Why I fell in love with sequins!
Some people need sequins, others don’t.
Edith Head, one of my favourite Hollywood costumiers, once famously said, “Some people need sequins, others don’t.”
She made that comment to the press in reference to a dress she designed for Grace Kelly to wear at the 27th Academy Awards in 1955. The dress in ice-blue duchess satin was very simple, lacking any adornments and yet, it made Grace Kelly stand out from the crowds, Hollywood A-lister crowds that is. Kelly won the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in “The Country Girl” that night. Edith Head was the winner for her Costume Design (Black and White) for “Sabrina”.
Definition of Sequin from THE DICTIONARY OF FASHION HISTORY Valerie Cumming, C. W. Cunnington and P. E. Cunnington
Period: 1880s onwards.
From the Italian term zecchino meaning a gold coin, the
sequin was similar to the pierced metal spangles of an
an earlier period which were sewn to clothing and accessories.
From the 20th century, they were usually made of
light composition, often plastic, and produced in many
colours and several sizes and shapes.
I never thought I would admit it but, I’m definitely a girl who needs sequins in her wardrobe. This might come as a great surprise to those who know me well and even myself, as there was a time in my life when I would frown upon (to say the least!) at anything that sparkles or is of a colour different to black.
I’ve been wearing clothes, exclusively in black, for centuries and It’s only been the last few years since I opened up to the idea of adding some colour and pattern to my vintage wardrobe. It’s been a very gradual transition, that started with me pairing a green belt with a black dress and then replacing missing black buttons with green ones. Now you will see me in a lot of red, purple and even pink! Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you and you are reading it correctly. What can I say except, that it’s beyond my control! 🙂
Once I felt comfortable enough to wear something other than black, I started experimenting with accessories such as shoes and bags in leopard print and guess what, I loved it!
And then came the sequins. First, it was a black cardigan embellished with a snake made of gold sequins from Wheels and Dollbaby.
Then came the Holy Grail of vintage fashion.
In case you didn’t know, It’s basically a sought-after vintage piece of garment. If I was to define it with one sentence it would be; it’s what vintage girl’s dreams are made of.
In my case, it’s the late 1930s sequin blouse in plush powder pink, that appeared in one of my favourite films starring Bette Davis, Old Acquaintance (1943). It wasn’t actually worn by the great Ms Davis but I’m pretty sure that the film extra dressed in my blouse, bumped into the star at least once. You can see in the pictures below, the close proximity of the sequin beauty to the Hollywood star!
I would like to note, that I had purchased the magnificent sequins blouse before I discovered its appearance in Old Acquaintance. It was clearly meant to be and after that incredibly serendipitous find, I’m definitely adding more 1930s sequins garments to my Etsy basket. Who knows, perhaps next time I’ll be lucky enough to find a sequins blouse or even a dress worn by Ms Davis or Crawford. A girl can dream.
For my “Some people need sequins, others don’t” photoshoot, I wore;
- The late 1930s sequins blouse which I bought on Etsy from SundriseVintage.
- The 1940s cocktail dress bought from Xtabay vintage shop.
- The dazzling couture socks from Fiori Couture.
- A vintage bag I bought so many moons ago, I don’t even remember where from.
Photography, Gregory Michael King
FOR THOSE WHO LIKE TO LEARN!
A very brief history of sequins
- Sequins have always been synonymous with wealth. In 1922, when Tutankhamun’s ( 1342 B.C. – 1323 B.C. ) tomb was discovered, precious gold sequins or sequin-adjacent disks were found on the pharaoh’s garment presumably to prepare him for the afterlife.
- In the 13th century, Venetians used to produce gold coins known as zecchino. Sewing coins on clothing was indubitably a statement of one’s prosperity and for some also a way of safe keeping valuables.
- In the 17th and 19th century, the sparkly sequins were a popular adornment of garments for women of nobility and great wealth. They could also be found on dresses from the Edwardian era and I’ve heard from several vintage sellers who owned Edwardian dresses adorned with sequins, that to their surprise the sequins were made of gelatin and not metal.
- In the 1920s sequins were incredibly popular amongst the flapper girls. The sparkle made them stand out on the dance floor and beyond. They became almost synonymous with the era, unfortunately, metal sequins were too heavy to dance around in and the gelatin ones didn’t cope well in a hot or wet environment. Staying away from the rain or close embrace was and still is the only way to keep them from literally melting away!
I’m always amazed when I see garments from the 1920s and 1930s embellished with gelatin sequins in almost excellent condition.
- In the 1940s gelatin sequins were replaced by acetate sequins which were definitely an improvement to their predecessors but not an ideal solution as they were still prone to water damage.
- And finally, In the 1950s, Lieberman created the very first washable and heat resistant sequin.