Sometimes I really wonder about myself….here I am up to ears in old clothes, beautiful older clothes and I can’t just take a picture and slap them up on the internet with a guess as to their provenance.
No. I am compelled to be a clothes cop, a dealer detective, an artful anthropologist, and find out exactly what I have in my hands. This is not new behavior. My need to know is one reason I have a heavy duty line of cultural anthropology and ethnography running through my art background. I have a pressing need to know WHY.
It is definitely down the rabbit hole and beyond fascinating to me. I hope the people who acquire these pieces of history appreciate knowing what they are buying. A sale is two fold for me: the joy of sending something beautiful and well made back into the world for another round AND knowing where it came from. Of course, the research is devouring my studio time.
I have a round rack of clothes in my bedroom that I have to crawl around to get to the computer and the rest of the room. I have a feeling this is not changing anytime soon. Who knew how much fun the treasure hunt for labels and eras could be?
Most of the stuff I am finding and choosing is so beautifully cut and well made it just shames the clothes we buy now. The fabrics are better, the construction is to die for and the designs are as current now as they were then. Planned obsolescence eat your heart out.
Take for instance this nifty little Loubella Extendables shirt whose photos accompany thisentry. In the 60s we called these little ribbed beauties poor boys and wore them with hip hugging wide wale bell-bottomed corduroy pants or blue jeans, also bell bottomed. In the late 60s and early 70’s lurex and metallic fabrics came along and we all jumped on them. For a big party in San Francisco in 1969 I wore a silver lurex mini dress, silver pantihose and silver sling backed shoes. All in a size 3. Ah memories…. but I digress.
When this stretchy shiny stuff came along we wore it with a vengeance. When I saw this shirt I grabbed it. I got it home and started doing research on it. I found a few other pieces in different Etsy shops but no history of Loubella.
I kept digging in search engines, and Eureka! after holding my mouth just right and putting in the right combination of words I found a clue. Trade Markia showed the Loubella name being used until 1997, when it expired. I also found the name of the principal in the company. Hiram Jebb Levy.
I remember seeing some of the pieces had a “Loubella Extendables by Jebb” tag in them. More hunting turned up pay dirt and even a photograph. There was a piece written about Jebb Levy in a temple newsletter honoring him and his wife for their activity with the temple.
The rabbi even included a biographical sketch. It turns out the Levy family came from Macedonia to Rochester, New York. Dad was Lou and mom was Bella. They were Sephardic jews who spoke the archaic language Ladino at home. How cool is that? Hiram got tagged with the nickname “Jebb” in his childhood and it stuck.
He and his brother moved from Rochester, New York to Southern California and founded LouBella Extendables right after World War II, named to honor mom and dad. The article said they were in business for 45 years.
So…I know the trademark expired in 1997. I know they went into business right after the war and the trademark was first used in commerce in 1950. I also did some digging and found the Extendables part was registered in 1977.
I also found the name was sold and the company reopened in 2002 in Van Nuys, Ca with another Levy. They apparently do manufacturing rather than running their own line these days. This means I can date my cute little shirt to the late 70s with some accuracy. It doesn’t add to what I can sell it for, but it does make me happy to know that it really is vintage.
I have learned soooo much already. When zippers came along, when they migrated from the side to the back. Fabrics, clothes cuts that identify eras. I love it. I am a fashion archaeologist and everything on my Etsy site has been hunted down before it goes back into the world. I fell by accident into this particular rabbit hole, but I like it here and I don’t plan on leaving it anytime soon.
The best part of all this is that there are so many women out there who love this stuff as much as I do. I just sent two jackets to Toronto, Canada and tomorrow a Lilli Ann suit and jacket leave for Australia. Two purses are headed for a new home in New Jersey. The power of the internet has been demonstrated to yours truly, big time.
Okay, now to go research that plaid Armani jacket from Italy, or maybe that adorable hot pink Mister Sig Original, or that sexy Vanity Fair nightgown. There is Vintage fun to be had and I’m having it!