CLOTHES STORIES: The dress that made me marry him

This Fifties frock, which is very far from my color scheme and not my size, I last wore for my boyfriend’s birthday. We’d just met and what he really wanted to do was have me cook for him. What he didn’t know was that I was phobic about cooking for men, or rather, one man, the man I was dating man. It brought out the feminist in me, which didn’t need much outbringing, being always out, and made me instantly worried about being a domestic drudge. That made no sense, since I love cooking, and think it’s an art, but it was beyond my control. Anyway, I liked him a whole lot, so I said yes, and wore a satirical cookery outfit to get me through: the most authentically 1950s suburban housewife dress I had—this of course—and no shoes. Barefoot in the kitchen. He’s my husband now.    —Kate Sekules

ps This one you can buy! $45

My story in ART & AUCTION mag about serious vintage collecting… 

Because they don’t post stories online. What? Read on below. Wear specs.

(Here’s my original, funner, lede graf…)

        “Fashion collectors are traditionally drawn from a narrow tranche of society—basically: Socialites with gala and luncheon needs. But there’s a new breed around. You won’t find them on the front row at Fashion Week, but rather haunting the salerooms and booths at auctions and shows, stalking the best in vintage fashion. A scene once full of eccentrics and enthusiasts is now full of opportunity, with astonishing price points realized at the couture end. New resources and serious players—plus a series of blockbuster Museum shows spotlighting current designers –mean clothes are (almost) Art…”

#<3: Laverne Cox is the first transgender person on the cover of TIME

CLOTHES STORIES: my early John Galliano Coat/Dress

It was my first job: copy editor of Harrods Magazine. For about five minutes Harrods the department store had its own Conde Nast magazine, edited by the redoubtable Drusilla Dreyfus, mother of Alexandra Shulman, the future editor of UK Vogue. It was a brilliant job. We were secreted on the top floor of Harrods, that famous London tourist trap (which was a pretty great store at that moment), and we had free rein to run riot picking up anything we wanted, to shoot for stories. On my forays I discovered the Young Designer Department. It was 1985, and a Young Designer named John Galliano had just produced his first commercial collection, called The Ludic Game. (Right after “Les Incroyables” his degree show that famously was bought in its entirety by Joan Burstein and put in the Browns windows.)

I wanted it. Most of it. But especially this amazing black cotton swagged double breasted highwaywoman’s coat. It was cut like the theater, with gathered sides and vast pockets covered with enormous flaps. It would be at least five years till I owned a handbag—I pocketed everything. The garment was heaven. And it was hundreds of pounds. I was spending maybe twenty per thing, on vintage. (Which would not be understood for at least another decade.)

So I stalked the coat. I befriended the salesladies. I tried it on daily. And the famous Harrods sale started, and I nervously watched the discount growing, doing justification math with my staff discount and paltry wages. Well, obviously, I sprung in the end. It was still WAY more than I’d paid for anything in my life, but I knew it would be forever.  I was right. 

And here’s a model in it. 

Sorry USA, Belgium already had you beat…

IF THEY COULD TALK:  clothes stories

ELLA’S 1968 BLAZER THAT’S NOT A TIE 

I was dressed for my high school’s senior prom, wearing a short purple dress I’d bought in New York. My group of friends hadn’t pooled enough cash for the traditional limo so we took photos in my living room before driving ourselves to dinner. It was a breezy Oregon night and I angsted over my outerwear until my dad emerged with a navy and white-striped blazer. I wore it over my shoulders outside of the dance and a piano-playing skater boy complimented my style.

 I’ve since worn it for a job interview at Paris Vogue and many a first date. In the winter, it’s a layer of warmth under my Barbour duster. During summer I wear it over shorts and a collared shirt during the day or an LBD at night. I love that my most versatile and frequently-worn item of clothing was once my dad’s. It’s oversized and ink-stained, carefully silk-lined with ample pockets. As I’ve just graduated college, it seems fitting to tell the story of the blazer now. Graduation time generally comes with a desperate grabbing of memorabilia. We scour the student store for class rings and shot glasses. Parents purchase photos of the graduation handshake and proudly display their progeny’s tangled tassels.

 At Harrow, a boarding school in England, boys typically leave for Oxford and Cambridge with an Old Harrovian tie, a marker of graduation and lifetime Harrow membership. In my dad’s words, “It shows you’re part of this elite club of privileged folk.” But my dad has never taken to ties, and he couldn’t see himself wearing one. So in the spring of 1968, he visited one of the tailors on the Harrow hill (still in operation today), Stevens, Billings & Edmonds, to find an alternative. “They found some cloth that was the same blue and white stripe of the Old Harrovian tie and I got them to make me up a jacket,” he remembers.

 This choice was representative of his entire time at Harrow. Though my dad’s family required his participation in traditional, elitist education, he never felt part of the in-crowd: “Being told what to do and not being told why I needed to do it has always been a difficult thing for me. And much of the education was about that: ‘Just do it because we’re telling you to.’”

 So rather than wearing a tie, my dad made the only Old Harrovian blazer. And I, an American woman with no allegiance to the British public school system, get to wear it.

 My dad says he’s “not really a rule-follower.” I’m proud to continue that tradition.                   

            —Ella Riley-Adams

Ella Riley-Adams does editorial and social media at Makers.com: women’s stories in video form.

Photos by James Neiley, shot at Gentry NYC

New Yorkers, you’re invited to Let’s Kill Fashion! A nonboring panel. An afterparty. Private event, private space —the brilliant and amazing NeueHouse, where I keep my pen. Must rsvp@neuehouse.com 

PAGING HISTORICAL VINTAGE HOUNDS…

(And historical personal communication device users) 

This one’s for you. Ever get your late-19th earliest-20th century pieces confused? Stacy Iannacone, lovely owner of Soho NYC vintage & historical clothing meccas Ritual Vintage and Ritual Archive (and whose Refashioner closet has just begun) is here to help. Here’s a visual cheat sheet to assist in your turn-of-the-20th-century collecting. 

This is so Victorian it’s embarrassing. The silhouette is classic Victorian with a really high neck and this ‘leg o’ mutton’ sleeve. There’s lots of boning inside so one would’ve had to wear a really intense corset under it. Obviously, the waist is about 20 inches.  So, there’s some serious deformity of the woman’s natural figure going on here that was very chic at the time. It’s from the 1890s.  

This is a later Edwardian piece. You can see how loose fitting it is in comparison, it’s so much less confined. This sort of thing is from around the WW1 period when women’s clothing was clearly influenced by men’s uniforms. Also, There’s more of an idea of rational dress; where one can move and work and do more physical duties because the men weren’t around to do it. And that’s about the difference of 20 or 25 years between the two periods. It’s a huge change.

This is also more Edwardian. It has a very industrial and military influence to it. I have more Edwardian right now than Victorian. Over the years I’ve become more interested in early Edwardian. 

This is a REALLY early Victorian piece. It’s beautiful and from around the 1860’s. You can tell that it’s been all hand cut and the beading is hand sewn as well.

This is probably 1850’s. It’s for a tiny little woman and the drop shoulder with pagoda sleeves was popular at that time.   

Look out for further grilling of Stacy on her favorite period (& one of ours). Not to mention curation, repair, & preservation tips for historical garments you can actually wear. 

STOLEN FROM MOM’S CLOSET…

The time honored tradition of liberating articles from the maternal wardrobe is what I’m thinking of this Mother’s Day… In the StyleLikeU video (previous post) I’m wearing the single most favorite thing I pilfered from my ma—it’s a dress from the original Biba, the "Strange Disneyland" on Ken High Street in the 1970s. Actually it’s the only thing I ever pilfered from her. And then my sister saw the video and claimed it was hers. Oh well. 

All in the above pic were genuinely stolen from mothers. Click through below for their stories. And remember, they all now need rehoming! I guess traffic from mother only goes one way. 

Then again, if you’re guilty of this crime, why not buy mom a new thing from someone else’s closet? We’re giving you $20 off all this weekend (on ≥$90). Input MUMMY20 on checkout. 

1940s Chintz Maxi
1950s Paisley Skater Dress

1960s Black Lace Gown
1970s Courrèges Shoulderbag
1970s Macramé Shoulderbag
1980s Colorblock Silk Dress
1990s Embroidered Tea Dress

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! 

Soooo proud happy proud happy proud. And Happy. To be with my darling Bea as the first Mother’s Day Daily on #StyleLikeU —our favorite website round here by a million miles. (And ps: we’re collaborating! Watch this space….)

Frock season! I pretty much wear dresses from now till fall. But are you an LBD or an LNBD? Me, I’m very Not Black. Shop all of these, and more, here. All from loving homes, most with excellent stories. For instance: One of the above caused Diane von Furstenberg to write her memoir. Another snagged a husband. Frock power.  

And Who Made Your Shopping Bag?

In a mindbending ps to Fashion Revolution Day’s “Who Made Your Clothes” this story reported on DNA Info exposes the forced labor and shocking conditions behind the thing that encloses the Clothes… Australian New Yorker Stephanie Wilson was taking her new Hunter rain boots out of this Saks Fifth Avenue shopping bag (above), when a hand written note and passport photo (below) fell out.  ”HELP HELP HELP!”  prisoner in a Chinese jail, Tohnain Emmanuel Njong  had scrawled. "We are ill-treated and work like slaves for 13 hours every day producing these bags in bulk in the prison factory…".  Having risked his life writing the letter, "…Thanks and sorry to bother you," he heartbreakingly signs off

Well, Njong is free now and back with his family in Camaroon, but he is presumably a rare lucky one. 

All the little shopping details—not such details to some on the other side of the world…

Saks Bag Help Plea

I’ve been doing this to my toes since I was 16 (a WHILE ago) & was always afraid the day would come when the drugstore shelves were heaving with glitter. And OK it’s happened; glittering your nails has gone normal. But, upping the ante, here’s my secret recipe for CHROMING your nails…

Chrome Nail Polish how-to 

DIY CHROME NAIL POLISH

1. Get the cheapest old drugstore clear polish.

2. Order large flake glitter from a car detailing supplier —MUST be large flake! As you see it comes in convenient squeejie bottles.

3.  Decant some of the polish to make room, and pouff that glitter in. 

4. Shake. Et voila. 

5. You might want to switch the cheap brush for a big plush brush from a swanky polish at the end of its life. 

You’re welcome. 

Happy Mayday! 

H&M GIMPS SAY: IT’S OK TO OVERSHOP!
Truly mixed feelings about H&M’s new “Garment Collecting" initiative. On one hand: as the Swedish chef who does the voiceover on New York-Austrian artist Bela Borsodi’s new video modestly points out: “What H&M are doing is really JOLLY good for our planet. And for everyone.”  After all, they’ve apparently collected 25 million t-shirts worth of fabric in a year. At least three tees of which have now been used to make more products.
On the other hand: take-back schemes don’t remotely solve the core issue of overshopping. Especially not overshopping of overcheap, dubiously-produced Fast Fashion, such as you might buy on your lunch hour from, say, H&M. 
Also, it’s creepy. Gimps pinning the Scandinavian shirt monster to an Earth made of the stonewashed jeans that killed it… 

Gimp army stealing all your clothes… 

Hilariously serious Behind the Scenes “making of”  video

No, on balance, it’s good! Since we want attention on the issues it’s quite fine that H&M’s Sustainability Dept. and its Media Relations Dept. are such very close friends. 

H&M GIMPS SAY: IT’S OK TO OVERSHOP!

Truly mixed feelings about H&M’s new “Garment Collecting" initiative. On one hand: as the Swedish chef who does the voiceover on New York-Austrian artist Bela Borsodi’s new video modestly points out: “What H&M are doing is really JOLLY good for our planet. And for everyone.”  After all, they’ve apparently collected 25 million t-shirts worth of fabric in a year. At least three tees of which have now been used to make more products.

On the other hand: take-back schemes don’t remotely solve the core issue of overshopping. Especially not overshopping of overcheap, dubiously-produced Fast Fashion, such as you might buy on your lunch hour from, say, H&M. 

Also, it’s creepy. Gimps pinning the Scandinavian shirt monster to an Earth made of the stonewashed jeans that killed it… 

Gimp army stealing all your clothes… 

Hilariously serious Behind the Scenes “making of”  video

No, on balance, it’s good! Since we want attention on the issues it’s quite fine that H&M’s Sustainability Dept. and its Media Relations Dept. are such very close friends. 

BUT HOW SHOULD WE SHOP?

(above: Rana Plaza December 2013: freshly dug bones)

So, Fashion Revolution Day+1 and the question remains: if you MUST shop the mall (though: why?), then which brands should you avoid like the plague? In the FRD Earth Day booth this week, that’s what everyone wanted to know. So here’s a starter shortlist, worst first.

BOYCOTT…

These brands produced clothes at Rana Plaza yet have not contributed to the victim compensation fund that’s raised only 38% of the needed $40m… 

The only ones here to not join the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety:

 AND   

Parent company Ascena says: “We make people feel good about themselves. Through an engaging store experience, convenient locations, and of course offering fashion at great value…” [if at great cost to its producers: people who are not feeling good about themselves]

At least this one’s in the Alliance:

From the JCP 2013 Sustainability Report: “Our strategy is… to continue exploring the production capabilities of emerging economies.” [to see how much we can get away with milking them?]

GO SLOW…

These brands have joined the Alliance, and donated to the victims fund, but not nearly enough given the level of their Bangladesh production. 

     AND 

Gap donated about half a million to the fund, despite not having production at Rana Plaza. BUT they still turn a blind eye to the Bangladeshi sweatshops they use. A lot.  Especially for Old Navy. 

Walmart contributed an undisclosed amount, probably <$500K—their first ever donation of this kind! Not nearly enough for a giant retailer with massive Bangladesh presence. 

SLIGHTLY FAVOR…

The giganto VF Corporation (this is just four of their 25 brands) chipped in a similar paltry amount. At least they weren’t (ab)using Rana Plaza. And at least they admit: “As a global corporation, we are still in the early stages of our sustainability journey…”

But the sad fact remains: THE MALL IS NOT SAFE. 

Word