Monday, September 30, 2013

Lucite and Bakelite

I have yet to meet an “ite” I did not like. I love Lucite and Bakelite jewelry, having amassed a small collection of each. My fascination with Bakelite began with some bracelets I bought in New York City, including the Art Deco style shown here. The public’s fascination with Bakelite began in 1907, when Bakelite helped usher in what is known, among chemists, as the Polymer Age or the Age of Plastics.  
Here is another Art Deco bracelet I own; note the faux bamboo styling. Bamboo was all the rage in the 1930s, due in part to its popular use in the Hollywood Regency style of home decor. On the heels of Bakelite, in 1931, the clear, manmade synthetic we call Lucite was developed by DuPont. Around the same time the Rohm & Haas Chemical Company also discovered this chemical compound and called it Plexiglas. While Plexiglas had broader commercial success, Lucite is what we talk about when referring to vintage jewelry and, in 1952, handbags. 
One of my favorite kinds of Lucite is that which includes tiny particles inside; it is called “confetti Lucite.” Here is a set of confetti Lucite bracelet and earrings, currently offered at for $75; the pieces contain tiny seashells and gold confetti. 
This bathing beauty brooch made of silver glitter confetti Lucite is now available at for $75. And I want it. 
This pair of vintage 1950s glitter confetti Lucite screw earrings is currently for sale on Ebay. Confetti Lucite was hugely popular in the 1950s and that makes sense: It surely seems definitive of the decade of full skirts, big cars and exuberance of all stripes.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lady Duff Gordon, Titanic survivor, designer

She was saucy and blithe. But aside from her personality quirks, Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon (1863 – 1935), made gorgeous Edwardian gowns. She also survived the Titanic’s sinking.
I discovered Gordon after reading “Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First-Class Passengers and Their World.” In 1894, after a series of unfortunate financial events, Gordon was forced to raise herself out of genteel poverty by designing and selling dresses. (Photo above is a 1917 Lucille evening gown made of silk and cotton).
And what gowns! Sold out of Maison Lucile in the Mayfair area of London, these romantic confections were known for details such as silk roses and ribbons. Her company label was called Lucile Ltd., and it eventually had branches in New York, Paris and Chicago.
Actresses, society women, titled ladies and royalty wore Lucile gowns. These included Lily Elsie, shown here in a costume designed by Gordon for a 1909 play called "The Dollar Princess." 
This gown is from the Spring 1913 collection (gown is at the V&A Museum).
The Lucile “Personality Dresses” were a smash hit and included “Happiness,” as seen in this photo (the dress is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art). From the Fall 1916 collection, this gown is made of silk taffeta, satin, tulle, and chiffon with lace, lace insets and appliqué, ribbons, and silk flowers. 
At the end of her life, Gordon was virtually penniless; her granddaughter said she had to take the bus to cocktail parties. But who cares? She was still invited to those cocktail parties and I’ll bet guests swarmed her to hear tales of her storied life.
Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Gild is on the Rose

As we hurtle into fall, my roses happily continue to bloom. This year I ordered eight new varieties from and I am thrilled with the results. 
Meet Grande Dame
Hello, Geoff Hamilton
Abraham Darby, you simply enchant me. 
Needless to say, I already have my wish list for next year!