Art Deco architecture · Classic movies · Travel and Adventure · Uncategorized

Bullock’s Wilshire Department Store: Art Deco Tour and Fashion Show.

IMG_4172Do you enjoy shopping at a Department Store? How about shopping where Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock were patrons?  The Department Store of old Hollywood glamor like the Bullock’s Wilshire in Los Angeles with its Art Deco copper and etched glass doors welcomed upper crust LA society and Hollywood stars starting in 1929. This was the first department store built to cater to the burgeoning automobile culture at the time and welcome shoppers who wanted to shop somewhere closer than downtown L.A. The 241 ft tall tower on the exterior of the building made of copper, tarnished green, welcomed motorists from the suburbs with it’s light at the top that could be seen from miles around.

This is a special place, like no other modern day department store I have ever been to.
The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles hosted a Fashion Show and Tour at the Bullock’s Wilshire on June 10th 2018, as was promised at the Egyptian Theatre event where Margaret Leslie Davis discussed her book, Bullock’s Wilshire (Balcony Press, 1996) followed by the screening of the movie The Women, 1939 (see blog post). My mom, who went with me to the Egyptian Theatre event, joined me again for the Fashion Show and Tour.

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Mom and I on the J.G. Bullock’s private suite balcony with a view of downtown L.A.

I grew up watching classic films with my mom and no doubt it’s because of her influence, that I have a love for classic films and history and as a result, a passion for historic preservation and re-purposing. My hope is that we will get to experience many more of these special events together.

Join us for a glimpse of our Tour and Fashion Show at Bullock’s Wilshire:

As you enter the Foyer with it’s soft, natural lighting and elegant floor to ceiling St. Genevieve Marble and Travertine floors, you feel a sense of high glamour and sophisticated taste.

Bullock's Wilshire Perfume Hall
Perfume Hall awash with natural light muted by walls of St.Genevieve marble and Travertine Floors. Doors facing Wilshire Boulevard

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On of the Elevators finished in nickel, brass & gunmetal.

Every room was designed to create an “experience”, a place where you wanted to spend the afternoon shopping and lunching with your friends. This is the place where Judy Garland was known to have sipped cocktails in the dressing room and where May West infamously waited in her car under the Port-Cochere as clerks brought merchandise out to her to purchase .

This, was a place where famous starlets shopped and where one of my favorite actresses, Angela Landsbury once worked as a clerk (Go Jessica Fletcher!) and upper crust L.A. Society came to feel pampered in the discrete boutiques. Upstairs, were showrooms with live models (as seen in The Women, 1939), and the Desert-color themed Tea Room with adjacent lounge where ladies could enjoy refreshments and watch fashion shows. Fans of classic films will appreciate that Irene Lentz (known as Irene) who became famous for dressing celebrities and designing wardrobes for major Hollywood studios, including MGM, was reported to have the first boutique devoted to a single designer inside a major US Department Store at Bullock’s Wilshire.

J.G. Bullock’s invited titans of business and politics up to his private suite on the 5th floor to enjoy cocktails and horsd’oeuvres while shopping. While on my tour with the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, I was fortunate enough to be able to go into his dark wood walled suite and onto the private balcony. Our docent showed us the secret panels that opened up to hide alcohol during the prohibition era.

More photos from the Tour:

Now for the Fashion Show which took place in the Louis XVI Room where designer dresses were sold, formal wear and later furs:

Getting ready for the event:

I had found two amazing dresses at a couple of consignment shops in Ventura on Main St. But I still needed a hat and gloves to complete my outfit. I knew exactly where to go…the Attic Trunk! I had bought a very special black velvet hat there a few years back one day while out exploring Main St with my husband. I remembered Jackie and her spark and how she had to find the perfect box for my hat I was purchasing. The box just happened to be a vintage Bullock’s box. You see Jackie was know for her vintage hats. In fact, many gals went to her store to purposely buy hats for Dapper Days at Disneyland. Jackie not only had a fantastic vintage hat collection, she also knew all about the history of fashion and could expertly show a clueless gal like me how to wear the fancy hats.

So, to the  Attic Trunk I went. Sweet Jackie helped me chose a navy blue hat with a short veil and after much searching, also found me the PERFECT pair of gloves that were navy blue and had fancy stitching along the edges of the fingers.  I was set! We were having so much fun, I asked Jackie if she’d like to see my dresses I just bought and she said she would love to see them. I left the store and ran down the street to my car and got the fifties floral dress and my forties sailor inspired Stop Staring brand dress.  When I returned, I showed her the dresses and she was so thrilled and immediately pointed to the sailor inspired 40’s style dress. She said “that’s the one”.IMG_4184

After all of that, I told her that I was going to the Bullock’s Wilshire in Hollywood for a fashion show of vintage clothes from the 20’s, 30’s & 40’s. She was so excited about it she covered her mouth with her 2 hands and gasped in thrill. We talked about me coming back to her shop to show her photos of how I looked that day and the event itself. We discussed how I should definitely wear stockings (which I truly did!).  Unfortunately, I never made it back to show her any photos. Since then, I learned of her recent passing and I feel a sense of loss for myself that I will no longer have the luxury of walking into the Attic Trunk whenever I want and peruse through all of Jackie’s goodies and talk vintage clothing shop talk. I feel a sense of loss for our community to have lost a business owner who took pride in owning her own version of a Department store with glass cases filled with jewelry and lovely gloves. You will be missed Jackie and I hope you are meeting all of the classic Hollywood fashion icons whose clothes inspired generations of ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for making all of our days Dapper!

That’s a wrap!

To find out more information about The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles visit their website.

All Images: Christina Embry

References:

Docent-Art Deco Society of Los Angeles

Davis, Margaret Leslie. Bullocks Wilshire. Los Angeles: Balcony Press, 1996

 

Art Deco architecture · Classic movies

Movie with Mom: “The Women” (1939)

It was one of my favorite days ever! I was in my happy place amongst “my people”. All around me were classic movie fans and folks who could spend the afternoon celebrating the past through the lens of Margaret Leslie Davis who wrote  “Bullocks Wilshire”. This one hour illustrated presentation, sponsored by the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, showed photos of the interior of this department store in all of it’s art deco glory during its heyday of the 1930’s. To see current photos of the restored interior and exterior of the Bullock’s Wilshire building which now houses the Southwestern Law School Library, click here.

 

Afterwards we were treated to a snappy movie “The Women” (1939)

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Image: Journeys in Classic Films

about a group of women gossiping about other women’s love lives in this all women cast. What made this whole experience even cooler was reliving 1930’s history inside a living preserved piece of glamorous Hollywood at the Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre (1922). This theatre, has landmark status and is now owned and operated by the American Cinematheque.

 

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Image: Christina Embry

Experiencing the day through my Mom’s eyes made it all the more fun.  She saw the movie Ben-Hur (1959) at the Egyptian as a kid and remembered it as being a lot more grand and glamorous. She recalled the interior lobby being more open and spacious with props from the movie on display. But even with all of the changes, it still holds it’s vintage charm especially inside the 616 seat theatre with the original sunburst ceiling that I could just imagine stars like Cary Grant and Judy Garland at a movie premiere gazing up at the same ceiling appreciating it’s detailed artistry. I was in awe of the grander which is the spectacle of the old movie houses. For a complete history of the Egyptian Theatre click here.

The day wouldn’t be complete without going out to lunch. Being that it was my mom’s birthday, I really wanted it to be special, so I made reservations at the Pig’n Whistle, Hollywood CA. This historic 1920’s pub was built before concession stands were the norm like inside theaters today. Stars like Shirley Temple, Barbara Stanwyck and Clark Gable would visit the Pig’n Whistle for their favorite drink and meal before or after a movie premiere. It was indeed a favorite spot of the Stars among many eateries along Hollywood Blvd. For a list of the stars favorite drinks click here.

 

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At the end of the day, what I really wish for is to relieve history, step back in time, feel if just for a moment, what it was like during that time in history. That’s what I will be doing in this blog. I will be rewinding time and exploring history through the lens of classic movies, historic places and interesting people that influenced and inspired generations before us and hopefully people today. I could just enjoy this time travel by myself or bring my family and friends along for the ride and keep our jewels of discovery to ourselves, but I know there are folks out there who cherish the past as much as I do and this blog only adds to our internet library of vintage life. So, off we go into the past. May it never be forgotten or overlooked when we walk by an old building, see a black and white film on TV, or read a story from history. Let it captivate and inspire us to live in the present with an utterly joyous appreciation for the beauty of the past.

More info:

***For opportunities to explore the Bullock’s Wilshire historic landmark in person, docent-led tours are offered in the summer and by invitation only as well as a self-guided tour. To get more information on these opportunities, click here.***

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Cheers!