Saturday, November 26, 2011

Vintage Dresses Stand the Test of Time

Double Breasted Mod DressImage by jessjamesjake via FlickrBy James D John

Vintage dresses are enduringly popular for a very good reason. The classic cuts and elegant silhouettes of vintage dresses have stood the test of time, flattering our figures decade after decade. Beyond their figure enhancing effect, vintage dresses are desirable for their unique position in fashion and social history.

When considering the history of fashion, vintage dresses have an unparalleled importance; instantly recognisable, they define an era, capture a moment. No other single garment has this power of evoking bygone days as succinctly as vintage dresses. Vintage dresses are the icons of each decade, with one style of dress summing up the fashions of the time.

Technically, a dress over 20 years old is classified as 'vintage;' any older than 100 years and it becomes 'antique.' The 20th century saw an ever-changing succession of fashions, providing us with a plethora of alluring vintage dresses from which to choose.

This century of unprecedented sartorial revolution saw the formation of the contemporary fashion industry as it exists today, and changed the way we make, buy and wear clothes forever. Vintage fashions, from the 1920's to the 1990's, reflect overarching social, political and economic factors; each generation reacting against the style that went before it.

Vintage dresses are the garments which so readily epitomise each decade of fashion, encompassing a range of distinctive features unique to that particular time's fashions, including: cut; silhouette; colour scheme; fabric; patterns; and embellishment.

1920's - Hemlines rose higher to the knee and waistlines dropped lower. A boyish figure was favoured, removing emphasis from the bust, waist and hips for a blocky shape. Loose fitting, but not voluminous, dresses had typically straight lines and low waists, allowing for energetic dancing. The flapper dress epitomises this time, featuring geometric Art Deco beading and/or frivolous fringing.

1930's - In a complete reversal of tastes, long, flowing feminine dresses with a natural waistline were favoured. As the Depression set in, the sumptuous world of Hollywood movies captured the American imagination, popularising slinky screen-siren gowns which clung to every curve. Madame Vionett perfected the smooth, sensuous silhouette with bias-cut gowns, which were often backless. Fluttery, tiered skirts were also popular on dresses, retaining that flirty, feminine style.

1940's - World War II meant a utilitarian approach to dressing and removed all frivolous wastes of material. Sleek lines remained without wasting material via calf-to-knee length hemlines and slim skirts. Rationed fabrics meant feminine dresses often had to be cut from menswear, lending a militaristic, functional air. Slim, belted waists and narrow hips were further emphasized by exaggerated shoulders.

1950's - The restraint of the war years led to a period of exuberant femininity in the Fifties. Full skirted, knee-length dresses were worn with petticoats for extra oomph. Dior's 'New Look' defined the nipped in waist and long full skirts of the decades dresses. Shirt dresses and halter-neck dresses gained popularity. Hemlines remained at the knee or just below for both day and evening dresses. Brocade and floral patterns were typical on Fifties dresses, as the freedom to experiment with fabric and colour returned.

1960's - The Sixties began with simple, geometric shift dresses, before being revolutionized in 1964 by Mary Quant and the mini skirted dress: Psychedelic patterns and colours engulfed sleeveless shift dresses; flared micro-mini baby-doll dresses took the hemlines even higher in sugary sweet colours and fabrics; and velvet dresses with long, lace trimmed bell-sleeves epitomised the dandified look of the time.

1970s - Whilst the Sixties went mini, the dresses of the seventies went maxi. Long, flowing gypsy style dresses had tiered skirts and nonchalant off the shoulder necklines. Lace, fringing and embroidery details cemented the hippy look, having various ethnic influences. Edwardian style long, lacy and high-necked dresses were made popular by Laura Ashley. The disco dresses of the Seventies were characterized by long hemlines too, fitting close to the body in sinuous, glossy fabrics such as lame and satin.

1980's - 'Power dressing' in the Eighties paved the way for a Forties tinged silhouette, with highly emphasized wide shoulders and nipped in waists, with a typically sleek, short pencil skirt. Flashy gilt and golden finishes upped the glamour stakes, as seen at Versace. The decade's defining dress however was brought to you by Azzedine Alaia - the 'King of Cling'- whose body-conscious dresses were scandalously form-fitting.

Now in the 21st century, the demand for vintage fashion, and specifically vintage dresses, is greater than ever. Let's take a trip through the 20th century and look at some features which characterise vintage dresses from each decade.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sunglasses in Pop Culture

Janis JoplinCover of Janis JoplinBy Ellen Tarnapolsky

Sunglasses have been seen in pop culture periodically throughout the 20th century. They definitely help to accessorize whichever look you're going for, whether it be glamorous, cool or dazed out hippie.

If you love sunglasses like I do, it may interest you to learn about the different styles of sunglasses that have been popular in the 20th century. Below are some of the more popular frames and styles.


Most commonly manufactured by Ray Ban, Aviator sunglasses have gone up and down in popularity since they made their appearance. They were first designed in 1936 and were meant for U.S. military aviators. They became a huge trend with young people in the 1960s, which gave birth to other styles of aviators, such as mirrored, colored and wrap around styles. The popularity of aviators dropped in the 1990s, but then regained popularity around 2001 with many Hollywood celebrities.


Like aviators, oversized sunglasses have dropped and risen in popularity since their debut. Jackie O first started the oversized sunglasses trend with her gigantic black frames in the 1960s. This quickly became a popular item amongst women.

They dropped in popularity in the 70s, when they started to be used for comedic and theater purposes. Elton John often wore oversized sunglasses as part of his shows. They again became fashionable in the 1980s amongst celebrities and street kids. They dropped popularity in the 90s with the grunge era, but we see oversized sunglasses making their way back to popular culture, with celebrities commonly seen with their coffee and oversized frames.

Tea Shades 

These are often also called "John Lennon glasses," or "Ozzy Osbourne glasses." Sometimes they are even called "granny glasses." These were most popular in the 1960s by the hippie counterculture. They come in all kinds of colors, including black, purple and red, and they are known for their psychedelic features.

When tea shades were extremely popular in the 1960s, celebrities and rock stars were often seen wearing flamboyant and elaborated tea shade sunglasses. They were often excessively large, mirrored, and were made from different colors.

The more unique the lens, the more popular they were. Rock stars like Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger and Janice Joplin were often seen wearing unique tea shade sunglasses. Tea shades are difficult to find today as a fashion item, but can be found in costume stores or online.

Sunglasses are an item that everyone must have, not only because they protect our eyes from the sun, but because they can add to your look and complete your wardrobe. If you love sunglasses but can't afford to constantly buy expensive pairs, buying wholesale sunglasses may be a good option for you. You can save money while still getting great looking sunglasses.

wholesale sunglasses are a great bargain if you want good quality shades. Get wholesale fashion sunglasses at

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Great New Talent: Redeem Yourself by Luke James

Hi everyone,

I don't do this very often, but I'd like you all to listen to a young man who I think is a great new talent. His name is Luke James, and he is the son of one of my close trusted colleagues, John James. Luke hails from Adelaide, South Australia, and as you will see, is a very talented musician and songwriter. The lyrics are powerful and match the strong visuals on the video.

It would be great to get some feedback, so ALL comments are very welcome indeed! Let's encourage local young talent!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why 70s Costumes Are So Cool!

The original Bagpuss used in the childrens tel...Bagpuss - Image via WikipediaBy Matt Foden

If, like me, you were born in the 1970s then you will almost certainly have fond memories of the decade.

Perhaps this is inevitable given that we always see our childhood through rose tinted glasses. I would like to think, however, that there are certain facets and elements of 70s culture and society that make it really stand out.

In this article I'm going to explore our current obsession with all things 1970s through the looking glass of fancy dress costumes and see whether the hundreds of 70s costumes available reveal a deeper fondness for a bygone age.

You only need take a look at the huge range of 70s costumes available nowadays to see how big a revival of 1970s culture is taking place. No doubt this is in part due to the fact that so many people born in the 1970s are now in their thirties, and are therefore a prominent part of the workforce.

These are the people that grew up with Star Wars, The Muppet Show, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock. These films and TV series may seem inconsequential but to my generation they are incredibly important culturally. These programmes may seem simplistic and 'low budget' in comparison with modern productions, but they had something that so many modern programmes lack - imagination!

It's not only in the wide range of TV and Film costumes that we see the influence of the 1970s. We also see it in the huge range of 'regular' 70s fancy dress items. These include the very popular 'pimp style' outfits no doubt popularised by characters like Huggy Bear, as well as the ubiquitous 'disco diva' costumes.

Both these styles embody the idea of excess and theatricality that were at the heart of seventies fashion. And it's good to know that these 70s influenced costumes have inspired modern fashion designers to look back to the 70s for inspiration for their collections.

We also see the influence of the 1970s in specific costumes from the UK. Growing up in the 70s and 80s I was a huge fan of such series as Bagpuss and Rainbow. These probably won't mean a lot to my American friends, but in the UK they were hugely popular. It is only in recent years that costume manufacturers have brought out costumes from these ranges.

The Rainbow series of costumes in particular have proved incredibly popular, not only with my generation, but also with children now. Perhaps there is something to be said for programmes that rely more on imagination than high production values after all?

Of course, it would be wrong of me to suggest that everything that came out of the 1970s was great. Indeed, there are some pretty awful examples of some fashion disasters. I remember my mother dressing me in these really colourful, uncomfortable shirts that were made from polyester (yuck!)These shirts also sported the longest collars you will ever see, and were truly hideous. That said, I think every decade has its share of fashion mistakes, not just the seventies!

I hope that I have given even just a small taster of why I think the 1970s are so important culturally, and especially 70s costumes. I could go on for hours pointing out all the ways this decade has influenced our modern culture. Personally I need only think of Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog to be persuaded of the importance of this fantastic decade!

Matt runs a fun lens on the subject of 70s costumes and fashions which you can find at:

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Grateful Dead Dancing Bears

Grateful DeadCover of Grateful DeadBy William Grayson

The Grateful Dead Dancing Bears are a beloved icon by deadheads and others the world over. Their origins and history are as confusing and unclear as the time in which they were created.

The Bears were first officially seen on the back of the album Bears Choice named for the albums producer Owsley Bear Stanley. The Bear as he was known was heavily involved in the early years of the Grateful Dead. He was responsible for the wall of sound and contributed to the artwork by Bob Thomas including the Steal Your Face or Stealie another favorite and well know Grateful Dead icon.

Officially the creation of the Bears is contributed to Bob. Thomas is said to have drawn his inspiration for the bears from the standardized figure of a printer's font of type. This image shows a single bear that looks like he is walking or marching depending on how you look at it.

Now the confusion sets in Owsley is credited with stating in fact the Dancing Bears are high stepping bears and not dancing bears. Adding to the confusion Owsley was heavily involved in the production of LSD or Acid as it is known and is said to have used a single bear on the LSD sheets he produced further obscuring their actual origins. This use is allegedly before Bob Thomas ever came up with his Dancing Bear design. Unfortunately there may never be a definitive answer to the beloved bears origins as both Bob and The Bear have both passed on.

From a marketing standpoint and the fact the Grateful Dead were a musical act the Dancing Bears are a far more memorable and suited than the High Stepping Bears.

The Dead were way ahead of their time in how they marketed themselves and their music perhaps this played some role in the final name. One thing to keep in mind is if you cut out all 5 Dancing Bears and flip thru the images quickly you can plainly see they are in fact high stepping or marching.

No matter what they are called and who created them they have become a part of the main stream culture. You can find them on Dancing Bear T-Shirts, bags, belts and key chains to name a few. The Grateful Dead had a huge influence on their generation and their music and artwork still has a firm hold on popular culture today.

Will Grayson

Grateful Dead fan and owner of Owner of Tie Dye T-Shirts

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