Archives for posts with tag: Fashion

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Retail — From the Inside
by Joan Leotta

Shopping was my hobby.
So when at 16, I wanted summer
employment,
retail seemed perfect.
Downtown department stores
were not hiring, so
my Aunt Helen convinced
the owner of her favorite
East Liberty dress shop.
to give me Saturday hours.
I imagined myself
an instant fashion expert,
coolly, enhancing women’s looks
with wise suggestions.
My first Saturday I was
hidden in the stockroom
hanging a new shipment
by size, by color. Hot.
“May I help you?”
I practiced, as I shook out blouses,
skirts, dresses.
Second Saturday saw me selling.
The first woman, slim, young,
asked “blue shirtwaist dress in
size ten, please.”
I plucked it from the rack,
showed her to the dressing room.
In minutes, my first sale!
Ringing it up on the old
register the change came out wrong — twice..
My next fashion seeker
was middle-aged,
a bit chubby. She marched to
the dressing room and told me to
bring her skirts and blouses
in size twelve — my choices!
Proudly, I selected tailored items
she promptly rejected.
“Yooo hoo,” she called, “I want smaller sizes,
and don’t you have anything newer, cuter?
She tossed her discards over the door for
me to turn right-side out and rehang.
At last she opened the dressing room door
to model an A-line skirt and ladybug blouse —
high school clothes!
“Well, how do I look?”
I gulped. Sausage came to mind.
Florid face clashing with floral shirt.
“Wouldn’t you rather . . . ” I began
The owner stepped up.
“It’s a lovely outfit.”
The woman bought the ensemble.
Before Saturday rolled around again,
the owner called my Aunt. “We are not busy
enough to have your niece come in anymore.”
I didn’t really mind.
Shopping was not as much fun
from ” inside.” And,
ever since that job,
I never ask a sales person
to tell me how I look.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This me a couple of years after the events in the poem. My sense of fashion was not nearly as developed as I then thought it was!

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: What to consider a “first” job? That was hard to decide. Would I consider as “first” a job my job as a clerk in a dress shop in the summer? Or my work shelving records in the college radio station? Or my summer sojourn in the planning department at the University of Pittsburgh between my first and second years of graduate school, a fun internship that gave me experience and a killer recipe for egg roll? I decided to go with chronological order and share with you why I decided not to remain in the retail world.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Leotta has been playing with words on page and stage since childhood in Pittsburgh. She is a writer and story performer. Her poetry and essays appear or are forthcoming in Gnarled Oakthe A-3 Review, Hobart Literary ReviewSilver Birch, Peacock,Postcard Poems and Prose among others. Her first poetry chapbook, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, was recently released by Finishing Line Press. She also has written a series of novels, Legacy of Honor, and a set of four picture books, Rosa’s Shell is the latest. A group of her short stories, Simply a Smile is available in paper and on Kindle. You can find more about her work on her blog at joanleotta.wordpress.com, follow her on twitter @beachwriter12 or on Facebook at Joan Leotta, Author and Story Performer.

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Miss Humphrey
by Leslie Sittner

She was tall, broad, quietly forceful. Mostly intimidating. And, as a 17-year-old, I thought, ancient, uncool, and wore dreadful sensible shoes. Definitely not fashionable. I was a freshman at Cornell in the early1960s in the College of Human Ecology. She was the stern taskmaster of the Textiles and Clothing Department.

But I loved the classes she taught. I learned plenty and performed well.

Junior year she invited me to her home for tea. By myself. Nervous? Absolutely. To my surprise she didn’t seem so very old; she was charming. And funny.

After graduating, moving to New Your City, and beginning my first professional fashion designer job, she invited me to return and lecture on my “design experience” in the Big Apple. She was impressed that I, as a children’s sleepwear designer, had several full page ads in the New York Times featuring my creations. I felt like a successful graduate and creative person!

Apparently the lecture was worthwhile because soon she notified me that she’d be coming to the City to visit me at my job. The company was located in the famous Little Singer (sewing machine!) Building on lower Broadway. It’s a magnificent edifice that enjoys landmark status. Even the elevator was remarkable.

When Miss Humphrey arrived at our fifth floor, she was slightly rattled, slightly disheveled, slightly tongue-tied. It was a Friday, payday, and we hadn’t yet been informed that there’d been an armed robbery in the building. She casually mentioned that the elevator exhibited telltale blood spatter. She matter-of-factly related the lobby-police-elevator experience. Then requested to meet my boss and see my design room. Just like that. And here I thought I was the blasé cool city girl.

Suddenly this tough gracious woman wasn’t ancient or uncool; I cared not a whit that she wasn’t fashionable.

IMAGE: Little Singer Building, 561 Broadway, New York City.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As hip1960’s students, we weren’t necessarily kind when discussing Miss Humphrey the Spinster. It was only hindsight that made us appreciate all she’d had to offer us. Most of us went on to successful careers in some field or another.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner has been turning to the written word as a form of self-expression and reflection. Her stories are available in print in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press, and will be featured in Adirondack Life magazine. On-line prose can be seen at 101Words, 50 Word Challenge, 50 Word Stories as well as many selections of prose and poetry at Silver Birch Press. She has finished a memoir about travels with her ex-husband and hopes a publisher will find it as humorous as she and her writer-friends do.

Carolyn Martin 1962
Taking stock
(Perth Amboy, NJ, 1962)
by Carolyn Martin

A feel for finery? I mastered it at seventeen
in Stein’s Boutique unwrapping taffeta, silk shantung
and lacy overlays, racking them along the aisles
where salesgirls worked their pitch
and matrons needed hours of pampering.

Mrs. Sixteen-Plus? Curvaceous in the satin twill.
Mrs. Husband-Cheats? Blossoms in the floral print.
Mrs. Mousy-Hair? Floats in beige chiffon
to cocktails at the Rotary, dances at the Elks.

Conspiracy of words or well-placed compliments?
I wasn’t sure. When Mr. Stein, master
of the fashion scene, perused from top
to toe and grinned, Exquisite taste!
Perfect style! blushing faces beamed.

But what’s true? I asked myself — scavenging
through dressing rooms for lipstick stains,
armpit smells, seams that stretched.

I’d gather up the garments left behind —
assuring them some day they’d host a swank event —
while salesgirls rang up hard-wrought sales
and Mrs. So-and-So strutted out
the dress shop door indulged, convinced.

SOURCE: Previously published in Star 82 Review.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The stock girl gets ready to graduate from St. Mary’s High School, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, in 1963. She hasn’t written one line of poetry yet.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a shy teenager, I worked for two years as a stock girl in a women’s dress shop — Friday nights and Saturdays at $1.00 an hour. The saleswomen were much older and well-versed in the art of fashion and flattery.  Sometimes I felt they talked women into buying dresses that weren’t quite that smart or appropriate — or, at least, that was how my untrained eye interpreted it. In any event, they were very kind and even allowed me to handle a customer or two.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: From English teacher to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin has journeyed from New Jersey to Oregon to discover Douglas firs, months of rain, and perfect summers. Her poems and book reviews have appeared in publications throughout North America and the UK, and her third poetry collection, Thin Places, is slated for release by Aldrich Press in Fall 2017.

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Loehmann’s, My Mother’s Favorite Store, Becomes My First Employer
by Phyllis Klein

I was the one who took the fallen dresses, the designer pants
and shirts hanging or lying in clumps on the benches inside

the large dressing room, took them back out to the racks so
another woman could try them. I was the one who cleaned

up the racks, rearranged the sizes where they should go.
It was a comfort to be amongst all those beautiful silks,

rayons, plaids, stripes. Trying to make some sense out of
childhood, to wear the questions I hoped clothes could answer.

PHOTO: Shoppers in 1988 look through the long racks of designer sportswear and casual dresses in Loehmann’s main room during the chain’s annual fall fashion preview (Houston Chronicle).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This prompt brought back memories of something I hadn’t thought much about in such a long time. I have a life-long love of clothes and dressing up that goes back to the times I spent in that store, long before I worked there. I can remember so clearly the large dressing room, and the camaraderie of women trying things on, brought together to find luxury bargains. I thought Loehmann’s had gone out of business but discovered it is still there, online. Not the same, but glad it’s still around.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Phyllis Klein believes in poetry. Her work has appeared in the Pharos of Alpha Omega Medical Society Journal,  Qarrtsiluni online literary magazine, Silver Birch Press, New Verse News, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Chiron Review, The American Journal of Nursing, and  Dovetails, an International Journal of the Arts. She is very interested in the conversation between poets and readers of poetry. She sees artistic dialogue as an intimate relationship-building process that fosters healing on many levels. She lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area as a psychotherapist and poetry therapist. Learn more at phyllisklein.com.

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Hat Heaven
by Karen Eastlund

The hat shop caught my attention
But I couldn’t stop at the time
We were in mid-tour
In a foreign country
We didn’t speak the language
Nor would we know where to meet at end of day
We had to stay the course
But I was determined to find that shop again
Later, when I voiced my plan
My husband clasped my arm
With both hands, protesting
“No, you’ll get lost…
You don’t know where you’re going…
I don’t want to lose you….”
Sweet, I thought,
But heedless of my quest for
The perfect hat shop

To be fair, I had been disoriented
A few times on our trip
Had turned right instead of left
So I listened to him
But also convinced him
Until finally
I led us straight to the desired shop

And there they were
Beautiful hats
Shapely and neat
Wool for warmth
In many colors
Accessible for trying on
Plenty of mirrors
Ready assistants
Bringing more and more hats
Gently suggesting an appropriate fit
The hat shop of my dreams!

I walked out in a new woolen cloche,
Navy blue with a bow at one ear,
And a confident smile
That only a well-chosen hat can bring

The next day
When several appeared in new hats
We smiled demurely at one another
Sharing an unspoken sentiment
Great hat!

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me in my hat, taken in January 2017.

NOTES FROM THE AUTHOR: This took place in Cesky Krumlov, a UNESCO town in Czech Republic that we visited while cruising the Danube. The shop mentioned is without a doubt the best hat shop I have ever found.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Eastlund lives in New Jersey. She is retired after teaching preschool and providing children’s programs at her local library. Karen enjoys her grandchildren, travel, music, reading, gardening, and the practice of writing. She posts regularly on various children’s poetry blogs.

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It’s All About the Style
by Jen Waldron

Finally, at seventeen I was on my own. I moved into a typical college dorm room excited to do my own decorating. I coated the walls with sophistication seldom seen. There were Billy Joel posters, album (yes, album) covers, a map of Connecticut, snowmobile trail markers, pink feathers, my name in felt and all things sentimental. It was quite a mystery as to why I wasn’t there as a design major.

No sooner had my parents said goodbye and pulled out of the parking lot, did I begin a wardrobe overhaul. I pried the metal taps off the bottom of my tap shoes and now had black pumps to wear with denim. I tore holes in the knees of every pair of jeans I owned. I decided my signature style would involve fringe and off the shoulder shirts. I took the warm, sensible red sweatshirt packed to keep me comfortable while studying and began cutting. I cut the neck and the arms away. Then I chopped off the waist and created the fringe. There I was full of style and grace.

Gone was the preppy teenager. I spent my entire freshman year looking like a groupie, complete with raccoon eyeliner, hair with wings, and a Van Halen t-shirt. Every mother’s dream.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: SIgnature Fringe,  1982, college dorm.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jen Waldron was born and raised in northern New England, and now resides with her husband of more than 30 years just outside sunny Atlanta, Georgia. When not working as a registered nurse, her time is spent writing and baking, and then baking and writing. Previous and current publications are based upon personal memories and the humor in life. She is incredibly thankful for three wonderful sons, a lovely daughter-in-law, and three adorable grandsons, none of whom have caused her a moment of stress. Vacations are spent along a multitude of coastlines because secretly she wishes sea glass hunting were an actual occupation.

whitehouse
Their Loss
by Lin Whitehouse

The future was tomorrow, I didn’t think
that far ahead. Patience was
non-existent in my world but I was
polite and had good manners.
I was a size twelve showroom
receptionist and backup model for a
West End Fashion House and
also studied three nights a week:
textiles, design drawing and flat pattern cutting
at the prestigious London School of Fashion.
The days were long, the evenings longer.
One summer’s day our model was
late back from lunch. Important buyers
turned up unexpectedly wanting to see the
new collection. A panicky Mr Stern asked
so I smiled, twirled and paraded one dress
after another until Mr Rosen catapulted
himself in off the street,
(after another long lunch)
and snarled from spittle foamed lips:
“What’s she doing, her shoulders are too broad
for our dresses she’s a coat model, where’s Karen?”
He practically shoved me out of the way then
once more became companionable after apologising
for me. I didn’t wear humiliation well, there was a
glut of jobs outside the showroom door. I typed my
notice up in a minute and put the letter in
between the new sales orders I was typing.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me at 17 in my favourite dress (not one from the showroom) that my best friend lent me the money to buy.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was quite shy at 17 and did what people asked of me. This was my first job in London’s West End. I really enjoyed working in the rag trade and was hoping to become a dress designer. Mr Rosen was so rude to me that day I wanted to cry but would not let him see me upset. I knew if he treated me like that once he would probably do it again and I wasn’t prepared to let that happen so I took matters into my own hands and gave a week’s notice.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lin Whitehouse lives in a small English village. She works for a children’s charity and writes at every opportunity. Her poems have appeared in Turbulence, Writing Magazine, The Great Gatsby and Nancy Drew Anthologies (Silver Birch Press) and short stories have been published in Whitby Abbey Pure Inspiration and The Finger. Her short plays have been performed around East and North Yorkshire.

PHOTO: The author in New York City (December 2016).

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The Picture Hat
by Sarah Russell

In 1968, the day I got my first paycheck after the divorce (one buck more than minimum wage), I bought a picture hat — pink organza with silk flowers, better suited to Churchill Downs than Grand Rapids, Michigan — because it was My Money, and it looked good on me.  I put it on with jeans and my favorite too-big shirt and sashayed through my bare bones studio apartment, pausing in front of the bathroom mirror to smile for the cameras and add lilac eyeshadow and Chanel No. 5.  I pictured my picture hat with an equally pink, equally organza afternoon tea dress and Herbert Levine’s that would fit my feet like Cinderella. My hat never found its dress and shoes, never even saw the light of day, but it was who I was in that moment.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: No photos of the actual hat exist, but this is a first cousin. Isn’t it a beauty?? Photo found at nyfashionhats.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  I ate peanut butter sandwiches for a month because of my extravagance, but damn, I loved that hat!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Russell has returned to poetry after a career teaching, writing, and editing. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Kentucky Review, Red River Review, Misfit Magazine, Ekphrastic Review, and Silver Birch Press, among others. She was a featured poet on The Houseboat and Days of Stone. Find more poetry at SarahRussellPoetry.com.

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DIY Bride
by Sheila Scobba Banning

The first hat I ever made was the one that I wore to be married. There are plenty of frothy bits of net and feather on the market now, but in 1993, the only bridal hat available was plain white straw with a flipped up cowboy brim. Since my wedding would be held on a beach in Southern California, that wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

I wear hats most days, and always for special occasions, so it was unthinkable that I would be hatless for my own wedding. Hats and fascinators are more than accessories to me, they are a celebration of life. People who know me are perplexed and disappointed any time my head is unadorned. From my childhood daisy-covered Easter hat to the black beret with ostrich plume I wore for my college yearbook photo, hats have always been with me.

Channeling Scarlett O’Hara, I decided to use the pieces left over from the alterations on my wedding dress to make a matching hat. The foot of tulle and ribbon-trimmed train cut from the bottom of my dress and the crocheted lace trim I had removed from the sleeves provided most of the material. I began with my vision of a medium-brimmed portrait-style hat set at an angle with a partial veil that could be lifted. Pinning the white sinamay oval to a styrofoam head, I started building, using the lace to outline the open-weave base, adding a ruffle and fan at the back and crafting a tulle rose for the up-tilt side.

For the ceremony, I added a fresh pink rose beside the one in tulle. At my musical cue, I adjusted the hatpin and walked toward my husband, the veil ending just above my smile.

PHOTO: Here comes the bride. Newport Beach, California, 1993. Photo by Figge Photography.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I love hats! I collect both vintage and modern hats, and I make fascinators and hats for weddings, parties, and charity events. I really do wear a hat or fascinator almost every day, with enough in my closet (or spilling out) to fill out nearly a full year without repeating. This was a tough prompt mainly because of all the hats I might have chosen to write about.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Sheila Scobba Banning
 is the author of  Terroir,  Intersections, and the YA Carter Bros mystery series as well as award-winning short fiction and  essay. She throws fabulous parties, wears vintage clothes, and creates and collects hats and fascinators. Sheila lives in California with her husband, sons, cats, reptiles, and the occasional stray.

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My Hat
by Melanie Feeney

It was yellow felted wool with a brown trim. An approximation of a cloche. My parents had bought it in Paris, so it carried a glamor that made it all the more special. I wore it every day during my first few years of university.

Dublin in the 1990s was not a glamorous place. It was dreary, gray, and we had yet to see signs of the “Celtic tiger.” I was in college and had an hour-long bus trip each way. My hat was so warm and cozy. It covered my ears and my forehead and because it was felted, it kept anything but the heaviest of rain out. It defeated that misty rain that seems to be a daily occurrence in Ireland, all year round.

It was soft and warm. I could roll it up in my college bag, and it would magically regain its shape when I put it on to go home. It was my constant companion and added the prettiness I needed, as I have always been someone who likes a pretty flourish — perfume, a scarf, red lipstick, or a hat.

In 1992 I went to Italy and brought my hat of course. Bologna was freezing that January, and I was so grateful for my hat and wool coat. By the end of my semester abroad, it was a well-traveled hat: Venice, Florence, Pisa, Livorno. I wore it on the beach in Livorno with the winter waves crashing nearby. I wore it on a freezing cold day when we went to Venice the day before Martedi Grasso and the cold fog was rolling off the canals.

It finally fell apart in my third year of university, and I have never managed to find a replacement that I loved quite as much.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This picture was the closest approximation I could find to what my hat was like — mine was gray and yellow.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As soon as I read about this call for submissionS, I knew I wanted to write about my Parisian hat. The 300-word count made it seem less daunting, although once I began to write, I suddenly felt the need for 1000 words. I could have said so much more about that hat. How much I loved it, how pretty I felt in it on freezing winter mornings. How it was admired by so many of my Italian friends, making me feel very sophisticated. I focused on those early years because wearing a nice hat was not that common in Ireland, least of all by college students. We were a practical bunch in our waxed jackets and Doc Martins, jeans and oversized woolly sweaters. Glamour was in short supply and felt unnecessary as we discussed Sartre and James Joyce, drinking black coffee or Guinness. I am only 5’1’’ and I was easily spotted in a crowd thanks to my hat. Once I focused on the hat, it didn’t take much for my piece to write itself,and I was instantly transported back to those halcyon days in college.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melanie Feeney has lived in Utah for the last 18 years and is originally from Dublin, Ireland. She is a project manager for an IT consulting company and loves to write in her spare time. She has written many novels, poems, and essays, although she has yet to find the courage to put them out for public consumption. She is currently working on a memoir about her battle with breast cancer.

AUTHOR PHOTO: Melanie Feeney, Salem Pond, Utah (November 2016).