is not the sturdiest of materials (but its delicacy is such a big part of its beauty...), extreme care must be taken in cleaning these pieces.While they are probably a lot tougher than they look for everyday handling (I can't tell you how many times I've dropped my precious mirror over the years!), chemically, they can be delicate. It's made of nitrated cellulose pulp (from cotton or even paper by-products) and camphor(from the Cinnomomum Camphora tree, hence that special odor it has, even when warmed up with a little rubbing). Both of these are soluble in a variety of liquids, including alcohol, acetone, naptha, turpentine, and mineral spirits (think nail polish remover and hairspray, among other things!). But it's so beautiful, it's worth a bit of care, I think. For more information about the care of celluloid, and for some serious eye candy, check out Celluloid Collectors Reference and Value Guide, available here. Obviously, the values might be outdated a bit, but there is a ton of great information.

P.S. I apologize for the wonkiness of the blog. I'm undergoing a slow and annoying redesign. I hope to "look right" again very soon!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Good Clean Fun--The Comedy Record

I'm not a prude. I can cuss like a sailor (and am guilty of doing just that at times), and I'm not against R-rated material. That said, I am totally against the inane use of "bad language," sex and nudity to score a cheap laugh or get people to look. Clever is good. And while some cleverness is certainly R-rated, and brilliant for it, so much cleverness just doesn't need that crutch.

This week I found a stack of old comedy albums, and this got me thinking about that genre that is all but dead. See this L.A. Times article on the basic differences between old-school comedy recordings and those that pass for such (mainly at the Grammy Awards) these days. Once upon a time, a comedy album (vinyl, doncha know) could be a remarkable thing that was purchased by the millions and much discussed around record players and water coolers alike.

Classics like The Smothers Brothers early albums, Nichols and May, Lily Tomlin, Monty Python (yep, on vinyl!), Jonathan Winters (really!), Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Steve Martin, Bill Cosby, and true master comedy album: The Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart (remember that early Mad Men episode where the guys are sitting in the office listening intently to this?), are amazing pieces of comedy history that have mostly stood the test of time. I also found and listened to an Allan  Sherman (My Son, the Folk Singer) album, and laughed--right out loud. Phyllis Diller did albums, and, in fact, any comedian worth his or her salt did albums. And people bought them. Before You Tube and cable television, a good comedy album was something to sit up and pay attention to. Ask Bob Newhart (in fact, you can listen to him discuss it here)...he kicked Elvis right off the top of the charts and stayed there for weeks. Part of what made some of those early comedy albums so successful was the fact that they were both smart and cutting-edge--for all ages. No crutches needed.

If you only know some of these comedians as old guys who are far from cutting edge, check out some of their early stuff. It's truly remarkable stuff that's still funny. And it influenced everything that came after.

Now, this isn't to say there wasn't raunchier stuff (and just as funny...just not kid-friendly!). Red Foxx, anyone? Lenny Bruce? Yep, there's nothing new under the sun. The thing is, though, there's adult-level clever, and then there's juvenile-level stupid. You be the judge.

Oh, and don't think I don't like any modern comedians. But they have to be smart about it (like, say, Eddie Izzard). But I do enjoy being able to laugh with my kids at stuff. That seems to be a rarer and rarer comic commodity. (and don't get me started on all the fart jokes in kid's movies today... argh...)

So why'd we stop appreciating good comedy...comedy so good, we'd buy it on a record and play it over an over? What's your favorite comedy record? (Note: I am talking about records made by comedians, not recordings of old radio shows, or even comedy music, like Weird Al Yankovich, which are other genres...and just as funny!)