Friday, May 11, 2012

Fashion Friday - It Starts With a Blouse

I truly look forward to Fashion Friday. I think it's because as long as it fits I can "have it".

Today's post was inspired by this 1940's Black Bugle Bead Crepe Peplum Blouse ($365):

This blouse was design by Hattie Carnegie for Bonwit Teller. We will get to Hattie and Bonwit in just a moment.  The blouse is constructed from black crepe that is fully covered with black bugle beads in the classic serpent design and has slightly puffy tapered sleeves. I would literally wear this until it fell completely to shreds and I wouldn't feel a bit guilty about doing so. It measures: up to 42" bust, up to 35" waist, up to 41" hips.

Does this bugle beading remind anyone else of the famous red sequined dress from Gentleman Prefer Blondes?

Now onto the woman that created this beautiful blouse, Hattie Carnegie.

Hattie Carnegie (1889-1956) was born as Henrietta Kanengeiser, in Vienna, Austria in 1889. In 1900, she immigrated to the United States, and settled with her family in New York City. By the time she was a young teenager, Hattie was already working. She worked at various millinery establishments, and at Macy’s. But in 1909 she, along with friend Rose Roth, opened her own business, a tiny hat shop. It was called “Carnegie – Ladies’ Hatter” - where they sold hats and dresses.

In 1919, Hattie bought Rose Roth’s share of the business, and Hattie Carnegie, Inc. was born. This was also the year of her first buying trip to Paris. She bought French Couture dresses to take back to New York to both sell, and to use to make adaptations.

Until 1928, all the dresses at Hattie Carnegie were made to order, but in that year she started her first ready-to-wear line with Norman Norell as the designer. By this time, Hattie’s business had grown to be the size of a small department store. In 1929, before the Stock Market Crash, she did $3,500,000 worth of business!

In spite of the depression, Carnegie’s business thrived. She opened even more departments in her store. It was said that a lady could be dressed from “Hat to hem” at Hattie Carnegie (the one item she did not have being shoes!) By the 1940s, Carnegie’s store was actually a department store. She also began selling her ready-to-wear dresses, hats and accessories in stores around the country in the late 1930s. Her clothes were particularly popular in California, and many Hollywood stars were known to wear Carnegie’s clothes. This helped spread her reputation and helped establish her as a taste-maker across the country.

Carnegie became known as a woman of taste and during the War, she continued to be a leader in the American fashion scene. During the 1950s, Carnegie continued to make the types of clothes that women across the country had come to expect from her – chic but conventional dresses and suits.

One of Hattie Carnegie’s most important legacies to American fashion was that her workrooms were a sort of fashion designer incubator. Starting with Norman Norell in 1928, there is a long and impressive list of noted designers who passed through the Carnegie organization. These include Claire McCardell, Jean Louis, Gus Tassell, James Galanos, Travis Banton, Pauline de Rothschild and Pauline Trigere.

(Hattie Carnegie)

To get a better idea of what this woman was really capable of achieving, you should search her on the MET website. Below is just a little of what she designed.

Bonwit Teller (now defunct) was a department store in New York City founded by Paul Bonwit in 1895 at Sixth Avenue and 18th Street. In 1897 Edmund D. Teller was admitted to the partnership and the store moved to 23rd Street, East of Sixth Avenue. Bonwit specialized in high-end women's apparel at a time when many of its competitors were diversifying their product lines, and Bonwit Teller became noted within the trade for the quality of its merchandise as well as the above-average salaries paid to both buyers and executives.

Throughout much of the twentieth century, Bonwit Teller was one of a group of upscale department stores on Fifth Avenue that catered to the "carriage trade". Among its most notable peers were Peck & Peck, Saks Fifth Avenue and B. Altman and Company.

(Bonwite Teller - look at those cars!)

Anyway, enough of the history lesson. What four items would I use to build an outfit around the black bugle bead crepe peplum blouse? I would find items that were beautiful and nearly statement pieces. Nearly because I would not want to take away from the blouse.

I would start with 1940's swing trousers from Vivien Holloway ($72.72). Yes, they are a reproduction piece but they are based on an original WWII pattern. Featuring an authentic long rise and high waist, cuffs, four side buttons, and a little patch pocket. They are the perfect understated complement to the Hattie Carnegie blouse.

My next three items would be to add color.

The first item is a beautiful rich green silk velvet Hattie Carnegie cocktail hat ($115.00). It would have been purchased at the San Francisco I Magnin’s in the mid 1950’s by some very fashion forward woman. It has a comb inside on each side for fastening at just right angle.

My second accessory a green, deep heavily carved, heavy Bakelite Bracelet ($285.94). What a beauty.

The last item, another reproduction, is a pair of Remix Vintage Veronica's ($188.00). They are the epitome of 1940's sexy sophistication. A four inch high heel, 5/8" platform, and ankle strap. I opted for the grass green made of soft kid skin leather uppers and all leather construction.

The total of my Hattie Carnegie heavy outfit, $1,026.66. I think this is the cheapest Fashion Friday yet, ha!

I will be attending the YSL exhibit tomorrow at the Denver Art Museum. What will you do with your weekend?



Where you can purchase these items featured today:


  1. I always think bugle beads sound more exciting than they look. That top looks kind of 80's too (in One's opinion!)
    Love the green birds hat and that bangle, eeeee!
    You know I have to wait until Saturday in Australia to read Fashion Friday? Hope the exhibit is/was fun! xxx

    1. You know what bums me out? That the 80's ruined peplums!!!

      Are you sewing that coat yet?

    2. I'm making A coat but not THE coat... I'd already started a casual leopard fur coat before you did the F.F post.
      Peplums seem to be making a comeback lately?