Saturday, September 24, 2011

Weekend in France

And In this Post . . . The Opaque Jessica Daves . . .The Nun's Story

A quick and welcome trip to France on these two pages.

Carnet de Bal, which means dance card, which is what young men wrote their names in when claiming a dance from you, which conjures up a whole lost world.  This is a lovely ad.  The small print says you can buy this perfume in the Revlon department of finer stores, which is confusing because it made me think that "de Revillon" just meant the extra fancy division of Revlon.   It's not.  It is or was part of the furrier house.

According to  Perfume Intelligence - a new find -- Carnet de Bal was "an oriental floral aldehyde chypre parfum with citrus top notes; heart notes of cyclamen, rose, jasmine, lily and ylang-ylang; base notes of amber, patchouli, civet and musk and is classified D3f."  I find D3f the most romantic of all the D3s, don't you?  This stuff was strong.

Bardot plus bikini equals gingham play suits.  Why is France mad about gingham?  Because:

Brigitte Bardot wore a pink gingham wedding dress his year when she married Jacques Charrier.  Voila!

And now back to the very boring Jessica Daves, who you will surely have forgotten was the editor of Vogue.  I obtained a copy of Ready-Made Miracle from the San Francisco State Library, renewed it once and still haven't been able to get through it.   I did learn about the buildings along Seventh Avenue that housed the various branches of the fashion industry.

I was trying to tease out a sense of Jessica Daves herself.  For a fashion editor, she had a remarkably nuts-and-bolts turn of mind.  She was very interested in how many actual items were manufactured by various companies and various classes of companies:  better dresses, day dresses, catalog houses.   The book reminded me of something in a high school library you'd use for a report:  cheery, confident, full of facts.  It could have been written by a home ec teacher.

Ms.  Daves probably thought herself rather broadminded.  She made two flattering comments about Jews as a race  -- they are loyal and they have some other wonderful quality that I can't find now.   Strange and unsophisticated for a woman in her position.  She did have one startling  phrase:  (About Lana Turner)  "although that tightly pulled sweater across her surprised young bosom . . ."

This week's trip to the movies:

*  A young nun struggles with the vow of obedience in her convent and in the Congo.

*  This was really good.  I saw it as a child and remember feeling so shocked when Audrey Hepburn's hair was cut off.  I had forgotten everything else about it.  Audrey Hepburn was flawless.  The movie is beautiful, both the European and the African scenes.  I was quite surprised at the lack of sentimentality.

*  A rare film of any time so occupied with a woman working hard.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Once more, whoever chose the page mates is playing an excellent match game.  Lovely use of black and white on both sides.    Page details:

This is the third lacy dress in a row.  Roxane Kamenstein, sister of the better known designer Karen Stark (whom I find myself pretending to have heard of, when I really have not),  was the in-house designer for Samuel Winston from 1952.  In 1960, she won a Coty (do you win those?) for her work in evening wear.   In this article from 1965, the startling idea of the Seventh Avenue designer is broached.  Women don't just want an afternoon dress -- whatever that is -- they want a "Samuel Winston."  Just like they don't want a painting, they want a Rauschenberg.  Who would not really be a Seventh Avenue artist. . .

I can find no reference to "Samuel Winston," except as a dress manufacturer.  Am suspecting it was a "classy name" to put on the label and there was no such person.  Dunno.

This is from Dresses on the Fifth floor of Saks, so probably not a "Sophie" design of the Third Floor.  I remember lamenting last time -- the October 15 issue -- that a single name like "Sophie" is unsearchable on Google, thus lost to history.  Not true.  Found her.   But she has nothing to do with this page.

Car upholstery was apparently very chic in 1959 for suits.

This ad makes no sense.  She is "checking in" for "shore leave," but isn't she going the wrong way?     And what was the man on the left supposed to add?

This would cost more than $1,200.00 today, and I would pass it up then and now.

This week's movie, by odd coincidence, was Gidget.  Cliff Robertson, the Kahuna, died this week.

No trailer to be found:

This clip contains one of the best scenes in the movie -- the surfers with torches.  Very cool.  But very brief.

*  Sixteen-year-old girl eschews "man hunts" with her rather slutty-minded friends, yet ends up as mascot of a brotherhood of surfers, led by disaffected Korean War vet.  The foregoing is perfectly true, yet somehow doesn't sum it up all that accurately.

*  Knew nothing about the history of Gidget - the girl, the book -- but was expecting better.  Thought it would be a bit more like Pillow Talk -- silly, but with some actual human beings in it.  No.  Also, Sandra Dee was fine in Imitation of Life, so was surprised at how excruciating to watch she was here.  Cliff Robertson seemed embarrassed; James Darren came out the best, manfully plodding through.  Apparently no one thought a decent screenplay was important here.

*  Bored, so found myself focusing on the Indian print bedspread in the Kahuna's shack.  I remember stacks and stacks of them in stores in The Haight in 1967, and then in the hippy stores that turned up in the early malls in the early 1970's, but where would you buy such a thing in 1959?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Two Lace Dresses/Four Degrees of Separation

Not too inspiring, n'est pas?  Allors -

Disappointing to hit the doldrums so few pages in.   L'Aiglon, was a fairly large "house dress" manufacturer reported on far more frequently in the business pages than the fashion page.  It seems to be best known for a lawsuit against a rival who used a L'Aiglon dress in an ad and then sold a very inferior dress in its stead.  I also found a suit with California's own Equalization Board in which L'Aiglon tried to get out of paying a very small payroll tax on the salary of its California rep.  Nice.

Here we have a daytime dress -- I think. Today you'd pay about $190.00 for it - ($24.95 in 1959).  This seems steep to me.  Maybe it was L'Aiglon's top dress of the season.  It looks so uncomfortable -- that model is wearing serious corsetry.  And she's wearing the same kind of shoes that came with my Barbie doll -- little default pumps.  The whole ad makes no sense whatsoever.  L'Aiglon was based out of Pennsylvania or New York.  


Dress by John Moore of Talmack.  Photo by Louise Dahl-Wolfe.  Available at Bonwit Teller. This is much better.  The dress looks like fun to wear, although what color is mimosa?  

Louise Dahl-Wolfe we have already met in the October 15 issue.  Here is an excellent piece from the NYT from 2000 that unfortunately lacks photos.  Fortunately, I have some.  I'll post them later.  In 1959, Mrs. Dahl-Wolf was right between quitting Harper's Bazaar (1958) and quitting fashion photography (1960).  

The designer, John Moore, described somewhere as a "blond from Texas," designed Marilyn Monroe's wedding dress (Arthur Miller, husband).  Thank goodness for some color:

The Movie of the Week --   The irritating-in-every-way-possible The Fugitive Kind.  Spoilers aplenty.

First - there's no trailer.  Second -- even though it shows up in the WikiList for 1959, it apparently was released in 1960, thus eliminating the need for me to see it at all.  Third -- the whole damn movie itself.  Here is a key scene -- I can't even get it to load in the center of the page, goddamn it.

*  Usual Tennessee Williams horror.  This time a drifter drifts into town, gets a job in a dry-goods store, gets himself and inexplicably Italian mistress luridly killed.  

*  Six degrees (actually four) of separation between Marlon Brando and me:  my mother's cousin was best friends with Marlon's sister Jocelyn in Libertyville, Illinois.  Marlon was a strange boy.  Here, he would be a lot more riveting with a bit of direction.   He is so different from any other man on the screen at that time - except possibly Montgomery Clift - that it is hard to believe he was possible. This movie comes between  Guys and Dolls and Mutiny on the Bounty.

*  The women in this film:  Anna Magnani, strange and compelling, more out of place than I think was really meant.  Why does her character have such a thick accent? Not Italian war bride, as I had assumed. Joanne Woodward.  Why was she channelling Courtney Love?  Maureen O'Hara.   Why did her character, an artist -- oh, irony! -- go blind and crawl through the gutter,  and what did that have to do with Marlon Brando?  No explanation at all.  

And a fourth * this week:  By sheer coincidence, I saw The Help right before seeing this.  Do Southern writers make the South seem so awful just to keep the rest of us out?  It would have been a lot better coincidence if I had seen Odds Against Tomorrow this week because I should have mentioned that Cicely Tyson had a micro bit as a bartender in that movie and that she just popped out the few seconds she was on screen.  She should have had a much different career.   

Meta-posting:  best search term of the week --  young lady is putting off nylon socks.  Traced to an office complex in Litja, Slovenia.  Intriguing, but I don't think I ever wrote the word "socks." 

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Pleasing geometric layout.  Too bad the Tiffany ad isn't in color.  Were they being cheap?  Or was there some subtle message that color might only cheapen the Tiffany experience?   The ads for real jewelry are usually in black and white - the costume jewelry in glorious color.  Mostly.

The daisy chain bracelet made of rubies and diamonds would be about $325,000.00 today.  It was $14,800.00 in 1959, which seems plenty expensive to me.  The flower pin, which I like the best, was $5,500.00 in 1959.  There is no need to see what it costs today.  Just looking, thank you.

In 1959, Tiffany was four years into the regime of Walter Hoving, a Swedish immigrant who became what must be described as a legendary merchandiser -- Montgomery Ward, Lord & Taylor, Bonwit Teller.  In his obit, he was remembered mostly for his strong ideas about what Tiffany should be  -- no plastic, no scotch tape on the Tiffany boxes, no charge cards given to rude customers, no diamond rings for men.   Here he is:

About the jewels:  the designer is probably Schlumberger, but we're not actually told here.  I suspect we'll be visiting Tiffany again this issue.    And, fearlessly exhibiting more ignorance:  Walter Hoving is the father of Thomas Hoving, a name I did vaguely associate with New York museums.  I thought it was because he had been appointed something recently, but he died in 2009 and was best known for bringing the King Tut thing to America.  I think.  We have to keep going, so:

Voila! The Masthead.  See all those name? This could get very long indeed.  This is how I know I'm not insane:  We'll stick to Editor-in-Chief Jessica Daves.

If we can find her.  Nothing like The September Issue for Miss Daves.  Not a household name like Diana Vreeland, from whom we are a long three years or so away.  She doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry.  You can't get more obscure than that.

But she does have an obit with a small side view photo from 1948.  She is unkindly described in the piece as being portly, having no fashion sense and having a face like a baked apple.  Couture looked like crap on her (paraphrasing).  She is also described as a crack copy editor; I don't agree, if the October 15, 1959 issue is any indication.  She saw Vogue as a way to educate the taste of the American woman and as a way to promote the American ready-to-wear industry.  I think it requires a bit of thought to reconcile the two - somehow and somewhere they must meet.  No - Baby Phat.  Commerce won.

Jessica Daves was also the author of two books that I possess at the moment:  The Vogue Book of Menus and Recipes, which I found in my kitchen, and  Ready-Made Miracle, a history of Seventh Avenue, which I hope to finish before I owe even more money to the Berkeley Public Library.  Something on both of those in later posts.

Her husband, Robert Allerton Parker, wrote about religious movements in the U.S.  He seems more interesting than his wife and came from just down the street:  Alameda.   Cal grad.   Maybe more on him later.

Here is a glimpse of Miss Daves from a British Pathe newsreel from 1957.  (A fascinating site -, but I can't get it to load directly here.)

And now for something completely different, this week's trip to the movies:

*  Pretty funny Roger Corman satire of the beatnik scene, with jokes about hydrogenated fat, wheat germ and organic guava juice.

*  Uh, no - nebbishy busboy murders his way to artistic renown.

*  Warm-up for the far superior Little Shop of Horrors.

Jessica Daves, I suspect, would be rather annoyed to awake on the Internet just to find herself paired with a tasteless, murdering beatnik busboy.  And I actually dreaded A Bucket of Blood, having confused Roger Corman with Russ Meyer (who had his first movie out that year - The Immoral Mr. Teas -- a film that I have actually seen, but that didn't appear in the Wiki list of 1959 cinema, so I am unaccountably, but thankfully,  saved from having to see it again.)

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