Edith Head

One of my most favorite designers was Edith Head. Her fashions and clothing styles exudes class and distinction. According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05…

1907-81, American costume designer, b. Los Angeles, Calif. She began to design costumes for the motion pictures in the early 1930s, working at Paramount for most of her career and moving to Universal in 1967. She won eight Academy Awards for a variety of films, including “The Heiress (1949), “All about Eve” (1950), “Samson and Delilah” (1951), “A Place in the Sun” (1952), “Roman Holiday” (1954), and “The Sting” (1973). She was responsible for such classic bits of costumery as Mae West’s ostrich feathers, Dorothy Lamour’s sarongs, and Audrey Hepburn’s Sabrina necklines.

She also is known for promoting “the little black dress”. Her styling was sleek and seductive in a very conservative ladylike manor. She was an expert in draping fabric to showcase any body shape that was presented. Every woman knows that the one perfect dress to have in her closet is a simple black dress, that can be “dressed up” into many stylish ways with a jacket, scarf, or a nice piece of jewelry. Many fashion trends have come and gone, but this one seems to be lasting forever.

I remember seeing Edith on the Arthur Goddrey television show, where he would bring her on stage to help some poor unsuspecting lady with her fashion goofs. The lady would have all of her fashion mistakes pointed out by Edith, and then sent on her way to do some shopping. Edith’s approach was simple and direct, and the returning lady was always correctly dressed from head to toe after her shopping trip. Of course, Edith herself was correctly dressed in one of her wonderful suits, that even as a kid I fell in love with. I miss those simple graceful lines in today’s clothing, that seems to be too tight, too short and not enough material. What a disservice the young woman today is doing to her over all picture.

Our two fashion shows have come and gone, and it’s time to start thinking once again about next year’s shows. They are lots of fun, and we need you out there giving us a hand and making these shows bigger and better. Won’t you consider participating to help us out? Just think – some of us may only have to look as far as our closets since 1980 is the cut off year.

Feed Sack Fashions

In the 1920’s feed sacks for grain were made from an ecru colored muslin material. The name of the company was either stamped on the material or was attached at the time the sack was sown with a paper banner. Once the bag was emptied they were returned back to the miller for refilling. Some of the sacks didn’t make it back, due to the fact that the farmer’s wife could wash and use the muslin for kitchen towels, pillowcases and quilt backings, etc. The muslin bag made especially nice tea towels, as the material was of good substantial quality and the edges could be embroidered or crossed stitched. Nothing was wasted, and I remember seeing pillows with the imprinted manufactures name on the backs of many beautifully satin and fringed creations.

The 100 pound bags could yield a good size piece of material, that would make many towels, and if bleached would make many under garments. My grandmother once told me that when her church was having a baptism in the local pond, that her cousin was the talk of town after being dunked and her beautiful white dress once wet, showed through to her slip which had the local seed store’s name on it! Her aunt had not wanted to waste any material, and thinking that it wouldn’t show, had put the last piece of material on the back of the slip.

Somewhere along the way a particular miller got the idea that if he started using a printed cloth for his sacks, that just maybe the farmers would use more of his seed or grain. The printed bags were a big hit with the wives who quickly snatched up all that they could. As the prints became more desirable the more grain was being sold. (Who said women didn’t have power back then.) I can imagine the husband that came home with two bags of the same print was the highlight of the day.

The printed material consisted of many brightly colored patterns, stripes, fruit, and animal prints. I was the lucky kid that had many summer outfits and pajamas made from the many prints. Aprons and day dresses and quilt squares were consistently made from the saved pieces of material and are much sought after by collectors.

If you are a vintage apron collector, it’s quite possible that the material actually started its life as a flour, seed or grain bag. The use of the burlap bag brought a stop to the printed cotton bags around the mid 50’s. My husband, who once worked for Wirthmore Feeds in St Albans, states that he only handled printed bags on special orders and they were very limited at the time.

How can clothing tell about history?

Having a strong sense of history, every time I start this column, I try to think of something that will be of interest and informational to all. Yes, including the male gender!

How can clothing tell about history? It simply tells of the everyday lives of those early years and how people dressed to accommodate all of their actions during the day and evening. Those early years, depict to me a time of gentleness, grandness, of softer times with lots of fun thrown in. Maybe it’s just an illusion that presents itself to me from time to time, but it sure is fun playing dress-up.

Because of my age, I find it easier to write about the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. It’s not hard to write about the 70’s and 80’s, but in my mind I see those first years as relating to my growing up. Maybe that’s why all of you gentlemen, relate to your cars the way you do. We are trying to find that tangible connection to our past and besides, having the cars is fun and a great hobby.

As far as I am concerned, the two fashion shows that we put on each year, are a little like the frosting on the cake, and rounds out the story of our cars, and having fun being with other folks that like to have fun also. Your really missing the finishing touch to your story if you don’t participate in one of the shows or attend. We are only as good as you, and we need lots of participation, both in playing dress-up and watching the rest of us play dress-up.

The folks with the older cars have to search long and hard to find outfits that go with the era of their vehicles and should be commended for their efforts. When you see someone in an outfit of the Model T and before era, it is hard to imagine how people managed to stay looking clean and elegant by the time they got to their destination. The open cars were a challenge just to get from one place to another in one piece. No wonder they all wore long dusters and netting over their hats, as drivers and passengers were exposed to all kinds of weather. I’ve had the opportunity to ride in Rod Rice’s Model T, and found it to be a hoot, and if Rod is out there with his “ T ”, ask him for a ride. It’s a great experience, and you’ll begin to understand what that fashionable gear is all about!

The ladies that drove must have found it to be more challenging than the men, with those long skirts. It had to be hard to keep skirts up out of the way of the three pedals that control the “T”. Goggles were a must even with the windshield; no paved roads in those days. Just think about the yards of netting to keep that big floppy hat on top of the head, and I bet they didn’t wear white gloves to drive! I somehow think it was easier to sit stiffly in the passenger side all bundled up than to try and drive the big high autos.

A woman driver was a rare sight, and even today there aren’t many women who venture to drive the older cars. It takes lots of “arm-strong steering” and good long legs to reach the brakes that may or may not stop on a dime. Yes, ladies, it’s a lot more fun, to be the passenger, and arrive looking exactly like you just left your home, but only after you remove your duster and veiling.

Shelburne Fashion Show

The fashion show at the Shelburne Car Show was exceptional this year! The weather was beautiful and all of the contestants were beautifully attired. Many thanks go out to all that participated in the show, as it was a success because you took the time to make it special. I am beginning to think that there might be some people out there that don’t really understand what the show is all about.

It is a story… a story of what people were wearing in the times of the early automobiles. By that I mean anything 25 years or older, just like the cars we drive. That means that anything is acceptable up to the year of 1980 this year. Can you imagine that? And, your outfit doesn’t necessarily have to be the year of your car.

Some of us like a particular era and try to find something that fits, which is really hard as people were generally smaller in the early years. Some go for the forty’s, fifty’s and now the sixty’s, as the sizing is a little more easy to find, and the price a little more reasonable. Some of us only have to look in their storage closets or attics, for something to wear. I would like to see more participants, especially the male gender. So, ladies when you’re looking consider an outfit for your husband. Just ordinary daywear is also an option, after all people had to work too.

Second hand stores are popping up all over now, as the demand is getting high. The Internet is another source. Just take time to choose carefully, making sure the fabric is strong and clean, and that the item fits. Half of the fun is in trying to find something and the other half is showing it off, such as a costume party or a fashion show like the one we just had. No need to feel shy as everyone is there to have fun, and fun we do have. There is still time to find an outfit for the Stowe Show, but at Stowe you are required to wear something that is the year of your car.

Won’t you join us next year; we would love to have you participate!

Hats, hats, hats!

Hats, hats, hats! All shapes and sizes. My daughters and I had the distinct pleasure of viewing and buying from a private vintage clothing collection one Sunday afternoon. What a wonderful way to shop, with no distractions, no pressures to buy and no other person waiting to buy once you set an article back down.

We could have bought the whole collection, but some restraint had to be made. We were allowed to pick and try all that we bought, and had a wonderful time doing it. The owner of the articles had them all arranged on racks, and the hats were carefully laid out on her husband’s air hockey table. I don’t think that I have seen so many hats of various age and patterns in one place at one time. The clothing ranged from the 1930’s to early 60’s, but was a small size. We had our pick of dresses, coats, shoes, hats and purses. What a time!

With all said and done, we came away with quite a bundle of goodies, with one daughter even buying 15 hatboxes for a display in her bedroom. I don’t even want to know what my son-in-law thought of that! It’s not often that you get a chance like this, and we were fortunate to have a friend of a friend who told us about the clothing.

Collecting can be very interesting and time consuming, but if the word gets out that you are interested in vintage fashions, it doesn’t take long for many avenues to open up. It is truly amazing what people have in their attics, and collecting can be a great deal of fun.

Second Hand Shops

Have you visited your local second hand clothing shop lately? If not, you are missing a bet. Oh, I know what you are thinking…. that you wouldn’t want to wear something that someone else has already worn and may be out of style. I think you should take a second look; things are not what you think.

Vintage clothing and used clothing may have a bad reputation of being ratty and out of style. Not the case at all…vintage clothing has become big business, and if you doubt my word, take a moment or two and go to the web site: www.secondhandrosevintage.com. I think you will be greatly surprised. This company has many sites in many states now, and seems to be growing.

The articles of clothing are carefully selected, clean, fashionable, and very wearable. Many people are in auto clubs, museums, historical groups, stage shows, etc., that need period clothing. Designer fashions are greatly sought after, and the prices seem to be right, for the quality of the clothing. Names like Adele Simpson, Edith Head, Lilli Ann and Christian Dior come to mind. These are names to watch for in your hunt.

But, even if you don’t find designer fashions in your quest, take time to look through the racks and racks of second hand clothing. You may be surprised at what you find and at what price you find it at. And, really, do fashions change that much? Do things really go out of style if they are well made and well taken care of? I have many friends who regularly shop second hand clothing stores that come away with great finds for very good prices. You just have to take the time and look carefully and be selective in what you buy, and I bet no one will know the difference. Have fun!

Shelburne Vintage Fashion Show

Another successful vintage fashion show at Shelburne has come and gone. I would like to thank the judges: Gael Boardman, Sandy Lambert, and Jan Sanders. It was not an easy job to choose as all the contestants looked just lovely. Many thanks to Julie Greenia for her superb job of announcing all of the participants. Her costume consisted of a 1950’s black summer dress with ruffled hem accented with brass buttons down the front. Her black hat was trimmed with a black and white polka dotted band and she wore matching polka dotted white gloves.

First place was Lucille Marcoux from Canada, who looked stunning in a white embroidered bodice 1950’s summer dress with an open back, which was accented with a large black straw hat, gloves and white shoes.

Second place was Gene Fodor who sported a British RAF uniform worn in the African Campaign. His rank was that of a squadron leader, sporting a walking stick with war medal, African medal, service medal and security medal. He carried his flying leather helmet with goggles, white scarf, leather gloves and flying jacket. The pants of the uniform are called Bombay Bloomers which on hot days could be turned up and buttoned to make Bermuda shorts. The wing on his right pockets is that of his commercial pilot’s wings.

Third place was Christina (?) in a classic 1950’s navy blue polka dotted bias cut skirt. Accented with a red scalloped edge top and sporting a faux hankerchief and large black buttons at the back. Wearing classic pearls and charm bracelet, all originals at the time. She completes her outfit with a black straw hat, gloves and purse.

Honorable mention goes to Aryn Lamos who wore a black 1920’s wool Jantzen bathing suit with a form fitting skirt and shorts.

Car Show Preparations

Can you believe that we are half way through March, and that in three short months we will be getting our cars out of the winter abode and dusting off the winter grime? At some point winter seems to never be ending, and spring is just around the corner at lot faster than we can think about it.

Car show committees have been working extremely hard to present even better shows for our participation this year. As members of the VAE, we are extremely lucky to have two wonderful car shows each year, along with all the other events to help us enjoy the old car hobby. We are also fortunate to have two fashion shows each year that express and give examples of times gone past.

Last year, there were 17 participants in the Shelburne show, and expectations are even higher this year. The setting on the Ticonderoga is extremely lovely and elegant, and makes any outfit just that much more special. If you haven’t given it much thought, now is the time to start considering just what you might wear for the era that interests you the most. We went from the early 1900’s to the early 70’s and had lots of fun modeling the fashions. The shows would even by nicer if more of the masculine side would participate. After all, the fashion world did include fashion for the man, and was driven by the auto industry to some extent.

If modeling doesn’t appeal to you, how about becoming a judge. I’m sure that there are many of you out there that have a good eye for color and style. Won’t you join us?

Teaching Children to Drive

I’m sure that many of you have far more wonderful and harrowing experiences teaching your children to drive but I would like to tell you ours. Most families seem to go to the nearest shopping centers to let the youngster learn the art of driving a car. Our three daughters had a slightly different training, along with going to the shopping center.

We always seem to have lots and lots of wood to move, both the kind you burn and the kind you build with, and we all had our share of moving it. It’s a great source of conversation when we all get together! One of the ways we moved the endless stacks was with our old one ton Ford truck.

We had a large field that was nice and flat, and was not obstructed with any buildings. We would fill up the old truck, putting the oldest daughter then 12, behind the wheel, and let her “move” the wood. Keeping it in low gear, she had a great time getting that pile of wood from one location to the other. Of course, the move took three times as long, but each one of our three daughters had the opportunity to feel trusted to drive the truck, and we had lots of fun watching.

When it came time for the girls to actually go out on the road, we found that their driving experience behind the wheel of the truck had paid off, and the job of teaching them the rules of the road was far easier. Since the Driving Ed classes were only teaching on automatic cars, we insisted that each daughter learn how to drive a standard shift. They all took that lesson on our 1948 Studebaker column shift car.

Each daughter also had their general maintenance training in the driveway with Dad, learning how to change a tire, check the oil, water and battery. The girls are all good drivers, and now can drive just about anything their husbands set in front of them.

Model A Ford Winter Driving

All this cold weather that we’ve been having makes me very thankful for the winter clothing that we now have.

My grandmother told many stories of her driving adventures in the winter months. For some unknown reason my grandfather never got his drivers license until later in life. He was employed as a foreman for the Missisquoi Pulp Mill in Sheldon Springs Vermont, which was 8 miles from their home.

One particularly cold winter, much like we are experiencing this winter, my grandmother had the dubious job of driving him to work mornings. She had a 1928 Model A Ford Roadster, with no heat! Eight miles one way is a long ways to go with no heat in sub zero weather.

As you can imagine, the trip to Sheldon Springs was no piece of cake, and the return trip back was pure misery. Gram had on the standard mode of fashion for the day…dress, stockings, shoes stuffed in stadium boots, and a wool coat with fur collar and gloves. Wool coats were heavy, but didn’t offer much warmth at times. Grandfather wore long-johns, wool pants, flannel shirt, wool socks, wool jacket, wool cap and gloves.

Fingers nearly frozen, it was impossible to grip the wheel, so she stuck her arms through the steering wheel to steer the car, managing to get home before she became a block of ice. Fashion be darned, that one experience was enough for Gram. She started wearing a pair of men’s pants, socks, flannel shirt, and made a pair of three finger mittens from sheep’s skin that would allow her to grip the wheel better.

That very next spring the Model A was traded for a closed car with a heater. If Gram was going to be on the road, she was going to be warm!