Sunday, March 28, 2010


Stanley Kowalski, before and after visiting the Pier Show.

Jean says:

After slaving in an office all week, Valerie and I like to get out and about on weekends. Since vintage clothing and jewelry feature prominently in both our wardrobes, we have favorite haunts like the 26th Street Garage and flea markets that we periodically cruise through in search of bargains and inspiration. The Pier Antiques Show and Fashion Alley @ The Pier, sponsored by Stella Management, are the mothership of vintage clothing experiences in Manhattan.

Held three times a year (November, January and March) in one of the huge cruise ship passenger terminals (Pier 94) on the Hudson River at 55th Street, the shows are a treasure trove of furniture, art, ceramics, glassware, and our personal favorites: hats, jewelry, clothing, handbags, eyewear, and footwear. Did I mention hats? And can you see the teeny picture of us in the photo at left taken off the Stella website?

Along with a few photographs of us and friends at the March 2010 show, we wanted to show you some of our purchases from the most recent and previous shows.

Men who can dress in vintage and carry it off are a distinct breed. Matthew Piazzi, doing his own interpretation of Sky Masterson (see above), is one of those rarae aves who can wear a fedora and a double-breasted pinstriped suit with aplomb. Bravo!

At the March 2010 show, I wore a vintage Stetson bowler that I had purchased at a Pier Show about 5 years ago. It is in tip-top shape and feels great. That my husband refers to me as "Odd Job" when I wear it only adds to its allure. (James Bond fans will remember Sean Connery's 1964 flick "Goldfinger" in which Odd Job was the villainous Dr. Goldfinger's Asian assassin/assistant whose steel-bladed bowler was dapper but lethal.) Coincidentally, Valerie is also wearing a previous Pier Show purchase - a mouton and feather hat circa 1940 that she's wearing with her printed mouton chubby jacket (purchased at another vintage venue).

At one of the Pier Shows about six years ago, I purchased this black and white alpaca Yves St. Laurent Rive Gauche coat. At the most recent show, I purchased the black candy kiss hat. Here I am swanning in the lobby of the Empire State Building in the hat & coat after the recent New York Arts of Pacific Asia Show on 34th Street. I hadn't actually worn the coat in years...since a traumatic incident in Bowling Green.

At the time I purchased the coat, I worked at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House near Battery Park (which also houses the Smithsonian's Museum of the American Indian). I wore it to work one day because I was attending an event that evening. I ran out to grab lunch and as I was walking back to the building through Bowling Green Park, a rather inebriated gentleman literally began chasing me, waving his arms and repeatedly yelling, "Awww. You look just like a big old panda bear. Come 'ere and gimme a big old hug." Needless to say, I poured on the speed and was never more grateful for the building's big, burly Smithsonian security guards.

Here are mug shots of the fabulous candy kiss hat. It is black felt with about four wispy feathers on one side, designed by Bellini Originals and purchased from Another Times Antiques (

Valerie keeps daring me to wrap it in aluminum foil and add a thin paper strip saying "Hershey's."

At the March 2010 Pier Show, I scored a true bargain. I spotted this black and white wool '40s saucer hat, tried it on, and it fit like a glove (so to speak).

When I saw the $25 price tag, I was quite pleased with myself. Imagine my delight when the couple running the booth informed me that all hats were 50% off and I scored this domino number for $12.50. What a steal.

About 2 years ago, in an out-of-body experience, I bought this blue silk floral portrait hat at a Pier Show. I don't know what possessed me, but it seemed like a good idea at the time (ISLAGIATT). I haven't actually worn it anywhere yet, so stay tuned.

I must have been channeling my inner Tyrone Power (as the doomed bullfighter in "Blood and Sand" with Linda Darnell?) when I acquired this black straw matador hat at last spring's Pier Show. Its label reads: G. Fox & Co., Est. 1847 Hartford.

Needless to say, it too has not seen the light of day since I brought it home. So, if you see a demented silver-haired women some evening on the lower East Side with a rose clenched between her teeth, wearing this hat, do a Burt Bacharat/Dionne Warwick and just "Walk on By."

Ah, yes! Another Pier Show purchase that has been kept under wraps. Purchased from O, Mistress Mine (which also used to have a great store in the East Village), this Eric Javits black wool velvet-trimmed high crown hat has a great '80s vibe. Coming soon to High Tea near you.

Loyal readers may recognize my pink plastic duckie pins featured in my Play with Your Clothes posting last year. They were originally purchased about two years ago from one of the Pier Show vendors who also carries wonderful kitchen equipment, old rotary telephones and princess phones (what a blast from the past they were!). When I stopped by her booth earlier this month, I was tickled that she remembered me - and the pins.

And lastly, sincere apologies to Karen McWharter, NYC ( I purchased a very chic green vintage hat from her last fall, but I simply cannot put my fingers on it to photograph it for this posting. (Sorry, Karen. Do forgive me.)

Valerie says:

I was surprised at the number of hats I've bought at the Stella Pier Show. (This is one of them, as Jean noted above.) It wasn't intentional, but if I stop to think about it, it makes sense. First, you can't go to a show looking for anything in particular (like a 1930s yellow suit, for example) because you'll never find it. You have to be open to all possibilities. But the shows are so huge, it would take me two full days to give everything the full attention it deserves. If I just concentrate on looking at hats, I can visit every booth. Second, as the universe expands, so do I, except, of course, on an infinitely smaller scale. Women were more petite then. (THEN refers to anytime long enough ago for the clothes to now be called VINTAGE.) I was more petite then. Statistically, odds are less in favor of finding something in my size than before. SIGH.

My head, by good fortune, is not expanding, so a hat is always a safe bet. And finally, although the furniture is fabulous, where would I put it in my New York apartment? How would I get it home? AND - importantly - does my building have some arcane rule about furniture deliveries on weekends? Will I be forced to guard it out on the sidewalk until specified delivery times? What if the earliest time we're allowed to bring in new furniture (since that requires the freight elevator) isn't till 10am Monday morning? So you can see why I might gravitate toward hats. (And of course you won't see any shoes because - all together now - THERE ARE NO COMFORTABLE SHOES FOR WOMEN OF A CERTAIN AGE THAT ARE NOT ALSO STUNNINGLY UGLY.)

Above is a wonderful gray felt vortex hat by Sally Victor.

And other wonderful Stella purchases:

This is a buttery soft white leather hat from the 30s. Jean more or less insisted that I buy it, so I did. Only to placate her, you understand. The feather has seen better days, so I deleted it. I mean I took it off.

Here's how it looks with no feather, and with a feather out of my feather collection.

Notice any resemblance here?

Hats of the 30s went through a conical phase. Here are two famous conical hats, both from 1939, said to be the very best year ever for movies. If you can't remember the iCONIC movies they starred in, see the answers waaaaaaaay below. Interestingly, if you look on line, you'll see the woman's hat described variously as 'silly', 'funny' and 'absurd'. I'll bet the on line comments were all written by people who have no idea how to wear or judge a hat. I think it's fabulous. (Turns out it was fabricated by Adrian, and reportedly designed by the actress wearing it.)

Not everything I bought was a hat, though. Trick question: how many hats do you see in this photograph? (Hint: proof positive that a woman wears many hats.)

This little charmer is probably from the 40s, and had a few issues, all of which I was able to take care of. The first thing I did was to cut away the awful cardboard visor that says 'Hartford, Conn.' (Was Hartford a millinery center? See Jean's Hartford hat, above.) Why anyone thought this wonderful hat needed a visor I can't imagine. The hat had a small hole at the perimeter where the material meets the very interesting flexible metal band that gives it its taut shape.

So I removed the band (very easy to do!), got out my handy dandy iron-on patches, and cut out a small patch in a color that matched the hat fairly well. Iron on and done! The hat also had a few water stains that came right out with washing, but it had brownish perspiration stains above where the visor was. Those took a little doing.

I washed the cotton very gently by hand with dish liquid, careful not to wrinkle it, as not ironing is one of my hobbies. Then I dabbed at the stains with Spray n Wash with Resolve power, and when that didn't get everything out, I got out my portable Shout Wipes and lightly dabbed the cotton with that for a few minutes. (Just dab. Don't RUB!) You can still vaguely see the perspiration stains now, but you would have to know where to look. To avoid ironing this difficult shape, I put the band back in, blew up a plastic bag like a balloon, stuck it inside the hat, and let the whole thing dry on a hat mold. The next day it looked marvelous.

The graphics are hilarious. At the base of this photo, you can see three turn-of-the-century swells getting held up in the desert by a masked bandit, and the full moon above looking on wide-eyed in consternation. Because I removed most but not all of the visor, I'll wear the hat with the vestigial visor in the back. The hat is elasticized, so cutting the visor away makes no difference in its wearability, only in its chic quotient. (See the Awful Visor, detached, above.)

This lovely little pill box hat with slender leaves decorated with bugle beads and green spangles has yet to make its maiden voyage, but I'm looking forward to the opportunity. Its delicate veil is still intact, rare in vintage hats. Yummy!

Both of these are from previous Stella shows. The shirt is Issey Miyake Fete.

What possessed Hattie Carnegie to put holes (well, not mere holes but figure eights made of braid) into a velour riding hat? When my hair was shorter, I pulled thick strands of hair through the holes so it looked like the hat had gray feathers.

* * * * * * * *

You knew the names of the movies, didn't you? The first is The Wizard of Oz; the second is Ninotchka (with the hat designed by Greta Garbo). We opened with Marlon Brando. Streetcar Named Desire on the left; Guys and Dolls on the right.

Special welcome to our first-time visitors from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and aloha to our first non-continental US visitor. Thanks for joining us!

Closing remarks: typing in the dark Saturday night during Earth Hour. Judy Berkowitz reports that from her aerie she could see that the lights of the Empire State Building were turned off for the event.

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