Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Photo booth shots of vintage hats for fall

Vintage photo booth shots were my inspiration for taking pictures of vintage hats for Fall 2016. So often in the past, women had these photos taken in hats, and I just love the images of proud ladies in their best.

Of course, then there are the silly images—Hat or no hat, this sartorially-splendid woman looks like she’d be fun to know! 

Here are some of my hat shots for fall, with one foot firmly in the vintage photo booth:



Please stop by and see all my vintage hats!

P.S. I am forever grateful to BeFunky for the photo filters that help me do creative things with my shots!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Survey: Advice for a beginning vintage buyer

“If you were to give one piece of advice to a beginning vintage buyer, what would it be?”

I asked this question recently in a survey of people who wear vintage, and the responses were really thoughtful. Also, even though it required a written answer, 110 out of 112 survey takers responded, which is a pretty overwhelming rate.

First, because I love a good word cloud:

See that big measurements? This is a very important issue for vintage wearers, with 21% of those surveyed urging a beginner to get accurate measurements both of herself and the clothing she is interested in.
Measure yourself and measure the item! Know how those two sets of measurements relate to each other. 
Measure twice, buy once. Know your own measurements and what that entails in a piece of vintage so you can better locate what you’re after. 

Condition and care were mentioned by 14% of the respondents. They wrote that purchasing something in excellent condition is important and that knowing how to repair and clean is critical. Some don’t consider buying anything with noticeable flaws, suggesting—
Never buy planning to fix.
while some, perhaps because of their own abilities, just suggested—

Make sure you check items over and if they need repairs make sure you can do them and plan a time to do them.  
Gaining knowledge about vintage was the top priority of 8%. What sort of knowledge? Mentioned was learning to tell if an item is truly vintage, learning the best ways to care for items, and learning how vintage is priced. And why should you gain knowledge of vintage?

There are so many resources to help you date clothing, make sure you know what you are buying and what it’s worth to you. Spending more than that on something will rarely make you happy. 
Study the era(s) that you feel drawn towards and really get to know the cultural history, as well as the fashion themselves, from those years. The greater you appreciate and understand the decades that you’re emulating or drawing inspiration from, the more cohesive and inspired your outfits stand to be. 
Slightly more people (11%) gave answers suggesting what and how to choose vintage for the beginner.

Start small, find that one piece that can work with things you already own and build from there with what feels right. 
Try out different eras. Don’t be intimidated. You totally do not have to look like Viva Las Vegas. 
Figure out which silhouettes look best on you, and buy what you like. Ignore labels. Ignore what’s “hot” or “trendy” (yes, there IS trendy in vintage), and go with your gut. Personal style is never based on popular consensus or trends.  
Pay attention to your lifestyle. If you hate to dry clean, go to a lot of black tie gatherings, never dress up, etc., let that be your guide. I have a closet of fancy dresses I have never worn—all purchased for a specific event, and then I didn’t. I do reach for my vintage cashmere coat, vintage blazers, etc. again and again. I am comfortable spending more on those items because they won’t just sit. Also, be mindful on how to care for your items in a way that makes them last and choose fabrics and items based on how much maintenance you are willing to do. 

5% mentioned the quality of an item, paying attention to what the price ought to be for a vintage piece of a certain type, era, and condition; investing in fewer but better things; and spending money wisely.

A few mentioned where to buy. Several stated that patronizing a good, reputable seller is mutually beneficial. Others suggested looking everywhere until you find your favorite haunts, both online and in person.

The largest percentage of respondents (37%) wrote a variation on a couple of intertwined themes.

Essentially, buy what you like, and don’t wait if you like something. Once you have it, wear it. Something like Nike’s Just Do It. 
If you love it, buy it then and there.  
Use the items, otherwise you are just a warehouse.   
Buy what you love so you will wear it!  
If you love it, buy it! Chances are you will never see one again. Buy what makes you feel happy/fun/beautiful etc. If you have to talk yourself into it, leave it.  
I love the enthusiasm that glowed from many of the answers I got to my survey questions. These were not the answers of fence sitters, but of vintage devotees!
Be confident in what you wear! Vintage clothes will make you stand out anywhere (office, party, walking about, etc.), so make sure you are happy in the skin you are in and the clothes you are wearing. Your clothes are just an extension of your persona, so have fun with how you dress! 


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Survey: How you wear vintage, your favorite eras and items

Recently I asked denisebrain Facebook, newsletter and blog followers who wear vintage to take a short survey.

The responses have been so thoughtful and interesting that I thought you might enjoy giving them a read.

A favorite photo via The Sartorialist

Apparently, you mainly like to wear a piece or two of vintage in a mix with other clothing, although solid percentages of you wear head-to-toe vintage.

 How do you wear vintage?

What decades are your favorites for vintage fashion to wear? (answer all that apply) 

The women who took this survey have chosen to interact with me and my business, so I’m not surprised by the decade preferences!

The answers to the next question ranged quite a lot, but there were clear winners, judging from this word cloud.

What is your favorite type of vintage item to wear?

The most interesting answers were to the question—

If you were to give one piece of advice to a beginning vintage buyer, what would it be?

...in fact, the answers were so good to this question that I need to make a separate post showcasing lots of them! 

(coming soon!)

Friday, August 5, 2016

To all the Enids (and Faux Enids) I've loved before

The 18 bags on top below are all faux Enid Collins, some of which I’ve had in multiples. The 12 below are genuine Enids...and two were impossible for me to let go of, Horn of Plenty and Pax.

I hope the vintage bag fairies keep me supplied—so I can keep you supplied—forever!

📧 Keep track of my vintage fashion ideas and deals by subscribing to the denisebrain newsletter!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Why am I called "denisebrain"?

My name is Maggie, so why is my business called denisebrain? I get this question regularly...today as a matter of fact.

My name isn’t Denise Brain, but it has been a bit of a nickname for me. I am a professional French horn player and teacher, and Dennis Brain is one of the greatest horn heroes any horn player could ever have. Tragically, the Englishman was only 36 when he suffered a fatal crash in his sports car in 1957. He had already become arguably the greatest hornist of modern times.

Dennis Brain, Norman Parkinson photo, 1953

In 1999, when I was first prompted to provide a user name on eBay, I was helping a student bid on horns and my first thought was the nickname denisebrain. Not long after that, I sold one vintage dress using the same user ID. Then another vintage dress, and another. Pretty soon, denisebrain had stuck to my vintage clothing business.

I don’t use the name denisebrain flippantly—I feel the utmost respect and awe for the inimitable musician who inspired it. Still, it isn’t the sort of business name I would come up with today. Today I would probably search deep and wide for a name that is easy to spell, memorable, interesting and tells what my brand is about. It would be nice to have people say, great name instead of who?

On the good side, I have had no competition for the use of this name, and at this point, I love it...it is my business. It’s also a sly and loving nod to my other job in music.

And wouldn’t you know it, I am gradually growing a collection of vintage clothing and accessories featuring horns of all types and eras (other than the all-too-numerous Ugly Christmas Sweaters with horns that is—not my thing) and here are some:

I’ve worn these earrings (which I made from Christmas ornaments) forever. Jim Hendrickson photo, 1991

My husband gave me this 1960s vintage shirt for my birthday. It was from Vintage Vixen.
1950s modern horn print skirt
1970s horn photo print dress
Some—not all!—of my vintage horn pins
1950s Vera scarf
60s instrument-print shirtwaist dress, and my most beautiful accessory
The same print in different colors has recently joined my collection—it came from Small Earth Vintage
Another recent addition to my collection is this 1960s dress from CustardHeartVintage
This 1950s skirt came from Dorothea's Closet Vintage
A pewter horn pin, gift from my friend Amanda
This sash belonged to my Aunt Marie, a music teacher
My friend Anna (BootyVintage) gave me this 1980s dress
This copper jewelry set was given to me by my friend Susan

One last shot, because I love it so: The Quintessential Brass at Indiana University in about 1981. I think we called it the Maggie and the Spit Valves shot. That is about when I started signing into a practice building as Denise Brain, so I guess this is origin story material!

David Coleman, John Wilds (my brother), David Ford, Norlan Bewley and {ahem} Denise Brain.
📧 Keep track of my vintage fashion ideas and deals by subscribing to the denisebrain newsletter!