Bill Smith Jewelry Archive and Runway Size Richelieu

Bill Smith Coin 1969

Bill Smith of Richelieu Halter, Rare 1969 piece from my archive.

I spend many hours researching fashion accessories of the past. Sometimes they lead me on a journey. A few Richelieu pieces that have challenged me, led me to think more about why Richelieu jewelry attracted me in the first place?  That always lands me right back to one of my all time favorites, Bill Smith.         

Vintage Bill Smith necklace. Met museum online archive image.

Vintage Bill Smith necklace. Met museum online archive image.

Bill Smith and Richelieu:

Bill Smith was born in Indiana in 1936. In the 1950s he was originally in NYC to study dance, but eventually decided on jewelry instead in 1958, setting up his own shop.  He began working for Richelieu in 1968, as the vp and then head designer. During this time he became the first African American to win the Coty award for costume jewelry design. Many of his pieces were only signed on a tag that was attached.  Some pieces are signed on the metal- Bill Smith of Richelieu…His designs are often African inspired. You can see this in the archive photos for Look Magazine, April 1971, which included a spread entitled “Fashion Now: Black Pow!” Afterwards Bill Smith worked under his own name designing for Cartier, Omega, Hattie Carnegie and Anne Klein.   

Bill Smith-Look Magazine., circa 1972 which include a spread entitled "Fashion Now: Black Pow!"

Bill Smith-Look Magazine., circa 1971 which included a spread entitled “Fashion Now: Black Pow!” The model was Naomi Sims wearing an 18k hat made for her. From a copy of the original magazine.

Richelieu was a jewelry company founded in New York by Joseph H. Meyer & Bros, which began in 1911 and ended in 2003.  The jewelry is just beginning to gain popularity among collectors and wearers of fashion jewelry. An interesting link about the Richelieu patents and signatures is:jewelrypatentproject.com. You can see some sample signatures and dates for Richelieu at Illusion Jewels under Joseph Meyer. 

 Image from, Black Enterprise Jul 1981. Bill Smith.

Image from, Black Enterprise Jul 1981. Bill Smith. From a copy of the original magazine.

However, let’s concentrate on Bill Smith and the mini archive here of his rare work for you to study. First let’s start with not only his jewelry buy his rare body jewelry. At Richelieu he does something sort of ground breaking- constructing dresses, skirts, vests, halters and beyond from costume materials and metals. While we see the metal mod connections of the time in those by the likes of Paco Rabanne the bead part and jewelry link is quite fascinating. Here I’ve put together both old magazine images and article photos with some of the pieces they reference in an attempt to provide a visual archive of his work.

Bill Smith Jewelry Ad 1960s.

Bill Smith Jewelry Ad 1960s. From a copy of the original ad.

Richelieu necklace I restored and turned out to be Bill Smith per the newspaper image above. Sarara Couture image.

Richelieu necklace I restored and turned out to be Bill Smith per the newspaper image above. Sarara Couture image.

Rare Bill Smith Rhinestone Bra. Circa 1969.

Rare Bill Smith Rhinestone Bra. Circa 1969.

Back view of tassels on Bra, From my archive.

Back view of tassels on Bra, From my archive.

Bill Smith jewelry tag.

Bill Smith jewelry tag.

vintage Richelieu necklace

As I have seen whole sets with rings and necklaces, it is my belief that some skirt halter combinations had other accessories that could be stacked as in this example.

DSC_0882

Unsigned Richelieu necklace to accompany skirt.

Bill Smith body jewelry. 1969. Private Archive permission obtained.

Bill Smith body jewelry. 1969. Private Archive permission obtained.

1969 Bill Smith Cape

1969 Bill Smith Cape

1969 Bill Smith Body Jewelry Cape. Back view.

1969 Bill Smith Body Jewelry Cape. Back view.

1960s body jewelry halter and skirt. Private archive, permission obtained.

1960s body jewelry halter and skirt. Private archive, permission obtained.

1960s-possibly early 70s tassel outfit. Private archive, permission obtained.

1960s-possibly early 70s tassel outfit. Private archive, permission obtained.

I have seen another shown as a cape but after seeing the bra and skirt together with original tag before I believe it to have been sold as shown. Of course his pieces can be worn in various ways.

I have seen another shown as a cape, but after seeing the bra and skirt together with original tag before…. I believe it to have been sold as shown. Of course his pieces can be worn in various ways.

Circa 1968-69 Bill Smith Chain Halter. Private archive. Image permission obtained.

Circa 1968-69 Bill Smith Chain Halter. Private archive. Image permission obtained.

Ebony Oct. 1968 image. Bill Smith article/jewelry.

Ebony Oct. 1968 image. Bill Smith article/jewelry. From a copy of the original magazine.

Now to the question of the red necklace I am researching as well by the brand…Was this necklace worn by Richard Burton playing King Arthur in Broadway’s Camelot?  I bought it from a source who is friends with an old film and theater costumer.  Now if you have looked over the blog, you will see I do love a good piece of fashion or jewelry with an old Hollywood, film, or a theatrical history as well.  This piece was supposed to have been worn by Burton in the production, so I am off to look through many pictures and see what I can verify.  There are three possibilities, if it was worn on stage by him: Camelot 1980-1981, Hamlet 1964, or Camelot 1960. Many times a verbal history can be off. However, at the very least it is an enormous King worthy Richelieu runway style necklace.  The length seems more proportionate to a man. Seeing it on my brother made me think….. The piece is large and styled like a necklace in royal red, that would fit a King in such a production.  The design and color are possible clues.  It is signed Richelieu in two places. I have however seen a version of this necklace shorter in red and another in green… They did also make pieces for productions…. In fact, Bill Smith did all the jewelry for the broadway production of Coco.  I believe, per the style and signature, dates to around the 1960s-70s. The cursive script according to the patent site below ceased use in 83.  Quite frankly,  I think the 60s-0s in general was when they made some great pieces.  This royal red necklace does appear to date from the late 60s early 70s when Bill Smith was vp, but could be the work of another artist with them at the time or just Richelieu. For now it resides in my personal archive.

Sarara Vintage photographs of large Richelieu piece,rights reserved.
Signature plaques, Richelieu copyright symbol and printed to the right on plaque.
Vintage Richelieu Necklace, signed. Sarara Couture, Shary Connella photo.

In the end, I think that the collector’s market for Richelieu is growing, especially the large 60s-late 70s pieces, especially those very rare ones linked to Bill.  Pieces by Bill Smith for Richelieu designs range from 500-4,000 depending on the design.  Bill Smith pieces are beautiful and collectible.  A current market example for Bill Smith can be seen below. Sold at an auction house for over 4,000 for the pair.

Bills Smith Body Art Jewelry/ 1969-70. 

SHOP OUR VINTAGE BILL SMITH BODY JEWELRY

Edyth Sparag New York: 1930s Sketches

Edyth Sparag, New York Drawing, signed. 1930s. Sarara Vintage Image/Scan.

Edyth Sparag was a New York designer working in the 30s-50s. Most information is known about her through her fashion sketches made in her offices and used to create her clothing.  Her office was located at 1440 Broadway, New York- at least in the 1930s. Other drawings say 1450 Broadway. There are a couple of museums with large collections of her sketches which are used as a sort of guide to popular fashion in NYC during the 30s-40s. One can be found at the University of California- it actually might be the largest most encompassing the 30s-50s-see info here.The Fashion Institute in NYC has work by her dating form 1950-1959. Neither are available online.  That is why I wanted to publish three of mine here for all to view.  I have three early ones from the 1930s. They are an important part of fashion history.  As the Skyscraper museum states :

“Within this garment district are 4,500 women’s clothing firms. Three out of every four dresses sold in the country originate in New York, making women’s garments the principal industry in the city, with an annual dollar volume of $4.4 billion … Dozens of new firms pop up each season-and many disappear to try again under another name. “It doesn’t take money,” said one owner. “It takes guts, gall and creativity.” Firms with only 30-40 employees compete with the big trade names in the wild steeplechase that produces over 150,000 separate designs each year.” (See the article and exhibit here.)

 

I cannot seem to find much about Edyth herself. However, her style and designs live on through her fashion sketches that come up periodically among collectors, on ebay and in museums. I love these two   little works of art, just look at the stylish woman in yellow and blue checking her makeup. The green dress seems so pretty with the suede details and cloth base as written on the description in pencil.  Enjoy this little 1930s fashion archive by Edith.

 

Edyth Sparag Drawing , 1930s, printed logo. SararaVintage scan.

Edyth Sparag drawing with annotations by hand. 1930s. Sarara Vintage Scan/image, rights reserved.

 
 
 

Designing for YSL: Willy van Rooy An Inspirational Career.

Willy Van Rooy personal image archive.

Lou Lou, Willy, and Yves. 1980.

Willy van Rooy has lived a life of travel, art, love, design, and is the face of one of the most popular fashion mannequins ever made. One could write her off as just a top model, but they would be missing the core of who she is- an artist and free spirit. Many things about Willy intrigue me-  her classic magazine covers, her time as a designer and muse in the 80s for Yves Saint Laurent, as well as her own shoe line.  Before gracing the runways of Gaultier and Thierry Mugler among others, she worked with prolific photographers as well as studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Fashion department in Rotterdam.  For more fashion images from her career you can see her instagram account.  As a vintage textile and jewelry lover, her time designing shoes, prints, and accessories for YSL and Karl Lagerfeld appeals to my curiosity. We explored this here together. 

Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

Willy van Rooy, high school street photograph, rights reserved.

Willy van Rooy:

Q. How did you get into modeling, what was your first big break?

A. It all happened by itself, photographers would sometimes ask me, just in the street. Really, when I think back to when I was still in High-school, my friend and fashion freak like me, Sophie van Kleef, and I would pose for her friend who wanted to be a photographer. We posed in the dresses we had made. I wish I had those pictures. I had them for a long time, but because I change places and countries quite often, things get lost. 

My first paid modeling job was in 1963, in Japan, where I was stopped in the street by “Arab Edy”, as  the foreigners called him, and he said he had an agency. He asked if I would like to be a model or an actress. He had some young travelers like me and some American girls from the American army base in Tokyo ,for whom he found work in the movies, television, or pictures when they needed a foreigner. Actually, I did quite a lot of work there but that would be another chapter. Back in Holland I did some modeling, but it was not exciting at all. At one point, I decided to take it seriously and made a collection of dresses and jackets. Then I went to Barcelona Spain, where a friend and I made a lot of pictures, which we printed ourselves and made a”model-book”. There in Barcelona I was also working as a model, because a lady came up to me in the street and asked me to be a model in her agency. I did a lot of TV commercials and even a short movie, that now is considered very avant-garde and plays in the film museums. I went back to Holland to prepare for a trip to London because it was there that it was”happening”. Immediately I was accepted as something new and was booked stiff for a long time to come, lots of newspaper articles and interviews, they even made window dolls in my image, so like I said… it went by itself

Q. When did you first begin designing or creating in an artistic way? When did your interest in fashion, modeling, and the arts begin? 

A. Since as far as I can remember. 

When I was about 16, I made my first fashion self portrait. I don’t have that picture either, but one day I will make a drawing. If I really start to think about it- it started much earlier, when I was 10. I had a very nice picture in the newspaper because of a play we did in the orphanage for a 

highly elegant public who were the donators and friends of the directrice who was of Dutch aristocracy, a baroness to be exact. I had directed and done the costumes for the play in which I had given myself the role of the princess and the other kids were gnomes. I never forgot the dress which came from a closet that was always locked. There were all these amazing dresses, capes, and furs which were stowed in big sacks, all from that society lady. When there was a reason to dress up, the big bags came out. The dress I am talking about was a long evening dress of yellow satin silk with big elegant grey and white flowers, cut in a way that hugs the body softly. At the time I did not know if it was silk but I remember the softness, so I guess it must have been. A few years later I directed another 

Japanese themed play in which I had everybody dressed up and that time the directrice hired a 

photographer to make pictures of me dressed up. There are many more incidents that led me to be a

model, although that is not what I really wanted so I did not really look for it. I thought that as a model you had to be perfect with perfect hair and nails… and I’d rather get my hands dirty in paint or spend my time making clothes or just see what is going on in the world.

Q. What do you think was different about modeling then and now? 

A. Don’t get me started, everything is different. First of all in many countries

like Holland or Spain ( and surely many others but I did not witness those) it was

considered a job for “light girls” and not respected at all by the ordinary people.

Because of London and the fashion of young real people this slowly changed, but of

course not like today, today the models are as famous as the movie stars and are

idolized. They can earn a lot of money and respect, which is great. In the early

sixties you were expected to have a collection of wigs, stockings, gloves, costume

jewelry , make up, and hairsprays. I mean it was a whole suitcase full and then you also

had to be a makeup artist, a hairdresser and a stylist. The other day I looked at

some Vogue pictures and saw that the make up was not perfect at all, so funny, no

one notices I guess. On the other hand it was marvelous in the sense that you could

create your image and make yourself look like what you felt like, well not always, but you

had a hand in it so to speak. The reason for all the wigs and stuff is that mostly they did not

want you to be recognized but rather be a different person every time. Now the thing is to be

recognized and everything looks so much more natural and they are open to new things. It was

funny for me to see the incredible organization that was going on for the Italian

Vogue shoot at the Korean cemetery with Steven Meisel in 2008 in LA. First of all, I

got picked up by a beautiful black Mercedes and upon arrival was immediately

brought to a delicious breakfast by the best gatherers. There were Trailers with everything

one can wish for, tables and tables with accessories and shoes, racks of the most

gorgeous outfits, big tents for the photographer and his equipment which include

enormous computers so the result is seen immediately and so on and so fort. About 5

make up artists, hairdressers, stylist with a group of assistants.

Back then there was an editor, the photographer, an assistant and the model(s).

Slowly but very slowly there were hairdressers on the set and even slower the make

up artists. For the rest, it is hard work, please don’t think it is all fun and

glamour, it is also hard work, specially in my days. If I think of the racks with all the

clothes that had to be photographed in one day, planes here and

there… yes, it is fun but it is also hard work to be in shape and take care to

look beautiful as many people depend on you and there is a lot of money involved. 

Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

Willy’s style, image courtesy of Willy van Rooy. rights reserved.

Q. What was your favorite fashion moment from the 60s? What was your life like then?

A. Everything seemed possible, there was a certain freedom because of the knowledge

that one was not alone, one knew there were many like you who wanted to express

themselves and a good way to do so was the way we dressed. Fashion was young,

fashion was new, mostly because it got a whole new public as things were more

exciting and more affordable then the designer clothes that were around. My favorite

moment was when I discovered a shoe store in London, that I saw sort of hidden in

the window in the background, gold leather shoes. It turned out they were

original Ferragamo shoes from the 40’s. They were a model’s, the sales girl told me-

“they did not know what to do with them”. No problem, hallelujah, they were my size

and I bought all 6 pairs of them for next to nothing. Vintage was great to combine

with the latest and there was lots of it on the fabulous Chelsea market. The modeling at

that time was exciting too.

Q. What photographer do you think had the most influence on your career and why?

A. Definitely Helmut Newton because it was with him that some different style

pictures were made. He was getting known and when I came in, it seemed to be the

right time. I think the pictures we did together were new and people thought they

were exciting. The thing is I was such a nomad and disappeared to Ibiza or India

sometimes for a year or more, otherwise we would have made many more pictures

together. As he told me once, I was the only model he would ever think to ask to be

under contract with him, but I told him that was not necessary because I would always

choose to work with him first. In reality maybe is not always true because

doing all the editorials is great but you also want to bring home the bacon.

Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

Willy van Rooy walking in a YSL show.

Q. What was your favorite part of working as a model for YSL and how was the

transition to designer for you? How exactly did this happen? 

A. I loved to do the shows or pictures for YSL because I liked his designs, it made

you look and feel good even though in real life I was not dressed like that at all. He

was a wonderful person and was in the height of his incredible career. The whole

atmosphere there was good and exciting and the shows were a party. Now the runway

shows are so different too. We were not that many girls, maybe 20 or less and we

each had at least 6 or 7 changes. Now I see lots of girls coming on only once. Also, we

could walk how we felt best and each model had a style which the people enjoyed I think,

now they all walk the same? In that time my husband and I became friends with Anne

Marie Muñoz who was a very important person in the history and the House of YSL and

and it was through her that I later started to design for YSL. Drawing and designing

has always been my thing so when the modeling became less exciting and my shop was

closed, I wanted to draw and my husband told Anne Marie one evening when she came for a

visit, to have a look at my drawings…so thats how that started…… 

Q. So to quote your blog about the beginning of your career as

a designer for YSL,

“It is 1980 and I started drawing a collection of shoes for Yves Saint Laurent and

when I had 24 of them I called Anne Marie Muñoz and went to see her at Avenue

Marceau, the official “house” of YSL. I had been there often for fittings and

private shows so I knew a lot of people there, but this felt different. I was quiet

nervous and at the same time excited to show my drawings as I myself really liked

them. Good for me Anne Marie did so too and so I got my first check as a free lance

designer and it was a good one. I had hoped they would buy at least 6 but they

bought all 24 of them!” (Willy van Rooy, blog). http://willyvanrooy.com/

Yes, thats what happened and after that I designed lots of perfume and powder boxes,

jewelry and umbrellas, tee shirts, bathing suits and lots of hand bags and

shoes. It was great fun, I had a lot of pleasure drawing them and what they at Yves Saint

Laurent liked about it was that if I designed T shirts or bathing suits, I would

draw the jewels and belts as well, just because I liked it. 

Q. What pieces did you design for YSL and Karl Lagerfeld? About how many jewelry

designs would you estimate? Do you have any examples of these you saved or images? 

A. Like I said, for YSL I designed all kind of things and for Karl Lagerfeld mostly

prints, something I like to do very much. I did design prints for YSL too and

some jewelry for Lagerfeld as well. The thing is that at that time it was not so

easy to make copies in color and so on and often you forgot or did not care in the

end. I do have photocopies of a lot of it but in black and white. 

Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

WWD cover with her prints for Lagerfeld. 1980.

These days one would just do it with the Iphone and gets a great copy. In the end they actually

used little of the original designs I made for them because it is more a inspiration

for the accessories, I would sometimes see a glimpse of it in some jewelry

or especially the shoes. I don’t really know what they were selling and weren’t so I

don’t really know if they made up the umbrellas or handbags that I had designed.

Everything was kept though for later times or whatever. The prints for Lagerfeld were

different because he really used them and when I saw the show and

all the girls coming out in silks and satins with the prints I designed, that was

really something else. I have some newspaper cuttings of the Karl Lagerfeld prints

in the WWD but to be honest I did not check it out very well, once sold, something

new is coming and that was it.

Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

Willy’s original jewelry and accessories sketches for YSL. 

Q. On your blog you displayed some original sketches from YSL- how many do you have

in your possession? 

A. At a point when they were selling the YSL label Anne Marie called me and gave me

back some of my original drawings because, as she said” Monsieur St Laurent had

liked those very much and you should have them, maybe one day you can do something

with them”. So, yes, I have about 20 originals drawings I did for them.

Q. Many vintage lovers adore Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche collection- do you

have a favorite piece you modeled?  

A.Yes, me too I love most vintage YSL but the Russian inspired collection was really

one of my favorites and I have one of this lovely Russian suede hats with fur, red

and Black which is an original, used in the show… other pieces of designers I had

I gave to my sisters because I really only wear what I feel

best in. The only vintage clothes I wear are also my own.

Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

Saint Laurent ad, Eric Boman.  

Q. You are sort of synonymous with YSL- so many fashion ads…. They are often used when researching vintage designs.  Do you have a favorite campaign? 

 A. Mostly everything I did for YSL I liked, but the pictures I did with Eric Boman for them I think I like best and the series with the green fur coat by Hans Feurer for the French Elle, all very 30’s-40’s inspired, which is a fashion period I like very much and I love the picture the master himself signed for me with a wonderful text which was handwritten…. ah, the elegance

Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

Q. How did you meet your husband?

A. My husband and I met on a photo shoot with Helmut Newton for the English magazine

The Observer. I was booked for 3 weeks with Helmut for different jobs in Marrakech,

Morocco, some publicity’s, Elegance and 3 series for the Observer. One day he saw 2

very interesting looking young men in the street with an Afghan dog ( they looked

foreign and were actually Spanish) and he later thought about it and send some

people to find them and ask them to be in the pictures he was going to make the next

day. I already had seen them as well in the Marrakech souk, you could not miss them,

and to make a long story short, we fell in love right there the morning they showed

up for the shoot. I was waiting in the bus doing my make-up and there they were and

I only remember seeing Salvador. Now he was sitting beside me in the car and the

moment he offered me his pipe of kiv and we looked at each other… Later we were

posing together so we have this wonderful pictures by Newton from the day we really met. The next day the whole crew was leaving for London but I stayed in Marrakech to the chagrin of Helmut who had booked me already for weeks ahead.


Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

Irving Penn. Vogue image of Willy’s shoe

Q. In the 1980s you designed a quite successful shoe line under your own name, worn

by famous women and fashion lovers. Why shoes?

A. It was the only thing I could not make myself and shoes had always fascinated me

as I had designed some shoes for YSL. Sometimes I had my shoes made up after

my own design, there was a good shoemaker I knew in Milan, Italy, and later in Spain.

The marvelous boots one could have made up, the best shoemaker of those was in

Marbella, now it is not what it used to be 40 years ago either. The thing is that

in 1980 I was in Spain and Spain is a shoe manufacturer country which was an

interesting fact to explore. Shoes on my mind because one day when I

was bringing my drawings to the YSL house, I met up with the man who was responsible

for the production of the YSL shoe line and he told me I had an extra ordinary

feeling for shoes. It is not only the design but the balance and the comfort and so

on. He gave me a few incredible wooden shoe forms and some courage to start my own

shoe line if the opportunity appeared. It did and in 1982 I had produced my first shoe collection in Elda,Alicante, Spain.

Q.How many collections did you design and what inspired your favorite

pair?

A. About 2 collections a year for 10 years. Many of my shoes and boots were inspired

by the wonderful brocades still available in the area which they used in their

yearly festival costumes. It was also tricky because some of it was hand woven in

could take months to produce. It is hard to say which is my favorite but some models

I sold over and over again for many years… they also happened to be my favorites.

Q. In what way was the Tunic Unique indicative of the era, what was it’s impact on

your career? 

A. well, everything comes together. Because of my career as a model I knew many

people and many knew me. I got a lot of help from Karl Lagerfeld who bought them for

all his friends and everybody who worked at YSL including Lou Lou and Dear Anna

Piaggi and all the models I knew, it was a blast and I got a lot of publicity.

Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

Celebrities wearing and press about her Tunic Unique.

Q. What other fashion houses have you designed for?

A. In the 90’s I lived in Madrid and designed for the Spanish designer Juanjo

Rochefort who had a lot of celebrity clients and I designed mostly evening dresses

for him. It was a lot of fun.

Q. On your instagram account I see quite a bit of wonderful images from your career

and related to your husband and children? How has and does your family and

especially your husband continue to inspire you?

A. Thats the point, they never stop to inspire me, my family is most important to

me, probably because that is something I have not known and my husband always

surprises me with the art he makes and that is very inspiring. We are very lucky

like that, to have our art and have each other. Not that these things come by

themselves, you have to work at it.

Q. Do you wear vintage? What is the oldest item in your wardrobe? Do you have a

collection of your shoes? 

A. No, I don’t wear vintage except my own and the oldest piece, my faux fur coat, is

26 years old (not that vintage really?) I do buy vintage sometimes because I am full

of admiration for the workmanship but really I think that young people look great in

it combined with the latest accessories. Or I love and wear the vintage jewelry,

that looks always good and again, it is the artistry that went into it that mostly

enchant me. Dressing vintage for me now would look like I never left it.

Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

One of Willy’s latest jewelry illustrations. rights reserved.

Q. You design jewelry today and have your own shop- how would you describe your

aesthetic? 

A. I do sporadically design and make up a piece of jewelry or bags and sell it in my

online Etsy shop but to tell you the truth it is too much work, I always want to

make it very special and it does not pay in that way so I only do it when I really

feel like it and then mostly give it away. What I do enjoy a lot is drawing them,

that makes me really happy.

Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

Necklace currently available in Willy’s shop

Image Provided by Willy Van Rooy.

Leather and vintage component necklace, created by Willy.

Q. What other projects are your working on? 

A. Right now I am working on a book of my illustrations and if possible would like to make a book of my shoes and all the adventures that went with it. Also a book about the wonderful work of my husband… We just released the new SHOP, I have been working on with my son and daughter, which is very important. It contains designs and product made by the Willy van Rooy label. We have ambitious plans….so much to do. Yet we have to take care to take the time to look at the clouds and the beauty around us, so I am going step by step and every day is a new day.

Love and Peace

After conducting this interview, I am in even more awe of Willy’s life and passion for it! If you are also more enamored, please check out these links for more Willy van Rooy!

Visit Willy’s jewelry shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/willyvanrooy

The History of the Napier Company and its Jewelry: An interview with Melinda L. Lewis

Image from the text, provided by Melinda.

1920s Napier Gold Plated Necklace

Napier fashion jewelry has graced the arms, necks, fingers, and ears of many starlets and fashionable women. It has also been a name in the dressing room of the everyday gal for over 130 years. If you haven’t read or heard of The Napier Co. Defining 20th Century American Costume Jewelry, then hopefully this interview will inspire you.  Firstly, if the amazing collection of images doesn’t satisfy your appetite- then the sheer amount of well researched information should. Melinda Lewis began her endeavor 11 years ago and her dedication shows in this publication. I find it rare to read a book which can be useful for both the beginner (as it includes an identification/price guide) and more advanced collector (reveals many rare examples), but this book is just that. The text walks the reader through the history of fashion and jewelry styles/manufacturing. Yet, at the same time it weaves in the story of the Napier Co., formerly The E.A. Bliss Co through interviews with former employees.

Image provided by Melinda.

1950s brass cuff, from The Napier Co.

After reading and devouring the images in my copy, I realized I had gained a respect for the company that I didn’t completely grasp before- from its first rate silver plating techniques to the art deco designs discussed, I was smitten.  Having done a doctorate thesis in “visual anthropology”, a text which used over 4,000 images to communicate had an obvious appeal. Since some reviews have come out, I decided instead of recapping the book to focus on the author. I wanted to dive into her experience writing, collecting, and falling in love with Napier a bit more. If you have never thought of wearing Napier, I think after you see the amazing designs spanning almost any era you desire, you may start.

Images proved by Melinda.

1950s Napier Silver plate necklace.

How did your interest in costume jewelry begin?

I think the seed was planted in my preteens with my fascination with my grandmother’s costume jewelry, as well as her career as a fashion illustrator and hat designer in the 1920s. However, it was not until my late 30s, after attending an estate sale that I again became caught the costume jewelry bug. Prior to that time period, I liked jewelry, and I loved vintage items, but I didn’t have a calling to study jewelry as a history project until later in life.

Melinda L. Lewis

Why did you start the Costume Jewelry Collectors Int’l?

I had been a member of a collecting club called VFCJ (Vintage Fashion Costume Jewelry) for seven years. After attending the clubs bi-annual convention in October 2009, one month later, the founder, Lucille Tempesta, unexpectedly announce the immediate closure of the club. I felt this was a loss for me and the community of costume jewelry enthusiasts. Jewelry studies had become such a great part of my life, and having an organization like this was central to our and fellow colleagues businesses—let alone the long-term friendships that had been forged through VFCJ. My husband and I asked Lucille if we could purchase the club and carry on the name, but were told that it was not for sale and that we should start our own club. So, we did.  Our first act was to ask my friend, Pamela Wiggins (who is also an avid Napier collector) if she wanted to form a new club and the rest is history! Within three days, we had our websites up and had made our announcement. For the first year, we also published a quarterly magazine.

Why Napier? Why a book on Napier?

I wanted to “unveil” the history of this company because there had never been a book that discussed Napier with great depth.  Then, after travelling around the country meeting former employees and photographing their collections, it became more personal—more purpose driven if you will. I began to feel compelled to take on writing a book in a way that would truly honor the work of so many dedicated people over 121 years of its history.

Were a significant amount the of Napier examples in the book from your collection? If so which ones -how many?

Although we did not have access to the Napier archives, we were fortunate to have photographed some glorious collections from around the country owned by previous Napier employees. Even though some folks wished not to be named, we identified the contributors whenever we had permission. You’ll see from the credits in my book there were a lot of people who contributed to make this book happen. But, to answer your question, a fair number of the pieces are mine.

What is your favorite piece of Napier that you own?

It is hard for me to have just one favorite piece. I do love the “Cumquat” series from the 1950s, and I love many of the modernist pieces from the 1970s. However, as I think about it, the “Horse-Shoe Nail Pendant” featured on page 468 is probably one necklace from my personal collection that I wear the most. It is pretty over the top!

“Horse Shoe Nail Pendant”

Is there a Napier piece you would love to acquire?

Yes, actually it is a series of pieces from the 1970s designed by Antonio for Napier in the mid-1960s. The former are necklaces very similar to Trifari’s modernist style necklaces of the 1970s: big plastrons or breastplate pieces. The Antonio pieces are more elusive, and I have only seen them in Vogue. They were fabulous space-age pieces.

What other designers or eras in terms of fashion and costume jewelry do you admire?

I’m very fond of Katerina Musetti’s designs. I think she is one of the up and coming designers who has not been fully recognized for her art. I also appreciate Larry Vrba’s jewelry, but have yet to purchase a piece of his work. There are so many designers I’ve yet to discover since my focus has been directed toward Napier for many years. It is actually fun to think about all the new discoveries I will be making.

Favorite era for jewelry design?

My “favorite era” for jewelry design has evolved over the years. My predilection toward a particular genre depends a great deal on my mood or the current fashion mode. In the beginning, I really liked the 1950s, but I also have an enormous appreciation for the 1920s and the early 1970s. The styles of each of these time-periods could not be farther apart from one another. That is part of what makes it so much fun! 

Favorite Jewelry exhibit/archive you have visited at a museum or a private collection?

I would have to say that my favorite collection was one that I photographed for the book out of Connecticut. The collection is probably one of the most diverse Napier collections ever amassed. It could be easily one of the largest as well. However, I’m under a confidentiality agreement not to disclose the name of this person. My husband and I actually spent part of our honeymoon in the collector’s home. It was great fun, and I have learned there are even more unusual Napier items in this personal collection now. It is truly a Napier archive unto itself. 

1950s Sterling Silver Napier bracelet


What was the hardest aspect of Napier’s history to research and clarify- was it the actual date the company was established as discussed in the book or another aspect?

Yes, verifying the actual commencement date was time consuming and at times frustrating, mostly the information which had been previously reported turned out to be wrong – leading to many dead ends. But after many tedious hours over several months, I found a handful of the original legal company documents from the period. Then, with each additional piece, the whole story finally all came together.   The hardest part of the research was chasing down the trademark history. I eventually made page after page of charts and spreadsheets and tables. I had to go through dozens of U.S. Trademark Official Gazettes, page by page. It was painstaking but in the end, so worth it. That is why I have over 60 pages on the marks and findings in my book. To know the trademarks allows me (and my readers) to date pieces with a level of accuracy that you just cannot get any other way. And, my research is ongoing. There are still a couple trademarks and the legal categories they fall within that I have yet to verify.

The book mentions the original signature of Bliss and Napier later. Are there any unsigned pieces?

As a general rule, Napier marked ALL of its jewelry. The exceptions to this are exceedingly rare. There are very few pieces of unsigned Bliss that I’ve seen and verified against vintage catalogs or discussed with E.A. Bliss experts, and maybe a handful of designs from the 1920s through the 1990s of unsigned Napier. After that 1990, when Napier jewelry was produced on a mass scale with pieces such as pierced earrings sold on hanging cards, the earrings were often not marked, or just the clutch was marked, which could have been easily lost. Most pieces, which are called “unsigned Napier,” are generally not Napier at all. Unfortunately, either the sellers do not know, or the dealer tries to pass it off as Napier to unsophisticated buyers.

1950s Napier Necklace

Are there any designs that you personally feel that you might not have run across yet-perhaps earlier examples?

Yes! I am reasonably certain that there are literally thousands of designs I have not seen. Even though my book features many thousand pieces, it still contains only a small part of what the company designed over the years. I attempted to be as representative as I possible, but the sheer number of pieces meant I had to leave many pieces out. For example, Napier would often do multiple variations on a design – using different metal colors, or stone types, or multiple kinds of pieces in a line. The company introduced as many as 1500 new designs each year—some designs were in the collection for just one season, and other designs were in the collection for decades. Especially, when it comes to the earlier designs from the 1920s and 1930s, I am sure there are a lot I have not seen and would be delighted to encounter them! I enjoy seeing a new variation of a familiar piece, but when I discover a new design, I get a rush of excitement that is enlivening. I hope that the book brings more of the rare pieces out into the community where they can be appreciated and adored.

1930s Napier Cuffs

Do you feel a weight has been lifted now that the book is published, a sense of accomplishment after such an extensive project-What does the book mean to you?

In many ways, I feel a huge burden has been lifted off of me. I have experienced a tremendous responsibility to the Napier employees to do an honorable job at representing what for many of them constituted their life’s work. On one hand, I wanted it to include as much of the story as I could share. On the other, I sometimes felt out of integrity because the project was taking so long.  It was not because I was not working hard on the book but because I kept expanding the project in order to get it “right.” Unfortunately, some of the employees I interviewed passed away before I finished, and they never saw the work and their contributions. That broke my heart.

Now that it is complete and in the hands of the employees, I feel both proud and satisfied. Their appreciation for the job I did makes it all worth it.

In personal terms, because I have chronic pain and migraines, completing this project was a huge effort. At the same time, it gave me a purpose to work towards and something positive to focus my attention. It distracted me from feeling sorry for myself and motivated me to work hard and be productive when I really didn’t want to get out of bed. I also have dyslexia, and I was put in special education as a child. Reading is challenging for me, let alone writing a book! I never thought of myself as someone who would become an author. When I hold the book in my hands and see what I have accomplished, I am thankful that it gave me the opportunity to go beyond what I thought was possible for myself.

1930s Napier Tiger Suite

I wanted to thank Melinda for her contribution and help to celebrate her accomplishment. Her insights here, from her grandmother’s talented history to her challenges are inspiring. I have definitely been more open to discovering Napier pieces for both my wardrobe and store lately, spotting items I may have missed before! You can order or browse more information on her site.

SHOES SHOES SHOES: An Interview With The Curatorial Director Of The Fashion History Museum, Canada

Bata Shoe museum image, French 1760s silk shoe in the Rococo style, rights reserved.

Many of us have an ongoing affair with shoes. My interest stems from my fixation with jewelry as material culture, so shoes as accessories are alluring.  I am interested in these fashion artifacts, because they tell us about status, culture, beauty standards and such. In this sense, while the history of shoes is not my strong point, I have started to include them in my shop inventory. I do love the 40s styles.  Today’s shoe brands like Jimmy Choo and the Manolo Blahniks, that Carrie tap danced across New York wearing in Sex and the City, still have the devotion of many a fashion lover.  However what about those that came before them?  What can we learn and appreciate from vintage shoes?   This where Jonathan Walford can shed some light on the subject.  He is an avid researcher and collector of antique and vintage clothing, with a focus on shoes.   After coming across some interesting and rare vintage shoes, I began thinking about how these pieces really complete the larger picture.

1937 Perugia shoe/ Image from Jonathan Walford’s archive, rights reserved.

THE INTERVIEW:

What is your formal background?

History and museum studies, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia

When and how did you get into researching and collecting shoes?

I have been a collector of antique and vintage clothing since I was 17 but there were and still are very few fashion museums in Canada, so I focussed on the one that appealed to me the most, and that was the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. Most of my shoe research occurred while I worked there in the late 1980s and 1990s. 

What are some important things one should look for when collecting shoes? Is there a go to source for dating them or researching them?

As a collector I always look for and try to obtain the best I can find or afford. And I mean that in every sense – the best design, condition, style, example, designer, provenance… I would be a bad self-promoter if I didn’t suggest my own books as useful sources for dating and researching footwear: The Seductive Shoe and Shoes A-Z, were both published by Thames and Hudson. The Seductive Shoe focuses on the fashion footwear 1600 – 2000, with examples from my own collection as well as from important collections around the world. Shoes A-Z focusses on the leading shoe brands and designers 1950 – 2010.

About how many shoes do you have in your permanent collection?

I haven’t done a ‘foot’ count in a while, but last time I did seven years ago it was 780 pairs. It’s probably over a thousand now. 

I know you sell on etsy, discuss your store’s focus and what kind of shoes come into the shop for sale?

I don’t consider myself a dealer, but rather a collector with an open door policy for improving the collection. As I said before, I am always looking for the best I can find and afford, and that sometimes means getting rid of lesser or duplicate items in the collection as I find better examples. That’s not to suggest I sell crap in my etsy store! just that I already have something similar or better.

1670s shoe example, via Jonathan’s archive, rights reserved.

Who was your favorite maker of any era? What would be the holy grail of shoes? If you could get your hands on any pair from any person, time period, or culture what would it be?

If I had to pick just one designer I would go with Perugia. He was an innovative designer with an eye for beauty and quality, and always kept looking for the next new thing. He was active from the 1920s to the 1960s – a really interesting period of shoe design. As for the holy grail of shoes, It’s already very difficult to find anything pre 1750 anymore. So if I were to ever find a pair of Chopines (platform mules) from Venice from the early 17th century, I think that would be as holy grail-like as you could get, and something I would definitely like to get my hands on for the collection. 

I have a shoe from the 1660s that was possibly worn in New Amsterdam (New York when it was still in Dutch hands). I don’t have definitive proof, however the evidence is strong. If it was worn there it is the oldest extant fashion shoe worn in North America. When I worked at the Bata Shoe Museum, I handled the oldest extant shoe ever worn in North America, a sandal from the Anasazi of the American southwest that dated from over 3,000 years ago – remarkable when you think about it. 

What is your favorite era in terms of shoes and or fashion? I know you are quite studied in terms of vintage and historic fashions. Who is your favorite designer? I honestly don’t have one – every era has its strengths and weaknesses, although some are heavier with faults like the recent 2000’s (certainly the worst decade in my lifetime and I lived through the 70s!) Similarly, I can’t say I have a favorite designer because nearly everyone has done something I have admired and something I thought was crazy or bad.

How many exhibits and publications have you done? What was your favorite or most fun to do?

I never kept track of all the exhibitions because they range from mini-shows for special events to huge exhibitions that have travelled the world. Also, before I was working in fashion-oriented museums I curated shows for regional history museums, including displays of carpentry tools, firefighting, Art Deco, dolls, kitchen utensils, World War II, basketball, as well as photo shows of architectural history and bridge building! I have always preferred fashion-theme exhibitions because its what I personally like, but a good exhibition is about choosing interesting artifacts and images that illustrate the storyline or theme of the show that the audience can also connect with, and if you can do that in your preferred topic, you can do it in others. However, without a doubt, the most fun is what I am doing right now – setting up the Fashion History Museum for our grand opening in mid July. The inaugural display will be a curator’s choice timeline of fashion history 1800 – 2000 (in other words my favourite frocks from the past two centuries in the collection!) 

What is your role at the Fashion History Museum, Could you tell me more about-The Art of the Shoe: 200 years of footwear?

I am the curatorial director of the Fashion History Museum, which means I am the head curator but not the only curator. We will be working with a variety of collectors, curators and artists to create exhibitions in the museum. I feel its important for the curator to have autonomy over their show, so I am there to help them realize their vision.

The Art of the Shoe: 200 years of footwear exhibition is a highlights from fashion footwear history, from 1750 to 2000, including examples of shoes by leading designers – Ferragamo, Perugia, Vivier, Levine, Steiger, Jourdan… We alter the size of the show between 50 and 80 pairs depending upon the venue and always make it a bit different. It has travelled to several venues in Canada, as well as half way around the world to Hong Kong and Bahrain. 

This exhibition of 50 pairs of shoes and boots has traveled to Hong Kong. Is it coming to the U.S. at any point? 

We do have a booking in Kuwait this fall.  We don’t have any American sites confirmed.

What was the story behind the best haul of vintage shoes or clothing you acquired?

I’ve had a few good hauls in my life, but the best was the estate of a woman whose husband was an air conditioning dealer in the 1950s and 1960s – just when people were buying air conditioning, so as he made money, her taste for couture grew. She kept EVERYTHING she ever wore, in double walk-in closets — 17 of them! Although Sotheby’s got a good look at everything first and siphoned off a dozen frocks, we were very happy with the leftovers. It took 4 or 5 days just to pack everything up and get it out of the house.

I asked Jonathan to quickly give us some tips concerning how to analyze or date a shoe:

It is difficult to be specific about what to look for when dating a pair of shoes because everything has to be considered — Style: shape of heel, shape of toe, type of shoe (slingback, open toe, sandal…), materials (leather, neolite, wood…) colour (wartime colour restrictions of leather footwear, aniline dyes), decoration (embroidery, tooled design, buckle, trim…) even the colour of the lining. Maker: label of store (location might have changed over time), designer, manufacturer, typeface used in lettering, type of label (stamped gold, fabric…) Origin can be determined by sizing (German and British, American and Canadian, and French and Italian each share a similar sizing…) Sometimes there is an overwhelming element that defines a pair of shoes, or any garment, but as fashion from the last twenty years has been a series of revivals, and newer items can appear very much like older examples, it becomes more difficult to be sure. I have a problem telling the difference between 1970s and 1990s platform shoes sometimes and have to rely on maker information to be sure. Above all, I would always prefer to handle an item before I decide on the most accurate date.


I wanted to thank Jonathan for his time, and I hope you all enjoyed discussing vintage shoes. Maybe you’ll take a second look the next time you see an “old pair of shoes”. The Anasazi shoe spoke to the anthropologist in me and the Perugia sang to the deco side of my heart. What vintage shoe designs speak to your heart?  Feel free to comment, ask questions, or discuss vintage shoe designs you love below. 

LINKS:

The Bata Shoe Museum-

Jonathan’s blog

Link to publications on vintage fashion by Jonathan-

Older Comments:

1. Kelly Jackson said…
Great post. I lived in Toronto for seven years before moving overseas and never went to the Bata Shoe Museum, for shame! Shoes aren’t my thing but I would appreciate learning of their historical and cultural significance over time. Though I’m a vintage jewellery fiend I think shoes would be way more interesting from those perspectives, somehow.

2. Sarara Vintage said…

Thanks! I also found myself neglecting shoes and boy do I love vintage jewelry. They both have tales to tell, but I think shoes somehow are indeed often a bit left out.

3. Blanche said…

THX FOR SHARING

Vintage Trifari Jewelry: Designer Diane Love Speaks about Jewelry as Art and Artifact

 

Feature image, 1970s Diane Love for Trifari Ad with Shekmet necklace and ring/earrings from her collection.  

The jewelry designs of Diane Love for Trifari are special for various reasons. Their collaboration led to innovations in costume jewelry and also brought a custom couture, yet historic feel to costume jewelry. Since Diane first began designing jewelry in the 1970s, her designs have become extremely collectible. Her one of a kind pieces, (about 135) created for Bergdorf Goodman in precious metals and stones, are now selling for many times their original price as are her Trifari designs.

 

Over the years many designs have been attributed to Love that are indeed not hers, due to the fact that her jewelry for Trifari was not signed. They originally only had an identifying hang tag with her name on it and box.  I felt it especially important to interview Diane about her body of work for this reason, as well as to celebrate the jewelry as she intended it, as wearable works of art. During the interview process, I learned various details which illustrated the story of her Trifari collections as a whole, as well as how she approached the designing of the pieces. This examination of the specific differences and characteristics of the Diane Love /Trifari collection is discussed below. During her interview she clarified for me the specific characteristics to look for when trying to identify a Diane Love design. You may recognize some of her book pieces, but few have really been archived. The lack of reference material also adds to the misidentification of some Trifari designs as Love’s. After she stopped designing for Trifari, they continued to create jewelry with ethnic themes and these are often misattributed to Diane. These brightly colored, less detailed interpretations that Trifari produced were not based on actual artifacts, but were more loose interpretations of cultural art.  A very different approach from Diane’s.

 

Example of a bracelet misidentified as Diane’s. It has the Trifari generic cultural theme and is NOT her design.

Diane, (pronounced Deanne) graduated with a B.A. degree in Art History from Barnard.  Her intention was to be a painter, but studio art was not offered at Barnard, so she majored in Art History.  As she said it is the “the best foundation any artist could have”. It was never her plan to design jewelry and perhaps having never studied jewelry design, it liberated her from taking a more traditional approach. In fact, she began as an antiques dealer. It wasn’t until she started making jewelry for herself that she was led to design jewelry for others. In Ms Love’s opinion jewelry being created in the 1960’s and 70’s was more about the perceived dollar value and status than artistic merits. This kind of jewelry didn’t appeal to her, she wanted to wear art, something that couldn’t be duplicated. It was through these designs for herself that her career as a jewelry designer began. Whenever she went out, people would stop her and  and ask her about the jewelry she was wearing and say– “where did you get that, How could I get one?” It was that demand that gave her the idea of designing for others. Thus, she finally started selling her creations, because she found the process of finding the artifacts and creating the designs such an exciting process.

 

Image of Chrysantheum collar from Diane Love’s  personal collection. Done for Trifari and part of the 2nd Collection. Image Diane Love, rights reserved.

                                                 THE INTERVIEW:

 

What were the first two pieces of jewelry that you made for yourself created from?

The first was from a 15th century Chinese jade belt hook and the other a Japanese netsuke.

 

You received your degree in Art History, what was your concentration or favorite area of study?

My thesis was on the legend of Theseus on red figure vase painting.  I was fascinated with Greek and Roman archeology and mythology.

 

Which culture or cultures influenced your early jewelry designs the most? 

I suppose in the beginning Asian cultures. I used a lot of antique Japanese and Chinese pieces. That’s what my husband collected and so that was what I had on hand. But as time passed, I found there were other possibilities that would be interesting.  It was always a challenge to find beautiful artifacts with  artistic merit, that could be adapted but gradually my exploration expanded and ultimately included: Luristan,  Egyptian, Ancient Roman, Russian, Viking , Greek, Byzantine, Sassanian, Scottish and Anatolian artifacts.  If it was beautiful, the right size and original I used it.

 

Luristan bronze pendant example

You created jewelry for yourself first, then made around 100 or so one of a kind designs for Bergdorf Goodman, NYC. These were made using original antique objects that you had found is that right? They also had an emphasis on art history. I have seen a few such signed examples at auction, done in gold and precious stones. In what ways were these designs different and similar to those produced with Trifari?

I made about about 135 one of a kind pieces for Bergdorf Goodman.  As I said, I searched for interesting objects small enough to incorporate into a piece of jewelry.  These precious pieces used the actual artifact, whereas the Trifari pieces used replicas of the original artifact. The artisans I worked with to make the precious jewelry were enormously innovative and developed many ingenious ways to marry the art object to a precious setting, so the piece was comfortable to wear. As you can imagine there is not as much flexibility working with precious metals and stones as with costume materials because I had to be mindful of the cost and the weight of the piece.  The Trifari designs used a base metal and faux stones and permitted me much more creative latitude. I worked with a wonderful model maker/designer at Trifari, Andre Boeuf who was a tremendous help.  We worked together to make the pieces ergonomic and becoming. The Trifari pieces included replicas of the original artifact right down to the color and texture of the original.  And just as with the precious jewelry, every Trifari piece included a description of the original art object, its country of origin and the time period it was made.  All my jewelry, both precious and costume, was sold in a grey satin box with a sliding lucite panel.  This box was intended to display the jewelry as an art object when it wasn’t being worn. 

Sotheby’s auction image of Diane Love, 18K gold, Bronze, and Diamond necklace. 1969. Bergdorf example.

 

Sotheby’s auction image of Diane Love, 18K gold, Bronze, and Diamond necklace. 1969. Bergdorf example.

What was a deciding factor in terms of doing a costume jewelry line?

The positive attention I was receiving from fashion editors was the stamp of approval I needed to interest the heads of Trifari to create the Diane Love for Trifari collection  One of the reasons I wanted to do a costume collection was to make the designs accessible to a wider audience.  Instead of the pieces priced in the thousands of dollars, the Trifari pieces sold for under a hundred dollars.  Perhaps because I am an art historian I loved the idea of spreading my love and interest in art history to others.  It was very rewarding when I saw how enthusiastic women were when they tried on the jewelry.  They were amazed at how comfortable and flattering the pieces were. Today, the Trifari  pieces are selling for many many times their original price.  

 

Stephenson’s Auction House image, rights reserved.

How many collections did you produce for Trifari and which do you think was your favorite and why?

I did two collections each year, so a total of four. I didn’t really see them as separate collections it was more about expanding the existing body of work. I created about 50 designs for Trifari in that two year period. I didn’t have any particular theme except to incorporate an actual art facsimile into each piece. However, in the last collection I began to add designs that did not include art replicas- this seemed a natural development because as I worked on the pieces I found, there were a number interesting elements that could stand on their own. An example of this is the scroll chain I created for the Sassanian disc.  I also had some other ideas that I wanted to explore.

 

Sassanian disc with scroll metal textile style chain. Diane Love image, rights reserved.

 

Diane Love for Trifari “Scottish Collar”, Love archival image. rights reserved.

This idea that there were no themes leads us to the question, What is the biggest misconception about your Trifari collection?

It is not so much a misconception as confusion because as a young jewelry designer I did not think to have my name inscribed on each piece along with the Trifari stamp. I wasn’t thinking ahead and imagining that years later the identifying hang tags would be detached and people would not know if the piece was mine or an in house Trifari design.  That is why so many things are attributed to me that are not my design. See image of mask below not a Love design…

 

Often misidentified as a Love design, it is NOT. Trifari mask pin.

Were there any processes created for your venture with Trifari which had not been done in the costume jewelry design world before?

There were a lot of things I did that were not being done in costume jewelry at the time- bezel settings, cabochon stones,18K green gold plating, hammered finishes, matte enamels, custom clasps and a black plating, which I developed with the Trifari production people in Providence.  These characteristics were in stark contrast to the bright faceted stones, 14K brown gold plating, shiny finishes and glossy enamels popular at the time. For Trifari to use 18K gold color plating on my pieces took a big commitment on their part because all the vats with gold plating had to be changed. 

 

Met Museum archive image, Diane Love for Trifari necklace. rights reserved/Met.

But I think this and the other details I have just mentioned gave my work a distinctive look.  It is important to understand that none of my designs were copies of jewelry pieces from earlier times.  They were a combination of a replica of an art object incorporated into a contemporary setting, that I created to harmonize with an antique object made, in some cases thousands of years earlier. I wanted the overall look of each piece to feel as if it might have existed for centuries.  It is very much in keeping with my aesthetic to work with subtle color combinations and burnished finishes. 

 

Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry you produced for yourself or Bergdorf?

Not really. Each piece is very distinctive and one cannot take the place of the other so for that reason I enjoy wearing them all and I enjoyed creating each one.  Each presented a challenge which forced me to be inventive.  I like artistic challenges because they force you to go beyond what has been done before.

 

What was your favorite piece that you created for Trifari?

Probably the Egyptian collar with the god Shekmet which I am wearing in the first Trifari ad. It  reflects everything that I strove to achieve in the collection: the exact replica of the original Egyptian artifact with it’s blackened finish,  boldness, a collar that conforms comfortably to the body,  cabochon stones set in bezels, 18K green gold plating and a hammered finish.  I am pleased too with the way the plates of the collar are linked together with simple hook like rings, and the clasp is also a simple hook, in keeping, I think, with the feel of something that might have been worn 2,000 years ago. 

 

Close up view of Shekmet center element. Diane Love Trifari.

That is actually my favorite as well, which I told her….

There is another from the second Trifari collection I particularly like.  It is a French Directoire ornament from a horse bridal in the shape of a crescent moon.  I designed two versions.  One a combination of silver and gold without stones, the other black with small pave stones that are shaded from light to dark ochre to reinforce the crescent shape. There are matching earrings, pin, a ring and a bracelet. I love wearing the collar in the evening if I have a special event– it feels festive. The crescent on the collar, pin and bracelet are the same scale as the original, but the earrings and ring have been reduced in size. 

 

Diane Love for Trifar, second image is the crescent moon design discussed above. Diane Love image, rights reserved.

One of the most popular and biggest sellers I did was based on an Elizabethan wedding band of two clasped hands.  The hands separate when you put the bracelet on- a solution I insisted on although it took some good carving on the part of the model maker to make it work. I did the bracelet and rings to  match in both gold and silver with a burnished finish. It retailed for $15.

 

Another concept I became interested in was trompe l’oeil. I had the model makers translate a black gros grain ribbon with tatting into metal with a black plating.  It looks exactly like cloth until you touch it and it is very flattering to the wrist.

 

 Trompe l’oeil or gros grain ribbon necklace example. Diane Love image, rights reserved. 

I also got into watch design, because Trifari had acquired a watch company and the asked me to create some watches. I did about 6 designs and used replicas of Samurai sword elements in their design.  They were quite a challenge because they also had to work well as watches. 

 

Some online articles have mentioned Diane Love prototypes/designs for Trifari that could not be produced due to cost. How many designs do you think there were, roughly that were never produced. Do you have one favorite design that you wish you could have produced?

That is not in fact accurate.  Everything I wanted to do we figured out how to make and we made it. My design method was to assembled the pieces three dimensionally in wax. Usually the only things I drew were the shapes of links and clasps, and the overall shape of a collar or necklace.   I worked this way in both the precious  and costume jewelry.  After all the pieces are three dimensional and I felt it was important to get a feeling of how the artifact and stones combined in a setting would look three dimensionally.  Of course, some pieces I envisioned where more difficult to execute than others but with the help of Andre Boeuf at Trifari, we resolved whatever design problems arose. Nothing was compromised.

 

If you had the opportunity wear or own a famous piece of jewelry from the past, owned by an important person, or from a specific period and culture what would that be?

That is a good question, I admire the early work of Cartier- their art deco designs…  I also find ancient Roman and Etruscan jewelry very beautiful.   I once owned a 24K gold Etruscan diadem with paper thin gold leaves. It was very beautiful and extremely fragile. 

 

Did you keep any pieces from either your Bergdorf or Trifari collections for your own archive?

Only the first piece, which was made for me and which got me started. It is a Ming dynasty, carved yellow jade belt hook in shape of a dragon.  It was set with very small diamonds in green, brown, and yellow mounted in 18K gold. The piece was so often admired when I wore it that it got me thinking that perhaps I should create a collection of one of a kind jewelry using antique artifacts.  When I showed several pieces to Andrew Goodman of Bergdorf Goodman he said we want them so I created entire collection  for the opening of the 57th street wing of the store.  In terms of the Trifari I still have about 30/40 examples. So I would say I have 75-80% of what I created for Trifari in my archive.


*Diane have created a link to this post and our sites which include images from her collection, vintage ads, and photographs of Love pieces and misidentified items. It will be updated as she photographs her archive. 

 

Examples from Diane Love’s private archive. Diane Love image, rights reserved.

Do you collect any antique or vintage designer jewelry?

I have a few things, I’ve picked up at antique shows. Not so much for ideas, but because I like them in and of themselves. I don’t really collect jewelry.  I do love and live with a lot of Japanese art. I have a wonderful collection of Japanese Ikebana baskets.  My source of inspiration goes back to my study of art history.  

 

On your website it seems you are still a working artist, explain your current artistic focus and endeavors?

I am a representational painter and photographer. But recently I have been making abstract collages. In a way assembling these collages is a similar process to what I use when I create jewelry- both the collages and the jewelry are assemblages. 

 

Diane Love, Arctic Sun collage. 2011. rights reserved. www.dianelove.com.

I enjoyed discussing the intimate details of her work and jewelry for Trifari. I think one important aspect of this article is the process of identifying the Trifari designs that are truly by Diane Love. There are several misidentified pieces that continue to be cited as hers in various sources. With her help I was able to clarify these and am including the misidentified examples below. I also wanted to detail characteristics to look for in her work. The most telling thing about the ethnic designs Trifari made after Diane left is that the designs are more generic than Diane’s, such as a stylized mask or “aztec” warrior.

 

DIANE LOVE FOR TRAIT LIST:

*The 18K green toned finish was unique.

*The black finish was something used and a process created by Trifari and Diane.

*Does it have an artifact look as if it was cast from a specific piece not generic theme?

*Majority of the larger stones were cabochons. There were faceted stones on occasion, particularly in

smaller sizes. 

*The pieces were usually completely detailed in the back.

*All clasps were integrated into the piece not standard or stuck on. Clasps look authentic to the time

period and piece. There are no pieces that have a lobster clasp. Clasps for my jewelry was

custom.

*All colors are subtle and hammered or matte finishes.

 

NOT a Diane Love piece, very often misidentified. Looking at our list you can see it’s generic not a real casting, the color is too vibrant and the gold finish is wrong. There is also a green set found in this Trifari example.

1970s Diane Love Trifari ad.

Recent image of Diane Love, rights reserved.

St. Barbara necklace, new example by Diane Love 2013. Sold via Jensenstern.com.

 ARCHIVES/SOURCES/LINKS:

Exclusive link to Diane Love’s Trifari archive/ CLICK HERE FOR IMAGES OF MANY RARE PIECES.


Diane continues to produce limited quantities of precious jewelry created from antique elements. You can see pieces carried at Jensenstern.com. Keep up to date on Diane’s art and jewelry via her own website –Diane Love: www.dianelove.com

 
 

Exhibitions and books covering her jewelry designs– Jewels of Fantasy, by Swarovski exhibited at the Victorian and Albert Museum in London, Musee d’art Decoratif in Paris, Fit NYC, Saudi Arabia and Japan. 

 

Jewels of Fantasy: Costume Jewelry of the 20th Century. by Deanna Farneti Cera.


See Morning Glory for a very extensive collection of vintage Trifari ads.

 

Online Patent archive for Trifari with images, dates, sketches: http://www.jewelrypatents.com/trifari1.html

**Please feel free to write in with comments or questions. I will try to add a response to thoughtful questions or pass them along for Diane. Let me know what your favorite of her designs was from the Trifari collection!

Article Copyright © Sarara Vintage,2013. Rights Reserved.

Past Comments:

 

1. Sammy said…

I absolutely enjoyed this blog entry! It is without any doubt that Diane Love pieces are highly-sought-after and very different from the rest. I had the privilege to own one, which was the Sassanian plaque necklace, and it has become and obsession to find more of her work.

I look forward to seeing the gallery of authentic Diane Love for Trifari, as well as the mistaken ones to update my knowledge. Great job and the interview! 🙂

http://etsy.com/shop/TheOpulentHippo

2. Sarara Vintage said…

Thank you, it should be up soon. As I said we will be adding to it periodically. I think it is so important to clarify this now as Diane Love is still here to guide us:) I love the Sassanian necklace-lucky gal!

3. Waalaa Vintage Jewelry said…

Fabulous, informative interview, and the jewels are spectacular! Thanks so much for sharing!

4. Graceful Antiques and Vintage Collectibles said…

Fabulous. I love Trifari Jewelry. 
Great interview. Thank you. 
Sandy 

Graceful Antiques

5. Jewellery Online said…

Absolutely stunning examples of the artform of jewellery as against the ‘bling’ and glitter of celebrity inspired jewelry. Great article, great blog – keep up the good work.

6. IIJInstitute said…

Such a marvelous piece of art and jewellery. I hadn’t think of such inspiration blog post. I am curious to see and learn Trifari Jewelry. I will consider this points in my Diploma Courses in Jewellery Designing

Verdura, The Jewelry Line that Launched Ships in Search of Sea Shells

Someone once said “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Well, in the case of Verdura jewely it is a little bit of both.  Being born a Duke and meeting Coco Chanel most certainly helped Fulco di Verdura, but his art is undeniable.  I enjoy the line even today. Their jewely is a thing of beauty, based mostly on his old designs created while he was living as well as antique pieces. What’s not to love? Okay, the price may fall into the what not to love, as I was reminded recently at an auction. An iconic shell design, which was estimated at much lower, went for $80,000.  That is a house to many people in today’s economy. But before we freak out, let’s enjoy the art of the pieces. As they say there is no charge to look-well that depends sometimes on what you are looking at, but anyway…It did have just everything right. Created in 1972, a very iconic work with the precious stones and shell, and it had a letter.

John Moran Auctioneer image. Verdura letter.

Fulco was born in 1898 in Sicily and his interests are chronicled on Verdura jewelry’s vibrant image filled about us page. The history found on the company’s website is worth the look!  Now if you find it hard to relate to his opulent upbringing you may not be alone. However, his work has stood the test of time and you really can’t buy his kind of talent.

Coco Chanel in Fulco’s Maltese Cuff design. Man Ray Image.

Fulco was not known at all in the world of fashion design, until he met Coco Chanel. She saw something in him and fostered his talent by hiring him to work with her on textiles. However, as you can probably guess he sort of rebuilt her jewelry line.  Love her iconic maltese cross cuffs? Yeah those were Verdura!  They worked together from the 1920s-1934, per the Verdura website. There is a whole lore about her asking him to create pieces from jewelry collected from her past beaus.  Maybe that is how it all started, sitting in Coco’s amazing apartment tinkering with jewelry together?  However, there is no mistaking that his Maltese crosses were based on his love and study of art history, especially Renaissance art.  This combined with Coco Chanel’s design aesthetic and polish led to the creation of the magical maltese cuff. They traveled Europe for inspiration together and settled on the Maltese cross as a point of departure. 


Platinum, made in 1967 Verdura. Scratch numbers ”C1906”, the camel body set with a baroque cultured pearls, full-cut round diamonds, yellow sapphire and ruby bead camel brooch. John Moran Auction image.

Why is Verdura important to the history of jewelry design in the United States? 


That brings us to our shells and his NYC store. Verdura is known as sort American jewelry royalty. We claim Verdura because in 1939, he transplanted to NYC were he opened his first jewelry store.  As he is reported to have said, he was inspired by his breaking away from his past: “There was no past for me here”(http://www.verdura.com/American).  His designs quickly caught on and he became a popular choice for the stars. Garbo was a dedicated admirer of Verdura jewelry.  He spread his wings to the west cost and started making jewelry for a well known designer Paul Flato.

Fulco worked until 1973, this is where our 71 pin/necklace comes into play. It was designed and produced while he was still alive and working at Verdura.  He passed away in 1978.  The demand for anything produced before 73 is thus higher!  The company was purchased by a longtime admirer and continued the rich tradition with such guidelines and attention to their vintage line.  The above image is  a Verdura Sketch of the famous Emerald Scarf Necklace designed for Dorothy Paley in 1941.

Shells Glorious Shells:

When he purchased shells from the Museum of Natural History he sort of changed jewelry design history.  The use of sort of earthy non precious elements with fine stones that we often see juxtaposed began with his shells. He mixed fine stones with these sea creatures, filling them with beautiful and expensive elements.  Others later followed suit after this line became so popular and desired!  I think this is also something that has both inspired my work and jewelry choices. There is a certain poetry to abandoning the conventional monetary notions of natural stones and elements and letting go to create a final successful product. It is poetic that someone born with so much, could appreciated this juxtaposition of simple objects with the “fine”.  

Memoirs Of A Hollywood Costumer: Vintage in Film

Marsha with Matt Dillon.  Marsha was the wardrobe supervisor for Drugstore Cowboy.
Photograph from  Marsha’s collection. rights reserved.

I have always had a love for the costumes created by the master designers of film.  As we get closer to the Oscars I am reminded of their importance. They take us to that time, setting or moment, and breathe life into a character. Giving us a string of unconscious visual cues about their personal nuances. So when I had to chance to interview a fellow vintage shop owner with a colorful costume design past- I was on it! I was able to candidly interview costume designer and wardrobe supervisor, Marsha Perloff. She is admittedly now retired, but is still working with vintage as the owner of Ranch Queen Vintage.  She has 1,000s of costume and vintage items stock piled from her film and T.V. days which fuel her new clothing passion which is Ranch Queen.

Everyone always asks how one gets started with vintage but how did your path lead you to working not only with vintage but with costume, wardrobe, and film?

I was dressing in vintage back in high school in the 70s. My passion began during my trips to flea markets with my mother who was a clothing and antique buff. We bonded over these things although we had different tastes. She fostered my creativity by letting me choose clothing and décor that I liked. I was able dress how I wanted. She also taught me about quality. She had a few wonderful designer dresses she wore to special events. One Valentino, I remember her wearing and another Ungaro piece. She also had a dressmaker she used to create designs she saw but couldn’t afford. Whatever she didn’t use, scrap material and such were made into outfits for my Barbies. (I thought those barbies probably never looked better!) Sewing became a part of my life. I started to merge my aesthetic appreciation of vintage with sewing. I made totally mixed patchwork garments with vintage and recycled materials. I loved the vintage it was so romantic.

So this set you up to fall into the arms of costume design but how exactly did that happen?

I started really collecting in the late 70s when I moved to San Francisco to go to film school at SF state. I loved the hippie look and movement – so I moved there to Haight Ashbury to live. It wasn’t the Haight of the 60s but it was romantic…I started working in rock clubs, as a cocktail waitress in the 70s-80s to put myself through school. It was there I would wear my vintage mixed outfits to work: 1910-1920s era boots with tights and 40s rayon dresses. I mixed a lot of different eras. People would ask hey where did you get this or that? One time a rep for a local indie clothing company asked if I would like to style their wardrobe for a catalogue shoot. At the time I thought it was kind of funny someone paying me to put together my look. I was thinking I’d be an artist, film maker…. This kind of started it.

Marsha in her waitress days wearing vintage. Image property of Marsha Perloff.


So what was the big break or first film/tv costume position you had-how did you get from wardrobe stylist to costume?

My friend Ellen was a prop master. She knew of a costume designer that needed an assistant, so I moved to L.A and did free lance. I did stuff like dress the extras, returns, hands on selection of clothing and also got noticed for my seamstress abilities. I remember freaking out a little when a custom made Stetson, for the main character, needed aging and they asked me to do it authentically….

But, the big break was when I was pulled on to do a pilot for a show called The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, starring Blair Brown, which was picked up. The main character was a working woman who lives in New York and she doesn’t quite have the cash but she still had a flair for fashion. They wanted her to have a look similar to mine – kind of off-beat. It was actually one of the first shows where the lead character wore a creative mix of vintage as her wardrobe, not just box designer stuff (which her character really wouldn’t have been able to afford). Blair wore a mix of some 40s blouses, a bakelite pin etc. In the show, her ex-husband was a jazz musician, he wore a lot of 50s shirts and coats.  This show was special for me because it was like someone was validating my own personal style and it showed on the show. I worked in Los Angeles for the show three seasons, until it was moved to NYC. I decided not to make the move.

What was your favorite type of film to work with?

Well– I really wanted the period pieces as much as possible because of the vintage, but they were hard to come by. I did a lot of rock videos, TV movies, big screen films, commercials…

Spuds Mackenzie and Marsha on the set of the commercial. Rights Reserved.

What was one of your most memorable experiences from working on a film?

A memorable experience was as wardrobe supervisor for Driving Miss Daisy. It was a lower budget film so we had to be creative. We couldn’t afford to have era copies made and we had lots of scenes, from lots of eras of her life and we had extras to fit from each of those eras! All in vintage, sometimes people forget it is scarce, it doesn’t always survive.. Her life on film was from 1947-1985! We had trouble at first finding the amount of clothing we needed because when we started sourcing from the Los Angeles costume houses, there were three other period pieces in production at the time.  Everything had already been rented. So we left for Georgia with very few costumes and hoped when we got on location we could find more. We were feeling very nervous about how we were going to costume the film.


Now I as the interviewer vintage lover, I was on the edge of my seat because I know Georgia and how it can have some crazy estates and vintage hoards and the story didn’t disappoint as she continued….

Well, our 1st AD had run across an ad in a local paper saying that there was a Macon barn sale, where an old family dry goods business that had closed in the 60s was selling its stock off. We took a chance and drove there. We arrived and it was in an old barn and there was vintage décor and clothing on racks, tables, and such….racks and racks of 30s-40s clothing with tags still on them. The prices couldn’t be beat because the owners- kind of saw it as a headache, so they let us have loads for one a great price. Honestly, that is how we costumed the film.   The image below is a pretty typical shot  we would take of actors in their costumes (in the old  pre-computer/digital phone days!) for our continuity notebook. Some scenes were shot over long periods and we needed to make sure everyone’s wardrobe and accessories matched perfectly at all times. I probably had asked them to hold their purses up so I could see them better.

Driving Miss Daisy, shot by Marsha of extras in costume, rights reserved.

Wow, we all dream about or have had that one crazy vintage moment where it is like opening a vault and going back in time, but that certainly takes the cake..

Favorite moment from it all?

Well the day to day was hard work, but the real reward was seeing the finished film. Seeing your work come to life in front of you in context. It is a moving experience. Driving Miss Daisy as well as Of Mice and Men were particularly rewarding. Of course the Fabulous Baker Boys was a dream experience as well.

Marsha working on the set, where she was “dirtying” the clothing of the extras with dust, on Of Mice and Men.

So my mind as a vintage seller/collector landed on one all consuming thought: all of those clothes used on films throughout the years! Her roster included – Driving Miss Daisy, Of Mice and Men, The Fabulous Baker Boys (which led me to deviate to the hotness that must have been Jeff Bridges at that time wow. Who she described as super down to earth and nice….),Drugstore Cowboy, Spuds Mackenzie commercials….Did you keep the clothing I blurted out??

Well, yes that kind of led me to how I got here with the stock for the store. Basically after a production wrapped whatever the studio didn’t put back into the stock, I would buy. The collection got quite large. When I became more involved in dog training and rescue I had less interest in going on location for extended periods. I became involved in a rental business here in the city called Costume Collection, where productions would rent pieces and we, the consigners – all costumers, got a percentage when they rented. Unfortunately, finally with the economy, a few years back, it went out of business and they said we should get our stuff…well I had thousands of items. So I got what I could and brought them to my home and studio to start the store. 

Shoes currently for sale, used on the set of Driving Miss Daisy. Click here.

Is there a piece of vintage from your collection that you will never sell?

Yes, a very rare 1960s Rudy Gernreich silk mini.

I can see why, I thought enviously- what a dress!

1960s Rudy Gernreich Silk Dress. Ranch Quenn Vintage Image, rights reserved.

So do you still have connections to costume design?

Yes, I have some old industry /theater connections. I prefer to sell to them not rent, but that is a link I still have. Recently, I sold some items to Mad Men, which were worn by main characters.

Bikini, circa 1960s from Marsha’s store, worn by Megan on set in Hawaii for Mad Men.  Megan’s image is a press image released by deadline.com. Season 6 Mad Men.

With that I added my final question. If you could go back in time and work with any costume designer for film who would it be and why? What if I said you could work on any film or production, which would it be?

Adrian of course. He created the dream. He would take something the leading lady had, an asset and hone in on it… create iconic signature looks like Joan Crawford’s shoulder pads. He was avant garde and innovative.

The film or production I would choose… That is a good but hard question…hum. I think it would be one of the Ziegfeld Follies, for the grandness, glitter, and outrageous sparkle… they just don’t make films like that today…..

Well played, Adrian Adolph Greenburg or Gilbert Adrian as he was known was a master. (See my post on him for more information if you don’t know his history….he was true magic).  The Ziegfeld Follies for those who aren’t familiar were a series of large glam theater productions based on the Follies Bergeres of Paris (1907-1931). This also led to a film. 

Louise Brooks a famous Zeigfeld gal, circa 1925 in costume. Press/Follies historical image.

You seem to have an appreciation for film history…..

Actually that leads me to something important that really shaped me in terms of my career, that I had forgotten to mention until now. I grew up in Culver City, a small town that was home to the MGM studios. At the time it was only about 30,000 people. Many of my friend’s parents worked at the studio not as directors or anything – but as secretaries and grips… so I was exposed to it from an early age. It didn’t have the tight security sets and studios today have. I remember just one long green wooden fence and a lone security guard. We snuck in to the back lots numerous times, I remember playing in what seemed like miles of finely grated plastic (fake movie snow)… Something big that sort of marked me for collecting was when MGM had their closing auction and sold all the costumes in the 70s. I was a teenager, so I couldn’t afford much just the left overs…. I bought a gown probably worn by an extra in a film, maybe Gone With the Wind… it was that sort. The mayor at the time bought a pair of the ruby slippers for the city….

Marsha with Pierce Brosnan on the set of Victim of Love 1991


That is so cool, such a meaningful experience. Thanks for sharing those things. My mind wandered through her romantic land of green picket fences, ruby slippers, old hollywood sets and plastic snow, Haight Ashbury, 80s rock clubs and daisies. Marsha’s store Ranch Queen Vintage is bit of that life she has shared here with us, as colorful and eclectic as she is inside and out. She left costume work around 2000 and has since focused on the dogs and her store.  Marsha now lives on a large plot of land, outside LA, working these days with rescue dogs and the shop. 100% of all her sales go to care for the dogs at Devil Dog Ranch. (Click here to visit her SHOP or her work with our four legged friends at www.devildogranch.com).  


Interesting Sources for Costume/History:


Kent State Gallery of Costume, 18th,19th 20th Century Fashion/Costume


Dorothy Jeakins Costume Design Archive 1932-1975


B.J. Simmons & Co. Costume Design Records


Met Spotlight on Gilbert Adrian.

Past Comments:

5 comments:

1. Karen said…

What a great post!

2. cookie said…

Not only is Marsha is a classy lady, who knows her vintage, she is a warm and lovely human being.

We met last year when she opened her home and studio for a vintage team meet up.

Continued success!
Barbara aka Cookie

3. Mary said…

That Driving Miss Daisy story is the best! I’ve seen the movie a million times and next time I’ll really look at the costumes and remember where they came from!

4. Elly Maggy said…

I really enjoyed reading this interview, thank you!

Thanks so much for your comments, Marsha’s life and stories made it easy. She is great! I am working on keeping the interviews and unique posts coming.

Crazy About Art Deco: A Beginners Guide to Deco Accessories

Our fashion affair with deco design is enduring.  It is possible to think of art deco as the 20’s exclusively however; the movement began in Paris in the 20’s and spans until the early 40’s. Not everything from the 20’s embodies that deco style, just like everything from the 20’s is not flapper in style. Flapper’s represented a cultural style and subcultural movement which affected notions of gender but that is another story.

ART DECO design appeals to me because it drew inspiration from non-European cultures such as the Egyptians, Asian cultures and groups native to the Americas. It was modern in its interpretation of geometric mathematical lines and shapes but cultural as well. There was a use of bolder colors and a sort decadent yet streamline aesthetic.

I want to highlight the art of wearing art deco designs using vintage pieces.

Sources: Art Deco Fashion [Hardcover]Suzanne Lussier

Roaring ’20s Fashions: Deco (Schiffer Book for Collectors)by Sue Langley, John Dowling

Flapper Era Fashions: From the Roaring 20s by Tina Skinner

HERE ARE SOME ACCESSORIES TO LOOK FOR WHEN WEARING HISTORICALLY CORRECT PIECES:

OVERDRESSES/TUNICS: Okay so not quite accessories, but close… these are the beaded sheer tunics you see originally worn over neutral frocks. They are great if in good condition, look for items which seem current in design. They will be show stoppers at a party. Remember you don’t want to look like you came out of a time machine, but instead like you are wearing a couture piece off the runway.

I cannot say enough about finding a few great pieces from this era and highlighting them. Mixing vintage and contemporary designer and neutral pieces gives you an extra chicness and edge.

EXAMPLES:

Great example of the use of Asian and modern lines- I own this piece and removed the fragile top so that I could make the most of the unique tunic.

Deco Bags. Look for handbag with a modern feel: This one is actually one mixes modern metals/lines and exotic leather:

JEWELRY, BELTS, HEADBANDS AND HEADDRESSES: Look for bold colors and stunning themes in metal. Belts can be amazing if you can find the right size so don’t forget those options. If you like to wear what I call head jewelry, the 1920s has some of the best made examples. Rare and unique these era headpieces are a great find.

Don’t forget machine age jewelry like, Jakob Bengel…which can feel incredibly modern.  Images from my personal photographic archive.

French Cicadas and Glass/ 20s Gilt Arm Band

Tips for collecting:

When collecting for investment purposes one has to be careful not to over estimate its value just because of age- particularly the items from the 20’s. Condition is key. You can expect some wear, but the more maintained the better. Also does it showcase what we celebrate in terms of the design of the era? There are various texts on the 20’s and art deco which can use:

Jewelry:

Art Deco Schmuck: Jakob Bengel – Idar-Oberstein / Germany (Art Deco Jewelry) Hardcover – by Christianne Weber Authentic Art Deco Jewelry Designs by Franco Deboni. Paperback, 1982.Art Deco Jewelry: Modernist Masterworks and their Makers, 2009. Evelyne Posseme.

Egyptian Revival Jewelry and Design, 2007. Dale Reeves Nicholls.

Collecting Art Deco by McConnell, Kevin

Art Deco Interiors: Decoration and Design Classics of the 1920s and 1930s by Patricia Bayer

Various books of interest in terms of interiors:

Art Deco (Revised Edition)by Arwas, Victor

In the Deco Style by Dan Klein, Nancy A. McClelland, Malcolm Haslam

Online NY Times Fashion Article:http://runway.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/09/a-deco-moment