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Vintage Clothing and Sex: I Have Written A Novel

DAHLINGS –

You probably do not believe that your faithful correspondent is capable of Deep Thoughts.  (Indeed, some have expressed that in this blog-thing quite loudly).  However, 2011 and 2012 have found me with much on my mind.  Which gives me terrible headaches.
My darling readers have probably been wondering, “What is that fabulous woman doing, that she is not here tending to our fashion and plus-size needs?  Where is she when we need famous people dressing up criticized?”

You may gasp in disbelief, but I have written a novel, “The Abortionist’s Daughter.” Your faithful scrivener was tempted to say that it was written by someone else, but one has to stand by one’s principles (and admit that one is a truly amazing writer, as you all know). 

As was said by another, “She who doth not toot her own horn, her horn shall not be tooted.” And of course I want my horn tooted.

As you can probably tell from my interests, the descriptions of the clothes are luscious, written by an author with an understanding of Fashion In The True Sense.   Silks, satins, drool-worthy beribboned hats, robes with crystal pleating, cotton voile dresses.  From my own experience as an actress,(something my dear darling Mama did her best to forget), the backstage scenes, populated with delightful characters, have been called “wonderfully entertaining.”
Ziegfeld Follies star Dolores, by Geisler
The novel’s backstory is: in 1910, Dr. Horace Daniels is sent to prison for accidentally killing a woman while aborting her fourteenth child.  Women had no access to birth control or knowledge about their own bodies.  The only contraception for women was refusing to have relations.  It almost reads like a harbinger of today’s sexual politics and the steady stripping of the rights of women. 

Medical technology has advanced light years, but the morality and small-mindedness of many have not.

Six years later, his rebellious daughter, Melanie was once the most eligible girl in the tiny Adirondack village.  At 23 she faces the prospect of being an “old maid” and spending the rest of her life living with her disgraced parents. The alternative is marrying a younger boy who is infatuated with her. 

In 1916, the notion that a woman could be independent was nearly unthinkable.  When she meets James, a traveling salesman, she allows him to seduce her.  (The scenes were a little graphic to write, but well, modern times and all that. Besides, I discovered the joys of writing smut.) Melanie agrees to run away with him to New York.

Once in New York, Melanie finds that James has other lovers, including a Broadway star, Gladys Dumbrille.  James is not at all what he seems, in fact he is a great deal worse.  Melanie is drawn into a web of intrigue and lies.  She herself lies to get into a show,”Almonds for Clarissa,” that Gladys is in.  The world of the theater is glorious to Melanie, although most of the glamour is onstage.  She becomes a “dress extra,” the term for actresses who wear their own clothes. Melanie befriends Mercedes La Fay (real name: Betty Ogden), a lively chorus girl who “shows her the ropes.”

Ann Pennington, dancer
However, no matter what Melanie does or where she goes, she cannot escape her past as the doctor’s daughter.  The tale is filled with tough choices, the personal politics of abortion, and yours truly paints a vivid portrait of the era.  

Always wanting to present my very best for you, I researched this tome at the New-York Historical Society, the Adirondack Museum, and of course my own fashion archives.

It has received wonderful reviews on Amazon, where it is available for sale on Kindle.

You can buy the novel here: The Abortionist’s Daughter by Elisa DeCarlo

Ciao,
Elisa & Fletcher

Movie Style Icons: Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow, Rita Hayworth

DAHLINGS –

As an cinemaphile I am in a unique position to know, when reading a listing online for womens’ vintage clothing, whether or not the movie star used as a keyword would have actually chosen to wear it, or even be alive to wear it. This first guide will help you, the buyer, make a more informed choice between sellers who use the names only as meaningless keywords and those sellers who use them correctly.

For this first guide I am keeping it simple by using the movie stars that I run across in Vintage Womens Clothing listings the most:

Jean Harlow (born 1911 – died 1937)
Rita Hayworth (born 1918 – died
1987)
Marilyn Monroe (born 1926 – died 1962)

JEAN HARLOW (real name: Harlean Carpenter)

Jean Harlow was the first Blonde Bombshell. In fact, she made a comedy Bombshell, 1933, that was very much like her real life. It portrayed a movie star whose family leeches off of her, and a publicist who constantly betrays her.

In the early years of her career she played a series of cheap sexpots, because that was the way she looked. Even though off screen she was always described as surprisingly sweet and affectionate. But Jean Harlow had a marvelous flair for comedy.

Her movie wardrobe was always tight in the extreme, designed to show off her jutting, bra-less bosom. (She was the first female star of the 20th century to make the bosom the center of attention.) Harlow was considered a “man’s woman,” salty, brash, and uninhibited, at least on screen. Harlow’s hair was dyed white blonde, so she was also the first “platinum blonde,” a term coined just for her.

Much of her career as a true star was spent at MGM. Her clothes were meant to show off as much of her figure, particularly her breasts, as possible. Bias cut satins, tight long 30s skirts, low-cut evening gowns, furs, nightgowns…flowing satin and silk is the first thing one associates with Jean Harlow. Most of her movie wardrobe was designed by Adrian, MGM’s top designer.

Since the majority of her starring roles were in the early to mid 1930s, the costumes were not as structured as they might be ten years later–and one could get away with showing a LOT more in the early days of her career. (In fact, in many of her early films, the sides and undersides of her bosom and her nipples are clearly visible. Something that would not be tolerated a few short years later.)

Jean Harlow died an untimely death in 1937. When you think Harlow, think flowing, satiny, unconstructed, like lingerie. When you see a seller saying that “Jean Harlow would have worn this” about a 1950s full-skirted high-necked dress, you know they haven’t done their research.

RITA HAYWORTH (Margarita Cansino)

She was known as “The Love Goddess,” because her beauty seemed at once so down-to-earth and yet unapproachable. In real life painfully shy, her screen presence implied volcanic sexuality beneath a sultry surface. This is the famous “Put The Blame On Mame” dress from Gilda (1946)–the designer Jean Louis used the across-the-body hip sash and bow to tighten up and conceal Rita’s recently having given childbirth!

By now the censors did not let female stars show as much of their bodies as a decade before, so designers used other methods to showcase their clients’ assets. Rita Hayworth’s greatest assets were considered to be her long arms and shoulders, not to mention her beauty and lush hair. So her costumes emphasized those over her slightly thick waist and thin legs.

Hayworth was a favorite of World War Two soldiers, along with Betty Grable. Hayworth did a tremendous number of movies, climbing very slowly up the ladder to stardom. Columbia, her home studio, loaned her out for supporting parts, which gradually made Rita a star. Along the way, her black hair was dyed dark red, and her hairline raised by electrolysis, to make her less “Spanish-looking.”

During the war, she specialized in musicals, having been a dancer, born to a family of professional dancers, the Dancing Cansinos. Her singing was dubbed. Technicolor showed her off to great advantage, and she was born to wear the clothes of the pre-New Look war time 40s – tailored suits with padded shoulders, knee-length tight skirts (but not too tight–the silhouette was an inverted vee).

The preferred style during World War Two was practical. Since fabric was rationed, suits tended to look slightly like soldiers’ uniforms, and dresses were simple. But, we’re talking about the movies here, not real life–so Rita also wore lavish evening gowns with elaborate beading that clung close to the body, or boned-bodice evening gowns that flared out at the skirt with layer upon layer of chiffon.

The latter gowns were designed for dancing. Rita’s strongly-boned face showcased the large picture hats and the upswept hairstyles of the time perfectly.

Her stardom faded after the war, and a series of unhappy marriages, including one to “Citizen Kane‘s” Orson Welles. Rita Hayworth had never wanted to be a “movie star” in the conventional sense. But she still did excellent dramatic work in films such as Separate Tables (1958). However, she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and eventually died in 1987.

MARILYN MONROE (real name: Norma Jean Mortensen)

Unlike our first two stars, everyone on this planet (and probably others) knows Marilyn Monroe. She is a legend, an icon, a goddess. But take a look at this very young bride during World War Two:

This was before she became a professional model, when she was still a young housewife, married at sixteen. She wore the typical styles of the 40s, and it was a number of years before she became the blonde Sex Goddess we revere today. First there was a modeling career, which in turn led to dozens of bit and small parts, usually as a “dumb blonde,” in undistinguished movies. She herself was not particularly distinguishable, to be honest, but she changed her name to Marilyn Monroe and worked as hard as humanly possible to become a movie star. There were occasional roles that showed a glint of something more, but they were few and far between. Even at the beginning of her career she displayed the emotional difficulties that would plague her later life.

She achieved stardom in a series of films for 20th Century Fox Studios in the early 1950s: How To Marry A Millionaire, River Of No Return, There’s No Business Like Show Business, and others. Along with an excellent singing voice (never adequately appreciated), like Harlow, she also had a flair for comedy. William Travilla was the costume designer for most of her Fox films.

She did not quite wear the typical styles of the 1950s…for instance, she HATED full skirts, and only wore one in a Cary Grant film where she had to put her leg up on a chair. Everything had to be skin-tight. The interior construction of her costumes are a wonder to behold. The dress in which she sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to President Kennedy is a marvel of interior design, everything held and pushed in place. (The same designer, again Jean Louis, was famous for designing Marlene Dietrich’s “nude” gowns for her nightclub act, which were actually gowns made over a flesh-colored corset, sewn into the dress!)

So if you’re looking for Marilyn-style clothes, think: 1950s, everything tight, cinched waists, halter dresses, spaghetti strap dresses with slim skirts, skin-tight capri pants worn with flats (Monroe had a passion for Ferragamos), sleeveless blouses tied at the waist, cardigan twinsets…in other words, unsubtle.

She remained a star until her death in 1962, and has become more of a legend with each passing decade.

I hope that you have learned something useful. More guides will be coming up for more movie star icons!

Ciao,
Elisa

copyright Elisa DeCarlo – use of this material is forbidden without written permission

More Delectable Pieces for the Manhattan Vintage Show!

DAHLINGS –

I am taking a moment from my unending work (I’m nearly hoarse from screaming at my assistant, the fool), to put up a few pictures of some more of the goodies I will have on display at the Manhattan Vintage Show on October 10th and 11th here in New York City!

First, this wonderful Gucci travel bag, with the ORIGINAL sales tag inside! As you can see, poor Bucky has also been working his little paws to the bone (mostly nipping at my assistant’s ankles if she doesn’t move fast enough).

SOLD!

Second, a vintage wool boucle’ coral-colored wool coat with huge pink novelty buttons, size XL:

Third, another amazing reversible coat! This swing coat, from the 1940s, reverses from a plaid double-breasted coat to a solid bright green clutch coat! (Forgive the photos, my assistant took them.) Size M:

This vintage 1980s Michael Kors wool dress, size 4:

And to end with Gucci, this beautiful Gucci lightweight wool coat, also 1980s, with a hidden button placket and impeccable tailoring, size 42:

Remember, dahlings, save the dates!

The Manhattan Vintage Show at the Metropolitan Pavilion
Booth #17/18 MATINEE NEW YORK & THE MAD FASHIONISTA
125 W.18th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues in Chelsea
New York City
Friday: 10/10 1-8 pm
Saturday: 10/11 11am-6pm
Admission: $20*

Ciao,
Elisa & Bucky the Wonderdog

*5 off admission if you go to the website, http://www.manhattanvintage.com/ !

When Vintage Sellers Think They Are Rachel Zoe…

DAHLINGS –

Being the fashion and style arbiter that I am, I am constantly asked to “blog” about events, people, books, and websites. For some it is a pleasure to oblige. For others, one wonders if they have read this blog in any depth. Have I ever been anything but plus-size positive? No. Have I ever pretended to be a naive young jeune femme? No.

So imagine my extreme displeasure when I was asked to “blog” about a new vintage clothes selling website, which shall remain nameless. I went to the “About Us” page. And I found out far too much. An excerpt:

Expect to see vintage fashion that is wearable and yet truly amazing. No freak vintage here. We love the 70’s –although we are not old enough to really remember them.

It is always a pleasure to see beautiful things sold by people with no sense of history whatsoever. Your faithful correspondent sells clothes from the 1950s, but I do not make it a selling point that I was not born yet. At least as far as I know (cf one of my earlier entries…do a search for “Mama”).

We live by some simple image rules:
If you are larger than a size 2, black is your friend. Black can be your enemy if it is your entire wardrobe.

The first part of that statement alone should get them banned from selling clothing to any woman, ever, anywhere.

Do they think those Hollywood actresses with wasting diseases look good?

Unique vintage does not mean freak vintage. Some things are just better off left in the past. The secret with wearing vintage is that no one should be able to tell it is vintage. If it screams vintage then it is freak vintage.

Oh, but if it screams “Better quality than the current cheap H & M knockoff!” it is socially acceptable?

Mon dieu! I never thought I would see the day when vintage clothing was used to suppress originality and one’s personal sense of style, rather than enhance it.

Stay true to yourself, but try something new once a season. I think I look best as a blonde, but I change the shade every season. This spring I really branched out and added bangs. XXX and I think you do either bangs or botox once you are in your mid-thirties.

Of course, one might actually look like a human being if one let those terrible wrinkles and folds get a hold of you. Your faithful correspondent is fortunate enough to have a beautifully creamy complexion, but even so I have no desire to have needles stuck in my face, neck and other places to hide the fact that I have lived.

This, mon cher readers, is the website equivalent to one of those shallow little boutiques where the rail-thin saleswomen fold their arms when a potential customer enters and look in the other direction. It is a dark day when a website can make women fell bad about themselves without the need for face-to-face contact.

Ciao,

Elisa & Bucky the Wonderdog

The Mad Fashionista At The Manhattan Vintage Show!

DAHLINGS –

Brace yourselves! There has been a very good reason that yours truly has not been around to dictate this blog-thing. Even though I chastise myself for not attending to your need for my continuing adventures, mon cher readers.

The reason is:

I SHALL BE APPEARING THIS WEEK AT THE MANHATTAN VINTAGE SHOW IN NEW YORK CITY, FRIDAY AND SATURDAY, APRIL 25 & 26!

Stupéfier, non? Yes, your faithful correspondent is happy to announce that she is the guest of MATINEE NEW YORK, the premiere source of men’s and women’s vintage clothing supplied to the film and theater industry, and owner of one of the largest collections of men’s vintage in the known universe. Of course, I only associate with the best people.

But you knew that. That’s why you are reading this on the Internet instead of lounging in my sitting room.

Be that as it may:

Two huge racks shall be bulging with my mâchoire-chute beau
PLUS-SIZE vintage, from the 1930s to the 1980s! Others may pretend to the throne upon which I rest, but I shall prove I reign supreme. And look fabulous while doing it.

Through hours of ceaseless toil (well, my assistant’s ceaseless toil, anyway) the finest of my collection has been chosen and readied for your delectation. Here is just a tiny taste of what is in store!

For contrast, through the decades–first, the ultra-Mod 60s white plastic raincoat by Prestige, with matching rainhood and carrying case!

Going back into the past to the 1920s, feast your eyes on this pure silk jet-black flapper dress of charmeuse and velvet, with the original jet buttons, size XXXL!

For the young at heart, a sweet gingham 50s dress in lavender with white novelty rhinestone buttons, XL:

And New Old Stock with tags, this precious flowered full-skirt dress with a tie-belt:

For the woman of more conservative taste, this 70s NOS paisley cotton blend day dress with white novelty pockets:

And to close for now, this crystal opal cocktail ring in a band of 18kt gold!

And there will be so much more. Coats, plus size lingerie, separates, shoes…the mind boggles. To see all of this in person, not to mention moi, come to:

The Manhattan Vintage Show
at the Metropolitan Pavilion
Booth #18 MATINEE NEW YORK

125 W.18th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues in Chelsea

Friday: 4/25 1-8 pm
Saturday: 4/26 11am-6pm
Admission: $20*

Ciao!

Elisa (regrettably, Bucky the Wonderdog is not allowed at this event.)

* However, if you go to www.manhattanvintage.com, you can click on a link to save $5 off admission. But don’t let anyone know you heard it from moi.


One Day Only Warehouse Sale, Dahlings!

DAHLINGS –

One day only!

Matinee New York is sponsoring a one day vintage clothing Spring Cleaning warehouse sale on Saturday, April 12, 2008 in Brooklyn from 11 am to 3:30 pm.Cash only, all items $40 or less! FREE admission!

This sale will also feature women’s funky vintage clothing of all sizes from the 1940’s-1980’s including many lovelies from your faithful correspondent, who will be in attendance!

If you want a real treat, see both of us at the Manhattan Vintage Show on Friday and Saturday, April 25th -26th at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 123 W. 18th Street.(Admission $20)!

Matinee New York is located at http://www.vintagecoolclothes.com. Contact them for details and directions via car or subway.

Ciao,
Elisa and Bucky the Wonderdog

Imitation Is The Insincerest Form of Flattery

DAHLINGS –

It seems that my little blog-thing has garnered SO much attention (including being a favorite of one of the designers at Badgley-Mischka, although, I hasten to add, it is neither Badgley nor Mischka) that some other vintage sellers have seen fit to create blogs themselves very recently. And to create titles that have a very odd resemblance to…mine. (I will not to deign to name them; you can find them on your own.)

Yes, I know, if you sell vintage, you must have a blog-thing. Actually, if you are a semi-sentient being, you must have a blog-thing.

But what makes it terribly fascinating (to moi, at least, and that’s who truly matters) is that these sellers belong to a society of vintage sellers who wanted me to join them.

The only hitch being that their leadership is afraid that your faithful correspondent’s tendency to speak her mind, and perhaps occasionally be a bit too forthright for their taste.

They warned that if I did not toe the (very straight and strict) line they dictated, if my public persona deviated in any manner from the vintage corporate image they aspire to, my membership would be promptly revoked.

Hard to believe, mon cher readers, but there it is. I believe myself to be a model of propriety…well, possibly not all of the time.

My sporadic slips of tongue, pen and incriminating photograph already had me barred from the Vintage Fashion Guild some time ago. I will spare you (and myself) the details.

But apparently the bursts of publicity and readership I have been getting recently rub certain people the wrong way. And other certain people have hoped to gain from my celebrity, rather like one of the less talented Baldwin brothers. I take it as a tribute, as long as they bear in mind, as it says on the bottom, I have extremely vicious lawyers. Rather like Bucky, but with much bigger teeth.

And like Bucky, they love any opportunity to use them.

Enough of this dreariness…I’m off to soak in a hot tub and dream of Johnny Depp.

Ciao,
Elisa & Bucky the Wonderdog

April 3:
Errata: Said blog has changed its title, with apologies, saying it was an honest mistake. Friends we have in common agree…apparently your faithful correspondent is getting into the collective unconscious!