Thursday, August 12, 2010

THE SET N' STAY PILLOW SLIP - Homage to Larry Matthews

A hair fashion revelation!!!!! 

Helen came across a dated 1968 "Set n" Stay" Pillow Slip (in its original packaging) to list on ETSY on our Vintagepickle site.

The packaging read "New from Larry Mathews", and was a special sleep pillow that would maintain your then intricate beehive hairdo and protect your hair "all night long" , claiming it was perspiration resistant, allowed your hair to breathe and unlike regular pillows that flattened your hair, you would wake up with every hair still in place! Wonder of wonders!!!

So, you may wonder...who was this Larry Matthews who created this marvel? Well, we've done the research!

Most of what else we found out about Larry Mathew’s life was from his August 5th, 2007   New York Times obituary, where his quirky quotes credit his sense of humor! The obit is excerpted below:

“Larry Mathews... earned a reputation as New York's most wide-awake hairdresser by opening …the city's first 24-hour beauty parlor to serve insomniacs, talk-show guests, showgirls and other working women. 

Mr. Mathews served the nocturnal need of those seeking teasing, frosting, cutting, waxing, eyebrow enhancement, nail coloring, blow-drying and more. Clients -- who he said included Jacqueline Susann, Eleanor Roosevelt and Marilyn Monroe -- were invited to play backgammon or sip a cocktail as their appearances became more pleasing.  

'I'm sort of like a surgeon' he said in an interview with The New York Times in 1976. 'Not looking good is like a cancer. There's a lot of pain in not being beautiful.' 

At his peak in the early 1970s, Mr. Mathews had expanded his after-hours cosmetology concept across the nation to 131 salons, from Miami to Las Vegas to Hollywood  (and) sold the chain in 1974.
His commitment to convenience was shown by regularly sending a limousine to pick up a woman's wig in the morning so his staff could set it and comb it, then deliver it in time for an evening engagement. 

By accident, when Mr. Mathews was trying to build a machine that would not burn women during waxing, he developed a cream for painless depilation. Called Hair Off, it became a staple in beauty parlors and later was sold for home use. 

Mr. Mathews could wax eloquent on the subject of body hair.

'Women shouldn't shave,' he said to The Times. 'You shave and you're growing a beard all over your body. You're making stubble for yourself.'

Hair Off, by contrast, left only baby fuzz, he promised. 

Mr. Mathews learned some photography in the Army and after his discharge set up shop as a studio photographer, specializing in publicity stills for aspiring starlets. Before he snapped the photographs, he liked to work on their eyes and mouths, which led him into theatrical makeup and cosmetics.

His clientele was showgirls at the Copacabana and the Latin Quarter, so a 24-hour beauty salon seemed a logical step. 

He opened his first in 1953 in the Great Northern Hotel on West 57th Street near Carnegie Hall, enabling him to cater to show-business people. He reasoned that a hotel was a nice location for all-night beauty parlors because there was someone protective in the lobby.

All his stylists were men who specialized in the exotic coiffures the Broadway-type customers requested. Free makeup consultations were available on the first visit if women wanted them.

Despite having many well-off customers, Mr. Mathews was provocatively populist when it came to the sacred cows of the beauty business.

'No haircut is worth $50,' he told The Times. ' Every month you have to have it cut again. It's ridiculous to spend $35 to have your legs waxed. It's even more ridiculous to spend $100 for an ounce of perfume.'

His solution to the perfume question was his line of copies of French fragrances (such as Chanel and Joy) developed in Switzerland (which he)  sold for $10 an ounce. (The perfume industry sued and lost.)

As for hair, he said in an interview with The Times in 1961 that wearing wigs could cut a woman's beauty bill by 40 percent. He said they remained set for as long as three months.

Asked who would buy them, he answered, ''About half the regulars at the Copacabana.''

 As an interesting aside, Gloria Steinem's bio talks about her going undercover to become a Playboy bunny for a reporting assignment. Even before studying the “Bunny Bible” she was told to report to  Larry Mathew’s New York salon  for a make-up class , where she was fitted for false eyelashes and paid $8.14 for the eyelashes and cake rouge (with her Bunny discount, of course!)

Monday, August 2, 2010

METAMORPHOSIS : The Making of a Book Cover - or Portrait of the Artist as a ...Young Photographer

You buy a book. It has an amazing illustrated or photographic cover with period detailing. Ever wonder where the artist’s inspiration for those costumes or accessories comes from? 

If you are clever,  you might sense that WE are that  “secret source”! (Yes!)

....But if you haven't a clue, here is a little interesting narrative explaining the “process” a book cover takes from start to finish.

In this blog, we highlight the work of artist Marc Yankus (

This particular project shown on the left was a book about a midwife in the mid-to-late 1800’s who yearned to become a doctor, not a very welcoming profession for women of that century.

In Marc’s words: “I hired a model, rented the dress and bag from Helen and photographed the model in my workspace.

Using a software program, I changed the color of the dress, added the building and added textures to give the piece a feeling of the time”

Picture #1
Marc initially came by to pick out some of our  vintage clothing showroom's 19th century clothes and accessories. He then began photographing his model: first from the back, then a side view, then eventually a version of the final 
cover that Marc envisioned. 
                   Picture #2                                      
                                                                                             Picture #3  

Once Marc zeroed in on the concept, he experimented with different  color palettes until he reached the one he would use for the book cover.

Et voila!!!!! A work of genius!

                            First coloration                                   Final coloration

We will soon highlight other book covers we have worked on, but as an added bonus, here is yet another cover Marc worked with us on...perhaps an obscure little book you may have heard of ?

 and the book......