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Vintage Inspiration: Aloha, Alfred Shaheen!
Published May 13 2021 in #1950s, #alfredshaheen, #cherryvelvet, #cottondresses, #elvis, #hawaii, #petalbust, #wingbust
You’ve likely heard our Cherry Velvet slogan: “Retro Class with Modern Sass”. But what do we mean by “retro”? What is the foundation of our vintage aesthetic, and who are the designers who inspired the modern day pin-up silhouette? This may be the first time you’ve heard about Alfred Shaheen, but you’ve definitely seen his design influences in Cherry Velvet’s dresses!
Photo of Alfred Shaheen's granddaughter wearing one of his dresses
Diane, our founder and designer, is an avid fashion historian. Specifically, Diane takes many cues from the 50's which originated with Christian Dior’s “New Look”: cinched waistlines, emphasized bustlines, and deliciously full skirts. Alfred Shaheen took this style, added his own unique details, and employed it brilliantly.
Born in Lebanon, Alfred Shaheen was a textile pioneer and designer who operated from his adopted home in Oahu, Hawai’i. In the heyday of 1950s and 1960s fashion, he was the most creative and prolific of all of the Hawai’ian manufacturers, and was famous for that most perfect of souvenirs, the aloha shirt. Who can forget the undeniable appeal of Elvis Presley in one of those bright, flowered button-up shirts?
Elvis Prestley in the movie Blue Hawaii wearing an Alfred Shaheen Shirt
Shaheen's unique, trendsetting designs became high fashion thanks to their unique fabrics, high-grade materials, quality construction, and striking prints inspired by the Hawai’ian Islands and their multicultural influences from Polynesia and Asia.
Beautifully cut and fitted sundresses also defined Shaheen's brand, including the famous Hawai’in bombshell dress. Shaheen's signature “halter neckline” may have evolved from a traditional variation of wearing the pareau (pareo), in which a single rectangle of cloth is wrapped around the body from the center back with the top two corners brought to the front and crossed, then brought upwards, and then tied at the back of the neck to form a loose “short dress”. Shaheen’s fitted interpretation was engineered to enhance the bust line, which led to its widespread success. Shaheen’s impeccably constructed dresses are some of the most collectible vintage pieces on the market today, and with good reason – they are seriously flattering!
One of Shaheen’s most distinctive innovations was his wing-top bust dress. This design is fitted with an accentuated “wing” or “petal”, often done in a complementary fabric to make it stand out. It has been one of Diane’s most coveted inspirations, as seen on our modern version of the wingbust dress, The Elly Dress. The eye-catching style of the Elly dress was a significant moment in Cherry Velvet’s evolution, and we’re excited to announce that Elly will be returning with a flourish this summer in a stunning range of new prints!
XOX Kim Palmer
for Cherry Velvet