1960 Jeannette Alexander Striped Linen Dress
Vintage 60's Pink Linen Jeannette Alexander Dress
Jeannette Alexander Vintage Summer Dress
50s Peggy Hunt Blue/Green Linen Dress With Appliqued Flowers
Here are the latest dresses of my Mom's and Granny's that I've just won on eBay. I've been having a run of luck in finding my Mother's dresses which is rare. Mom's dresses were made with much cheaper fabrics than Granny's were because they didn't want their lines to compete with each other and Mom wanted to make dresses that were more affordable for women. Because of this her dresses haven't held up as well and I don't see as many of her dresses as I do of my Grandmother's. Also I think since these really weren't special dresses, women just wore them until they wore out. Since it cost much more to buy one of my Grandmother's dresses, and they were mostly for evening wear, and perhaps a dressy luncheon or brunch, women tended to set them aside for special occasions and would take better care of them. Sometimes I'll get lucky and find them in pristine condition; dry cleaned, paper stuffed, and covered with plastic. I've spoken with women in their seventies, eighties, and nineties who talk about wearing one of my Grandmother's dresses with such fondness, as if they'd never looked sexier in their lives than when they'd worn one.
I have had to seriously curb my spending on vintage family dress collecting. It's so hard to pass up on them, but when people who think they've got a big fat Jacqui fish on the hook, use shill bidding to force my bid up too high, they are learning that the Jacqui fish isn't that hungry anymore and just may swim away, yeah, what she said.
I really wanted the last one, the green and white ivy lace covered dress of my Grandmother's, but I wouldn't have been willing to go as high as I used to. Even though the dresses are pretty, I'm the sap who went around telling all of the dealers that I was looking for them, which totally overinflated their value. As long as everyone knows I'm out here trying to build a collection, sellers will try to get as much as they can. For example, the last dress, why do you think disney238 made sooooo many teenie tiny bids, thirteen to be exact, just before the auction ended? Why not just bid her max and see what happens? Grrrr. I don't know what makes me think everyone shouldn't be just as desperately worried about money as I am, why people shouldn't want to try to get as much money as they can for something. I just hate when they're sneaky about it. I mean there just aren't a lot of people in the world who would do what I would do and collect dresses as a favor for someone I hardly know, just because I know they want them. I swear if some designer's granddaughter came to me and said, "Hey, will you do me a favor and look out for affordable Ceil Chapman or Lilly Anne dresses for me?" I'd do it in a second. Maybe that's what I need to do -- form a buyer's support group -- because Lord knows the dealers have got each other's backs.
Peggy Hunt Vintage Linen Applique Wiggle Dress
Pretty 50's Jeannette Alexander Floral Wiggle Dress
Here are two that I didn't buy. I actually feel sad when I lose an auction because they feel like little bits and pieces of our family that should come home, after all of these years, to roost with the rest of the dress-hen family, but I've learned, finally, that there will always be another, and it's better to let a few go than go broke trying to collect all of them. I am a little worried about the upcoming fashion and preview shows in that any publicity we get may temporarily price these dresses out of my range.
I wonder if I'm shooting myself in the foot here, but the whole reason I began this process of gathering up their old dresses was to try to help them earn their rightful place back in the history of fashion, particularly California fashion since my Grandmother was the first person to design and manufacture women's clothing in Los Angeles. She was such a pioneer for her time, a woman wearing the pants, so to speak, riding the train back and forth to New York to buy fabric and findings, and then later traveling by boat to Europe where she would select and purchase her lace, while my Grandfather stayed home and took care of my Mom. This was a pretty radical thing for a woman to do in the thirties, at least out here it was, before Sunset was paved and it was only just a donkey trail.
Okay, off to get things done.
There's even someone selling a kind of overly sentimental looking portrait of a little girl, by an artist named Janet O'Leary, using my Grandmother's name. It says in the auction that she sketched dresses for Miss Peg, Mom's in too bad of a mood right now for me to call and ask her...Nope, I just couldn't resist, glutton for punishment that I am I just had to go and call Mom who spent a good half hour telling me what a terrible shit and a nut I am, lovely, thanks, I feel so terrific now.
Anyway it turns out that Mom only remembers her as having modeled, and maybe selling some dresses in the showroom for Granny, but that doesn't mean she didn't do some sketches. Mom doesn't remember everything. Although they didn't really do the kind of sketch work that you'll see today -- those super pretty design sketches that the designer houses will use in advertising or perhaps for couture. Mostly they just did what Mom calls a quick sketch. I can remember being about six or seven and sitting on the floor in our living room while my Mom and her friend Joyce, who works for FIDM now, came up with ideas, did some little sketches, and draped and pinned fabrics on a mannequin. The sketch artists my Mom does remember using are Connie, (sadly she can't remember her last name, but she does remember that she died of cancer), and Dorothy Copeland, same last name as Beau's tutor.