The Fitting Room Chronicles: My Little Pinup Girl

I’ve always had a great love affair with pinup art. So when the Louis K. Meisel Gallery in New York City’s SoHo was hosting an exhibit titled, “The Great American Pinup,” you know I was attending.

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“Waisted Effort” by Gil Elvgren, 1950
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“Reclining Red Head in Green Dress with Chocolates” by Peter Driben

What an awe-inspiring view!

According to the gallery:

The AK Collection features nearly every major pin-up artist including an outstanding selection of oils by Gil Elvgren, watercolors by Alberto Vargas, and pastels by Rolf Armstrong. The 49-piece collection contains many rare oversized pin-ups that include compositions of the ‘girl next door’ to scenes that verge on fantasy. An avid car collector, AK acquired many artworks that feature cars prominently. With this unique collection available to the public once again, Louis K. Meisel Gallery intends to redistribute the works to new collectors interested in the history and nostalgia associated with The Great American Pin-Up.

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“No More Runs” by Harry Edman, 1950
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“I’ve Been Spotted” by Gil Elvgren, 1949
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“Bow Spirit” by Gil Elvgren, 1960

I managed to photograph some of my favorites while I was there. You may even recognize some of these iconic pieces.

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“Out You Go (Me and My Shadow)” by Joyce Ballantyne, 1955
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“Red Head with Black Negligee” by Edward Runci, 1947

Inspired, I was lucky enough to find this dress during a thrifting adventure, reminding me of what a 1950s dame would wear for a casual day.

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And its rich, deep sky blue would surely put artists to work, don’t you think?

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What makes you feel like a pinup girl?

And just in case you’re interested, I actually wrote an article a while back on female pinup artists you should know about!

The Fitting Room Chronicles: Falling for Carmen Miranda

When it comes to fall in New York City, girls think about rocking their finest black, oxblood, and burgundy styles – you know, everything dark and heavy. And trust me, I’m all for that. With all the holidays coming up (candy, pie, and champagne, oh my!), I need to go to the dark side with clothes to camouflage that pooch waving hello.

But sometimes? I just want to throw myself on a pile of palm leaves, not fall foliage.

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When I found this transparent tropical ensemble for less than 20 bucks, two words came to mind: Carmen Miranda.

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Anyone who’s into old Hollywood, thrifting, or just pop culture in general knows a thing or two about “the lady in the tutti frutti hat.”

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Carmen MIranda in THE GANG'S ALL HERE (1943), directed by Busby Berkeley.

The woman made an entire career out of wearing crop tops in banana-hue, headdresses overflowing with plastic fruit, and frilly skirts designed for the samba. And let’s be real here, Carmen made the look completely hers for technicolor films.

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Carmen even reportedly said this: I have never followed what people say it is ‘fashionable’. I think that a woman must wear what fits her. That is why I created a style appropriated to my type and my artistical genre.

Now that’s my kind of girl.

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So for this fall, yes, I’m going to flaunt my black, oxblood, and burgundy. However, I’m also going to show off some flower power, towering palm trees, and even a parrot or two straight from the tropics (print-wise of course). It will be fun way to stand out among a sea of autumnal uniforms and reminisce about past sizzling summers.

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The only thing that should brighten up those dreary days that quickly transition into night? You. And personally, I would heat things up even more by carrying a pumpkin spice latte on one hand. Sure, this dress is pretty, but baby, it’s cold outside.

The Fitting Room Chronicles: Channeling Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

When I was growing up, I thought Elvira was the coolest undead broad around. She was wickedly funny, had a Ronnie Spector beehive for days, and let’s be real, the woman has a seriously banging body.

What’s not to love about this sinfully seductive ghoul?

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Several years ago, I had the ah-mazing opportunity to interview Cassandra Peterson, the woman behind the iconic pinup. Everything about it was kept top secret, and rightfully so. As you can imagine, there would be some mass hysteria among her growing fans if anyone knew her of her whereabouts. However, Cassandra was one of the most sweetest women I’ve ever had the pleasure to spend an evening with. We spoke about her encounters with Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, and the memoir that I kept begging her to write and publish.

It was truly one of my favorite interviews of all time.

The ageless Cassandra Peterson
The ageless Cassandra Peterson

So when I found this slinky black dress during one of my thrifting adventures, I fell in love. I mean, just look at it. I could easily be a macabre mistress. All I needed was the hair (which I could easily achieve if I wake up and don’t brush my hair/slather on coconut oil/empty out my hairspray), and pat on some Manic Panic Virgin White Powder from my teenage goth years.

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For about $12 bucks I believe, this dress was as va-va-voom as it could possibly get. And would you believe it was from the very modern Madonna for Macy’s collection? I wasn’t going to take it home with me, because really, when will I ever have a moment to wear this? But friends thought I was crazy for leaving this behind. I went to the thrift shop the following day and sure enough, it was still on the hanger, waiting for me.

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I have yet to rock it, but with Halloween approaching, it could be my own take on the Elvira costume. And the lady herself sells plenty of accessories to make your Halloween devilishly delightful. The sleeves aren’t certainly the same as the real thing, but let’s just say the other assets work. And with Elvira’s fabulous hair, people will get the picture.

How will you be daring this Halloween?

The Fitting Room Chronicles: Channeling Louise Brooks

When many think of flappers from the “Roaring ’20s,” images like these come to mind:

Joan Crawford
Joan Crawford
Colleen Moore
Colleen Moore
Clara Bow
Clara Bow
Barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyck

And of course, there are 1920 fashion guides, like this one, to help:

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But one overlooked garment from the famous era is the kimono. And really, what’s not to love about this comfortable, silky loungewear that instantly adds glamour to your home? The kimono was also big during this era as it was looser, easy to wear, and functional. The 1996 book, “The Kimono Inspiration: Art and Art-To-Wear in America” gives a lot of wonderful insight about the traditional Japanese piece and its impact in the United States over the years.

One silent screen star who made the kimono one of her signature looks was Louise Brooks. Apparently, it was her thing, along with a carefully cut bob.

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During one of my thrifting adventures, I found this bold red kimono. While it’s more on the wiggle side, eliminating that loose comfort one would expect from a more traditional kimono, I felt ready for my close-up.

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Loungewear? Pul-eeze. This baby was meant to be worn out. I will need to work on my tip-toe walking, as modern steps won’t do in this gown, but that’s just another workout that comes with fashion.

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It sure beats those usual flapper getups that every Gatsby-obsessed dame goes head over heels for. And don’t get me wrong, I adore those waist-drop dresses too, but sometimes you just have to stand out. And who wouldn’t want to learn a thing or two from the “Kansas Cleopatra?”

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I can’t wait to rock this dress for a special occasion. Hopefully all those gin cocktails from past dinners and soirees haven’t caught up to me yet. How tragic would it be if my big ol’ butt couldn’t squeeze into this again?!

The Fitting Room Chronicles: Channeling Jean Harlow

Back when I was in high school, I had the brilliant idea of shaving my once Frida Kahlo-thick eyebrows and pencil them in dangerously thin to channel 1930s screen siren Jean Harlow.

We all make mistakes.

These eyebrows are made for Jean, not Stephanie.
These eyebrows are made for Jean, not Stephanie.

While my eyebrows haven’t grown the same since then, I still don’t mind channeling this fellow piscean. So when I found this 1930s wine-hued gown, I was in complete awe. Best of all? It fit like a glove.

Working it, 1930s style.
Working it, 1930s style.

For some reason, I felt this is a dress that Jean Harlow would appreciate. It hugs the body to a T, yet its delicate winged sleeves create a dramatic flair made fit for the big screen. And for a 1930s piece, it was in near perfect condition. I have to be super careful with the sleeves, as its fine lace can easily get damage, but it’s still in my closet, waiting for a special occasion. I just hope it still fits!

No pencil-thin eyebrows are required to rock this dress.
No pencil-thin eyebrows are required to rock this dress.

These days, I’m looking forward to channeling Jean Harlow, couture-wise. The blonde bombshell was a total babe, and extremely funny to boot. Make use of that Netflix account and watch all her screwball comedies. You won’t regret it.

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Who have you been channeling lately to enhance your personal style?

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The Fitting Room Chronicles: Feeling Red Hot (and Blue)

The Pope has been in town for the last several days and all I can think about is Milan Fashion Week. And the It-color to make all the fellas say Ciao, Bella! goes to an oldie, but goodie: juicy, cherry red.

Audrey Hepburn in the 1957 film "Funny Face." Based in Paris, yes, but the sentiment is still the same.
Audrey Hepburn in the 1957 film “Funny Face.” Based in Paris, yes, but the sentiment is still the same.

For Fall 2015, Gucci presented this rich, lipstick-hued gown, but at $4,900 it’s quite the splurge. So, I decided to go thrifting and see what I would discover during my adventures.

I did find this delicious cherry print dress, but sadly, my Dominican curves were not having it.

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Ugh!

However, I did find this swinging, saucy little number that made me feel compelled to prance through a vineyard in Tuscany.

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I would like to think that Sophia Loren would approve. At 14 bucks, it was coming home with me.

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Sophia Loren

Then I found this grand Diane Von Furstenberg dress in a deep sky blue with black roses, all complementing my moody merlot lips. It was an unexpected, but welcoming surprise.

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I have to admit that it felt like giving birth to myself just squeezing into the piece, but once I wore it, the dress felt like a dream. I could even cross my arms and everything! The beau gave me this gown as a gift. And for $40, he too was graced with a deal.

What I wore to go thrifting.
What I wore to go thrifting.

I may not be in Italy this time around, but I’m set on delivering some drama to my autumnal wardrobe. How will you be celebrating the fall season in style?

The Fitting Room Chronicles: Wiggle Here, Wiggle There

On Facebook, a friend of mine posted this definition of the wiggle dress:

1950s actress Jayne Mansfield
1950s actress Jayne Mansfield

A dress whose hem is narrower than the hips, causing the wearer to walk in short strides with legs close together, producing a sway or ‘wiggle’ of the hips. A fitted dress which enhances an hourglass figure. Every gal should own a wiggle dress or two or ten.

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe

Wiggle dresses were extremely popular in the 1950s, when blonde bombshells like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield wore dangerously alluring, tight-fitting garments dresses that felt like second skin and flaunted every single curve on their breathtaking bodies.

Jayne Mansfield
Jayne Mansfield

Marilyn Monroe was even known to have dresses sewn directly on her figure. One example that comes to mind is her infamous “Happy Birthday” dress, which she wore in President John F. Kennedy’s birthday bash in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

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Marilyn Monroe in her “Happy Birthday” dress.

I did not find a similar piece and I won’t be impressing government officials anytime soon, but I did find this lovely nude number.

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I believe it’s from the ’50s, and in true classic wiggle fashion, it fits like second skin. Sitting? Ha, that’s just for amateurs. But the best part? It was a mere 18 bucks. Gotta love those thrifting deals.

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Ladies, you need a wiggle dress, whether it’s for date night or a “just because” evening affair involving jazz or cocktails. Most vintage-inspired clothing lines offer them (Stop Staring! and Pinup Girl Clothing quickly come to mind). Or, you can hunt for one while thrifting.

Regrets? I have none.