Malcolm Starr, Rib Removal and the Blessings of a Fashionable Aunt

A couple of years ago my Aunt Jane gifted me with a number of amazing vintage items – a to-die-for white St. John knit evening dress and cardigan (everyone in town has seen me wear it at least once), a few swimsuits, a couple of fun jackets, but most importantly, the most captivating evening gown I have ever seen, that I can not zip up without having a rib removed. When Jane gave it to me I weighed the least I have weighed since high school. I was hopeful – but alas the slim bodice wouldn’t fit.

The fabric has golden metallic threads woven throughout, it has lots of red and gold, long sleeves, a teeny tiny waist (see above), and a high neck, but with a provocative yet demure opening at the throat. There is gorgeous beading at the waist, sleeve and neck. I can’t explain why I love this dress; it evokes an era that I lived through – but as a small child. It’s Catherine Deneuve and Ali McGraw and Mrs. Robinson. It hangs in my closet and from time to time I try it on, in hopes that somehow miraculously I will be able to wear it. There is no tag in it, so it never dawned on me to consider whether there might be slightly larger versions of this beauty somewhere.

Fast forward to May of this year. I needed a new dress to wear to black tie events (I couldn’t pull out the white St. John again, could I?), including one that evening!  After an unsuccessful morning visit to Rent the Runway, I circled back to Amalgamated Clothing in Del Ray.

I found an amazing red floral dress with crystal embellishments, a Nehru collar, a modified a-line skirt and wide belt. Love it! Done. I wore it to an event honoring my husband’s family. I got lots of compliments and no one else was wearing it (which was sadly not the case for the Rent the Runway gals).

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I had never heard of the maker, Malcolm Starr, but the knowledgeable ladies at Amalgamated told me that the brand was “kind of a big deal” in the 60’s and 70’s. After a great evening in my new-to-me vintage, the comments of the saleslady came back to me – had I gotten a great deal on this Malcolm Starr? (yes) Was he really a big deal? What else was out there? I googled.

The images staring back at me from my late night search were gorgeous, some whimsical, embellished, tailored, elegant. And as you may have guessed, there were dresses strikingly similar to my unworn masterpiece. Since then I’ve googled, pinned, watched, bid, but so far I haven’t procured the Malcolm Starr dress to rival the teeny one.

Click here for some great options on eBay.

Malcolm Starr was a big deal. His mother was a costume designer and his father started the family business in the 1940’s.Starr’s dresses were worn among the country club set in the 60’s and 70’s, and were very popular in Japan and Hong Kong. Starr sold the company in the mid 70’s. He had hopes of restarting the fashion line in 2001,  but the attacks of 9/11 thwarted that effort. He died in 2008 at the age of 84.

Though the dress is a little too sophisticated for my youngest daughter, she fits perfectly into it. Here’s hoping she appreciates vintage and some 70’s glamour as much as her Mom. There’s hope yet.

One thought

  1. Oh, for a slender ribcage again, Shannon! Love your blog. I have my own – http://ahandbasket.com/ – here on WordPress. Love your ideas and commentary! Keep it up. If you visit mine, you’ll see that I’ve been inactive for a bit. Fixin’ to ramp it back up again; you inspired me! Say hey to Christopher for me and to LB from my girls. xo

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