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My Vintage Fashion Library Part 2

17 October, 2018 1 comment Leave a comment

After a long break, I'm getting back to a tour through my vintage fashion library shelves with one of my personal favorites.

The Complete Book of Sewing: Dressmaking and Sewing For the Home Made Easy by Constance Talbot, 1943 original edition.

A how-to sewing book is a basic helpful reference, where you can get a better understanding of zippers and facings and the difference between ruching and shirring. There are a lot of them around and you can usually take your pick of several "how-to-sew" books on the bookshelves at your local thrift store. Most of them are perfectly practical and useful, and well illustrated. But this one is something special IMHO. You’ll get the basics with chapters on seams, darts and pleats, hems and facings, and so on.

But this book has sooo much more, a veritable time capsule of women’s lives in the early 40s. Firstly, there are multiple illustrations on every page; most of them line drawings with color accents but also some black & white photos. Because the book was published in 1943, they show in copious detail how women of that era dressed and lived down to the most minute detail.

There’s a chapter on Underwear for All the Family where you can learn how to make “luxury underwear” as well as robes from blankets. The chapter on Accessories and Gifts has simple patterns for evening bags, belts, and a turban as well as advice on how to change your accessories to reflect the seasons.

There’s an entire chapter on Caring for Clothes and another on The Fine Art of Mending – if you ever wanted to know how to darn stocking or repair your girdle, you’ll find advice here. My favorite chapter is probably the one called Restyling—Remodeling—Remaking. These were the WW2 years, the years of rationing, and many of the housewives this book was written for knew how to Make Do after the Depression years. So here, you learn how to make two new dresses from three old ones by combining parts, how to turn worn cuffs and collars in men’s shirts, how to turn a dress with underarm rips and worn neckline into a sleeveless vee-neck jumper.

Or you can make like Scarlett O’Hara and make a button front jumper, a summer dirndl skirt or a “practical and smart looking housecoat” from old curtains, tablecloths or bedspreads.

There is so much to love about this book. I have barely scratched the surface.

My vintage fashion library

13 April, 2018 0 comments Leave a comment

I’ve been collecting vintage clothing & accessories since I was 20 years old.  As a visual learner and voracious reader, it was probably inevitable that I would accumulate an extensive library of books about vintage fashion, some for reference, and many for the sheer eye candy indulgence.

 I decided it might be fun for me (and hopefully helpful for my readers) to take a virtual tour through my bookshelves, one tome at a time, one blog post at a time.

First up, Essential Terms of Fashion: A Collection of Definitions by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta, published in 1985 (paperback  with new and used copies listed on Amazon).

This is the single reference book I use the most, keeping it next to me when I’m working on writing descriptions. As you can see from one of my close-up photos, I’ve used it so much the binding has cracked. Sometimes I need to confirm that I’m using the correct term for a design detail (is that deep set sleeve dolman or raglan or batwing?). In the process of double-checking, I often stop to browse. Then the next time I’m faced with an unusual collar I know just where to go. I can open the book to the collar chapter and pinpoint that long collar that’s rounded at the end instead of pointed – aha! It’s a spaniel’s-ear collar!

The book is organized in chapters with lots of line drawing illustrations within each chapter. There are the aforementioned chapters for sleeves and collars, as well as chapters on dresses, skirt, handbags, pleats, pockets, jackets and many more. What’s the difference between a Balmacaan, a Chesterfield, a Cocoon and an Inverness? You’ll find it here (hint: they’re all coats).

Nolan Miller: In Memoriam

08 June, 2012 0 comments Leave a comment

 Nolan Miller, famed for his glamorous and over-the-top designs for the 1980s primetime soap, Dynasty, died earlier this week after a 6 year battle with lung cancer.

On a budget of $35,000 per episode, he adorned Joan Collins, Linda Evans, and the rest of the actresses playing Carringtons, their hangers-on and their enemies in amazing and often extreme 80s fashion. Sequined and beaded gowns, "Ladies who lunch" power suits with striking and opulent details, furs, extravagant and dramatic hats - Nolan Miller's designs for Dynasty won him an Emmy in 1984 and made him famous.

Miller also designed for movies and other television series, including Charlie's Angels, The Love Boat, and The Addams Family. Morticia Addams' iconic and darkly glamourous black gown, reminiscent of a gothic mermaid with a hint of octopus, was a Nolan Miller design. He also designed the beaded dress worn by starlet Ginger Grant the day she was stranded on Gilligan's Island.


I feel lucky to have a three piece vintage 1980s Nolan Miller suit, purple wool with a matching silk shell, detailed with glossy black bugle beads, listed here at MagsRags. To check out the listing, follow this link





Suzy Creamcheese Loves You!

28 April, 2012 27 comments Leave a comment

The original Suzy Creamcheese sprung from the wonderfully twisted brain of Frank Zappa in 1966 when a letter supposedly written by her appeared on the back of his debut double album  "Freak Out", complaining that "these Mothers are crazy. You can tell by their clothes."


Within a few years, Leslie Fearon had assumed the moniker and opened a boutique in Las Vegas called Suzy Creamcheese that became legendary for selling amazing one-of-a-kind fashions coveted and worn by celebrities, show girls and strippers. Throughout the 1970s, movie stars like Ann Margaret, Shirley MacClaine, and musicians like Dionne Warwick, Cher, and Stevie Nicks, shopped at Suzy Creamcheese. Wives of mobsters loved the clothes too, a fact given a nod in the movie "Casino", when Sharon Stone's character, Ginger, talks about shopping there. Elvis Presley bought stagewear for himself from Suzy Creamcheese as well as outfits for his wife Priscilla Presley and a succession of girlfriends.


Elvis on stage in a leather         Elvis girlfriend Linda Thompson      An Elvis leather fringed suit           Suzy Creamcheese label

Suzy Creamcheese suit            in a hand crocheted Suzy dress      worn onstage and privately



 I am lucky enough to own an original Suzy Creamcheese velvet Edwardian inspired skirt suit, available for purchase here at

Suzy Creamcheese Las Vegas suit                

Nat Nast: King of the Bowling Shirt

21 April, 2012 0 comments Leave a comment

 This is the first in what will be a series of occasional posts with photos of vintage clothing labels and the garments they came from. Now, the Vintage Fashion Guild, of which I am a proud member, hosts the Vintage Label Resource, an extensive library of vintage clothing labels, with helpful information about the designers and companies behind the fashion. I have contributed several label photos myself, and written a few of the designer bios.


My little resource here will be much more limited. I thought it might be helpful to some collectors and fans to see the whole garments  along with the labels, since sometimes there can be some difference of opinion about dating. Sometimes I'll have some background for you about the label, and sometimes the pictures will have to say it all.


I'm going to start with Nat Nast, and I do have information, based on my research. And I have two Nat Nast women's bowling shirts, fairly similar to each other, but with different labels. I'll be submitting a copy of this to VFG for the label resource, so you may eventually find it there too. The first label and shirt



And the second:


Even though the two shirts look so similar, with the same tiki graphic on the right chest, there are differences - the first one has rolled cuffs. You can see the pleated "Action Back" really well on that one too, although they both have it.I think they are both 1950s vintage but I would put the pink and mocha one just a little earlier, based both on the label design and the style used for the sponsor graphic on the back. And here's some details on Nat Nast and his bowling shirts.


Nat Nast was called “The King of Bowling Shirts”, and is believed to have produced the very first bowling shirts when he started his company in Kansas City Missouri in 1946. Nat Nast created the first shirts with inverted pleats, known as the Action Back. The shirts were made out of washable rayon and the company eventually specialized in customized embroidery for colleges and universities as well as bowling teams and their sponsors across the USA. The Nat Nast company was sold in the 1970s. A revival of sorts came about in 2000 when his two daughters started Nat Nast Luxury Originals, basing their designs on their father’s iconic shirts but adding embroidered artwork.


Welcome to the New Look of MagsRags Vintage!

01 April, 2012 1 comment Leave a comment

After four years, MagsRags has had a facelift. The old look has served me well, but I wanted something a bit more customized. I'm very excited by the changes so far, and I'm looking forward to developing it further in the weeks and months ahead.

One of the cool things about the new design is that the software is "Responsive", which means that whether you're using a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smart phone, you should have a pretty easy time browsing and shopping.

I'd like to say thanks to John Rawsterne, the theme designer. He not only came up with a great shop package but he answered all my questions and even put together a mockup to help me visualize what MagsRags might look like before I decided to purchase.