1940's Fashion inspiration: Iconic Valentine's Day Sweater

Valentines Day is coming!!! What are all of you doing to celebrate? My husband and I are going Argentinian Tango dancing. To me the Tango evokes images of smoky underground jazz bars in Argentina where lovers dance the night away. He thinks of awkward couples shuffling around the dance floor in sneakers. But he's a good sport. ;)

Either way, I know exactly what I'm going to wear for our night out on the town. This sweater has been in the works for weeks... 

How "Bleeding Heart" Sweaters Became a Fashion Icon that Resonates Today

"Bleeding Heart" sweaters, as they are known, have been the darling of fashion runways in recent years (and not just for the ladies; varying versions were seen in the menswear lines of Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana last year).

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Their invention can be traced back to the same story, and here is roughly how it goes: You are a voluptuous woman who lives in the 1940's, and there aren't stores that really cater to being curvy. Add to that, you are stuck at home with a broken leg. What do you do? You solve fashion dilemmas. 

Valentines/She Wore Stars/Fashion

Valentines/She Wore Stars/Fashion

This is essentially the story of Suse Dannenberg. She began applying her own custom felt appliqués in the shapes of everything from pink elephants to poodles to the fronts of her hand knit sweaters. She hoped that the loud images would, as she purportedly said, "distract from her portly figure." What she didn't expect was that her sweaters would spawn an entire fashion movement.  Within six years they were being worn by countless Hollywood starlets, and written about in LIFE magazine. And the price tag? By today's accounting, hundreds of dollars. 

A couple of years ago, competitor Michelle Lesniak debuted what she also dubbed a "Bleeding Heart" sweater on Project Runway. In a Today Show interview she said that Tim Gunn loathed the design (the judges, however, loved it). But I can see why Tim might have had a less than desirable reaction at first. After all, the sweaters, and the derivatives that followed, are less than subtle. If you aren't careful, the look can get dangerously close to being "ugly sweater party" material. 

Recreating an iconic fashion: Loretta Young

I drew inspiration from a photograph of Loretta Young, pictured above. I used heart appliqués I picked up from a local fabric store for a few dollars, an iron, and a turtleneck sweater scavenged from the local thrift store (save money/recycle/donate to charity = win!). 

Channel Suse's Sweater Look: My Sweater is Thrifted / Pearl Bracelet from "Pearls with a Purpose" (Women's Microfinance Charity),      Similar Here

Channel Suse's Sweater Look: My Sweater is Thrifted / Pearl Bracelet from "Pearls with a Purpose" (Women's Microfinance Charity), Similar Here

Valentines/She Wore Stars/Fashion

Valentines/She Wore Stars/Fashion

Valentines/She Wore Stars/Fashion

Valentines/She Wore Stars/Fashion

Valentine's Day is all about wearing our hearts on our sleeves, so this sweater is perfect for whatever we might be doing to celebrate this somewhat ubiquitous holiday. It's story makes it even more fitting. May we all take a page out of Suse's book. She made a fashion empire out of a broken leg, so let's see this Valentine's Day as a time to be happy and find creative inspiration to make lemonade out of lemons!

Enjoy this story? You might enjoy these romance-inspired tales from the Golden Age of Cinema as well! Read on... 


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