Friday Treats

Every once in a while, I love to share links to precious finds and sites. Today, I bring you a cheerful little mix of entertainment and gorgeous, vintage fashion.

  1. Bombshells and Babes Vintage is a shop I introduced to you before but can only praise again. If my wallet was well-fed, I’d be the first one to empty those lovely online shelves.
  2. Moxie is another favorite store of mine. The shop is located in DeKalb, Illinois (which tickles me immensely) and is up high on my list of must-go places. You can also find them on Etsy or follow their blog here.
  3. For my fellow music lovers, I have a wonderful country treat most of you may already know, Della Mae. Their music is so beautiful and uplifting, I really hope to get a chance to see/hear the ladies live anytime soon.
  4. And last but definitely not least, I bring you a modern Shirley and Laverne. Created and produced by the two leading ladies (Chloe Taylor and Jennifer Erholm) themselves, The Mop & Lucky Files are taking the internet by storm and get well-deserved laurels and praise for a true web series gem.

Della Street

Everyone who knows me is aware of this: I’m a big fan of Della Street. I have been for many years, ever since I was a kid and watched the Perry Mason TV movies until my grandma introduced me to the original show from the 1950s and 60s. That’s when I liked her even more, for her skills, her style, her elegance. She’s the epitomized girl Friday who was brought to life by Helen Trenholme, Claire Dodd, Genevieve Tobin, June Travis and Ann Dvorak in the 1930s, by Gertrude Warner, Jan Miner and Joan Alexander from the mid 40s to 50s, and ultimately by my favorite, Barbara Hale, in the classic TV show and movies.

Created by Erle Stanley Gardner in 1933, Della Street entered the scene along with her famous boss, attorney-at-law Perry Mason in The Case of the Velvet Claws. Included from the first novel on, Della was a little feistier upon introduction, but every bit as skillful and loyal as in the following eighty-one whodunits. It was made clear from the start that Della had quite an influence on Perry, that their relationship ran a little deeper than that of an employer and his confidential secretary. Always supported by their friend, private eye Paul Drake, their cases took center stage however and the couple never went beyond an ardent kiss. Proposing to her a couple of times, Perry Mason was generally turned down by his irreplaceable office pearl  who understood that he wasn’t the type to settle down, nor was she willing to spend her life without him in a large home as a housewife and mother. So she stuck it out with him through hundreds of cases in the books and movies, on radio and finally on TV.

Always a little altered in the adaptations, Della remained steadfast, pretty and faithful to her boss and got marry to him once in Warner Brother’s very free version of The Case of the Velvet Claws in 1936. In general, Della Street was quite sassy in the Perry Mason films of the 1930s and frequently involved in taking flight from the police on radio a decade later. With television being a more conservative medium in the late 1950s, Barbara Hale did not get to flirt with Raymond Burr’s Perry as much as her predecessors, but thanks to their on screen chemistry and her intuitive acting, the seething romance between Della and Perry continued in the hearts and heads of many Perry Mason fans until a kiss in 1993’s The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host finally confirmed their relationship.

Never described as anything but beautiful in Gardner’s original books, Della Street donned platinum hair and brunette curls, as well as alluring outfits that were appropriate for the office. As the Della Street who’s left a lasting impression on her audience, Barbara Hale wore outfits that were typical of the time between 1957 and 66: figure-hugging, feminine and always covering her knees. Upon the insistence of executive producer Gail Patrick Jackson, Della did not follow every trend when the 60s introduced new hemlines every year and thus stressed the classy elegance Ms. Hale had established for her TV alias. With her limited collection of clothes, Della often changed her outfits by combining her blouse or sweater with another skirt. Her trademark look can be pinned down to waist shirt dresses (including one with her embroidered initials), pencil skirts, cardigans and blouses that embellished her neck with a bow. In the first season, Della was also constantly running around on mules which she later replaced with a classy pair of heels. As an accessory, Della often wore a pearl necklace or a charm bracelet on her left wrist while her little finger frequently showed the presence of a simple ring, matching her boss’ on his own hand. From time to time, Della was also seen wearing a necklace with a pendant showing her initials, long before Carrie Bradshaw made it fashionable for a whole new generation.

In the 1980s, Barbara Hale returned to TV with her longtime screen partner Raymond Burr and continued the tradition of presenting Della as efficient, warmhearted and dressed to the nines. Again, following contemporary but conservative fashion, Della combined over-knee skirts with stylish boots, turtleneck sweaters, blazer jackets and two layers of pearls. Without changing her hair as much as on the original show (while avoiding the beehive), Della Street kept her cropped, practical curls which added credibility to the on-screen depiction of Perry Mason’s tireless associate.

Today, Della’s look can be re-examined on DVD and copied thanks to the many vintage stores and new designs that are inspired by more graceful times. With a circle skirt and scarf, a classy faux vintage suit or classy heels, it’s easy to feel as sophisticated and charming as Della Street. Add a full head of curls, matching intimates and a petticoat to your outfit and you’ll perfect the sentiment. From where I’m standing it is worth the effort, paying tribute to a character many real life secretaries still love to look at for inspiration.

More Dressing in Style

A while ago, I shared my love for vintage fashion on this blog – my favorite designs coming from the 1940s and 50s, with rare exceptions from the 30s, 60s and then the 80s. And since I love to pay tribute to our fashionable (grand)mothers by copying their style, it is time to share my latest findings because no matter how stuffed my closet already is, I still love to shop. Be it circle skirts from the 50s with a matching blouse or sweater and a scarf, collar dresses, cardigans, two-inch heels or fancy flats, pencil skirts, shirt dresses from the 40s or the combination of an over-knee skirt with boots and a turtleneck from the 80s – I’m crazy about them all. And the stores below more than help me fill my hangers and eat away my dough, moolah and smackers.

Etsy is one of those beautiful examples – a portal filled with original pretties from different sellers, including clothing, jewelry and other “usefuls” like aprons, toys or candles. Other stores are PinUp Girl Clothing, Tara Starlet, Queen of Holloway and Lady K Loves. They offer new vintage chic for modern pin-up dames, housewives and working girls. Their designs are mostly inspired by the 1930s through 60s and the patterns and fabrics vary from each shop and collection but always include classics such as polka dots or gingham.

So whatever works for you – if you’re into Rockabilly or just love to look like your favorite golden Hollywood character or star, these stores are a great addition to your shopping list. They offer fashion that goes beyond the renewed Mad Men mania and their hyped 60s nostalgia. They bring the fun back into dressing up, depending on your preference, making you feel classy, feminine or perky. Most stores also offer stockings, intimates, coats and shoes to complete the feeling of traveling back in time a little. With the right purse and luggage, who knows, you may even wish to never return to our day and age again.