Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Come Fly With Me

One of my favorite new shows is Pan Am on ABC.  I'm not sure the ratings are great, but I've been enjoying it because I used to run a private club for the aviation industry and the Pan Am Association used the club.  The Association was basically a group of Pan Am alumni who  had great loyalty to Pan Am.  There definitely was a culture at that airline that many former employees did not want to lose. 

I'm also a fan of shows and movies set in the 50's and 60's, like Catch Me If You Can.  I love the uniforms the stewardesses wear in the show...yes, that's right, stewardesses, not flight attendants.  I know the pc term today is flight attendant, and that's the term I normally use, but you'd better not call a former Pan Am stewardess from that era a "flight attendant," because you will be corrected and fast!  Back in the day it was extremely prestigious to be a Pan Am stewardess or a pilot.  Of course, back in the day air travel was a little bit more luxurious than it is today. 

Watching the show and seeing the stewardesses carrying their Pan Am bags reminded me of all the really cool airline swag I've collected over the years, much of it accessories.  Some of it I got as a kid and some of it I got working in the industry.  I didn't even realize how much I had until I started digging it out.  It's all collectible and I'm guessing more valuable if it's from a defunct airline.

My favorites are the bags.  I love them and was thinking I should use them, but I don't want them to get damaged.  I have one from SAS from when I was a kid traveling alone to Norway to visit friends.  I think the airline gave me the bag because I was alone, or they might have given it to me because I got stranded by myself in Denmark on my 12th birthday on the way home.  Not a fun experience for a child.  But, in true SAS fashion they took very good care of me.  They hired a babysitter, put us up in a luxury hotel and took us to the Tivoli Gardens amusement park for the night.  The second bag is a special limited edition from Jet Blue from when the airline was very young.  Jet Blue used the club a lot and I got to know some of the employees and one of them gave me the bag.  I was instructed to keep it quiet though, because they weren't being widely distributed.  It's been about ten years, but shhhh.....

Vintage SAS travel bag

Limited edition Jet Blue travel bag

The flip side...

Fairly common in the airline industry are the pins/buttons.  Airline people hand them out pretty readily and everyone collects them.  I used to get a lot of them and sometimes, I'd get duplicates that I could trade or gift.  Some of them have really special meaning for me, like the one given to me by Russian Cosmonauts who were visiting the club, and the ones from the U.S. Air Force/Air Mobility Command when I took a trip with them and visited two Air Force bases and got to fly the boom on a refueling tanker while we refueled the stealth bomber in midair!  Other cool ones are from Boeing, Boeing Security, Delta, the Department of Transportation (DOT), and Jet Blue to name a few.  If you are familiar with Jet Blue you will notice that the two buttons pictured have the same patterns as the tails on their planes.  As you will see some of them are still in their sealed plastic wrappers.  Whatever came sealed, I left that way.  If you are a collector you don't remove them, because the value is highest if they are in mint condition in a sealed wrapper. I also have my vintage wings from traveling as a kid.  One says "Jr. Stewardess" and another says "Junior Clipper Pilot" If any of you still have your wings, send photos!

Vintage "wings" from Pan AM, United & Delta

Assorted pins from the aviation and aerospace industry

Once in a while, because of my position, I would get something kind of neat, like the Jet Blue bag.  On one occasion I was working on a huge event involving Boeing so when my counterpoint on the Boeing end came in he brought me a cute bracelet and a lovely silk scarf.  (Boy were my employees jealous!) The bracelet was made especially for Boeing and came with a little card that tells about the bracelet.  Again, a very important addition if you are a collector because it authenticates the piece.  The scarf has a vintage Boeing aircraft on it, in fact the first aircraft Boeing ever made.  (The diagonal striations on the scarf are wrinkles, not damage.  It's in perfect condition.  If I wanted to wear it I would iron it, but I didn't want to fool with it just to take a photo.)  If I ever have enough wall space I might frame it and hang it.  I think it's a great conversation piece.

Boeing bracelet

Close up of the airplane charms

Card with the bracelet

Back of the card

Boeing scarf

The next time you travel don't forget to ask the airline for souvenirs.  Many of them operate on shoestring budgets these days, but I'll bet there are pins floating around and if you ask you might get.  With the frequency with which airlines come and go, that pin might be a collector's item sooner than you think.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hermes Ties That Bind

Yesterday Liberty, today Hermes & Chanel....My father loved his Liberty of London ties always, but on a trip to Europe he bought himself some Hermes and Chanel ties and Hermes became another favorite for him.  It was great, because we had a second gift option for him for Father's Day!  He ended up with a small collection of beautiful Hermes ties that are now vintage.  They're not as brightly colored as the Liberty of London ties, but they are very elegant and come in a range of interesting patterns.  Many of the ones pictured here incorporate a horsey motif, either horses themselves or cleverly intertwined bits and bridles. 

A selection of vintage Hermes ties

A few more that need to be pressed

The presser arrived and at first he appeared to be helping by patting them down
(notice the position of his paws).....

But, alas, he was actually flattening them to make a comfy bed for himself and was caught sleeping on the job.  It's true, you can't find good help these days.  Thankfully, he didn't harm them, because these are the ones I want to sell.

There are a few vintage Chanel ties thrown in for good measure.  Of couse they have the double C logo incorporated into the patterns.  Interestingly, while the Hermes ties are all made in France, the Chanel ties are made in Italy, even though Chanel is a French company. 

Vintage Chanel ties

I'm looking for ideas of what to do with the Hermes ties.  I once saw a skirt made out of them, but I don't have enough and I don't want to wear a crazy, multi-patterned garment, even if it is Hermes.  Maybe a teddy bear made of the ties?  If anyone has any suggestions let me know.  Below are close ups of the Hermes ties:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death

Okay, maybe that's extreme when talking about a tie, but Liberty of London fabric is 'to die for'!  Liberty of London became really popular in the States a few years ago.  The brand seemed to reach cult status when Target featured their Liberty of London collection, most of which sold out very quickly.  In fact, my friend, my mom and I snagged some great, inexpensive stuff before it all disappeared off the shelves: pillow, quilts, shirts, shawls, umbrellas, plates, bowls, tea pots, picture frames, candles, flip flops, and storage boxes all in floral Liberty patterns. 

Growing up, no one knew what Liberty of London was when I mentioned it.  It was sold here, but apparently wasn't all that popular or well known.  In the UK Liberty has been around since 1875 and there's a great Liberty store.  I've known about Liberty since I was a child.  My father was hooked on their ties, especially the floral ones.  As a very young man he was stationed in Scotland with the Air Force and he developed an affinity for British clothing during that time.  It's so funny, because my father was a very conservative dresser, except for his ties.  He'd wear a dark, three piece suit from Brooks Brothers and punctuate it with a brightly colored tie.  In the summer, that would almost always be a Liberty floral.  (Eventually he got interested in Hermes ties, but that's another, future post.) 

My father's conservative suit with bright accessory approach is a combination I totally approve of and one I often apply to my own style.  I think it's fair to say he collected Liberty ties.  There are even a few hanging in his collection, never worn with the store tags still attached.  Ties, like other accessories, tell a lot about the wearer's personality, and are an opportunity to express individuality.  Below is a sample of twenty-two of his most colorful ones, mostly floral, all vintage and all beautiful!

A veritable tie garden

Close ups below:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bug Off

A lot of collectors like to have a theme when it comes to their collections and for some jewelry collectors that theme is insects.  I can't say that's a theme that appeals to me personally.  I do think there are a lot of beautiful butterfly pieces out there, and ladybug and dragonfly pieces are also very pretty, but I just can not warm up to beetles or spiders.  My philosophy is if I don't want the live version crawling on me, I don't want to wear the replica.  But, then again, I'm a bit bug phobic.  The good news is that if you do fancy bug/insect jewelry there is plenty of it at reasonable prices, and it's often very colorful.  The pin below is vintage, I'm guessing from the 70's or 80's.  It was made by a company called Gem-Craft, that is still in existence today.  The pin is marked "Craft."  I looked through probably a thousand photos on line trying to find a photo of something similar, but no luck.  That may mean it's rare.  If anyone has one like it please send a photo.

It's an interesting, good sized piece, and every time I look at it I imagine those legs starting to move.... I posed it on some apples, because I figured that's where a bug would want to be, and it looked less menacing against the bright green.

Vintage bug pin

Sunday, January 22, 2012

High Wattage Vintage Bling

There's vintage and then there's Vintage!  The set below is vintage with a capital 'V' for us.  No photo can really do it justice.  This beautiful set was already vintage when my father gave this to my mother at least twenty years ago.  This set, of clip on dangling earrings and long tassel necklace, is made of Austrian crystals.  It is by a company called Kramer, that made high end costume jewelry out of New York from 1943 until about 1980.  Kramer even made jewelry for Christian Dior.  Kramer pieces are highly collectible today.  This particular piece is stunning for New Year's Eve or any very dressy occasion.

Vintage set from Kramer

Sets like this can be pricey, and obviously if you are buying one either as a collector or just to wear out from time to time, you want to make sure there are no missing crystals or loose stones.  While you can probably find a replacement part (cheap vintage items with missing stones can be used for their replacement parts), the more pristine a piece is, the more beautiful and valuable it is.  You also want to make sure the piece is marked, as this one is, so you can authenticate the origin and approximate date.

If anyone has a Kramer piece that was produced for Christian Dior please send a photo!

The Shmoo

A vintage Shmoo pin

This is a shmoo.  Shmoos were a benevolent fictional character invented by cartoonist Al Capp for his Li'l Abner comic strip in 1948.  Apparently they were intended as a social satire about society at the time.  I won't go into what the shmoo was intended to represent or what people think it was intended to represent in post war society, but Wikepedia has a great history of the shmoo if you want to read more.  The shmoo character only ran in the comic strip for a few months, but it became wildly popular throughout society, including on college campuses, and its image was everywhere, including jewelry.  Think "Hello Kitty" popularity tenfold, or maybe times ten thousand!  This pin belonged to my grandmother.  She must have been about 40 years old when shmoos made their debut in pop culture, so it's amusing to me that she had one of these.  I can not imagine her wearing this pin.  Raymond Yard and Tiffany were more her style.   Perhaps it was a gag gift, or maybe it belonged to one of her children, who would have been teenagers at the time.  But, she saved it for years and eventually gave it to me when I was a kid. 

Close up of the shmoo's face

If any readers have shmoo items, especially accessories, we'd love to see!

A Gem from Barbara: Ali McGraw hits the fashion scene

I was reading the current issue of Town & Country Magazine and Ali McGraw is on the cover.  It reminded me of the first time I was introduced to her.  I was in my early 20's and working in the press department at Mademoiselle Magazine.  At the time, Mademoiselle had a guest editor program for college girls who would work at the magazine during the summer, based on a writing contest.  Ali McGraw, a Wellesley student, was assigned to the fashion department.  My first impression was that she was a very pretty girl, with an athletic build, but not the prototypical fashion model.  Clearly the editors at the magazine recognized her potential as they worked with her during the summer.  They decided to put her on the cover of the annual college issue that fall, and the rest is history! 

Favorite Shoes

I've already posted these on my Facebook page, but they are so fabulous I have to add them to this blog.  I LOVE these shoes!  I was lukewarm about them when I bought them, but I'd seen something similar on a fashion blog and liked the way they looked, plus they were on sale and who can't use another pair of black shoes?  From lukewarm to hot, hot, hot!  They are now one of my favorite pairs.  They are comfortable, they make me taller and I get so many compliments when I wear them, particularly from men, which always amazes me because I didn't think men really bothered to look down that far on a woman's body.  What I really like about these is that they embody elements of so many different decades:  peep toe, fringe, chain hardware, slingback, platform...overall, I think they have a sexy schoolgirl vibe because the fringe and chain are usually on a loafer.   Because it's winter I've taken to wearing them with black tights.  They came in olive as well, but I think I made the right choice. 

Fall 2011 YSL

Vintage Chameleon Rings

A big trend in the mid 20th century that extended well through the 1970's was getting multiple uses from a single garment.  You can still find this today, but I don't think the concept is quite as popular as it once was.  My mother still talks about the fabulous reversible clothes she had as a child and as a young woman!  The idea of getting multiple uses from an item was also very popular in jewelry in the 1960's and 70's.  As with clothing, this still exists today, but not as prevalent as it once was.  From watches to earrings to rings, changeable bands and stones increased the allure of a single piece of jewelry and added value. 

I was particularly fascinated with the changeable rings as a kid.  My mother has a fabulous one from well known costume jeweler Trifari that I liked to play with.  She thinks she got it in the 1960's.  I discovered it years later when I was digging around in her jewelry box in the 1970's (one of my favorite activities as a little kid when I had nothing else to do).  I remember being told to make sure I didn't lose any of the stones.  One of the cool things about the stones was that they are apparently magnetized, which was how they stayed put in the case.  They would sort of wiggle around in their spots when I opened the case, and I loved that. 

Vintage Trifari changeable ring

Because I was so enthralled with the Trifari ring, and my mother was afraid I was going to lose the pieces (more chance she would have since I'm the careful one), she got me my own of lesser quality to play with.  One set may have originally been hers as well.  It is a simple Sarah Coventry ring with four colored beads or "pearls."  Sarah Coventry jewelry was sold the way Avon was in those days, at home parties.  The ring is marked "Sarah Cov" which was the mark the company used in the 1970's, which makes it easy to date.

Vintage Sarah Coventry changeable ring

My mother, or maybe both parents, also gave me another interchangeable ring that they bought just for me.  This one has three stones that are irredescent and look like mini disco balls.  I'm guessing I never wore it out of the house, but it was fun to play with as well. 

Vintage changeable ring

Of note is that all three of these rings are adjustable, a feature I've found in many vintage costume rings.  I don't know if there is a formal name for these rings beyond the changeable moniker popularly used, but I think of them as chameleon rings because they change color by popping in a new bead.  The Trifari set is a great travel piece, because the one ring goes with every outfit.

If any readers have vintage changeable rings I'd love to see photos and maybe I'll even post them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ride 'Em Cowboy

I love hats.  My favorites are beautiful and colorful straw hats that ladies used to wear out on a regular basis in this country, the kind English women still wear on special occasions in England.  I'm particularly fascinated by fascinators, those headpieces Kate Middleton favors.  One of my favorite annual events in New York is the Central Park Conservancy's FLO luncheon, affectionately known as the "Hat Luncheon."  I love the luncheon because it's the one day of the year in NYC when wearing a hat is the norm and all the woman look so feminine and lovely.  But cowboy hats are pretty cool, too, and I'm guessing that the Dallas tv series remake may spark a new interest in them.  I wouldn't be surprised to see a few Stetsons strutting down the "dirty sidewalks of Broadway" (that's a quote from the song Rhinestone Cowboy, fyi).  I would personally probably not wear a cowboy hat around NY, but once upon a time when I was in junior high school cowboy hats were "in" and I had one.  The popularity of Western wear outside of the Southwest waxes and wanes in high fashion circles (consider the recent resurgence of Frye boots and turquoise jewelry over the past few years), but a genuine cowboy hat is certainly an attention getter!  I love my junior high cowboy hat.  I never wear it nowadays, but if I lived in Texas or the Southwest, I wouldn't hesitate to wear this once in a while.

Felt cowboy hat

I think the store where I bought this was a store that sold riding apparel.  I do remember the feather band was sold seperately.  It's kind of a big hat for a junior high school girl, but as they supposedly say in Texas "go big or go home!"  Lucky for me it still fits, just in case I decide to "go big" and give JR Ewing a run for his money.

Trying it on for size

Proud of the Peacock

My first introduction to vintage jewelry was from my father.  He collected antiques and turned that interest into a small second business.  On the weekends he would go antiquing at antique shows, flea markets and garage/tag sales, often getting there at 6 am to be the first on line, because the first on line gets the best stuff.  He was mostly interested in fine China, but he sometimes purchased vintage jewelry.  Often the jewelry would be sold  in a lot, a big box of what appeared to be "junk" but could contain a small treasure.  By the time I would get up in the morning he would already be home with all his finds spread out on the dining room table, taking inventory.   If there was jewelry, I would zero in on that and learn about the pieces, their assumed value and era.  One time he brought home the peacock pin below:

Vintage hinged peacock pin

This pin is sterling with a gold overlay, with beautiful green and blue enamel.  It is marked "Sterling" and "Siam" on the back.  Siam is what Thailand used to be called prior to 1939, and again between 1945 and 1949, which would make the pin 63 years old at the very youngest.  A unique feature is that the tail is hinged, so it can be lowered to be positioned at a 90 degree angle from the body.  Worn on the shoulder that way, it would appear that the peacock's tail is spread behind it. 

Tail down

This pin's hinged tail makes it a unique piece, although I don't think it's particularly rare.  I have seen the same and similar peacock pins for sale.  In fact there is currently one being offered on Ebay!  Authentic pins like this are being sold for up to about $100.  Considering my father paid $3 for it, that's a pretty good investment in a colorful and interesting vintage piece.

Where It All Began

I (Alison) have loved jewelry since as far back as I can remember.  Even as a kid I was obsessed, and readily admit I am a glitterbug.  If you dangle something sparkly in front of me, even a piece of tinsel, you will capture my attention.  So, when my birth was marked by the addition of two lovely gold pieces, one given to me and one to my mother, I was smitten and a yearning was set off that exists to this day. 

Gold teddy bear for Mom, gold locket for me.

The gift to my mother was from my father.  It is an adorable teddy bear pin with ruby eyes that he purchaed at Bloomingdale's.  The ruby eyes signify my birthstone and my family founded Bloomingdale's, so this particular gift has special meaning.  Growing up I would sneak a peak at it whenever I could.

Nowadays the present a husband gives his wife to commemorate the birth of their child is called a 'push present'.  On my 21st birthday my mother decided to give me her push present as a gift.  After twenty-one years of lusting after that little golden teddy bear he was finally mine!  Here's a closer view of him...notice the eyes and the brushed gold body that creates texture and gives the appearance of fuzziness.

Charming little guy

The second big gift of jewelry that commemorated my birth was a gold locket from Tiffany & Co from a family friend.  It was made especially for a child's neck.  Obviously I wasn't going to wear it as a newborn, but I very much appreciate the friend's forethought.  I loved taking the locket out of it's box and trying it on.  I only wore it in the house, because it was so special and I didn't want to lose it.  I even put a photo of myself as a baby inside.

Baby Alison

Locket's original felt pouch and box.

Admittedly, I've pickled both the pin and the locket because they are so significant I could never bear (no pun intended)  the thought of losing them.  But, they did spark an interest in, and a love for, jewelry that has only increased with age.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Accessories Across the Generations

This blog is about accessories:  bags, shoes, jewelry, hats, belts, scarves, ties, etc.  Contemporary, vintage, expensive, inexpensive, ours, yours, the stores'.....we are going to feature all of it in this blog.  We plan to share photos, of course, but also the history of accessories, our personal histories and anecdotes with accessories, and tips for collecting.  My mother and I love fashion in general, but specifically accessories, and we want to share our enthusiasm with others who find adorning themselves as fun as we do!  The love of fashion and accessories spans several generations of women and men on both sides of our family, so whether it's learned behavior or encoded in our DNA, or a little bit of both, we hope to pass down the tradition of loving accessories to you.  Enjoy!