September 14, 2014

Photos of early and mid-century Miss America winners

Though there are no shortage of different opinions on the Miss America contest - and beauty pageants in general - and I know full well that not everyone out there is a diehard fan, I think it's relatively safe bet to say that what unites nearly all of those reading this post today is a general love of, and appreciate for the past, which includes looking at vintage photographs, even if they're of beauty pageant winners.

Started as a marketing ploy by the Businessmen's League of Atlantic City to lure visitors to the boardwalk after the Labour Day long weekend, the traditional end of the tourist season had wrapped up, and ultimately evolving into a hugely popular televised event decades later that is broadcast to many countries around the world, the Miss America contest has not been without its share of ups and downs (as well as contrary including anti-Semitism and racism - prior to 1950, for example, the contest was only open to Caucasian participants) over the years.

Ultimately though, it held on and flourished, giving rise to the dreams of many a young lady across America over the better part of the last nearly ninety years and becoming a cultural institution of sorts in the United States (and beyond). Often imitated (there are, for example, similar competitions such as Miss USA, which began in 1952), but never, save perhaps in more recent decades by Miss Universe, which is open to participants from around the globe, quite matched, Miss America is to beauty pageants as Barbie dolls are to the toy world: Glitzy, beautiful, heavily made up, and often met with criticism, yet few can deny its rightful place in 20th and 21st century culture.

In celebration of the fact that today is the 88th Miss America event, I thought it would be fun to take a peak at each of the earliest earliest winners, starting all the way back in 1921 with Margaret Gorman, the first ever winner of this now world famous event which was initially held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and spanning the mid-century years until 1960, when a Mississippi gal named Lynda Lee Mead took home the crown.

{Miss America 1921 ~ Margaret Gorman}

{Miss America 1922 and 1923 (intitially participants could compete for more than one year) ~ Mary Katherine Campbell}

{Miss America 1924 ~ Ruth Malcomson}

{Miss America 1925 ~ Fay Lanphier}

{Miss America 1926 ~ Norma Smallwood}

{Miss America 1927 ~ Lois Delander}

{Miss America 1933 (the contest was not held between 1928 and 1932; in addition, the 1933 winner retained the title throughout 1934 as, again, no pageant was held that year) ~ Marian Bergeron}

{Miss America 1935 ~ Henrietta Leaver}

{Miss America 1936 ~ Rose Coyle}

{Miss America 1937 ~ Bette Cooper}

{Miss America 1938 ~ Marilyn Meseke}

{Miss America 1939 ~ Patricia Donnelly}

{Miss America 1940 ~ Frances Marie Burke}

{Miss America 1941 ~ Rosemary LaPlanche}

{Miss America 1942 ~ Jo-Carroll Dennison}

{Miss America 1943 ~ Jean Bartel}

{Miss America 1944 ~ Venus Ramey}

{Miss America 1945 ~ Bess Myerson}

{Miss America 1946 ~ Marilyn Buferd}

{Miss America 1947 ~ Barbara Jo Walker}

{Miss America 1948 ~ BeBe Shopp}

{Miss America 1949 ~ Jacque Mercer}

{Miss America 1951 (due to changes with how the dates of a winner's reign occurred, there was no Miss America 1950) ~ Yolande Betbeze}

{Miss America 1952 ~ Colleen Kay Hutchins}

{Miss America 1953 ~ Neva Jane Langley}

{Miss America 1954 ~ Evelyn Margaret Ay}

{Miss America 1955 ~ Lee Meriwether}

{Miss America 1956 ~ Sharon Ritchie}

{Miss America 1957 ~ Marian McKnight}

{Miss America 1958 ~ Marilyn Van Derbur}

{Miss America 1959 ~ Mary Ann Mobley}

{Miss America 1960 ~ Lynda Lee Mead}

{Please click on a photo to be taken to its respective source.}

♥ ♥ ♥

Even if you're not keen on beauty pageants (I can see all sides of the coin there, believe me), it's hard not swoon over the stylish clothing, hairstyles, makeup looks and overall sense of glamour that these gorgeous yesteryear winners all shared in common and that alone is worth shining the spotlight on at least once a year.

September 12, 2014

There is no tiger...

...But that doesn't mean you take some serious fashion cues from one!

Vintage Fashionista Friday blog graphic for Chronically Vintage photo VintagefashionistaChronicallyVintag.png

{Who doesn't love a great vintage inspired headwrap like this wonderful leopard print cotton gem? It's cute, practical, fun, and such a handy helper when it comes to creating mid-century, rockabilly, and pin-up girl hairstyles alike. $14.00 from Eternal Magpie.}

{You're eyes will look especially fierce when you surround these fantastic 1950s tiger meets confetti clear horn rim style eyeglass frames, which are the purr-fect blend of mid-century fabulous and modern day appropriate cool all in the same go. $98.00 from Dia Vintage.}

{Reminiscent of late summer sunsets, harvest moons, fall pumpkins, these timelessly pretty orange plastic 1950s/1960s clip-on earrings are an ideal, lightweight way to bring one of the season's most iconic colours to your wardrobe. $9.50 from Chronically Vintage on Etsy. }

{Go on, I double dare you not to squeal with sheer delight over this immensely cute vintage 1960s kitty cat novelty print blouse! It's sweet, fun, and adorable - not to mention bursting with several of the finest shades from autumn's palette. Fits up to a 38" bust/28-29" waist. $86.00 from from Rococo Vintage.}

{Though we may still technically have a few more days of summer left, for most of us, the temperatures have already started to take a noticeable plunge and our minds are shifting more to thoughts of overcoats than swimsuits at the moment. If you want to stay roasty-toasty and look seriously chic in the process, than this awesome 1950s/1960s faux tiger fur coat is for you. Fits up to a 45" bust, full waist and hips. $155.00 from True Value Vintage.}

{Rich, luxurious gold tone metal and faux tiger eye plastic stones call this strikingly elegant, circa 1970s/80s does 1930s/40s bracelet home, and would make for such a fabulous, autumn hued piece of vintage jewelry to wear to your next Thanksgiving get-together. $25.00 from Chronically Vintage on Etsy.}

{My renewed summertime love for vintage reproduction swing trousers is going mighty strong as we look fall's return square in the eyes. As we do just that, I find myself especially yearning for pairs in dark, seasonally fantastic hues like these beautiful brown pinstripe 1940s vintage reproduction pants. Available in modern ladies UK sizes 10 to 18. £60.00 from Heyday.}

{Oh-la-la - and then some!!! This wildly alluring, figure flattering 1980s does 1940s tiger print peplum dress is all kinds of magnificent! From the "killer" pattern to the summer into fall perfect sleeve and hem lengths, this yesteryear frock will have all who see you roaring with praise about your ensemble. Fits up to a 40" bust/20-38" (elastic) waist. $29.00 from Bombshell Shocked.}

{At the moment, I'm tucking away my summertime accessories and bringing out my fall and winter ones, be they berets, boots, or gloves, to ensure they're all ready to go at at moment's (chilly!) notice. A gal can never have to many great winter gloves as these vintage appropriate brown leather beauties embellished with brass studs would look right at home in my - our your - mid-century wardrobe. Available in modern ladies sizes small to XL. $45.00 from Blue Velvet Vintage.}

{While we tend to typically associate them with spring and summer, there's no reason why vintage straw handbags like this good sized, classic 1960s beaut can't keep on serving us well come autumn, too - especially on sunny days when their flaxen hues call to mind fields of wheat, corn, and barley all waiting to be harvest. $38.00 from Dalena Vintage.}

{Suede high heels have been a favourite of mine for many years, with my beloved black 40s pair being one of my most currently sported pairs. If these beautiful brown suede 1950s pair was my size (they're a touch too small), I'd be adding them to my closet. My loss, is your gain, especially if you're hunting for fall time fabulous vintage high heels. Fits a vintage size 7AAA. $79.20 from The Best Vintage Clothing.}

What, dear Jess, are you talking about, you may be wondering as you read the title and introductory line of today's post. Allow me to elaborate.

You see, I am blessed to have a husband who is incredibly wise and insightful. I don't say that with any bias. If I knew, but was not married/in love with Tony, I would still say that he deserves to have a word like "sage" in front of his name, for he possesses that rare and fantastic combination of true intellect, stealth-like perceptiveness, deeply rooted compassion, the ability to see logic in any setting, and a knack for putting one's mind at ease, which is worth more than all the gold and diamonds in the world.

This isn't to say that he doesn't worry sometimes himself (how can anybody not?), but that of the two of us, I tend to be the one who worries far more - especially about things that are, objectively, not worth fretting over for two seconds, let alone days or longer. I'm no stranger to genuine anxiety, and stress and I might as well wear matching halves of a grade school BBF necklace.

I have a near crippling fear of confrontation and another of not pleasing people when I know they want me to do something (they're two sides of the same coin most of the time), as well as a workaholic's approach to business. My health is forever throwing curveballs my way that means I quite literally do no know what my world will be like, in some ways at least, from one day to the next. I am a recovering perfectionist (I was a major one as a child) and great fan of everything being in order, even though I know full well that life is never endingly chaotic.

This year, with the significant number of changes that have been underway in my life (especially on the professional front), which I chatted about recently in this post, I've been dealing with - what is in the scope of my personal world and circumstances - an unhealthy amount of stress and worry. As I discussed in that post, I'm working on taking steps to reduce that somewhat, but as we all know - such is easier said than done with it comes to scaling back on stress and work alike. Enter the title of today's Vintage Fashionista Friday post. You see, sometimes, when I'm having an especially difficult day on the stress/anxiety/worry front, my perceptive, caring husband will say to me, "It's okay, there's no tiger chasing you". And he is 100% correct.

Our brains (and nervous systems) are products of our human evolution. Once, long ago, we were traveling bands of hunters and nomads whose lives were constantly in danger. We developed certain internal systems and responses (such as the flight or fight response) to help us survive and cope in these harsh, life or death conditions. In fact, we lived in these kinds of circumstances for millions of years more than we've yet to dwell in cities, had weapons like swords and guns to defend us, and created man made barriers to keep the wolves at the gate, both literally and figuratively.

Yet, as with so many elements of how we behave and respond to the situations we find ourselves in millennia after most of us started to form civilizations and no longer live quite so on the edge of constant treats to our lives (or at the very least, not all of those same ones that our early ancestors knew on the plains of Africa), we still respond internally to danger and worry exactly the same way. We're hardwired to do so and overriding that internal programming is so hard, it verges on impossible.

How can you tell your brain, the epicenter of your emotions and thoughts, to just chill and take it easy, that most of the worries and problems we face today are not matters of our very survival and that, ultimately, you'll be okay? There isn't an easy answer to that question, but learning to put stress and worry into prospective can be a big leap forward there. Believe me, I speak from experience. Tony is also fond of saying (in situations that worry me), "What's the worse that can happen?", and he is so incredibly right – what is the worst that could happen? Usually, when you spell the realistic worse case scenario to a given situation out in black and white, it's not as bad as you've made the possible outcome to be in your head.

We may still have our ancestors responses to worry and danger, but we don't have their set of daily challenges. Now there’s a new, different, equally (if not more so) complex ones, which we may adapt to and come to handle differently in many thousands of more generations, but for now, we're still dealing with a hunter-gather's brain clothed in Nike shoes, Armani suits, Levis jeans, or - in our case - vintage threads.

However, we're very fortunate that there isn't (with exceptions made of course for those who still live in parts of the world where animal attacks are a very real threat) a tiger chasing us. We can stop, breath, take stock of our thoughts and circumstances, discuss our problems with loved ones and paid strangers (such as doctors and psychologists) alike, and decide how we want to take down the beast that it is our own worry and stress.

This is a luxury our ancestors rarely had when a wild, menacing creature was hunting them every bit as much as they had their spears aimed at the animal itself, and we're profoundly fortunate that such is the case, however we must be incredibly careful that we don't let stress us eat us alive, instead of a saber tooth tiger.

I share this topic today, which I know has rather little, objectively, to do with vintage fashion, other than providing a tie in theme for this fun yesteryear outfit, in the hopes that if you're also a chronic worrier and/or if something has really been weighing on your mind and bringing a lot of stress into your life lately, you can also avail of Tony's insight - so simple, yet so brilliant in its entirety.

Instead of running from imaginary tigers, let's access each worrisome situation as it comes our way, remind ourselves that we likely have the strength and coping skills needed to survive it, and spend our days far less consumed by stress and way more filled with peace, happiness, and all of the amazing things that we're fortunate to have in the 21st century - very much including our beloved fashions from the past (animal print or otherwise).

September 10, 2014

Ten fabulously cool historical paper doll books from Dover Publications

There's something about the return of September, bringing with it, as it does, a new school year and in turn, even if it's been an age and a half since you last saddled up to a desk with a fresh pack of number two pencils in hand, memories of one's own youth. I always, without fail, feel a powerful sense of nostalgia in September. It's not so much that yearn to a child again (though that could be fun for a day or two!), but rather that I enjoy looking back with a deeply rooted fondness on many of the elements of my early youth that went hand-in-hand with those formative school years.

Part of me wants to pretend its the 1980s or 90s again. To eat Fruit Roll-Ups and Cool Ranch Doritos, drink a Capri Sun, watch a VHS (okay, who forgot to rewind it?!) on a chunky, boxy silver and black hued TV, open up a closet twinkling with neons and synthetic fabrics, tease my bangs, and bust out all those toys - and there was no shortage of them, I will always consider my youth to be one of the most prolific times the world has ever known on the toy industry new release front - that I enjoyed playing with when life was, at least to some extents, a simpler time.

Like many of the era, I had my fair share of modern playthings, but I also enjoyed simpler, classic toys as well, very much including paper dolls. I wouldn't say I had a massive collection, but I can very fondly recall three books in particular: one was a winter carnival ice princess themed collection that came my way very early in life, another featured The Quints (a toy line aimed at young girls which featured a family of quintuplet babies), and the third was - not surprisingly in the slightest for the era - Barbie themed.

Just as scores of little girls have for ages now, I also enjoyed making my own paper dolls. Drawing on and cutting rudimentary figures and their wardrobes out of lined, white, wrapping or construction paper. The homemade ones never seemed to last quite as long as the store bought versions, but both were every bit as much fun and in an age fuelled by modernity, talking teddy bears, plastic action figures as far as the eye could see, dolls that claimed to be born in a cabbage patch, and the birth, for all intents, of the video game generation, there was something downright peaceful and thoroughly pleasant about paper dolls.
Their use (assuming one cut up or punched them out of their respective books) called on a child's imagination and creativity. They weren't as "3D" as Barbie, Gem, My Little Pony, or any of the other scores of dress up/hair brushing (toy companies were borderline obsessed with having little girls brush their toy's hair in the 80s and early 90s) that plastered the marketplace and pages of the Sears Wish Book catalogs each winter, but they could provide every bit as much fun and I don't remember a friend or female classmate who didn't jump at the chance to play paper dolls (and for that matter, plenty of little boys enjoyed them as well, even if they wouldn't admit as much in front of their peers, with whom they'd no doubt be talking about He Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Garbage Pail Kids, Transformers, or GI Joe).

Paper dolls certainly weren't invented in the days of my youth however, not by a long shot. Their history dates back at least to 18th century France (with earlier versions, though not always indented as children's playthings, appearing centuries before then still), with the first commercial versions, according to this terrific article on the history of paper dolls, appearing in 1810 in London, England. Dolls featuring celebrities, from dancers to royal family members, actresses to historical figures soon followed in the decades to come and the popularity of paper dolls would continue to skyrocket for the next few generations (reaching its zenith in the 1930s through to the 1960s).

It has never died out entirely though, thankfully, and many people - men and women alike - adore collecting (and in some cases, still playing with) - paper dolls. How could they not? There is nothing, even with all the toys that have followed in the last two to three centuries, quite like paper dolls out there, and I doubt there ever will be. It's possible that one day youngsters will 3D print their own toys, and paper dolls will fall into the realm of merely being quaint, charming collectibles still treasured by a handful of classic toy fans. For now though, thankfully, one can still readily buy and enjoy all manner of beautiful paper dolls, whether they're a serious collector, a nostalgic fan like me, or shopping for the youngsters or fashion loving folks in their lives.

Unquestionably one of the most appealing and important aspects of paper dolls has been their ability to so perfectly capture the fashions, hairstyles and other important historical elements of the era (or, sometimes, an earlier one) that they date from. In more recent decades in particular, there has been a surge in modern paper dolls that are historically themed and today, in honour of that fact and that such books are such to appeal to scores of my vintage (and historical costume) loving readers, I wanted to shine the spotlight on ten seriously delightful paper doll sets from Dover Publications, one of Chronically Vintage's newest blog sponsors this year.

Long (decades!) before I had the great pleasure of partnering with Dover in such a capacity, I'd been a huge fan of their paper dolls (and other kinds of publications, very much including their wide range of excellent, informative books devoted to historical fashions and costumes, many of which I've enjoyed studying with gusto and intensity over the years). However it is paper dolls upon which I'd like to shine the spotlight at the moment with a selection of different books (amongst the dozens that this company produces) that would have appealed every bit as much to my six year old self as they do to me, a vintage and history loving 30 year old lady, now today.

 photo TenfabulouslycoolhistoricalpaperdollbooksfromDoverPublicationsblogpostheader_zpscdcbc6f1.png

1. With styles spanning evening attire to walking suits, Victorian Fashion Paper Dolls from Harper's Bazaar, 1867-1898, is chocked full of timelessly beautiful mid to late Victorian ensembles that first appeared in one of the world's foremost ladies fashion magazines and which capture the sartorial spirit of the era sublimely.

2. One of the most tony, moneyed, and stylish corners of America for generations now, Newport, Rhode Island was a fashionistas dream getaway destination in the early days of the 1900s, a point which the sweepingly lovely Newport Fashions of the Gilded Age Paper Dolls book page homage to with a look at outfits worn by such elite clans as the Vanderbilts, Astors, and Belmonts.

3. You'll want to drape yourself in silk, pearls and cloche hats rafter you flip through Art the book Deco Fashions Paper Dolls, which points the glittering limelight on some of the most beguiling, innovative and appealing lovely art deco clothing styles of the roaring twenties.

4. Always wanted to own an original haute couture vintage garment from France but couldn't afford it? (You're not alone!) Fear not, you can call 32 such innovative, breathtakingly beautiful looks your own in paper form via French Fashion Designers Paper Dolls: 1900-1950, which includes styles by such illustrious fashion designers as Worth, Diro, Lelong, Patou, Lanvin, Poriret, Chanel and many others.

5. Let your inner vintage screen siren shine via the book Glamorous Stars of the Forties Paper Dolls. It's teaming with fabulously lovely classic Hollywood stars like Hedy Lammar, Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, and Gene Tierney sporting endlessly stylish fashions by the likes of such prestigious designers as Vera West, Jean Louise, Adrian, and Oleg Cassini, who dressed and influenced Tinsel Town in countless ways during the mid-twentieth century.

6. Continuing in the same vein, Award-Winning Fashions of Edith Head Paper Dolls puts the work of this incredibly talented, tastemaker of a famously bespectacled Hollywood costume designer at the forefront with twenty-nine of her most enchanting, stylish looks ever.

7. And for a more French take on designer fashions, we turn to a book bursting with looks by none other than one of the biggest powerhouses of her time in this field, Gabrielle "Coco" Channel in Chanel Fashion Review Paper Dolls, which sure to having you pining even more for one of her sophisticated, understatedly gorgeous creations.

8. Designer of my all-time favourite style movement of the late 1940s/early 1950s, the New Look, Dior's work graces the pages of Classic Fashions of Christian Dior: Re-created in Paper Dolls, which is pretty much my dream vintage couture wardrobe sandwiched between the covers of one fabulous book of paper dolls.

9. In Great Fashion Designs of the Fifties Paper Dolls: 30 Haute Couture Costumes by Dior, Balenciaga and Others, we're treated to some of the most prestigious, enchantingly beautiful designer fashions of the era, as dreamed up by some of the leading lights in the industry during the exciting post-war years of the fabulous fifties.

10. And for a more everyday, yet equally marvelous set of mid-century fashions, be sure to check out American Family of the 1950s Paper Dolls, which highlights some of the most iconic looks that ladies and gents of all ages sported throughout that decade.

{All images via Dover Publications. Please click on an image of the link in the text below

it to be taken to its respective page where it can be purchased, if desired, directly from Dover.}

♥ ♥ ♥

Much as I would love to sometimes, I can't turn back the hands of time. The 1980s and 90s, and all the decades the proceeded them, are long gone, but thankfully some of the best and most endearing toys and collectibles from them are still with us, very much including paper dolls. It’s heartwarmingly fantastic to know that there are still some really terrific companies out there, such as Dover, who still produce new paper doll books, including many like the selection of ten highlighted in today's post that are sure to find extra special favour with vintage fans the world over.

Which of these paper doll books from Dover call your name? Do you collect paper dolls yourself? Remember playing them with great fondness, too? What would be your dream set of paper dolls?

Universally beloved, paper dolls are sweet, fun and charming. Modern versions such as this don't break the bank in the slightest, offer countless hours of playtime fun for the young and young at heart alike, and can be educational all in the same go.

Little me would have gone utterly weak in the knees for any of Dover's fantastic historical paper doll sets and, you know, grown up me would (and does) still as well - only now, instead of cutting them out and inviting my friends over to play, I'd spend my time admiring and daydreaming about owning many of the fantastic outfits featured in them.