On the Saturday I visited and photographed the Department of Water and Power building at 4030 Crenshaw Blvd. I wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t stopped to videotape a Juneteenth Day parade in front of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza with my iPhone. Out of the corner of my left eye I saw it, and was so excited I started photographing it immediately from across the street.
Exhausted and hungry, following a busy morning at BLK MKT FLEA, I ignored the urge to go to the Krispy Kreme next door for a doughnut, and explored the site instead. While this Art Deco Modern building was conceived in 1954 and it has the “rounded edges and smooth wall finishes” indicative of the style the aspect that most fascinated me was how crisp, timeless, and glamorous it looks compared to the bustling urban blocks surrounding it.
A natural landscape of trees, grass and bushes effectively shade its walkways, and the variegated palette of green compliments the red brick and light brown walls of the structure. Overall, after perusing the site, and noting all of its diverse features, the most memorable thing about it was the way squares and rectangles are consistently repeated without making it look bland or boxy. As strong and bold as the Department of Water and Power Distributing Station No. 59 I visited previously, at 11701 Venice Blvd., this one also has an added touch of lightness representative of the early 1950s.
Department of Water and Power (4030 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, CA. 90008)
While growing up in South Central Los Angeles, I visited Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza many times with my mother and my grandmother on various shopping trips. Besides the ultra-chic window displays, salespeople, and merchandise I also remember going to the May Co. regularly to get my hair done at the African American beauty salon Soul Sisters.Over the years I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the architecture of the mall, so one sunny day while I was visiting, I grabbed my iPhone and took a few photos outside. Remembering the tips my teacher Ford Lowcock gave me in my iPhone Photography class at Santa Monica College I shot from a variety of angles.
Later while researching my photos on the internet I discovered the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza was built in 1947 and officially opened on November 2, 1947. Known as one of the “first regional shopping centers in the U.S. that was built specifically for the automobile” it’s still a popular neighbored destination.
Secured on both sides by two Art Deco buildings, that still remain excellent representations and retain their Streamline Moderne characteristics, are the Broadway Department Store and the May Co. DepartmentStore.
“Streamline Moderne is an international style of Art Deco architecture and design that emerged in the 1930s. It was inspired by aerodynamic design and emphasized curving forms, long horizontal lines, and nautical elements. In industrial design, it was used in railroad locomotives, telephones, toasters, buses, appliances, and other devices to give the impression of sleekness and modernity.”
The Broadway Department Store:
The designer of the Broadway Department Store was Albert B. Gardner, and it’s located across the street from the May Co. Department Store.
The May Co. Department Store:
The May Co. Department Store opened as a “free-standing store” and was designed by Albert C. Martin and Associates. It was officially completed in October 1947.
Changes to the Mall:
During the 1980s a bridge was built to connect the two stores and “form a walkway for shoppers to the mall”. Today, in addition to a diverse group of stores occupying the mall, the two anchor stores are Macy’s and T.J. Maxx.
There are so many brands and styles of jeans on the market you could spend a whole year trying them on. Despite my fondness for the Mossimo jeans I bought this Spring at Target, the white skinny jeans from Ross, and the Blue Desire Midrise with the distressed hems from T.J. Maxx, my all time favorite type are pre-owned and vintage. Soft, worn in and characteristically inexpensive their main attribute is timelessness.
Paired with a feminine Ralph Lauren blouse they’re “shabby but chic” or with a pristine white tee and menswear blazer, they’re ’80s street. In homage to one of my prized separates, today’s post is all about how to coordinate them five different ways.
Mixing It Up with Florals and Stripes
Painter’s jeans are considered serious work pants when worn with a flannel shirt and steel-toed boots, but they can also be playful when worn with a blue floral jacket and a navy-blue and white Breton (sailor top). Perfect for a quick jaunt to your neighborhood Farmer’s Market or local art gallery, museum or used bookstore they’re tidy and chic.
Farmer’s Market: Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (Farmer’s Market, every Saturday 10 a.m. through 3 p.m.,seela.org 3650 W. MLK Jr. Blvd., L.A., CA. 90008, 323-290-6636).
The Museum of African-American Art: Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (Macy’s 3rd Floor, 4005 Crenshaw Blvd., Thursday-Sunday:12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.,maaala.org). Please call about exhibits and special events.
The Whole 9 Gallery: 3830 Main Street, Culver City, CA. 90232, 310-836-4600. Please call for more information about hours, exhibits and special events. thewhole9gallery.com.
Cool Errand Gear
Distressed and faded Levi’s can still be stylish and versatile when mixed with a vintage white cardigan, statement belt, and shades. The patina and wear of both items also give them a modern elegance. Slip this outfit on when running out to McDonald’s for a quick lunch, bank for much-needed funds or the cleaners with your suit for a job fair. Comfortable enough to be laid-back, but not so sloppy you’ll have to hide behind a nearby bush if you run into an old boyfriend, the structured lines of the jeans and sweater prevent it from being slovenly.
Baggy Hip-Hop Swag
Loose, baggy jeans add an extra saucy edge when coordinated with an oversized white Ralph Lauren shirt, vintage Levi’s jacket, and suede sandals. Then accessorized with a vintage red, white and black print vintage 1940’s doo-rag and oversized shades, it exudes a feminine allure to an ensemble comfy enough for a morning matinee at the Cinemark, artsy afternoon at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) or craft and school supply haul at the Dollar Tree, JoAnne’s or Michael’s.
Distressed But Louche
If you buy a naturally worn and paint splattered pair of jeans from Timeless Treasures or another local thrift store, you can always dress them up with a knock-off Chanel-esque blazer to give them that high-low appeal that’ll take you to school and studying at the library afterwards, or dress them down with a grey retro Aerosmith tee from Ross, for a personal field trip to a Saturday yard sale. Brimming with lively backstories, if you’re lucky enough to find ones this authentic and beloved, they may soon accompany you on your own adventures, and collect tales picked up along the way, for the next owner to ponder over.
Sometimes it’s not just nice to comingle prints and patterns, but layers too. A cropped cardigan can be very smart when placed over a striped blue and white blouse then accented with a navy-blue and white polka-dotted scarf tie and cuffed vintage Levi’s. If you work somewhere semi-casual, arduous, yet with exposure to the public in a school or library this combo is just right for long shifts and hard physical tasks that would render nicer duds torn and tattered in minutes.
As you can see, the ways to coordinate vintage jeans are as varied as the occasions they can be worn too. With a little ingenuity and self-analysis, you can easily include them in your wardrobe and use them to add uniqueness and classical styling any time you need to.
The True Story of Jeans
1) “What textile are they made from?”
They are made out of a material called “denim”. Its name comes from the French term “Serge de Nimes” where they originated in Nimes, France.
2) “How is denim created?”
Denim is created from the weft of the “cotton twill” which goes beneath the warp “threads” before they’re woven together. To get the distinctive blue and white shade of traditional jeans, the warp is “dyed indigo” while the weft is left white.
3) “When were jeans first invented and by whom?”
Jeans were first invented in 1873, by Jacob W. Davis a Reno, Nevada-based tailor and Bavarian native, “businessman/entrepreneur” Levi Strauss.
4) “Which group first wore “blue jeans” and why?”
Cowboys and miners were the first groups to wear “blue jeans. They wore them because they were sturdy and held up well over time.
5) “How did they become so popular with the mainstream?”
James Dean in the film Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Giant (1956) made them popular and okay for anti-establishment males to adopt them as an alternative garment that signified youthful rebellion and allegiance to a sub-culture separate from their 9-5 fathers. Marilyn Monroe in the 1961 film The Misfits did the same for females.
Goodwill Southern California Store and Donation Center, Culver Junction, 3340, 8950 Venice Blvd., L.A., CA. 90034, 310-845-9327. Hours: Sunday (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.), Monday through Saturday (9 a.m. to 9 p.m.), www.goodwillsocal.org. Online store (www.shopgoodwill.org), Ann Taylor Loft, Tommy Hilfiger, Lucky Brand, etc., (Under $50).
Etsy.com, Levi’s vintage jeans (Various prices, under $100), www.etsy.com
Timeless Treasures Thrift Shop, 9441 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA. 90232, 310-559-8338. Hours: Tuesday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., and Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Out of the Closet Thrift Store, 8224 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA., 90046, 323-848-9760. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.