Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wearing History Trousers

 I am so glad Wearing History has a graded 1930s style trouser pattern! I whipped this pattern up quite quickly with some black cotton twill I had because sometimes in the summer I have to be on stage...which means all black. Well, of course, if I'm gonna be in all black I'm gonna do it in style! I cut for a size 26" waist and then graded out for my hips. I think the next time I do this pattern I'm going to do some adjusting in the rise and on the tucks in front...I'm always having trouble with the crotch length since my torso is a little longer then average. I'm hoping to pick up some nice wool in downtown LA this summer so I can make some more of these pants for the fall and winter. 

The blouse I am wearing is a thrifted 1980s (polyester!) does vintage...isn't the pleated piece in front fun?! And such a great color, I get so many compliments on it.

The Squaw Dress, Part 3: Real Life Susie Homemaker

Well this is it...the final of my three part series on Squaw Dresses. I have had so much fun researching this fashion trend of the 1950s...I was actually quite shocked that there was so much information about this dress on the web. I'm wishing now I had planned ahead and ended this series with my own homemade Squaw Dress, but there will be one in my near future! I'm also happy that I've gotten positive feedback from this series and hope that I can do more like this in the future. 

This post is going to cover Mrs. Susie Storm, a real life Suzie Homemaker, who created her own marvelous Squaw dresses and turned it into a full-fledged career. She is in inspiration for each and everyone of us who have talent and are dedicated to our hobbies in hopes that we can turn it into a career. I found every little thing about her fascinating and I hope you do to.

Suzie Homemaker
Susie Storm, housewife, mother, career woman of Hobbs, New Mexico
-The Squaw Dress turned this hobby-seamstress into a successful, creative designer-manufacturer. 
-When Susie started designing and wearing her own fiesta dresses her friends insisted on buying them right off her back.
-She was entirely self-taught, she had never taken a sewing lesson in her life. 
-She began sewing because her daughter was so small that she had to create age appropriate clothes for her over purchased garments.
-When she turned her intrigue to fiesta dresses, she discovered the limitations of the ready made ones; which were made for durabliity rather then beauty and versatility.
-She began designing pieces that could move into the ballroom, as well as daytime sports, spectator sports and playtime.
-Her most successful creation was a silver Japanese silk with a seven tiered skirt trimmed in black ribbon and silver metallic braid. It measured 22 yards around the bottom and used 572 yards of ribbon and braid. She had no intention of selling it but finally parted with it for $200.
-Between 1953 and 1954, in a period of 8 months, she sold 152 dresses between the price of $60-$100 each.
-She had offers from manufacturers to design dresses for them, but she never wanted to go that route because she enjoyed the freedom and creation she had doing her work from home.
-She did design other types of dresses, realizing at some point the fad would wane.
-She never really had to market herself. Between her friends and customers who wore her eye-catching creations orders always flowed in. 
-She was her most successful model. She had a slim, attractive figure and she was always beautifully groomed and would enter a room with a confident poise that would command attention.
-She widened her market beyond New Mexico, by accompanying her husband on business trips wearing her bright, eye catching garments; or when her friends would travel.
-One lesson she learned was thus, "If you live in a small city likes Hobbs, don't allow a local shop to handle your dresses. You are too 'available' to the women who buy your garments. They always are wanting another blouse, an alteration, or this, or that. If you sell your dresses away from home, you can forget about them." 
-Of her work she said, "There is deep satisfaction in creating something lovely. If I had all the money in the world, I'd still get satisfaction from making beautiful dresses." 
-Most importantly, she never allowed her career to rob her family of all her time. 
Susie's Squaw Dress Technique
- She'd use silk, pima cloth, combed lawn, powder puff muslin, cotton prints, velveteen, cotton satin or corduroy.
-She would tear all material for tiered skirts to ensure its the same width all the way around.
-She based the number of tiers and the width on the height and build of the person.
-For skirts with seven tiers she would tear the material lengthwise and used the selvedge for the last tier as the hem. Eleven yards are required for a seven tiered dress, which will measure 22 yards at the bottom.
-Dresses with fewer tiers would be torn crosswise.
-Her pleating was accomplished by using a quarter-inch plywood board that is 30" by 36". A damp skirt would be gathered onto the board and held tight with strips of muslin until thoroughly dried. 
-To figure out her decoration pattern she'd use short lengths of braid, rickrack or ribbon in different combinations until she found a pleasing combination. She'd pin her trial pieces on cardboard which she'd set before her sewing machine.
-All trim was zig-zagged on to prevent rolling. 

My source on Susie Storm came from an article in Profitable Hobbies, titled "Fiesta Dresses that Charm." Profitable Magazine was published from 1945 to 1956 that featured men and women who made money from their hobbies. The subjects ranged from local, part-time hobbyist, to those that started small and became full-time national businesses.
An example of the magazine, I'm unsure of which issue this article came from.

Unfortunately the online article contained only a couple of pictures, and being a visual person, I found a few more images on the web to entice you on the beauty of Squaw Dresses.
A beautiful coral dress for sale on etsy
Trim on a 1950s homemade Squaw dress, for sale on etsy.
Two piece Squaw dress - by Saguaro "Patio Fashions" on ebay
An example of the pleating - Made by Alpha of Tucson, AZ
Fiesta dresses at a shop in Albuquerque, 1951
Two girls wearing Squaw Dresses.
Marian Martin Mail Order Pattern
"In Family: Love's Unbreakable Heaven" by Judith Lowry(1953) - Rendered her Australian mother in Squaw Dress
-The End.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Squaw Dress, Part 2: Tribal Trend

Hope you enjoyed the information about the Squaw Dress of the 1950s. While doing my research I came across a news article about a fashion designer who, amongst other creations, created squaw dresses. So I am now going to feature Lloyd Kiva New. What is most extraordinary about this designer is that he's a Native American, who lived at a time when segregation and stratification were very prevalent which makes his success that much more remarkable.

 Tribal Trend
Cherokee Designer Lloyd Kiva New
 Brief Biography:
-Born in Oklahoma in 1916
-The first Native American to graduate from the Art Institute of Chicago
-Worked as an instructor and administrator at the Phoenix Indian School
-Served in the U.S. Navy during WWII
-Returned to open an art gallery and studio in Scottsdale, AZ
-Best known for his leadership of the Institue of American Indian Arts (1967-1978)
-Besides being an author and a real eastate developer, a painter and a WWII veteran, a poet and a teacher; he was a fashion designer.

New the Fashion Designer
-New revolutionized Native customary clothing in the mid-1900s
-Worked in textile arts, leatherwork and fashion design
-Openned his own boutique in 1945; and a center in 1955.
Kiva's boutique
-New became the first Native American to show at an international fashion show in 1951.
-At a time when the Native cultures were being smothered out, New prospered with his Native designs that expressed the importance of native culture.
-Started by designing handbags based on traditional Indian tribal pouches, within ten years he had expanded to couture.
-He collaborated with other Native artists. Having a Native artist develop a motif, another develop the silk screen, he'd fashion the garment, and another artist create buttons for one garment.
Kiva silk-screening
-In his fashion and accessories he incorporated native design concepts, materials, silhouettes, cuts and color palettes
-He sold Cherokee derived designs to Neiman-Marcus and other stores.
-Gave up his career as a fashion designer in the late 1950s for progressive educational projects.

New's Fiesta Dresses
As authentic Southwestern fashion, which was derived from the tradition of the Indians, was sweeping the nation Lloyd Kiva New was at the fore-front of the trend. The designer remarked on his Fiesta dresses verses those being manufactured by Eastern fashion houses, "Out here we know how to make them. They are a modern expression of an ancient primitive art. Imitations always look phony."

When it came to his creations:
-He designed and printed his own fabrics.
-He employed, and gave many opportunities, to his fellow Native Americans.
-He retained authentic Indian motifs.
-He experimented with earth colors of the Painted Dessert
-He at one pointed added the element of reproducing the patterns of Navajo rugs.
-He also did men's garments, such as shirts and robes.
-He refused to do wholesale manufacturing of his creations.
- Please check out this article: Cherokee Designer Tops in Squaw Fashions where I got the information on his Fiesta Dresses. There is a picture of one of his Fiesta dresses in this article.
Although not a Fiesta Dress, it is a beautifully designed garment of the period.
Kiva desinged handbag, ca 1950
Kiva designed sleeveless shirt, ca 1950
Hope you have enjoyed this featured designer. Please tune in for the last post about a housewife turned career women due to her beautiful Squaw dresses.
Sources for this article:
Southwest Art Article: A Lifetime of Achievement

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Squaw Dress, Part 1: It's All About the Dress

I wore my Squaw Dress, or Fiesta Dress as I like to call it, yesterday and someone asked me, "What is the origin of that dress?" It got me thinking, I knew a little about the history of these fun, comfy dresses but wanted to know more. So I've done some research on the internet and have decided to share it here with you. I am sure there is much more information out there, and more then I've given in the articles I read, however I decided to pick and choose what was interesting to me.
This is part one of three. The next two posts will be on an individual designer of fiesta dresses and a housewife turned career women due to her wonderful creations. Stay tuned.
It's All About the Dress
"the gay, comfortable and almost universally becoming..."
-The "Squaw" Dress's defining feature was a full, tiered skirt that came in three shapes:
    1. a slightly gathered skirt based on Navajo dress
    2. a "broomstick" or pleated skirt based on Navajo and Mexican attire
    3. a fully gathered, three-tiered skirt based on contemporary Western Appache camp dresses or Navajo attire
-The "Squaw" Dress was also know as the Fiesta, Kachina, Tohono or Patio dress, depending on type of decoration.
-They were most popular in the Southwest, where they most likely originated from.
-The dress complimented the patios and ranch type architecture of the lazy, carefree sunny Southwest.
-It gained popularity with eastern manufacturing houses and women's salons after a showing by New Mexico designers in the early 1950s.
-The "Squaw" dress found its greatest success between 1948 and 1958, which was quite long for a fashion trend.
-By 1953 national advertisement and articles existed about the "Squaw" dress. 
-The negative connotation of squaw was avoided by marketing the dress using the positive stereotype of the Indian Princess and turned her into a princess of the American West in her full, swirling skirt.
-The dress represented both idealized feminity (as we were moving away from the masculine look of the WWII) and Americanness (because of the Native American origin).
-The dress, however, did not require the New Look extreme of body contouring with minicorsets and petticoats; instead they relied on fabrics and decorative patterns as identifying features.
-They would become embellished with ribbon, rickrack, ruffles and sequins. Each tier had to be trimmed to be a true "Squaw" dress, and this became more important over time as designers sought individualized looks.
-First "squaw" skirts were "pleated" by being wrapped on broomsticks. A Navajo technique, whereby a wet skirt was bunched around a broomstick and tied to the stick tightly with string. Once dried the resulting accordion-style pleats created a unique controlled wrinkle. Later the skirts were encased in nylons, which quickened the dry time. Then later a "secret" method perfected the pleating technique.
-The fad was also easily spread because housewives could easily make them, resulting in several major pattern companies who produced various patterns for this new look. Textile manufacturers even created a special fabric called "squaw cloth."

 -Women typically would have 2-3 tops for one skirt, in order to create a variety of looks. The wardrobe could go from daytime to evening, summer or winter by simply changing the top.
-The "Squaw" outfit would often be accessorized with squash blossom necklaces and concho belts which were popular pieces in the Southwest.
 -In 1958, the fashion silhouette changed, rendering the "Squaw" dress old-fashioned except for at square dances and rodeos. Since that time the look of this trend has influenced designers in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
-The most famous of "Squaw" dress resurrection was when the "Santa Fe-style" became popular with its full, broomstick tiered skirts and concho belts, however the blouses were fuller and made of jersey knit of a solid color.
-The term "Squaw" has found itself linked to negative connotations in modern society, therefore I might illicit some negative feedback from identifying this dress as such. However, in my defense, this was the term that manufacturers and advertisers coined for this style of dress and thus I have referred to it as such.

Most of my information came from the following:
Parezo, Nancy J. and Jones,Angelina R.. "What’s in a Name? The 1940s–1950s 'Squaw Dress'.” 2009.
An article mostly about the symantics of the word "Squaw", but very interesting if you have the time.
Some of the information came from another article which will be featured more in another post.

Hope you've enjoyed and will come back for the next two parts!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Flock Together

Remember this fabric:
Well I finished the dress:
I used Butterick 5032
It went together really easily. I even piped the neckline and armhole edges.
I loved the pleats for the front of the skirt...such a different way to dart a skirt. Plus its actually very attractive to wear and gives extra room in the hip area, which is needed for someone like me who is a bit on the hippy side. I also picked up a covered belt kid from A Fashionable Stitch. This was my first attempt at making my own belt. I followed the Belt 101 tutorial from Casey's Elegant Musings. It was pretty simple, I only really struggled with covering the belt and that was mostly due to the fact that I need a little more strength to push the pieces together.
I also decided to attempt a hand picked zipper. I love it! I don't think I'll ever machine stitch a zipper in again. So much easier and looks beautiful every time.
Then I picked out the accessories I had to go with this dress. The purse was a gift that I'd never had the right outfit for. The shoes are 1950s pumps that I purchased at Viva Las Vegas a couple of years ago. My lily pad flower hair piece seemed just right for my flamingos. And of course some fun earrings...although I am now on the hunt for some fun hot pink earrings and bracelet to go with this dress.
And here it is altogether:
Well there you have it. I'm hoping to make a little bolero in the same color as the piping. I'm also about to make a dress for my mother in the same fabric...she is obsessed with flamingos. So how could I not?
Guess we'll need to do a mother-daughter photo shoot.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cherished Collections

When Casey at Elegant Musings posted that she wanted to do a blog tour of fellow collectors, I jumped on the chance. I have so many little collections that I love to add to, but I knew right away that I wanted to dedicate this post to my two favorite accessories: Hats and gloves. As a milliner it's hard not to have a love for hats and want to add as many as you can to your collection. I love to pick hats up and study their construction, but most of all I love to wear them! It reminds me of a time when hat shops took pride in construction and detail; when ladies at home revamped or built their own hats; and a time when from head to toe people cared about what they were wearing.
So here it goes...(Oh and I'm sure I have so many more tucked away in corners)

The following group of hats are a few of the ones I have built myself:
I also love gloves. And although I find them difficult to wear at did a lady go out of the house with this accessory everyday and function? I just love the subtle details, the different types of gloves based on their use and the remembrance of a time long gone. Most of my glove collection, and a lot of my hats for that matter, came from my lovely co-worker who has had many of these cherished items stored away.
And to end this post I'd like to prove that I actually do wear these items out and about with some photos of me at different events: