February 24, 2011

This Blog's A-Rollin'!

Welcome to the "grand opening" of VintageVixen.com's blog! I started writing this blog a couple months ago, quietly and cautiously as I wasn't certain I'd have time for it. I really have enjoyed its dress rehearsal, and I'm proud to post it for the public now. There are 10 articles thus far - I'd love for you to take a peek! All are fashion history-focused, most about vintage clothing and our business online.

When we started VintageVixen.com in 1997, there were almost no sites available for vintage clothing. The idea of buying a vintage dress online was totally new, and we were on the wild frontier along with a few other enthusiastic pioneers. It's been nearly fourteen years and we're still experiencing new and exciting things in this niche business.

I remember wistfully thinking a decade ago that it'd be so nice to have an outlet in which to write about my passion. I write the catalog for VintageVixen.com so I was indeed doing that already, but expanding into articles and really going long-form was new to me. Eventually I started a little hub of articles but then our family grew, and with babies I had to curtail my spare-time project.

So at long last I'm writing again. I look forward to comments and suggestions for articles. Meantime my next post will be shameless eye candy - a visual treasury of Lilli Ann suits.

I hope you'll join me as we explore the fabulous world of vintage clothing!

February 18, 2011

From Closeted to Curated

Here's an article I just loved... woman buys dress, woman has a family, forgets dress amidst the hustle & bustle of life, eventually uncovers it again. By this point, said dress has some historical value and a local museum has a vested interest.

A lovely bit of nostalgia, and possibly part of an exhibit for the future. Isn't it fascinating to see a piece of clothing shift from a closet to a collection?

February 17, 2011

Minty Fresh

We sift through thousands of pieces of vintage clothing in a given year, and while it's unusual to find items in mint condition, a quick check of our search page revealed over 1500 items in perfect shape. Here's why -

  • Much of the clothing we sell was never worn. It's authentic vintage, made decades ago, but because it's unworn there are no stressed seams, wash wear or abrasions and stains that come with use. Conversely, though it's surprising to many people, unworn stock does not always mean mint condition. Unworn stock has its own potential set of problems, like faded or yellowed creases, pest damage and the like.
  • Of the clothing that has been worn, many collections are from wealthy, well-clad ladies who kept their clothes carefully. Footing the bills for year-round temperature regulation and regular cleaning makes a huge difference in condition over the years.
  • Many large collections house items closely spaced on racks or in drawers. We often see items stored outermost that have borne the brunt of pest damage, yellowing and fading, while clothes sandwiched between other items have been insulated from such wear by their neighbors.
  • Sometimes an item survives in pristine condition simply due to its style or size. It's more likely to see a lovely piece without any flaws because it was purchased just before a pregnancy, or it was a gift and not quite the taste of the recipient.
  • Another reason is the fabric itself. Sturdy fabrics like denim or broadcloth were meant to withstand much harder use than shelf wear, while delicate textiles like peau du soie can appear "shop worn" after just one season on the rack.
  • Small, boxed items like vintage hosiery are common to see in mint condition as they're often stored in the original packaging, whether in plastic sleeves or slim boxes. Other items helped in this way are vintage shoes, gloves, bras & underwear.
  • And last but not least, sometimes it's just pure luck.

...Though condition can sometimes be frustrating, it can also be the best part of the hunt! Discovering a gem in mint condition is quite a trophy for a vintage collector. We're glad to say we uncover them daily and have had 15 years of luck doing so. Have a look at our current mint-condition offerings and find a like-new gem yourself!

February 04, 2011

Next Stop: Petticoat Junction

Full skirts demand full slips - and if you're into vintage clothing, you know we mean *full* slips. Whether they're called petticoats, crinolines or can-cans, these puffy flared under-layers were at the height of popularity in the mid-late 1950s.

Popular again due to nostalgic fashions on TV shows such as Mad Men, the vintage aficionado who dresses the part needs not only the right frock, but the right undergarments. For those who lived through the look, I've been told that petticoats were often worn in quantities under one dress. And sometimes starched! One friend (who was a teenager in the 1950s) used to dip her crinolines in starch & water, and dry them in the arid climate of her attic. There she had room to stand them out as full as possible.

Skirts this full had not been seen since the Victorian era, when ladies crowded rooms with their hemline circumferences. It's not a coincidence, either. Many 1950s designs borrowed from Victorian fashion, seen not only in full skirts but also in corset-like bodices and antique-inspired trims such as ruching and soutache. '50s petticoats likewise gave a nod to the Victorian with accents of satin ribbon woven through eyelet, fanciful scalloped hems and nosegays of faux flowers.

When you purchase a petticoat, be sure to consider what you'll wear with it. The length of the crinoline must be the same as the skirt length, or just a hint shorter. Too long, and it'll peek out so much you'll (literally) feel your slip is showing. Too short, and the skirt's line will break before the hem, always a sad sight to the vintage fashionista. Also remember these slips are meant for the fullest of skirts, either circle skirts or a design deeply pleated or gathered to the waist.

One last tip - Some petticoats are so well-finished and opaque, they are easily worn as skirts themselves today. These have a fitted waistband (as opposed to exposed elastic) and dress fabrics like cotton chintz or sateen. Fabulous for ladylike street wear!

Check out our current selection of petticoats & crinolines and enjoy the "ooh-la-la" of a vintage crinoline!

Sources -

Victorian image - The History of Underclothes by C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington p.164