Tuesday, February 2, 2010

That Betsey Johnson Dress ...
The photo above was taken in 1994 at a fundraising party for a little theatre company we were all involved with. It was also the "debut" of my new thrift shop dress from a little vintage clothing store next door to the theatre's office on 26th Street.  (I'm the one on the left.)  The dress tag said "Alley Cat by Betsey Johnson" and, at the time, I thought, "How cool. A 'designer' dress without the designer price!" I didn't have a lot of money, but I had (and still have) a passion for fashion!  I loved the dress because it a) looked good on me, b) felt good on and c) was machine washable. I wore it a lot. I wore it to weddings, funerals, at Christmas and for a lot of different social events. It was my favorite dress for quite a few years.

A few years ago, when middle age took over my body, the dress didn't fit the same and rather than embarrass myself, I hung it up and have debated so many times since then what I should do with it.  I told myself that someday I would once again control my body, but in all honesty, that's easier said than done when you reach this stage in life.  Those hormones that we ladies lose are incredibly helpful in helping us to keep our figures.  Without them ... well ... let's just say the dress continued to hang in my closet.

Last week, while waiting for the clothes dryer to finish, I was rifling through a box of photos from those days with the theatre.  When I found this photo (and a few others), I scanned it and put it up on my facebook page in a photo album I created there for the theatre.  The other two women in the picture commented, as did a young woman who is in my Jazzercise class.  She loved the dress, too!  And, so ...

I brought the dress (and its accessory necklace) to her at Jazzercise class and said, "Try it on!"

As you can see in the photo, she looks stunning in it! And, I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to see the dress go on!  It's a marvelous garment with that flattering sweetheart neckline and a full skirt that is forgiving --- it's perfect for all sorts of occasions and great for travel!  I'm thrilled that it's found a good home and I found I was inspired to do a little research about the designer ...

Back in 1970, Betsey Johnson was working for a place called Paraphernalia and she left her job there because the store was expanding and she didn't want to lose control over the design process. From what I could find in my Internet search, she designed for Alley Cat, a junior sportswear company, from 1970 until 1976.  She had full creative control at Alley Cat, designing everything from the textiles used in her designs to the accompanying shoes. Alley Cat clothing was always priced under $100, making it within reach of the junior market and, in retrospect, I think this may have been a key marketing ingredient for her future success. She was creating clothes for baby boomers, a huge demographic that was only just beginning to make its presence felt in the world of commerce.  

She also worked with Butterick patterns to produce a line of eight Betsey Johnson for Alley Cat patterns, making her designs affordable to small town girls like me. Back in the 1970s, I became familiar with her clothes because of her patterns.  I still have an apron pattern of hers in my sewing box along with some great Vogue patterns from that era!

While I've found a new home for my vintage Betsey Johnson dress, she's still very much a part of my fashion passion.  I have a couple of her handbags, several bracelets and necklaces and a beautiful skirt I found on sale at the Betsey Johnson store in Aventura.  I would love it if she would create patterns again. Especially for my generation. Her clothes flatter nearly every body type (including us more "mature" figures) and because she was a dancer, she brings all the fun of dance costumes to everyday clothes.

Special thanks to Jean for loving my dress! Wear it in good health!


somepinkflowers said...

good story with a stellar ending!

i love betsy johnson, too,
and when i was traveling over~seas
i would pick up her fun make~up.
i do not know if she still does that or not....


the last i saw she was doing cartwheels
down the runway
after one of her fashion shows.

that was not too long ago, either...
she might have been 50 or so...

once a fashion mag featured
her apartment.
she had somehow managed
to knock a hole in the ceiling
or something to include
part of the roof
into her bedroom...


a free thinker
with color, energy and style.


i am going now to google her up
and see what she has been doing.

{{ thanks for reminding me
of this creative
and energetic woman. }}

Rebecca said...

I love Betsey Johnson dresses, too. I only own one, and I'm usually too self-conscious to wear it.