Even Anna Wintour covets Barbie's wardrobe. (Image courtesy of Black Cat Vintage.)
My “origin story” has always been that I developed my fondness for vintage couture by hiding inside my mother’s dresses as a child. But when a local museum asked me to design a Christmas tree, another possibility emerged.
MacPherson’s income—equivalent to over $750,000 a year today—afforded her access to the rarest luxuries during the 1920s, when excess was commonplace.
The screenwriter was also an accomplished pilot and was frequently photographed in full flight regalia, as seen in this 1920 photo.
(Image courtesy of Altadena Filming.)
Last month I shared the astounding discovery of several items belonging to Jeanie MacPherson, Cecil B. DeMille’s long time scenarist and screenwriter, in a plastic garbage bag headed for the dump. Given the objects’ age and provenance, I would have been flattened to find a single garment intact. Instead, I found the clothing equivalent of Tutankhamen’s tomb in shockingly good condition.
Cecil B. DeMille and Jeanie MacPherson in 1926 along with their stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
(Image courtesy of Cecil B. DeMille Foundation.)
For over 20 years I have had the pleasure of working with priceless fashion artifacts from the archives of movie stars, historical figures and illustrious designers. You might be tempted to think that no clothing acquisition, restoration or discovery could phase me after so long, but you would be wrong. There are still garments that unglue me, either with their provenance, their artistry or their origin.
Recently I found a piece with all three of these virtues … in a garbage bag headed for the landfill.
Circa 1950: When Dick is cool, it's time for Zonite.
(Ad excerpt courtesy of vintageadbrowser.com)
I might be the only person who would delight in its discovery, but the truth is I squealed when I uncovered it. There it was, in an old cardboard box in a neglected corner of my mother’s garage: my grandmother’s 1930s douche.
Was my Irish Catholic and often humorless grandmother that obsessed with cleanliness, or did she like so many women use it as (gasp!) birth control?
Warning: this post acknowledges the existence of sex and women's reproduction.
Dead letter mail, ca. 1917. Supt. Marvin McLean and Mrs. Clara R.A. Nelson.
(Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.)
As a kid growing up in Chicago, I would never leave my bike outside in case it rained; it might get cold. I cried when I passed a stand of leftover Halloween pumpkins because I didn’t want them to feel bad about not having been chosen. Even today, if I have to throw something in an empty garbage bin I make sure I put another piece of trash with it so it doesn’t get lonely.
The Little Black Book thoughts about life, luxury and the pursuit of vintage fashion.