Sunday, January 28, 2018

How to Wear Vintage & Stay Warm in Winter

We finally have snow and the temperatures are dropping fast over here. For many vintage lovers who live in warm and moderate climates autumn and winter are a wonderful time to bring out their cute little knits, half boots and trench coats. For those of us who live up north, the period between November and May is usually the time when we give up on all stylish pursuits and commit to ugly puffed jackets and rubber boots.

Ann Sheridan, Christmas 1940’s (Source)
But we don't have to! Here are my tips on how to dress vintage and stay warm all winter. 

1. Stick to natural fibers 
Step away from that polyester sweater and reach for woolen pullovers. Icelandic wool is particularly warm, but so is cashmere as well as alpaca.If you're crafty you can make your own vintage sweater using some great free patterns out there. But if you're not, you can often find sweaters in second hand shops that have a very vintage look. Just be sure to check the wool content on the label.  

Boiled wool skating outfit 1940's(Source)
Snow Queen sweater, mittens, hat knitting pattern, 1940's (Source)
Cotton or linen underthings and silk blouses (silk is surprisingly warm despite being so light) are also a great way to keep yourself nice and snug.     

2. Layer up 
Again, this may seem obvious, but layering is almost an art form. Start with thinner layers first and then build it up. A combination of a camisole, a blouse and a sweater or vest over it can keep you pretty warm. Make sure to put on a pair of long johns or thin tights under your trousers for extra warmth.  

Barbara Stanwyck wearing a gray gabardine ski head, Edith Head, Photoplay 1942 (Source)
Many people avoid skirts in the winter thinking that they cannot provide enough warmth, but, once again, it's all about layering. Add a warm petticoat to your outfit and you may be able to get away with wearing a skirt even when it's -15°C and lower. Look for skirts that are made of wool.

Woolen skirts are a great way to stay warm in winter (Source)
I have my own trick with tights. I tend to wear a pair of very thin tights and then add another pair of woolly tights. Alternatively, you can wear a pair of warm leggins over your tights. Don't forget warm socks since feet can get quite cold. 

3. Cover your head
You know how your mom has always told you to cover your head when it's cold? Well, that's a pretty good tip. You would be surprised by just how much more comfortable you will be if you would only put on a cute hat or a lovely scarf. 

Knit Yourself a 1940's Turban (Source)
Vintage magazines are full of great hats, scarfs and turbans. In fact, if you are crafty, you can knit a cute turban. A scarf, if it's long enough, can cover both your head and neck, giving even more protection against the elements.

4. Expand your style inspiration
Whatever your favorite time period, look for new fashion icons who lived in colder climates. You would be surprised how many images from Denmark, Sweden and even Soviet Union you can find. These may be a little less glamorous, but they will give you some ideas on how to keep warm.
Estonian fashion Winter 1933. Taluperenainen 1932-33. Source
Finnish fashion, February 1942. Source
Fashions for the coming winter, Kotiliesi, October 1954. Source
Two girls by the sign "Swedish Tourist Association's hostel", Nordiska museet (Source)
The Fashion Album, Autumn/Winter1955-1956, wool dresses, Soviet Union (Source)
For more inspiration, you can check out my vintage winter Pinterest board. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Best Cafes and Tea Rooms in York

It's getting pretty chilly outside which makes me think of warm drinks and wholesome cakes. I begin to miss York and all it's wonderful cafes and tea rooms. Not to mention it's more congenial winter. So here is my list of some of my favorite places. I can assure you that this is nowhere near a complete list. These are just the places that I liked to frequent. If you go there, please let me know what you think. So in no particular order: 

Betty's Cafe and Tea Room  
6-8 St. Helen’s Square     
There is no place fancier than Betty's! The afternoon tea there is rather pricey, but the experience is unforgettable. From the perfectly formed finger sandwiches to the white table cloths to the delicious scones to the piano playing while you are enjoying all this goodness. If an afternoon tea is a little too much for you, you may try their normal menu, which, I can assure you, is anything but ordinary. The tea is served in lovely silver pots and you can enjoy a variety of cakes and savory snacks. I had their pavlova and both the appearance and the taste were divine. But the place is very popular so you may end up queuing before you can enjoy all of that.     

Cakes d'Licious  
61 Clifton
This one is my favorite place in York. A little out of the way, but it's definitely worth a visit. It's a charming 1940s style tea room, with friendly staff, amazing afternoon tea and probably the best cake selection in town. It's really popular with the locals and it does get very busy around lunch time. My personal favorites - scones, naturally, and brie and grapes sandwiches.

The Cake Shop & Tea House 
24 Fossgate
This place is no Betty's, but it has undeniable charm. It has a lovely 1930s aesthetic and a quiet relaxed atmosphere. The afternoon tea is served on a wooden stand and the cakes are amazing. They are delicious and have a real homemade feel to them. My only regret is that I only had two opportunities to try all their delights.

Gatehouse Coffee 
Walmgate Bar
If you can only go to one cafe in York, I suggest you go to this one. I would not go as far as to say that it is the best one, but it is most certainly picturesque. It's located on Walmgate bar (Remember, in York all streets are gates, all gates are bars, and all bars are pubs) and it's a perfect place to sit down and relax as you're making your way around the York city wall. The place inside looks like something out of a Harry Potter movie with wooden benches, tiny windows and old arm chairs. My personal recommendation is their aptly named London fog tea and mini cinnamon rolls. It is very popular with students, so beware.       
Cosy Time 
23 Fossgate
This place is so cozy, no lie. They have comfy chairs, lots of books around so you can sit and read something light and frothy as you are enjoying something light and frothy. Again, I can definitely recommend their scones. And their tea sets are so lovely.       

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fashion Vocabulary: Dinner Dress vs Formal Dress

Naked or décolleté dresses are suitable only for small parties or extremely formal occasions. A dinner dress is more suitable for the theater or the opera. If you are of limited means, buy a dinner gown rather than a formal gown. For you can wear the dinner gown to formal affairs but you can't possibly wear a formal gown to a public gathering.                                                                                                      ~ Orry-Kelly     
Orry-Kelly, the costume designer responsible for such Hollywood classics as Casablanca and Some Like It Hot, gives this piece of advice in the January 1940 issue of Photoplay. The issue contains many more bits of great and terrible advice on how to  make a good first impression from such luminaries of the 1940s Hollywood as Edith Head, Max Factor, Jr. and Adrian. I will post more of it here soon, but right now I want to get back to the Orry-Kelly quote above.

As I read this, I was immediately curious to know what is the difference between a"dinner dress" and a "formal dress" in the context of the 1940s. Now, a sensible person would have just gone to Wikipedia. But I am not that person. I decided to figure it out based on context using Photoplay and other such magazines as my guide.

Figuring out what a dinner dress looks like was not a difficult task. Almost every issue had a fashion spread that featured at least one gown that was described as a dinner dress.
Carole Landis wearing a pink-pearl crepe dinner dress with a slim skirt and a slim peplum, decorated with silver and crystal beads tropical leaves. The skirt is slit at the hemline and the top features an off-center V-neck. Designed by Adrian. 1943
As I pored over the dinner dresses, a pattern emerged - they were mostly floor-length, with long sleeves and relatively high necklines.

The problem was that "formal dress" did not seem to feature in any of the fashion spreads. That, perhaps, is not too surprising as Orry-Kelly advises the average woman to step away from formal gowns and go for a dinner dress.

But after following a few clues, I came to the conclusion that a formal gown is one that is sleeveless or even strapless with a low neckline or exposed back.

As one fashion forecast proclaims:
Sleeves will be more generally used in dinner and evening dress than they have been for a decade, but will be most heartily approved in transparent fabricsPhotoplay, 1939  
Ginger Rodgers models an evening gown from Once Upon A Honeymoon. The gown is satin in sun tan, a color described as richer than beige and deeper than ivory. It has a tight-fitted strapless bodice and a flaring skirt with bugle bead and rhinestone embroidery. Designed by Leslie. Photoplay 1943    
One other feature of such a dress was its price. A formal dress would cost more than a dinner dress as the cost efficiency of dressing less formally is repeatedly remarked upon. 

Maureen O'Hara wears an evening dress of printed satin and silk jersey. The white satin skirt is decorated with black tulips and the bodice is made of draped silk jersey. Raab and Harmell. Photoplay, 1941 
A formal dress can be styled to serve multiple purposes. A sleek black evening gown can be worn as a dinner dress with a matching over-blouse. It can be worn dancing with a pink chiffon scarf draped over the shoulders and pinned at the waist. And it becomes appropriate attire for a restaurant paired with a tight-fitting lamé jacket. (Photoplay, 1941). A last year's strapless dress can be turned into a dinner dress by covering it with a matching bolero or a lace jacket with long-sleeves (Hollywood, 1940). 

It seems that the decade between 30s and 50s was a little more relaxed in terms of attire for formal occasions (for obvious reasons). At least for women. Here are two images of couples dressed for black tie and white tie.
Source: Photoplay 1940

Source: Photoplay 1940
While the man is dressed very formally, the woman seems to wear outfits that are relatively informal. For black tie (top image) she wears a crimson jersey blouse with jet embroidery and a slick skirt that flares in front. The entire outfit would have been available from for about $15. For white tie (bottom image) the man wears "tails", while the woman wears a white flannel suit decorated with pastel pearls and gold embroidery. The skirt is slit in front and has a small train in the back. The entire outfit could be had for $20. The outfit looks modest but the price is anything but. According to some calculations, $20 would be more than $300 today.

In stark contrast to such conservative ensemble is a delightful story in the gossip section of one of the Photoplay magazines from the 1940s about a famous actress who gave her stand-in a nightgown as a gift and threw her a birthday party. To the great shock of everyone, the young woman turned up to the party wearing the nightgown thinking it was an evening dress. I would imagine that such mistakes would have been pretty common at the time: night gowns were very lavish. 

The Goldstein Museum of Design 

Nightgown or evening dress, who can tell.  

For more on formal wear in the 1940s check out a great article by VintageDancer.  

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

It's Christmas! For me, it's the beginning of the holiday season that will last for four weeks. First, it's a traditional Christmas with my boyfriend's family. Then, a fun Russian New Year's celebration with my family. Then back for Russian Christmas, which is celebrated on January 7. And finally, Old New Year on January 13, which is the beginning of the year according to the Julian calendar. Old New Year is not an official holiday, but people like to celebrate it with a hint of irony.

Christmas also means a lot of my favorite things:

Great TV & Christmas movies

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Agatha Christie's Poirot

Miss Fisher's Murders Mysteries

And wonderful music

Santa Claus Got Stuck In My Chimney - Ella Fitzgerald

Run Rudolph Run - Chuck Berry

Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt

Have a great one, everyone! 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

How to Make Dorothy's Ruby Slippers

So you want to be dress up as Dorothy from Wizard of Oz? That's easy! All you need is a white blouse, a blue dress and Toto. But what about the ruby slippers? If sparkly shoes are not in this season, you can make a pair yourself with just a little patience and a lot of glitter.

The original ruby slippers made for Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz (1939) were dyed red and then covered with organza, decorated with burgundy sequins, and then two bejeweled red leather bows were added.

The original ruby slippers via Smithsonian National Museum        
Since sewing sequin is pretty time consuming, simple glitter would do the trick. 

You will need:
- a pair of pumps or ballet flats (if they are red, that's a plus)
- loose glitter
- craft glue or Mod Podge
- glitter glue
- a few paint brushes you're not too attached to
- hairspray
- disposable cups
- a stiff red ribbon
- a glue gun
- scissors
- red rhinestones in different sizes
- needle and thread

Clear a working space for yourself and make sure to cover it with cooking parchment or some disposable paper. Glitter has a tendency to get everywhere. I made these shoes a week ago and there's still bits of glitter I find in my bedroom and on my balcony.

Fill one disposable cup with a bit of glue and the other one with loose glitter. I don't usually like to use anything disposable, but this method will help you avoid contaminating your glue with glitter and will let you collect any loose bits of glitter afterwards.

Using a paint brush, cover a section of your shoe with a thick layer of craft glue.Sprinkle loose glitter over that section. Shake it off. I have seen some tutorials where people mixed the glitter and the glue and then covered the shoe with the mixture, but it didn't work for me. The glitter got too lumpy and wouldn't spread.       

Repeat this process over the entire outer area on both shoes. Avoid the inside of the shoe (you don't want to feel glitter between your toes) and the heel. Leave to dry over night.

See if your shoes still need some coverage in places. Cover those sparsely glittered areas with more glue and glitter. Now with a paint brush cover the heels of the shoes with glitter glue. I prefer this to covering them with glitter as glitter glue gives a smoother shinier finish and you can avoid sending bits of glitter flying everywhere when you click your heels together. Leave to dry overnight.

Cover the entire outer area of the shoes with glitter glue. This will help keep any loose glitter in place. Give the heels another layer of glitter glue. Leave to dry.

In the meantime, make the bows. Cut your ribbons into two strips, approximately 6cm each. Using needle and thread make them into bows. With the glue gun, attach smaller rhinestones all over the bows. Aim for as much coverage as you can get gluing the rhinestones close to each other and making sure to put some in every nook and cranny. Attach a larger rhinestone to the middle of the bow with the glue gun.

I took these pictures after a full night of partying, so some of the rhinestones were lost on the dance floor 

Once the glue on your shoes is completely dry, give them a nice even spritz with the hair spray. I had a real problem with loose glitter, so I had to spray them four times before I was confident that I would not leave a glitter trail behind me as I walk.

Once your shoes are completely dry and no loose glitter is left behind when you shake them, attach the bows to the front of the shoes with the glue gun.

Now put on a pair of bobby socks and you're ready to follow the yellow brick road!   
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