My Love of Mexican Handcrafted Textiles

Ever since the 1970s – where the boho peasant look reigned supreme – I’ve been in love with Mexican embroidery and textiles. On trips to Mexico, I stocked up on colorful hand-embroidered dresses that were sold by vendors everywhere. Even on the beach! I’ve found a lot of vintage pieces in thrift stores over the years too. There is just something so positive about these garments, and I always feel happy wearing them. The hippie in me will never die!

Last month, I became aware of a group called La Blouse Roumaine. This movement grew organically around the image and meaning of the hand-embroidered Romanian blouse. The blouse is a symbol that communicates the identity of its wearer, both as an individual and as a member of a tribe. It also represents a global tribe, seeking the essential through art and beauty.

La Blouse Roumaine joined forces with Viernes Tradicional, a community that promotes Mexican textile heritage by using and sharing photos of garments made by artisans. Since I happen to hoard, er, have some beautiful Mexican pieces, I submitted this photo of me in one of my favorites. It is a vintage 1970s piece in white cotton gauze that is lavishly hand-embroidered both front and back. It’s rather voluminous, but it is exquisite.

I really love that there are communities that are promoting their artistic heritage. There is blatant stealing of these designs in the fashion world, ranging from haute couture to cheap Chinese knockoffs. It’s a beautiful thing when authentic cultural fashions can be appreciated and preserved.



1972 Betsy Johnson of Alley Cat Wool Fashions

I love this American Wool Council/Alley Cat ad from the August 1972 issue of Seventeen magazine. Betsey Johnson teamed up with the Wool people, as she had done with the Cotton people previously. I like the fact that she placed such great emphasis on American textiles and manufacturing. These were quality fashions, meant to last.

The models (“Martha and her twin sister”) are wearing fashions made from 100% pure wool. On the left is a pretty Fair Isle cardigan with matching flared leg pants in purple, mauve and pink. On the right is a jacket and skirt suit set in blue.

There are quirky drawings by Betsey herself, with cute captions. And of course, sheep!


1973 Betsey Johnson Alley Cat Happy Go-Lucky Separates

This super fab Alley Cat by Betsey Johnson ad from the August 1973 issue of Seventeen magazine epitomizes early ’70s fashions for me! This is a look I adored, with all its crazy prints and bright colors. Betsey’s fashions were so fun, kicky, and a bit quirky – I loved wearing them!

This ad features ‘happy go-lucky’ cotton separates. The model on the left (redheaded Sunny Redmond) is wearing a quilted teapot print jacket and circle skirt.  Love her striped tights and golden platform shoes. The model on the right is wearing a cotton corduroy checkerboard jacket, matching cut-off pants, and corduroy sailor hat. She is also wearing what looks to be the iconic Famolare red wooden clogs, which were awesome.

Thankful that I had Betsey’s designs to wear in the 1970s!

Marilyn 😀


Laura Ashley Vintage 1984 Spring Dress Collection

Fashion in the 1980s was not only the New Wave, neon-colored, spandexed, Flashdance attire that we always think defines the style of that decade. There was definitely a more classic side, with the Sloane Ranger (Princess Diana) and Preppy look. There was also a more romantic, traditional look in dresses, with the popularity of Laura Ashley and Gunne Sax styles.

I ran across this Laura Ashley Spring/Summer 1984 catalog that I had saved. I was struck by the fresh and pretty fashions that were probably at the apex of Laura Ashley fashions in the 1980s. I really love the sailor middy dress, and the white wedding gown – so classic! When I was shopping for my wedding dress in 1983, I remember going to the Laura Ashley store in downtown Seattle. I absolutely loved her wedding dresses, but they were way beyond my price range. I drooled nonetheless. I ended up getting a knockoff of a Gunne Sax dress that was on sale. It was lovely, but it was no Laura Ashley!

Laura Ashley Scarlet and Navy stripe print dress. Spring 1984

Laura Ashley white cotton waisted dresses. Spring 1984

Laura Ashley floral print and summer dresses. Spring 1984

Laura Ashley full gathered dress and loose-waisted sundress. Spring 1984

Laura Ashley cotton jumper and classic skirt, jacket and blouse. Spring 1984

Laura Ashley floral print dress and Peter Pan collar blouse with matching tiered skirt. Spring 1984

Laura Ashley button-front dress and plain and striped T-Shirts. Spring 1984

Laura Ashley drop-waisted striped sundress and high-gathered waist print midi dress. Spring 1984

Laura Ashley sweater, skirt and blouse and white cotton sailor-style dress. Spring 1984

Laura Ashley full-length dress in pure Cotton Lawn, just right for bridesmaids or for that very special occasion. Spring 1984

Laura Ashley Wedding Dress. A bridal gown of uncommon beauty, of purest White cotton lawn, generously trimmed with frills and bows. The flattering neckline is gently elasticized for a perfect fit and the bodice is boned front and back to ensure a smooth and graceful line from bust to hips. The dress has a hooped petticoat which adds dramatic fullness to the skirt. Spring 1984.

Laura Ashley nightgown. The ideal cotton summer nightdress tucked and edged in lace. Spring 1984.


The BIBA Look Arrives In America 1971

BIBA fashions, designed by Barbara Hulanicki, were all the rage in London in the ’60s and ’70s. The “Biba Look” or “Dudu Look” was described by Hulanicki as “fresh little foals with long legs, bright faces, and round dolly eyes.” Biba started out as mail-order clothing company, then on to stores, and ultimately to the Big Biba department store.

However, Biba remained firmly ensconced across the pond in England. That is until McCall’s sewing patterns offered Hulanicki a licensing deal in 1971, to bring Biba designs stateside. Hulanicki designed four exclusive McCall’s patterns for Seventeen Magazine to celebrate her American debut. She also designed soft fabrics (Tootal for Biba) to go along with the patterns, that were sold at specialized sewing boutiques.

This is the Biba Boutique fashion editorial that featured McCall’s Biba patterns in the January 1971 issue of Seventeen magazine. The beautiful photography is by Sarah Moon. It is from my personal magazine collection that I had stored away and had to dig to find! I’m glad I saved this issue as I never saw Biba mentioned again in any of my Seventeen magazines. I would love to find any of the patterns listed, as well as the 1971 McCall’s in-store pattern catalog that featured the Biba designs. I’ll keep looking!

Biba design McCall’s patterns 2725 and 2728

Biba – McCall’s pattern 2728 Fabrics by Tootal for Biba

Biba – McCall’s pattern 2728

Biba – McCall’s pattern 2746

Biba – McCall’s pattern 2747

Biba – McCall’s patterns 2747 and 2725


Betsey Johnson of Alley Cat Butterick Patterns 1972

Betsey Johnson of Alley Cat designs were hot, hot, HOT in the early 1970s. The problem, for most of us teenage girls, was that her fashions were on the expensive side. Oh, how I drooled over her fab wool print sweater dresses. Since most of us sewed (Home Economics classes were mandatory), we all cheered when Betsey made her designs available exclusively as Butterick patterns. I was a horrible seamstress, but I got my mom to sew me quite a few of the Alley Cat designs in my high school years. I loved them so much!

This four-page ad was in the January 1972 issue of Seventeen magazine. It featured Betsey in all her braided Boho glory, along with her darling fashions that you could now sew. The patterns designs were 100% pure Betsey, and the fabric choice was too. She chose the colors. And she liked them all in the fresh, washable, down-home goodness of cotton.

Butterick Patterns 6530, 6536, 6532, 6529

Butterick Patterns 6534, 6535

Butterick Patterns 6531, 6533

Betsey sure made fashion fun in 1972. She made us look super cute too. Thank you Betsey! 🙂