Sunday, January 31, 2010

Twentieth Century

     Marty here. John Barrymore was one of the greatest American actors, having started out on stage, then moving on to silent movies. He then made a seamless transition to sound movies. Last night Patricia and I watched “Twentieth Century” a comedy from 1934 starring Barrymore and Carole Lombard. The movie is named for the train of that era, New York Central’s Twentieth Century Limited. It’s a must-see movie and you really get to see what made Barrymore such a great actor, despite it being late in his career (he was around 50 when he made this).
    As Patricia has said many times before here, your local library is such a good and cost-effective resource for all kinds of media. Patricia orders our DVD’s on-line from the library system here on Cape Cod and we just pick them up at our local branch. It’s amazing what they have for movies, from very recent releases to old silent movies -all free of charge (just get them back within their time frame).

Friday, January 29, 2010


I've heard about Nutella for years, seen it around shops and so on but have always avoided it -- not sure why. I mean if you like chocolate and you like hazelnuts (which I do), and you're an adventurous eater, why not try it? Even my very picky food eater chocolate infatuated daughter eats it (she's who finally inspired me to buy some to try) -- her college friends turned her on to it. I almost wish I'd never succumbed -- because now I can't get enough of it. Who knew? It's like frosting only better (and good for you too, maybe that's a stretch but it's a stretch I'm going for). I have it on bread, graham crackers, vanilla wafers, a spoon, haven't tried it with pretzels yet but that's next on my list. Yum! If you've never tried nutella, go out and get yourself some. Heck I love it so much I even checked out the website and ended up signing up for their monthly sweepstakes to win a case of Nutella. Thankfully, we sell great girdles and shapewear (Rago's a favorite and they are so gorgeously retro) .
**image from Mamrie's blog

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Now on Facebook

Marty here. It's hard keeping up with the latest trends when it comes to social networking. We did the My Space thing several years ago, but it kind of fizzled out. We also had our Word Press blog for a few years before switching over to this platform. Last year, very belatedly, we signed up for Facebook, but did little with it. We also initiated Twitter, but again it's a matter of having the time to figure it out, and more importantly how to best utilize it for a business. So, a few weeks ago we began looking at Facebook and got it going again. Unfortunately, the personal pages don't lend themselves well to business, which we found out the hard way, getting the boot from Facebook....kind of a fine line we crossed. So now we're doing it the correct way by setting up a Facebook Page. Whereas it's a breeze finding "friends," finding "fans" is not so easy. Facebook wants to promote their pay-per-click advertising (it sounds similar to the Google Adwords that we use) so they make it much more difficult to solicit fans. So, if you're reading this blog and have a Facebook account, please become a fan. Why? Eventually most of our non-sales content will likely end up there, including updates, coupons, sales notifications, stories and photos galore. And if that's not enough, we'll give you $5.00 off your next order of $25.00 or more. Here's the link:
Brabarella Facebook Page

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Deanna Durbin

When we started watching our first Deanna Durbin movie a few weeks ago (made in 1939, called Three Smart Girls), Marty just looked at me and said, "how did you find this movie?" as in: where do you find some of these what he thinks are going to be bombs and end up being favorites? (He doesn't know they'll be favorites at the time he asks). Of course, half the time I don't know how I find things, when you're interested in anything and everything in the world, how you stumble upon findings gets lost in the shuffle. But it came back to me -- I found her movies while looking for other Christmas movies that aren't mainstream.

I found Deanna Durbin's Sweetheart Collection at our library, and most of the movies were great. One didn't work (it was scrambled) and one was a Western that was pretty ridiculous (it's hard getting past the early 40's hairdo in a western set in a wagon train era , plus it was just plain foolish I thought). I particularly loved "Lady on a Train" and "It Started with Eve."

Her other ones are a ball to watch, with lots of madcap craziness, inevitable romances and fun. I'd love to share more of the Deanna Durbin story with you -- she was one of the biggest stars of the 1930's and 1940's, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and she's virtually unheard of today -- but for more of her fascinating story, this blog does a beautiful job of telling it.

** P.S. This post is another unabashed plug for your local library. Use it or lose it. Believe it or not, they can and do close. The more you use it, the more a need for libraries (and access to information for everybody) is shown. Squeaky wheel, y' know?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Open Bottom Girdles

Open bottom girdles were a part of everyday wear from the thirties up to the end of the fifties here in America and through the sixties in the UK and Europe. Here in the US, the panty-style girdle surpassed the open bottom in popularity in the sixties. That being said, there have been and continue to be some who wear the open bottom on a regular or special occasion basis. Recently there seems to be a small resurgence in the popularity of this garment. Being an internet retailer, it can be difficult to gauge who’s buying what, but it is still pretty evident that the vast majority of open girdle sales go to over-60 and under-30 consumers.  Shapewear style follows fashion styles, so as we’ve seen an increased popularity of 40’s, 50’s and 60’s-style fashions (the latter highlighted by the “Mad Men” television series), interest in vintage or traditional undergarments has followed. This may begin with nylon stockings and the need to have something to hold them up, plus the fact that many dresses of the era (particularly early/mid 50’s to early/mid sixties) had some severe hourglass cuts that require some girdling.
If you’re thinking of purchasing an open girdle here are a few tips. First, decide what you need it for. If it’s just to hold stockings up, you may want to consider a garter belt instead. If you’re in need of some shaping, there are two basic styles –high waist and waistline. There is no set rule as to why you should wear one or the other. I generally tell customers that if you already have a defined waistline and just need a little more definition, especially in the tummy area, go with the waistline. If your waistline is not well defined you may want to consider the high waist (or other alternatives). Our most popular selling open girdle is a high waist –the Rago 1294, but that’s because we only offer one other non-special needs high waist- the Grenier 1555, which is pricier (but a true bargain once you actually see what you’re getting) and unfortunately doesn’t come in black.
Other factors include the number of garters. Four is fine, but you may want to wear a girdle with six garters if you’re wearing stockings with a little less give, such as traditional all-nylon stockings. Some open girdles come with a side zip. It’s a necessity with a high waist, but there are also some waistline girdles with this feature. Rago actually makes two styles of their Shapette open girdle – one with the zipper (style 1361) and the other without (style 1359).
In terms of making recommendations, it’s difficult to do from a distance. Everyone’s shape is unique, as are their tastes and tolerances. However, if you contact us and tell us your needs (e.g style of dress or outfit), and give us your measurements and basic body type, we can make general recommendations. I am of the belief that less is more. If you’ve never worn shapewear before, I will never recommend a severe shaper. A little moderate-to-firm shaping can make a world of difference.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hot Chocolate

This time of year I start thinking of hot chocolate. But not just any hot chocolate. Good hot chocolate. Not an instant packet. Not Nestle's. Chocolate like in Chocolat. Like in Like Water for Chocolate. Like in Sepia's drinking chocolate. With Flavors like Montezuma's Revenge. Coco Loco. Cardamama. You can experiment with your own blends like I do, using Ghirardelli's cocoa powders and others, or you can splurge and go all out sinful with Sepia's drinking chocolate. When I don't want to take chances, when it has to be the best, I'll go with Sepia. And of course a good hot chocolate demands homemade whipped cream -- not cool whip and not an aerosol. A pint of heavy whipped to dense peaks. Maybe a few homemade marshmallows -- Martha's got a great recipe.

**image from Sepia

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Harper's Bazaar, August 1960

Green textured wool suit; double breasted jacket over a sleeveless dress. By Jacques Heim Jeunes Filles. About $75.00 at Bonwit Teller, Hudson's, Detroit. Miss Dior hat.

Narrow jaguar coat by Junior Sophisticates.

Cable-stitched wool knit top and matching skirt. Robert Sloan, about $55.00 at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Vibrant topcoats by Dani Junior in Anglo wool. Turbans by Mr. John.

Suit by Towncliffe, in British woolen. About $90.00 at Peck and Peck.

Belle Saunders designed dress and jacket of Orlon and wool. About $70.00.

Evan-Picone houndstooth check skirt with solid color matching cardigan jacket. Both all-wool.

Maidenform Fris-Kee girdle advertisement

Left: wool jersey by Lebanon. Bateau neck. Right: wool tweed by Pembroke. Stand-away neck and wide set-in midriff. $35.00 at Peck and Peck.

Formfit Skippies nylon girdle. $8.95 at Bloomingdales.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

From Centerfold to Senator

I googled "Scott Brown cosmo dude" today to find his Cosmo photo -- I love what Jon Stewart quipped:
 "The Kennedy legacy goes down to a naked guy who owns a truck." It does make me wonder how a female candidate with a similar modeling background would fare. Still, ya gotta love the wacky diversity of the GOP. More here at the Post.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sweet Skins

Sweetskins is another of my favorite designer-makers. It's a small woman-owned company in Eugene, Oregon. Mira's company uses  eco-conscious fabrics, generously proportioned, and impeccably stitched by a handful of women in her community.

She also has a great group of very diverse models, both slim and curvy, not something you see too often in the fashion world. The clothes are comfy (always a priority on my list), stylish and flattering for women of all shapes -- I especially love her wrap dresses, the skinny pants, the crops, the culottes, oh heck, I may as well just say I love all her goods.  The colors are neutral enough to mix and match with other favorites from your wardrobe (think Uniform Project and simplicity), and the prices unbeatable for a small, socially responsible business. You go, girls!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Va Bien 1500 Low Plunge Body Briefer

Va Bien offers a number of everyday undergarments –their popular 1515 t-shirt bra and 601 minimizer bra immediately come to mind – but more than anything else they specialize in shape and support problem solutions. I think they have a garment to solve almost any problem – need shapewear with a low back? Got it. Need a little “lift”? Check. Have a low plunge dress and need a supporting undergarment? That too. Need thigh support in a one-piece but need it to be strapless? Of course! This brings us to the Va Bien Low Plunge Body Briefer. It is an extreme low plunge backless briefer – the perfect solution for support in a very low cut dress. It is not strapless, but the straps can be fully adjusted (regular, halter and criss-cross) for different style dresses. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Coastal Roasters, Tiverton Rhode Island

 Marty’s favorite coffee stop is Coastal Roasters in Tiverton, Rhode Island. It’s the best coffee in New England, so he claims. I’m not a coffee drinker, so I can’t say. Anytime we’re over Rhode Island way we end up stopping there. It’s the kind of place where you get your coffee and run –there’s only one table inside. In the summer it can be a nice outdoor hangout, since it’s right on an inlet to the sea. Not this time of year though!
Coastal Roasters, Tiverton, RI

Friday, January 15, 2010

Harper's Bazaar, February 1964

White and black plaid narrow double breasted suit by Gustave Tassell, in Dormeuil wool. $350.00 at Lord & Taylor. Hat by Halston of Bergdorf Goodman. Aris gloves. Click pictures for a larger view.

 Behind every Olga there really is an Olga. Olga Suddenly Slim Girdle $12.95

Harmay split level sheath of imported linen at I. Magnin & Co.

Soignee short cape by Lilli Diamond. Fabric: Hargro’s crepe of acetate and rayon. Colors: beige, black, pink, or aqua. Price: $50.00

 Mr Blackwell design in this silken soft town tailleur. Wm. H Block Co.

Short, deep dip dinner dress; satin-bound Empire waist. By Malcolm Starr, in Gilman silk. About $125.00

 Jacket suit in sun yellow and poppy by Davidow in British Woolen tweed. Bonwit Teller, I. Magnin. Hat by Adolfo. Viola Weinberger kidskin gloves.

 Dupont Corfam advertisement.

Vanity Fair Bra and matching Double Tulip Long Leg Girdle. $5.00 and $15.00.

10. Navy blue and white plaid spring ensemble by Nat Kaplan in Pomezia cotton  About $110.00.
       Lilly Dache hat and Wear-Right gloves.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Uniform Project

Moseying around Facebook last week I came upon this awesome site and blog called The Uniform Project -- all about wearing the same dress for 365 days, but dressing it up or down, the way most girls (and sometimes boys) will who have to wear uniforms.

I went to Catholic school most of my life, as did Marty and his sisters, and one thing we know well are uniforms. It makes dressing during the week easy, but as you get older and hit adolescence when you want to fit in with peers but also create your own identity, wearing a uniform can also inspire a lot of creativity and ingenuity to stand out from the rest of the crowd.

We school girls usually did this with colorful tights (think bright red or purple with a green plaid uniform skirt), or fishnets, and jewelry. Or, once we were out of eyeshot of home, rolling up the waistbands of our skirts to create mini-skirts.

I've often had the uniform discussion over the years with various folks and as the daughter of a retired military man as well, personally, I love uniforms. They do keep life simple and lately I have been all about simple, seeking ways to simplify my life, by paring down possessions and only having items that I truly love, are useful and keep my carbon footprint light. In the past year or so, while I have yet to adopt a uniform per se (I tend to wear pants -- cropped ones over and over), I love how socks and hosiery can totally charge up an outfit. They're fun, and most of the socks I wear -- particularly the striped ones -- always spark a friendly chat and a smile. So if you want to lighten up your wardrobe, an affordable way to do it is with hosiery. I'm not quite there yet on wearing one of our waist cinchers over a top yet, but who knows?

***Please click on the Catholic link above or the one here ( various organization from all walks of life) if you'd like to donate to Haitian eartquake relief efforts. Haiti is the poorest country in our neck of the woods, the photos are even more heartbreaking when you realize how grindingly poor they are and then to face this tragedy on top of it. Don't discount even the smallest change -- like one vote, I have seen pennies make a difference if only for a day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hanes and Berkshire Nylon Stockings

Recently Hanes put style 728 Stockings on their discontinued list. They are the last garter stockings that Hanes has produced. When was the last time that Hanes didn’t offer a garter stocking? Sometime before World War Two. We still have some left and there should be inventory around in stores for months to come, but eventually there will be no more. The box in the picture is from 1971 and holds reinforced sheer in “South Pacific” –that’s the color. The good news is that Berkshire is going strong AND they still make their hosiery in North Carolina. Many hosiery manufacturers have sent their production overseas in order to cut costs, but not Berkshire. Style 1550 is comparable to the Hanes 728 (Nylon with Lycra). We sold the Hanes for $8.00 ($10.00 MSRP) with 2 pair in a package. We sell the Berkshire for $4.00 for one pair, so the price is identical. Berkshire quality is at least as good. The only drawback is that the Hanes used to come in a dozen colors, whereas we offer three colors in the Berks. But remember, there are also several different styles of Berkshire. Style 1579 is all-nylon ultra-sheer; style 1361 has lace tops; style 1588 are back seam; and style 1805 are full support, 70 denier stockings. 

Monday, January 11, 2010

Favorite Breakfast

I'm sure I've mentioned it before (the older I get, the more I tend to repeat myself) that my favorite breakfast is rolled oats (not steel cut which are like wee pellets of grain, which they are, but the rolled oats -- the kind it probably took a steam roller to roll out those little pellets into flakes).

Last month, I returned to the Providence Winter Market and was thrilled to discover Grandy Oats from Maine, about as local as you can get around here. Three pounds of organic for the unbelievable price of $7.00! Call me naive, but I think that's a bargain, especially when you realize how much work goes into, say one carrot, let alone a field of grain. I read that Maine used to be the breadbasket of the East Coast not too long ago (or some such thing -- I read so much that everything's a jumble in my mind most of the time). So, my favorite breakfast? Quarter and core an apple (my latest are from Massachusetts and Vermont), leaving the peel on, cover, and simmer gently in a little water for a few minutes until soft (only takes about 5 or so).

While the apple's simmering, put a couple coffee scoops of Grandy Oats in a big bowl and add some organic raisins, bought in bulk from your local coop (none here on the cape, so it's Trader Joe's brand for me -- a long-ago Vermont friend used to call regular raisins "little pesticide bombs"). Remove apple from heat, pour the boiling water over the oats in the bowl (up to about an inch over the oats), and cover with the lid from your apple pan (I'm all about not having too much clean-up). Let the apples cool while your oats cook.

When you're ready (I can't eat breakfast the minute I get up), scrape the apple flesh out of the peel with a spoon (making sure to get the pretty pinky-red if you've used red skinned apples) and add to your oats. Stir. Even if the oats are watery, they'll probably thicken a little. I zap the bowl of oats, apples and raisins for about a minute and a half in the microwave, stir again and add some milk (or not). No need to add sugar or anything else -- sweet and yum!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wintry Weather

More than a few years ago, our friend artist Suzanne Partridge from the UK sent us these pictures she took in Lake Geneva Switzerland after an ice storm. At the time, we posted them on our blog, but they're too good to not share again.



Friday, January 8, 2010

Joe Through the Years

Joe turns 16 in a few days. Joe is part beagle and part poodle (Marty refers to him as a beagle/scoundrel mix). Joe is ever the ham. Here are a few pictures:

Joe as French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Barque

Joe as Maurice Chevalier

Joe as Snoop Dogg Bonzz

Joe in "My Fair Lady"

Joe as "Bad Cop"

Joe as patient in "General Hospital"

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Maha Devi Design

I rarely buy new clothes, unless they're handmade, upcycled, on sale, or from Target. Shoes and lingerie are different but that's another post. Mixing and matching, layering and playing with color have become my goal lately. I don't want to look like a cutesy teeny bopping twentysomething anymore than I want to look frumpy or matronly just because I can now refer to myself as a woman of a certain age. This can be hard when you actually have some flesh in addition to the skin over your bones. And of course, I can't deny the ease (and love and give) of pull-on pants, skirts and the like. So, what have I been wearing lately?

One of my favorite designers is MahaDevi Design out of British Columbia.  While their prices may seem steep (organic and sustainable fabrics plus handmade = more time and attention to detail), they have great sales, superb quality (I've had my pants for years), and excellent customer service (it was easy for me to exchange my pants for a different size). Even without their sales, investing in their clothing is well worth it and I enjoy supporting a small business (which in the end is what I believe a healthy economy has been built on. Remember the Great Depression? Prior to it was the era of monopolies and the big guys driving out undercutting the little guys. I truly believe diversity and balance is the answer). Plus they'll sometimes customize the hem for you -- the pair of cropped yoga pants I have is one of their older designs that I still love. And their clothes are meant for play -- yoga, dance, your imaginary life.

Lately I've taken to wearing my black Mahadevi pants underneath a thrifted LL Bean long-sleeve t-shirt dress in teal, these socks, and my red El Naturalista clogs. Throw on lots of my handmade jewelry (etsy has great stuff at all price points), and I am feeling muy artiste and ultra stylin.'  So thanks, Freyja and Jules -- keep the goods coming and what can I say? You Canadians rock!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Vogue - 1961

A few photos from the January 1, 1961 issue. You can click on the pictures to enlarge.

Lady Marlene "Lovely Doll" with "Mystery Lift" ($25.00)

B.H. Wragge Giraffe Silk Print Jacket and Dress. $110.00 at Bonwit Teller

Dorene Fashion Co. Silk Linen Sheath Dresses with Cashmere Sweaters. The outfit on the left comes in white, yellow, pink, or turquoise and retails for $125.00. The one on the right comes in white, beige, lilac or cherry and retails for $110.00

White Stag Bikini, $15.00 at Lord & Taylor

Roberta Dresses of Belgian Linen. The one on the left features a silk surah polka-dot belt. Colors include egg shell/tangerine, white/turquoise, grey/lemon, black/white. The dress on the right comes in egg shell, turquoise, tangerine or lemon yellow. Both retail for $45.00

Best & Co. "...a supple sheath with a luxurious slubbed texture, etched with exquisite Madeira motifs and lined all the way with China silk. Shannon Rodgers designs it for Jerry Silverman. Beige, white or blue." Retails for $69.95

Peck and Peck Linen Sheath in cherry, lilac, blue or white with a white piped collar. $39.95. From their Resort Collection.