December 15, 2013

Apron Appreciation

We love vintage aprons!   So when I ran across a news article displaying a string of charming vintage aprons strung on a laundry line, I delved in and discovered a fellow vintage apron aficionado, EllynAnne Geisel of Pueblo, Colorado. 

She's on a campaign to showcase the nostalgia of vintage aprons, gathering stories of women who once donned aprons as "domestic armor" and whose families now treasure their kitchen memories.

Her site, aptly named Apron Memories, is a delightful cache of apron memorabilia, including Geisel's books, videos, an apron shop and more.  There's a special Victory apron pattern available, and Geisel even has a traveling museum exhibit called Apron Chronicles.

November 29, 2013

Trinidad Colorado Vintage Clothing Haul

After a blogging hiatus, I thought the best blog post to write would be one reason that prompted the break - a trip to the Wild West.  We traveled to Trinidad, Colorado, to buy vintage clothing from the Sal-Mar Dress Shop and next-door Fox Theatre, two buildings stuffed full by hoarders for the last several decades.

We arrived in Colorado ogling at the snow and mountains.  Here in Florida we don't have either, so this was a welcome departure. In a place this far removed from seemingly everything, we got a break from the daily grind, and a hint of the kinds of temperatures most of the country experiences in the fall.  Ice in October was not on our radar!


There's a lot of history in Trinidad, a once-thriving mining town near the border of Colorado and New Mexico.  According to our hostess, Doreen Amato, nowadays the town has forty bars and forty churches.  Unfortunately it doesn't seem to have much else in the way of industry.  The sightseeing was varied and slow-paced, especially quiet as our trip was scheduled just after their busy season ended.


Don't fence me in.

This historic jail was full of "outlaws".
Doreen made sure to show us the kind of hospitality the West is known for. Thanks to her self-described "genius", we had plenty of time for people-watching and exploring nearby towns.  This terrific 1930s era hand-painted shoe shop sign was seen in rural New Mexico.

One town away from the Fox Theatre is the El Raton Theatre, a beautiful building in another sleepy town just over the border into New Mexico.  There we met some friendly folks with lots of advice about "local characters" and ideas for places we "out-of-towners" should check out.

This exit looks like fun!
Fried marbles?  What else could we expect on "Flea Market Road"!
Apparently you fry them in a skillet, and voila!  A new piece of jewelry.

After our jaunt to El Raton, it was back to Trinidad to walk Main Street and get down to old clothes business.  We had lots of square footage to dig through... not only the Fox Theatre building, but also the Keller Glass building down the road.  Tourist time is over!


Well... maybe one last peek.  This was a cool find - a Sweet-Orr workwear advertisement painted on a brick wall in downtown Trinidad.  It looks like a vintage 1930s ad, complete with denim-clad workmen in a tug of war. 

Downtown Trinidad had many more interesting shops other than our destination at Sal-Mar.  Unfortunately many were closed due to the season's end.  One beautiful Southwest jewelry shop was a stellar find, but its owner didn't allow photography to protect the collection.

This historic photograph depicts part of the once-busy shopping district in downtown Trinidad.  Jamieson's Department Store was a mainstay for Trinidad residents until it closed in 1985.  The Sal-Mar Dress Shop closed a few years later, but it was never cleaned out.  Dust is just part of the job...

Once we started work in the beautiful Fox Theatre, we knew we weren't in a "gold mine" of any sort, despite the fact that the walls were literally leafed in 14-karat.  While the clothes proved to be interesting, they weren't as old as promised (1940s & later), and moth holes abounded.  In case you're wondering (and we know you are!) the good stuff we got is mostly late 1960s office wear.  Think Mad Men, and you've got it.

This theatre-slash-storage unit was built around 1906, and it was an absolutely beautiful place to spend the day.

A "time capsule" of 1960s outfits still in the tissue paper - always a blast!
There was stuff in every corner!  These were hoarders of the highest degree, and it turned out so are their heirs.  Many of the best pieces were pulled out by relatives for themselves or to sell on Ebay. C'est la vie!

This dress was described
as a 1930s glamour gown,
but it actually dates to the

But the ambiance was certainly lovely, and there was a good chunk of vintage clothing our Vixens will enjoy. 
Fruits of a 48-hour shopping marathon!

And so we packed enough boxes to fill a corner of our warehouse, freighted the lot and settled in for a restful trip home.  I can say for certain that I enjoy selling coats (and sweaters and mittens and winter hats) more than I enjoy wearing them!  But for a few days, it was quite a diversion.

Despite a few bumps along the road, we enjoyed spectacularly beautiful countryside and an adventure we couldn't replicate if we tried.  If you head that way, expect the Wild West to live up to its name.

 Happy trails!

October 10, 2013

Vintage Shoe Department

This vintage advertisement was once displayed among the dressing rooms of an upscale clothing shop of the 1960s.  Now a vintage find all its own, we recently unearthed it and just in time too. 

We've just updated our vintage shoes with a huge selection of unworn 1930s, 40s & 50s shoes.  So complete your new wardrobe with a visit to our shoe department!  You'll be glad you stopped in.

September 07, 2013

Not What You'd Expect From Lilly Pulitzer

We recently compiled every Lilly Pulitzer print we've ever had into a single-page fabric library, and in doing so, I came across this dress I'd almost forgotten.

It was a Lilly Pulitzer dress we'd sold over fifteen years ago.  At the time, our business was so young I don't think I knew it was a special dress, though I knew Lilly was a special designer.  She's always had a dear place in my heart because we're both Floridians.

But this dress is a rare one.  Lilly Pulitzer prints are known for their bright florals in tropical, often fluorescent colors.  This dress is autumnal, in earthy hues and an especially soft fabric that felt like a Pima cotton.  It's hard to justify the word "rare" in mid-century ready-to-wear, but I've never seen another Lilly Pulitzer like this one, fifteen years later.  I think I can place the word rare as its descriptor without much hesitation.

I wonder if Lilly was trying to capture another season... she nailed spring and summer, but there are no fall or winter Lilly Pulitzer clothes to speak of.  It seems this look was as close as she got.

September 02, 2013

Investment Puzzle Pieces

Just another reason we love vintage suits!  They interlock like puzzle pieces in myriad ways.  A suit ensemble that includes a jacket, shell and skirt can be worn in many variations... jacket with pants, skirt with turtleneck, or just the shell paired with another suit entirely.  The list goes on...

And here's a perfect illustration.  This 1971 article pictures a Junior Sophisticates red jacket & navy skirt (at left) and a vintage Anne Klein suit shown in pairings as originally sold.

The following page changes it up, with Anne Klein's vintage blazer paired with the Junior Sophisticates skirt and vice versa. 

A great example of why you should wear vintage suits, complete with antique auto and cheeky Bonnie & Clyde styling.  Vintage suits dovetail into modern closets pretty effortlessly, too, because the classic tailored look is just that - classic.  A smart investment in vintage style!

Source: January 1971 McCall's Magazine.

August 31, 2013

Stain Removal For Water Damaged Clothing

We clean hundreds of items of vintage clothing each month, and with this much laundry, we have learned a great deal about stain removal and the particulars of collectible clothing care.  Water damaged clothing is an especially frustrating stain, because the stain's components are concentrated along the edge of the water itself, leaving a ring that is hard to remove.
A friend recently brought over this silvery white 1960s brocade jacket that had a beautiful look to it, but was unfortunately water damaged.  Can it be fixed?
The first technique we try with water damage like this is a long soak in OxiClean.  If the garment cannot handle OxiClean, a whitener like borax or washing soda can be helpful, or just a strong detergent. 
After several hours soaking we would assess the stains, and if they had lessened we would repeat the soak.  If they had not lessened at all, we would try a different solvent, perhaps a color-safe bleach or hydrogen peroxide.  With water damaged clothing, we normally find these soaks have to be repeated at least 2-3 times, and if the garment can handle a direct application of detergent or another solvent, we will also apply it directly to the stain to sit for a few hours.
Once the stain has lifted, a normal wash or dry cleaning is in order.  In the case of this jacket, it had some fray beginning at the edges that were most often used (along the buttons and their closing loops).  A vintage clothing professional would protect these with nylon mesh before cleaning to avoid further fray.  In this case, however, we discussed the possibility of replacing the buttons, and perhaps the loops as well, because the fraying had become rather noticeable.
This particular jacket is capable of withstanding a hand wash and soak, even though it is a brocade. But for garments you are afraid to clean yourself, or dry clean only items, leave it to a professional.  This warrants a warning - be aware that if you take a garment to a dry cleaner, they will finish its cleaning with a steam or pressing.  This heat can actually set the stains in place (if the cleaner was unable to remove them). 
A considerate cleaner will omit this step if you ask, but be prepared to receive a wrinkled garment.  We only ask for this if we plan to work on the item further, in case the stains remain after the dry cleaning is complete.
Unfortunately water damaged clothing is relatively common here in southwest Florida.  We visit lots of homes undergoing a clean-out, and because Florida closets are humid, they are a notorious breeding ground for mildew.  It's important to monitor your storage spaces to avoid this kind of slow but serious damage. 
Basic techniques include:
  • leaving the closet doors open
  • using non-carpeted flooring in the closet
  • keeping clothes protected with muslin garment bags (not plastic)
  • being sensitive to changes in odor
In garages, the humidity is coupled with the potential for flooding.  A malfunctioning water heater or a broken washing machine can spread an inch or more of water across a garage floor in just minutes.  The same issue is true for basements.  If you store clothing or other valuables in your garage or basement, use wooden pallets as a protective layer below boxed items.  Keep clothing protected with plastic (not air-tight but as a cover) if you store items where plumbing is located above.

August 27, 2013

Newly Minted Vintage: 1990 Chiffon Dress

Though the definition of vintage clothing is pretty ambiguous, many vintage clothing sellers online are glad to embrace the 1990s (or at least the first part of the 90s) as newly minted vintage.

This dress is a striking example of just why... the print-on-print contrast is refreshingly "new", the colors are fresh, the ensemble has a striking effect with a retro vibe.  It suggests late 1930s sun dress though the bouffant effect is decidedly 90s, along with the bright leggings.

1990 creation by Annabel Ingall and Jane Lambert of Sydney Australia.

This was likely a boutique design at the time, or an art-to-wear ensemble from an artisan's workshop.  The print on the hat is custom-painted to match the chiffon, depicting sea horses and oceanic life in colorful whimsy. 

It has just as much attention to detail as its older vintage counterparts, but updated (so to speak), and with a more modern fit and feel.  We're beginning to see why so many vintage clothing shops incorporate 1990s fashion, and we are too... when they're as chic as this newly minted vintage design!

August 26, 2013

Timeline Tips: Dating 1940s Lingerie

According to Life magazine, elastic and zippers "went to war" in the 1940s.  During World War II, there were a number of shortages on the home front, including fabric and certain metals.  Shortages meant rationing, and for fashion design, that translated into carefully gauged patterns that used fabric according to government-imposed limits.

In lingerie, the fabric rationing was less of an issue, as the required yardage was fairly predictable regardless of the style.  But even lingerie was affected by the war.  In vintage clothing we sometimes see 1940s girdles with no zippers, only a laced closure.  And this photo illustrates just why; specific metals and performance trims like elastic were needed elsewhere.  Ladies were taught to adapt.  Many kept using their old clothing, patching it or otherwise altering it in the spirit of "make do and mend".

It's much rarer to see 1940s bras that lace, though, like the one pictured.  Most likely the ladies who had to wear them were delighted to cast them off post-war, as they looked forward to the relative luxury of elastic, hooks & eyes. 

If you find one, show us!  A lace-front bra would be a very collectible find for the lingerie aficionado.

August 25, 2013

1940s Shoes

1940s vintage shoes are ever-popular in vintage clothing shops, because they're sophisticated classics with sexy but elegant details.  Additionally, they're superior quality to so many of the synthetic materials and machine-crafted shoes created today.  Shoe collections often mimic the 1940s shoe styles but the quality of the 40s is absolutely unsurpassable at vintage shoe prices.

These vintage 1940s advertisements showcase a variety of beautiful 1940s shoes.  And check out the names!  These vintage shoes have clever monikers from the 'Cut Up' to the 'Knotty' heel, and of course there's the 'Princess'.  Fabulous!