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!

August 22, 2013

Vintage Lingerie Circa 1936

These ladies are dressed to the nines, yet they're not fit to be seen on any street in 1936.  In the 1930s, lingerie was as multi-faceted as a lady's outer wardrobe.  There were separate bras and underwear (called tap panties) as seen above, nightgowns and pajama style lounging outfits, girdles that covered the lower half, garter belts, and corset style foundations that included a built-in bra.  In the 1939 film "The Women", a lingerie model explains just such a foundation as one that "zips up the back and no bones".

"No bones" was still a recent idea in 1936, as women continued to bind and mold their figures like the Victorians until the mid-1910s.  After that, the flapper era heralded new ideas in lingerie, but "no bones" couldn't really come into the market until durable stretch fabrics were created that could offer the necessary shaping to substitute for boning.  And zipping up the back was non-existent in the mass market until 1935.  Those features were new and exciting at the time.

The ladies pictured are also wearing dressing gowns, a glamorous yet practical component of a woman's boudoir wardrobe.  The dressing gown allowed a lady to prepare at the mirror before she donned her street or evening attire.  Yet a vintage dressing gown is often just as finely made as a formal dress, albeit without severe structure.  Many vintage gowns we've had from the 1930s are exquisitely finished and some are hand-sewn - every seam, every hem, every edge.

The quality of the lingerie in this photo is of that sort, meticulously made for indoor glamour.  Fabulous!

August 18, 2013

What's Old In Kalispell, MT: Antique Lingerie Dresses

Classic antique dresses (like the one pictured) from the turn of the 20th century are white cotton lawn or batiste, sometimes with intricate pleatwork, lace and embroidery.  They can be works of art.  And there's a cache of them on display at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell, MT through October 15, 2013.

August 16, 2013

Little Known Labels: Albert Capraro

One of the less commonly seen labels of the early-mid 1970s is Albert Capraro, a little-known designer today who had a big audience after dressing First Lady Betty Ford.  Capraro had gained eight years' experience working at Oscar de la Renta, crafting the boutique collection while honing his skills and readying to strike out on his own.

After a mere six months in business with his own label, Capraro got a call from the White House.  At first he thought it was a joke.  But in reality, Mrs. Ford wanted Capraro to create designs for her using Asian fabrics recently brought home by the President. 

Two days later, Capraro arrived in a government limousine at the steps of the White House.  After that first meeting, he designed five dresses from the imported fabric and thus began a series of appointments exclusively outfitting the First Lady's needs.

Albert Capraro's designs are clean and functional, of superb quality and were usually sold in exclusive boutiques.  The 1970s originals are hard to find because they were a high price range and lower production, so relatively few exist in relation to the mass quantity of other ready-to-wear lines.  If you can find one, consider yourself lucky.  You're dressing as well as a president's wife and with the chic sophistication this label was known for.

Source: The Fashion Makers by Barbra Walz & Bernadine Morris

August 14, 2013

Not So Shabby Chic

The handcrafted movement today has its roots in crafty trends from decades past, the most recent of which was a push for all things handmade during the hippie period of the late 1960s/early 1970s.  Of course craftspeople create in all eras, but this was a moment in décor history when they were making headlines and inspiring entire magazines, like McCall's Needlework & Crafts, the source for this terrific interior décor.

It's a 1970 bedroom complete with poppy needlepoint bedspread, quilted bolster and crocheted rug.  The headboard, drawer pulls and mirror are made of embroidery hoops and crochet.  Even the lamp is handmade, created of an old glass bottle and new wiring.  Not so shabby - and chic!

Source: McCall's Needlework & Crafts, Spring-Summer 1970.

August 13, 2013

Buy This, Not That: Ladylike Suits

Beautiful suit by Prada.  Price tag?  $3310 for the set.  Ouch.

Of course we'd opt out of that price point.  You too I bet.  And you probably know (vixen that you are) that vintage clothing's a savvy alternative for couture style at common sense prices. 

Here's a few options from our current collection of ladylike suits:

Much more to see at (sensibly priced) Vintage Vixen...
take a look at over 350 vintage suits and buy this, not that.

Source: Harper's Bazaar August 2013.

August 11, 2013

Vintage Children's Clothes: August To Autumn

Our vintage children's clothing section updates tomorrow!  Over 100 items of kids' clothing, perfect for August into autumn.

Image Source: McCall's Needlework & Crafts, Spring-Summer 1970.

August 10, 2013

Hippie Dress Deja Vu

It's one thing to see a dress on another woman at the same party... it's quite another thing to see a vintage dress year after year, found again and again.  Yet this one has done it:

We've uncovered this dress (well, not this exact one, but copies of it) many times over the years at Vintage Vixen.  I'd assumed it was just a very popular hippie style imported from India.  Until...

This vintage advertisement from 1979 filled in its history a bit.  It was indeed an Indian import, but its presence on the pages of a popular magazine is what must've made it a big seller in the late 70s.

The original ad says this dress is "free-flowing, easy-going fashion that's so zingy, so terrific to wear... every hour, every chance you get!"  Pretty cool that it was an authentic block print.

Notice the vintage price of $19.95, too... in today's dollars this dress would be $64.33!

August 09, 2013

What's Old In Charlotte, NC: Dior, Balmain and Saint Laurent

A trifecta of vintage designer dresses is now on display at the Mint Museum's Randolph branch.  Exhibition highlights include gowns of "elegance and ease" by all three designers.  Check their website for more info on this beautiful exhibit of vintage clothing, open through January 12, 2014.

August 07, 2013

It's A Plaid, Plaid World

Here in Florida it's already back-to-school time, and up north the date is nearing.  School and autumn always makes me hunt up my favorite fall clothes - plaids.

Whether it's a plaid kilt, a Pendleton jacket or a preppie Madras dress, plaid vintage clothes have a crisp, classic look that make them perennial favorites.  Here's a few currently in store:

There's over 100 items of plaid vintage clothes on our site at the moment, and more arriving for fall.  Enjoy!

August 05, 2013

Book Bits: The Autobiography of Salvatore Ferragamo

On sitting down with this book, I had a sense I'd be reading something substantial.  I found that while Salvatore Ferragamo was indeed a wizard of footwear, the first chapter or so told me he's also a masterful storyteller.

Ferragamo was born eleventh of fourteen children in a poor village in Italy at the turn of the 20th century.  Not only did he rise out of poverty to oversee a shoe-making empire, he also shod some of the world's most famous names, from Greta Garbo and Sophia Loren to Mussolini and Eva Braun.

Paulette Goddard and Salvatore Ferragamo
Paulette Goddard is a good example of one of Ferragamo's more demanding clients, much to his perfectionist delight.

There's a lot of meaty stories and earnest footwear advice in this book, making it a gem of a read.  Here are three favorite tidbits:

Shoes For Sister
At the age of nine, Salvatore was desperate to learn the shoemaker's trade.  Just across the street from his boyhood home was a cobbler, but the Italian culture designated shoemakers as low class, and Salvatore was forbidden from apprenticing. 

Then one day his younger sisters were expected to take first communion at the local church, but they had no white shoes to wear to the service.  His mother cried with anxiety, as they also had no money to buy such luxuries.

So the night before the service, Salvatore stole across the street to the shoemaker's shop, obtained the necessary leather and tools, and stayed awake all night creating the essential shoes.  They were beautiful despite the fact they were Salvatore's first attempts - a testament to his innate ability.

Cheese And Death
Years later, once Salvatore had established his name as an international shoemaker, he found himself kept at close watch in his own Italian villa.  The Nazi aggressors suspected him of spying and then of hoarding food.

During World War II, food was in such low supply that punishment for hoarding was death.  Salvatore recounted that he did have a "huge Parmesan cheese" in the house, but nothing more. 

Oh that cheese!  I was certain it would be found.  Worrying about that cheese kept me awake night after night.  I dreamed more of that cheese than of any girl I have ever known in my life.  It was as if it was rolling along the edge of a precipice and I was running after it... All the persecution of this period of my life... never frightened me as much as that Parmesan cheese.

Great Artists Think Alike
In the post-war enthusiasm of 1947, Ferragamo was notified he'd won a prestigious award in America along with Christian Dior and other designers.  With the single-mindedness one might expect of a ruthlessly focused craftsperson, Ferragamo had never heard of Dior despite their similar lines of work.

Their paths crossed in a dramatic way when Ferragamo happened to meet Dior on the Queen Elizabeth, a ship bound for America where the award ceremony would take place.  The gentlemen commiserated that they'd only just finished the exclusive clothes and shoes that would debut at the award presentation during a special fashion show. 

After this exchange, Dior asked to see the shoes Ferragamo had created.  But upon seeing them, he stared at Ferragamo suspiciously.  One pair of shoes was satin with a cutaway instep, mimicking one of Dior's satin dresses with a cutaway neckline.  Another shoe had a doubled drape just like another of Dior's designs. 

He accused Ferragamo of sending a spy into the Dior house in Paris, as Ferragamo's shoes serendipitously matched Dior's dresses beyond happenstance.  Yet Ferragamo hadn't seen a hint of Dior's ideas.  Not only did he know nothing of Dior, but he'd only just shared a conversation about the late work required before departing with fashions in hand.

It was a stroke of genius - perhaps two strokes - that they had created "for each other" without knowing it.  Additionally it heralded the heyday both designers were embarking upon in the post-war era.

Shoemaker of Dreams is full of many more anecdotes, written with Ferragamo's heartfelt and intelligent point of view that reveals a deep and endearing love of shoes.

August 04, 2013

Zippers Fresh From The Can

We gather a lot of vintage sewing items at Vintage Vixen.  Everything from buttons and snaps to trim and zippers is fair game.  There's a perpetual need here for vintage notions like these, as we repair many of the vintage clothes we sell.

When our buyer Pat came across these zippers, though, we had to take a second look.  Pat's had a great nose for interesting little things for decades, and I'd never seen zippers in "cans" before.

Apparently Coats & Clark's decided little clear plastic containers were an eye-catching way to sell their zippers in the 1960s.  Not only do the vintage graphics and plastic styling tell us the age, but also the colors.  There are lots of sherbet hues and colorful brights, primarily in oranges, greens, blues and purples.

The color names are singularly vintage, too.  There are classics like hunter and lilac, along with quaint hues like ciel (pale powder blue) and parakeet (bold turquoise).

If you go to a sewing shop today, you might find equivalent colors but not identical containers like these.  Coats & Clark's must have decided these fun little jars weren't the best solution for packaging zippers after all, but they certainly are fun!

August 02, 2013

Little Known Labels: Hana Mackler

Known in New York as "the boot lady", Hana Mackler created classic boots in beautiful leathers.  Her best-known finds are from the late 1970s/early 1980s, like these elegant vintage boots:

Every pair we've seen by Hana Mackler was imported from Italy, and of those we've sold in original boxes, they had a steep vintage price.  The price below was $170.00 in about 1980, which is nearly $500 adjusted for inflation to today's dollars.  Quality stuff, and it shows.
Hana Mackler boots are top quality leather with minimalist seaming.  They're sometimes leather and suede in one boot, usually monotone, some with applique style inserts in fluid details that hearken back to the Studio 54 era.
The Boot Lady passed away in 2003, but her beautiful designs live on.  Check our current selection of vintage Hana Mackler boots for the latest revivals.