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Keepin' Up With Vicqui: Fashion Fan

Style, Substance and Fun

Looking to the Past: What Vintage Clothing Taught Me About Style

     

                     

 

      When I was about nine year old, my mother went to downtown L.A.'s Garment District and bought a rust wool gathered skirt and vest set for me to wear to school. I already had a white long-sleeved button-down shirt, she thought I could wear with it, and when she laid it on my bed to try on she just knew I'd love it and it would look cute on me. At first glance, I adored it and I couldn't wait to wear it, but once I tried it on and bristled under its scratchy fabric, I knew it wasn't for me. 

   "You decided to wear your yellow knicker set instead, because you said it was  comfortable, and didn't itch," my mother said. 'The fact that you chose something you'd owned for a long time let me know then that you preferred old clothes." 

    It wasn't just the softness of the textiles that attracted me, it was the overall silhouette too. The wool skirt set, while quite fetching and au courant, didn't have the nostalgic appeal of my retro knicker set. Designed in the mode of a 1920's newsboy suit, I remember pairing it with a pair of argyle knee-high socks and brown buckle square-toed shoes.

   Besides my knicker set I also loved the yellow smock top and elephant flare and lime green smock top and elephant flare sets my mother gave me for my birthday one year, while I was still attending Manhattan Place Elementary School.  Bright, fun and slightly forties both tops had short puffy sleeves. large decorative buttons and patch pockets on the front. When I wore them separately I could pair the smocks with jeans and Ked's, and a simple short-sleeved t-shirt with the flares.

   After examining my September 2016 Vogue for clips to add to my "Personal Style" files I found a photo of a model wearing a brown tweed coat over a green cardigan sweater, pink button-down shirt and wide-legged khaki's in the fashion layout Mad About The Boy, and I tore it out. As I looked at it, apart from the rest of the magazine, I realized I was drawn to it because the pants reminded me of my favorite yellow bell bottoms and they possessed a poetry missing in the trendier skinny jeans and mini skirts featured in the issue and seen to ad nauseum today.

   One of my favorite eras to emulate, and translate, right now is the 1920's. Straight, with the lovely angularity of art deco, the clothes I'm inspired by are the sheath dresses, striped Breton sailor tops, wide-legged pants and men's cardigans.To update these pieces for 2016, I might accessorize a sheath with a denim jacket, a Breton with floral leggings, the wide-legged pants with a kitschy tee and the men's cardie with a white button-down shirt and a frilly skirt. Mindful of the era's icons, the ones I admire the most are Coco Chanel and Baba d'Erlanger. Known for individualism, d'Erlanger, taught me how to compliment my thin physique with minimalism and Chanel taught me how to dress up anything with costume jewelry. 

    At times my penchant for vintage and retro clashes with the super trendy giving me a clearer picture of where we lie in the fashion story today. While I might wear something to work like  a beige trench coat over a brown Dries Van Noten men's shirt and brown tweedy pants held up by striped suspenders, after seeing the movie Genius and being influenced by Thomas Wolfe and the 1930's, my co-workers might choose to practice "group think" and wear skinny jeans and ankle boots in basically the same configuration. Either way both looks represent how we choose to respond to the world in our own sartorial language.

Chronological Timeline of Fashion History:

1920's:

  • Garconne look
  • Simple silhouettes
  • Coco Chanel (Striped Breton tops, wide-legged "matelot" trousers, men's cardigans and little black dress-LBD)

1930's:

  • "Feminine curves"
  • Trousers, shorts, satin pyjamas, well-tailored suits
  • Elsa Schiaparelli (Italian Designer)

1940's:

  • "WWII Structured"
  • Fitted jackets, flared skirts, trench coats
  • Claire McCardell (American Designer)

1950's:

  • "Ladylike"
  • Capri pants, Mexican printed skirts, cardigan sweaters
  • Christian Dior (French Designer)

1960's:

  • "Little Girl Style" and "British Dandy"
  • Minis, floral shirts, flares
  • Mary Quant (British Designer)

1970's:

  • "Glam Rock" and "Disco"
  • Trouser suits for women, A-line skirts, tailored looks
  • Halston (American Designer)

The Basic T Shape: From Tunics to Tees

Roman Tunic, Illustration by Victoria Moore

 

    I never realized how fascinating the simple garments of Rome, Greece and Egypt in 88 B.C. were until I read Raiders of the Nile:A Novel of the Ancient World by Steven Saylor for the February meeting of the Mystery Book Club I belong to at the Mar Vista Public Library. Rich with lush detail one of the items that stood out for me initially was the tunic that Bethesda borrowed from her master/lover Gordianus on his 22nd birthday. Saylor describes it as "his green tunic, his second best". He wore "a blue tunic, his best." Roman, by birth, Gordianus would've probably worn it beltless and loose. Similar to the chemise dress, pullover sweater and t-shirt the long line and pristine appearance of the tunic make it the perfect backdrop for scarves, pins and necklaces.

Interesting Historical Facts About the Tunic:

  • In AD 1000-1400 South American Peruvians (Ancon and Chencey cultures) buried men and women in woven tunics.
  • Men and women both wore the tunic initially and it can still be worn by both sexes.

1933 Was a Great Year

Illustration of a 1930's blouse and skirt 

   One of the reasons I'm fascinated by the 1930's is because it mirrors the economic downturn  many of us have faced in our own lives recently. Closing the "Jazz Age" on October 29, 1929 with a loud bang, when the stock market crashed in New York, the world changed for the worse as businesses closed, families became homeless and jobs were scarce. The ensuing tragedy became known as "The Great Depression". Sadly African-Americans endured the worst when they were forced out of low skilled jobs that whites now needed. Unemployment for them was about 50% when compared to whites. 

Fashion During This Time:

    While a lot of women sewed their own clothes, some also ordered inexpensive garments from the "Sears, Roebuck and Company" catalog, and others repaired what they already had. Altering previously worn styles, by "nipping in the waist and adding flounces and frills to hems," also became common place. Besides offering complete clothing, "Sears" also offered "semi-made items which were more budget-friendly and easier to construct."

Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West:

   Considered an American classic today, Nathanael West's novel Miss Lonelyhearts accurately depicts Depression-era America through the eyes of the story's protagonist, a disillusioned male reporter who writes the Miss Lonelyhearts column for a New York newspaper. Set, and "first published in 1933" one description stayed with me because it shone brightly against the maudlin and bleak text of the book. 

    Describing what his fiance Betty wore to a soiree Miss Lonelyhearts says to himself, "The party dress was so gay and charming, light blue with a frothy lace collar flecked with pink, like the color of her (strawberry) soda." I felt this quote accurately depicts women's fashion of the day.

Illustration of a 1930's blouse and skirt

The 1933 Fashion Scene:

   Simple, but unique, a few of the most attractive trends, that we could update and wear now, were silk blouses paired with linen suits, "sweater sets with culottes, gauchos or cropped pants," and "coordinated shorts and pants with button-down shirts".

Fashion Icon:

   Wallis Simpson (The Duchess of Windsor) is the perfect icon for this style because the "streamlined severity" (i.e., slim skirt and simple blouse accessorized with a jeweled pin" look she wore) shows how elegant it can be when worn correctly.

 Fashion Designers of the 1930's:

  • ​​Coco Chanel (French)
  • Elsa Schiaparelli (Italian)
  • Elizabeth Hawes (American)
  • Clare Potter (American)
 

Fashion Trends in 1933:

  1. ​​​White pique
  2. Linen suits
  3. "Pinafore frocks that buttoned down the back."
  4. Printed gloves
  5. Turbans or "hats with small brims"
  6. Beach pyjamas
  7. Drawstring necklines (Popularized by Madeline Vionnet)
  8. Matching glove and dress sets
  • The trends we could update and wear today are linen suits, turbans (worn with jeans a t-shirt and cardigan sweater or blazer) and beach pyjamas (wide-legged pants).

​​ 

 

Luxe Track Pants...A Journey

December 29, 2016

My fantastical journey 

Illustration by Victoria Moore

 

   While vintage clothes will always hold a special place in my heart, modern styles can be just as special when worn the right way. Anyone who's ever taken a trip to the mall, or ridden the bus or subway, has seen examples of contemporary modes worn without regard for personal elan or decorum-leggings worn as pants and not layering items, pajamas and house shoes leaving the house without permission on unsuspecting owners, and short shorts replacing panties then paired with midriff tops to reveal flesh better well covered. To witness this type of "fashion" parade, on a daily basis, might make one become disheartened and push their own appearance to the back burner.

   In my job as a fashion/feature writer I've often been confronted with the dilemma of how to wear today's trends with the class and elegance of yesteryear, but still remain comfortable. Due to the difficulty in finding reliable style icons who consistently wear things as beautifully as Audrey Hepburn or Cary Grant, the lack of sales help unless you go to the higher end stores, and the sky rocketing cost of clothing, I'm finding it harder to locate the styles I need to stay au courant without ending up in debt.

   My most recent clothing journey involved finding a pair of reasonably priced "luxe track pants with stripes down each side in contrasting colors". I first fell in love with them when I saw them in a fashion layout in Vogue last year, then I saw them again on German fashion editor Veronika Heilbrunner in the Winter Escape 2016 issue of Porter magazine. Louche, subtle and edgy they spoke to me, and I knew I had to have them, but not at the prices featured in Porter.

Luxe track pants and red, white and blue boho dress 

   

   I went online and looked them up on amazon.com, zara.com, target.com, and other stores like H&M, T.J. Maxx, Macy's and Forever 21.The closest I came to finding them was a pair of Mossimo's for around $20 at the Southgate Target store. Unfazed I knew I was going to be at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza the next day when I took my mother to see Rogue One for her birthday at the Rave movie theater. They have a Forever 21 in the mall, so after making two trips, one before the movie started and one after it ended, I found a pair in the p.j./lounge wear section for $15.90!

    Jubilant, and vindicated once again despite our challenging fashion scene, I put them with my other Christmas gifts, and relaxed with a cup of tea and the current book I'm reading, Michael Connelly's The Crossing. With 2017 coming up, and a whole new year of things to do, after my success with finding these pants I can add more adventures to my calendar knowing they'll yield good finds.

Dear Santa...My Christmas Fashion Wish List

December 25, 2016

 

Dear Santa:

   I know you usually receive letters and Christmas lists from small children who want the latest toys, clothes and electronics, but I was hoping you'd make an exception in my case and consider my fashion wish list for 2016. Through my enclosed sketches and brainstorming tactics I hope my selections will charm and persuade you to make my Christmas a little more fashionable. For some strange reason I chose clothes and accessories reminiscent of American fashion designer Claire McCardell so my choices have a lovely feminine twist. My list includes:

  1. A striped dress with a mid-calf hem, long sleeves and a nipped waist, that can be belted with either a wide patent leather, corset or chain belt. To give it a modern twist I plan to wear it with ankle boots, men's lace-up shoes, sneakers, a denim jacket and an easy-going hat.
  2. A blouse, with a large pussy bow, in a solid color or print. By combining this blouse with my jeans and khaki's I feel it would give them a softness that's both contemporary and romantic.
  3. A "colorful satin pleated evening skirt" which can be paired wonderfully with a pullover sweater or cardigan, evening clutch and pretty jeweled flats or mid-heels.
  4. Accessories: A red leather purse, striped tote and satin ballet flats. The reason I'd like these accessories is because they can add new life and freshness to my neutrals without overpowering them.

    So I guess that's it Santa...Thanks again and I appreciate your consideration and dedication during this holiday season. Merry Christmas and I hope you enjoy the cookies and milk I left you by the Christmas tree.

Sincerely Yours, 

Victoria Moore

The Good, the Wonderful and the Historical

January 23, 2016

 

   I've always loved vintage clothing, even when I could afford to buy retail, because the items I've seen have been so beautiful and interesting they make me long for a time when our society was a lot more stylish and less comfortable. I also believe that when we look to the past we can be inspired and create clothes for our time that will be just as beautiful to future generations. 

How I Shop Now

June 30, 2014


 

How I Spend:

WHERE I LOOK: "I'm not very wealthy, but I'm obsessed with looking good, so I shop at thrift stores that have consistently qualitative merchandise, off-price stores, chain stores and trendy shops. Even though I've been a regular at Ross for a long time now a little while ago I went to T.J. Maxx and found a really nice plastic chain necklace and a black pullover sweater by Cable and Gauge, so I'm thinking of becoming a regular there too."

MAINTAINING A WARDROBE: "Over the years I've accumulated quite a bit from vintage clothes to second-hand finds and surplus store bargains so I have closets that're bulging at the seams. When I get dressed to go out I usually coordinate something from my extensive selection that either tells a story or personifies how I feel at the moment."

WHERE I SPLURGE: "Buying one thing that costs $20 is a luxury for me but if I really want something, and know I'll get a lot of wear out of it, I'll buy it. Recently I bought a black leather purse from www.amazon.com for about $70, a pair of Guess sneakers for $25.99 and a "Betsey" logo necklace for $24.99 from Ross so that was a splurge for me."