Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wide Wild n' Wonderful! 1940s Vintage Ties

It's the holidays season and we all know what THAT means. Time to find the perfect gifts for our family and friends even if we have no idea what that might be.

Guys can be the hardest to buy for. Unless you can afford a Porsche or Ferrari they aren't usually very impressed. Don't get me wrong they are grateful for the shirts, sweaters, socks and boxers.... but impressed? Not so much.

I was leafing through a Dec. issue 1948 Esquire Magazine the other day, checking out their gift ideas and this fabulous necktie ad caught my eye.

Esquire Magazine December 1948

It got me to thinking about how wild and wonderful ties were from that era and how out of character that was for the "ideal-male image" of the day. Men were supposed to be serious and stoic and tough as nails. They wore stiff suits and dress shirts or rugged work clothes all week and plaid shirts on the weekend. Why then, were neckties being designed with surreal forest themes, giant polka dots n' paisleys and crazy abstracts? Why indeed.

The first half of the 1940s were a VERY somber time. WW11 overshadowed every aspect of life and most able bodied men had served in the armed services, many for the duration. At home, war time restrictions did not allow for frivolities, life was tempered. When the war ended people were filled with relief and looked forward to a more care free life. Women's fashion celebrated with an explosion of ultra feminine style with an emphasis on luxury. Men's fashion, (I'm talking mainstream mens fashion), remained fairly conservative. Sure lapels and pant widths changed and plaids may have gotten a bit brighter but not a lot else....EXCEPT of course, neck ties. Holy Cow did neck ties ever change. Artists were commissioned to design ever more creative motifs and ties got wider, I'm sure to accommodate the bold new prints. It was a chance for men to get a little silly without raising eyebrows.

Post War 1940s Neck Ties. Look for them soon in Men's accessories on my website

I love the ties from this era... so much so, I find ways to wear them myself from time to time. So now, when you can't think of the perfect gift for that special guy (or creative gal) perhaps you should consider a wide, wild n' wonderful 1940s neck tie!

Til next time, Happy Holidays and Best Wishes to all!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Those Crazy 80s!

Pile of pictures from 1980s Elle magazines

It's official (has been for a while)...80s fashions are now considered vintage. Love it or hate it, it's a fact and it's time to embrace the carnival. The 80s represented SO many different styles and a lot of it was over the top. Colors and patterns out did themselves, it was a cartoon world...Crayola and neon...animal prints... optical effects... bold graphics.

Classics turned surreal with exaggerated bows and nautical collars, miniature top hats and monstrous ruffles. Even the "back to the country" looks of Ralph Lauren and Laura Ashley were sometimes more costume than fashion (I mean that in a good way, I think...). There were spikes and corsets from the punk movement. Killer high heels accompanied school girl skirts and avant guard layers, swathed the arty crowd.

For evening...beads, embroidery and sequins galore, women wore mini cocktail dresses to black tie events and sometimes even modified menswear. Oh yeah.... androgynous was totally hip. The power suit with it's ever dramatic shoulder pads are now considered iconic...designers like Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana did tailored with a twist.

...and accessories, if you can believe it were even more wild and wonderful, especially costume jewelry. Earrings were huge and so were necklaces, plasic was often the material of choice. Wild patchwork handbags were the rage.

Patchwork PLEATHER handbag

The 80s had a viral love affair with vintage and designers looked to just about every era for inspiration from sweet Victorian to ultra Mod. With such strong interest in vintage, hats made a comeback which made me a very happy camper (that's when I did my millinery training).

80s fashions aren't everyones cup of tea but you must admit they are fun and certainly interesting and mind you it's not all ugly prom dresses and giant shoulders. Like any other era there are some real gems, keep an open mind and apply the "little goes a long way" rule you might be surprised :)

Til next time, best to all


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The magic of Missoni

Hi all,

Today I posted a Missoni dress to my site that I have been holding on to for a year. It took me that long to let it go. I had to hold on to it for a while...because I really love Missoni and very seldom do I find it and I just liked having it in my possession.

Compared to the rest of what we know as "status fashion", the Missoni label has a unique history, not your typical haute couture story. It's roots are in the world of sports wear and knitting mills. Husband and wife design team Ottavio Missoni and Rosita Jelmini Missoni are the founders and while I was researching I read some interesting tidbits about the history of the company. I'll share a couple of the highlights...

Before Ottavio met Rosita he was was an accomplished athlete as well as a partner in a small sports, knit wear company. In 1948, the same year he went to London to compete in the 400 meter hurdles, his company designed the Italian Olympic teams track suits. Rosita had a textile background as well, along with an eye for design and skill in the sewing arts. They married in 1953 and set up a small knitwear workshop.

In the beginning they sold their pieces to other designers. In 1958 they presented their first collection in Milan which they called Milano-Simpathy. Since it's heyday in the 20s and 30s, fine knitwear had fallen out of favor and the public was not accustomed to associating it with high fashion. The Missoni's colorful designs and unique patterns were not immediately embraced and it took a while but in 1966 Italian journalist, Anna Piaggi began celebrating their work in her articles. By 1967 they were well on their way when an incident of "scandal" catapulted them into the limelight. At a showing in Florence, Rosita was unhappy with the way her models bras interfered with look of her creations, so she had them walk the runway bra less....bright lights and filmy fabric....well you know, and being the 1960s the response was total shock. Whats that old saying...any press is good press? and in this case it was very good.

Missoni has seen the ups and downs of any great name but one thing no one can argue is the eternal appeal of their designs. Very few designers can boast that their garments never go out of style and I honestly believe this to be true of iconic Missoni. Their knits borrow from tradition but transform into unique fabric creations. The colors they use transcend trend and their silhouettes are simple exercises in flattering drape. Although some Missoni pieces have been and continue to be dramatic, most are easy to combine with most any wardrobe. On the Fashion Encyclopedia website I read a quote by Rosita Missoni as told to Elsa Klensch, writing for the New York Post (24 May 1978), "Our philosophy since we went into business has been that a piece of clothing should be like a work of art. It should not be bought for a special occasion or because it's in fashion, but because a woman likes it…and feels she could wear it forever."

What a wonderful philosophy.

Till next time, take care and best to you all.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New York AND Chicago Vintage!!

Life has been a whirlwind and I'm late in getting this out but better late than never!

Over the past few weeks we did the Manhattan Vintage Show and the Chicago Vintage Show ....both were wonderful. We've been doing Manhattan for a number of years now and so far each show has been inspirational. Fashion and New York are synonymous so it's no surprise, that a show featuring the very best vintage would be embraced whole heartedly. Approximately 80 dealers come from all corners to sell their primo wares and for two days it's pure vintage heaven. It's all there.... under one roof, from historical couture to yester-years dime store ready-to-wear. The customers are always excited and happy...honestly, you would think it was a holiday, but what you may not know is how much of a treat this is for us dealers as well. Let me tell you all about it....

....My husband Bob has managed to squeeze everything into the van, all the clothing and racks, bins, boxes and bags... every last thing I packed and there isn't an inch to spare. I'm always amazed when he does this. I've spent the last two weeks picking the show, cleaning and mending, staging displays.... It's 2:00 am on Friday and we are finally on our way. The drive to NYC is 4 hours and it's a drizzly night. Thankfully the roads are nearly deserted and the miles stream on by. We enter the city around 6:00 am. In the dim light, before sun, the buildings have no color, just bluish shades of gray. The van is soon parked in a great space close to the loading area! auspicious beginnings.

Before we unload I check into the hall. An ocean of chalk marked spaces and empty tables belie the festivity to come. We are one of the early birds. The show does not start for another 7 hours but I like having this time to set my up my booth just the way I want it, taking time to greet the other dealers as they arrive. Elaine's son is coming home from Hawaii and Judy's puppy is such a scamp..... We have some good friends here.

The racks and boxes roll in and slowly the hall is transformed. We are all itching to see what the others have brought. I steal a few minutes to sneak a peek and fall in love with a pretty 1950s cashmere and fox sweater. I can't resist..... only one purchase though, lets see how the show goes....

An hour before the doors open I begin to feel the excitement. Time to put the finishing touches on the booth then off to the ladies room to change. The mirrors are crowded with hopeful faces...we wish each other well while plying lipstick and tussling with tangles.

David, one of the show producers hurries up and down the aisles announcing that we have 10 minutes left. A fellow dealer just took a look out the front door and tells me they are lined up to the end of the block. We both can't help but grin. It's going to be a good show.

Bob and I always set up in the back row. It's our spot and most of our friends are there. When the doors open there is a lag before the crowd reaches us but a few savvy customers beat the rush by starting with us. In the first couple of hours the shoppers tend to be a little frantic. They dart from booth to booth, often asking for specific items. A lot of the early shoppers are high end dealers and designers. For them this is business. They know what they want and don't take time to linger. This year there was a lot of interest in bias crepe dresses from the 1930s as well as designer clothing from the 80s and even the early 90s. They go for the artsy stuff rather than the classic looks. Loose and textured sheaths or tunics that could be belted. Flowing layers and dropped waists....dealers wanted jewelry that was big, bold and signed, gold rather than silver.

It's mid afternoon and the atmosphere has changed. The crowd is thick, but customers are taking their time. I love this part of the show...you see....vintage attracts the most creative people. Sometimes I get completely sidetracked while watching the kaleidoscope of ensembles strolling in and out of my booth. Vintage is the common thread, mostly used to accent but sometimes as a complete identity. It's all good.

The shows are where I see whats Goin' on. Sure, fashion magazines feature vintage from time to time, especially if it's on a celebrities back and there are some great vintage bloggers and sites out there but nothing comes close to seeing whats actually happening on the "street". You get to see vintage trends in their infant stage. I make quick note of any non-trendy piece that gets tried on or picked up numerous times. Sometimes an adventurous soul will buy it, but often enough it stays on the rack until some future show where it becomes the thing they all want. This fall I had an 80s cocktail dress...simple black sheath with a riot of feathers on the shoulders. I can't tell you how many times that dress was taken off the rack, everyone loved it. I had another black 80s sheath with HUGE red satin shoulder accents. Same thing. The silhouettes had the same look. Simple and fitted in the body with exaggerated shoulder details. Both dresses went home with me... this time... but something tells me I should keep an eye out...

Most of the time though, people buy what strikes them or what's "hot" at the moment Highlights this fall were...big belts, long delicate chains with accents, funky boots...over sized tunic sweaters, 1950s shirtwaist dresses ( a perennial) , sequined sweaters.... all kinds of coats and hats (yeah!) and cool 80s handbags.

For two wonderful days I sold vintage, shared my passion, watched a never ending fashion parade and got to be with friends. The show closed at 6:00 pm on Saturday, customers hurried to make final purchases and requested business cards for items they had to think about. As the last person left my booth I kicked off my pretty show-shoes and slipped my aching feet into comfy old sneaks. Chatter about the show went back and forth as we we all packed up our booths. By 9:00 pm the van was loaded and our goodbyes had been said. Tired beyond description but pleased and content Bob and I headed out of the city.

.....two weeks later we did it all again in Chicago... a new show! Since that show is just getting off the ground attendance was not like New York but the promise was there. Chicago is a fantastic place, with it's own vibrant personality. The people are so friendly and of course style is alive and well. Trends were similar to New York and most importantly, vintage is celebrated. Although the crowd was new to us the enthusiasm was the same AND we were asked over and over to please come back next year. How could I not love that?

Well, we are home now and our next show is not until Feb. It's a long stretch but that will give me time to work on my poor neglected website AND Blog! So until next time, take care and thank you for visiting!!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Show Time!

A good part of my business takes place at trade shows like the Manhattan Vintage Show and the Sturbridge Textile Show. There are all kinds of outlets for buying vintage... websites, web auctions, bricks and mortar shops....and all have their pluses, but for me, the most exciting vintage venues are the big shows. Dealers come from far and wide with their very best merchandise. Imagine dozens and dozens of booths filled with the finest vintage on the market. If you love vintage it's like a dream come true. Each dealer has their own niche so you will find every style from 80s punk to original Victorian... labels are just as diverse, a high end dealer with numbered couture might be set up next to a trend savvy booth, chock full of swinging 70s department store dresses. Not everything is silly-expensive either. Prices are often competitive (not cheap but reasonable for what you get). Check out the slide show on the Manhattan Vintage site.

This weekend we will be in the back row at the Manhattan Vintage Show (booth # 77) plying our own wares. I can't wait. I just LOVE watching and meeting the crowd. Literally thousands of style lovers, parade through, dressed to the vintage nines and everyone with their own creative look. AND you never know who will show up. I've seen Vogue editors and lots of important designers, film costumers and even the occasional Movie Star! I hope to see YOU there, if you make it, come by and say hello!

Til next time! Best to all. Melody

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Value in Tailored Vintage

Cashmere and mink coat from the 1950s

Without a doubt, I consider tailored vintage clothing to be your best value for the money. Before I go on let me define tailoring. According to my 1973 Vogue Sewing Book...

Tailoring is a "construction technique requiring special hand sewing and pressing to mold fabric into a finished garment"

These techniques are mostly used in coats, suits and jackets and they require great skill and patience. Fine tailoring not only makes a garment look beautiful it also helps it remain so for life. Lapels and collars maintain their shape, shoulders roll smoothly, linings don't shift, seams stay straight and true.... Beneath the surface of any well tailored garment is a complicated under structure of underlinings, interlinings, facings and TONS of handwork. The modern garment industry has had to eliminate or compromise many of these techniques to keep their prices competitive but in years gone bye even modestly priced, tailored clothing, boasted fine handwork. One of the most noticeable features that you never see anymore are cloth bound buttonholes. Buttonholes are almost all machine stitched today. Cloth bound buttonholes are tedious to make but they look beautiful and are very sturdy.

Beautifully tailored shoulder on a 1940s coat

Besides the beautiful construction that went into tailored vintage, the materials used were also extraordinary. What we consider couture level fabrics today were readily available to the mainstream years ago. Some were quite expensive but not unattainable. Mongolian cashmere, Scottish tweeds, lush boucl├ęs, novel plaids...all high quality and many hand loomed. Some design houses had custom created textiles like Lili Anne who imported their woolen goods from France. Older fabrics almost never pill and seem to wear forever. Fur trims were commonplace.. mink, fox, mouton lamb. Buttons were unique, some were even jeweled with rhinestones.

Wool pile, faux leopard fabric from the 1950s. Wool looks more natural and wears better than todays acrylic faux furs.

Today many designers borrow heavily from vintage styles. Often they do a marvelous job capturing the essence of an era and reinterpreting it for the contemporary market but unless they are very high end the demand for inexpensive clothing places strict limits on their manufacturing techniques. A modern coat that looks fabulous on the hanger often looses it's shape, sometimes before the season ends! Fancy fabrics pill, others look generic. Buttons fall off easily. To be fair, vintage coats can have this problem too, but that's because the button has put decades of pressure on the thread, not because they were not sewn on right. I suggest you check the buttons on any garment you buy and reinforce if needs be.

Hand bound buttonholes on a 1950s blazer.

You can still find affordable, nicely made dresses, blouses, skirts and pants on the modern market. I like pretty classics so every year I buy a couple of Anne Taylor blouses and Maggie London makes lovely summer dresses. Levis is still doing great jeans but when it comes to suits, jackets and outerwear I generally stick to vintage. You CAN buy a new tailored garment with the same quality of fabric and construction as vintage but the cost will be in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars. For this reason I consider tailored vintage to be your best vintage value!

Till next time, best to you!


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The seduction of black...

A vintage, black sequined, Lili Rubin gown

Fashion week is here again and it looks like color was off the pallet for a number of designers. Valentino was all about inky drama. Armani was doing white and black and Elie Saab did an all white collection. Black seemed to dominate though and I found that refreshing. Don't get me wrong, I love color but it was nice to see fashion design pared down to form and silhouette. It got me to thinking just how much I really do love basic black.

I'm not alone, black has always been a fashion favorite which is why an abundance of it to still be found in vintage. From Victorian mourning clothing to mid century "Audrey" dresses, it's easy to find AND easy to wear. One of my personal favorites are the classic 1940s rayon dresses with their sculpted shoulders, form fitting torsos and swingy skirts. These flattering frocks are the perfect foil for accessories and can be worn from day into evening. As for formal wear there is nothing more elegant than an all black gown. The timeless element of black is another plus. If you wear vintage you almost never have to worry about looking "costumey" in black.

Black pumps, the perfect black turtleneck, a classic black purse....these are just a few of the essentials a well rounded wardrobe requires. All are available on the vintage market in a variety of styles depending on their era. It's agreed that vintage is THE place to get creative but don't overlook the simple treasures, sometimes they are the best!

Bye for now! Melody

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Be Adorned, a love affair with vintage costume jewelry.

Costume jewelry by Coro, from the 1956-57 Fall Winter Montgomery Ward catalogue

I have an early memory. My grandmother's top drawer...a whisper of powdery perfume. On tip toes I carefully remove an old cardboard candy box and quietly sit. The cover comes off to reveal treasure. Strands of crystal and pearl, festive beads and jeweled brooches. A trove of earring pairs, in all shapes and sizes. This covert act has been carried out countless times, always with the same results, pure awe and delight. I fill my eyes but never touch, that might lead to discovery and I am without a doubt, in forbidden territory. Moments pass and soon the candy box is safely back in it's rightful place.

Since I can remember I have loved costume jewelry. My grandmothers modest collection was my first exposure. I bought MY very first piece at the age of 11. There was a little shop in our downtown that carried all kinds of accessories. This was the mid 60s and large showy rings were popular. In the front case was a whole tray full, $1 each......rhinestone and filigree in every color... but my favorite was a lithographed glass cabochon with a Fragonard-esque scene. The setting was heavily detailed in antique "gold". I remember the amused smile on the lips of the sales lady as she adjusted my purchase to fit. Later in my teen years I discovered "junk" shops. Nicer than the flea market but not as expensive as an antique store. This is when my serious collecting began. Every junk shop had a display case of used or vintage costume jewelry. Brooches became my favorite and to this day I still wear some of the fabulous pieces I acquired way back when.

At that time I knew nothing about signed costume jewelry but quality always stood out, so by default I ended up with some very collectible pieces. Times have changed and demand has skyrocketed, the public is much more knowledgeable than before so it is difficult to find rare and valuable vintage costume for short money. You can however pick up high quality unsigned pieces at reasonable cost. Most folks, like me, who buy to wear are more interested in the look rather than the name. Some of my favorite pieces are unsigned. Quality on the other hand is always important. Better rhinestones and crystals with sharp facets can be spotted from across the room. If rhinestones are prong set, all the better. Hand knotted simulated pearls can often look just like the real thing and high quality gold plating will not tarnish if properly cared for. Look for Rolled Gold or Gold Filled. Sterling silver costume is undervalued at this time, so you can really find some great values. Large sterling or vermeil brooches from the 1940s always make a stunning statement. Since vintage costume has become so popular there are lots of informative books on the market. Three that I like Warman's Jewelry by Christie Romero (fine jewelry and costume guide), Costume Jewelry by Judith Miller and Collectible Costume Jewelry by Cherri Simonds.

Til next time, Best to you Melody

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pre-order our book The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping

I'm so very excited! My book The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping is at the presses right now and early copies will be arriving next month. The book will be on the shelves this coming October but if you want yours in September (and signed) you can pre-order right now from our website. Orders will be shipped towards the end of next month.

I want to thank Quirk Books for being my publisher, and especially Mary Ellen Wilson, editor extraordinaire! Our little guide focuses on how to buy vintage clothing and accessories but it also includes a bit of fashion history, as well as practical advice on caring for and cleaning your vintage wardrobe. Quirk always puts out wonderful AND affordable books. Ours is just $18.95 (plus shipping) but don't let the low price fool you, it's so loaded with tips, tricks and advice that even the veteran shopper will learn new things. PLUS there are lots of great pictures. Since vintage is all about celebrating fashion I tried to make it a fun read, nothing stuffy about this book!

One last thing. If you order copies from our website, as gifts, or for yourself, they can be signed and/or inscribed with a personal message. Just indicate that on the order form.

OK... enough with the sales pitch. Stay tuned for our next blog on vintage costume jewelry.

Till then Best to all!


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Solving Vintage Issues with Vintage patterns

A few vintage patterns from my website

The vintage market has grown in leaps and bounds over the past decade or so. Today there is a vast selection of vintage venues and choices seem endless, however, nothing is perfect and there are situations where shopping for vintage can be illusive and frustrating.

Finding just what you want is fairly easy if you are a perfect smaller size but it can be more of a challenge for those of us with older, plumper or unique proportions. There is less to choose from and unfortunately a lot of larger vintage can be a tad matronly. That's not to say it's impossible to find great stuff in your size, it's just harder and if you have a specific look in mind the hunt becomes even more difficult. On another note some vintage can be fragile and risky to wear. Those diaphanous chiffon's from the 1930s or the beaded flapper dresses from the 20s look fine on a mannequin but the fabrics seldom hold up to anything but the most gentle use...just dancing in them can cause irreversible damage. Then there are those occasions when you need a specific color or yearn for a particular fabric and nothing you see is quite right. These are all great reasons to consider turning to vintage patterns.

Fortunately there are vintage patterns available for every imaginable article of clothing... dresses, suits, coats, lingerie, separates ....even swimsuits and aprons. You can buy vintage fabric and notions (old buttons and metal zippers) to make your garment as authentic as possible and if you are a real purist look for vintage sewing books to study old techniques for clothing construction

There are a few things you need to keep in mind when you sew from a vintage pattern. First is the issue of size. Vintage patterns go by really old standards of sizing which bear no resemblance to contemporary sizing. Disregard the size and note the measurements on the pattern then compare them to your own.

If you fall in love with a patten that does not match your measurements do not despair. Most patterns can be graded up or down to the desired size. It does help if you can find a pattern close to what you need. At the end of this blog are a few links to articles with clear grading instructions. You can also pay a better seamstress to grade your pattern for you if you don't feel confident trying it yourself.

Once you have purchased a vintage pattern you may notice that the pattern pieces have no markings on them and very early patterns might not even have much in the way of instruction. The reason for this is that most women were trained at sewing from a very early age and knew how to put a pattern together. If you are concerned about this take a look at the instructions from a similar style, modern pattern. They won't be exactly the same of course but you will get a general idea of the different steps you need to follow.

Tissue patterns are very fragile so I recommend you transfer them to heavy paper before starting. Just smooth out the pattern pieces and pin them to the paper then trace and cut. Before removing the tissue pattern pencil dots in the proper punch holes for grain, you will see these in your instructions. Connect the dots with a ruler to create your grain line this is imperative. Transfer any other marks you might need like fold lines and notches. At this point, grade your pattern for size if necessary.

Next I strongly recommend you sew a quick muslin or mock up of the garment before cutting into your costly fashion fabric, especially if it's vintage and you can't get any more!. You can do all your fitting on the muslin then transfer the alterations to your pattern. You only need to do this once and it can really prevent disaster later on.

If you love authentic vintage but have trouble finding what you desire then consider looking into making your own from vintage patterns. If you are fortunate enough to have a trusted seamstress and can afford to have your clothing made then I say indulge! Either way it will be a fun and rewarding project.

Until my next blog best to you all! Melody

Articles on grading patterns

How to Re size a Pattern

Making Sense of Pattern Grading

Quick Reference for Cut and Spread Pattern Grading

Grade a Bodice to a Larger Size

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Vintage Apron

Vintage aprons on my website

I have a lovely mother-in-law, Gloria, who is a wonderful cook. The minute she enters her kitchen, on goes the apron and when I offer to help she immediately hands me one as well. My own Mom, who is also a culinary wonder, keeps a ready stash of clean aprons under her counter. Until recent years, aprons were as essential in the kitchen as a frying pan. I'm not sure why modern culture has drifted away from their use, they really are quite practical and even fun to wear.

Everyday aprons were usually sturdy and practical, made from cotton or a blend. They had minimal embellishment, but tended to be attractive none the less. The fabric itself was often pretty and colorful. Florals, checks and stripes or solids with contrasting trim and pockets were popular. "Fancy" aprons were more for show. They might be romantic or even a bit saucy. Short flouncy things worn while the hostess served her guests....aprons of sheer chiffon or organza mixed with polished cotton and trimmed with lace, delicate eyelets, lovely cut work and all types of hand embroidery can be found on aprons from the twentieth century. AND lets not forget the barbecue apron made with the fellas in mind. I included a funky 70s version in the collage above....a heavy duty cotton canvas, from the 70s that simply reads THE APRON.

Whether you are looking for vintage aprons to wear or collect thankfully they abound on the market. Mint or barely used aprons are common. Most women had a plentiful supply (they were often given as gifts from "the kids") and duplicates or fancier ones were stored away. Even those who may not gravitate towards wearing vintage fashion seem to get a kick out of old aprons. AND they still make great gifts!!

Have a glorious day!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Sturbridge Vintage Show

Hi all,

What a wonderful show we had in Sturbridge, Ma. yesterday! For those of you who have never been, the Sturbridge Antique Textiles and Vintage Clothing Show is one of the few of it's kind in the country. Three times a year, dealers travel from far and wide to showcase their finest vintage clothing and accessories. You never know what you might see....from Civil war Gowns to 80s designer... 30s chiffons, minis and maxis, sultry gowns and frothy party dresses.... accessories abound as well. Hats, handbags, jewelry and shoes. If you love vintage or just fashion in general it's like visiting the department store of your dreams!!

Baubles and bangles at the show!

...and lets not forget the racks and boxes just brimming with with yesteryear's fabrics and trims, buttons and notions....pure heaven for designers and crafters looking for the unique. There was a large designer turnout, mostly textile people. Without mentioning any names there seemed to be a trend for painterly abstract prints in bold colors, small repetitive prints and interesting geometrics. We will be watching the runways next year to see where this inspiration goes...

Till next time, take care and thanks for reading our blog!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hidden meanings and Victorian symbolism.

Victorian culture spanned sixty years and went through a number of changes but one theme seems to have lasted throughout, sentimentality. There were always artistic undercurrents pushing back against this trend (think Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley), but in general, popular culture preferred to indulge in exaggerated emotion, be it in the name of love, joy or tragedy.

The tendency towards Victorian sentimentality manifested itself in a number of ways but one that I find intriguing is the complicated use of symbolism used to express feelings, thoughts or messages, most notably with the use of flowers. A simple bouquet or posy might thrill or devastate it’s recipient depending on the meanings of the flowers chosen. To add to the drama, not everyone attributed the same meaning to every flower. Flower symbolism had been around for centuries with varied histories so in time actual dictionaries were printed on the subject with each author having their own interpretations. For example lavender might mean devotion OR distrust. Imagine the misunderstanding (and possible mayhem) this could cause if both parties had different dictionaries! In general though, meanings were agreed upon. Victorian symbolism spilled over into other areas as well, particularly jewelry design. Just recently I acquired a lovely Victorian necklace and decided to try and interpret the meaning. It was great fun! Above is a picture of the necklace that was sold from my website. Below I will give you the meanings of the images and materials used

Swallow - Faithfully returning home/ or just home. Supposedly the swallow was one of the first birds to land on deck when a ship was close to land, not surprisingly, aside from a popular motif for jewelry it was also a favorite tattoo for sailors!

Seed Pearls - purity, innocence, harmony and humility

Three Leaf Clover – domestic virtue and fertility. Also a white clover signifies a promise and these tiny clovers have a white seed pearl in the center

Forget me not – Faithful love

As soon as I put the symbols together the meaning seemed obvious, I was certain this had to be a bridal gift.... and much to my delight, upon further research I found out that seed pearl jewelry was a customary gift for a young woman turning 18 yrs OR a bride before her wedding!

There are lots of resources to research Victorian symbols. If you are interested I suggest you start with the Internet and look up key words like the "language of flowers" or "Victorian symbolism". It’s great fun and I guarantee you will never look at Victorian jewelry the same way again!

Until our next blog, enjoy and take care!


Monday, June 1, 2009

The Notorious Midi!

A protest Midi Skirt button from 1970

Skirt lengths have been a subject for controversy for decades, usually this happened for reasons of modesty, as they began to rise above accepted standards. Throughout most of the Victorian years, showing just an ankle would raise eyebrows, so during the teens it was scandalous when skirts began to hovered a few inches above the shoe and in the 1920s, flapper dresses, which rose all the way to the knee, provoked out and out...outrage.

Who would have predicted, that in the late 60s - early 70s, at the height of the mini skirts popularity, a falling hemline could cause similar public reaction? The later 1960s saw a number of fashion trends, one being a preoccupation with all things romantic and/or nostalgic. Think Biba + Deco or the Early, Gunne Sax, prairie dress. Longer hemlines were being created for casual and day wear. The look wasn't for everyone but it had it's place and as always, terms were coined for the emerging new styles.

In these years since, people tend to call every long dress from this era a Maxi dress but if you were around at the time you knew differently. A Maxi skirt was gown length, to the floor or at least to the top of the shoe. The Midi on the other hand, might fall anywhere from calf to ankle. I remember clearly, a newspaper fashion article in 1969 featuring three versions of an identical gingham dress in Maxi, Midi and Mini lengths. Designers like Valentino and Bohan experimented with these longer styles and according to a vintage Time Magazine article, John Burr Fairchild of Women's Wear Daily, announced that 1970 was to be the year of the Midi.

The ensuing controversy reached heights that, I'm sure, even Mr. Fairchild never expected. It was one thing for the adventurous and artistic to champion an exotic trend but for the style Monarch himself to decree that mainstream fashion was to embrace such a drastic change created a furor.

An embroidered Wool Midi Skirt from my website

Women vowed to never give up their mini skirts and according to the same Time article " A protest signed by 335 customers of the Sanger-Harris store in Dallas reads: "We object strongly to being suppressed into buying the midi exclusively. We like looking feminine and intend staying that way, even if it means shopping elsewhere."

The male population was no happier as you can imagine. Men of all ages were still pinching themselves over the daily parade of pretty legs, that the mini skirt had made possible and they were NOT about to give it up without a protest.

Even the garment industry let out a wail. The same Time Magazine article quotes Irene Johns, president of the Association of Buying Offices as saying..."by starting to push the midi last winter, Women's Wear killed not only the fall season for manufacturers but the spring season too."

Good grief, all of this over a skirt length! And a longer one to boot... I was a young teen in those days and actually liked the new Midi skirt. I found it less cumbersome than the Maxi and was charmed by it's sense of nostalgia. I just loved watching old movies with women in their feminine frocks that reached below the knee. PLUS, on a more practical note, living in New England could get pretty drafty in a mini skirt! For me the Midi was a blessing but it was years before I found out about the tempest it had stirred, not until I had begun researching vintage clothing. I can tell you this, once you delve into the history of fashion you will never be bored!

Until our next blog take care and best to all.


Sources for this article:

Time Magazine, Monday, Sep. 14, 1970, Out on a Limb with the Midi
Stop the Midi button Dudley's Vintage Ads & Prints

Monday, May 25, 2009

Replacing the lid-mirror in a vintage handbag.

I can't tell you how many times, while hunting for vintage, I have found beautiful little box bags from the 1940s and 50s only to open them up and find the inside mirror either badly tarnished or missing. Everything else would be in fabulous condition but the whole effect was ruined when you looked inside. If the price was low enough I'd buy them and put them aside believing I could easily relpace the mirror one day. Well I soon found out....it's not so easy.

The thinnest mirror stock that most glass suppliers carry is 1/8" thick. That sounds pretty thin doesn't? That's what I thought... until I compared it to an original mirror from an old purse. The modern stuff was perfectly barbaric in comparison. It would never have worked.

Aside from the extra weight which would have been hard on the hinges, it also would have looked thick and awkward. No problem I thought...I'll just find a source for thinner mirror and have my local glass shop cut it for me. Again...not so easy. I contacted dozens of wholesalers and almost none of them would even talk to me because I was not a vendor. I did manage to find a nice fellow, at a Georgia company, who did his best to help, but in order for me to purchase something thinner I would have had to order enough to last three lifetimes! Aaargh! Here I was with a stock-pile of beautiful vintage handbags doing nobody any good, for lack of a simple mirror. I was desperate.

I called my local glass shop and begged them to help. The young lady at the desk took pity on me and promised to do what she could. I owe her a debt of gratitude because later that day she called back and said she had located 1/16" mirror (half the size) and the best news was, I only had to buy what I needed. After thanking her from the bottom of my heart I ran over with templates for 5 mirrors and placed my order.

To create the templates it helps if you have the original mirror. In that case all you need to do is trace. If the mirror is gone you must determine the size and shape on your own. Sometimes age has caused an outline on the lid where the old mirror was. Use a piece of see through tracing paper to copy the outline. If there is no clue then create a square or rectangle to fit the area. MAKE SURE you do not overlap the opening edge of the bag or the mirror will impede closure (I learned this the hard way)To be double sure of this, pass the template through the opening of the bag making sure it clears the edges

I wanted the edges of my mirrors to be beveled but the glass cutter could not accomodate me so I told him to please smooth the edges for safety reasons. Still, I did not like the naked edge of the mirror showing so I took a piece of vintage gold cord and glued it all around like a frame. This looked great. I'm sure other types of ribbon or trim would work just as well.

When gluing mirror it is imperitive to use acid free glue. Acidic glue will disolve the mirrored finish over time, creating dark spots. You can use mirror mastic or an acid free craft glue made for adhereing non pouros materials. I use Weldbond Universal Adhesive by Frank T RossLtd. http://www.franktross.com/.

To find thin mirror ask your local glass store if they will special order some for you, ask for 1/16" or less. If you are lucky they may actually have some old stock on hand. The people I go to are J.+R. Glass in Fitchburg Ma. Their website is http://www.jandrglass.com/ I can't guarantee, but I bet if you arrange to send them your templates they would be happy to do business by mail, you would just have to pay for shipping.

Just a note: When I relpace a mirror in a bag for re-sale I always disclose this fact to my customers. Some care, some don't but it is the prudent thing to do.

Best to you all! Melody

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My New Site!

It's been a long time in the making but the new site is up and running! I have so many beautiful things to add, and now I'll have the time to do it. Today, I'm starting with a few vintage dresses. Heres a preview of one, it goes up this afternoon!

It's a lovely 50's black organdy dress with embroidered rosebuds AND it's a wearable size. A lot of vintage is really tiny. Especially the cute stuff. It's nice to find a pretty vintage party dress in the generous medium range... like this beauty!

On another note we are having a gorgeous spring day in New England. After the dresses are up I'm out the door. You all have a beautiful day too.

best to you all, Melody

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The wonderful world of vintage!

Hello and Welcome!

Let me begin my new blog site, A Vintage Ramble, with an introduction. My name is Melody and I'm a vintage clothing dealer. I own Tangerineboutique.com as well as a shop-by-appointment store in Gardner, Massachusetts. Simply put, I became a vintage dealer because I am utterly obsessed with fashions and textiles from the past. It is my passion.

(a rack of vintage dresses in my shop)

I am also the author of The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping, due for release this coming Oct. by Quirk books. If there is one thing I love almost as much as working with vintage it's writing about it. My little book is a great basic guide book, it explains everything you need to know when you shop for vintage, but there is so much more to write about.

Before blogging became the rage and before I was contracted to write my book I would send out a newsletters from my website with short, interesting, vintage related articles. Subjects were random, whatever struck my fancy at the time...some musings by Chanel that I had come across in an old magazine, the trials and tribulations of dealing with the cloths moth.... sometimes a little fashion history lesson. These articles are archived on my site and available to read at your leisure but, again, there is so much more to write about. Blogging seems to be the perfect venue for this love affair of mine so I welcome you and hope you will join me in my celebration of the wonderful world of Vintage!

Until we meet again, best to you all! Melody