Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Very Vintage Holiday Season to you!

I adore the Holiday Season. All the holidays..... it's wonderful that there are so many different celebrations that take place, all the world over....festivals of light, days of thanksgiving, the birth of a new year... Christmas is my personal favorite. Besides having been a magical part of my childhood it is also a reminder to me that hope, love and peace are the greatest gifts mankind can ever wish for.

I love everything Christmas and being a vintage kind of gal, it's no wonder the nostalgia that permeates this season touches something deep inside of me. I'm a complete sucker for the old movies (Miracle on 34th Street STILL brings a lump to my throat). I love traditional food, especially old family recipes that take time to prepare AND I am addicted to vintage Christmas decor.

I began collecting Christmas memorabilia when I was just a teenager. My Mom was an antique dealer so we went to a lot of yard sales. My first find was a box of never used, 1950s Christmas cards that could be used as tree ornaments. They were utterly charming! Colorful gingerbread men, singing angels, snowmen, wreaths and lanterns and of course Jolly old Santa! I was SO hooked!

I never became a serious collector and I must confess I never really spent any time researching my finds. Rarity and value were never the point for me. Mostly I just picked up things that struck my fancy. Angels and elves, interesting ornaments, figurines...I treasure them all, from my silly plastic Snoopy with reindeer horns to my one and only Victorian glass bird.

It's been a while since I've taken the time to blog. Time just gets away... but today I decided to put everything down and take a few pictures so I could share some of my favorite vintage Christmas pieces and to wish you all the very best during this beautiful season.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Vintage Fashion Guild News!

Illustration above from the exhibition - "Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915. Los Angeles County Museum of Art."

If you are already familiar with the online website The Vintage Fashion Guild you know what an amazing resource it is. If not you simply MUST check them out. The website features a public forum where you can ask the experts just about any question regarding vintage and where you can share your passion for past fashions. They also have an amazing labels resource section with pictures and a brief history of hundreds of vintage fashion labels. There are articles and workshops and for eye candy, a seasonal parade of vintage fashions. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better they debuted their new Newsletter!

I joined the Guild a few years ago and it has been such a joy to be a member. If you are drawn to the world of fashion and love vintage I highly recommend you hop over there this very minute :)

Best to all, Melody

Monday, November 1, 2010

SOWA Vintage Market! A little vintage heaven in Boston!

Funky Fun and Fabulous! Vintage (for both home and wardrobe) has come to the South End of Boston by way of a Sunday Open Market and it appears there has been a standing ovation.

The SOWA Vintage Market has been operating on Sundays since the end of May and was scheduled to close for the season this past Halloween weekend. Since the day it opened locals and out of town visitors have been flocking to the large retro-fit warehouse on Harrison Ave. to shop and browse booth after booth filled with everything vintage (including the kitchen sink). The owners are selective about their vendors so standards are high yet prices are surprisingly affordable. As a result, the market has become overwhelmingly popular. It's no wonder the dealers and customers began lobbying for extending the season weeks ago AND they have been heard! Owners Stephanie Pernice and John Warren have decided to add another three weeks to the schedule Hooray!

How do I know all of this? I'm one of the Vintage clothing dealers and I couldn't be happier. SOWA has become one of my favorite venues. The customers are fantastic and not just because they shop. Bob and I meet all kinds of interesting people from every walk of life and I should also mention the place is pet friendly, how great is that?

So if you are in the Boston area over any of the next three Sundays ( Nov. 7th, 14th and 21st) come over to the SOWA Vintage Market and check it out. I'll be in my usual spot at the Albany St. end of the building :)

For directions and info on free parking click here. I sure do hope you can come but if you can't don't worry SOWA will be back in May!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

...not just a brooch

Today I posted an antique Art Nouveau sash pin on my website. A lot of people I meet love old brooches but they just don't wear pins so in my description I mentioned how I often re purpose these beauties (and dress clips too) into eye catching pendants and choker necklaces.

"Wide velvet ribbon tied behind the neck and an antique sash pin make a beautiful choker"

It got me to thinking about how much fun it is to find creative alternative uses for old bits and baubles. I thought I would share a couple of my own favorites.

Recently I purchased a wonderful belt buckle at a vintage show. I fell in love with it but almost passed it over because I thought it was too delicate for a belt. THEN I held it up to my neck and the light went on! What an interesting pendant it would make. There were two holes in the back, just right for attaching a chain. All I needed was a length of chain, two jump rings and needle nose ten minutes I had a wonderful "new" necklace!

My favorite do-over necklace came from an old "apple juice" Bakelite lamp pull. Once again I fell in love with the look of the object.

In a box of flea market junk, I spotted a funny looking sphere on a short bit of brass chain. The amber colored ball had the most beautiful warm glow when the light hit it just the right way, I was mesmerized. The dealer said it came from a broken lamp and sold it to me for just a few dollars. I knew it would make a fabulous pendant so the minute I got home I began to rummage around for a chain to hang it on. Since then it has become my favorite necklace and I have had countless people comment on it. Some have even offered to buy it right off of my neck! No way I say!

If this sounds like your cup of tea, just let the muse flow. If something catches your eye and speaks to you, think outside the box. A brooch doesn't have to just be a brooch.

Just a note for your consideration.... if you decide to get creative with old jewelry please do it without harming the piece. Unless an item is badly broken don't do anything that can't be undone. On a practical level this will destroy it's monetary value and on an emotional level it's terribly sad to see a piece of history ruined forever.

Take care now

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Bountiful Harvest!

I's not about vintage but I just had to brag about the bountiful harvest Bob and I are getting from our tiny community gardens! Who knew two little 5' x 8' patches of earth could reap such reward! Last night I made the most delicious curried chicken stew with home grown chili peppers and tomatoes and a refreshing raita with the cucumbers (OK so my Mom grew the cucumbers) Yum!

Tonight I'll be doing roasted butternut squash. Life is good and I am grateful :)


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How to dress for that Mad Men Party

So ladies, how DOES one dress for a "Mad Men" party?

The block buster television series, Mad Men, is in it's fourth season and going stronger than ever. The story line is riveting and the actors are phenomenal. In the off chance that you are not familiar with the show the series centers around a New York City ad agency and the lives of the people who work there. It takes place during the first half of the 1960s, a golden age of sorts. Employment was high, housing was affordable and the consumer market was booming. As you can imagine the ad business was populated by ambitious men and women on the cutting edge of popular culture. A big reason the show has been such a screaming success is the meticulous attention the creators have paid to accurate set design and costuming. The watcher is transported in every way to the time of the story.

In the past couple of years Mad Men has brought new interest to the world of vintage (yippee!). People are throwing Mad Men parties for all kinds of occasions and the question I hear most is "how do I dress?" The first question I ask is who do you want to emulate? Are you going for the Betty look... suburban-chic and sweet? Is Joan your muse...sophisticated and sensual? How about prim Peggy or my favorite, Rachel Menken from the earlier seasons, with her tailored couture look? These are some of the main characters but there are plenty of office girls and executives wives both young and "mature" to look to for inspiration.

As the seasons continue I suppose I will also have to ask which year they would like to focus on because as we enter into season four we should be seeing the fashions change. The mid sixties saw an explosion of trends, with the Mod look at the forefront of "new" fashion. For now though we can stick with the earlier sixties.

For simplicity I'm going to break the looks into three categories.

Suburban Sophisticates

City Chic

Office Girl
If you are going for suburban sophisticates (think Betty and neighbors) there are a few looks that will work well. For casual, try a shirtwaist cotton dress...fitted at the waist with full skirt. Not too long though, just a couple inches below the knee. Full or slim skirts and narrow cropped slacks were popular. You can team them with cotton camp style blouses or matching sweater sets. Simple pearls and small earrings and flats for shoes were common daytime accessories. For a dressier look you can go with one of those iconic slim evening gowns...sleeveless with jewel or lace trims and scooped necklines or a full skirted party dress with fitted bodice, also sleeveless. Long gloves would be a nice touch and pointed toe shoes with stiletto heels would be the footwear of choice.

City chic refers to the fashionistas of the day. Joan and Rachel had different styles but they both knew the latest vogue. Joan was ahead of the curve (pun intended) with her smart office dresses and ensembles that tastefully accentuated her bombshell figure. Although her style was form fitting I don't ever recall seeing any cleavage. Joan dresses would have narrow fitted skirts cut to just below the knee. They may have a fitted bodice but never a low neckline. Often times they had a draped detail or scarf at the neck highlighted with a large brooch. At home she wore tight capris and snug fitting tops.

Rachel's wardrobe was elegant and exquisitely tailored. It whispered Paris and money to me. She wore understated classics with statement accessories. I think of Chanel when I think Rachel Menken. Suits with cropped jackets and narrow skirts in fine wools and lovely tweeds are perfect. Bracelet length sleeves with gloves and oversized bangles and don't forget a set of multistrand beads the more strands the better. A touch of animal print in a scarf or blouse and if you dare a be-feathered bubble hat. Again, pointed toe shoes and stiletto heel.

The office girls are a bit less sophisticated and Peggy Olsen the ambitious secretary turned copy writer wore prim somewhat outdated clothing, especially in the beginning. Her dresses and ensembles were buttoned up with fitted bodices and full long skirts, longer than the look of the day. They often had dainty girlish details like little bows and Peter Pan collars. She wore little hats off the back of her head and short white gloves.

If you REALLY want authenticity get out the curlers and hairspray. If your hair is long do a side part and sweep the back up into a chignon, tease a little on top for a bit of height. For medium length hair curl the edges up into a flip and spray spray spray! if it's short try parting on the side and styling some waves, you can also wear a head band. For the finishing touch find a 1960s handbag, similar to the one in the picture below.

So... I think I've covered most of it, I might just add brocade or satin matching coats and dresses, they were quite popular for cocktail and evening. If it's cold outside you just might want to wear a vintage lady like coat. After the party you can wear it with jeans, boots and cozy scarf. Vintage coats are the Best!

There really are a lot of avenues to explore. Pick the one that you think would be the most fun for you. The good news is that there is a generous supply of Mad Men era clothing on the vintage market. Because it was an affluent time in our history women had more money to spend so they bought more clothing and accessories. Quality was still important so the things we find today are often in decent condition. If you would like to learn some of the important ins and outs of shopping for Vintage look for our book The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping. It can be found here on or get a signed copy from our website. Happy vintage hunting and have a Mad-ball!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fall Fashions 1954

I just love vintage fashion and never seem to tire of it. A nice cup of tea and a pile of old fashion or ladies magazines is my idea of heaven. I don't care if it's Vogue, Ladies Home Journal or Montgomery Ward, if there are clothes to look at I'm happy. Actually, one of my favorite exercises is to pick different publications from the same time frame and compare. This helps me to develop a broad sense of the various styles for those couple of years. Besides it being fun I also have a professional interest. Part of my job is to try and accurately date the vintage I sell and this helps me tremendously.

So often when people are trying to date vintage they neglect to consider the market it came from. Couture and important designer fashions presage mainstream fashion, sometimes by years. It's important to understand that most vintage on the market would have been manufactured ready to wear. Cutting edge couture and designer clothing is rare so when you shop vintage you are most likely seeing styles that came to market after they first debuted on the Paris runway. Since most fashion history information focuses on famous designers this can become confusing.

I thought it might be fun to pick a time and do a quick blog. Lets look at Fall 1954.

Below are some quick sketch notes I did while I was looking at the styles being shown by Paris designers for Fall 1954

As you can see 1954 Fall silhouettes on the Paris runway showed smoother less pronounced bustlines. Waistlines were shaped but often less "cinched" and they were migrating up or down a bit. Shoulder lines were sloped and the neckline or collar was a favorite design focus... think sculpted. The fall runway was plentiful with fur and velvet trimmed jackets. Skirts were either reed thin or full ( but less full than before) with hemlines just a tad below mid calf. Tailored bows seemed to be the seasons choice for accent. Hats ranged from the occasional pillbox to small platters and asymmetrical, head hugging caps. Modified turbans were worn back on the head away from the face. Prominent colors were black, brown, gray and neutral tones, often in tone on tone combinations however there were experiments in bold color as well. Suits, coats and jackets were fashioned from rich tweeds and lovely wools along with short haired furs like Persian lamb, ocelot and ermine. Gowns were rare, most cocktail and evening dresses were similar in length to day wear. Popular fabrics for evening were heavy satin, taffeta and moiré.

Now lets take a look at mail order fashions from the Montgomery Ward catalogue Fall/Winter 1954/1955. These are the pieces you are more likely to come across in your hunt for vintage. They represent what was popular in mainstream society.

Right off you can see that the shoulder line is still somewhat defined in suits and dresses, not as sloped as the Paris styles. Fur trimmed jackets and coats had not been adopted yet, that came later. Although there were straight skirts, the pencil thin skirt is no where to be seen. Necklines are modest and collars diminutive. Dresses tend to have fitted bodices with full skirts. If the skirt IS straight then it often has a slight a-line cut. Bouffant formal gowns were still hitting the floor and dinner dresses looked a lot like day dresses but done in fabrics like taffeta, faille and velvet or velveteen. Cotton day dresses had short sleeves, fitted bodices and flared skirts. Decorative pockets, piping accents and dressmaker details added interest. Plaids and solids dominated, and prints tended to be small. Separates were very popular... waist length sweaters, blouses and skirts. The catalogue did feature pants for women, full pleated trousers and cropped knicker lengths as well. Three quarter length sleeves were not common and seem to be confined to a few dinner dresses and sweaters. Coats (not pictured) were mostly softly fashioned with a gentle flare or "swing. They featured both long and short coats. There were a couple with defined waist. Coat wools were soft and lustrous I saw two speckle tweeds. Colors for most clothing was subdued. Black, gray, navy and neutrals but there was some color and turquoise was featured often. I saw shades of red from wine to cherry and some muted green here and there. Hats were brimless in a variety of molded shapes... caplets, bonnets, draped profile caps and toques. I saw no turban styles or platter hats to speak of.

As you can see high end runway styles were very different from everyday fashions. I've covered a little ground in this blog but there is so much more. Pick any year and you will discover that there were differences in style from one coast to the other. California did dressy casual to perfection while New York was the land of chic. Junior fashions were more innovative and Misses fashions tended to change more slowly. The more you know, the more you realize there is to learn and that just means more fun finding out!

'Til next time best to all, Melody

Monday, May 17, 2010


Advertisement from Mademoiselle September 1946

The work of Elsa Schiaparelli has fascinated me since I was barely out of my teens. Long before I entered the world of vintage fashion I studied art. During a slide show presentation on Surrealism my instructor included a clip of her famous"ShoeHat". That was it... I was captivated.

Schiaparelli's ability to blend art and wearable fashion was pure genius...elegant silk evening gowns were painted with whimsical images like lobsters or musical scales. Circus animals were beaded and embroidered onto tailored jackets. Sunbursts, astrology signs...moons and stars and more. The clothing was cut to flatter and the workmanship exquisite which was why she was able to venture so far from the boundaries of the day. But it wasn't just the imagery, Schiaparelli was obsessed with color. She turned to unusual methods and dyes to produce shades and hues for her fabrics that were as startling as the embellishments she employed. Vibrant yellows, blues and purples. Unusual shades of green, brown and grey. The colors were unique and her combinations dazzling. In 1936 she experimented with the creation of her most famous color of all, Shocking Pink. After a number of less exciting tries by her designer Jean Clément he presented her with an astounding shade that blended magenta with pink. The effect was electric and Schiaparelli's signature color was born. Shocking pink was an immediate success and remained a fashion favorite for years to come. In 1937 she introduced her first perfume and named it Shocking. Sales of her new scent surpassed some of the most popular fragrances of the day.

Left, Schiaparelli Jacket from Candida Matinelli's Italophile Site

Above right, Schiaparelli's Shocking Pink was emulated by other designers up intil the 1950s, Mid 40s jacket from my website
..............................................................Elsa Schiaparelli was one of the greatest fashion pioneers of all time. She used plastic zippers decades before anyone else, she pushed past the limits of fabric and material and she treated color the way a fine artist would. Most of all I believe she delighted in creating a stir, causing a sensation. Shocking became her trade mark word and that just says it all.

'Till next time best wishes to all

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Peacock by any other name.

Chanel is said to have called it the “sincerest form of flattery”. Imitation that is and the world of fashion has been rife with it since…ummm…probably forever. Vintage is no exception, From every era, for every authentic designer piece out there, there are thousands of inspired look alikes.

Vintage costume jewelry is no different. In the 1930s Marcel Boucher became a cutting edge costume jewelry designer and the Boucher look was copied over and again for decades. In later years when Boucher pieces became highly prized as vintage collectibles they were again copied. Most of the time the quality of a knock off is inferior to the real thing even if they are cast from an original piece but sometimes the copy is beautifully executed making it hard to tell. Since the price difference can be astronomical it’s important to be careful before you buy.

Below are two brooches that look very much alike. The one on the left I picked up years ago at a flea market. It is a 1980s copy of the famous Marcel Boucher peacock (on the right). The original was designed in the early 60s and examples in good condition are prized by collectors. At first I thought mine might have been created later from an original mold since the company was sold in the 1970s but there are subtle differences in the design. Can you see them? Look closely they are easy to miss. Mine is not signed but the original is and the pin back is longer on the real Boucher. Both brooches are lovely but the value of mine is under $50 and the original is worth well over $200 and that’s a BIG difference!

Photo of the original brooch, courtesy of Howard Wideman at the Jewelers-Guild

Can you spot the differences? Click on photo to enlarge

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Borrowed Splendor - Eastern influence on Western dress

1. 1960s Metallic brocade turban 2. 1960s Paisley mens tie 3. Mid-century paisley makeup purse 4. 1970s India print wrap skirt 5. early 1960s Chinese silk brocade ensemble 6. 1986 Hermes scarf (all items from

If you look up the word exotic in the Merriam-Webster dictionary it reads…“not native to the place where found” and “strikingly, excitedly, mysteriously different or unusual” When we describe western fashion with “exotic” elements we use words like bohemian, hippie even ethnic. I find these words to be inadequate considering the rich histories behind the original textiles, especially those from the Eastern regions of the globe. The textile trade in the East is an ancient one. It would require volumes to do these histories justice and this is just a blog but consider this…those iconic block printed cottons from India that we westerners love so much, well their ancestral counterparts were found in Egyptian tombs dating back nearly two millennia.

For centuries the west has been importing textiles from the many near to far east countries and for centuries we have been borrowing style and design sensibilities from the same. Hundreds of regions and cultures each with their own ancient textile histories….India/Pakistan, China, both the Near and Far Middle East, Japan, Indonesia and Southeast Asia, that’s a lot of inspiration to choose from! Luxurious materials like silks, velvets and brocades, some woven with real silver or gold thread. Fabrics with complex hand prints and fine embroideries… sheer linens, fine cottons…. Intricate prints and patterns that mesmerize and those that calm the mind with their balance and simplicity….. The list is endless and I daresay that most of modern western fashion has some eastern influence.

Nearly every twentieth century western designer has looked to the east at some point. From Poiret to Valentino…on the street or amongst the black ties. “Exotic” fashion trends have and will continue to come and go with regularity. In 1940s Hattie Carnegie did a stunning line based on beautiful prints and draped sillhouettes from Malaysia. The mid 60s saw an explosion of eastern influence on fashion. A Donald Brooks velvet ensemble with Salwar trousers was featured in Nov. 1965 Vouge along with a Galanos floor length metalic chiffon kaftan coat and dress set. If you flip through vintage magazines you can find countless examples of East meets West fashion and the love affair continues to this day....
Kimono styles were all the rage in the 1920s

Monday, March 8, 2010

Those Dirty Keds!

I spend a lot of time perusing vintage magazines, for work as well as fun. I find them to be one of the best tools for researching vintage fashion but I also get a huge kick out seeing what was going on in Pop culture at the time. This morning I came across an ad that just tickled me pink , even better it was a true flash from my own past.

Let me start with a little story…

As a girl, in the mid 60s, the beginning of May marked the time for new sneakers. The weather was turning warm and it was time to retire the brown lace up oxfords that had served me well over the school year. Mom would take my sister and me to the shoe store where we would wait our turn in smooth vinyl seats with chrome handles, our stocking feet dangling above the floor. The salesman would soon come over and measure our feet on his trusty “Brannock” being careful to measure twice, once sitting and once standing.

Size determined... off to the back room he went, emerging soon after with two pristine shoe boxes, the word Keds printed in bold letters across each. Then the salesman would loosen up the laces and slip our feet into the brightest, snow white sneakers you ever saw. Deftly, he would tie them up and we were asked to stand... toes were checked to make sure they didn’t touch the end and we were told to walk up and back the aisle. When both Mom and salesman were satisfied that our new sneakers fit properly, back into the boxes they went and the sale was rung up.

The job of buying the sneakers was over but making them presentable was another thing …you see, in the mid 1960s no self respecting girl would allow herself to be seen in a pair of clean-white-right-out-of-the-box sneakers. A humiliation like that could never be lived down. To look cool, sneakers had to be dingy and worn (don‘t ask, there are no answers for these things).

The minute we got home, on went the sneakers, and out the back door went I. Stairs were a nuisance so off the porch I would jump, landing in the bald patch of yard at the edge of our sidewalk. There was a method we kids had for making new sneakers look acceptable … first you had to scuff up the rubber sides which was done by dragging your foot at every possible angle in the dirt and grit. Next came the cloth uppers which got a thorough rub down with same said dirt… laces too.

The final results were never ideal but they would do. You see the perfect look did not happen for a few weeks, after the wear and tear of summer play had worked it’s magic. By July every sneaker in the neighborhood had taken on a lovely gray patina and frayed holes had begun to appear . By August they reached their prime.

I had forgotten about this little ritual until I saw the above Keds ad in and old Ladies Home Journal from May 1968. Click and enlarge the picture at the top of this blog. You need to read the text, it’s the best part. Like they said “A clean pair of white Keds? Ridiculous!”

....'till next time take care and Peace to all.


Friday, February 19, 2010

A Slipper for Every Gal

Slippers for Sale! Mongomery Ward Catalog Fall 1956

...They were given names like Nymph, Tulip and Tea for Two. They were made from lovely materials... peau de soie, quilted brocades, wool felt and kidskin leather. Some had decorative details like beadwork,tassels, ruffles and even feathers. Others were simple, in a cozy comforting way. In an era where the flip flop reigns, it's hard for us to imagine a time when the indoor footwear market offered as many style choices as regular shoes.

House shoes or slippers have been around for a long time. I pulled
this quote from the website Graceful Step

..."the earliest record of the word slipper was recorded in English in 1478, deriving from the verb to slip, describing a type of footwear one slips into. The traditional British slipper of the Victorian era is the Albert slipper, named after Price Albert, of course, and is a velvet slipper with plain leather sole and quilted silk lining. It was worn about the house, particularly with black tie at the time but in modern or fashionable use is worn sometimes outside in informal settings." and...slippers had been part of Far and Near Eastern cultures for far longer than that.

For a good part of the 20th century the slipper business was a thriving industry. One of the most long lived companies (still going today) is Daniel Green. On the history page of their website they talk about how in the early 1800s a young shoe sales man, Daniel Green, was impressed by the felt shoes worn by factory workers to keep their feet warm. When he learned they were made from bits of piano felt he contracted with the felt manufacturer to produce a line of slippers for him. He had such faith in his new venture that he asked the owner to promise him "sole agency" to the product. In 1882 Daniel and his brother William sold 600 pair of these felt slippers and by 1884 they had sold 24,000 pair! New styles were added and popularity grew. Daniel Green died in 1891 but his company went on to design some of the most beautifully styled slippers you have ever seen. Beautiful enough to be worn as dress shoes.

Vintage Magazine ads for slippers

Daniel Green is probably the most recognizable name in vintage slippers but there were countless other manufacturers over the decades. In my Montgomery Ward catalog from Fall 1956 there is an entire page devoted to dozens of different slipper styles (pictured at top of blog). My MOST favorite vintage slippers is a 1953 pair of Oomphies called Turkish Toes shown in the collage below. At the time of this writing they are being offered for sale on my website.

Vintage slippers that are or have been on my website

Vintage house slippers are practical and fun. Often times they are so well made you can easily wear them in lieu of regular shoes. There is a style for every taste from sexy peep toe mules to toasty fleece lined moccasins. Check out your favorite vintage websites or shops and see what they have. You may need to be wait a while for the right ones to come along but it will be worth it, I guarantee!

'Til next time, Peace to you all


Friday, January 15, 2010

Measurements and Body Proportion

Shopping for vintage on the web can be daunting, especially when it comes to determining size. You need to know both your own measurements and how to compare them to the ones pertaining to the garment of interest. Online dealers usually give a number of measurements, the most common being Bust - Waist - Hip. Some are more thorough and will include sleeve and hem lengths as well as shoulder width but there is one fitting issue that very few dealers think to address and that is proportion.

Proportions vary from person to person and they also change as we age even if our measurements stay the same. Some of the common proportion issues that vintage shoppers run into are longer or shorter waists, lower or higher bust lines, longer or shorter limbs and the rise or crotch line for pants. Age changes our proportions. Girls in their teens and early twenties often have higher, smaller bust lines, smaller rib cages and more narrow waists. As we age our necks and upper arms can become thicker and some people actually loose height in their torsos, shortening their waist length. Manufacturers have been creating clothing with age specific proportions for decades so it helps to know if a vintage garment was cut for a Junior or a Misses market.
To make things even more complicated, each era had it's own proportion aesthetics. Pants from the 1950s and 60s have a really long rise which puts the waist up much higher than we are used to in modern clothing. Dresses from the same era have high bust lines as opposed to the 1930s when the bust point was quite low. The 1970s tended towards narrow shoulders and we all know about the exaggerated 80s shoulder line. I cover a lot of this in my book The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping but to start you off here are a few tips to help you with two of the most common proportion issues.

1950s Junior proportion dress with small, high bust and shorter waist

The most common issue I have noticed is waist placement on dresses with a defined waistline, especially from the 1950s and 60s. Even if all of your basic measurements match that of the dress it's important that the waist sit properly and not ride too high or low. The best thing to do if you are concerned is to e-mail the dealer and ask if she might give you the back length from neck to waist (pictured below). This measurement is taken from the base of the neck (around c5) to just a smidge below the SMALLEST part of the waist. This number should not be any shorter than yours. If it is the waist will ride up. If the number is longer, by more than a little, the dress will bunch up, although you can sometimes cover this with a belt.

Example of a high neckline

The second issue I often see is too tight armholes, sleeves and necklines. If you feel this may be a problem, again, ask the dealer for measurements. If the upper arm sleeve measurement is roomy enough (allow for at least 1" ease, 2" is better) then the armhole should fit. For sleeveless garments you will need the number for the opening of the armhole to compare to your own measurement (from the top of the shoulder, down the front of the shoulder, under the arm pit, and up the back of the shoulder). If a neckline is high and you worry it might be too small (cheongsams are notorious for this) measure your neck at the base and ask for the neck opening number to compare. Again, allow for ease.

How to measure diagram

Make a note of sleeve and hem lengths, sometimes customers overlook this. If the item does not include these numbers then ask.

Always feel free to ask as many questions as you need to help determine fit. Vintage merchants are eager to help, our ultimate goal is to make online vintage shopping as easy and successful as possible :)

Until next time, best to you all