Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How to feel 10º cooler in vintage


No way around it, it’s hot. Here in Spokane the mercury is climbing to over 95º F day after day. It was 107º a few days ago, and chez denisebrain we are thankful for ceiling fans and a house with tall trees around it since we don’t have air conditioning. Oh, and we LOVE ice water.

And vintage!

Staying on trend and in vintage is not a problem this summer, starting with the most obvious of vintage-inspired modern trends, gingham.

Choose a gingham check in 100% cotton for the crispest, coolest look and feel. I love this picnic-y dress from SmallEarthVintage:



White linen is a perpetual summer choice. Yes I know linen wrinkles, yes I know white stains. The trick is to wear something slightly slouchy and casual, where wrinkles and a small mark will not ruin the effect. For me, this oversized 1980s jacket from persephonevintage is the perfect summer cover.


Shorts, especially the skirt-y, high-waisted type from the 1940s. These are not very easy to come by, but they are worth it for the pure flattery. This pair from NiftyLunch is the sort I mean:


A short kimono-style robe is easy to wear, on trend and amenable to lounging, going out, the beach... There are many vintage options along this line, including genuine antique Japanese haori in silk if elegance is what you’re after. This 1970s wrap from NewOldFashionVintage would make a great cover up and has sleeves short enough to allow you to make breakfast in it too:


Try the natural air conditioning of crochet. Crochet is having a big moment right now and you can avoid cliché with an unusual vintage item. This beautiful Edwardian blouse is available from TrunkofDresses:


Another big modern trend that can be interpreted very effectively with real vintage is the cropped top. OffBroadwayVintage has this cropped top with another great vintage choice for summer, a full skirt. Think about it: Only the waist is going to be fitted with this skirt, the rest is pure breeze catcher. The amazing outfit is 1950s-vintage, hand-painted cotton from Mexico:



Some of my absolute favorite summer vintage items are not necessarily part of any current trend, but I couldn’t do without my paper parasol (I get sick of dumping on the sunscreen) and my c1960 Ray-Bans. Jessica of No Accounting for Taste says that it isn’t summer without her 1940s novelty print day dress and a big sunhat. Isabelle’s summer vintage favorites are her 1950s swimsuit and her 70s Guy Laroche sundress, perfect for a picnic. —All great vintage ways to approach summer!




Sunday, June 28, 2015

Follow up on post: So you want to start an online vintage clothing business



I recently wrote this post about starting up an online vintage clothing business. The stats say that lots of people have read it, some have shared it. A couple people have quit following my blog since they read it, perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not. No one commented on it directly.


Did I scare you? I have to admit, I meant to. Even though I’m a nice enough person, tough love seemed in order. I have discussed with many a vintage seller the business of selling online, and I can honestly say that it isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires a lot of hard work, patience, knowledge, resources (time, money and information), creativity and passion.

I didn’t make much of all the love you can have for this job. I figure you wouldn’t be reading the post if you didn’t have a fondness for the idea of your own vintage business, or at least a curiosity about it. Loving vintage fashion is the easy part.

I wrote a post to say that the business of selling vintage clothing isn’t easy.

It seems like nearly everybody’s selling vintage now, or knows someone who is. I have read posts like Getting Rich at Home and Top Online Business Opportunities that mention vintage clothing. Maybe you’ve read some of these too? You’d think vintage clothing was a get-rich-quick scheme! (Would that it were!)

Whew, now that I’ve got that off my chest I can be a bit more encouraging in a future post!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Fabric term of the week: Cotton

It’s been awhile since I had a Fabric of the Week post, but it’s back for a return engagement as I add definitions to the VFG Fabric Resource.

Cotton has been a part of the Resource for awhile but somehow I just didn’t get around to posting it in my blog. Maybe it seemed too humble? With temperatures in my area at 100º+ this week, it will be my best friend!

Cotton
Cotton is a fiber obtained from the cotton plant, a bushy plant of the genus Gossypium. The cotton fiber grows from the seeds of the plant in the seed pods, called bolls. The fiber, which is 90% cellulose, is naturally fine, soft, fluffy and absorbent. The length of a cotton fiber can vary from under 1/2" to over 2" with the longest fibers being the most desirable for fabric production. Cotton fiber is usually cream-colored, but also may be grown in green or brown. The cotton plant grows best in tropical and sub-tropical environments.
The history of cotton literally parallels the history of civilization. Evidence of isolated civilizations growing cotton and creating fabric from its fiber dates its domestication to at least 4500 B.C.E. in both the Americas and South Asia.

 There’s never a shortage of vintage cotton wear in my shops, including these cooling frocks:



Monday, June 15, 2015

LOTS of vintage convergences!


I love when I stumble across a vintage photo or artwork showing an item of clothing I have found...I call these vintage convergences. Recently I have noticed others posting similar finds and I’ve asked them to join me pinning these on my Vintage Convergences Pinterest board.


Others who I saw making these connections are Joanna van of Dividing Vintage Moments, Jenny of TravelingCarousel and Carla of CarlaAndCarla. Many thanks to Joanna, Jenny and Carla for posting their amazing convergences!

Since I last showed a Vintage Convergence on my blog ten weeks ago, all of these have shown up! First from Joanna, a Lilli Ann Ad and Otto Grun brooch:


Here she is side-by-side with a vintage Moordale Urban Suburban image:


...and (gasp!) a 1955 Jacques Fath suit:


Kays-Newport Toni Drake shoes ad from 1946, and the same gorgeous pair now:


From Jenny, a late 1940s Lilli Ann gold Worsted silk ‘Swashbuckler’ suit and the original press photo modeled by Dorian Leigh:


Jenny found this early 70s leather fringe sleeved mini by Zig-Zag, and the very similar dress on the right, photographed by Alexis Waldeck in 1970:


1969 Oleg Cassini ‘Aztec’ design Peter Pan swimsuit, and the same super fun suit on her clothes rack:


Carla scored these fabulous Anne Klein satin opera gloves, and show them with an editorial from 1988:


Gold Lurex Donald Brooks gown side by side with a Virginia Slims ad from 1973. You've come a long way baby!


 Meanwhile, Jenny found the original of this sundress I had for sale. “Lending an oriental flavor to the American scene, this authentic Javanese batik print is used for a light-hearted play dress by Marjae. Clever drapery of the fabric with a band of contrasting color rayon adds bodice interest.” 4/23/54:


Black straw hat with rose I sold recently, and one that is either the same or very similar, photo dated 1958:


And how fun is this? I Dream of Jeannie’s Barbara Eden seems to have worn a dress similar to the one I sold labeled Joseph Magnin:


If you are of like mind and always notice these convergences, let me know and I’ll add you as a pinner to the board!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

So you want to start an online vintage clothing business


Vintage clothing is a wonderful thing, and if you want to work to provide it for others I applaud you. Of course I feel that way because that is what I do—and I love what I do.

I started my online vintage clothing business in 1999, inspired by the 1970s and 80s brick and mortar vintage shops that I had frequented. I was new to the internet in the late 90s and as I became somewhat known in the world of vintage on this platform, I had requests for tips on selling and on running a vintage fashion business. The people asking were usually not casual here-and-there sellers, but people striving to earn at least a partial living at it. There weren’t so many of us then.


I used to have a fairly short—though not simple—list of suggestions. It went something like this:

1. Know everything you can about the items you are selling. Do not bluff if you don’t know something, but research labels, fabrics, fashion history and whatever else you need to be able to write with some confidence and accuracy about items.

2. Provide detailed garment measurements.

3. Photograph and describe each and every more-than-miniscule flaw.

4. If you’re just starting, price accordingly. Carefully research the higher and lower ends and don’t expect to be a high-end seller if you are new to the field. Save your exceptional items for a time when you are more established.

5. Always be polite, clear and prompt in dealing with any questions from customers and potential customers.

6. Ship as quickly as possible—within 48 hours is expected.

7. The customer is always right, even if they might not be. Always give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them with respect and kindness.

8. Don’t buy vintage items for resale because they are inexpensive, buy them because they are really good.


Then I started adding in:

9. Don't be lazy in the least. If there is something that you can do to help a garment you are selling, do it.

10. Become an expert at mending and washing/cleaning; find the best dry cleaner in your area, and also a great seamstress if you are not one yourself.

11. Generate enthusiasm for your items by writing helpful, interesting and knowledgeable descriptions.

12. Find the best, most efficient selling methods and use those.

13. Strive to connect to buyers through social media, online and offline contacts.

14. Offer an explicit return policy, and detail all your shop policies clearly and politely.

15. Do not expect quick results. Be patient and build your brand.


Now there are millions of vintage clothing sellers all over the world, many of them doing a very good job. What you need to do to stand out will by necessity be more involved. I would have to add the following to the above:

16. Use professional quality branding (the quality of which is not always based on a price paid).

17. Develop a social media strategy and keep it up consistently.

18. Make sure your photos are detailed, beautiful and accurate. If using a live model, be sure they are pro or very talented at portraying your brand. There are various ways to do lighting, but whatever your choice, it needs to be excellent.

19. Join and participate in appropriate forums.

20. Find strategic and memorable ways to differentiate your business in a crowded field.

21. Be extremely competitive in sourcing vintage items to offer for sale.

22. Do detailed market research and study analytics.

23. Find a good selling venue and be ready to jump to others if needed.

24. Do not assume a website will be found on search engines without very specific protocols being addressed.

25. Always keep your ears and eyes open for what people want from you, and how their preferences intersect with what you can provide.

26. Your business is not you, it is your business. Think and act for your business not according to your own feelings, but rather your brand’s identity.


You may not be able to go it alone, in fact, hardly anyone can now. The people you may have to hire once, part- or full-time are a model, a photographer, a website builder, a tech person, a marketing person, an accountant, and a designer. You will probably have to make substantial investments, such as in inventory, photo set up, storage, software, cleaning and mending, marketing and packaging materials. You will need to study and stay up-to-date on not only vintage fashion topics but business and marketing topics.



Do I follow my own advice? Sometimes! Some things are easier for me than others, but these are the things I honestly see from the business end of the vintage clothing field. A colleague recently said “the hippie days of the internet are over” and I have been repeating that phrase to vigorous nods from online sellers ever since. No longer can you just slap up a bad photo of a dress you can only vaguely identify for a highish price and then quibble when the buyer is not satisfied...not even close. You can sell vintage or you can become a vintage seller. The former is a casual affair, the latter is quite an investment, quite an effort...and eventually can be quite a wonderful achievement.

Please also read my follow-up to this post.