About a month ago, I found myself in Sacramento with time to waste. Rather quickly, I found myself quite a ways off the beaten path at a vintage shop called Lulu Forever. Once inside, it became clear that the buyer there has a great eye for both historically relevant and unique pieces: The shop held a wide range of clothing from a variety of time periods. Of particular note were the full skirted 1950s dresses, adorable pink polyester pants suits, and small (but well selected) section of menswear. I scrolled through the racks and found myself breathless with anticipation: what would I find on the next hanger? One piece caught my eye before I’d even entered the store: a textbook perfect example of mod fashion.
Grey Mod Dress
The grey mini-dress, shown below, with a white peter pan collar and single front pocket represented the epitome of the 1960s “mod” style. It referenced a number of well known designers and images.
Both Haute Couture and pop culture reference can be found here. A high fashion dress created by Yves Saint Laurent in 1958 for Dior (though it retained the heavy under structure despite appearing loose and ‘free’) is remarkably similar to the dress at Lulu’s. Though it can also be easily compared to the work of commercial designer Mary Quant in the early 1960s (as well as her own personal style). Yet a third reference draws comparisons to 1960s popular film, specifically Anthea Sylbert’s costume designs for Rosemary’s Baby (1968). Of course, the look was also parodied by John Waters in the movie Hairspray (1988, CD Van Smith).
Though I’d previously explored the use of cork as an alternative material for shoes, I had not realized that it was also used for handbags-perhaps by individuals rather than commercially.
As I’d not really encountered cork handbags ‘in the wild’, a little researching was required. I found a nearly identical version for sale on etsy, and a circular example in a private collection. All appeared to be made of recycled materials (soda or wine corks) and a pre-fab zippered purse. Ferragamo is said to have created the first wedge shoe in 1936. [i] Wood and cork were used to create these soles and were frequently covered with cloth, leather and decorated with sequins, embroidery or bows. [ii] Due to a shortage of steel in 1936, which Ferragamo used usually used to reinforce the arches of his shoes, he created a sole made from a wedge of cork-leading to the trend for platform sandals in the 1930s and 1940s. [iii]
It’s easy to see that given these shortages and the cost of traditional materials, recycling wine-bottle and soda-pop cork could be an easy and innovative (admittedly, more research could be done on the use of recycled materials during the depression era). I’d love to hear from those who might be working in this area.
As an aside, Lulu Forever also contained a zip-up, striped, polyester, shorts-jumper with labels from Lacoste for I.Magnin. I fell in love with it and I could not leave without buying it (I wore it to a BBQ on the 4th of July). If you ever find yourself in Sacramento, I’d suggest a visit – you just might find an icon there yourself.
[i] Mendes, Valerie and Amy De La Haye. 20th Century Fashion. London: Thames & Hudson, 1999. 86
[ii] Probert, Cristina. Shoes in Vogue Since 1910. New York: Abbeville Press, 1981, 28
[iii] Pattison Angela and Nigel Cawthorne. A Century of Shoes: Icons of Style in the 20th century Australia: Universal International, 1997. 10.