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May 12, 2022

by Rachel Elspeth Gross , Director of Fashion History

Arbiters of Style: Sportswear, Part One


 Advertisement for Redfern's newest collection, from the New York Tribune, circa 1885.Before John Redfern began offering tailored women’s clothing, the concept was inert- the idea of tailoring was based on utility and not considered to be decorative or high-end.At the turn of the 20th century, women’s lives were changing, and this style of dress would become a staple for the middle class American woman.

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April 25, 2022

By Rachel Elspeth Gross, Director of Fashion History

Rita de Acosta Lydig; "as Fantastic as any Character in Romantic Literature. "


Portrait of Rita de Acosta Lydig by Giovanni Boldini, 1911 (full image next to sources) After her abrupt death in 1929, Rita’s sister, Mercedes, arranged for her wardrobe, much of it anyway, to be donated to the Brooklyn Museum, where it would eventually become what we think of today as the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute.

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April 20, 2022

By Rachel Elspeth Gross, Director of Fashion History

The Tragic Life (and INCREDIBLE wardrobe) of Heather Firbank


Heather Firbank at 20, photo by Lallie Charles, circa 1908, London. “In the event of my death, I request that these envelopes (4) containing letters may be unopened and burnt by my Brother, Arthur Ronald Firbank.” – Heather FirbankThe letters survived, in all their “their blushingly private contents,” and became part of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London’s costume collection, “forming the nucleus of the museum’s world-renowned collection of 20th-century dress.” Photo of Heathe

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March 31, 2022

by Rachel Elspeth Gross, Director of Fashion History

William Dorsey Swann: America's First Drag Queen


A late 19th Century photograph of a 'Drag' with the Caption: CAKE WALK. There are no known photographs of William Dorsey Swann. But these images need to be seen.William Dorsey Swann was arrested in Washington, DC in September of 1882, charged with petty larceny for stealing “party necessities like plates and silverware.” He had been hosting parties, dances, secret events mostly.

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March 29, 2022

by Rachel Elspeth Gross, Director of Fashion History

No, You're Not Crazy; Apparel Sizing Makes Zero Sense


From a sized piece of clothing, measurements can be extrapolated, but, unfortunately, the numbers used in women’s apparel today are not actually measurements, even when they sound as though they might be. If you measured the waistband or hips of a pair of size 27 jeans, there is almost a zero percent chance that the measurement is related, in any way, to the size. Surely, you might think, it would be more cost effective, never mind more logical, for standards to exist in sizing, based on measurements that any brand could easily follow.

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March 12, 2022

by Patricia Browning , Fashion Constellate Archivist

Insider Tips: The Correct Way to Write an Era


If you write about vintage fashion in any capacity - be it blogger, hobbyist, historian or seller - you should want to use every weapon in your arsenal to make your content (what you’re writing or selling) accessible. This means being searchable in the ol’ Google or on that vintage fashion marketplace. It means writing your blogs, or creating descriptions of the clothes you sell, as accurately as possible. You have to keep in mind that while you might know what you’re talking about or trying to sell, the people you want to reach don’t.

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March 11, 2022

by Rachel Elspeth Gross, Director of Fashion History

Our Team: Rachel Elspeth Gross, Director of Fashion History


We are excited to announce that Rachel Elspeth Gross has accepted the position of Director of Fashion History. A formally trained apparel designer and fashion historian, Rachel will be leading the charge as we expand our education and learning tools. Please join us in welcoming Rachel to the team!

Photos of the Countess Castiglione by Pierre-Louis Pierson. Photos of me by Mika Fowler. All of my apparel/support garments, and most of my accessories were made by me. (2019)Hello Everyone, I wanted to introduce myself. My name is Rachel Elspeth Gross, I’m really happy to share that I’ve accepted the position of Director of Fashion Constellate’s Fashion History Department.

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February 09, 2022

by Patricia Browning, FC Archivist

The Magic Land of Ubilam: An Interview with Robin Brazy


Malibu, California postcard, 1970sHere at Fashion Constellate, we can’t resist it when fashion and music collide. So, when we got the chance to have a chat with the amazing creator and designer of the original Rock & Roll Concert Tour Jackets from back in the 1970s, we couldn’t pass it up!  But before we get into it, a little background...In the mid-1970s, Robin Brazy (aka Robin Voigt/Robin B. Caldwell) was a single mom with a background in fashion design living along the beach in Malibu, California.

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November 10, 2021

by Patricia Browning, Fashion Constellate Archivist

The Dressmaker Chase: Bertha Lucas


Euclid Avenue c.1890, looking toward Public Square. Image courtesy of Western Reserve Historical Society.One of the best things about researching vintage fashion is that every once in a while, when a label or designer is shrouded in mystery, it gives me a chance to slip on my gumshoes and follow some clues. The fashion world is full of stories - large and small - but there’s nothing quite like digging a little deeper into the story of a dressmaker that didn’t really make a big splash in the fashion pond.

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August 31, 2021

by Patricia Browning , Fashion Constellate Archivist

Party-Plan Fashion


Harford Frocks AdvertisementIn the world of fashion, good ideas travel fast, and when ready-to-wear fashion and bored housewives combined with businesses willing to adapt their selling styles, it became a recipe for success. Fashion Frocks (and its division Harford Frocks) was one of the companies in the early decades of the twentieth century who springboarded off the idea of using women who buy a product to sell the same product to other women of their acquaintance.

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