Schulenberg’s Page: Comin’ alive in ’75

Featured image

Early May, 1975 in Manhattan: On May 2nd Linda McCartney was arrested in Los Angeles for being in possession of a small amount of marijuana and the same day in France the great and legendary couturière, Madeleine Vionnet died at the age of  98!  I had no knowledge of Vionnet at the time but a short time later saw an exhibition of some of her work and became fascinated with how she layered different fabrics and how wonderful they must have looked as the  wearer moved.

Madeleine Vionnet in her studio, circa 1920.

Later still, my cousin June and her husband moved to Manhattan and she found herself mixing with women who thought little of paying thousands of dollars for designer gowns. Having lived much of her adult life in Honolulu where a silk muumuu might have been a sufficiently appropriate elegant costume for a big evening, she was in a quandary about her new situation!

Her husband suddenly became an important executive in an international business and she knew that she also had a certain role to play, but couldn’t begin to think about what the cost of an appropriate wardrobe might be.

Remembering that my first paying job after UCLA had been as a theatrical costume designer she asked if I could help her find a pattern for a Chanel suit that a dressmaker could whip up for her. The idea of spending several thousand dollars didn’t sound like a good idea.

Through Beth Rudin I’d met a college friend of hers who was a sensational sewer/tailor/crafts person and I told my cousin that Chanel suit patterns probably didn’t exist but I could design one and the new friend, Ric Mendez ,could sew it.

We did it while spending some time at her place in the country all the while wondering if any neighboring farms had couture wardrobes being created in their basements!

June in her “Chanel” suit!  This was the first time she had tried it on and it hadn’t yet been steamed or really finished.

But back to Vionnet, we then made her an evening gown utilizing the layering of fabrics that had fascinated me so by seeing Vionnet’s use of the technique.

June in the Vionnet-inspired underdress overdress gown!

There was an underdress of a vividly striped lamé and an overdress of a filmy silk black fabric with dashes of silver, bronze, copper and multiple shades of gold. When she moved the different metallic colors would merge and continually combine in changing variations!  It was fascinating.

But that all happened a bit later.

On May 3rd I went downtown to a screening of one of my all time favorite screwball comedies, The Awful Truth with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.

Again I tried to take notes in the dark during the screening. As I think I’ve previously mentioned, there were only a few reference books on Art Deco or Moderne-style decoration and objects and these were not very comprehensive — so I had to grab references from any source that might turn up. I could have profited from an as yet uninvented tape or dvd of a classic film.

With The Awful Truth was His Girl Friday, another gem from the 1930s, again starring Cary Grant — this time with Rosalind Russell.

A few days later I arranged for Mary Milton to meet with Ellie Silverman to talk about how to promote a project. Ellie worked in Public Relations and Mary had some ideas for a project. I thought it would be useful for them to get together and bounce some ideas around — just to get a feeling of the feasibility of it.

We met at Daly’s Dandelion and I was just the silent onlooker.

My friend Joyce MacDowell was in Manhattan again on another of her buying business trips for I. Magnin in San Francisco. She invited me to be with her and her friend Valerie Belch for a Sunday lunch in Central Park.

There was a parade on Fifth Avenue and the park was alive with Spring celebration!

Recent Posts