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Jul 1, 2013

Peter and the Prada Bag + "Help me date this pattern, please!"



OK, so I'm walking the dogs this morning, and we're strolling down a lovely block of brownstones (i.e., row houses) and I notice that someone has left a pile of books and fashion magazines beside some trash bins -- not all that unusual really.

I almost always stop and check book titles on the chance there might be something of interest to me or to Michael.  The magazines were mostly from 2009 and the books were mainly Mars and Venus On a Date-type stuff.  But I also noticed that hanging from the wrought iron railing was a slouchy black handbag.  Since I'd decided to take one of the men's fashion magazines ("Fantastic Man" from 2012), I figured, heck, I'll carry it home in the bag.

Now, I have found many good things in the trash over the years, including a Tiffany-style stained glass lamp (a repro but still), a featherweight table, bolts of fabric, countless plastic storage containers, and so much more.  Many New Yorkers are either too busy to drop things off at a thrift store or simply can't be bothered so they just put it in the street.

Heading home, I inspect the bag.  It's definitely leather -- pebbled deerskin? -- and has heavy brass hardware.  The label is Prada (!).  It's well-constructed, nicely finished, and smells great.  Could this be The Find of Finds: a practically new Prada hobo bag, likely worth the price of a Bernina (or two)?









As soon as I got home, I did what any of you would have done: searched the Internet for the bag.

But before I did that I looked at it more closely.  The zipper pulls and brass feet had the Prada stamp.  I hunted for the serial number.  None to be found: a Big Red Flag.  No "Made in Italy" label either, for what it's worth.









In less than two minutes, I found the bag for sale online here (Prada Hobo Bag 1306 Black comes with: serial numbers, care booklet, Prada dust bag, Prada Card, tag.)  Price?  $219.  Now $219 ain't nothing but it won't buy you a genuine Prada bag.

The bag is also for sale here, where it is clearly identified as a replica (same price).  Interesting, no?  Why doesn't Prada do something about those sites?

I would not buy a counterfeit designer bag for a whole host of reasons, but I know enough about leather goods to recognize that as copies go, this is a pretty good one  Is the brass hardware genuine?  I can't tell.  From what I read about counterfeit leather goods, this bag could very well have been manufactured in the same factories as the genuine ones.  Who knows where the hardware came from?

I'm not sure what I'll do it; it's not really a man's bag.   It's way too big for my mother and she likes bags she can strap across her torso.  My SIL wouldn't wear a fake (I don't think); Cathy, on the other hand...

In other news, when it comes to Twentieth-century fashion pre-dating the 1920's, everything I know I've learned from old musicals like "Easter Parade,""Funny Girl, "and "The Music Man."  It has never been a period that resonated with me, fashion-wise. 









But when I saw this genuine two-piece dress and blouse McCall's pattern in size 36 for sale yesterday on Etsy for less than a contemporary Vogue pattern, I grabbed it.  I think it's lovely and relatively modern looking (no bustle).



The seller thinks it dates from c. 1919.    I did a little online research, and apparently the second decade of the Twentieth century saw rapid changes in fashion, so patterns can be difficult to date precisely.

I did find this pattern (below) on Pinterest, which has a similar feel: notice how the blouse extends down over the front.  Same 25-cent price as the McCalls too.



It's listed on Pinterest as 1910's.  But if you click to the Etsy seller and check the back of the pattern, it distinctly says "Patented April 30, 1907."  Is that necessarily the date of the pattern?  Could the patent refer to something else?  (Mine also has a patent date -- 1908 -- but that seems wrong for the style.)

If any of you know the period and could lead me in the right direction, I'd appreciate it!  I'm excited at the prospect of sewing something from the Edwardian age -- or maybe a bit later.

In closing readers, if you found a leather Prada bag on the street that you knew was a fake, would you...

A) Wear it -- Heck, it's a nice bag!

B) Give it away -- Even though I didn't buy it, it still has "counterfeit karma."

C) Leave it on the wrought iron railing for some other status-conscious dumpster diver.

And what about that pattern?

Have a great day, everybody!

41 comments:

  1. D. Give it to Cathy to carry her wardrobe changes when she is doing a fashion shoot.

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  2. wear it! there's nothing wrong with that. I'd wear it for sure! You always find the coolest stuff, Peter!!

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  3. well, it certainly looks like a nice bag. I know it's stealing to counterfeit, but I'd be sorely tempted.

    Here's a thought -- you could always take it apart and repurpose all that lovely leather. Working with leather is a fun challenge. You could make macho little leather vests for the pups!

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  4. I vote B. on the handbag.

    I don't know the exact date of the pattern, but it sure does look to be around the time the seller said, because anything earlier would still look more Victorian looking, and after that it kind of looked more loose and boxy. given that the skirt length is still quite long it would seem that it would be early teens though.
    I found this blog post that shows a very similar look and it was 1914 http://littlegreybungalow.blogspot.com/2009/06/patterns-of-past-summer-dresses-for.html

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  5. Great bag and great find. I agree with Thin Man Sewing.

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  6. I agree with Helen. You can give the bad karma counterfeit bag some redemption with refashioning it into something wonderful.

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  7. C - absolutely. Done with it. I'm so New York, huh?

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  8. Not my type of bag (I like the cross-body bags too). Plus I don't like labels or logos, especially something supposedly "high end". I take the bus, I walk, I do things on my own and I don't want or need any extra unwanted attention from anybody.

    I don't think I'd redistribute it considering it is a form of theft. I like Helen's idea of reusing the material though.

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  9. Well I have found a vintage sewing machine ( the black iron ones that operate with out power) in the dumpster , it didn t work but it was beautiful, so generally I don t mind using things that people throw as long as they are in good shape by the way the back is so pretty! So A for me.

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  10. Diaper bag for little Simplicity.

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    Replies
    1. I really wish there was a box to check when someone makes a genius comment.

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  11. I'm not into conspicuous consumption (as economists call it), much less if a product is just a counterfeit one. But the thrifty person I am, I would be pleased to get a high quality item for free.

    So why not make it your own, whether to wear it yourself or give it to Michael, your SIL - or Cathy, for that matter? Give the thing a new look: exchange the leather strap for something catchy, cover the Prada label with a brooch kind of thing, or even attach a layer of perforated or topstitched leather onto part of the bag ...

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  12. Nice bag but for the Prada label. Let Cathy wear it. It certainly takes a woman of stature to handle the size of it!
    Interesting that you have an Edwardian period pattern this week. My blog this week is on a sewing book for young girls of just this time period. Hope some readers here will stop over to:
    http://csturgeo.blogspot.com/2013/06/when-thimbles-ruled.html

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  13. I vote: B. I'm not much for designer labels necessarily, and even less for imposter designer labels, but it's a nice bag, well made, and if you like it, then why not? If you don't like it, then give it away.

    About designers and the knock off retailers: sometimes they do do something about it. I just saw in our local paper that Coach is going after a local store that sells fake Coach bags. Now Coach is not Prada, but still. I don't know how big the offense has to be before they bother.

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  14. My vote is for B. As for the pattern, I have no idea but it "reads" Edwardian to my eye.

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  15. Peter the seller seems to be correct. According to COPA (Commercial Pattern Archive) it is from 1919.

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    1. Thanks, Tia! I wonder what that patent date refers to....

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    2. I'd love to know what the patent date refers to too. Not that I'm the authority on sewing patterns, but I've only seen that on these very early pattern envelopes. Makes me wonder if a new design element was created in 1908 so they patented it, and then it was reused on a, say, 1914 pattern. No idea! -Amanda

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  16. There's quite a bit of leather in that bag. Make yourself (and maybe someone else) some leather-soled slippers.

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  17. I'm not too sure what I'd do with the bag...perhaps re-fashion the leather into a pair of snazzy driving gloves?

    As for your 1919 pattern - I love it. The skirt is a softer variation of the hobble skirt, quite pre-war belle epoque (wear it whilst you sip absinthe). I like the soft lines line of the dropped waist so you're just beckoning in the styles of the 1920s. Overall it's a nice stepping stone from the "s" shape Edwardian figure to the boyish flapper silhouette. I think it comes from a really revolutionary time in women's fashion and is therefore quite a find. I'd love to see you sew it up. I'm knitting a cardigan from this era and also have knitting patterns for similar knitted dresses - but I'm a knitting nerd and can't pass up a pattern.

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    1. What's nice is that it doesn't seem to require body shaping (re-shaping?) garments.

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    2. Peter, if I remember correctly what my grandmother told me, there was a bit of a revolution in women's undergarments at the time this look was popular. She said women didn't give up wearing foundations, just that their style had changed. There was a movement away from the waist constriction and severe reshaping. The emphasis shifted to a slim line and most women would have felt indecent to not wear a foundation. Of course older women who had grown up wearing the especially constrictive corsets of the Victorian era continued to do so. According to my grandmother, they had trouble not wearing them. Perhaps they did not have the musculature to support their frame? There's probably a lot of research to be done on this topic, if one were inclined.

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  18. I can tell its fake by the leather. Also the embossing inside the bag. Y'know it looks like it has 2 very large sides and the leather isn't terrible just not prada quality so I say cut it up an make a man bag of some kind.

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  19. I should also add designer bags aren't always automatically made in Italy/France to be authetic. Example certain LV bags like the Speedies are made in the USA. If you buy a new speedy LV in the US and its not made here then its automatically fake.

    That leather might make some awesome shoes. Can I lure you to the shoemaking darkside?

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  20. I want to say these patterns are 1912 at the earliest. The waistline was typically higher than natural before then, and this moment in history is shortlived, thanks to the War, which accelerated women's fashion quite quickly to the waistless shapes we know.
    I am sure you know that the costumes in those movies are a total mashup with the aesthetics of the era they were shot in, not set in. Undergarments and outlines, colours and styling in particular. So Shirley Jones in The Music Man has atomic warhead boobs and a very curvy waist line of '62 when the '12 look was mono bosom pigeony fronts and straight hipped. But the audiences of 1962 would have hated that.

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  21. Peter...thanks for the Jonathan Embroidery tip. Two shirts and pants buttonholes and buttons done for $12....woo hoo.

    If you need double sewing machine needles there is a place called SIL on 38th between 7th and 8th on uptown side of street.

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  22. Just noticed you already knew about SIL in you MPB announcement

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  23. O...M...G... I was just on my way to buy some gorgeous, selling-out-fast, famous-maker undergarments online when I saw your blog post and got completely derailed. I did the whole, "Oh NO he DIDN'T... no WAY did he find a PRADA bag... holy $hit I bet he did...this IS Peter we're talking about..." And so I popped right over to see what the story was.

    To me, this blog post was as gripping as a Stephen King novel... (back when they were, well, novel)... I was on pins and needles until you did the big reveal and said that it was, indeed, a counterfeit. :-(

    You mentioned how counterfeit bags are quite possibly often made in the same factories as the real ones. I too have heard this, but I've always been suspicious of these statements; they seem like the kind of thing one says to make one's self feel better about a crappy situation... like, "Hey, even though you planned an outdoor wedding and we're currently experiencing a hurricane of epic proportions that has decimated the entire area, it's GOOD LUCK when it rains on your wedding day, so look HAPPY, dammit."

    So basically, as far as what to do with the bag, I would say, "go with your gut." You say in your post that you don't buy counterfeit bags for many reasons, and the fact that you actually use the word "karma" when debating whether to carry a fake leads me to believe that even if you DID carry this bag around for whatever reason, you would most likely feel miserable about it the whole time, so then really, what's the point?

    If you think it would be useful as a prop for Cathy, though, I say go for it.

    But I know that people who make their own clothing do so because it expresses who they are... and, dear Peter, if there's one thing you're NOT, it's "fake."

    So, I say if you don't think Cathy will use it, find a spot somewhere in a poor area of town and hang the bag there, where someone who might actually NEED a bag to help them survive could use it. Then you would be doing something good for someone else, and I'm pretty sure that your act of kindness would cancel out any bad karma that might come from the fact that the bag is a counterfeit.

    I'm sure you'll figure it out. In the meantime, keep sending that positive energy out there, and perhaps one of these days a REAL Prada bag will fall in your lap when you least expect it! :-)

    Now I'm off to see if there's any of those gorgeous bras still left in my size.... hehee...









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  24. Knowing the bag is counterfeit, I could never use it, but I'd happily re-use the leather, as others have suggested. I certainly wouldn't put it back in circulation for someone else to find though, as the next person might try to sell it, passing it off as the real thing to some poor unsuspecting buyer...

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  25. The big design brands do have teams of lawyers that prosecute knock off manufacturers but they can't (or don't bother with) the smaller outfits.

    You could remove the labels and think of it as recycling or you could flaunt the label with a post such as "My Cousin Wears Prada" ..

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  26. I'm of the opinion that the bag materials would make for a great re-fashion of some sort. I love your new pattern too, but can't help but wonder in passing what would happen if Cousin Cathy decided to go steampunk one day and wore a bustle.

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  27. I like the "re-design it" idea someone mentioned -so it doesn't look like fake Prada but rather Lappin luxurious!

    As for the pattern "Hi pattern, meet Peter. He would really like a date with you. At 25 cents you are pretty cheap, but you do have vintage in your favor. At least give him one date."
    Sorry that is the best I can do on short notice

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  28. I wouldn't know a Prada if it was thrown at me.
    I rarely use bags, if I have pockets I squeeze what I need in them. But, then Peter, you always find the best things. I agree with Gene.

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  30. Just adding to Mrs. C's comment- Quentin Bell's very good read "On Human Finery'' (first published in 1947 or thereabouts and reprinted a few times since) has a great discussion of the ways in which recreated historical costume for film or stage inevitably imposes the aesthetic of its own time on the aesthetic of the past. He makes his point with illustrations from the time of the Amercian civil war, then WD Griffiths' "Birth of a Nation" ( which must be from the same era as your pattern) and "Gone with The wind. Ïf you haven't read the book, you might enjoy it- who knows, it may turn up on the pavement one day!

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  31. Heck, I would cover up the Prada label and use the bag for something. Some use will appear, believe me. The animal has already sacrificed its life for the bag so make use of it or it's just a waste! That is like not making use of vintage furs. The deed is done. It might be a great book bag or something. You do find the greatest stuff, Peter!

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  32. Re-use is a great idea. Our family inherited some furs from an old aunt. I don't like fur, even fake fur so we donated them as bedding to an animal rescue. The lady laughed because the female dogs loved sleeping on the mink coats.

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  33. I believe the copyright dates on old patterns have to do with a new innovation copyrighted by the particular company rather than the date of issue. McCall for a long time was the only company with printed pattern pieces. I have seen these copyrights on old Butterick patterns as well, and they clearly do not correspond to the era represented by the fashion.

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