Fashion on the Ration – How women remained stylish during World War Two

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Clothing is something most of us take for granted these days. Usually if we want to purchase something, we either jump online and order it direct to our door, or we head to the local shopping centre and browse amongst the varied range of stores within. Most of us also purchase fashion for the here and now, the latest trends or celebrity inspired look. We occasionally invest in larger budget items such as a coat or evening dress, with the intention of keeping it in the wardrobe for a few years. But fast fashion has largely taken over our lives, with our wardrobes changing style from season to season. So can you imagine what it was like to be a woman surviving in the 1940’s when fashion became an item rationed by the government due to the Second World War? Some had been through it previously in the First World War, but it was much more prominent in Britain and across Europe for almost the entire decade of the roaring forties. Women no longer had the freedom to go to their local store or couturier to buy something fabulous. Instead fashion was dictated to them by what was available during the war years, and what was deemed appropriate (which is why Dior created such controversy when he released his 1947 New Look). Many innovations came from war time rationing of clothing, some which we still use today, and others which I’m glad never caught on!

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At the beginning of the 1940’s, Britain was heavily involved in the war, with many of its country men fighting on the front line, and many of its women being put to work in factories. As the war progressed, with no end in sight, many sacrifices had to be made. Food is something that was largely controlled and became extremely hard to come by. But what many people don’t realise is that clothing too was a luxury that suffered drastically during this time. On 1st June 1941, clothing became rationed across Britain with a limit being put on the amount of garments one could purchase. As money was also scares during this time, coupons similar to those used to receive food items were given out in 1942 under the Utility Clothing Scheme. This allowed people to save up their coupons and then head to the stores to purchase garments. Women had to be frugal in their choices of clothing, as whatever they purchased was likely to have to survive for many seasons to come. It became apparent early on in this scheme that some manufactures were producing inferior garments, which lead to the less wealthy citizens receiving items that soon wore out. To try and make it an even playing field for all members of society, the Government introduced the ‘CC41’ label. This ensured that whatever was produced, be it socks, underwear or jumpers, had to adhere to a sustainable level of quality. This way, everyone could obtain these higher quality garments with the coupon rations.

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There was much uprising over this new way of life, with many feeling uncomfortable with this new style of dressing. To try and relieve some of the negative attitudes, the Government approached a range of British designers to come together to create war time fashion for the public. Big time designers like Norman Hartnell, Bianca Mosca, Digby Morton and Hardy Aimes, came together and produced a range of fashion that not only stuck to the current regulations, but ensured a stylish take on it as well. No longer were people afraid they would all look the same, and being able to still wear designer brands help lift the spirits of many during this challenging period. Austerity regulations also largely affected men’s fashion. Only single breasted suits were allowed to be produced, with limitations placed on lapel sizes, number of pockets per garment, and the width of turn up and cuffs on both trousers and shirts. It is estimated that these limitations saved some four million square yards of cotton per year!

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The 1940’s was also the beginning of manmade fabrics coming into the mass market. Natural fibres such as wool and silk were used for the soldiers’ uniforms and parachutes, which left women’s clothing out in the cold. Fabrics such as rayon and synthetic jersey became widely used, and are often found in vintage garments today. Fabrics had to be user friendly, something you could easily wash at home as the luxury of a drycleaner was long gone. As women began to be conscripted to working for the war effort, it bought about a mass change in the outfits they required. No longer was it practical for a woman to wear a tea dress if she was working on the factory floor. Trousers became the new favourite items in women’s fashion as it allowed much more ease of movement. Headscarves and turbans also became popular in the forties as women needed to cover their hair whilst working as a safety precaution. With France no longer at the top of the fashion scene due to German occupation, practicality took over couture, with styles becoming much more paired down, unadorned and refined.

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The ‘Make do and Mend’ campaign came to life during the Second World War, with women encouraged to repair their own clothing. This also saw the humble dressmaker turning to alternate resources to produce garments. Curtains were no longer just used as window furnishings, but turned in to practical items that could be worn for many seasons. The suits of men away at war were no longer safe either. Women used their tailoring skills to turn them into suits for themselves, so they could save their coupons for other items. Older garments had extra panels added to the waist to lengthen the hemline, and nothing was ever thrown out. Patching, darning and altering became hugely popular in the forties, more out of necessity than desire.

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Some fashion trends from this time which we are still aware of today are monochrome colour palettes, exquisite tailoring and the original jumpsuit. Known back then as the Siren Suit, the all in one garment was designed to be easily put on over night time attire whenever the air raid sirens sounded. It had a zipper running the front length of the garment, with large pockets for personal items, and a drop down panel at the rear. It was worn by both men and women, and became known as a signature garment during the war. Winston Churchill was a fan! The colour of many garments produced during this time were restricted as fabric dyes became a luxury. Black and grey was very common, but the British did their best to be patriotic too. Red, white and blue was worn proudly whenever possible, with white being largely popular during the blackout every evening. This ensured the wearer would be seen more easily if out on the street, in the hope of reducing accidents between pedestrians and cars. Tailoring was also a staple of the 1940’s, with all suits, coats, skirts and trousers needing to withstand not only the current season, but many more after. A suit had to be wearable from summer through winter for more than one year, which called upon the finest of tailors to put their skills to use.

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Other limitations placed on fashion during the time were how much fabric could be used per garment. This meant that the width and length of skirts was restricted, and for the first time ever in modern society, a skirt could be no longer than knee length. Jackets too had to be shortened in the body, no longer than twenty five inches allowed! They also had to be unlined, with no cuffs or patch pockets. Metal zips became hard to find, and so the zipper less dress was born. Being made out of a stretch fabric, women simply pulled it on over their heads. Elastic was another luxury, only being used in women’s knickers. One item that wasn’t restricted during this time was head wear. Hats of all shapes and sizes were still allowed, although hard to come by. Another fashion invention that came from the war was a sleek yet stylish handbag with a built in compartment for carrying ones gas mask. Usually carried in a small cardboard box with a long string to throw over your shoulder, the gas mask became a staple of wartime that everyone had to carry with them at all times. But the idea soon came to design a handbag that could accommodate the rather ugly but necessary accessory.

Even though the war was declared over, and V day celebrations rang out everywhere on 8th May 1945, fashion restrictions remained in place across Britain until 1949. Finally after almost a decade of being told what to wear, the survivors of war could now dress themselves. It took a few more years for fashion to regain its crown, but once again France was at the top. No more dull colours, short hemlines or straight skirts. Flamboyant feminine style was back, and the 1950’s was all the better for it.

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

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Who doesn’t love a Royal Wedding … And the frocks they made famous!

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If you’re anything like me, then you’ll love a royal wedding! The extravagance, the tradition, the guest list and the fashions, fascinates not only me, but many around the world. Royal weddings have become a huge event, especially now that they are televised for the world to see. We as humble mortals get a glimpse inside the life and riches of the Royal Family, and can feel like we are somehow involved in this grandest of occasions. With all the hype and commotion surrounding the recent nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, I have been inspired to take a look back at other royal weddings that have also had just as much impact. From Queen Elizabeth 2nd through Princess Diana, the Duchess of Cambridge and now the Duchess of Sussex, in this blog I’m going to explore the fashion trends and styles that marked these four grand weddings with not only a place in history, but a prestigious association with fashion history also.

I’ve had a fascination with the Royal Family for some years now. While they have certainly had their faux pars over the years, the new generation of Royal’s are doing great things and lending their popularity and influence to many wonderful causes.   I’m not entirely sure when or where my love for the Royal’s began, but I suspect it has something to do with my Grandparents being British. My Grandfather especially had a strong passion for his home land, and I can remember him often speaking of the Royal Family with fondness. I guess this is also where my attachment towards British television drama came from (think Downton Abbey, The Crown, The Young Victoria). So let’s take a wander down the aisle of fashion history and discover what these royal brides and their outfits were really made from!

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Britain was thrown into a flurry of excitement, when on 9th July 1947, the Royal Family announced the engagement of Queen Elizabeth 2nd (1926 – ) to Lieutenant Phillip Mountbatten RN. The royal engagement could not have come at a better time, lifting the spirits of all after the perils of war were finally over. Only five months later the couple wed in the grandest of churches, Westminster Abbey. The dress which Queen Elizabeth wore was commissioned for her by British designer Norman Hartnell. Hartnell was asked to submit several design to the Royal Family so they could make their decision if he was fit for the role. With less than three months to construct the dress, Hartnell got straight to work. He ordered more than 10,000 pearls from America to embellish the gown with. To keep the secrecy that must be attained with all royal wedding gowns, Hartnell had to paint the windows of his work room so that no prying eyes could see the master tailor at work. The dress was a one piece, princess style, and displayed a fitted bodice with a scalloped neckline. It was made from the purest of satin, with buttons and loops running the length of the bodice. The skirt, cut on the cross, had a circular train that extended to fifteen feet long. Modest compared to some! Keeping with tradition, long sleeves were a must. The gown was embroidered with white roses, diamantes and pearls, and a long veil crowned with a diamond tiara finished the brides outfit. Queen Elizabeth’s bridesmaid’s dresses were also made by Hartnell from ivory silk tulle. This was another tradition amongst royal weddings, where the bridesmaids replicated the colour and design of the bride’s gown, unlike modern wedding where you more often than not see colour splashed amongst the bridal party. Queen Elizabeth’s wedding dress was nothing short of epic, as too were the royal brides to follow over the next sixty years.

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Over thirty years later we saw the royal wedding of Queen Elizabeth 2nd son, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. He wed a society girl Lady Diana Spencer (1961 – 1997), in what has been reported years later as a marriage of convenience and necessity rather that one based on love and affection. But the wedding ceremony of these two on July 2nd 1981, was one of the biggest the Royal Family has ever put on. Choosing to marry at St Paul’s Cathedral due to its sheer size to hold thousands of guest, Prince Charles and Lady Diana had their wedding televised for the world to see. In what seemed like the ultimate fairy tale, the bride was nothing short of extraordinary in her gown of ivory silk. David and Elizabeth Emmanuel were the designers chosen for the occasion, with Lady Diana also wearing one of their creations in her official engagement photographs. Unlike recent royal weddings, the designer of Lady Diana’s dress was announced to the press before the occasion. Again the design had to be kept secret, with the Emmanuel’s also painting the windows of their studio to keep an air of mystery about it all. No sketches of the dress were made either. The design which was seen for the first time as Lady Diana stepped from her carriage, comprised of a fitted bodice with a deep flounce neckline. Full sleeves were dominant and a crinoline petticoat ensured the meters of fabric in the skirt were on display. A blue bow was sewn into the waistband of the dress, and an ivory silk tulle veil with mother of pearl sequins sat perfectly atop the new Princess’ head. And there is no mistaking the twenty five foot long train that this dress encompassed, cascading down the aisle of St Paul’s Cathedral in all its royal glory! The five bridesmaid’s that accompanied Lady Diana were outfitted in a similar style but in a lighter weight fabric. An icon of fashion in the eighties, the memories that Diana, Princess of Wales created on that brilliant day in July will always remain as an important part of fashion history.

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Then in 2011, we saw the wedding of Prince Charles’ and Diana’s eldest son, Prince William of Wales. He wed is university sweetheart Catherine Middleton (1982 – ), in a lavish ceremony to rival that of his parents some years earlier. At Westminster Abbey on 29th April 2011, the Prince and his new Duchess were married amongst thousands of guest in a televised event for the world to see. The bride chose Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen to design her gown, and also the stunning dress in which her Maid of Honour wore. In Ivory satin, the gown paid homage to royal tradition with a long sleeve of stunning lace work. This lace work was entirely hand made, and showcased flora of the British Empire, including roses, thistle and shamrock. The bodice of the dress was boned to keep its figure hugging silhouette, with padding over the hips to ensure a smooth flow from the stunning full skirt that fell below. The train was a modest nine foot long, and a Cartier halo tiara sat atop the Duchess’ head from the Queen’s own private collection. As tradition with many royal weddings, the brides’ bouquet was placed on the tomb of the Unknown Warrior after the completion of the ceremony.

Kate Middleton arrives with her sister,

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The most recent royal wedding that we all saw differed in many ways from the tradition and grandeur of those before it. With a more relaxed vibe, Prince Henry (Harry) of Wales married his American fiancé Meghan Markle (1981 – ) at St Georges Chapel, Windsor on 19th May 2018. As with William and Kate’s wedding, the speculation mounted as to who the designer of the brides’ gown would be. As Meghan emerged from her bridal car, the world was informed that it was in fact British born Claire Waight Keller, who was now the creative director of French label Givenchy. The bride had been overwhelmed with submissions from designers around the world wanting to make her dress, but Meghan chose the elegant and timeless style of Givenchy. With the gown being constructed in both Paris and London, Meghan had eight fittings in the three months that were allotted to construct the dress. With a wide boat neck, long sleeve and tailored bodice, the bride looked stunning in a gown simular to some Givenchy himself had designed for Audrey Hepburn many years before. The colour was pure white, and the bridesmaids’ outfits were also made by Waight Keller. A diamond bandeau tiara borrowed from the Queen held Meghan’s veil in place, with the centre brooch of the tiara dating back to 1893. It took five hundred hours to construct the silk tulle veil, longer than it took to make the dress! It was completely hand maid, with the fifty three flora emblems of the Commonwealth countries being embroidered onto it. The seamstresses working on the veil had to wash their hands every thirty minutes to ensure its pure white colour was not soiled.

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It may be a few years now until we see another royal wedding on the scale of the ones we have seen over the last sixty years. When the time does however come, you can be sure that tradition will still play a major role. A royal wedding dress will always draw attention, no matter who the bride is.

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

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“I avoid looking back. I prefer good memories to regrets” – Grace Kelly

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When you think of Grace Kelly, what kind of person comes to mind? The style icon of pure elegance and sophistication, the film star at the top of her game, or Her Royal Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco? She was all these things but so much more, as I’ve discovered whist researching this next blog. I put Grace Kelly in a league of remarkable women. There were a few other influential females during the 1950’s that also have a significant place in history. Think Audrey Hepburn, Sofia Loren and Marilyn Monroe. But Grace is the one I think of first when I’m looking for inspiration for something pure, gentle and nourishing. She not only dominated the world of film and fashion, but became a European royal and continued to showcase her serene taste in clothing while she occupied the Palace of Monaco.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to see the exhibition Grace Kelly Style, presented by the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum of London, when it toured globally and came to a regional city close to my home town. Being able to get so close to some of Grace’s personal possessions was an overwhelming experience and one I will gladly carry with me forever. It not only highlighted her impeccable taste in fashion and how she continues to influence the runways all these years later, but gave a history into the life she lead as a member of the Royal family, and all of the tremendous work she did for charitable organisations.

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Grace Patricia Kelly was born on November 12 1929, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, into an affluent family. Her father was an Olympic gold medallist for his country, and worked in politics and as the owner of a large brickwork company. Her mother was a teacher at the University of Pennsylvania, and together the Kelly’s had 4 children, raising them all in a Roman Catholic household. Grace and her siblings never wanted for anything, and Grace attended a prestigious girl’s Catholic school. It was here that she dabbled in the arts, being involved in modelling, drama and dance. From this sample of the entertainment business through her schooling, Grace wanted to pursue a career in acting, either on stage or film. Her father was not impressed by her choice in further studies, but no less agreed to Grace moving to New York to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Being a competent and dedicated student, Grace went on to master her acting skills, and on her graduation, secured roles in theatre productions. From working on the stage, Grace then continued to improve her talent, and moved on to television productions, and then finally landed the Hollywood dream of being a film actress.

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In 1951, Grace debut in the film 14 hours, directed by Henry Hathaway. The film was not a roaring success, but it did lead Grace to Gary Cooper, who asked the actress to star in his new film High Noon (1951). From here on in, Grace became noticed more and more, and signed a contract with studio MGM in 1952. The contract was for seven years, with Grace earning $850 a week. In 1953, Grace had her biggest success to date, earning an Academy Award for her role as Linda Nordely in Mogambo. She stared alongside Ava Gardner and Clark Gable. The following year the Academy came knocking again, this time earning the rights to Best Actress for her role as Georgie Elgin in The Country Girl. By now, Grace had cemented herself into acting royalty, and was in high demand amongst producers and directors. One director who Grace formed a close bond with for the remainder of her life was the dexterous Alfred Hitchcock. The pair made a few films together, and Grace became Hitchcock’s number one leading lady. Their first film together was Dial M for Murder (1954), followed by Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955). Following her time with Hitchcock, Grace went on to make two more films before leaving Hollywood. The Swan and High Society (both 1956), were the height of sophistication in Grace’s motion picture career. Over her relatively short stint in Hollywood, only lasting five years before life as a Royal took over, Grace made eleven films.

It was during Grace’s reign as a Hollywood starlet that she met her husband. In 1955 at the Cannes Film Festival in the Mediterranean hideaway of the French Riviera.  A striking young Grace met Prince Rainer Third of Monaco. There was an instant attraction between the two, and the media enjoyed every minute of their courtship. A short time after their initial encounter, the pair announced their engagement, and the future Princess of Monaco had arrived. Grace had to make a sacrifice many women these days would find difficult, giving up her own hopes and dreams to become a Royal. She was no longer able to continue her life as an actress, as royal protocol ensured that she was no longer working, but rather involved in royal duties and obligations (much like todays fairy-tale of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle!). The couple had two weddings, one a religious ceremony, the other civil. The civil ceremony took place on 18th April 1956, in the Palace Throne room in Monaco. The service only lasted sixteen minutes, but included all the official necessities, comprising of Grace receiving one hundred and forty two official titles! The grand ceremony and religious service took place the following day at St Nicholas Cathedral in Monaco, and was televised to thirty million viewers worldwide. There were seven hundred guests at the reception, including Aristotle Onassis, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant and Gloria Swanston. The gown which Grace wore was designed by MGM head costume designer Helen Rose, and took six weeks and three dozen seamstresses to construct.

The couple went on to have a family on three. Princess Caroline was born in January 1957, followed by Prince Albert (the current serving Prince of Monaco) in March 1958. A few years later, Princess Stephanie was born in February 1965. Grace fell naturally into her role as Princess and took on her royal duties with confidence and commitment. She was offered parts in film and on stage numerous times after her marriage, but was not allowed to accept. This left Grace feeling somewhat incomplete, but she channelled these emotions into giving her three children the best upbringing she could have imagined.

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Tragically in September 1982, the world lost Princess Grace in a car accident. It’s reported that she suffered a stroke while driving her daughter Stephanie home, losing control of the vehicle and crashing off the side of a cliff. Princess Stephanie survived her mother, with Grace sadly passing the following day after her life support was turned off. At her funeral service five days later, four hundred mourners attended to pay their respects to this gracious woman. Again Cary Grant showed his solid friendship to Grace by attending the service, alongside Nancy Regan and Diana, Princess of Wales. Her eulogy was given by close friend James Stewart, and through his heartfelt words, Princess Grace was laid peacefully to rest. Prince Rainer never remarried, and in 2005 when he passed away, he was buried alongside Grace in the family mausoleum.

There were many legacies Grace left behind, with none being bigger than her influence on fashion. She has remained a style icon into the twenty first century, with designers constantly looking towards her wardrobe for inspiration. One of the most notable contributions to fashion the Grace made, was popularising a handbag made by designer brand Hermes. Dubbed the ‘Kelly’ bag, Princess Grace was always photographed with this bag over her arm, in what many believe was an attempt to shield her pregnant belly. Even today, the ‘Kelly’ bag is hugely popular among celebrities, and is in constant demand. Grace also made popular the ‘Fresh Face’ look. She always wore her makeup as natural as possible, or even none at all. She had a pale complexion accented by her shiny blonde hair, and had a look of pureness about her. Grace loved fashion as much as it loved her, and throughout her life she continued to follow trends and experiment with new styles as the world changed from one decade to the next. Helen Rose of MGM studios played a large role in the construction of Grace’s wardrobe. During her time at MGM, Rose worked on over two hundred films. She was bestowed the honour to make both of Grace’s wedding garments. At the civil ceremony, Grace wore a beige lace and rose silk suit. It had a fitted bodice with a silk cord tied in a bow at the neck. Lace covered buttons ran the length of the jacket. The skirt fell fourteen inches above the floor in a glorious full hem. Short white gloves, matching lace covered shoes and a small silk trimmed hat completed her outfit. For her religious ceremony, Grace wore one of the most recognisable wedding gowns in history. Composing a high neck, the rose point lace hugged Grace’s arms and torso. A cummerbund of ivory silk was positioned over the waist, and a full skirt cascaded below. The skirt received it’s voluminosity from pleats carefully constructed in the sides and back, with three petticoats and a hoop assisting in keeping it all in place. This most famous of gowns has been replicated many times over for brides across the globe, with a nod of acknowledgement coming from the Duchess of Cambridge at her wedding to Prince William in 2011.

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One of the most well-known outfits worn by Grace Kelly came from humble beginnings. At her introduction to Prince Rainer, Grace was wearing a floral dress that was constructed from a 1955 McCalls pattern. The fashion world went crazy for the design, and it is one that I am fortunate enough to have a replica of in my own extensive collection of vintage patterns. The design is said to be Dior inspired, and consists of five yards of thirty five inch fabric. After her wedding, Princess Grace was obliged to support French couture. She was often photographed in the latest designs from Dior, Lanvin and Balenciaga. In later years, she wore designs by Marc Bohen, Yves Saint Laurent and Madam Gres.

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The wardrobe of Her Royal Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco has thankfully been kept in glorious condition by her children and fashion enthusiasts. In 2006 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Princess Grace’s wedding gown went on display at what would have been her fiftieth wedding anniversary. Four years later in 2010, the Victoria and Albert Museum put on a stunning exhibition of clothing and accessories worn by the Princess. This exhibition travelled the world, and I was fortunate enough to see it in Australia in 2012.

The Grace Kelly effect on fashion is one that I believe will remain for many years to come. With its overwhelming sense of femininity, sophistication and allure, the Grace Kelly style is a directional influence on fashion that I personally will continue to model. This woman was not only a stunning display of couture, but a loving, caring and passionate lady who did all she could to support her family, her friends and her passions. Vale, Grace Kelly!

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

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And then there were three… The House of Fath

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It’s well established by now for anyone who has been reading my blogs on a regular basis, how passionate I am about the decade on the 1950’s. Every time I see something related to this era, be it an old-fashioned movie, some historical patterns at my local haberdasher, or some striking book or article featuring gorgeous images of the time, I cannot help but feel inspired and in love. I often think how grand it would have been to be alive during this time, and to be able to wear such magnificent gowns on a daily basis. Sure there would have been hardships, and I’m sure if would become tiring having to lug so much fabric around all day, but the appreciation for such wonderful couture would have been sensual. I’ve decided to inscribe about one of the other greats of fashion during the fifties for this next blog. This man competed alongside Dior and Balenciaga, but put his own unique stamp on couture of the decade. Jacques Fath. He was a member of this elite club whom I’m so envious of, and I feel that fashion would not be where it is today had it not been for his striking influence.

Born in the town of Laffitte, France, on 6th September 1912, it was evident from early on the Fath would be a strong influencer on fashion. There was a sturdy lineage of artists in the Fath ancestors, including his Great Grandmother who was herself a dressmaker (she designed clothing for Empress Eugenie, Napoleon’s love interest), and his Great Grandfather who was a writer. His Grandfather was also a painter, so it was only natural that this flair for creativity would flow onto a young Jacques. His father worked in insurance, and was hoping the Jacques would follow in his footsteps. Whilst he did for a short time, working as a bookkeeper and then as a broker, it was obvious that Fath had a calling for fashion. After completing the compulsory one year military service for the French Army, Fath final decided it was time to head to Paris and join the elite fashion world. At only twenty five, he launched his first collection in 1937.

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Being self-taught, Fath was able to craft his skills from studying designs himself, as well as costumes, and he often went to museums and galleries to learn all he could about fashion. He was also an avid reader. Like many other couturiers of the era, Fath designed his clothes directly on the female form, draping fabric to his heart’s content, and never used a pattern. His designs glorified the female figure, with hourglass waists, plunging necklines and full skirts. The House of Fath can also be credited for giving some other grand designers a start in the industry, with Hubert de Givenchy, Guy Laroche and Valentino all being hired at one time or another, as assistants or apprentices to Fath.

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Jacques Fath certainly had a dominant influence on post war couture. His designs were overtly feminine, and put a large emphasis on the bosom and hips. Many of his gowns had irregular necklines, which drew attention to the décolletage, and his skirts were either full or slim, nothing in between. The full skirts displayed lots of pleating and gathers, with the slimline designs showcasing draping techniques. Fath also used angles in creating a point of difference, with collars and pockets often being sewn asymmetrical. Hem lines too could occasionally be seen uneven, and lots of diagonal panels were evident in his designs. Tucks, tiers and knife pleats were also a Fath signature, and only enhanced the glamour look of the 1950’s. Fath was also not afraid to use colour in his work, with bright blues and greens being one of his favourite combinations. As always with couture, fabric was a vital part in making a woman feel opulent. Fath was accredited to using natural fibres and resources, utilising hemp in his garments, and also creating sequins from walnut and almond shells. Some of his biggest supporters naturally came in the form of Hollywood starlets, with Ava Gardner, Greta Garbo and Rita Hayworth all fans of Jacques Fath.

As did many other couture houses of the time, Fath also diversified his business to manufacture other products than clothing. Fragrance was a growth industry at the time, and has withstood the ever changing fashion world which continues to evolve decade after decade. In total, nine perfumes were produced under the House of Fath, with some still being accessible today. Fath also saw the potential to claim the American market, and in 1948, struck a deal with an American department store to supply a range of ready to wear garments. In later years, after the passing of Jacques Fath, the company diversified even further to produce gloves, hosiery and other female accessories. Fath married once during his life, in 1939, a couple of years after the establishment of his couture business. Genevieve Boucher became Fath’s life partner, but also his business partner as well, operation the corporate side of the company so that Fath could continue to concentrate on design. They had one child together, a son named Philippe in 1943. Fath was also credited to designing costume for various motion pictures from 1948 to 1955.

Sadly in 1954, Jacques Fath passed away after a courageous battle with leukaemia. There was a reported four thousand guest at his funeral service, all who paid homage to this grand couturier. After his death, the House of Fath continued to operate for a further three years under the direction of his widow. The company however closed in 1957, leaving a legacy of grandeur. Years later, the brand was reborn when it was purchased by the French Luxury Group in 1992. Since then, the House of Fath has been sold on many times, and has seen many different designers take control. In 1993, a retrospective of Fath was held in Paris to pay tribute to the influence and style that the stunning designer contributed to the fashion world.

From austerity in 1940, to posterity in 1960, the Fath couture brand made a lasting impact on fashion and history. Through his creative genius, Jacques Fath gave us many superb couture items to marvel at and be envious of.

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

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The lady with the white pearls – Nina Ricci

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Whilst trying to decide who I would dedicate my next blog to, I had trouble deciding if I should write about another designer, an influencer or a particular decade in fashion. Nothing inspiring was coming to mind as I’ve previously blogged about all of my immediate favourites. I started doing a bit on research about other influential designers surrounding the decades of fashion that I truly love. And the first name to strike me was Nina Ricci. It’s a name that I am familiar with but couldn’t really tell you much about until now. I was surprised to learn that the House of Nina Ricci was prominent during the 1940’s and 1950’s, as I always thought it was a label that came along some years later. How wrong was I! Nina Ricci competed alongside that greats Chanel, Lanvin and Vionnet, and is a brand that is still strong today.

Maria Nielli, the founding mother of the House of Nina Ricci, was born in 1883, in Turin Italy. She was one of five children, and live a modest life with her siblings and parents. Her father was a cobbler, and at the age of five, the family moved to the French Riviera. As a teenager, Maria, or Nina as she was more casually known, had a flair for sketching and was highly interested in fashion and dressmaking, like many other young girls of the era. At only fourteen, she moved to the capital of fashion, Paris, and took on an apprenticeship as a seamstress. She had natural talent for this type of work, and soon found herself in charge of her own division at the House of Raffin. Nina began working for the designer in 1908, when it began as a small retail company that enjoyed financial success. However, The House of Raffin was often lost among the many other dressmaking and couture establishments in Paris at the time. Here, Nina controlled her own workshop and seamstresses, and had her own clientele base. She remained a loyal employee for over twenty years. During this time, Nina also sold patterns to other dressmakers in rural areas who produced their own garments. When Monsieur Raffin passed away, he left the company and its financial wealth to Nina, who was forty nine at the time. This was the beginning of the House of Nina Ricci.

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Whilst Nina was working in Paris, she met her husband, a jeweller, and they married soon after. Luigi Ricci was a successful man and the two shared a passion for the arts. Nina married young and the couple had their first and only child when she was twenty three, a son named Robert, who would in years to come be the guiding force for Nina to open her own fashion empire. Sadly at only twenty seven, Nina was widowed, and was left to raise their son alone.

With all of the skills and financial wealth that Ricci was left with after the passing of her employer, Monsieur Raffin, Ricci and her son Robert took charge of the House and turned it into a business to rival Chanel. It was in 1932 that the House reopened under its new name and with its new directors, with Robert taking charge of all things financial, and Ricci concentrating of designs. The new direction of the company was greatly received by the public and media alike, with reviews honouring the romantic, feminine and refined styles that were produced. Ricci had never received any formal training other that what she learnt in her apprenticeship, and because of this she draped her designs in fabric directly on the mannequin as apposed the constructing a pattern. Ricci is also well known for only requiring two fittings with a client to master the perfect fit! From its opening in 1932 when it employed forty people, the House of Ricci soon swelled, and by 1939, employed over 450 workers.

One of the most well-known products to come out of the House of Ricci, is fragrance. In 1941, Robert created the first scent of the brand, and went on to develop many more in the years to follow. The most famous perfume from the House is L’Air du Temps, mastered in 1949, and translating to “Air of Time”. The crystal bottle in which it was held is best known for its twin dove design.

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After the completion of World War Two, many Paris designers got together to create an exhibition to bring the love and light back to the people after living in such dire conditions during battle. Forty French couturiers combined, and over one hundred and fifty mannequins went on display at the Louvre, including Madam Gres, Lelong and Balenciaga masterpieces. Ricci was also one of the brands involved, and the exhibition was such a success, that it then travelled to Europe and the United Sates.

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Part of the great success of Ricci would have to be the competitive prices in which it produced. Most garments were sold at one third of the cost of rival brands, but the quality never suffered. The clientele that the House attracted was not your typical aristocratic or international woman, but rather the more bourgeoisie French woman who loved the look and feel of fine fabrics and couture, but without the hefty price tag. The House of Ricci also produced uniforms for airline companies as well.

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At close to seventy years old, Nina Ricci decided it was time to retire the scissors and pins, and enjoy the remainder of her life in comfort and peace. Having worked hard her entire life to create a fashion empire that her whole family would have been proud of, Ricci left the company to continue on its path of success. She passed away in 1970, aged eighty seven. The dream the Ricci once had still lives on today, with the business being purchased in 1998 by the Massimo Guissani family, and is currently controlled by creative director Guillaume Henry.

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

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“Walk like you have three men walking behind you” – Oscar de la Renta

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When you think of grand ball gown designers your mind immediately gravitates towards the names Dior, Balenciaga and Balmain. But not many people would think of the great American designer Oscar de la Renta. He did not come from European decent, nor grace the world with stunning couture pieces during the Golden Age, but his talent and flair for the feminine silhouettes is nothing short of stunning. A grand American designer, de la Renta is best known for his powerful women’s suits and striking ball gowns.

Born on July 22nd 1932, in the capital of the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Islands, de la Renta grew up surrounded by lush tropics and vibrant colours. He had six sisters, and the siblings lived in a middle class home with their parents. Not much else in known about de la Renta’s early life, until the age of eighteen, when he moved to Madrid to study painting at the Academy of San Fernando. De la Renta had a passion for the arts, and wanted to become an abstract painted. But he soon found a new love for fashion illustrations, and was extremely talent at it also. Nurturing this new found love, de la Renta was extremely fortunate when he landed an apprenticeship with non-other than Spanish royalty Cristobal Balenciaga. It was just prior to his engagement with Balenciaga in 1950, that de la Renta made a lavish debutante gown for the daughter of the US Ambassador to Spain. This gown was strikingly beautiful, and caught the eye of many admirers and fashion elite. So stunning, it was featured on the cover of Life magazine, which is when Balenciaga discovered this talented man, and de la Renta’s place in fashion was secured.

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De la Renta apprenticed with Balenciaga throughout the 1950’s, and no doubt learnt many fine skills from this revered couturier. It was then in 1960 that de la Renta decided to move on, and chose the City of Light as his destination. Paris has always been and will continue to remain, the number one city in the world for Avant garde fashion and grand couture. So it was no surprise when de la Renta decided to experience all that Paris had to offer, and he began working as a couture assistant for Lanvin. De la Renta was surrounded by high fashion and master designing for the three years he spend at Lanvin, and the influence that this time had on his career can been seen in some of the lavish ball gowns de la Renta designed under his own label years later. In 1963 it was once again time to move on, and de la Renta chose to head back to the United States and began working for Elizabeth Arden. His close friend and mentor Diane Vreeland, who at the time was editor in chief of Vogue magazine, assisted in his transition and remained a strong supporter of his talents for years to come. At Elizabeth Arden, de la Renta was charged with designing couture gowns for the labels custom made business. No doubt Balenciaga and then Paris had a large influence here!

Finally after years of mastering his own skills and strengths, Oscar de la Renta opened a fashion house under his own name in 1965. He received much acclaim upon launching his own brand, and had major success with designing ball gowns in the early years. Many of his clients were wealthy married women who had a desire to be seen in the most lavish and outlandish of attires to prove their status in society. Many of the gowns de la Renta designed for these women were accentuated with ruffles and bows over what was a simple and romantic silhouette. As de la Renta’s career continued to flourish, so did his personal life. In 1967 he married French Vouge editor Françoise de Langlade, and the two became known as the power couple of the time in fashion. The couple were regularly photographed and featured in magazines the world over, and his wife had a strong influence over what de la Renta designed. Tragically in 1983, Francoise de Langlade passed away. A couple of years after her passing, de la Renta decided to adopt a child from an orphanage in his home town. He and his wife had for years been strong advocates for this orphanage and offered it financial support as well. It seemed only natural to de la Renta to give himself so generously to the cause and to his new son.

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The success of Oscar de la Renta as a brand continued to grow throughout the 1980’s and beyond. In 1977, the brand launched its first perfume, Oscar, which continues to be a big seller in today’s market. The fragrance line has now divulged into catering for both women and men, and its varying scents are sold in seventy countries around the world. Other areas in which de la Renta chose to lend his name to, include sportswear, plus size clothing, bags, eyewear, men’s accessories and furniture. All of these lines debut in the mid to late nineties and into the early two thousands. De la Renta also saw a gap in the market in 2004, when he chose to release a diffusion line called O Oscar. This range of ready to wear clothing appealed to a wider market who had always wanted to wear designer clothes but could never afford the price tag. This diversion from the main brand de la Renta started was a great financial decision for his business, bringing in over $400 million dollars annually during the 1980’s and 1990’s.

If we take another look at just the fashion success of Oscar de la Renta, there are many wonderful things to discover. In the 1980’s the brand became well known for its high end tailoring of women’s suits. The eighties was the time of the power suit, and de la Renta certainly played a part in this. His suits were cut well and close to the body, and exhibited features of quilting and bold colours. Also during the same period, de la Renta became the preferred designer of First Lady Nancy Regan. He designed many gowns for her during this time, and she more often than not wore one of his creations to all official engagements. His connection with American First Ladies continued throughout the years, designing inauguration attire for Hilary Clinton in 1997, and Laura Bush in 2005.

In 1992, de la Renta took on a new challenge, reviving the couture line of a diminished Paris fashion house. From then until 2002, he designed for Balmain in both couture and ready to wear. He did this not under his own name so not to take away from his own brand. De la Renta’s first show for Balmain came in February of 1993, featured spring wear. The pieces were very wearable, elegant, contemporary, and sexy with polished touches. It was the first time an American had designed for the French label, and was very well received. After the end of his collaboration with Balmain, de la Renta added bridal wear to his own brand. In 2006 the Oscar de la Renta Bridal Collection was born, and featured heavy ornamentation and embroidery. The famous character Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City, wore one of these bridal creations in a photoshoot for American Vogue at the time of the film’s release.

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In 2014, the great American designer was slowly winding down, and decided it was time to hand the reins over to his successor. Peter Copping was appointed as head designer, with de la Renta’s family all being very closely involved in the business as well. His son also chose a career as a designer. A week after de la Renta officially retired, he passed away at age eighty two from cancer. The legacy that he created continues to shine today. He shall always be remembered as one of America’s greatest designers, and the brand he so lovingly nourished, will forever remain part of fashion history.

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

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“In difficult times, fashion is always outrageous” – Elsa Schiaparelli

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There is a female designer and entrepreneur from the 1920’s that many in the modern fashion world don’t know about, or have simply forgotten. She was a woman of grand talent, who thought outside the box and invented some fashion staples that we now take for granted. Sadly her most enduring legacy is that of a perfume bottle shaped like a woman’s body, and the glorious colour known as “shocking pink”. This woman is someone I have heard mention a few times before along my own fashion journey, but whom I knew little about. Since reading a biography penned by Meryle Secrest, I have since discovered the amazing woman who was Elsa Schiaparelli. If this woman had not contributed to the fashion world as much as she did, we may not have evolved from the constraints of female clothing in the early 20th century.

When you read the story of Schiaparelli’s early life, it differs greatly from her rival Gabriele Chanel. Schiaparelli was Italian, born in Rome, her mother a Neapolitan aristocrat and her father an academic scholar. Many of her extended family members were also credited as highly intelligent and contributed to such things as astronomy and philosophy. A young Schiaparelli was largely influenced by those around her, and read often to further her knowledge. With a vivid imagination, Schiaparelli penned a volume of poetry which alarmed her mostly conservative family. They chose to ship her off to a convent boarding school in Switzerland to try and tame her fantasies. Schiaparelli did not like her new surroundings, and went on a hunger strike in protest. Her parents had no choice but to bring her home. Even though she lived a very comfortable and refined life, Schiaparelli was somewhat dissatisfied, and went abroad to England and then France to explore and satisfy her cravings.

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It was whilst in London that Schiaparelli met her husband and became engaged after only one day. The couple wed in July 1914, and spent their early years together moving around. He husband, William de Kerlor, became known as a fraud and rip off merchant. Five years after their marriage, they had their only child together, a daughter know as Gogo, in 1920. It was after her birth that Schiaparelli found herself abandoned, raising their daughter on her own. The two women lived in New York for a couple of years, and were financially supported by Schiaparelli’s parents, before Elsa and Gogo moved to France in 1922. Upon their arrival in Paris, Schiaparelli moved into an expansive apartment, and was greatly accepted in the French aristocracy due to her family heritage. Even though she was financially stable, Schiaparelli decided she must make her own income and achieve something with her life. This was when her association with artists such as Man Ray and Dali came to life, and the great surrealists continued to influence her work for decades to come.

With no formal training, Schiaparelli turned her hand to fashion, and thankful we shall ever be!

Her early inspiration came from Paul Poiret, whose designs had begun to give women freedom of movement. Without the knowledge of patternmaking, Schiaparelli created her designs directly on the body, using draping techniques on mannequins and sometimes herself. She was assertive and eclectic and wasn’t afraid to try things never before seen. Even though her initial trial in fashion was favourably viewed, she decided to close her then small business in 1926. A year later, Schiaparelli shot to stardom when she returned to the fashion scene with never before seen knitwear designs. This knitwear showcased what’s know as a trompe l’oeil motif, an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create an optical illusion. The sweater that became famous, gave the view of a scarf draped around the models neck, however it was all knitted into the one piece. This sweater was predominately made in black and white, but later reproduced in an array of colours. It was adopted by female sporting stars of the time as their uniform because it was easy to move in. Following on from this initial success, Schiaparelli in 1928, designed a range of sports ensembles, as well as swimsuits and beach attire. Ski suits and evening dresses were also seen in her collections of the time. This designer was somewhat versatile! In 1929, Schiaparelli first shocked the world of couture by using zippers as visible notions, sewing them into sleeves, necklines and front openings.

Moving into the early thirties, Schiaparelli continued to achieve gold in the fashion innovation stakes. She widened women’s shoulders on suits and coats, and decided it was time that we no longer had to pull a dress on over our heads. The wrap dress first appeared in 1930, and has played a huge part in fashion history ever since. It was also this same years that Schiaparelli showcased evening dresses with matching jackets, so simply but never before seen. She also developed a one piece bathing suit for women that had a built in bra. By 1932, the House of Schiaparelli employed 400 staff across 8 ateliers, including a ready-to-wear boutique. In 1934, Time magazine put Schiaparelli on the cover, and it was the same year that a full perfume collection was released. With the continued growth of her business, Schiaparelli moved addresses to the famous 21 Place Vendôme, and turned the newspaper articles raving of her triumph, into a print for her latest collection. It was also in 1935, that her first collaboration with surrealist Salvador Dali was exhibited. The remainder of this decade saw Schiaparelli’s line of jewelry take off, and the first short evening dress was seen on the runway. 1937 was certainly a year of statement for the Italian born designer, as she released her most famous perfume, “Shocking”, as well as patented the vibrant hue known as “Shocking Pink”.

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Moving into the 1940’s, many in the world of couture were suffering hardship due to the Second World War. Schiaparelli however soldiered on, producing more innovative designs such as military jackets and mermaid silhouettes. It was also around the same time that the famous ‘Siren Suit’ was born. This was Schiaparelli’s answer to war time fashion. It was a suit that had many uses, and exhibited large and hidden pockets, so that the wearer could easily deposit items usually carried in a purse, into the ensemble to make it easier to move when those horrible sirens sounded indicating an attack from the air was on its way. At the beginning of the war, Schiaparelli spent some time in America, going on a lecture tour to discuss with followers her love and passion for fashion. It’s also believed by some that during the war years, Schiaparelli was working as a spy for the German Army, which is why she was allowed to move around so freely from one country to the next when everyone else was forced to stay put.

Finally after the war ended, Schiaparelli returned to Paris in 1945 to once again take the reins of her business and continue to triumph. In 1946, she released one of the first travel wardrobes for women, consisting of items that were easily packed and worn. The perfume business had continued to flourish during the wartime, and in 1947, an entire factory was opened and dedicated to the sideline. It was the same year that emerging designer Hubert de Givenchy joined the House and remained for the next four years. In 1949, many workers in the rag trade went on strike over a protest of wages and conditions. This impacted Schiaparelli’s business, but she did not let it stop her. When releasing her collection, she had no shame in parading it on the models whilst still full of pins, fabric swatches and no buttonholes. It was genius, and the fashion world lapped it up!

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The House of Schiaparelli continued to make headlines into the 1950’s, with new designs of tuxedo dresses, diagonal buttoning and lingerie all taking center stage. Schiaparelli was also a woman who saw the endless possibilities in what she could put her brand name to, and in 1952 released a range of glasses with her name on them. This venture into other forms of fashion items other than couture was significant in the success of Schiaparelli, and in 1953 alone, 18 million items were sold with the shocking pink logo on them! Hollywood also came calling on Schiaparelli during the early 1950’s, and she designed costumes for a few motion pictures, including Zsa Zsa Gabor’s wardrobe in Moulin Rouge. By 1954, Schiaparelli decided it was time to wind down, and sadly closed her fashion house. The perfume line continued however, and Schiaparelli retired to write her autobiography, Shocking Life. It was the same year her rival Chanel returned to the business.

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Elsa Schiaparelli lived out the remained of her live in very comfortable fashion. She moved freely between her homes in Paris and Tunisia. She passed away on the 13th November 1973, aged 83. The legacy that this extraordinary woman left behind is somewhat magical. Had she not been so innovative and daring, many discoveries in fashion may not have taken place. In the decades since her passing, Schiaparelli continued to be a giant of the fashion empire, and in 2012, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art featured her work in a major exhibition. It was after this, in 2013, that details of the brands revival became public. The House has been nominated for a return to the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture list of members, and presented its first show in January 2014.

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

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“If there’s no such thing as Santa, I’ll have the red Lady’s Companion” – Orry-Kelly

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There once was a small town Aussie boy who used to dream about Hollywood. He would also dream of Singer sewing machines, of spools of vibrant silk threads, of feather boas, sequins and glitter. And he turned these dreams into his reality, and became one of the best costumes designers the world has ever seen. For years he has been relatively unknown to those outside the industry, but slowly the rest of the fashion world is starting to learn about the Australian rascal who was Orry – Kelly. He became a Hollywood legend, won three Oscars, dressed all the stars, and had a cheeky Aussie way of living. Through his memoirs that have been discovered in recent years, we have finally been let inside the world of this flamboyant designer, and it’s been a joy to learn all about Orry –Kelly and the legacy he has left behind. This blog is a small insight to the colourful life he led, the fine dames he dressed and some if his inside secrets. I hope you find delight in reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it!

Much of my research for this blog has come from Kelly’s memoirs that were published in 2015. “Woman I’ve Undressed”, is an eye opening read into the vivacity of Kelly and those who came and went from his life. Born in the New South Wales coastal town of Kiama, Australia on New Year ’s Eve 1897, Orry George Kelly was the son of a tailor. As a young boy living in rural Australia, it was much frowned upon that his interests lay with dolls, clothing and his Lady Companion, a sewing machine that Kelly saw in a shop window and begged his mother to buy for him. Kelly once recalls his father destroying all the things he loved, and throwing him outside to do some manual labour, something a young boy should be doing instead of playing dress ups. At age seventeen, Kelly was sent to Sydney to study finance and banking, and it was here in the big smoke that his love for theatre, art and nightlife flourished.

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During his time in Sydney, Kelly lived a tough life. Having no to minimal money, he begged and borrowed to make ends meet. He was a regular on the nightclub scene in Kings Cross, where he associated with Sydney’s underworld. His love for the theatre was ever present, and taking a chance, Kelly found his way to New York. Chasing his dreams, Kelly once again found himself dabbling with many of Hollywood’s more sinister clientele. Bootleggers, prostitutes and gamblers where just some of the company that Kelly kept. Renting a small apartment in New York, Kelly was making and painting silk ties during the day, and partying all night long in seedy Speakeasy’s. One night, while Kelly was still at home, a chance meeting occurred between Kelly and budding actor Archie Leach. The two became friends, with Leach moving in to help with the rent and also assisted Kelly with his tie business. Kelly’s talent for painting was soon noticed, and he went from painting ties, to painting murals on the walls of nightclubs. Some of his most famous murals involved monkeys getting up to mischief, much the same as what Kelly did himself!

After a brief stint running a Speakeasy himself, Kelly and Leach moved to Hollywood in 1931 where they could both pursue their dreams. Archie Leach struck success first, being cast in small motion picture rolls before the big time came calling. This was when Leach left Archie behind and became known as Cary Grant. Along the way, the two friends had become somewhat close, engaging in a relationship that was on and off for years. It’s reported thought that Grant decided he had outgrown his friend, and the two drifted apart. Kelly continued on his path of art and design, and had been producing stage sets for theatre productions. With an armful of sketches, Kelly was hired by Warner Brother’s in 1932 as a costume designer, and remained there as head of the department until 1944.

During his time at Warner Brother’s, Kelly quickly became known as one of the best in the industry. Later his work was also seen in productions by 20th Century Fox, MGM and Universal. In a career that spanned over 30 years, Kelly had earned the credit for 295 films! Some of the biggest stars of Hollywood at the time were dressed by Kelly, including Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Jane Fonda and Marilyn Monroe. Kelly’s work was known to ‘design for distraction’, meaning he used his skills to disguise women’s figures that were not entirely what the director of the film was after. Throughout his career, Kelly won three Academy Awards for his work on the films An American in Paris (1951), Les Girls (1958) and Some Like it Hot (1959), where he so convincingly dressed Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis as women, that they went unrecognised when entering the female bathrooms! Other notable films in which Kelly worked on were Casablanca (1942), The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Oklahoma! (1955).

During his time in Hollywood, Kelly was committed to a brief stint in the American Army at the time of the Second World War. Not being an American citizen at the time, Kelly was confided to local duties. He managed to bide his time here by spending much of it intoxicated, and was soon released on medical grounds as being unfit to continue on. Kelly also became known for his fashion column which he wrote for a local newspaper. “Hollywood Fashion Parade” was published in the International News Service, and provided women with hope and inspiration during the war years.

In 1964, after a long and sometimes infamous career in Hollywood, Orry-Kelly died from liver cancer. It is believed that his many years of partying hard and drinking till dawn led to his passing. But one thing is for sure, Orry-Kelly would not have wanted to live any other way! At his funeral service in Los Angeles, his pallbearers included Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, and directors Billy Wilder and George Cukor. His eulogy was read by Jack Warner. A life that was never dull, Orry-Kelly certainly left his mark on the world of costume and film design in Hollywood. A true legend now, the boy from Kiama never let anyone sway his determination or extinguish his very bright and colourful spark. Thank you Orry-Kelly, for showing me and the world that you can achieve your dreams if you only just believe!

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

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I love the drama of a hat …

 

 

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Hats are glorious. They’re a finishing touch to an outfit. They’re a sign of wealth and stature. They’re a must have accessory during the Spring Racing Carnival. Some are functional, and others not so much. They are a work of art, and they are so much fun to make! I first discovered my love of millinery when I was studying fashion and design at university. One of my subjects was millinery which I knew little of before I started. But once I was shown the art of constructing a hat, and the endless possibilities that you have in creating one, I simply fell in love with it. Hats and headwear have been around for centuries. From the Middle Ages when they were used as a form of protection, to current trends that see them on the track during horse racing events, hats have had many reincarnations over time. From royalty to aristocrats and then down to everyday people like you and me, the art of millinery and hat wearing is a trend that I certainly hope will continue for many years to come.

The history of the hat has been a long one. They became popular in Britain in the 14th and 15th centuries, however, headwear was worn long before this by our ancestors. The Pharos of Egypt used to wear glorious and elaborate head pieces as a symbol of their rank and stature in society. In ancient Greece, winners of the Olympic Games were given wreaths made of olive leaves to symbolise their importance and their achievements. In Mediterranean cultures, women wore headscarfs, veils and wraps as a sign of modesty, religion and marital status. And Royal families from all different countries have always worn crowns to display their rank in society.

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The term ‘milliner’ was first used in London and was derived from the Italian city of Milan, where the finest quality straw was woven into hats. It was men who firstly began to wear hats in 1700 England. The top hat was at first a structure that was not accepted by society as it was imposing and intimidating to those surrounded by the wearer. But it was soon accepted into Victorian society when Prince Albert adopted the style in the 1850’s, and has ever since remained a stylish accessory for any man in a position of power and wealth. During this same period, woman of the same class where expected to wear hats, mainly bonnets to protect their delicate skin form the sun. Such bonnets were made from straw or cardboard, and tied with a ribbon underneath the chin to keep it in place. The size of them varied during the 19th century, as did the fabrics used to cover them, and the plumes of feathers used on some as decoration. Headwear remained popular among the upper class until the arrival of the parasol, which then provided women with another form of protection from the elements.

Moving into the 1900’s, women’s hats were still part of their ensemble, however the shape had begun to change. Boaters, trilbies and cloche styles gained popularity, and were more accommodating to the change in women’s hairstyles as time evolved. The fabrics in which they were made out of also evolved, and now included the finest silks, wools, felts and straws, and saw the embellishments adorning them include ribbons, feathers, flowers and beading. The uprising of World War 2 saw a demise in elaborate hat wearing, as they were seen as an unnecessary display of wealth during times of hardship by the majority of society. Working women found it difficult to complete their jobs while wearing a hat, and it was a nuisance to be running to and air raid shelter while trying to keep your hat in place. Barriers of etiquette became broken down and although hats were not rationed in order to boost morale, their wearing decreased.

Post WWII, and the arrival of ready to wear fashions saw the love of millinery change position. Women no longer went to their couturier or personal milliner to attain their seasonal wardrobe, but chose to purchase their outfits from high street stores. It was during the 1950’s and 1960’s, that styles such as the pillbox were popularised due the celebrity endorsements of Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn. If the First Lady of politics and the First Lady of Hollywood can wear one, then so too did many women of the decade. During the 1970’s, the art of millinery lost its way again, as fashion and trends of the decade moved away from structured headwear. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that hats once again became a popular item, and this was thanks to the royal influence of Diana, Princess of Wales. When Lady Diana Spencer joined the royal family, she had to adhere to their dress code. All official outings required a hat matching the chosen outfit, a tradition that has remand part of royal protocol for centuries. Queen Elizabeth still to this day wears a hat to most official engagements, and in her time at the throne, has reportedly worn over 5000 different styles!

In today’s modern world, hats have become more of a casual item. Women, men and children use them regularly in the warmer months to protect themselves from harsh sunlight, and during the colder months we don a hat to keep the warmth in. There is one time of year however, when hats once again take on their glorious past. Racing carnivals around the country, be it spring time in Melbourne or the autumn events in Sydney, are a plethora of all things I love abut millinery. It’s a time when women can spend hours, and large sums of money, on getting just the right headpiece to complement their outfit. Or if you’re like me, I start with my headwear and design my outfit accordingly. The Melbourne Cup Carnival is Australia’s premier racing event, and the grandest of opportunities to show off all that is wonderful about fashion and millinery. In recent years, styles have changed from large, bold and embellished hats, to smaller and more refined fascinators, and at this year’s carnival, many women sported headbands with subtle detailing.

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I was fortunate enough to inherit some stunning pieces of millinery from my Great Aunt a few years back, and chose this racing carnival to bring them out of the tissue paper and let them see light again. An assortment of colours and styles they were, including red felt in a riding style, soft pink silks with ruffles, pale green feathers and veiling, peach inspired pillboxes and navy florals. These hats have a history of their own to tell. My Great Aunt was a woman of immense style and grace, and being an important member of her local community, always sought to dress in her finest. The labels of these hat makers date back to the 1950’s, and include Mr James of Sydney and Harbig (Melbourne-New York-Paris). Unfortunately when trying to research these labels, I have come to a dead end. If anyone has any information on the history of these milliners, I would love to hear about it!

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From studying millinery myself, I have made a number of hats over the years for myself and for some stylish clients. I learnt to craft the crown and brim of a hat on traditional wooden hat blocks, using wool and canvas. I’ve also created pieces using wire, sinamay and straw, and most recently used leather to embellish these works of art. Veiling too is one of my favourite trims to use, and the plume of an ostrich or peacock feather can never go astray. I’ve worn hats to every race day I’ve ever attended, some large, some small, depending on what the season calls for. I’m also known to wear a stylish headpiece for a wedding or simular significant event. And during the cooler months of the year, I’ll always have my trusty red felt cloche not too far away!

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So next time you see a stylish hat perched on top of most likely a very stylish woman, take some time to appreciate it. The art of millinery hold such a significant history and entails a very creative and skilled mind to construct one. They are a symbol of class, status, season and style. They can be practical or purely visionary. They can be coloured, neutral, and everything in between. They can be fun, sassy, silly and downright glorious. Hats are amazing, and I for one will also be in love with them!

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx

 

” I know what women want. They want to be beautiful” – Valentino

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Imagine the excitement and thrill of having Jacqueline Kennedy as the woman who made you famous. Imagine her buying every single outfit you showed her on your very first private viewing. Imagine the responsibility of dressing her on her wedding day. Imagine the style, elegance, beauty and sophistication she would bring to your label, and the world wide press coverage that you would receive. All of this sounds wonderful to me, and that’s exactly what happened to Italian designer Valentino! Jackie O quickly became Valentino’s number one fan, and bought huge success to the fashion house, launching the designer onto the American market. It is the collaboration between designer and muse that is so special, so pure, and this partnership in particular was paramount in the world of fashion.

Most of the designers who have been inspirational to me on my fashion journey have been the greats who exploded onto the scene during The Golden Age of Couture. But one designer who came afterwards has been just as influential to me. Although he started his career in the early 1950’s, alongside Dior, Balenciaga and Laroche, Valentino did not own the world of fashion until the following decade, and continued to make explosive footsteps in fashion until his retirement in the mid 2000’s. Valentino Garvani was born in a small Italian town called Voghera in 1932. He grew up living a very abundant lifestyle, wanting for nothing from his parents, and recalling himself as a very spoilt child. He knew from a young age that the world of couture was calling him, and his passion was both approved and encourage by his parents. Whilst a teenager, Valentino expressed his desire to have his own custom made shoes and clothes. In the post-war period of the late 1940’s, Valentino discovered the art and glamour of Hollywood motion pictures, with the likes of Lana Turner and Judy Garland, adding more fuel to his already ignited passion for fashion. It was through this discovery that Valentino’s future was decided.

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Valentino graduated from high school and soon after took a six month course in fashion design in Italy. His determination and enthusiasm to follow his dreams was so ferocious, that he told his parents at only eighteen years old, that he was moving to Paris. With his natural born talents, Valentino made the move to the French capital in 1950, when the House of Dior was at the height of the Golden Age. Valentino marvelled at this ‘New Look’ that had taken over the world of couture, and recognising he had entered Paris at just the right time, enrolled at the prestigious Ecole de la Chambre Syndical de la Couture Parisienne. Whilst furthering his studies, Valentino mastered his craft and learnt new techniques to bring to the world of fashion. Upon graduation, he applied for apprenticeships at Jaques Fath and Balenciaga. Valentino was soon hired by another couturier of the decade, Jean Desses, and remained at the house for five years, alongside Guy Laroche. After Laroche went out on his own, Valentino soon joined him at the House of Laroche. Being a much smaller firm, Valentino was able to be involved in all aspects of the business, from sketching to running errands, and gave the young Italian a solid foundation to take home with him to establish his own brand in Italy.

With his drive to succeed, and the unfailing support of his parents, Valentino opened his first couture house at 11 Via Condotti in Rome. His first collection was released for spring/summer 1959, with the press making sure that his Parisian training was well covered. The following year, one of his financial backers withdrew, which opened up the door for a fresh new influence to arrive. Giancarlo Giammetti was studying architecture at the time, but realised the potential of the House of Valentino, and soon invested in the business, becoming Valentino’s right-hand man and faithful companion for the remaining years. It did not take long for people to recognise the Valentino world of opulence and luxury, with actresses, royalty and aristocrats soon knocking on the front door of the saloon. In the early sixties, Italian fashion was starting to take off, with American buyers traveling to the Roman Empire to view collections and place substantial orders. Valentino was producing a ready-to-wear collection, with some American department stores placing orders for 300 plus dresses per season. There was money to be made on the American market, with Valentino and Giammetti frontrunners in the game.

In September 1964, Valentino showcased a collection at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. This was the beginning of his love affair with Jacqueline Kennedy. The former First Lady placed an order for one of every piece in his collection, to be made in black and white. This event was truly monumental in Valentino’s career, and in the landmark year of his career in 1968, Valentino designed the wedding dress for Jacqueline Kennedy for her marriage to Aristotle Onassis. The pair would remain muse and designer for years to come.

In the 1970’s, the Italian fashion industry was in trouble, with the only exception being Valentino. The label continued to have grand success on a global scale. The very first scent released by the house was during this period, with the launch party being nothing short of extravagant. The Valentino brand continued to diversify, creating various franchises including handbags, shoes, belts, ties, luggage and umbrellas. At one point in time, the Japanese market contained more than forty franchises alone.

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Valentino became synonymous with one particular colour during his career. Red. Although he released many collections in black and white, the vibrant shade of red was always featured somewhere in his works. The colour red symbolises passion, love and romance, with every collection released by Valentino since 1959, having at least one red masterpiece included. The House of Valentino now has a diffusion label under its brand called Red Valentino, with boutiques here in Australia and across the world. Valentino is also known for his feminine silhouettes, making any woman fortunate enough to wear one, be overwhelmed by elegance, grace, beauty and sophistication. Valentino is a popular choice around award season in Hollywood, with many fine dames being lucky enough to wear a piece of Valentino history.

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After fifty years in charge of his business, Valentino decided it was time to retire the pencils in 2008. In his last fashion show, nine hundred guest were invited to this most enchanting evening in Paris. Under a full moon, Valentino took his last bow to a standing ovation. Becoming a premier Italian fashion brand, Valentino proved that Italy could rival Paris when it came to the world of couture, and that the world of fashion was indeed universal. Today, the name Valentino is still spoken about with gusto and flair in the ever expanding rag trade. Valentino has never been about high fashion, but about making a woman sensual and seductive. It’s about how themes and variations may change, but the underlying element of a woman will never change.

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx