These 1930′s nudes by Russian photographer Alexander Grinberg very nearly didn’t survive. As a celebrated photographer teaching at the Moscow Society of Photographers he was imprisoned in a labour camp for five years, during the Stalinist regime, for producing work described as “dangerous to society”. Fortunately for us his older brother hid the negatives and his beautiful images live on.
There is a reason why I have a crush on Harper’s Bazaar España, apart from Sandra Suy’s beautiful illustrations. The attention to the layout of text, in relationship to images, is really quite something.
I confess I am a terrible magazine junkie, and it may simply be the case that I am so used to reading the same magazines, I’ve become desensitised to their layout. But the creative, contoured use of text in this publication has really hit me between the eyes and feels distinctly familiar.
The reason it might strike you as familiar is because of Alexey Brodovitch, the art director of Harper’s Bazaar (US) who revolutionized magazine publishing with his use of double spreads and clever typography in the late 1930′s through to the late 50′s.
“Brodovitch sometimes manipulated text to comply with the constraints imposed by the photograph. He explored various typographic possibilities to see how they could work with the content of an image; he seems, for example, to have designed the contour of a block of text to harmonise with the outline of a dress photographed by George Hoyningen-Huene (15March 1938). At this time he was also performing similar experiments with the photographs of Man Ray. One or more dropped initials, in black or in colour, would harmonise the composition of the text and create a counterpoint to the image”. (Alexey Brodovitch, Gabriel Bauret)
“A Hurrell portrait is to the ordinary publicity stills what a Rolls-Royce is to a roller-skate”. This is how George Hurrell, MGM’s main man, was described in Esquire magazine in 1936.
George swept into town with the intention of becoming a painter, only once he started photographing heiresses, with his signature dramatic spotlight, creating sculptured cheekbones and glowing skin, he never looked back.
By 1929 he had a contract with MGM and became renowned as an image maker, helping to create the flowing locks of Veronica Lake and the impressive cleavage of Jane Russell.
I’ve even spotted some gorgeous images of Brooke Shields, Sherilyn Fenn and Jessica Lange. Oh, how comfortable would you feel to know that you were going to sculptured and veneered – no wonder they all look so serene!
I watched the documentary Diana Vreeland – The Eye Has To Travel over the weekend and it is an absolute must-see. I was totally transfixed from beginning to end.
“I was the most hideous thing in the world”, Diana Vreeland told an interviewer in 1977 and perhaps because of this, she became the champion of the eclectic woman and the unconventional beauties of the world.
I won’t spoil her story here, you must definitely watch the film, but she was well known for her “Why Don’t You…” column in Harper’s Bazaar in the late 30′s which involved bizarre suggestions like “Why don’t you twist (your child’s) pigtails round her ears like macaroons!”
As you can imagine as fashion editor for Harper’s Bizarre and then Vogue, she delighted in the extraordinary and her fashion shots are still some of the most talked about. She launched many a face and made a huge impact in developing a more cosmopolitan consciousness in the world of fashion.
So I thought I would just highlight a few of her favourite people so you can get a taste for the film. Do, do watch it – it’s total escapism and a history of fashion all in one …..
The lady who discovered Lauren Bacall
Mick Jagger photographed by David Bailey 1964
Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes 1939
I shall now leave you for a week, as it’s half term here and it will no doubt be chaos….Cx
I now know the best way to get the presents you desire and that’s to write a post about them. Oh yes, some of those lovely 10 Best Books found their way into my stocking this year and I am one happy gal!
Now I’m not favouring one present over another, but I have to say Decades by Cameron Silver, which my cousin’s in law gave me, had me, (rather unfortunately for my family), totally mesmerised on Boxing Day.
The pictures are gorgeous. But the story of how this young cabaret singer who randomly started to collect vintage fashion, established a prestigious vintage store and essentially waited for the vintage trend to unfold, is totally fascinating. Needless to say Cameron Silver now dresses Oscar tipped celebrities.
So I guess you would like a sneak peek?
Camille Clifford 1905, Gibson Girl
Gustav Klimt 1918, Portrait of Johanna Staude
1924 Dress by Chanel
Frida Kahlo by Nickolas Muray 1938
Red Scarf by Clare McCardell 1946
Grace Kelly, To Catch a Thief, 1955
Monica Vitti 1965
Bianca Jagger in Zandra Rhodes
1980′s gets edgy! Loving those canary yellow knickers!
Now you know why I was rather uncommunicative!
“There are different layers of rich, and you have to choose which rich she is. She’s the heroine of the film, so you can’t choose to make her a dumpy rich person. She’s also Faye Dunaway. You can choose to make her rather chic. I’ve never seen Babe Paley wear anything but brown, gray, off-white, and black. I assume Faye does the same thing as Mrs Mulwray”.
My friend, Emma, picked up this 2006 W magazine for me, on one of her home shoots, and I discovered this wonderful 30′s style photoshoot which is just so reminiscent of the uber- chic, slightly masculine style of Mrs Mulwray in Chinatown, I just had to put the two together:
Photos: Michael Thompson for W Magazine
I’m rather susceptible to white lace dresses, particularly the edwardian types with the bobble edging and crochet details.
In fact you can usually spot me at a vintage fair by the trail I lead from one white outfit to the next. Generally, followed closely by my mum, saying “yes it’s lovely but when would you wear it?”
Well the weather, for the last few days anyway, has been perfect for a white dress – this is when I would wear it ………if I had one.
So, with a little investigation, here are some rather lovely white lace dresses to drool over, introduced by a little inspiration:
Vintage Textiles $800
Personally, I think the vintage ones have the edge over the more modern versions, but I suppose at least they’re not as fragile or petite.
I absolutely love the second one at Etsy, and pretty reasonable considering the excellent condition and exquisite detail.
Hmmm …..watch this space, I might have to make it mine …..unless you get there first!
My mistress is very sensitive to the clothes she wears. She’s a phenomenon. If she has a lively dress she’s lively, like today. If she has a shy dress she’s shy, like yesterday. And everything changes, everything: she talks in a different way, she’s somebody else.
She’s dressed in sparkling and very close-fitting green scales: the dress ends in a thin sharp tail. From the neckline a kind of snake emerges and continues in spirals twice around her neck, it’s head ending up in Dea’s hair as a headdress.
Massimo Bontempelli, Nostra Dea
Every era has it’s own iconic “kick ass” girl – think Princess Leia or Ripley in Alien. But in the mid twenties to the early thirties this lady had scales and a tail.
As early as 1925, Massimo Bontempelli, the italian fascist modernist poet and writer, describes his protagonist, Dea in a “she serpent dress…who immediately takes on a “thunderbolt glance” and a “voice full of hisses”.
Set designs for Nostra Dea (Gabriele Mucchi 1925).
Future she-serpent stars, Sandra Ratti and Tatiana Pavlova. (Source: Fashion at the Time of Fascism)
She-Serpent designs were starting to set the fashion world on fire…
(Illustration Loris Riccio 1926, Source: Fashion at the time of Fascism)
…with Erte becoming the “King” of the curved, sensuous and darkly hypnotic form, which featured strongly in his costume design and illustrations.
The Serpent form found its way into the cinema, into the theatre, and into photography – as demonstrated rather seductively by Josephine Baker, in pearls, coils of gold and a rather cleverly silhouetted fishtail.
George Hoyningen Huene
The five year rule culminated in 1930, with Kay Johnson as Madam Satan, with her amazing Zeppelin Ball gown, designed by Adrian.
“The costume of Kay Johnson, as Madame Satan, formfitting in the extreme, leaves Milady bare almost to the waist in front, with elaborate silver sequin scrolling; the back isn’t; and the skirt has two long scrolls over each hip and one over the stomach, while a long skirt with a voluminous train is edged in a series of points embellished in silver sequins, giving the impression of a forked tail with scales. It is beautiful beyond description”. Rosaline Shaffer (writer)
Source: Dressed by Deborah Nadoolman Landis
And just like that the she-serpent curiously disappeared and her five year rule came to an end. Has there been one since – I can’t think of one? Where did she go?
So, a note to all budding screen writers – vampires have had their day, it’s time for a modern day “kiss ass” she-serpent and there’s five year’s worth of inspiration to wet your appetite.
I found a woman after my own heart at the vintage fair on Sunday. She had this wonderful stall with the most incredibly dressed mannequins. The difference about this stall? The clothes weren’t miniscule, nor torn, nor soiled – they were perfect and detailed in the way you want vintage clothes to be.
The reason they’re so perfect is because they are recreated. But, you know how sometimes you see recreated vintage and it just doesn’t seem right – I suppose partly because of the mix of today’s and yesterday’s fabrics? Skinny Rich Fairies was spot on.
I was immediately drawn to this beautiful pair of grey trousers with lace inserts. I didn’t know at the time they were recreated and I was totally perplexed, I just couldn’t place them – 20′s, 70′s? In addition there was a choice of tops to go with them – all equally gorgeous.
The work is extremely skilled. I’m not sure I could recreate such detail and I breathed a sigh of relief when I found out that the seamstress used to be one of Princess Margaret’s. That’s ok then – I don’t need to get “vintage recreation envy” – this is a professional, way out of my league.
So if you’re looking for something totally unique but with a vintage edge then do check this out or contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org – and if you buy the grey pantsuit I shall be very jealous!
I am now going to return to my own vintage recreation or should I say restoration. A beautiful, but very damaged sequin flapper dress, which is taking an age to sew back together. It’s for a shindig on Friday with my fellow burlesque ladies which I’m really looking forward to – at least this time we shall be applauding not performing.
I can feel a post coming on for next week!