December 31, 2012

Happy New Year, Vixen!

We at Vintage Vixen want to wish you all a beautiful, fashionable 2013.  Cheers!

December 26, 2012

Jewelry in the Early 20th Century

1920s Egyptian Revival Necklace Set
1920s Egyptian Revival
From the Egyptian Revival jewels of the mid-1920s and early 1930s, to the gold chain necklaces of the 1940s, the fashioning of jewelry to accommodate modes of dress in the 20th century certainly mirrored political, social, and especially artistic trends. The excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 spurred the incorporation of Egyptian and stylized Oriental motifs in earrings, brooches, and necklaces. This exceptional necklace offers an idea of the exotic Egyptian-inspired works meant to grace the body with unique and eye-catching decorations. 

Miriam Haskell Pendant
The theme can also be observed in the following Miriam Haskell piece, which connects the 1940s draping gold chain motif design to a pharaoh’s mask and a carved scarab pendant. Fashions fluidly adapted to the times throughout the decades, and costume jewelry provided an affordable way to follow the changing styles when precious stones were not within one’s means. 

Edwardian Amethyst Glass
Another early 20th century movement which produced remarkably ornamented pieces of jewelry was Art Nouveau. The sensuous elements and the intense elaboration of the designs varied by country, yet the characteristics of the Art Nouveau style are unmistakable. Curls, coils, and romantic, symmetrically curved designs marked many of the unconventional necklaces, brooches, and pins produced throughout this period. Semi-precious stones also experienced popularity within the ornate designs. This was naturally dependent on consumer preferences and was also arguably proportionate to the growth of the Art Nouveau trend. The following two pieces demonstrate the primary facets of Art Nouveau’s signature distinctions. In the first, sinuous flowers and leaves connect to a lattice motif and frame a rectangular amethyst glass stone. The size of the pin suggests a versatility of use for a variety of dress styles and accessories. 

Edwardian Stone Trio Brooch
The second piece provides an example of three carved stones set within gracefully curving flowers and leaves. This intricate circular design rests on an ornate geometric background. The similarities and differences between these pieces illustrate the diversity of Art Nouveau jewelry.

Art Deco designs were also quite popular in the 1920s and 1930s, with their staged, geometrically sharp lines and the controlled, formalized motion of the jewelry’s focal point. Travel and exoticism were widespread themes for the designs, some of which included symbols of speed, transportation, and luxury, or alternatively, ancient historical motifs. ­ 

While this greyhound pin is from the 1960s/70s, the trend to use greyhounds or gazelles to signify fast and nimble animals dates to the 1930s. Pins and brooches in particular were produced to characterize the excitement of victory and speed on the racing track, often times with precious stones set within the geometric background. This motif is present on the rhinestone-studded blanket which has been placed on the greyhound’s sharply pronounced back.
Racing Greyhound

Brooches made in chrome and enamel, or plastic, were widely produced as well. In the United States, Art Deco jewelry was greatly shaped by Hollywood style, with artificial replacements for precious stones, and often restrained in color but glamorous in choice of background metal.

Although these artistic trends had unique characteristics, they continued to influence designs throughout the latter part of the 20th century. The rise of abstract, geometric patterns contributed to the emergence of a strikingly distinctive modernist style. Less ornate jewelry, with a more simplistic emphasis, became available in many materials, which provided increased accessibility to these trends for the general public. Modernist jewelry would come to be defined by soft abstraction, forgiving geometry, and understated sophistication. Perhaps this was an amalgam of complementary details, inherited from its diverse early roots. 

 -Blog post contributed by Ivayla Ivanova

December 14, 2012

Viewing The Collection

Cleaning up old files today, and I ran across this exquisite antique photo.  I wish I knew the origin of this one.  The clothes are heavenly, the room seems European, the salesman certainly eager to accommodate his visitors.  Such a beautiful glimpse at shopping more than one hundred years ago.

December 07, 2012

Rockabilly Dancer Mid-Twirl

A hepcat and his rockabilly kitten at the dance hall in the mid-1950s.

This fantastic image captures so many facets of rockabilly vintage fashion... First, we've got to acknowledge that incredible leopard jacket on the guy!  And note the triangle-pointed sideburns and quintessential two-tone shoes.  Super cool.... we'd like to see that closet.

But on to the Vixen... this gal, she's a-rockin!  And she's a stellar example of what goes on under a vintage full skirt of the 1950s.  Let's break it down... First, that skirt is a true circle.  You can tell because as she swings around, the fabric of the skirt hem lifts as high as the waist of it.  A skirt that skimps on fabric wouldn't flare up and out like that, instead it would just "bell" out with the hem remaining low.

Then there's the essential petticoat, probably in tulle or maybe organdy.  It looks like it's designed to be two layers, though we do hear of young ladies who doubled and tripled their petticoats in the 50s for extra "flounce".

Everything else from panties to shoes is a seductive black, a fabulous contrast with the light-colored dress.  The panties are probably full-cut like most in the 1950s, very much the look Bettie Page was known for.  The garters usually attach to a garter belt, though sometimes it's a panty-garter combo.  And the stockings are fishnet, of course.  Va-va-va-voom!

If you're looking for full-skirted vintage dresses, vintage panties, petticoats and anything else "unmentionable", check our site at for a huge selection - all authentic vintage!

Photo Source: The Way We Lived: The 20th Century.

December 02, 2012

Who Designed It | Vintage Ski Outfit

This skiing ensemble was designed by a name any vintage clothing collector knows... Do you know?  Here's some hints:
  • It's key that it's a skiing outfit.
  • He dabbled in men's wear (like this ensemble), but he's really known for women's clothing.
  • Though the photo is black and white, he's known for color.  Lots of color.
Be first to post the right answer and get a $10 gift certificate from!  We'll fill in the answer if there's no reply by December 9.

November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to every Vixen...
And Tom too!

November 21, 2012

More From The Bike Cave!

A closer look at two incredible antique Harley Davidson bikes!

Walls of vintage biker helmets, hats and caps...

And more!

Memorabilia from the Black Hawks & Harley Davidson biker gear.

Three amigos!

Cool vintage biker pins

A very cool Speed King canvas skullcap.

Vintage leather motorcycle helmets complete with goggles - awesome!

Vintage Indian Motorcycles gear & promotional clock.

More from Harley Davidson... it's like an H-D archive!

Art and Frankie just relaxin'

What a fantastic collection!

November 13, 2012

Vintage Biker Memorabilia

A wonderful collector recently shared a few photos of his outstanding (we'd say world-class!) collection of vintage motorcycle memorabilia.  Here's a glimpse:

Just the tip of the iceberg...

Billy & Charley's vintage D.C. Ramblers uniforms

Yep, those are 1913 and 1914 Harley Davidson motorcycles back there!

1930s D.C. Ramblers Uniforms

Vintage Harley Davidson motorcycle caps... by the dozens!

Dusty Riders Motorcycle Club - Des Moines, Iowa

Motor Maids vintage biker uniforms

American Motorcycle Association Photo 1940

Happy Trails!

November 09, 2012

Chanel: A Couturière in Profile

Coco Chanel circa 1929.

 It is inarguable that the practical, yet multi-faceted, elements of Coco Chanel’s influence of style cannot be untangled from her personality. Chanel was a pioneer not only in the design of women’s couture, but also in the development of business and fashion merchandise operations in the post-war era. It was uncommon for her to draw her designs, and she preferred instead to position her stylistic visions on the human body rather than on the sketching pad. Chanel’s design choices of simplicity and comfort were not lost on Parisian women, and in 1919, she opened the couture house which she had aimed to create before World War I.

The sensible aspects of Chanel’s designs, including pockets for utility and practicality, costume jewelry as a replacement of precious gems, and men’s sweaters, contributed to a certain air of realism and sophistication. The clothes she created were of an easy, fairly relaxed fit, with an elected understatement to correspond to the challenges of the times. The working class also provided a creative source for Chanel’s ideas. She used components of men’s sweaters and of mechanics’ overalls to achieve a mathematically simple idea of style. But this vision was not to be without a prevailing sense of femininity. This was seen in the tailored wool suits Chanel favored, in the oversize cardigan sweaters without excessive ornamentation, and in the reductionist components of an easily translatable and socially empowering aesthetic.

The geometric lines for which Chanel is known can be seen in this emerald mini dress from the 1990 collection. A utilitarian choice of an emerald color scheme with navy blue lining along the neck, cuffed wrists, pockets, and hem, the design is archetypal of Chanel’s erudition in a comfortably structured manner for women active in social and professional life. A subtle sex appeal completes the design, as the thigh-high hem diverges from the restraint of the reserved round neckline.

Another design, a tribute to the well-known Chanel quilted suit, is a pink and mocha crocheted suit with an accommodating fit, rectangular pocket flaps, and solid brass buttons to parallel the rigidly grand presence of the suit. Indeed, the house of Chanel envisioned the creation of apparel as a fairly democratic exercise, and Chanel herself transcended the impenetrably elite boundaries of stylistic perception by licensing her name to companies which catered to the middle market.

A study in contrasts, Chanel’s progress addressed pragmatism and sophistication, unapologetic realism and constructed textile imagery. Her work blurred the traditionally accepted definitions for the constructed apparel and accessories previously available to women. Chanel’s essence of style and artistic impact continue to inspire modern visionaries, and her ideas of straightforward, effortless, and uncluttered panache endure to challenge perspective and convention in design.

-Blog post contributed by Ivayla Ivanova

 1929 Coco Chanel portrait from Chanel: A Woman Of Her Own by Axel Madsen

October 10, 2012

How To Clean A Vintage Coach Handbag

Among the many vintage handbags we have collected and cared for over the years, vintage leather bags raise particular questions - Can I get this leather wet?  Do I need to clean it?  How do I store it? 
And of all the many types of vintage leather handbags, Coach bags have more particular instructions than most.  That's because vintage Coach bags are made of tanned leather that is otherwise unfinished.  This lack of treatment gives them an entirely unique, natural feel but it also leaves Coach leather open to blemishes and burnishing, sometimes considered "good patina" on a vintage design.
Here's a 1982 pamphlet from one of those very bags:
At Vintage Vixen our usual answer about how to care for vintage leather is simple - First, clean it lightly and sparingly with saddle soap.  Second, and only if needed, moisturize it with a good quality leather conditioner.   In both steps, test the cleaning agent first in an inconspicuous area, let it dry and assess any change.
By the way, we do not use products like neat's foot oil.  Saddle soap is easily obtained at a local drug store, and you can find museum quality leather conditioner online at places like Preservation Solutions.  We have used this company to restore potentially unsaleable leathers with beautiful results... some of them seen on movie sets after their reconditioning here.
But I digress... The Coach Leatherware instructions below will illuminate handbag collectors as to what Coach itself recommends for cleaning their unaltered natural leathers.  It's interesting to see that they actually recommend rinsing off saddle soap under running water, to the point that the leather is "soaking wet".  I have not attempted this, so I cannot say if a vintage Coach bag will like this kind of treatment.  If you know, enlighten us with a comment!  We would love to hear from you.

As you plan how to care for your vintage leather bags, remember that leather is a skin, and it "breathes" (expands and contracts) with its surrounding environment.  Just like you protect your skin with shade and clothing, we always suggest protecting vintage leather purses from the elements - whether it's rain outside or dust in the closet. 

It might seem obvious, but leather care (and especially care of vintage handbags) is a love of ours, so we were excited to share this tidbit from the Coach Leatherware company.  Until next time, Vixens!

October 05, 2012

Vintage Coach Handbags Circa 1982

 I remember the first time I saw a Coach handbag.  It was about 1990 or so, and I was a preteen learning as quickly as I could about the latest fashions so that I could keep up with the Junior Joneses.  And upon looking back I have to grin.  Like so many of us have experienced as bonafide grown-ups, what was new then is vintage clothing now.

1982 vintage Coach handbags and shoulder bags.

The Coach bag was at a neighbor's house.  The mom had bought it for the daughter.  Both were a bit spoiled but lovely people, and had a taste for nice things.  The daughter presented the handbag to me with a luxurious air.

It shows my immaturity to acknowledge that my reaction to this designer bag was disappointment.  "What's the thrill here?" I thought upon seeing the plain brown flap and super simplistic lines.  There was no fluorescence to it, nor any glossy patent leather with (now-vintage) squiggles or splatter paint.  I was naive and Coach was at its best.

Since then, the Coach brand has grown tremendously.  What's more, its offerings have managed to bridge that difficult gap between high quality and affordable price, so as to furnish the masses with a name still well-liked among handbag lovers.  And as the history of Coach handbags shows, it began with six craftspeople in a New York loft seventy years ago.

At that time, and even by the 1980s, Coach was just good leather.  No fancy brocaded canvas, no peacock colors commemorating handbag anniversaries, no oversized chains and grommets.  Just good, smooth, time-testable leather.

 And when we came across this vintage Coach purse, I got a bit of nostalgia for those days.  Then I saw the pamphlets inside, still held in a diminutive muslin bag, and the vintage clothing collector in me just beamed.  I love stuff like this.

One piece of ephemera is dated 1982 which is always nice to get a pinpoint of a date.  Besides the vanity-printed bag, there's a wonderful fold-out that shows other vintage Coach handbags in the same collection, care instructions, a description of Coach's approach to leather, and a little pamphlet that describes The Factory based in New York City creating artisan quality leather goods since 1941.  A terrific glimpse at an American label still in business after decades of beautiful handbags.