Tuesday, 30 June 2015

A Little Stunner

Some of my pieces are really special, and I thought I'd share this one with you.

When I found this, the shop ladies thought it was a marching girl's jacket from the 1950s. How interesting, I thought, and promptly took it to show my Vintage Fashion Consultant (aka, mother). Mum was a marching girl back in the 1950s and she said no, it wasn't. She was quite definite about that. After looking at pictures of marching costumes on the internet, I could see that she was right. She said it certainly wasn't a costume because of the quality in the making of the garment. Both the cuffs and collar of this jacket are elaborately quilted. The pockets are real pockets. The pockets and cuffs are appliqued in an ornate style. 

She also said it reminded her of the little cropped jackets she often saw in one of her favourite TV shows, Poirot. I looked at it again. Could it's unusual ornamentation be 1930s  Art Deco rather than a costume?

The tag on the jacket reads "Walter Huppert - Melbourne". I could not find anything about this brand on the internet, including in Trove, which is the wonderful website of the National Library of Australia. Amongst other things, they have thousands of old newspapers digitised and indexed. References to brand names often come up as advertisements, which is great for locating the time and often the place where the company operated. However, this time I drew a blank. No Walter Huppert.

 It was time to consult the other experts.

The Vintage Fashion Guild has a wonderful website full of resources for identifying the age, make and style of garments. They also have a forum where anyone can register as a guest and join the discussion. One of the threads is a Q & A about any garment you would like others' opinions about. I posted my query. All agreed they had not seen anything quite like this jacket. It was suggested that I look closely at how the garment is constructed for clues.

So I did. The lining is silk and is mostly hand sewn, and hand stitched to the garment. It is also pleated in the back. There is a long strip inserted in the underneath of the sleeve, helping to achieve a rounded rather than a flat sleeve shape. The pockets are real pockets, not just for looks. They are made of the same silk as the lining. The fabric appears to be a good quality wool felt.

In the end, I have to thank the guru of Australian vintage, Nicole Jenkins of Circa Vintage for giving me her decisive opinion that this is a  fine tailor made 1950s jacket, and very cute! It's also in excellent condition. Nicole obviously has superior search skills to me because she also managed to find an advertisement for Walter Huppert, tailor, in a newspaper from the late 1940s. He was in business in Howey Place, Melbourne. I walked through Howey Place a few weeks ago hoping to find an old sign saying "Walter Huppert", or at least "tailor" painted on the brickwork in an obscure corner or side alley, but unfortunately, no. Interestingly, though, there is a tailor's shop still in business that backs onto Howey Place. I wonder?...

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Beetle Wings For Lady Macbeth

A while ago in a post about Edwardian  needlework, I mentioned beetle wing embroidery. Today, I was very interested to read this article about the painstaking restoration of Victorian actress Ellen Terry's beetle wing embroidered dress which she wore for her role as Lady Macbeth. She was famously painted in this role by John Singer Sargent.

Where Beauty Transcends Time: The Archaeology of a Dress -- Secret History -- Sott.net: http://www.sott.net/article/226601-Where-Beauty-Transcends-Time-The-Archaeology-of-a-Dress

It's comforting for me to know that there are other people out there besides myself who take on crazy time consuming repair projects out of a desire to restore an item to its original beauty. It looks like I missed my calling as a costume conservator.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Do You Have Your Hankie?

Last week I was lucky to find a stash of vintage handkerchiefs.  It seems that they all belonged to one lady and I was instantly reminded of my grandmother, Louisa Amelia Jane, though those who were on first name terms with her called her Lou. Having said that, not many people seemed to be on first name terms with her. In our family, she was Nana or Mum. To the rarely seen cousins she was Aunty Lou, but to most people, she was Mrs Silva. It interested me that Nana called all her friends by their formal titles of Mrs Spencer, Mrs Dubbledan, Mrs Sherman, etc. Sometimes I wonder whether she ever knew their Christian names. But I digress... Back to the hankies.

Nana was the kind of person who, when they received something really nice as a gift, deemed it too nice to use, and put it away in a drawer or cupboard, perhaps to take it out and look at it occasionally when in the mood. Or it was kept "for best", and probably never used. I must confess that when my daughter was small and asked me when we were using the best teapot and cups on the dresser I said "When the Queen comes for afternoon tea." Abbey spent years anticipating this event with curiosity until she eventually gave up.

The lady who owned these hankies was clearly a like minded soul. It seemed that for years family and friends had given her pretty hankies as gifts, and she clearly thought they were all far too good to wipe her nose with as most of them still bore the original sticker saying "Swiss cotton", "Made in England", etc. Unfortunately, I had to remove these to launder the hankies as most had brown age spots. Most tore when being removed.

The hankie stash included lace, embroidered, floral and souvenir hankies and seemed to be from the 1950s and 1960s.  Here is my favourite:

Fine Green Lawn Hankie - 1950s

Here is a curious one. Clearly a souvenir from the Gold Coast and sporting some funky vintage bathing suits, the map has been printed upside down. I was confused about this for a while and had to check, but if you turn it upside down, the map is the right way, but all the text and other pictures are upside down. I hope they got it cheap. Perhaps it's like the misprinted stamp that collector's covet and is worth a mint, but I doubt it.

Upside down Gold Coast souvenir

Call me strange, but I actually enjoyed ironing this pile of handkerchiefs. When I was a child I remember asking my mother whether I could "help" with the ironing, and she let me iron the hankies. I guess it was hard to go wrong there. I do not remember my own children asking to help with the ironing. Just as well because we didn't have hankies. I enjoyed taking the newly clean and dry hankies, flattening them and folding them into little triangles with the prettiest corner showing.

Organdie floral hankies with the original sticker
This pair is my second favourite. The fabric is really beautiful - transparent, gauze like organdie with a restrained floral pattern.

Lace corner with embroidery and lace trim

Then there are the dainty lace hankies, with or without embroidery. Definitely for taking to church on Sunday in one's best handbag. Not for tucking up the sleeve as they may fall out and be lost. 

Pretty lace borders

However, I was delighted to find a pile of floral hankies. I had hankies like this when I was a child, they were the kind I had ironed, which must explain why I was pleased to see them again. After I grew out of babyish hankies with cartoon characters I graduated to florals. I never had a lace number, not even for Sunday School.

These are my favourites of the florals:

Poppy hankie

Crocus hankie

And I have to mention the three very delicate pink ones just because they're pretty.

Three pink pretties

 There are lots of others - embroidered sets, petit point, florals, a thistle souvenir from Scotland.

I have seen quite a few interesting projects for upcycling vintage handkerchiefs. When a customer first told me that she was intending to make doily lanterns with doilies she bought from me I felt sad that this was to be their fate, but I got over it. Doilies and vintage linens have received a new lease of life by being upcycled in creative projects. I have a Pinterest board full of upcycling ideas I have collected. 
Cushion of vintage hankies

Baby dress of vintage hankies

Butterfly quilt of vintage hankies

I have a drawer full of hankies I have collected for myself which I intend to use. Less tissues, save trees, reduce rubbish, you know. However, my problems are firstly, that I rarely seem to have a pocket in which to keep a hankie, and also that I forget to take one. A child's lesson from the past "Have you got your hankie?"