Orange Empire Railway Museum

Recently Patrick and I went to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris (about an hour and a half east of Los Angeles) with a couple of friends for a day filled with not just train history, but a glimpse into the history of Los Angeles transit, as well as added bits of Disney history!

Now before I show all of the interesting things the Orange Empire Railway Museum had to offer, I’ll share with you what I wore.

At first glance, it may appear that I am just wearing another western inspired outfit with turquoise jewelry, but I specifically chose to wear turquoise to pay homage to Fred Harvey, a man closely tied with the restaurant industry, railways, and turquoise jewelry.

Fred Harvey was a restaurateur who transitioned into the railroad business. He became fascinated with the southwest and built trading posts at rail stops, filling them with Native American goods, such as blankets, baskets, and jewelry. Harvey went so far as a to make pre-cut (and hallmarked) pieces of jewelry, to then be embellished (traditionally by stamping, like my bracelet) by Native Americans and then sold at his trading posts. The Orange Empire Railway Museum even has a building dedicated to Harvey and his influence on train travel.

Now keep reading to find out all the neat stuff the museum had to offer!

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A Return to the Autry

A few years ago during a visit to California we took time to visit the Autry Museum of the American West. I was slightly crushed over the fact I didn’t blog about it, which was for a combination of reasons. First, it was very overwhelming! There is so much stuff at the Autry, and my eyes couldn’t stop darting around at all of the wonderful stuff there was to see! Additionally, museums are notoriously difficult to photograph. And the few photos I did take in the first room turned out so horrible I didn’t bother to continue. But we returned recently and I took loads of photos! Some are still not as great as I would like them to be, but I still want to share some of the Autry’s treasures with you! But before we get to that, let’s take a peek at what I wore, because it was pretty darn awesome.

This suit is one of the most prized pieces in my western wear collection, and one I didn’t even find. In fact my dad found it at the Portland Antique Expo, and sent an image of it to me and only eyeballed the measurements, and when it arrived I was overjoyed that it fit perfectly! It’s by Rodeo Ben, who is one of the pioneers in western wear in the 20th century, along side Nathan Turk and Nudie Cohn. Many credit Rodeo Ben with developing the snap closures, and photographs show his work using snaps as early as 1933. It should be noted however that Rockmount was the first manufacturer to use snaps, beginning 1946. Like Turk and Nudie, Rodeo Ben did work for the likes of such western legends as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. And the Autry even has pieces by Rodeo Ben in its collection.

I paired my suit with another prized piece, a vintage sterling silver and 14 karat gold ranger belt made by Edward Bohlin. Bohlin is hailed as a true artist with it comes to cowboy belt buckles and saddles. His gorgeous “Big Saddle” (there is an image of it after the cut) is on display at the Autry, with a plaque reading it “reportedly took fourteen years to complete and weighs approximately seventy pounds.” The belt is not just an amazing artifact by a well-known maker, but it means a lot personally. It originally belonged to my grandfather, my dad’s dad, who was a bit of a cowboy himself. While born in Oklahoma, he grew up on a ranch in Texas. And in the photos I’ve found while working on our family’s genealogy I’ve uncovered more than one image of the man riding, along with images of my grandmother and dad riding as well. I even found some of him with a lariat.

For those interested in what The Autry has to offer, keep reading!

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Birthday at Farrell’s

I told you to look out for another Gibson Girl inspired look soon! Because we went to Farrell’s with some friends to celebrate my birthday Thursday evening.

Farrell’s even offers an ice cream dish called the Gibson Girl which I got as my birthday treat. I honestly believe that no matter how old you get you’re never too old to celebrate with friends. I find that while gifts are dandy, nothing can replace amazing friends, and I feel extremely luck to have found an outstanding group here in southern California. But speaking of gifts I got several gift certificates to my favorite shoe shop! Re-Mix!!! So I’ll be sporting some new kicks in the near future! I’ve been eyeing the Stella since its release and want them in both blue and pink, as my shoe closet is lacking in both of those colors!

Outfit
Hat: Farrell’s
Blouse: Buffalo Exchange
Skirt: Thrifted
Shoes: Re-Mix
Cameo Earrings: Belonged to my grandmother
Cameo: Gift from my mother
Opal Ring: Family heirloom bestowed upon me by my mother’s cousin
Purse: Found by my dad!

Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour

When I was a kid there was this wonderful, magical place that I would sometimes get to go to. No, for once I’m not talking about Disneyland. I’m talking about Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour. Founded by Bob Farrell and Ken McCarthy in 1963 in Portland, Farrell’s quickly became the go-to place for birthdays and other celebrations for many. Farrell’s was themed to the 1890s, with employees dressed up, often with a signature boater, and the Gibson Girl was their icon. There was a location in Eugene, which is the one I visited most often, and the restaurant was plastered with images featuring Charles Dana Gibson’s work. But as is the tale with many small businesses and local chains, they were bought, many locations closing in the 90s, while a few held out, becoming independent versions. The one in Eugene operated as the Pearl Street Ice Cream Parlour, and kept up with the Gibson Girl theme and maintained the candy shop in the front. I was lucky enough to visit it one more time while attending college, before it closed in 2006, the location is now La Perla Pizzaria.

But after a long legal battle Farrell’s reemerged from the ashes with multiple locations in California and I was overjoyed when I found this out shortly after moving. We visited the one in Brea, but arrived after dark, and I wasn’t able to take any shots of my Gibson Girl inspired outfit, so today I recreated that same outfit for a visit to the one in Buena Park, located just across the street from Knott’s Berry Farm.

Today Farrell’s is just as charming, and still serves up great food and phenomenal ice cream. I highly recommend a visit if you find yourself near one of their locations!

This early exposure to the Gibson Girl, and my parents’ interest in the Victorian era I think instilled a fascination with Gibson and his work, and I spent many hours pouring over original books featuring his illustrations and copying them. And in reality, the Gibson Girl was the first ever pin-up, and was the first centerfold, when Collier’s featured a two page spread in the center, where the staples were, for easy removal, in 1903. So, yep, we basically have Gibson to thank for pin-up girls.

Outfit
Blouse: Antique Alley…I think…Portland, Or.
Skirt: Pin-Up Girl Clothing, but purchased at Simply Vintage, Portland, Or.
Nude Fishnets: Nordstorm
Shoes: Miss L Fire
Purse: Thrifted
Cameo: Shoot, if I remember…I’ve had it for like ten years.

Victorian Secrets

A few weeks ago an article had been floating about the interwebs.  It was an article about a woman who wears Victorian garb as many of us vintage gals rock the 40s and 50s.  I was so intrigued, having an interest in the Victorian era in addition to the mid-20th century.  The woman, Sarah Chrisman, mentioned how wearing her corset every day for a year reduced her by waist ten inches, improved her posture and reduced her migraines.  As a migraine suffer myself I was enthralled by the notion of a corset curing migraines, yes, more so than the trimming of the waist! I was even more excited when I read that she had recently written a book about her transformation as a daily corset wearer, and promptly purchased it!

Chrisman’s book, Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself, is an insightful look into how today’s society looks upon the corset, and those who dress differently.  Always interested in the Victorian era, Chrisman had collected clothing of the period, and when her 29th birthday arrived, her husband, Gabriel, gave her a corset.  Initially she wasn’t happy with the gift, but as she looked at her corseted figure in the mirror, she was enthralled, quickly wanting to wear her corset as much as possible.  Wearing the garment lead Chrisman to do research about corsets, and quickly learned that much of what she had heard about the corset were pure myth, and as she began to get a smaller waist, her wardrobe slowly transformed to become more in line with what women of the Victorian era wore.

As Chrisman’s waist shrank, she began to receive a wide range of comments, from gushingly positive to horrifically negative and some that she just didn’t know how to take! Many people were intrigued by her deep interest in the period that would take her to the lengths to wearing a corset 24/7, but others, mostly women she noted, were appalled, calling the corset a symbol of oppression.  As Chrisman and her husband got deeper into their manner of dress, they began to be invited to events as participants, and were then able to educate, and dispel stereotypes of the Victorian era as depicted in films and crush flat out lies, such as broken bones (which refer not to human bones, but the bones of a corset, originally referring to the fact that the stays were originally made of whale bone).

I enjoyed Chrisman’s comparison of dressing in period clothing to that of being from a different country. She quotes a book which states that “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” How true that is! But unlike foreign countries, which have ambassadors and such, Chrisman notes that “[h]istory has no emissaries.” And I would like to think that historians, and those who choose to dress in a manner from the past can be those emissaries, to become a “[h]istorial ambassador”, and Chrisman and her husband do just that.

Dressing out the norm on a regular basis has its own daily struggles, but sometimes there are special circumstances that can make it even more difficult, and in that case some, like myself, make concessions.  One example is air travel (for more on traveling for the vintage loving gal, read this post).  When the holidays approached, Chrisman had been corseting herself every day since her birthday, and had altered her clothing so much that there were “few clothes left that would fit me without my corset”, and chose to go through with their holiday flights to the east coast in her corset.  The flight to the east coast was met without too much issue, and the TSA apologized for the inconvenience, but between their arrival and their departure, Newark, the same airport they were to fly out of, had a bomb scare (Chrisman’s book, while contemporary, much, including this visit takes place in 2009, post-9/11, but pre-common use of body scanners).  When flying back to their home state of Washington, Chrisman’s corset set off the metal detector and was subjected to a strip search, and feared a body cavity search, but was spared that.  After this case, Chrisman makes no mention of deciding upon different arrangements for future travel, or to select a specific travel wardrobe that does not require her corset.

While Chrisman enjoys the Victorian era, and I myself the mid-20th century, I still found her book extremely easy to relate to.  Dressing out of the past’s closet, regardless of era, is often met with odd comments, many of which I face on a daily basis.  People wonder what you’re doing “all dressed up” or if you’re “in a play”.  Chrisman’s corset and the comments surrounding it were similar to how some react when the topic of girdles is brought up.  Some are quick to bad mouth them while I stand there in one! Then those who lived through the days of seamed stockings inquire why on earth I wear them.  Tired of checking for straight seems, and attaching the garters, they rejoiced when seamless stockings, followed by pantyhose became the norm.  Chrisman also recounts moments of “a special kind of self-torture” when looking at garments on-line that are out of budget, something I’m certainly guilty of!

Victorian Secrets isn’t without issues though.  Chrisman isn’t afraid to describe people physically that she comes in contact with in an negative light, describing a man with “triple chins”, a woman as “dumpy” and as a “crone”.  She also assumes someone’s education based upon their manner of speech, and declared that the person should be “weeded from the gene pool”.  There were other moments I had issue with as well, such as a moment when a hostess’ hair whips through a cake’s frosting, and instead of informing her hostess of the issue, Chrisman instead makes a “mental note” not to eat any of that cake.  While such descriptions of people may add to a fictional story, it comes across as unnecessary and cruel in a memoir which is to focus upon wearing a corset on a daily basis.

Overall, I found Victorian Secrets book a very quick and easy ready, finishing it in just five days (possibly a new record for me!), and could be easily completed in one sitting.  Her style of writing is similar to that of a blog in many respects, but I will admit I did bump into two words I was utterly unfamiliar with and had to look up!  The book is accompanied with images from various catalogs of the turn-of-the-century, Gibson drawings, and photographs of the author herself.  Ultimately I found Chrisman’s mini-memoir to be inspiring, and encouraging.  She has armed herself with numerous sources as she steps outside her front door to quickly thwart those who know only the stereotypes of the period, and has become a Historical Ambassador! I find myself now more eager to speak up for myself when one talks about the annoyances of girdles and/or stockings and other matters of “oppression” with regards to dress.

You can purchase Victorian Secrets on Amazon.

Speaking of corsets and girdles, now is a good time to mention tomorrow is the last day to enter the What Katie Did book giveaway if you haven’t already! It closes tomorrow night and the winner will be announced on Thursday!