Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How to put together a Rockabilly or Swing look on a budget

 This past July we vended at a fabulous event, The Roaring Twenties Lawn Party, put on by a group called Boston Swing Central. It was a 20's themed picnic/dance party with live music and everyone there was dressed the part. The tunes were genuine Gatsby era and so were the dance routines but the clothing was more about the look. Some folks wore the real deal but many went for flapper inspired clothing and accessories from later eras like the 70's and 80's. Also quite a few wore brand new retro-look outfits. Genuine 1920's clothing is rare, expensive and usually quite fragile so it made perfect sense that so many of the guests opted for creative costuming rather than true vintage. In my booth I had both and I had a lot of fun helping my customers pick out new additions for their vintage event wardrobes.

Roaring Twenties Lawn Party, well dressed Guests  
At the end of this month I will be vending at another vintage themed celebration. This time it's The New England Shake-Up!. A three day Rockabilly bash with round the clock music including over a dozen live bands. We worked this one last year and my bones are still humming. I can't wait! 

Poster for the Shake-Up Show
Dress for last years Shake-Up was an eclectic mix of 1940's thru early 1960's with a dash of punk. A functioning barber shop was staged across from our booth where expert stylists, snipped and razored, rolled and teased... creating the most amazing hairstyles I've ever seen (for men and women). A great "do" was priority for many but the outfits were none too shabby either. The clothing was once again a blend of true vintage and vintage inspired.

Stylists at the 2013 New England Shake Up working their magic

1940's - 60's era clothing is more plentiful than 20's but iconic pieces are rare and prices can soar. There are retro companies who create vintage knock offs, the cheap ones make tacky costume-y stuff, I'm not a fan of that. However, there are a couple good companies who do a beautiful job, I especially like Blue Velvet Vintage. Their 1950's style dresses run around $150 and up and a good petticoat is around $59. Well worth it if your budget will allow but not everyone can swing that so for those of you who are living with tight purse strings I'm going to suggest a few penny pinching ideas.

Lets start with a 1950's look. I picked up this early 1990's dress at the thrift store for $10 and belted it with an 80s wide red belt, another thrift find ($4). I used a new petticoat to flair the skirt. Petticoats can be found new and used and range from $30-$60. The shoes and bag are actual 1950's and cost about $30 each on Etsy. If you prefer to spend less you can find 80's does 50's purses and shoes at the thrift, they should cost around $10 each. The red beads and button earrings are from the 70's and cost less than $10 for the set. So...depending on the accessories, the total for this entire outfit would be between around $100 and $150.

A 1950s look cobbled together from mixed era finds
Accessories can make the outfit. 

This next look is 1940's Swing. I started with a 1970's polka dot dress that was $50 at a vintage show. I added shoulder pads to give it better 40's style. After I cinched it with a $2 thrift store belt it looked a lot like the iconic Authentic War Time dresses run well over $100 in any vintage shop. Shoes are important for a 40's look but the real thing in a wearable size can cost a pretty penny. Instead I used these 1970s peep toe sling backs with polka dot bows valued at around $20. Silk flowers were a favorite accessory and were worn in the hair or as corsages. They are readily available for less than $10 at vintage stores and online. It's nice to add something authentic so I chose a genuine 40s Corde clutch with a lucite pull. These bags are undervalued right now and are selling between $35-$75 online and in vintage shops. If that's too steep you can look for an envelope clutch from the 70's or 80's, they are usually available for about $20. Finally I included a cute 70's does 40's circle brim hat  to be worn on the back of the head. Approximate price $35. Again depending on the accessories this complete outfit, head to toe, would cost between $100 and $150.

Creating Swing era style with a 70's does 40's dress
Genuine corde clutch is a small splurge but adds authenticity to the ensemble
These are just two examples, there are endless ways to pull off a vintage look on a budget. If you look at period magazines or watch old movies you will get a feel for the styles. Pay attention to the accessories they can make all the difference. Sometimes you will luck out and find the real deal for a steal, you gotta love it when that happens. Meanwhile get creative with later era fashions with a retro flavor. Most of all have fun!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Real People, Real Vintage

VFG member Maggie from 

A while ago I was watching re-runs of Hemlock Grove, a deliciously dark, supernatural soap-esque TV series. The show is set in modern times but in one of the episodes I noticed that upir (Ukranian Vampire), Olivia Godfrey, had on a heart stopping, vintage coat which looked a LOT like Courrèges. To my delight, Olivia's entire first season wardrobe seemed to be peppered with fabulous vintage. It's exciting to me, when vintage is a fashion choice of film and TV costumers and I love reports of vintage sightings in high society or the Hollywood crowd. But, my vintage radar is on high wherever I go and I mostly love seeing it worn by real everyday people.

The other day there was a discussion among my fellow trade members on the Vintage Fashion Guild, about house dresses, the kind our mothers and grandmothers wore to tend family and home. A number of members shared their own preferences for these pretty but practical frocks. Some dressed them up for special occasions and others simply wore them as they were intended, to work around the house or garden.

This got me to thinking about how real people choose to wear real vintage. I put a shout out to my VFG friends and asked if they might share pictures of themselves showing off their own unique vintage style. I got a great response and here goes... Real people wearing real vintage.

Alice from  EndlessAlly on Etsy

 In a Mid 60s - early 70s Abe Schrader ensemble. Coat has back belt and velvet collar. "It's my early fall gallery hop favorite!" says Alice

Amy from

1. A 1970s acrylic knit sweater dress, short 1960s wool cape, accessorized with a 1940s black plastic cameo pin and a mid century(Christian Dior) hat.
 2. 1970s snap-front corduroy coat, 1940s wide-brim straw hat and 1960s leather purse with modern leather gloves and scarf.

Amber from TheVintageVortex on Etsy 

1. Wearing a black and white 1960's maxi dress at the Don the Beachcomber tiki bar in Sunset/Huntington Beach. 
2. Amber's hubby in one of his vintage Hawaiian shirts. 

Barbara from  

Under a shady tree wearing a mix of old and new. Antique hat, circa 1919, Edwardian french purse, shoes are 1990s Edwardian revivals and antique brooch.  The green 2 piece suit is a custom made copy of a WWI era suit.

Suzanne from

 Modern vintage look gown. 1950s Hattie Carnegie ruby and hematite necklace. Gold Victorian bangle bracelet, 1950s black gloves and not seen, beaded 40s bag and red and black suede 50s Springolator shoes.

 Bonnie from MyVintageClothesLine on Ruby Lane 

All in 1940s attire. Black Wool Suit, Elizabeth Hawes hat, black wool purse and Joseff of Hollywood Brooch

Carrie from 

Formal night photo from her Mediterranean cruise, 1940s rayon gown. "I'm wearing vintage jewelry too, though you can't see it!" says Carrie 

Harriet from

 1. A ww1 nurses dress over a 90s gap tshir
 2. With a friend at a vintage show wearing a psychedelic jumpsuit  


                   Joules from JoulesVintage on Etsy 

                1. Wearing an 80s jumpsuit
                2. In a 1960s palazzo jumpsuit


Liza from 

1. Off to a fundraiser in a 50s-themed dance production. Everything vintage but the shoes
2.Liza's customer Nicole in a dropped waist 60s dress

 Maggie from 

1. With a friend in 30s/40s attire
2. Mod vintage coat and umbrella

Mary Jane from Poppy' 

MJ says "Here is an old photo of myself back in the 70s in my first vintage shop with my mentor/partner, Alma"

MJ on right in a 40s silk day dresses. Alma wearing Bakelite bangles on and amber pendant

Melanie from StellaRoseVintage on Etsy with twin sister Heather

1. Heather wearing a 1970s Kimono style robe/dressing gown for a day out shopping
2. Heather in 80s St Michael shorts and crop top
3. Melanie went as Jessie, to a Disney character themed Fancy Dress, wearing men's 1970s Italian boots, 80's home made line dancing blouse and 90's Etam cord waistcoat. Plus her Dad's hat
4. and 5. 1980 Tootal tie worn as a headscarf:

Nicole from

1.Nicole and friends in 1940s/50s vintage
2. In 1930s vintage on her wedding day
3. Wearing 30s printed silk satin

Susan from NorthStarVintage on Etsy

Wearing her beloved 60s Brooks cafe racer jacket with stars painted on the cuffs. 

Karen from WillyNillyVintage on Etsy

1. Vintage slip and handbag with modern jeands and cardigan.
2. 1950s cotton play suit with modern belt and heels.
3. 1960s Courrèges raincoat with vintage scarf bag and Bally boots.

And... me in my favorite 1960s cotton print cropped shirt

Thank you to all of my friends and colleagues at the Vintage Fashion guild!!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Vintage Handknit and Classic Pattern Sweaters: The spotlight comes round again.

My love affair for vintage clothing started when I was in high school in the early 1970s. My grandmother was thinning out her closet and she let me pick what I wanted from the discards... I went off with an armload...sheer nylon blouses with rhinestone buttons, cropped orlon cardigans, pleated plaid skirts, her beautiful war time floral rayon dress and two fitted suits.  I loved my Grandmothers classic vintage style and wore everything until it was threadbare. Looking to expand my wardrobe I made my very first vintage purchase at a little shop called Shaky Jakes which specialized in cool "old" clothes (the term vintage was not coined until years later) I picked out a 1940s star patterned ski sweater which precipitated what became a life long obsession.

Over the years I have amassed a rather large collection of classic vintage wool sweaters. They are a staple of my cold weather wardrobe. Living in New England means long frosty winters and having a large stash of festive sweaters helps to brighten things up. Aside from their fetching designs, I love their fine quality. The wonderful worsted and mercerized wools of yesteryear that do not pill and have such a lovely sheen. After all these years I am still finding new additions for my closet because there are so many styles to choose from, many of them with long histories. From Norway there is the Setesdal Sweater with its intricate designs and hand embroidered collar and cuffs as well as the Selbu Star (like my first sweater). Iceland gave us the Lopi sweater with it's bold yoke pattern and from Sweden the more subtle Bohus Stickning patterns. These traditional styles are timeless and beautiful but I'm also fond of novelty sweaters, especially the Mary Maxim styles.

For decades, classic knit designs have made their way into the fashions of the day. Interest has ebbed and flowed but it never goes away. Over the past year popularity has risen again and both designers and retail customers are snapping them up. It will be interesting to see how they inspire the coming trends and collections.

 Lopi Sweater circa 1970s

 Hand knit mittens from the 1940s with the Selbu Star pattern

 Norwegian hand knit cardigan with pewter buttons

 Mary Maxim "football" cardigan, early 1960s

 Ad from a vintage knitting magazine for worsted wool

1950s ad for knitting pattern, novel interpretation of a Scandinavian classic

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Very Vintage Christmas to you!

It's a winter wonderland here in New England with more snow on the way, a good time to focus on indoor tasks, like holiday decorating. In my home Christmas is all about going over the top. Lots of lights and tinsely glitz and most important, quirky vintage ornamentation. I've been collecting vintage decor since the 1970s. My Mom was just starting in the antiques business and I caught her yard sale fever. Early on I began an obsessive hunt for old Christmas decorations. The find that hooked me was a box of unused holiday cards from the 1940s-50s. The pictures were utterly charming AND the cards doubled as tree ornaments. They have graced my Christmas tree ever since.

I've slowed down my search over the years, but occasionally a new piece will make it's way into the collection. This past weekend I found a little celluloid and chenille elf riding in a golden sleigh. Without a doubt, he needed to come home with me.

So without further ado, I would like to say Seasons Greetings! by sharing pictures of a few of my vintage holiday treasures.

 Ornamental molded candles from the 1960s
 This is one of my few reproduction pieces. There is a rotating multi colored light inside, very retro. You can see my little 1950s porcelain choir boy caroling away on the right. 
 Dainty and demure, this 1960s, alabaster porcelain deer makes a beautiful table piece.
 Here he is! My latest acquisition. A celluloid and chenille elf with his golden sleigh. 
 Darling 1950s porcelain angel with wired gauze dress perched on a cut crystal globe
 Home crafted stuffed felt elf doll from the 1930s.
 Felt girl-elf tree ornament, circa early 1960s.
 I love old blown mercury glass bulbs, especially with baby or childrens  themes. 1940s blue mercury glass ornament with ducky (top right)
From my box of card ornaments, this jolly snowman. I can never decide which of the cards I like best, they are all so sweet. To his right a 1960s spun cotton Santa.
 A 1940s porcelain snowman bell.
 A 1950s Florida souvenir ornament, cute little orange person. Behind that, another one of my card ornaments.
 This one is from the 1980s, wall plaque, reproduction of a Victorian Christmas card.
And last but not least, a  sleigh full of 1960s Made in Japan, cloth elves and the big man himself, Santa!

Happiest Holidays to you all.