Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Under the Influence -- My Man Godfrey

I could say that this movie made our list of "Influencers" solely based on Carole Lombard's amazing 1930s fashions created by Travis Banton, but that would not be completely true.  The truth is that we watch this movie mainly because we are totally infatuated with William Powell -- and the clothes are an added benefit.  (Sorry Mr. Banton!)  Powell's mix of humor and wit added to his ability to be smooth and debonair is pretty much unmatched in Hollywood history to us.  Cary Grant might come in second, but Powell wins the award every time.  Definitive proof of this is 1932's "Jewel Robbery"-- our first real "AHA!" moment of just how sexy Mr. Powell could be.  Watch it now if you haven't seen it.  You won't be sorry.  We promise you.  But more on that fine film later. (Wink.)

Not to say that Powell's co-leads are not just as important in his films -- probably most famously, Myrna Loy from "The Thin Man" series.  She is necessary and absolutely delightful!  And Carole Lombard is just as necessary as the dizzy Irene Bullock in "Godfrey."  Powell excels (along with his co-stars) at creating the chemistry needed to build iconic roles and duos; that's why we still talk about his movies 80 years later.  It's missing from so many movies nowadays.  Today we go for easy jokes and cheap shots.  In the golden age of Hollywood, the writing and acting worked together to create magic -- the quick banter and back-and-forth, subtle visual gags and expressions, and the ability to make glamour and romance seem both attainable and far away.  Powell had a real affection for his co-stars; he and Lombard had been divorced for three years when "Godfrey" was made, but he insisted that she was perfect for the role.  Somehow I don't see that happening with actors today.

But, as much as we swoon over Mr. Powell, we really do love Banton's creations for Carole Lombard in the film.  Banton created statement pieces, and every outfit is met with an "oooohhhhh" whenever Irene bounds into the picture.  We first see her in a completely beaded gown and coat that communicates exactly how rich she is -- in direct comparison with Godfrey's "Forgotten Man."  And man, are those beads liquid!

You're hit with that beauty from the get-go!  It's like a ton of bricks has slammed into you, and then it just keeps going and going and going throughout the movie. 

You want fancy sleepwear -- you got it!

Need to lounge in style -- sure!

I'm looking for something sheer and swirly -- here you go!

What's a good dress to faint in?  Why, bias cut with floral appliques!

And finally, what can I wash dishes in?  Definitely this stunning floral frock!

Relevant for today?  Absolutely.  Here's a roundup of some new pieces that could have taken their inspiration straight from Irene's closet.

Alexander McQueen, Fall 2017

Marchesa, Spring 2018 RTW

Loup Charmant

Naeem Khan 2012/13

Yanina Couture, 2018

Erdem S/S 2018

If you haven't seen it -- then watch it.  Oh, and don't forget about "Jewel Robbery"! You won't regret it -- wink, wink!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Under the Influence: A Girl With Particular Shoes

So, Little Red Riding Hood said to the Blackbird Girls: "What big nerds you are!" And the Blackbird Girls shrugged in agreement....

We at Blackbird World Headquarters are unapologetic bookworms. One of us also happens to collect fairy tales, so when it was time to brainstorm our first photo shoot for the new website, turning to the magical world of literature was an easy step. While we could have run straight for Cinderella or Belle, we instead looked to the nameless, but fearless, heroine of a slightly more obscure story called The Enchanted Pig--or as we like to call it, The Girl in the Iron Shoes.

It isn't exactly a tale of boy meets girl. In this particular story, girl marries based on a prophetic book that she wasn't supposed to read. By night, the princess and her husband are able to...umm...live the married life. By day, he is a bona fide, mud-rolling pig. She happens to prefer the night-time version of her mate, and in an ill-timed attempt to break his porcine curse, the princess is punished with an impossible quest: to search the world for him, on foot, until she has worn through three pairs of iron shoes.

As the story goes: "On and on she wandered over nine seas and across nine continents; through forests with trees whose stems were as thick as beer- barrels; stumbling and knocking herself against the fallen branches, then picking herself up and going on; the boughs of the trees hit her face, and the shrubs tore her hands, but on she went, and never looked back." In addition to the traditional obstacles of a long journey on foot, the girl must visit four dangerous places to seek guidance. The first is the house of the Moon....

And what better outfit for this occasion than a cream 1960s mod mini and cape, paired with groovy 1960s cream Renauld sunglasses and a chunky silver pendant? The combat boots, of course, are her "iron shoes."

Next, she must hike to the house of the Sun. For this look, we put a 1960s gold sweater vest over a printed Carol Craig dress and added a copper turban, 1970s Dior sunglasses, and a groovy handmade copper statement necklace.

The third milestone of her quest is visiting the house of the Wind in a fluttery silk dress, 1970s green-framed Foster Grant sunglasses, faux pearl bracelet, and rhinestone earrings.

From there, she must walk across the vast Milky Way. We chose a sparkly sequined top with just the right amount of slouch, paired with cropped seersucker trousers, 1980s aviator sunglasses, a 1960s MGI studded purse suspended from her belt, a 1950s multi-strand necklace, and a shimmery rhinestone bangle.

At last, our intrepid heroine reaches the end of her quest at a weathered little house in a lush forest.  Here, she will prove to her husband that she is no longer the girl that he married, but a better (stronger) version of herself. For the "Honey, I'm home--and we need to talk" reunion, we dressed our model in a 1970s floral chiffon maxi dress under a metallic silver vest, and added black and coral sunglasses and screwback earrings.

The story has a happy ending, in which the pig's enchantment is broken, revealing him to be a prince from another kingdom. He weeps when his bride relates the tale of her harrowing journey, and they kiss. Soon afterward, they travel together to her father's castle, and he asks them to rule in his place. As the story concludes: "And they ruled as only kings rule who have suffered many things."

And although our well-traveled heroine can now prop up her feet and indulge in a well-deserved rest, we're sure that she will continue to be the Queen of Cool, and look incredibly fierce while doing so--in more comfortable footwear, of course.

Our photos look great on our shiny new website with some vintage celestial illustrations, including a couple of our favorite artists: Don Blanding and Dorothy Lathrop. We're keeping the Etsy shop open, but our favorite finds will end up at www.blackbirdgirlsvintage.com. Check us out!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Under the Influence -- Crossing Delancey

Do you remember, as a kid, hearing your parents talk about movies and music?  Do you remember how mysterious it all seemed -- like there was some vital something that existed in whatever moved them?  I do.  Sometimes I think about my mother from then, and remember how she reacted to those things that shaped her tastes.  The movies she loved, the music she couldn't get enough of, and it makes me feel closer to her in a different way.  I think of her at 38 and it makes me relate to her now through my adult eyes, but still with the wonder of a child. 

The movie, Crossing Delancey, is a movie that has been lodged in my mind since I was a kid.  It came out in 1988, when I was 10 and she was 37, and I remember that my mom went to see it in the theater.  She adored it.  For years afterwards, when it came on television, she would sigh, and say, "I love this movie."  She's a romantic, and for better or worse, so am I. 

I had seen snippets of the movie, but never watched it from start to finish.  I knew two things about it -- that it took place in New York and that it starred Amy Irving, with her lovely pale blue eyes and wild curly hair.  When I watched it through, I finally understood why my mother loved it.

It is a deep movie, masquerading as a light romantic comedy.  Based on the play by Susan Sandler, who also wrote the screenplay, it has the depth that comes from a work that was originally intended for the stage.  I, personally, find that when something moves from the stage to screen, barring any major loss of plot, it holds up better than most screenplays that were written just for the screen.  When you write for theater it needs a stronger backbone; it needs to exist in a certain space, within certain limitations.  Without strong characters, plot, and storyline, a play would fall flat, whereas so many modern movies cover over these faults with visual noise.

The movie exists within the late 1980s with most of its styling. But, I think the 80s looks stick with the secondary characters. Isabelle (Amy Irving), with some slight tweaking, fits right into today with her style.  Izzy favors dusty colors and neutrals, tending towards navy, gray, olive green, brown, caramel, tan, and mushroom tones.  She loves plaids and mini prints, but her staples are solids.  Texture is key for her, too.  Suede boots, braided leather belts, and her all important wool felt oversize fedora finish out her looks.  Izzy loves a trench, a scarf, and her caramel leather handbag.

It's a seamless mix of vintage style pieces -- 1940s and 1950s influences with the rayon mini print dresses, emphasis on strong shoulders, and the boxy plaid shirt jackets -- with basic staples that will always be classics -- the trench coat, the fedora, cable knit sweaters, and denim.

If you want to channel your inner Izzy, here are some basic combos that will put you on the right track.  These are from all over the place, vintage and new. Check out our Under the Influence Pinterest board (here) for details.

And finally, if you need some more style inspiration, two celebrities that channel Isabelle's style are Katie Holmes and Jessica Alba.  Both love layers, textures, and neutral colors.  AND they know how to style a fedora!

 I highly recommend watching it if you can.  It's available to rent from Amazon, and they show it every so often on TCM.  If you're a softie like me, you'll love it.

Oh, and P.S., if you just have to have a plaid shirt jacket like Izzy's, we have one VERY similar in brown in our Etsy shop!  It's a 1950s wool jacket by Merrill.  You can find it here.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Vera Vault -- Watercolor Prints

I read somewhere that Vera Neumann created over 20,000 different designs in her career.  That's an amazing number!  For this Vera Vault, I thought it might be interesting to look at a sampling of her designs that are very different from each other, but use the same watercolor effect.  

Vera is known for her florals: 

 Another floral, but a different type of flower:

Monochromatic floral:

She also designed watercolor-y dreamy landscapes:

Houses in a watercolor world:

And finally, stripes:

Friday, August 19, 2016

Vera Vault -- Hello, Yellow!

I have multiple bags of Vera scarves waiting to be photographed for "Vera Vault" posts.  Before I photograph them, I have to steam each one.  I usually try to steam several while I am steaming scarves to list in our Etsy shop.  I always try to come up with a theme for my posts, and this time, as I reached my hand into the bag to grab a scarf, I grabbed a yellow plaid Vera.  

Then, I reached in, without looking, and grabbed this yellow floral sheer Vera:

Next, a yellow geometric:

I was beginning to sense a trend.  So I looked in a bag and pulled out a yellow abstract scarf:

Another yellow-ish floral: 

Another yellow geometric:

And lastly, another yellow-ish (and many other colors) floral:

I just love that Vera never limited herself to just one style.  Florals, plaids, geometrics, abstracts, figurals -- she did it all.  Who knows what I'll pull out of the bag next time!