Architect of Attire – The Genius of Charles James

There’s a handful of names which roll off the tongue when talking about fashion designers of the twentieth century. Dior, Chanel, Quant, Balenciaga, to name a few. But there’s one other name which deserves to be spoken of in the same league, and that is the oh-so-innovative Mr Charles James.

Born in the UK in 1906 to an English Father and American Mother, James moved to Chicago as a young man and worked in the offices of a family friend. After putting on a fashion show for fun (which consisted of Batik beach wraps) the family friend saw talent in James and moved him to the Architecture department. There he learnt the mathematics and structural skills which he would later utilise in his dress designs. James went on to work in fashion from the 1920’s onwards. He soon became the first Parisian style Couturier the US had seen, having such influence on fashion design that his contemporary, Dior, remarked that James was ‘the greatest talent of my generation’. That’s quite some claim when you consider that in his 45 year career, James only produced around 100 garments. But such was the magnificence of his designs, he earned every bit of recognition, and continues to inspire designers to this day, including my favourite; Zac Posen. Charles James deserves to be up there with the most well known names of the century.

In particular, James was known for ballgowns – and mY GoSH, do I loooove vintage ballgowns – winning high society clients in both the US and Europe. If you wanted to be seen in a ground breakingly beautiful gown, James was the man you needed to have on speed dial. Or rather the old fashioned equivalent. Either way, if James made you a dress, you would WOW. Fact.

During his career, James proved to be a pioneer of design, adopting an innovative approach to the structure of each garment. His dresses weren’t simply made, they were engineered and sculpted with complex corsetry and draping. He developed a signature ‘Wall of Air’ in his dresses to hold the fabric away from the body, allowing these heavy works of art to sit comfortably on the wearer. He loved a bustle (don’t we all?) and gave numerous nods to the Victorian silhouette. He wasn’t only a leader in the sense of shape, he was also the first designer of his time to use zippers, snaps, synthetic fabrics, and unusual pairings of colours. Without James, I reckon we could be looking at quite a different history of fashion.

James is best known for a few of his signature dresses, all of which paved the paths of future designers.

Clover Leaf Dress, 1953

The Clover Leaf dress is astounding, and quite possibly his most praised. Made in satin, it was constructed from four sections (torso, upper skirt, middle section of the skirt, and the hem) and the base has four corners resembling a clover leaf. James’ designs were often derived from the beauty of nature, and he always interpreted it in such a modern and original way. He first designed the Clover for Austine Hearst to wear to the 1953 Eisenhower Inaugural Ball. This 10lb gown sat balanced on the hips and made a sweeping statement. Deemed too bulky for that occasion, Hearst ended up wearing it to the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II instead. A worthy wear, in my opinion. James made six black and white clover dresses during his career.

Butterfly Dress, 1955

Another dress inspired by nature, James’ Butterfly dress is a sensation. Once you know that it’s designed in reference to a Butterly form, you can see it. The slim column body with the layered transparent tulle as wings. Incredibly elegant, James formed a higher torso and bust line than usual to accentuate its length and proportions. This earthy tone was so novel for evening wear, but brown was soon secured as a perfect palette for future fashions.

Taxi Dress, 1932

Many credit Diane von Furstenberg for creating the infamous ‘wrap dress’ in the 70’s. But way before she was even born, James had already created the style. He actually first developed it in 1929 and went back to fully realise the design in 1932 when it got stocked in small amounts in department store, Best & Co. It was a highly wearable piece and was made with modern women in mind; the idea being that it was easy to take on and off in the back of a taxi! Formed from one piece of seamless fabric, it had a spiral zipper and three clasp hooks to anchor it at the hip. Just. Genius. And, way to go for making life easier for the gals!

Charles James is high up there in my top 5 favourite designers of his era. The drama of the designs, the show stopping extravagance, twinned with an original flattery of the female form, means that his work thrills my eyes. And when you add to all that the fascinating construction behind each idea, well, it’s just dreamy for any vintage lover.

Stunning, and with a story. Perfect.

Thanks for reading, if you have learned something and enjoy my writing, you can always show your appreciation by buying me a virtual cuppa! xx

Ya Gotta Love a Leiber Bag!


Last month, legendary maker of lovely bags, Judith Leiber, passed away at the grand age of 97. I absolutely adored her designs. She died in New York, at her home, just hours after her husband of 72 years also died; which is a strangely sweet situation. Budapest born Leiber began making bags after the second world war for the secretaries of the American Legation. and just over a decade after that she relocated to America and her company was born in 1963. Loved by the famous and the fashionable, Leiber’s quirky and covetable designs bring a big ole smile to ya face. ‘You have to have a sense of humour’ she once said, and her delightful delicacies – which include ice cream sundaes, over-sized bows and animals in outfits – proved that playfulness was paramount in her work. Over her career she made leather bags, shoulder bags, snakeskin bags and evening bags, with her iconic signature style being the miniature metal cocktail bags which were completely covered in rhinestones. These sparkling sturdy bags were developed by accident when Leiber once had a metal based bag which had a stain on it, so she covered the stain with crystals, and, ta-daaah, her biggest hit was born! These luxurious bags are all hiiighly collectible and are pretty darned pricey but, so, so delightful. Seen in the hands and on the arms of Bjork, Emily Blunt, Barbara Bush and our very own Queenie, its no wonder that examples of her designs are on display in museums around the world. A swan shaped encrusted bag was featured in an episode of Sex & The City – when Big gave it to Carrie in lieu of saying ‘I love you’ – and this pretty much cemented Leiber’s place in pop culture history. She leaves behind her a real legacy of loveliness.
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If you ever find yourself with the desire to spend some big bucks on a brilliant bag, you can see the selection here, or, browse vintage stores for her older designs, they will always be an ace investment.

Mon Dieu, Dior! An Impulsive Pop to Paris

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So, Paris is always a good idea, so the saying goes, and I kinda think it’s true, as I discovered when I impulsively popped to the very pretty city. Paris played host to what I can now confirm to have been a dreeeeam exhibition of Dior, and since it opened in July 2017 I had been properly pining to go. I wrote it off as too indulgent and costly, but, when I realised I had no plans for New Years Eve, and that the exhibition ended in early January of 2018, well, the pangs for Dior proved to pull me towards booking a solo trip. A treat for myself after a very tough year. ‘Couturier De Reve’ (dressmaker of dreams) was an exhibition I just couldn’t miss. I imagined being an old lady and saying ‘I nearly went to Paris to see that amazing Dior exhibition, but didn’t go in the end’, and that thought made me sad, so I booked a seat on Eurostar, and went.

Pop! Paris was calling.

It did cost me money, and it did feel feel indulgent, but it did make me very happy and I’m so bloody glad I went. Dior did not disappoint, not one teeny bit. Paris itself was wonderful, an exciting and elegant city, and travelling alone was just what I needed, (more on the city and travelling solo in my next posts) but Dior, damn, it was divine. Celebrating 70 years since The House of Dior was created, it was an exhibition of epic proportions. I’d arrived late one afternoon so wandered down to The Musee Des Arts Decoratifs so that I knew where I’d have to get to the next morning, and what the queuing set up was like. Getting there from my hotel was straightforward as the Metro was real easy to navigate, and even though the museum was due to close in an hour the queue was still wiggling a long way down the street. Gah, I’d have to pitch up real early in the morning to ensure I got in on my only full day in Paris. So I got there bright and breezy with a croissant in my tummy on the morning of New Years eve, and the queue was pretty short. Phewf! I stood and chatted in line with a lady from Stockholm and we got in as soon as the doors opened. I kinda knew I’d be flabbergasted by it all, my tummy was all of a fizz with excitement. It totally blew me away. Like a combination of all the best bits of any fashion exhibitions I’ve seen in my life, this was simply spectacular. I’m a girl in love with dresses, and this Dior show was dress paradise. It was insightful, educational, expertly curated and so, so beautiful. There were loads of rooms, each completely different to the next, and it covered Dior himself and his design beginnings and went on to showcase the work of all the designers at the helm of this house up until now. It was an absolute heck load of lovely. And, as a vintage dealer who has often referenced his iconic New Look outfit -which defined a decade of dressing- to see that in up close was pretty fluppin’ brilliant. It was busy, but calm, all of us in awe of what our eyeballs were seeing. The final room of course had been instagrammed to the heavens and I was most excited to get in there for real. It was like a fashion finale with everyone in there like, literally gasping at the utterly magical feeling it created. Sparkling lights like stars moving around the high painted ceilings of this grand space, music kissing our ears, and dresses, showstopping dresses which I’ve only ever seen in fashion history books, right there in front of my own face. I don’t think I’ve ever been this immersed or amazed by an exhibition before, absolute perfection. Dior sure made my dreams come true in Paris that day.

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Get The 1920’s Look – Live By Night

Live By Night is a very cool, stylish and captivating movie. Written, directed, co produced by, and starring Ben Affleck, (crikey, he’s been busy!) and with Leonardo DiCaprio taking on the shared role of Producer too, you know you’re in for an exciting watch. Set in 1926, it focuses on a Boston bred mob of gangsters who set up shop in balmy Florida during this prohibition era, facing off against their competition. You’ve got everything to make your heart beat and your eyes go heart shaped; beautiful vintage sets and fashion, money, molls, love, sex and speakeasies. It’s a dang thrill for sure. This ace film is already available as a digital download, but from Monday 22nd May we can get our hands on the DVD or Blu-ray here in the UK, hoooray! So, with it’s release being imminent, I wanna help you get the perfect roaring 20’s look, for day or night, because, trust me, after gettin’ your peepers on this flick you’re gonna wanna get some of that vintage lushness in your life!

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With the talented gals that are Elle Fanning, Zoe Saldana and the utterly captivating Sienna Miller all in this film, the fashion reigns supreme for me, gah, the beauty of it all! You get all the looks in this flick, casual daytime looks and the faultless flapper look that every girl loves, right, We ALL love a flapper dress? When it comes to this era of fashion you need to be thinking; femininity, pretty florals, dreamy pastel shades, cottons, silks, and beads. If you wanna wear a daytime look from the 20’s, think delicate cottons, slim flattering cuts, cloche hats (or a Fedora or Newsboy Cap for a more relaxed look too), neat leather bags, and Mary-Jane or T-bar low heeled shoes. A delicate sophistication, a simple and effortless elegance. The women of this era dressed with poise and politeness. But then in the evening, they turned into dazzling and sparkling coquettish glamour girls, with piles of pearls hanging from their neck, tassels, beading, dainty bags, cool cigarette cases; it’s a gorgeous fanciful and frolicsome look, I LOVE it!! Embroidered silk shawls, stockings and red lips make this a really sexy look that you can either add elements of to a modern look or go the whole way and re-create the look to perfection. With authentic vintage items from this era, well, we’re talking about pieces that are nearly 100 years old and so not only can they be rare to find, as many have been lost to time, but also, it can get expensive. But, if you do wanna spend on an original 20’s dress in good condition, hey, it really is worth every penny as it’s an investment and a gorgeous piece of history to keep. If you just wanna add a 20’s touch to a modern outfit you could source a little beaded bag, or a beaded collar necklace to add to a new dress, to hint at the style. Below are some pieces I think are just wonderful, the pink beaded dress is a modern version of an old flapper dress, so you get one in new condition that is less fragile and is generally more affordable than an original 20’s flapper dress, this one is just adorable for a party or wedding! The dress with the bow on the back is (absolutely DREAMY) and is an original dress found on Pinterest, just as inspiration. The original 20’s peach cotton day dress is for sale in my online shop and is a perfect example to team with Mary-Jane’s and a cloche hat. The minty beaded one is also in my shop and is an 80’s dress which clearly has 20’s vibes, finding an 80’s beaded dress is often a cheaper way of getting the look too! All other items I have shown here are on Etsy, get looking on their pages to find gorgeousness galore, and you may just find your dream dress or the perfect accessory to create the look. Hey, a cute idea is to get some 20’s style going on and spend time with friends watching Live By Night; that sounds like a sweet treat of an evening to me!

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Live by Night is out on Digital Download now and available on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday 22nd May 

Tie The Knot: Advice For Planning A Last Minute Summer Wedding

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Has your loved one just popped the question? Would you like to get married as soon as possible? Well, lemme tell you, last minute weddings are often the most fun to arrange. While you have a lot of work ahead of you, there’s still enough time to plan something amaaaazing this summer. Just use some of these ideas and advice to ensure you leave no stone un-turned. At the end of the day, this is a moment you will remember for the rest of your life. For that reason, you’re going to need as much help and guidance as possible. This should help….

Finding the perfect venue – Before you do anything else, you’ll want to find a beautiful place in which you can do your thang. The issue is that most places are booked at this time of the year. Still, cancellations happen, and you might get lucky. Just bear in mind that you’re unlikely to receive any discounts for last minute bookings. That means you may need a healthy budget if you want to make your dreams come true. Maybe you could apply for unsecured debt consolidation loans in an attempt to ensure you have as much money as possible? Either that or you could sell something valuable that you no longer want to increase your funds? Whatever you decide, it’s sensible to have more than £2000 at your ready to spend!lou16

Getting a dress you love – Dressmakers can take months to design or adjust the perfect dress for your big day. However, you’ll need them to work faster than that. It’s wise to get in touch with different specialists in your local area and explain your situation. At least one of them should be willing to push your order to the front of the queue. Alternatively, lots of professionals keep second-hand dresses that were only worn once. Nothing is wrong with opting for one of those products if it helps you to achieve your goals. Vintage wedding dresses are also a great affordable and very beautiful option, seek them out by looking on auction sites or searching vintage specialists online. Just make sure you don’t settle for anything less than you’ve imagined in your dreams all these years, of course! 

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Arranging catering – The guests at your wedding will need something to fill up those hungry tummies. However, you don’t want to spend a fortune because that decreases the money you can spend on your dress and venue, obvs, so, you gotta think outside of the box and try something different. Cool catering vans selling yummy street food or fish and chips are popular these days because they’re a cheap, simple and fun solution. Maybe something like that would keep your guests happy? There are specialists you can call who will provide enough food for one-hundred people for less than £1000. You just need to get in touch with them as soon as possible to get them booked! 

If you take the advice from this page, your summer wedding should be sorted in a matter of days, hah, easy-peasy! All you have to think about then is where you want to hold the reception. At the end of the day, there’s no reason to spend a fortune on that venue. In most instances, you will employ a DJ and keep the lights low. Many of your guests will get a tad tiddly and have fun regardless of the surroundings. Do yourself a favour and ensure you spend the bulk of your budget on the wedding venue itself. That is where you will take professional photographs, and it’s where you’ll make your memories. Enjoy planning!