Archive for May, 2014
August 2014 marks the 100th birthday of Finnish actress and beauty queen Ester Toivonen, who was crowned Miss Europe in 1934.
Ester Toivonen was one of Finland’s first bona fide film stars: her career as an actress started in the mid-1930s, a time when Finnish production companies were only beginning to manufacture stars. But Toivonen was already a celebrity before her film career; first of her kind during the era.
A fine comedienne, Ester Toivonen began her film career as the female lead in 1930s modern comedies. In the 1940s, she was seen in supporting roles in historical costume dramas.
My friend Elina Ortamo curated an Ester Toivonen exhibit at the Shopkeeper’s Museum in Hamina, the town where Toivonen was born in 1914. The centenary exhibit focuses on Ester Toivonen as an icon of style and beauty.
My friends and I drove to Hamina to attend the opening of the exhibit earlier this month, which was also attended by Ester Toivonen’s family and friends. Some of the highlights of the exhibit include the ivory gown Ester wore when she was crowed Miss Europe in 1934, her vanity table, fan letters, photographs, and various vintage pieces from the 1930s and 1940s. I’ve loaned my autograph booklet for the exhibit; it features autographs from Finnish film stars of the 1940s, including Ester.
I’m always very happy to see Finnish film history and its stars honoured, and it was done very beautifully here. I like that the focus is on Ester Toivonen’s public image, both as a beauty queen and as a film star. The exhibit was a real treat for me both as a cinephile and a vintage lady. The 19th century setting of the Shopkeeper’s Museum was equally apt.
The exhibit, titled Ester Toivonen – Kansakunnan kaunotar, runs until August 31, 2014. Be sure to catch it if you’re in town! In addition, there will be a film screening and a seminar at Kino Hamina on August 10, where yours truly will be talking about Ester Toivonen’s star image.
A tip for those in Helsinki: Orion will be screening Syntipukki (1935) on July 16. It is Ester’s first starring role and, in my humble opinion, her most interesting as well.
Curator Elina Ortamo posing next to Ester Toivonen’s iconic Miss Europe gown
My autograph book filled with autographs of 1940s Finnish film stars
Fan letters and vintage post cards
The Shopkeeper’s Museum in Hamina
By Michelle Garrett
If it’s tough vintage realness that you’re after, look no further than these turn of the century ladies’ mug shots. The images, released in 2011 by the Australian Historic Houses Trust, come complete with names (or aliases), and descriptions of the charges levied against each woman. These 1920s mug shots are a pretty incredible vintage curiosity, but they’re also an interesting peek into everyday fashions of the early 20th century that exist outside of the flashy film star cosmos.
Annie Gunderson, 20 September 1922
This sombre-looking 19-year-old was charged with stealing a fur coat from a Sydney department store in 1922. Ms Gunderson may be freshly-cuffed, but she looks pretty cosy in her furs. And whilst stealing is generally a bad idea, I’ll give her full marks for commitment to fashion.
Doris Winifred Poole, 31 July 1924
Ms Poole, 21 years old, was charged with stealing jewellery and clothing in 1924. Admittedly, she does look pretty grand. Doris is channeling a Scandinavian goth vibe (about 90 years too early), set off with a killer scowl.
Patsy Neill, 30 January 1930
This 26-year-old barmaid was charged with theft and possession of cocaine. The press described Ms Neill as “looking like a mannequin on parade”, which is a fairly accurate tag line for a lady who wears a party frock to jail.
Fashion history remembers very few working class vintage fashion icons, especially since limited access to cameras in the early 20th century means that wealthy and upper class women are disproportionately represented in vintage images. But these scruffy ladies are femme fatales in their own right: still worth our time and fashion idolatry nearly a century later.
Want to dress like a smouldering 1920s petty thief? Etsy has your back.
You’re just one fur coat away from The Annie look. You should find a lifetime’s worth of Annie-era vintage fur on Etsy, and faux fur aplenty on nearly all modern or vintage reproduction sites. (New fur not required).
Doris does a five star goth flapper look, and you should try it on for size! It’s possible to create this look with vintage pieces, but save your pennies and give modern a go. Start with a Scandinavian shift dress, and work your way out. Try this Monki number – just add a cloche and terrifying eye contact.
Patsy is our party girl, so you’ll be needing a party dress. An authentic 1930s number might be ambitious, but oh, how it’s nice to look! This taffeta frock is pretty lovely, but don’t dance too hard or you’ll tear a fragile sleeve. Don’t forget the cloche, and stay away from trouble, Patsy – you have been warned.
You can find more tough lady mug shots and commentary here. All photos via Historic Houses Trust.