Wednesday, July 25, 2012


(Cross posted from K.R.A.S. The Ken Russell Appreciation Society "Fullfrontalnus Illuminatio Mea")

This is a call to action for all vintage and vintage reproduction fans, advocates and sellers. I came upon the most awful discovery a few weeks ago while online window shopping.

A website called "Queen of  Holloway"  (I refuse to link to their site).

No, they have ZERO affiliation with the far superior Vivien of Holloway who manufacture clothing in London and put money back into the British economy.  Queen of Holloway may have a British web address but they clearly manufacture in CHINA; stealing ideas, clothing designs and yes, ACTUAL PHOTOS of clothing from ethical Pin Up Clothing and vintage reproduction designers.

The name "Queen of Holloway" is horrendous. That's like calling one's company "Pin Up Gal Clothing" or "Fables By Bonnie" a complete and utter copy of someone else's hard work and creativity. Even Vintage reproduction names like Brighton's wonderful Dolly Dagger who have a relatively small production line are being copied which is inexcusable.

So those who are buying Made in China rip offs like this, ask yourself how would YOU feel if you'd started from scratch, building your own following, choosing fabrics and designs that were your personal signature, paying taxes, licensing and then someone simply came along and photo copied every single thing you did and sold it-even down to illegally using your own professional photos?

I see more than few of my fellow dress addicts are buying from "Queen of Holloway" which is pitiful.
Come on ladies! Bad call!

Many of us who are investing in Pinup and vintage reproduction are considering starting our own clothing lines at some point or have friends that already are. Vintage Repro and Pin Up is becoming big business and a chance to do what you love and have fun while turning a profit. I'm discovering how costly it is and what an investment I'll need to make. I would be gutted if this happened to me and worst of all- powerless. Legal fees for businesses domestically are astronomical enough but international rip offs like this are very hard to monitor and bring to justice because you need thousands of dollars to go after them.



But isn't ALL Pin Up clothing somewhat of a "copy"?
No.  The majority of what you see has been meticulously hand crafted, modernized and fitted on various shapes and tested (sometimes for years) for fit and form on a multitude of fabrics. Women's lives, figures, fabrics etc are not the same as they were mid-century and vinatge reproduction designers have had to be creative to accommodate this.  The labels being ripped off by Evil Queen of Holloway made it possible for millions of women who can't afford vintage and/or do not fit in high street/modern clothing to look good and feel great in what we wear.

But hasn't there always been this kind of clothing? Why is the price still so high?  No, in fact before the internet, if you were bigger than say a 36C-24-36 and 5'5 and did not live near a major city, your chances of getting vintage that was wearable was near impossible unless you had literally loads of money. Sometimes you'd find new "vintagey" pieces at Macys or Contempo Casuals but only if you were lucky and below a juniors size 13. If you saw a vintage repro in magazine often you could not even find it. As recently as 2000 I tried ordering an Anna Sui vintage style top and when they sent the wrong one I had to travel to Neiman's to return it. Vintage often ripped , fell apart or had to be altered so thankfully the internet and lines like Pin Up Girl clothing, Bernie Dexter and  Bettie Page changed all of that for the better AND have kept their business in the USA. The price is NOT high for the quality and the ethics. in fact it is VERY reasonable if you look closer.

But some of the big names in Vintage Reproduction manufacture in China why not buy from "Queen of Holloway"  if its all coming from the same place?  Actually the majority of the big names in vintage repro  do NOT manufacture in China. Stop Staring, Vivien of Holloway, Pin up Girl Clothing, Bettie Page, Bernie Dexter, Fables By Barrie, Heartbreaker, Dolly Dagger etc, etc all create in either the UK or the United States, putting money back into the economy and selling a superior product. Some UK labels like Oasis Floral Frocks and Lady Vintage manufacture in Romania but that's still a huge improvement over China.

What about Trashy Diva? Don't they manufacture out of China?  Yes, Trashy Diva moved their production to China awhile back which is not preferable but not an excuse to see them ripped off as they make a superior product.  For starters they still employ US citizens at FIVE store fronts in New Orleans and they were doing vintage Repro as far back as the mid 90's. It has not been possible for them to keep stores open and still manufacture in the US. Remember, in the 90s and there was a huge surge in "globalization" and "free trade"  that saw nearly all US and many UK clothing manufacturers outsource to China. The companies operating post 2004 or so, unlike Trashy Diva, have all had the benefits of the internet, Facebook, You Tube, My Space, Pay Pal, Ebay, social networking, Etsy, the Pin Up and burlesque community etc etc etc to make their name. Hopefully Trashy Diva can come back to the US someday.

But what if I just buy ONE dress that isn't a copy? They have SO many cute fabrics and designs that are NOT copies after all and they have hard to find sizes so what's the harm in that? For starters you are still funding actual fraud. That would be like saying "Ok, I'm not a thief if I steal your butter but not your cow."  You can go onto Etsy and have custom dresses made where you can pay off the seamstress in instalments and get an astonishing product that will last a lifetime. Sometimes a custom dress on Etsy is as low as 150.00. You can get a great product made by someone earning a living wage or walk around in your Chinese slave labour rip off dress-the choice is up to you.

Sorry, I'm still not sold. A dress is a dress and I'm not paying high prices.  Please see below then.

When you buy  Made in China Pin Up Clothing and counterfeit Vintage reproductions from  fakes such as "Queen of Holloway" you are supporting the horrific tragedy above. The Chinese Government will do nothing to stop Rhino and Tiger extinction and are in fact encouraging it. And of course human rights abuses in China are some of the worst in the world and include some of the most awful things I've ever read about and will not mention here. True, we have all been literally forced via the greedy 1% in this era to buy many things we need from China but at LEAST Pin Up fans and vintage aficionados are  keeping  their money in Europe and the US. 



Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ann-Margaret 's Pin Up Couture in Tommy - Designs by Shirley Russell

(We welcome you to Bernie's Holiday Camp and some of the most marvellous 1950's reproduction clothing ever created. As usual a huge thanks to America Buddha and their screen caps library of Ken Russell's film of Tommy.)

With so much reproduction vintage and Pin Up clothing everywhere you look these days it is easy for even bona fide fashionistas to forget what any drag queen, retro-burlesque artist or clothes -horse collector can tell you; that less than a decade ago all these great swing dresses, crinolines, corsets and rompers you see today were very hard to find and impossibly expensive. Once upon a beaded cardigan, if you actually found your size it often fell apart or had to be altered. A magazine would show a handmade item and you'd never be able to find it. You'd see a picture of a Shaheen wing bust dress or a Cole of California playsuit, dream of having it recreated custom made and quickly find that dream was only for the very wealthy. Now with the internet and especially ETSY,  vintage repro and custom CAN come true for anyone. Of course to stand out in a sea of  Heartbreaker and Hell Bunny, the best design inspirations come from films and easily the best reproduction 1950's couture in any film is seen in the childhood sequences in Tommy.

When Shirley Russell, the Edith Head of British costume design, created these masterpieces, it was the mid 1970s and just as she'd flawlessly and exuberantly brought the whimsical late 1920s and 30s to life in The Boyfriend, she hearkened back to the British 1950s with equal aplomb. It is clearly evident from many art, fashion, music and films from the1970s, that both the 1920s and the 1950s saw major artistic revivals. Yet where Grease and America Graffiti are all itchy lettermen sweaters and stiff crinolines, the designs for Tommy are fluid and sensual. And while Cha Cha DiGregorio's prom dress (worn magnificently by the recently departed Annette Charles) is one very hot masterpiece (complete with attached matching panties) the rest of Grease features mostly costumes that scream "1950's costume" with the clothes literally making the characters what they are. Unlike Olivia New John's black spandex, Shirley's costumes for Ann melt into the scenery and are actually wearable, making Ann's character, Nora Walker especially believable. (Remember both films are musicals with Tommy having zero dialogue). Nora dramatically ages in the film and goes from the teenager in love wearing tweedy fell pants to pensive early 1950s British Post war widow to nouveau riche chrome camp goddess to doomed alcoholic cult greeter.

( Surely in heaven starring as Aldonza in Ken' Russell's  film of "Man of La Mancha' with Jesus Christ as Don Quixote: Annette Charles 1948-2011)

As for Annie Margaret she is, along with Rita Moreno, perhaps the only true "singer, dancer, actress"  in Hollywood history. Her talent as an actress in Tommy goes leaps and bounds beyond her fabulous hourglass figure and what most of her peers could have done with the role. Ken, known to have a relatively casual coach of actors on the set, was given by AM a performance that includes camp, sadness, adroitness and a female vibration so powerful that no actress should attempt the role on screen again.

Ann-Margaret's  Pin Up Couture Wardrobe From Tommy:

1.Palest Mint Pastel Green  Tropical Print Swing Dress with Crossover Bust

2.Sky Blue  and White Gingham Halter Romper/Swimsuit with matching scarf & attached skirt

3.Pale Blue Floral Ball Gown with Pink Roses on an Organza Overlay (my personal favourite)

4.FlameRed fold over origami wing bust swing dress with spaghetti straps, Bow belt with long centre sash and white batik style roses on the skirt.

5.Cornflower Blue Atomic Galaxy print swing dress with elbow length sleeves and plunging portrait collar neckline

6.Bright Red Asymmetrically tiered pleat crepe floor length Christmas hostess gown 3/4 sleeves and plunging Statement Neckline

(all five dresses are worn with a crinoline or hoop skirt for volume. DO enlarge pictures to see the details)

1. The Holiday Camp arrival dress is more a look. Nora has a shell hat, crochet gloves, dazzling day jewellery, ivory open toe pumps and a pink handbag  (see first photo above). As it was in this era, the working class of both sexes in Britain all dressed smartly. Yet she's also a widow and a single Mum who is still very young, romantic and justifiably naive. The Green Coat has already chatted her up ("I'm in chalet number 11") and she's not even unpacked. The dress has that wonderful wrap bust that flatters anyone with a subtle floral print. This ensemble says "I'm young and fetching but not easy".

2. Ken now has Nora in the ultimate Pin Up Playsuit; wholesome and staying joyously a float with Frank's eager help. This is the most light hearted gingham romper ever! Though seen only in retro-style Pin Up photography these days, you can actually swim in one of these and most are so well made that they still hold up. Nora's is in my preferred playsuit cut as a small waist, wide hips and long legs like I have don't rock a boy cut nearly as well as an attached full skirted micro-mini. During the "Lovely Legs Contest"  which Nora wins,  Ken ensures that the other bathers (most likely married women) wear boy cut suits while she stands out almost like a water ballerina, the only one in a matching head scarf . As Tommy cheers nearby and Frank Hobbs passive aggressively comes on to her she looks particularly vulnerable.
(I reversed the order of the last two pictures so you can see the suit clearer)

3. We now cut to a glittering ballroom with Nora in a lavish formal evening gown. She is getting caught up in being desired after being alone for so long. Once again Nora is dressed as the picture of class; her hair is swept up and decorated with a pink rose to compliment the floral embroidery on her organza gown and set off her dazzling earrings. The gown is floor length with wide regal shoulders and a flattering mid cut neckline. The look can easily be misread as "Easter Lamb" after she's so easily seduced in her holiday chalet later that night but she clearly told Frank "until I'm one my heart won't rest..." This scene breaks the "Frank Hobbs is evil and Nora Walker is a victim myth" regarding Tommy and establishes that these are two people falling in love. (In this scene you see a haze which looks like cigarette smoke but it was in reality the pier itself they were filming on had caught on fire! The whole crew was evacuated needless to say and Ken included the exterior shots in the final part of the film.

4. And the newly marrying war widow bride wore scarlet with pride! Love how Ken has Nora bouncy and cheerful  in flaming red the day after her one day relationship was consummated. No walk of shame here.  The dress is a classic take on the Shaheen wing bust but with the points worn delicately up. Between the batik scattered white roses and the long sash (rarely seen in reproductions today), black hose and pumps,  the whole ensemble (nearly sans jewellery) has that oriental minimalist feel so popular in the 1950s. Oliver Reed makes the ultimate ageing Ted down to the brothel creeper soles come to life with each swagger. Perhaps picking up psychically that his step father's ensuing folly will ultimately lead to a labyrinth of pain and mis-adventure for his young mind,  Tommy loudly announces the plan for his own camp "when I'm big" to his oblivious folks.

5. Now he is deaf, now he is dumb, now he is blind and now they must save face after shocking him into severe autism. Russell has the family inside a tunnel walking in step like troops. What better way to paint the image of the "perfect family" then outfits made from the same whimsical and carefree print?! I see sun eclipses, atomic looking nine pins, stars and all manner of merry futuristic things. I love how Nora is not corseted and pushed up and out. She's natural and feminine. Honestly, those two get a bad rap; they were in love and had no idea that Tommy's father would return. The murder of course was wrong but it was also a crime of passion.

6. With it's extensive ruffled portrait collar, hoop skirt and seemingly endless pleated tiers, this lavish but stiff Christmas gown below signifies that Nora is now fully entrenched in keeping up appearances. This is the diamond accentuated transition piece for now after this scene, nearly all of Nora's clothing will over the top/ nouveau riche, futuristic and decadent- the 70's via the year 5555. Nora is now scarlet for good and we leave her lavish vintage pin up wardrobe to climb the mountain and find excitement on our own wish-lists.

In honour of those who tirelessly researching, sewing , creating and thus carrying on the loving tradition of Shirley Russell (aka The High Priestess and Alchemist of Vintage Costume), I've included a list of what I feel are today's première bespoke and Pin Up clothing revivalists:
(All made in the UK and the USA of course.)

Fables By Barrie  Made in San Diego. I am confident that there is nowhere on earth with more beautiful and dazzling whimsy and such flawless customer service. My Tolie Du Jouy one piece will be rockin this summer!

Dainty Rascal Reproduction Vintage does not get any better outside of  Pinewood Studios. Almost a dozen of Marilyn Monroe dresses lovingly recreated are just the start-Suzy Berricone can do anything. Expect her to be a major player in the international fashion someday. Made in beautiful Sonoma County.

Tara Starlet Creates the UK's premier vintage reproduction clothing. Whereas many of the big names in Pin Up Clothing  go for a  hyper-buxom 1950s Varga look, Tara Starlet offers clothing for the more mysterious, sensible, modest and wholesome. Designs are historical (Land Army dungarees), professional (30s and 40s suits you can wear to the office) and of course Sailor Pants in a dozen colours. Clothing for all sizes and body types UK sizes 6 (US 4) through 16 (US 14).

Bernie Dexter  There is most likely no one in the Kustom Kulture scene today who is more knowledgeable about vintage clothing and furnishings than uber and omnipotent Pin Up model Bernie. She offers a very precise collection of gorgeous clothes that all work together as well as shoes, lingerie and even an Ebay store with a wide variety of vintage treasures. If you are on the taller and busty side, be sure to size up and her designs will fit wonderfully.