My favorite thing about vintage clothing and particularly vintage wedding gowns and dresses are the stories. Hearing daughters and granddaughters tell tale of their loved ones and learning about a human being's life from the threads that clothed their bodies. Mrs. Peter Leopold Hurst was born Frances Lanier, though I always knew her as an actress friend of Mother Dear's that everyone called Lannie. Not to be confused with MD's friend Lambie. Lannie passed away in 2010 and when the family was trying to figure out what to do with her wedding dress, our mutual family friend Suzanne (Portland is very small) immediately thought of AlexSandra's Vintage Emporium. I was lucky enough to get the ostrich feathers, but not the hat or belt she wore. Though we don't know the year Lannie was married despite a lengthy obituary in the Oregonian, her crepe backed satin dress feels like silk and is an ode to the style, quality of manufacture and materials available in the mid 1940s.
In 1967, Lannie began a campaign to save the Old Church, Portland's oldest church building on it's original site. She gathered together the community and found the resources and talent to buy, remodel and save this Old Portland treasure. By 1972 it was designated a national historic landmark. You can find out more about it here.
This is the beautiful Lannie Hurst Parlor, adjacent to the church and named in honor of Lannie, her initiative and efforts.
Once a month throughout the school year, The Portland Civic Theater Guild puts on 45-90 minute readings in front of the tremendous organ inside the Old Church. Mother Dear meets up with her actress pals from the past and afterward they head over to "The Mallory" to have lunch at Gracie's. A business (usually a local theater) sets up a display at the center table where they serve coffee and cookies before the performance. Occasionally I attend with MD and last April after advertising in the program the month before, The Guild asked me to bring my wares down to display and discuss my shop for a bit. Since this occurs in the Lannie Hurst Parlor, I thought it the perfect time to have my buddy and master era hairstylist, Kristen Behlings don Lannie's dress and share it with the ladies at The Guild.
I was really excited to get a picture of Kristen in Lannie's wedding dress in the Lannie Hurst Parlor.
This business causes one to contemplate the mortality of human beings on a regular basis. Things like this fill me with an abundance of emotions. To think that a dress might be the reason that people continue to talk about your life and achievements six or more years after your passing is an interesting thought. Reuniting a garment once filled with the flesh of a woman who did things for the betterment of the city of Portland with a building that would no longer exist if it weren't for this one person makes me happy. Sparking a memory of someone who has shuffled off this mortal coil with older people who may have a harder time remembering every day things, feels like giving a gift. Seeing a glow of recognition on an otherwise downward turned face is one of my favorite rewards in life.
Some of Lannie's best advice was on the subject of age. "I delight in my age," she said at 64. "I delighted in every age I have lived. Each has it's sense of marvelous treasures." We should all be so lucky.
Now this dress will become another woman's wedding ensemble. Who knows what she will go on to accomplish. All we know now is that she's going to have excellent taste. We can hope that she will be able to enjoy every age she lives. Find a gallery of studio photography of this dress below. Click on any to fill your screen with an image and click your way through. Find it for sale on Etsy here.
Mother Dear has been gearing up to move sometime soon. We've been sorting (keep or sell) and then packing away her keepers and pricing the sell pile for an upcoming estate sale. I had planned to come over today and when I spoke to her last night she mentioned, "I have two boxes of jewelry for you." I thought she had sorted out two boxes of her own jewelry to sell which we would be pricing. How wrong I was. When I arrived this morning I found out the jewelry was from her friend Linda who sold me her Aunt's 70 pairs of 1960s-1970s shoes and several purses back in 2013.
The shoes were mostly packed in their original boxes. Fur trimmed sandals, Polly of California, 1970s platforms, Henry Waters Shoes of Consequence and more! Linda had everything neatly organized and even wrote down all the shoes and their sizes. She'd mentioned that she was listing her Aunt's vintage jewelry on eBay. Cut to a few years later and she's sold the very best and most expensive pieces and still found she had quite a bit leftover. Instead of dealing with it anymore, she elected to call Mother Dear to get it out of her face. Imagine my delight at two shoe boxes of fresh jewelry from a woman I already knew to have excellent taste in footwear and handbags. Only nervy ladies have several pairs of leopard print shoes. I still have one pair left in my Etsy shop. If you wear a size 6.5 or 7, you should book an appointment to visit the Emporium soon as I still have many pairs of Linda's Aunt's shoes in my brick and mortar that have yet to be listed online.
Many of her purses hang from the ceiling of the Emporium today. The silver lamé clutch, quilted make up bag, and others can be found in my Etsy shop dedicated to the vintage bride.
I'm always interested in seeing jewelry purchased by the same woman who thought multiple pairs of jeweled sandals were a wise investment.
The larger box was filled with jewelers envelopes and vintage department store boxes. At first I was disappointed that Linda wrote on them as that is a pet peeve of mine, but then I realized she only directly wrote on the unbranded box. The Best's Apparel and Nordstrom boxes were thoughtfully written on Post-It notes.
The white box with the Post-It note is from Rhodes and is branded on the underside of the box.
While the boxes were mostly filled with earrings, they did not disappoint. The enamel flowers with biot feather loops were the first things that caught my eye as I have never seen another pair of earrings quite like them in my entire life of looking at vintage earrings. The dense bristle brush earrings above them with enamel centers were also quite unique. The thick enormous rivoli earrings were the first I was tempted to keep. Once I flipped them over and found they were by my favorite American costume jewelry design company, Vendome how could I resist?
All those hot pink earrings explain her many pair of shocking pink shoes like these Polly's, which were the first pair to sell online after the leopard print Spring-o-Lators.
In one bag I noticed some small christmas tree earrings and thought I had the matching brooch back at the shop. Turns out I was mostly right, the ornaments are varying shades of pink on the earrings and monochromatic on the brooch.
I have a love for all things vintage. Jewelry from every decade excites me weather it is fine couture Christian Dior, boutique jewelry like Alice Caviness or plastic five and dime jewelry from Newberry's. When I was in High School, I was into things from the 60s and 70s. Lots of long ropey, brightly colored plastic beaded necklaces brought me great joy and repulsed my Mother, a fashion plus for me at that age. I never knew that they also made earrings to go with such necklaces until today. I had a necklace (and probably still do somewhere around here) that could really use those yellow and orange clip ons.
I've been in need of some white earrings for quite awhile and now I have my choice of these three. I'm leaning towards the 1960s gold toned, milk glass hoops at the top. The flowers are also choice for spring and summer floral print dresses. I also like the glass ball earrings as a nice neutral for many ensembles.
Several pair will make lovely wedding earrings over at Union Made Bride.
After a quick glance through the boxes while at my Mom's house (including these articulated owls and hoops of San Francisco cable cars) she did something that excited me tremendously.
She walked into her kitchen and I realized she must have taken out the most exciting thing in the whole bunch to save for last. She handed me a little tiny mouse pin because I love novelty jewelry and then before my eyes she dangled such a charming treat.
I'll never be able to get all these gems listed online, so if you're local you should book an appointment to see these and hundreds more vintage clip on earrings.
My Mother elected not to get married to her steady beau right out of high school like many of her contemporaries. She wanted to be an actress and in 1961 she moved to Washington D.C. to attend the National Academy of Broadcasting, the year after Wolfman Jack graduated from the same institution. Naturally, she took her elaborate and small sized wardrobe with her. She had roommates from Down South who called purses pocketbooks and cried their way out of speeding tickets by cooing their southern drawl and batting their eyelashes. They also borrowed her clothes without asking or cleaning them before sneaking them back in her closet.
The NAB certainly taught her many things. While I was growing up she was a working actress, most proficiently in the field of radio voice work. What I remember most about the National Academy of Broadcasting and my Mother’s tales of living in Washington D.C. is that we never had grape jelly in our house. Every berry season she would cherish her marionberry jam and recount the days in D.C. where your only jam choice was grape.
She certainly left out a few things about all the fun she was having. Oh those pants! She's always been a pro at removing her glasses before being photographed.
I recently came across a stash of photos from her time there that I had never seen before. I love seeing her pencil skirts and capri pants of the early 60s. She's just 18 years old here and it's interesting to see her style evolve from her childhood in the 1950s into a slightly more sophisticated look that prefaces the more eccentric ensembles she donned as the decade wore on. Her friends and roommates made time for sightseeing, parades and hi-jinx. These photos amuse me as they are a nice look into early 1960s youthful styles and what Washington D.C. looked like during the Camelot Era.
This week a bride of today for Wedding Dress Wednesday, though we focus more on accessories. While Jessica initially came to see me for a dress, we couldn’t find anything quite her style and she found another vintage dress across town at Xtabay. She had a change of heart and ended up with contemporary dress in a vintage style. Next on her list was a brooch bouquet. I made my first one back in 2005 and even found a picture of one on myspace from a 2007 vintage bridal fashion show.
After looking at the price of brooch bouquets on Etsy, Jessica returned to me on her quest for brooches. I’m quite nosy about what my vintage inventory is being used for and as we discussed what Jessica was looking for she mentioned she was going to have a friend make her brooch bouquet. I stopped turning the key in the case of brooches I was opening for her and asked if she was doing the bouquet in a manner which would end with all the brooches being broken. As she confirmed my suspicions I asked if she was married to having her friend do it for her as I have a method that keeps the vintage jewelry from being destroyed. She brought me all the brooches she had already collected from family, garage sales and a bridal showers. We found some more in the Emporium and I dug up a few broken pieces of rhinestone jewelry and single earrings. Imagine having a bridal shower where you ask for family and friends to gift you brooches (or other broken costume jewelry) from family or vintage shops in your colors, weaving memories and stories into your bouquet.
Jessica went with a mixed metal theme of silver and gold. The monogrammed tie bar at bottom right (above) belonged to Jessica’s Opa, which I think is German for Grandfather. I pinned it into the back of the base and it draped over the handle of the finished product. We even filled in tiny spaces with some of her father’s tie tacks.
My favorite piece was the Eugene faux pearl and rhinestone brooch in a Miriam Haskell style seen in the upper center of this photo. Eugene jewelry was only produced from 1952-1962 making it scarce and valuable. When I informed Jessica that I thought it might be “worth” as much as $250 on today’s market (as later backed up by this listing), not breaking the brooches to make a bouquet starting making more and more sense.
Here are some other fascinating angles. The photos from Jessica’s wedding day were taken by Courtney Jade Photography.
Jessica even worked a brooch from the Emporium into her groom’s boutonniere!
Brad at Dada Salon did a half up, half down style for Jessica’s hair. She had also purchased a 1940s sterling silver chatalaine (noun: two pins/brooches joined together by draping chains) accented with rhinestones to wear in her hair. Bobby pins anchor the brooches in Jessica’s hair and the draping chains were wrapped into the design.
A simple 1940s rhinestone bracelet also from the Emporium, completed Jessica’s jewelry choices.
As a winter bride in Oregon one faces many challenges. Not the least of which is the weather. Jessica and Peter were married in Scappoose on her parents property that features views of Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams and Mount Hood.
This is just about the best a December bride in Oregon can hope for, sky wise. But Jessica was a realistic bride and prepared accordingly. Down to her footwear.
She asked about black vintage umbrellas of which I did not have any. Until I was out shopping the next week when two 1950s black umbrellas serendipitously presented themselves to me. Did I mention Jessica also chose to have a surprise wedding? That’s certainly one way to avoid having to nod your head and smile for months on end while all your relatives give their input about your special day. And a good way to keep it small. Only her Father and brother knew in advance. 36 hours before the wedding they texted this photo to their guests with the message “bring your boots & umbrellas…we’re getting married in the woods!”
Jessica’s sweet son walked her down the aisle.
They were lucky enough that the rain stopped for about two hours while Jessica’s Father performed the ceremony. As soon as they got in cars to head into town for dinner, the rain returned.
Today’s Mother Dear Monday photos are from Mary Lynn’s first day of dance lessons. In the 7th and 8th grade children from the “other side of the river” (that’s west of the Willamette) are sent to ballroom dance lessons, a tradition that continues today. The girls then and now wear full skirted dresses and everyone dons a pair of white gloves. Around this time of year young ladies visit AlexSandra’s Vintage Emporium to find the appropriate gloves and dresses. Lorenzo, the Italian exchange student who was living with my Grandparents at the time took these photos in their home on Talbot Road. Her red taffeta dress with Peter Pan collar and bow was topped with a gingham pinafore and cinched at the waist with a thin velvet belt.
For as long as I can remember my Mother would complain about how in her youth, my Grandmother would roll her hair in socks that she would have to sleep on only to end up with a well coiffed hairdo that never lasted. Our fine, thin hair just doesn’t hold a curl well. To this day she recalls the pin curl seen in the photos above and how she had to wait until the moment they walked into dance lessons to pull the pin lest the curl be hanging in her face before the hour was through.
Several girls from St. Thomas More would car pool to dance lessons with a different parent driving each week. Here they posed for a precious Catholic Girl group photo. From left to right are Tory Boone, Mary Gay Malarkey, Colleen Doherty, Mary Lynn Bolger and Patty Volstad.
Mary Gay, old timey photo bomber.
Mother Dear had a toy shepherd dog named wags that she loved very much. He saved my Grandmother’s life on more than one occasion and was a beloved member of their family.
These pictures (and this one of Mother Dear’s prom dress) are from a recently discovered box of photos that we thought had been carelessly donated many years ago. Most of these pictures I have never seen before, unlike the photos from her acting career which I have periodically poured over from age four until today. What I have been enjoying most about these more personal family photos is discovering things in the background. The clock seen on the mantle in my Grandparents home sits above my own fireplace today.
I spent the bulk of May, June and July “Summering in Lake Oswego” which is to say Mother Dear and I worked for her friend Carol Welch on a rather large and overwhelming estate sale. The house belonged to 89 year old Joanne Balkovic who had recently passed leaving a house stacked high with her personal belongings and more. When her Mother, Ida Clifford Niesen passed away Joanne crammed all of Ida’s things in her basement. This made the chore of sorting the 40′ by 15′ corridor stacked to the ceiling with just an 18 inch goat trail to get through to other cram packed rooms a bit more entertaining. I discovered several antique trunks under piles of boxes and several televisions. One containted Ida’s wedding photos. Eventually in another part of the house I found a framed invitation from Ida Clifford and George Niesen’s 1925 wedding.
I’m in love with Ida’s tremendous pointed lace crown and veil. It accentuates her hairstyle and makes the demure, eyes cast down posturing of her photo all the more interesting. If you are looking for something similar for your own wedding, check out this gem on eBay.Beware the frightening model! And if you’re curious what a 1920s wedding dress looks like, try this one or this one, both available at Union Made Bride.
I love the grandiose shower bouquets of the 1920s and early 1930s. Filled with greenery and often trailing ribbons with love knots and more, they show a commitment to keeping florists in business. In addition to throwing the bouquet to unmarried female guests, only half of the original tradition – the catcher of the bouquet was entitled to untie a lovers’ knot and the wish she made was said to come true.
Grooms don’t change much from year to year, or even decade to decade for that matter. I’m fond of George Niesen’s boutonniere that appears to have been clipped and never missed from Ida’s bouquet. His Dapper Dan hair is also quite attractive.
I don’t know exactly how long George and Ida were married, but I did find a bunch of things from their 50th wedding anniversary in 1975 so they made it at least that far.
Joanne was also a prolific painter. Among her many canvasses, I found this one painted from her parents wedding photo. They must have meant a lot to her.
I come from a long line of Marys. My Mother, Mary Lynn and her Mother, Mary Emeline Carmichael until she married my grandfather Ray Bolger and took his name. They were married on June 26th 1938 in San Jose, California in a Catholic church. While my Grandmother was keen on having grandchildren, she didn’t care for the name much and we always called her Nani. Nani was clearly possessed by the spirit of Mary Queen of Scots. The paper clipping (read to me over the phone by Uncle Bill) states she was wearing a Mary Stewart tiara. The curved head piece is covered with tulle from which a curved elbow length veil falls in a soft ripple. The center is trimmed with wax orange blossoms quite popular at the time as evidenced by many 1930s and 40s veils.
They were married in the Sacred Heart in a nuptial mass. The Reverand Thomas O’Kane, a family friend of Los Altos married them and a few decades later by coincidence the very same Reverend O’Kane married my Uncle Bill and Aunt Midge.
Nani’s dress was a simple slip of princess seamed silk satin in white with a tremendous lace jacket to top things off. The jacket featured many charming details including dramatic leg of mutton sleeves with pointed hems, a Peter Pan collar and a front closure of a million tiny buttons and loops. Being Catholic, she carried a prayer book trailing ribbons and an exquisite shower of white orchids and lilies of the valley.
Sadly, Nani didn’t have the foresight for vintage. She packed her wedding dress into a box and left it on the top shelf in her closet. Around age 5, my Mother found out there was a wedding dress in the closet and she begged and begged to see it. Nani would pull it down and show it to her. Repeatedly. Eventually my Mother talked Nani into letting her try it on despite it being too big, she just HAD to see how the train fell in back. As the years past my Mother and Uncle Bill had a stage in the attic complete with curtains that could be drawn and Nani’s dress became a costume and lived out it’s life in that hot uninsulated attic. So the lesson to learn this Wedding Dress Wednesday is: Don’t let children play with your wedding dress.
More snapshots of 1938 wedding guests to follow in the morning. My friend Blaire just opened Hale Pele and I fear I may have imbibed too much to manage adding photos.
Becki Jane, a local facebook fan of AlexSandra’s Vintage Emporium contacted me earlier this year asking if I would be interested in purchasing her Mother Julie’s wedding dress. Julie was married in 1960 and her dress bears the International Ladies Garment Worker’s Union label that dates to the 1955-1963 period, further verifying Becki Jane’s story. I’m always happy to have a look at garments available for sale and this dress was no let down. Taffeta lined cupcake dress features a Chantilly lace bodice with pointed hem sleeves and a long lace peplum over layers and layers of tulle.
People frequently ask where I get my inventory, and while the short answer is often, “From dead people” my favorite way to do it is to obtain clothing and accessories from the original owners or most often, from their daughters. I think being a Mother/Daughter business draws daughters to us as Mother Dear and I lovingly launder, repair and find new homes for their own beloved Mother’s things. The added bonus is getting the provenance and stories of these garments straight from the source. Becki Jane was kind enough to share a photo of her Mother wearing this wedding dress.
This dress clearly embodies the Camelot Era of the very early 1960s. I like the charming bridesmaids and the lone junior bridesmaid’s dresses featuring lightly gathered skirts with Chantilly lace peplums that were clearly inspired by the brides gown topped with simple high necked sleeveless bodices. I’m fairly certain that the bridemaids are wearing large taffeta bows in their hair much like the ones later popularized by Sally Rogers on the Dick Van Dyke Show. One of the bridesmaids is sporting my own Mother Dear’s 1960s prom hairdo as seen here.
The bodice of Julie’s wedding dress is rather unusual. While the taffeta lining is cut in a sweetheart shape as were many dresses of the period, I have never seen one that features a lace overlay that curves UP. A sprinkling of aurora borealis sequins eliminates the need of a necklace, though that didn’t stop us from wrapping a choker from the 1930s (available here) around Tara’s neck.
Enjoy these photos of the dress and visit the Etsy listing for more details. Remember, it takes an awfully long time to properly set up vintage wedding dress shots.
My Mother gradated from St. Mary’s Catholic High School in 1960. She wore the same dress for prom, baccalaureate and graduation. My Grandfather, Ray Bolger owned a mens clothing store at the time. As Saks Fifth Avenue and I. Magnin were moving into town, local seamstresses who did custom made clothing were short of work and being pushed out by The Man and mass produced clothing. Charlott Fleischer was a seamstress that my Grandfather knew and often gave quick turn around work that their on site tailor, Mr. Casassa didn’t have time to do. She was also given the task of making Mother Dear’s prom dress.
It began as a simple sheath dress of eyelet organdy over a buttery yellow taffeta lining. Just two side seams with a metal Talon zipper and a heavily darted bodice and skirt. The side seams are expertly finished and slit 6 inches up each side seam. The scalloped edge is perfectly positioned so that when the slit lies flat, the flower and scallop are perfectly matched. It measures 33-24-36, once again proving you can have a tiny waist, but you can’t have boobs too! For prom, my Mother asked that a tiered skirt also be made to be worn over the sheath so she could have a full skirted party dress for that occasion. She attended with her long time beau, Bernie Albers (pictured above) and wore only the simple pearl bracelet that was among the many pieces of gold and pearl jewelry he gave her over their courtship.
Later she wore just the sheath to baccalaureate with a creamy, unlined eyelet bolero that was added to the ensemble as the custom made process progressed. I still have all the pieces of this fine ensemble and have featured them in a Mother's Day vintage fashion show in the recent past as pictured above and below.
The grosgrain ribbon trimmed inner waistline of this dress hides the accurate label: Dresses of Distinction by Charlott Fleischer Veinna-Portland.