Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Pierre Cardin

Musée Pierre Cardin.
On my recent trip to Paris, I visited the Musée Pierre Cardin located in the Marais neighborhood. It showcases an amazing collection of Pierre Cardin’s clothing, jewelry, accessories and furniture, ranging from his earliest pieces to contemporary ones.
It is truly a mecca for all things “Cardin” and includes three floors and over 200 pieces of Cardin’s haute couture creations.
Interior of Musée Cardin.
Accessories room, Musée Pierre Cardin.
Pierre Cardin gloves from the 1960s, Musée Pierre Cardin.
The museum opened in November 2014, and is curated by Cardin’s longtime assistant and apprentice, Renée Taponier, who has worked for Cardin for over 50 years, having started with him when she was only 14 years old.
Me with Madame Taponier.
Pierre Cardin is perhaps best known for his licenses — his name is on hundreds of products, everything from cologne to underwear to linens to ties. At its height, Cardin had more than 800 licenses in 140 countries. Unfortunately, many of the licensed products were not well made, leaving the impression that the Cardin brand was shoddily made or low-end. However, it wasn’t always this way. In fact, the Cardin label had been a part of the haute couture system and for many years catered only to wealthy clientele. But Cardin has always been a forward thinker and anticipated the monetary and branding power of licensing years before Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan came along.
The shrewd entrepreneurial skills and business foresight that Cardin has displayed throughout his career have made him one of the world’s wealthiest designers and a household name. Cardin’s vision led to a number of firsts: Not only was he the first couturier to sign licensing agreements, but he was also the first to create a ready-to-wear line and the first to open up markets in Japan and China.
Pierre Cardin on the December 23, 1974, cover of Time.
Pierre Cardin was born on July 2, 1922, in Northern Italy to French parents. Originally, he was named Pietro Cardin. Cardin moved with his parents to France when he was 2 years old and later moved to Paris when he was 23 years old. There, he worked first with the house of Paquin, then Schiaparelli, and finally Dior, where he was credited with having helped create Dior’s revolutionary “New Look.”
In 1950, Cardin founded his own company. He presented his first women’s collection in 1953. In 1954, Cardin designed his “bubble dress,” which became an immediate international success. That same year, he opened his first boutique called Eve, located at 118 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
Cardin’s early designs were much more conservative and “Dior-like” than the avant-garde designs of the 1960s and 1970s for which he is best known. In Chicago, we are lucky to have a rare example of Cardin’s early work at the Chicago History Museum. The two-piece, green tweed ensemble below was designed by Cardin in 1956. It was owned by Chicagoan Eloise Wright Martin, who purchased it at the Chicago department store Blum’s and donated it to the museum in 1980.
1956 Pierre Cardin dress, collection of the Chicago History Museum.
In 1959, Cardin became a member of the Chambre Syndicale, a French association of haute couture designers. Also in 1959, Cardin produced a ready-to-wear collection for the department store Printemps. At the time, this was a shocking idea and had never been done by an haute couture designer. It caused an uproar in the fashion world, but Cardin was always forward-thinking and wanted to design for everyone, not just the wealthy who could afford his couture designs. Of this, he said, “I ask myself: Why is it that only rich people can access exclusive fashion? Why can’t a man or woman off the street do so? I could change this rule. And I did.” By doing this, he was able to greatly expand his audience and his brand. Many designers would go on to follow his example.
In 1960, Cardin presented his first collection for men. One of the items was a suit with skinny trousers and a cylindrical, collarless jacket. It was to become the influence for the suits worn by the Beatles in the early 1960s.
1964 Beatles album cover featuring suits influenced by Pierre Cardin’s design.
Cardin’s 1960s women’s designs showed his interest in architecture. They were structural in appearance and were made out of stiff, crisp fabrics like wool crepe and jersey. Many of his dresses were made in the form of geometric shapes and decorated with circular and rectangular motifs.
Pierre Cardin dresses from 1966, Musée Pierre Cardin.
The 1960s brought about the possibility of travel to space. This greatly influenced Cardin’s designs and led him to create his iconic “Space Age Look,” the idea of dressing for the future. He incorporated metallic fabrics and Space Age textiles such as vinyl into his designs. Some of his fashions were made entirely of plastic and metal. He used large industrial zippers and even designed helmet-like hats influenced by astronauts’ headgear. In 1968, he created his own fabric called “Cardine,” a bonded, uncrushable fiber incorporating raised geometric patterns.
Pierre Cardin 1968 vinyl and plastic ‘Space Age’ dresses, Musée Pierre Cardin.
Pierre Cardin 1968 dresses made out of ‘Cardine’ fabric, Musée Pierre Cardin.
In the 1970s, in response to the miniskirts of the 1960s, Cardin created the “long longuette” or maxi dress. An example of this longer silhouette can be seen below, exhibited at the Chicago History Museum’s 2012 show, “50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair.” The dress is a fall/winter look from 1970 and is made of double-faced wool and PVC. It was bought by the founder of Ebony magazine, Eunice Johnson, for the Ebony Fashion Fair, a runway show she created that traveled around the U.S. from 1958 to 2009, displaying high fashion for an African-American audience.
Pierre Cardin dress from the “50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair” exhibit at Chicago History Museum.
The dress below is an example of a later 1970s Cardin piece. The 1970s brought more fluid materials and techniques to Cardin’s designs. A spiraling, rather than geometric, line began to be more noticeable, and Cardin became known for his frothy evening dresses of layered, printed chiffon.
1970’s Pierre Cardin dress, Musée Pierre Cardin.
Much like his clothing designs, Cardin’s jewelry designs looked to the future for inspiration. They tended to be large statement pieces with a sculptural quality.
1970’s Pierre Cardin bracelet, Musée Pierre Cardin.
PIerre Cardin 1972 necklace, Musée Pierre Cardin.
Pierre Cardin 1960s bracelet, Musée Pierre Cardin.
Pierre Cardin 1980s necklace, Musée Pierre Cardin.
In 1977, Cardin launched an haute couture furniture line that translated his sculptural approach to fashion into furniture. He referred to the furniture as “utilitarian sculptures.” He used futuristic forms which were translated into furniture using traditional cabinet-making techniques.
Pierre Cardin ‘Mantra Unit’, 1977, Musée Pierre Cardin.
Pierre Cardin 1970s cabinet, Musée Pierre Cardin.
Pierre Cardin 1970s circle storage unit, Musée Pierre Cardin.
Today, Pierre Cardin is 93 years old and still going strong. He continues to design for the Pierre Cardin label and owns the famous Maxim’s restaurant in Paris, as well as the Maxim’s brand. Cardin continues to look forward to the future. When Cardin was 87, he was quoted in the book Pierre Cardin: 60 Years of Innovation by Jean-Pascal Hesse as saying, “My destiny is tomorrow.”

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Debutante Season

Vintage Vantage

Debutante Cotillions

Passavant Cotillion 1953, Collection of the Northwestern Woman's Board
by Stuart Mesires
In addition to signaling the “holiday season,” December also signals “debutante season” in many cities throughout the United States. Debutante balls or cotillions are held this time of year from New York to San Francisco, and many places in between.
Passavant Cotillion 1951. Collection of the Northwestern Woman's Board
In the second half of the 16th century, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the word “debutante” was adopted into English from the French when the queen began the custom of formally presenting eligible young women at court. Three centuries later, Queen Victoria gave the ceremony its present form with girls dressed in white and the official bow called a "curtsy.”
In the late 19th century, wealthy Americans began adopting many of the traditions of the Europeans. The custom of the debutante presentation was one of them. The coming-out ball was a way for young girls of a marriageable age to be presented to “suitable” young men and their families in the attempt to find an appropriate mate.
During World War I, Chicago had a famous quartet of debutantes, known as the “Big Four.” It included Ginevra King (1898–1980), Edith Cummings (1899–1984), Courtney Letts (1899–1995), and Margaret Carry (1899–1942). According to James L.W. West (author of The Perfect Hour), the Big Four were described at the time as being “the most attractive and socially desirable young women in Chicago.”
Ginevra King (1899-1980)
Two members of the Big Four, Ginevra King and Edith Cummings, were inspirations for characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book The Great Gatsby. King and F. Scott met when she was 16 and he was 18. There was an immediate attraction, and the two of them wrote letters back and forth for several years until King became engaged to another man who her family thought was a better match. F. Scott never got over King and based several characters in his books on her — most notably the character of Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby.
The Great Gatsby
F. Scott met Edith Cummings, another member of the Big Four, through King and based the character of Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby on her. In 1923, Cummings won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Golf Open and appeared on the cover of Time magazine — she was the first golfer and first female athlete to do so.
Edith Cummings on the cover of Time in 1923
A turning point in the history of debutantes came with New York debutante Brenda Frazier in 1938. She was one of the “poor little rich girls” that the country had a fascination with during and immediately following the Great Depression. By her early teens, Frazier was a well-known society girl in New York who loved the nightlife. Her every move was documented in the press.
Her “debut” was a major event. She appeared on the cover of Life magazine and was featured in magazine advertisements for soap, cars, and cigarettes. She was also a trendsetter. The strapless gown she wore for her debut became her signature look and was much copied. She also started a beauty trend with her powdered pale face, contrasting red lipstick and dark hair.
Brenda Frazier on the cover of Life in 1938
In the 1940s and early 1950s, there was a shift away from privately sponsored debutante balls to larger debutante balls which benefited a charity or society. The Passavant Cotillion and Christmas Ball in Chicago was one of these. It was founded in 1949 and raised money for Passavant Memorial Hospital.
Passavant Cotillion 1949. Collection of the Northwestern Woman's Board.
The inaugural Passavant Cotillion was held on December 23, 1949, at the Stevens Hotel on Michigan Avenue. It was a huge success, and the Passavant Cotillion continues today. Passavant Memorial Hospital is now part of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and the Passavant Cotillion is still an important source of support for the hospital, raising money for research, community service, education and enhancing patient care.
Joan Peterkin photographed by Horst P. Horst in 1949.
Above is a photo of Joan Peterkin taken by Horst P. Horst in 1949. Peterkin made her debut at the 1949 Passavant Cotillion and is pictured here wearing her custom-made gown by Christian Dior.
The cotillion dress became an integral part of being a debutante. Many debutantes had their dresses made by a dressmaker while others bought theirs. Designers such as Chanel, Schiaparelli, Dior, Vionnet, Charles James and Hattie Carnegie were known to have designed dresses for debutantes. Oscar de la Renta’s career as a designer was launched in 1956 when he designed a dress for the U.S. ambassador to Spain’s daughter, Beatrice Lodge, for her coming-out ball in Madrid.
Beatrice Lodge being fitted in her debut gown by Oscar de la Renta in 1956.
Debutante balls began to lose favor in the mid-1960s through the 1970s due to the rejection of social conformity that was popular during that time. The June 1966 issue of Town & Countrymagazine featured New York debutante Alexandra Chace on the cover with the band The Rolling Stones.
June 1966 issue of Town & Country featuring debutante Alexandra Chace and the Rolling Stones
At the time, it was a revolutionary idea to feature a photograph of a dressed-up debutante with a “scruffy” rock group. It signaled the changing times and attitudes toward tradition. Chace wore a Staron silk dress trimmed in ostrich feathers and Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry. The issue featured a section inside where debutantes posed with celebrities who represented professional fields of work that they wished to enter. Actor Bob Holliday, photographer Jerry Schatzberg, actor Robert Ryan, and artist Andy Warhol were featured, among others.
Mu mother and I at the Philadelphia Assembly Ball in 1987 where I made my debut.
During the 1980s, participation in traditional activities that had been on the decline throughout the 1960s and 1970s experienced a strong resurgence. This included debutante balls. The change in attitude can be attributed to the return to more conservative values and traditions in the 1980s Regan-era.
Today, debutante balls have re-emerged as charity events and as a continuation of tradition, rather than as an introduction to society or a matchmaking opportunity. As Oscar de la Renta said in the book Debutantes, “The modern debutante is more concerned with the perfect dress than the perfect mate.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Schiap Shop

I am thrilled to share below my inaugural article for Classic Chicago Magazine - 'Schiap Shop'. Please check in monthly to read my column, Vintage Vantage and all of the other great columns and Classic Chicago news. A link to Classic Chicago Magazine can be found here:

Schiap Shop

I recently returned from a trip to Paris where I had the opportunity to visit Maison Schiaparelli at 21 Place Vendôme — the Elsa Schiaparelli boutique. It was opened in 1935 and closed in 1954, but it was reopened in 2012, in the exact location where the original boutique had been. As a huge fan and collector of vintage Schiaparelli, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to see where it had all started and to get a glimpse of the new collections.

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973) was an Italian-born French designer. She and her rival, Coco Chanel, were regarded as the most prominent figures in fashion in the period between the two World Wars. Schiaparelli’s designs were worn by society ladies and Hollywood actresses. Her clients included the Duchess of Windsor, Daisy Fellowes, Marlene Dietrich, Lauren Bacall, Millicent Rogers, and Mae West.

Schiaparelli defied the convention of her time by pursuing a more idiosyncratic style of fashion. She considered fashion to be art and was known to be as much of an artist as she was a dress designer. Schiaparelli often collaborated with the Surrealist artists of the 1930s, such as Salvador Dali, Man Ray, and Jean Cocteau. Her longtime admirer Yves Saint Laurent once described her as “The fiery Italian intellectual who introduced the world of Dadaist and Surrealist art to the world of fashion.”

Schiaparelli opened her salon in 1935. The interiors were originally designed by her friend Jean-Michel Frank, who also designed the Paris salon of Chicago-born designer, Mainbocher, on the Avenue George V. Notably, Mainbocher was the first American to open a couture house in Paris. 
The ground floor of 21 Place Vendôme was used as a boutique. It was called the “Schiap Shop.” One entered the perfume section of the shop through a black and gold bamboo birdcage designed by Frank in 1937. In later years, the birdcage was sold to a private collector, but the Maison Schiaparelli was recently able to reacquire it. It is now located on the fourth floor of the building where the collections are shown.
Schiaparelli "Shocking" perfume bottle
1937 Frank designed black & gold bamboo cage
Currently, over the fireplace in the boutique’s second floor salon, there is a collage that was designed for the Schiap Shop by Marcel Vertès in 1953. The collage is made up of images cut from fashion magazines of Schiaparelli’s most significant designs. The images are incorporated into a surreal landscape of dinosaurs and butterflies.
1953 Marcel Vertes Collage
Throughout the boutique, there are many examples of Schiaparelli’s artist collaborations: glasses designed by Man Ray in the 1930s; a powder compact from 1935 designed in the shape of a phone dial by Dali; and a dress from Schiaparelli’s famous 1938 circus collection made out of fabric printed with a design by Vertès.
1930s glasses designed by Man Ray
Powder compact designed by Salvador Dali in 1935
1938 Schiaparelli dress from the circus collection. Print designed by Marcel Vertes.
In Chicago, we are lucky to have an amazing example of an artistic collaboration between Schiaparelli and Cocteau housed at the Chicago History Museum. It is a very rare silk crepe dress, jacket and belt ensemble from 1937 — only three examples are known to exist. Cocteau created the design on the jacket that was then beaded and embroidered by the House of Lesage. The design features a woman’s head in profile. Her long, golden hair flows down the full length of the right sleeve, and her hand is holding a bundle of silver-colored ribbons. Just below the woman’s arm, the word “Jean” and a star are embroidered in pink thread. The ensemble was once owned by Chicago resident Elizabeth Fuller Goodspeed (1893–1980), known to her friends as Bobsy.

Elsa Schiaparelli/Jean Cocteau ensemble 1937. Collection of Chicago History Museum.
Goodspeed was at the heart of Chicago’s social and cultural scenes and was married to Charles Barney Goodspeed, a member of a prominent Chicago family. She was a patron of the arts, the President of the Arts Club of Chicago (1932 –1940), a writer and amateur filmmaker. Goodspeed often made trips to Paris, where she spent time with notable artists, writers, dancers and gallery owners. It was there that she met and became friends with Gertrude Stein, who then visited Goodspeed in Chicago in 1934. It was Stein’s first trip to our city, spawning her strong relationship with Chicago.

Elsa Schiaparelli/Jean Cocteau ensemble 1937. Collection of Chicago History Museum.
Even though the Schiaparelli line has been relaunched and is now being designed by Bertrand Guyon, the house is still looking back to Schiaparelli’s philosophy of art as fashion and the influence of artists on fashion. Here, we can see another Chicago connection. In the Schiaparelli Fall 2015 collection, colorful pieced fur jackets were featured on the runway. According to Vogue’s Dan Thawley, these jackets were inspired by Chicago artist Nick Cave’s Soundsuits.
Schiaparelli Fall 2015 Couture Collection.
I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The L. L. Bean Boat and Tote Bag

A few of the L. L. Bean boat and tote bags from my collection.

I have always had a sort of obsession with the L.L. Bean boat and tote bag. I love its sturdy construction, its adaptability, its classic style, and the fact that it can be monogrammed/personalized. I seem to never have enough of them. I even gave a boat and tote bag to each of my bridesmaids - monogrammed with their nicknames.

L.L. Bean catalog page from 1965 when the boat and tote was featured for the first time in its current form.

Originally designed as an ice carrier, the bag was bought and used by people to carry other things as well. It really took off in the 1960s when the tote was made smaller and red and blue trim was added.

Page from an L. L. Bean catalog from 1978

 The L. L. Bean boat and tote has become a beloved classic, a part of the lexicon of classic design and copied by many. 

Some of Michael Kors' favorite things from Harper's Bazaar 2012

 Michael Kors is a fan of the L. L. Bean camouflage tote. He has mentioned that it is one of his favorite things in articles in several magazines including Elle Decor and Harper's Bazaar where the image above came from. 

Photo of Gilles DuFour's collection of boat and totes from Beyond Chic, by Ivan Terestchenko, Vendome.

 Imagine how thrilled I was the other day when I was flipping through a book that a friend gave me called, Beyond Chic and saw the photo above of French stylist/designer Gilles Dufour’s Paris apartment and his collection of boat and tote bags! It made me feel much better about my obsession - so much so that I may have to peruse the Spring L. L. Bean catalog to see if there are any new styles that I should add to my collection....

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Getting Ready for the Year of the Sheep

February 19, 2015 is the Chinese New Year and marks the beginning of the year of the Sheep or Ram. I thought that it would be fun to find some vintage baubles to celebrate the occasion.

1970s pendant necklace by Razza

You are the sign of the Sheep if you were born in: 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, or 2015.

1960s Pierre Cardin brooch
 People born in the year of the Sheep are artistic, creative, elegant, honest, warmhearted, timid and charming. They are also pessimistic, vulnerable, and disorganized.
1970s Ciner earrings
 Those born in the year of the Sheep do not handle pressure well but can find their own solution to a problem when given time.

1970s Trifari pendant
Celebrities who are the sign of the Sheep include, Michelangelo, Mark Twain, Barbara Walters, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis, and Claire Danes.

1970s Baccarat paperweight
If you are a Sheep, you are compatible with those who are the sign of the Pig and Rabbit but you should avoid people who are the sign of the Ox!

*All of the jewelry featured in this post is available through Ladybug Vintage. Email for details and pricing.