Cavalli’s Charm

cavalli buttons

Gracing an iconic early 1970s jacket I found the most unique detail I have ever seen on a vintage Roberto Cavalli creation.
In case you didn’t know, the great Cavalli rose to fame in the late 1960s through his innovation in textile printing.  I read once that after art school where he developed his techniques he actually sat on the streets of Paris with a sewing machine patchworking his printed  leathers to denim, creating art as well as a sensation that quickly spread all over the world.
I have had the pleasure of knowing several early Cavalli works, and each had its own unique wonderfulness.  This one that I recently acquired is unique in its exquisite patchwork pattern and printed leathers and textiles… but those handmade enamel snap covers (buttons) just really sent me to the moon! Nowadays I expect jewelry on modern Cavalli creations, but on a vintage piece, I have never seen such elaborate finishings.


Sant Angelo’s finishing touches

Folkloric woven trims, though very beautiful and expressive, are rarely seen in high fashion. You will see them in German dirndls, or home made hippie dresses, but even at the height of the rich hippie era, the use of this type of adornment was not often used. The brilliant Giorgio Sant Angleo is the only designer I can think of that successfully integrated this type of trim into a wearable, fashionable garment. In fact, its the trim that makes this skirt so very special. Sant Angelo was all about freedom, and this skirt that mixes panels of bright patterned fabrics, with bright patterned trims is as free as you can get.

Chanel’s sliver lining

chanel couture label

So much has been written and said about Gabrielle Chanel. We know her life and loves, her hard times and joys. She is a cornerstone in fashion culture, and an inspiration to working class girls who have talent, and an unfaltering will to succeed. Chanel’s story is impressive, but she became a legend not because she was pretty, charming or smart, but because of her uncompromising quality in design and construction. Her early works are incredible to behold. Under her scrutiny, skilled hands worked hours upon hours to make each piece created for Chanel the picture of perfection. After the war, her styles changed, but the attention to every detail remained apparent on each dress, suit and gown. This suit from the 1960s is a prime example of what I am speaking of. Of course, the choice of fabric and the overall design is incredible, but the jewel tone lame’ chosen for the lining sets it miles above any suit I have ever seen.

Vintage Valentino Has Never Been Hotter

This week, our beloved Valentino is ending his 45 year career as a leading name in fashion with a final runway show at the Rodin museum in Paris. I am eagerly waiting to see what he has chosen to be the last pieces he gives to the world with the label that holds his name.vintage valentino mod dress the label that holds his name. I imagine there will be a bit of his trademark red, and hopefully a few fabulous goddess gowns. I also speculate that when this last collection hits the stores, they will be gone in a jiffy.

Since the big Valentino 45th anniversary party last spring, vintage Valentino pieces have been in very high demand. Not that they were ever really ignored, as his style is always pertinent and desirable.. but since the party young collectors have been clamoring to own a piece of his history. Now that he is stepping down, I am anticipating even more interest.

I am fortunate to have two spectacular vintage Valentino pieces on right now. The black goddess is a stunning item… but the mod cashmere from the 1960s is a real treasure,worthy of the upcoming museum retrospective that will open this spring in Paris.

vintage Valentino goddess gown on SwankVintage.comThe Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera quoted Valentino last week as saying “My biggest regret? Not having the time, or perhaps the desire, to shape a young person ready to inherit my place. And if I didn’t do that, it’s because I’m too focused — the idea of passing on the baton never really appealed to me”. Alessandra Facchinetti, formerly a designer at Gucci, will take over design duties at the label.

Valentino will be keeping busy with the screening of a feature length film called The Last Emperor, a documentary of Valentino and the last 2 years as a designer. The film will be followed by the aforementioned fashion retrospective in June at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. Valentino will also be made an honorary citizen of Paris in a ceremony this Thursday.


Had I not known I was at a Tori Amos concert, I would have not recognized the bleach blond vixen who took the stage at the Paramount in Oakland last Friday night. This tour is in support of her very swank album American Doll Posse. The cover shows Tori in various wigs and outfits. As you experience the album, you discover that each character is a different aspect of Tori’s personality, each sings a few songs, sometimes one will do backup vocals for another.

tori amos santa oaklandTori took the stage, as “Santa Bösendorfer“. She is the Aphrodite of the posse, beautiful, graceful, and at times, a little racy with lots of self fondling and a few wild gyrations that brought peals of cheers from the crowd. She looked utterly fabulous in a strapless black baby doll and blood red stilettos. At one point Santa produced a jug of red liquid, poured a glass for the boys in the band, then proceeded to dab it on her chest and arms. A baptism of sorts I thought. Santa has her own Myspace page. Her motto is “Beauty. What is that to you?”. According to that page she is female, 88 years old, from Venus, Texas. Born in Valley of the Queens and she is a Gemini. Tori explained the persona, “Because the Aphrodite archetype has turned into madness and perversion, and Santa is trying to work through this by having love for the female body and self-respect”. Santa played and performed her songs from the album for the first half of the evening. In my opinion, the best song on the set (and of the album) was a haunting little ditty called Body and Soul
“In my temple boy be warned
Violence doesn’t have a home now but ecstasy
that’s as pure as a woman’s gold”

tori amosSanta left the stage while the band played on, then returned as Tori. This Tori was not our sweet ripple haired songstress, but that night she was a Tori archetype. She switched out the blond bob for a carrot orange mane, and a orange sequin one armed jumpsuit, that brought to mind Cher circa 1979. Her movements were now more subtle, with occasional head flips to emphasize her lyrics. As Tori, she played her classics, very heartfelt and quite wonderfully. At one point she introduced her hair and makeup guy who came out to brush out her glorious wig. She began to banter about how she can never do her own make up, so when she is not on tour people approach her saying “you look like that singer…. but of course, she is much younger”. She also told us how her daughter prefers it when she straightens her hair so she doesn’t look like a poodle. These self deprecating remarks were a sharp contrast to the vampy Santa’s self loving attitude. I think she gave that speech to let us know that even our heroes and idols have issues with our selves.

I must say, at $55 for an orchestra seat, this was the best concert bargain of the year. Tori fans are really beautiful. Not overdone, but just done enough. I think I saw only a few t-shirt and jeans combos. The tour swag was smart and fun. I’m still lamenting I didn’t invest in a baseball ringer-t that read “I’m for peace bitch!”.

Full Moon

The moon tonight is full and spectacular. I am fortunate to have a view of the San Francisco Bay out my kitchen window. I was gazing out with a cup of rose petal tea, watching the moon reflect on the rippling water, I noticed my neighbor walking to her car in a mini skirt and high boots. Just as she reached car, she tripped, and threw out her hand to the car for support. For some reason, I thought of Sarah Moon.
Sarah Moon, born Marielle Hadengue in London around 1940 is world famous from her work for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. I imagine she chose Sarah, the biblical matriarch, wife of Abraham, mother of Isaac, and Moon for the lunar qualities that she soon began to reflect in her photography.

She started as a fashion model, but her passion was always behind the camera. She prefers to work in black and white, and sepia but often shoots in color film for commercial assignments. Her photos capture moments of intense emotion. Not unlike the one I had just witnessed, but was not equipped to capture.

Hello Swankies!

Welcome to SwankVintage’s blog.

It always amazes me how many people are interested in my business. If you don’t know, I am a purveyor of fine vintage clothing. It always seems when I am at a party or in a large group of people, I tend to gather a crowd with my thoughts and stories about vintage couture. These conversations generally end up with someone saying “you really should have a blog.”

I always thought about blogging, but I resisted. Then I found this advertisement, and bing! I was inspired.


It was in a magazine from 1956. ” A superb creation for salads in the continental style”. Somehow, I can’t see Madam Schiaparelli getting that excited about Kraft Italian, but really, it makes total sense. A couturier who dressed the best “admiring” a bottle of salad dressing is absurd, but a smart business woman taking advantage of a chance to promote her fashions, and herself is quite understandable. I see this less as her way of saying, I like pre-made food, and more that she was showing the world she was into innovation and modern living. Would Elsa have blogged? I think she would have, so I figure, why not. It could be fun for me, and perhaps entertaining for some readers out there too.