Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Making Vintage Modern with Urban Outfitters

Do you ever wonder if new trends suddenly all start to appear at once, or if its one event that has brought these things to your attention, things that were actually always there if you had looked. For example, I never paid much attention to the cameras that people carry around New York City. When I first got my Leica M4, I thought it would be rare to see others on the street. After all, 35mm film is becoming rare. However, on the first weekend out with it, I saw quite a lot of people with vintage Leicas and other vintage film cameras. That is definitely something I just hadn't noticed before, but newly having my own camera prompted me to start paying attention. Similarly, a new topic seems to be grabbing my attention lately. It started when I had left my hair, makeup and dress on from last weekend's post to go to lunch with my husband. He was not exactly excited about the prospect of dining with me in full attire, so I altered it from vintage editorial to a wearable street look. The same week I noticed the topic circulating the vintage circle online, how to dress vintage without looking like you are ready for Halloween. While my blog does focus on a variety of full on vintage styles from realistic replication to inspired fantasy, I do want to begin to address the topic of wearable vintage. This is a new series that I will be adding in periodically, "Making Vintage Modern".

I was out hunting in Midtown for the perfect white shirt, when I came across the new Urban Outfitters that just opened in Herald Square. It is like no other UO I have ever shopped before. There is a coffee shop cafe at the entrance level, a complete beauty department, shoe department and the traditional men's, women's and home. Although a third soy latte for the day was quite tempting, it was what was next to the coffee shop that caught my attention. A vintage 1950's tulle dress in butter cream yellow? Its probably just a rack of tulle skirts, I thought, but curiosity won me over. I found an entire department of freshened up, perfect condition, revitalized vintage! The range was huge, from Victorian to 1930s lingerie, 1950s party dresses and men's work wear. Here was the perfect place to begin Making Vintage Modern.

I am the photographer for all of my posts and photographs.

Step 1

Step One: The modern staple. With an edgy white shirt, you will be able to push any vintage skirt or pant into 2014.

I had always kept a collection of vintage suspenders. Like most vintage gals, I am sure we all have a box of things we love that we just aren’t sure how to wear. I like to think of it more as waiting for the right moment. My husband would call it hoarding. Every time I tried styling the suspenders, it just wasn’t working for me, until our recent trip to Japan. While we were in Harajuku, I saw a trend that picked my attention, pairing suspenders with a fall skirt, specifically, accordion or wool. This was the perfect opportunity to bring my thrifted vintage wool skirt into current street trends and finally use my suspenders! To go with them, I found this Silence + Noise Surplice Drapey Top from Urban Outfitters. 

This was my first step towards temporary modern rehabilitation, find the perfect white shirt. I liked this shirt because its made of a lux t-shirt fabric with silk like detailing on the shoulders and pockets. The long open neckline allows me to show off vintage lingerie, slips and camisoles without looking overtly boudoir (another struggle to wear conquered). I wore this vintage Yves Saint Laurent camisole underneath. 

Step 2

Slow and steady, Step 2: swap it out. I love hats, however, vintage hats tend to really push a look over the wearable edge. We have to cheat in a new piece that looks vintage from time to time. The fedora has been really trendy since Spring now and is carrying through into fall full, steam ahead. A good wide brimmed felt or wool hat will go a long way this season and will also complete any vintage/modern mixed look. I picked up the Gambler Panama Hat in grey. 

I finished it all off with vintage shoes and  new socks from Japan. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bernie Dexter

In the world of fashion the road to success can be instant for the lucky 1%, but for most it is a unique story that travels down a path as interesting as the the star's final destination. None seems as inspiring as the pioneers of vintage, the pinup girl. Of course we have all heard of the beautiful Bernie Dexter, but I hadnt learned much about her story until I received this dress from the Bernie Dexter collection. Browsing through the website and finding her Facebook page, I also came across her biography. If you have'nt read it already, please do. She would definitely be on my list of people to meet. Now I was even more excited to wear the dress in these pictures.

I took a break from Japan posts because I thought this print was perfect for the upcoming Paris fashion week! I cant wait to see all the runway looks.

Photography by me (Laura Okita)

Thank you Bernie Dexter for a lovely pinup dress! xoxo

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Vintage Kimono

Back from Japan and missing it already! Every time I go (Tokyo and Yokohama) it is so different, and one would expect that from such a large city with an ancient heart. I feel that with each trip I discover a new layer of details and culture that slowly peel away, illuminating more of the mystique and beauty of Japan. In future posts I will show you some fun street and subway experiences and also have a guide to vintage shopping on the way, but in this post, I wanted to share a more traditional look.

Even in an urban setting you will find lush bamboo, flowering trees and bonsai gardens flourishing everywhere. The first time I came to Japan, I sat on the balcony to my husband's old bedroom and listened to the summer night's breeze rushing wildly through these trees. As soon as the sun is up, the cicada begin loudly buzzing and humming from every direction, but I had a feeling they lived in the small forest on the edge of the hill near his childhood home. This is one of my favorite memories, strong since it is attached to not only a feeling but also sound, smell and temperature that can only exist in that moment, but I can still feel it forever. Its like a first kiss or a favorite song.

When I found this vintage kimono in the markets at Asaksa, I was instantly in love with the bold geometric pattern and colors. Almost all kimonos for women have beautiful flower and bird patterns painted up from the bottom, dancing across elegant sleeves, giving a very delicate feminine look. This one is a theater kimono and very unusual. With the glimpses of red inside the lining, I knew it was perfect for my bamboo forest and signature red lipstick.

I did not bring my tripod to Japan, so my husband and I took these photos together. I cant wait to show you the rest of Japan, including some 35mm!

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Feminine World

"I am completely tied up with softness, fragility, and the problems of a feminine world"
-Lillian Bassman

Photography by me (Laura Okita)

I had had a "look but dont touch" kind of relationship with the fashion world since I was a teenager. Always viewing from the backseat, strapped into a suffocating safety seat. That's how I felt anyway as a young model. I wanted to be a part of the real magic, I wanted to contribute, create, to understand, I wanted to be inspired. I was continuously washing ashore in someone else's vision. Shipwrecked to me, unable to swim in the moment they were experiencing, only to drift back out to sea again. I could recognize during a photo shoot or in a fitting that the photographer or designer was in their world, momentarily opening a window, reflecting like a mirror to show what existed in their imagination. I wanted to show mine too. I was thirsty for it, floating in this sea of undrinkable water. The only problem was that my world was still in little pieces in a box with no user's manual to be found. I needed to throw away the manufactured box and start from scratch.

I began to understand where the foundation would lie when I started to pursue my long time interest in vintage fashion and photography. For me, taking a step back to understand how things were done with less technology showed the way in this complicated world of gadgets. The past revealed the secrets of the present, and presented a map of how to get where I wanted to go, or rather, how we have come to where we are.

In the early days of my blog's journey I was trying to find a voice. I thought I would find some niche in sharing existing vintage photographs and attempting to educate about fashion history. I came across Lillian Bassman while doing research for themes and images. Her haunting work stood out to me at the time, but having never taken photographs, I couldnt really understand her, yet. I was still in the backseat, now, without a driver.

My voice finally began to squeak when I started taking pictures with film. It was something about the process and intent, the necessity to capture the moment that cannot exist with an electronic burst of the shutter. I started taking my own pictures of myself for my blog. This developed my preferences for photos. Im a really soft, feminine person and I think that translates through my pictures. With taking my own photos in film and digital, the frame was now going up. I finally felt like the captain of my own little raft, turbulent, unnoticed, but exhilarating.

It was while I was out shooting this set that I wanted to play with exposures. In the darkroom, you can force film to do things, and with a digital camera, it has what I think of as "force" buttons. I wanted to see what I could force it to do.

When I was finished with the pictures and ready to start composing the blog post, I remembered Lillian Bassman. I started reading about her and found that I can relate to her pictures so much more now. I have had the same feelings about the balance between popular culture, fashion and art. Models are neither the stars nor are they mere objects, they are the subjects. She captured femininity and clung to the freedom of art. I think that she was a feminine feminist, complicatedly one in the same. In balance. I dont know how similar we really are since I did not know her personally, but I definitely identify with what is quoted in her interviews. I admire how she was strongly and passionately true to herself and to her art.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Interview with The Vintage Romance

Starting this blog has allowed me the opportunity to meeting and become friends with so many wonderful people in the vintage community. I love reading your comments, visiting other blogs in the community, and discovering everyone's unique views on vintage fashion. It is so much fun to see how we all inspire each other.

One such vintage blogging pair that has really inspired me over the past year is the gorgeous duo from The Vintage Romance, Isabelle Gloria and Elaine Valerie. I am glad to introduce them to you, if you havent already met, in an exclusive interview!

I love that you work as a team, its very unique for vintage bloggers. How did you meet and decide to start working together?

We've known each other since we were children and sort of grew up together, which is a good base for a deep connection and friendship. There is a very tight bond between us because we experienced so much together. We've wanted to start a project for a long time, as we both share the same passion for art, beauty and photography. We both have been running our own fashion-blogs before we started with 'The Vintage Romance', always eager to take good photos during runway shows like Berlin Fashion Week for example or making outfit-posts or simply posts about things that inspire us. And then, on a cozy, cold winter evening in January 2013 we were at a wonderful, inspiring party during Fashion Week in Berlin when we decided to shake hands on our future vintage themed project. We thought that we both have great preconditions because we love to take photos, we both are able to do editing and design-work and we both are able to do makeup and hair. After some months of planning and preparing, we finally started our blog The Vintage Romance.

Your photos and blog are so beautiful right from the very first post! Tell us about yourselves, what is your background before your started The Vintage Romance, where are you from?

Thank you! We both were born in Germany and we both are professional media designers. We took a experimental tour through the Gothic scene as teenagers, which in our opinion is a very interesting, beautiful scene where it's all is about morbid, fascinating beauty and inspiration. We still love it and feel influenced by this subculture until today. To us it was no surprise to have bumped into this colorful, inspiring new retro scene that has developed a lot during the last few years. It even feels like a natural evolution to us - the black and studded leather from our teenage years mostly might have turned into colorful blossoms and cute girly dresses, but the desire for perfection and beauty hasn't changed at all. Everybody needs a transformation at some point in their lives. To us, it feels more like 'us' and ladylike now to style like all those stunningly glamorous Old Hollywood Divas, but we still adore the Gothic look, and sometimes readers of our blog can see our interpretation of Gothic Vintage in our posts.

What is it like working as a team? Do you have roles that you have developed or are you always sharing different aspects of your work?

It always depends on how much work the other girl has besides the blog. We try to keep our roles the same. We both take photos and we both work on their editing. We think a lot of people don't feel like it's 'their own thing' if they do something together with another person. But we truly don't have these problems because we know we wouldn't be who we are if we didn't support each other. The blog and everything we do is our baby, we do it together will all our heart.

One wonderful part about Europe is how close it is to travel to other countries. What is the vintage community like where you live and does it differ from country to country?

We love to see the vintage community grow every day. It's almost like a 'new old era' has begun, and a lot of people start to appreciate the perfection and beauty of the past times again. We noticed that many people that we know from our teenage years in the Gothic subculture have started to embrace the more colorful vintage looks as well.

What inspires you?

Elaine: People that have experienced many things inspire me, life, artists with their stunning artwork push me to become better at what I do every day – photographers, painters, models, musicians. Life itself inspires me – simple things like rain dripping against a window or rays of sunlight that peek out of thick clouds over a lake.

Isabelle: It's almost the same with me. I love the nature, I love the little things in life which can mean so much once you notice them. I'm a spiritual person and if you give yourself the time to think about life and how everyone and everything's connected it's the biggest inspiration you can ever get. I try to be positive all the time. Sometimes I even get inspired by something that might seem bad in the first instant like an open heart surgery I had to undergo when I was 19. It frightened me first, but I put together my thoughts and stayed positive. It was the best experience for my personal growth and wasn't horrible at all, although it was objectively considered, since it wasn't a easy routine operation.

Do you have any favorite vintage movies, actresses, designers or artists?  

Elaine: Bettie Page with her famous bangs and black hair inspired me already when I was 14 years old. Her look was gorgeous and I dreamt of wearing my hair like her back then but didn't dare to color it or to cut bangs, haha! I'm still a huge fan of her – she's got a wild and naughty style, mixed with this innocent girly look and her cute pouts.And I love all of those hand-drawn Disney movies that show a perfect world, like 'Cinderella', 'Dumbo' or 'Alice in Wonderland'. 

Isabelle: To talk about modern times: Dita Von Teese! Which vintage-girl doesn't just love her? She and Marilyn Manson were the couple of my dreams when I was younger. I liked the perfect porcelain doll next to this controversial rockstar with songs to die for. They must have had interesting conversations I think, haha. 

If you could live for one year in anytime era in any profession, which would it be and what would you do?

We guess we would love to take a peek into the 50s and we would choose to be actresses in Hollywood. Such a lame answer, we know! But we think this life would be very interesting! The war was over in the 50s, people had more fun and joy in life again and it was all about Rock'n'Roll and pretty Pin Up Girls. We'd love to see how Hollywood grew to the land of dreams and what the life of a real star was like back then, without todays' luxury of the internet and social media.

What does the future hold, for The Vintage Romance and for you as individuals? 

We hope that we will continue to run our blog together for many, many years as we love working on it!

We think it's fun to create something artistic for our readers and we don't want to limit ourselves by simply making posts about a special decade, because we love so many different decades from the past. Even baroque or antique themes might be possible on our blog in the future. We always try to put a little modern twist and our personal touch into each blogpost, and we could never only wear original vintage clothing, as we think that this would limit our creativity immensely. Experiencing our freedom and living our passion is one of our most important goals. To feel like home, it's always important to be surrounded by our families and loved ones, even if we like to travel a lot to see more of the world. Our motto is that everything's possible as long as you believe in yourself. Everyone can create their own reality.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Short and Mod

I am now in Japan for the month of August! Being away for the remainder of the Summer, I already feel like the season is passed, except that the extreme temperatures and humidity here remind me that Autumn is not yet upon us. I suppose it is more metaphorically that Summer is coming to an end. The next season is waiting for me in New York when I return. Tapping its fingers impatiently. Fashion week is crouching, ready to pounce and my fall wardrobe will be in much need of airing out. Its always hard to put the bright cheery florals of Summer back into hibernation for the seemingly endless winter. I almost mourn the loss, transitioning into winter blacks and heavy wool.

Not today. I will protest the inevitable. Let's celebrate the bright sunshine for one more moment. This cheery little linen dress is perfect for a lemonade garnished with mint, or maybe lemon flavored ice cream .

Its seems my signature or rather (bad) habit to mix decades together. I really cant help myself! There has always been so much recycling of trends since the turn of the last century. It feels the pieces are asking for it. These sunglasses are 1930s but they are so Mod 1960s and the Marc by Marc Jacobs shoes fit right into line with their intention of seeming much older. I guess good fashion never goes out.

This post is short and sweet and mod. Im looking forward to sharing adventures from Tokyo with you soon and promise not to be as quick as the months of Summer.