The Private Collection of Joanna Baeren
Featuring the Private
Collection of Joanna Baeren
We’ve all heard the fashion forecasts: “The ‘40s are back,” “The ‘50s are back.” It’s true that designers are often inspired by the past. But what if you could just take your pick of any of these trends all in one place? Enter the vintage vibe. Whether you discover a treasure trove of oldies but goodies at a local boutique or troll the Internet for a rare find, wearing vintage clothes does take some moxie. But it can pay off big time in the style department if you do your homework.
Reinterpret the style.
“It’s too literal to expect a hem length or neckline to fit with current fashions,” she says. Johnson admits that vintage clothes rarely fit her off the rack. “I cut them up freely,” she says, “grafting on different sleeves, stripping off bows or ugly buttons, adding my own cuffs, or using the fabric for something else. I love sewing 1940s appliques, usually seen on evening dresses, onto American Apparel T-shirts. Risk is always cool.”
Mix it up.
Make vintage modern by deliberately adding mismatched pieces and accessories from different eras. Layer a masculine black waistcoat over a bias cut dress. Cinch a ‘40s dress with an ‘80s belt. Add ‘30s buttons to ‘70s dresses. But Johnson urges vintage fans to resist the urge to wear more than two items from one decade at a time. “Vintage chic is never literal,” she says, “otherwise it just becomes costume.”
Buy what you love.
Designer labels in vintage clothing have become a big business in recent years, according to Johnson. “The point of buying vintage is to bypass snobbery and to find instead what really suits you,” she says. “I have a Christian Dior dress that makes me look like a human brick, so I’m not wearing it ever, and I have a Missoni scarf from the seventies I wear every day. Choose your investment pieces in vintage as you would your modern things. Style trumps status every time.”
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“Because wearing vintage clothes not only makes you look more individual, it also gives you a ‘green glow,’” according to Anna Johnson, author of several books including “Savvy Chic: The Art of More for Less.”(William Morrow Paperbacks) “I can think of no better way to recycle and also dress like a totally original minx,” she admits. “All this said, there are many ways to get vintage right. You can’t just throw on any old thing. Here are some of Johnson’s tips on finding your best era:
Do your research.
“Different eras had very different body shapes,” she says. A 1930’s dress called for a flattened bust-line, worn very natural and loose within a silk slip. A 1950’s dress required a high and pointed breast encased in a heavily stitched, often underwired, conical bra in the shape of a waffle cone. And a 1960’s dress re-created a high, childish rounded line with the use of darts and a heavily padded push-up bra. “So, wearing a modern, bosomy, foamy bra from Victoria’s Secret with an art deco-era tea gown will look as if some cad has dropped two large oranges down your frock.” Not a good thing.
Know your body shape.
“Pining after a look is useless if you can’t carry it off,” admits Johnson. “I will never have miniskirt knees. That said, tailoring and adjusting a vintage piece to your body is wise.” Pear-shaped women look best in clothes from the mid-forties, late sixties, and early seventies, she says. These were the eras of A-line skirts, narrow waists, and tailored upper body embellishments were at their prime. Silhouettes from the sixties and thirties look best on narrow hips and great legs. Tall women can pull off the androgynous looks from the seventies. Edwardian nightgowns can be cropped to make blouses for figures with fuller busts.
Meet Our Model Joanna Baeren
Joanna Baeren is a star. You know it the second you meet her, whether it’s at a Pink Partini, the grocery store, or a yard sale, you will find her dressed to the nines. Joanna grew up in the ‘40s when everyone got all dolled up to leave the house.
“Nowadays it seems like dressing up has almost become extinct,” says Joanna. She never leaves the house in less than her best. She finds that dressing up attracts lots of positive attention. “People are so nice to me, and they always give me compliments.” Once when she was grocery shopping, a gentleman came up to her and said, “You are dressed to kill, and you’re killing me!”
Another time Joanna was having breakfast at Wendy’s when a man walked in and said, “What are you doing here?”
“I’m having breakfast,” she exclaimed.
The man replied, “You should be having Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
When Joanna was 17, she went to a lawyer in Los Angeles for a job interview. She sat in the waiting room, wearing a suit she had made for herself in home economics class, along with a matching wide brimmed hat, gloves and handbag. The lawyer walked in, she introduced herself, and he said, “I don’t care if you know how to do anything. You’re hired!”
Even when she was fighting cancer and was bald and didn’t have any eyebrows, she says she made herself get up everyday at the hospital and put on her makeup and walk the halls inspiring others to keep on living. “When you look good, you feel good.”
Once married to Hollywood TV star Max Baer, Jr., who played Jethro on The Beverly Hillbillies, Joanna had lots of money to spend on clothes, and that she did. After being on her own once again, she discovered thrift stores. “It’s amazing, the clothes you can get for next to nothing. You can find the most wonderful things that have hardly ever been worn. Some even still have the tags on them.”
Joanna is the queen of style and fashion. She knows how to don wigs, false eyelashes, and every style of clothing from blue jeans to ball gowns with grace and elegance. Even now, in her 70s, Joanna’s beauty rivals that of iconic Hollywood starlets. If you’ve ever met Joanna it’s easy to know why she is so radiant. It’s because her beauty starts deep within her, and it’s so stunning it can’t help but shine for everyone to adore.
Special Thanks to:
Joanna Baeren for giving us the opportunity to show off her stunning collection and modeling in endless poses for the perfect picture.
The Myers family for allowing us to use their beautiful home—The Lewis Reeve Sams House—for our photoshoot. Their private home was built in 1852 and is located at 601 Bay Street in Beaufort, SC.
And last, but not least, Melissa Miley for venturing down to Beaufort to photograph our Vintage Vibes. View more of Melissa's work at www.melissamileyphotography.com.
Sharon Mosley is a former fashion editor of the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock and executive director of the Fashion Editors and Reporters Association.