Friday, December 21, 2012

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM US ALL...and Behind The Movie Scenes!

Masha, Dan, Ceci, Kelly Lynn and Helen
We have been so busy with projects that we have neglected to post new, timely blog updates....but that too, will be resolved as one of our New Year's resolutions!!!!!!!

Above, those of you who know us already realize we like to dress in costume from time to time and those of you who have visited us know that Long Island City, NY, at the moment, is anticipating a cold, rainy winter onset...but we can dream, can't we? We are packed and ready to go on vacation!!!!!!!

We have some films we worked on opening soon, so we thought you would like to see what the craziness behind-the-scenes action looks like! 
racks of clothes waiting for fittings

One film is "Kill Your Darlings" with Daniel Radcliffe. Set in 1944, it recounts the true-life story of a murder at Columbia University that involved young Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr and William Burroughs and changed their lives forever. 

Chris does a fitting
Our place was aflutter with designers and actors last spring coming in for the film's fittings, and the costume designer was no other than former Uffnerette (what we nickname our employees!) Christopher Peterson. We were SO proud!

Nurse Dan
We had racks and racks of actor clothes, actors sitting everywhere waiting for their fittings. As you can see, we STILL had time to have a bit of fun posing for the camera! In this case, Assistant Designer Cristina laughs as Dan poses with the nurse's cap and apron they are renting!

Below, you can see a wee glimpse into the days of mayhem!!!

actor's outfits, itemized with their appropriate accessories and ready to go!

actors killing time until it is their turn

this guy standing is already in costume
...and now for the ladies...

You look FABulous, dahling!  

The shoe selections were all laid out.

couldn't try some on and mug for the camera??

more costumes ready to go for the "Harlem scene"    

Even the film staff like to have fun!   

In other project news,  we dressed charming Jidenna Mobisson for his album cover "Time Slave"
We ALMOST had our clothes on the cover of Tim Gunn's new book! His stylists below were excited about their choices but Tim eventually decided to ax the vintage idea and have a modern cover! (but he loved our items!)

This promotional photo from the New York Times about the play "Harrison, Texas" by Horton Foote has mostly OUR clothes in it!

Lots more projects for us to tell you about, but we will save that for the New Year. Have a safe and loving holiday!!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

FASHION...Everything New is Old - ALWAYS!

Ceci in her 1940 garb

Our lovely intern Ceci Cholst was inspired by  the process our well-known (and anonymous!) fashion designer clients go through, leafing through our vintage inventory in search of inspiration for their next collections! 

great shoulder detail
Below, Ceci, in her own words, talks about the experience of helping the clients as well as picking out some of her personal favorite prints and dress details in the process. She calls her piece "One Dress, Many  Directions"

Recently, Helen Uffner Vintage Clothing welcomed two very different fashion designers (whom we shall call “A” and “B”) in search of renting some Fall 2013 inspiration. As a current intern and aspiring fashion designer, yours truly was very excited to guide these big-name designers through our massive vintage collection and watch the birth of next season’s trends happen before her very eyes! Even better was finding out that the new fall trends stem from my favorite era: the 1930s! Both wacky and serious, the 1930s offers simple, flattering silhouettes that are easy to manufacture with a wide range of clever prints and design details that would make any designer’s imagination run wild.

Ceci's dress find!
“A” came in seeking monochromatic, faded floral prints with a touch of whimsy to match the brand aesthetic. I had the distinct pleasure of helping A’s team comb through our 20s, 30s, and 40s dresses. While searching the 1930s dress rack, I happened on a beautiful salmon pink dress with a wilting daisy print. It had pintucks along the bust, typical of the mid-30s, and faux pockets trimmed with little bows. It was innocent but not saccharine, beautiful with a dash of melancholy. I found yet a few more dresses with a similar print (one wonders if it was a mini trend—a topic for another post, perhaps?), and also showed them to A.

close-up detail of shoulder
Fabulous collar and cuff details..AND  buttons!
These dresses were unlike anything A had pulled: most of the prints A’s team chose were quirky white flowers on a crowded field. The daisy dresses literally made A stop short and reconsider their previous selections. In the end, A did not take the pink dress but chose to rent instead a mint green daisy print shirtwaist dress with matching daisy buttons. I can’t help but speculate that  this dress will help A’s design team go in a totally different direction and transform their collection, or the team might edit it out once the samples return and realizes the print doesn’t fit, no matter how much they love it. Either way, it was interesting to witness the moment a designer challenges their initial vision and comes away considering totally different alternatives!

love the buttoned yoke
A few days later, “B” came in, seeking classic 1930s and 1940s dresses and suits for inspiration (think more Hollywood glamour, less Art Deco) ranging from muted pastels, browns, and blacks to rich jewel tones as part of the color story. Together, we pulled some fantastic florals, amazing deep purple suits, and even a sheer 1920s black floral chiffon gown. This designer was more color-oriented than A and also more specific in their period references, but even within those narrower parameters, it was still too difficult to choose among the hundreds of elegantly tailored dresses HUVC boasts!

Knowing that my pink daisy dress actually fit in B’s color story, I eagerly brought it out again. The dress immediately won B over: B explained that the design team preferred floral prints that were distinctly “American”: rounded flowers and lots of empty space. Ultimately B picked other pieces for an initial presentation to the team, but felt the pink dress I offered was a strong contender and wanted to come back for it later.
a wow collar!
great  30's collar and crepe combo
Where A wanted 1930s quirk, B wanted 1930s cool. It was an eye-opening experience to see how, despite one decade’s very divergent design impulses, the same dress appealed to disparate tastes. This little pink dress, more than anything, tells the story of the fall 2013 girl.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


We recently came across an old pharmacy prescription bottle (and we mean OLD!) for Tincture of Digitalis. Inside were little brown pellets, not unlike, ahem, tiny mouse droppings.

The bottle was stamped Owens on the bottom, which had been making prescription bottles since at least the early 1900s.
British bottle
DIGITALIS? Wasn't that a lethal, plant-based poison known to be used to plan Victorian murders in old novels? 

The British bottle on the right reads:  To be taken twice or thrice daily, with a little water after food. To be taken with great Caution ( with a capital "C"!) 

Apparently there were many kinds of digitalis tinctures available at the time, which were used to control both the heart rate and sometimes epilepsy, and  was discussed in a late 1700's English medical journal.

Drawing of a digitalis plant
Digitalis is a drug extracted from the foxglove plant, often used by herbalists. It is said that Native Americans brewed the dried leaves to treat leg swelling and that as early as the 1400's, it was often used to cleanse wounds.

An interesting fact is that this scientific name means "finger-like", perhaps because each of these little tubular innocent flowers can fit over a human fingertip.

foxglove flowers
Alas, the often dangerous side-effects led to calling this plant by other names, such as "dead man’s bells" and "witch's gloves".

The entire plant, including the root and the seeds is toxic: some side effects can be delirium and hallucinations, such as seeing halos around objects. Children have even been known to die drinking the water from a digitalis floral plant in a vase.

In researching this apparently dangerous drug, we came across some quirky digitalis labels: for instance, just in case you wanted to be poisoned but were dieting at the time, you have this label, FAT-FREE Digitalis!!

More recently, very low doses of digoxin, the active ingredient derived from digitalis, have been re-purposed to treat high blood pressure patients...(just tellin' ya!)..

..but here, on the label,  is a recipe for the antidote: "Strong coffee without milk or sugar, after which, to produce vomiting, mustard mixed in warm water, or grease in warm water: stimulants when necessary; keep body in reclining position"

As an aside, the address printed on our bottle's label is 1800 West 11th Street, Los Angeles California and the two phone numbers printed on the side read  "Federal 6050" and "Drexel 9578."  

....when was the last time you saw  a 4-digit phone number? After doing a bit of research we learned that it was only after World War II that DRexel, FEderal and several other exchanges were changed to DUnkirk followed by a five-digit number.

..and here is another interesting old druggist bottle. Who knew?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

CAN WE TRY ON BEYONCE'S SHOES? 7th and 8th graders tour HUVC..and recent project updates!!

Every so often, we are contacted to give tours of our vast costume collection. Usually they are for university classes, tour groups and charity auction winners but this one was for kids, so it was especially fun! 

The middle school Fashion Class of the WCSS Charter School in Williamsburg, Brooklyn came May 30th, the 7th and 8th graders eager to try on vintage garments, hats and shoes!!!!

Once it was disclosed that we had several of Beyonce's clothes and shoes from her film "Cadillac Records", all chaos broke loose as they each insisted on taking turns trying them on!
These students have apparently all  learned how to sew from their teacher, Monique (who happens to have a side business making cupcakes and cakes for special occasions - even purse-shaped ones!)

 Helen took the girls on a complete tour with the help of our intern Nelly, and explained the different styles through the ages.
Below Helen shows the students Victorian clothing and explains how the interiors were boned and women had to wear corsets and multiple layers of undergarments under these dresses.

Here, a lovely young lady tries on a flocked velvet mid-1800's coat often called a "mantle"

 We encouraged the students to try on items they fancied so, here, " Watch out...George Washington in the house!!!"

The tour continued through the different decades as we talked about the different movie projects we worked on and showed the stars' original clothes.

We examined period undergarments.
 We looked at men's wool bathingsuits ( the general consensus was "You're kidding, right!!!!!!??? Wool?) appeared that vintage shoes, Beyonce's or not, were the stars!
some fit

...and some did NOT!!!


The other favorite try-ons were a series of what the students called "fairytale dresses", poufy 1950's gowns that they vowed to come back to rent for their proms, years hence!

 All in all, a fun time was had by all! They even learned to pose with attitude! Below, "Ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille!"

Teacher Monique brought us treats
Her own hand-made cupcakes!

 In other news, catch that wonderful film "MOONRISE KINGDOM"!! Below you see our boys' vintage sweaters lined up in a row and below, the sweaters as they appeared in the film!


Other recent projects are:

MEN IN BLACK 3: We supplied the clothes in the store windows as well as the nutty clothes for Aliens trying to "fit in" to the 1970's scene!

JIMMY FALLON'S DOWNTON ABBEY SPOOF CALLED "DOWNTON SIXBEY": we supplied Brooke Shield's dress, among other things.

30 ROCK EPISODE: a flashback when Liz Lemon goes back in time to when she was making a nuisance of herself when her parents wanted some romantic privacy!


ON BROADWAY, WE WORKED ON THE POSTER FOR "NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT" ( they illustrated the poster from our clothes):

FINALLY.....IT IS THE BEGINNING OF SUMMER so a big hello from our staffers Masha, Dan and Julia ready in their oversize 1940's sun hat finery!!!!!!!