Thursday, April 10, 2014

Making do with little time to mend

At the beginning of the year I announced my 12 vintage resolutions, one for each month.

So far I can say I’ve taken a good swipe at my resolutions, learned some things and enjoyed the process. Now we come to April.

April: Mend and clean clothing and improve skills.  

Here is where I say, heck, I’ll try something easier, like flapping my wings and flying to the moon. My intention is to work on spiffing up my personal wardrobe. April has become a very busy month for me—but I am a stubborn doer of all things I say I’ll do.

Today I start with my collection of tutorials and references on my Make do and mend Pinterest board.

There you can find some interesting ways (both new and vintage) to remove stains, fix clothing, and make your own vintage-style clothes, among other things.

Are you an expert make-do-and-mender? Do you have a favorite item that you have rescued or that you are looking for a way to rescue? This month I’m all about saving it. Tell me your story! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Wearing what you want to wear

There is some discussion going around about how vintage clothing can typecast a person. More specifically, how a person wearing certain eras of vintage clothing can be mistakenly thought to want to go back to that era, including the whole social package of the time. For some people, this is a game-changing burden.

These are some of my thoughts on the subject:

I started wearing vintage clothing in about 1973 because it was something I could afford with the pocket change of a teenager, and the soul of a person who never felt like she quite fit in. I picked up my love of vintage early and have stuck with it. I haven’t stayed with a single period of clothing, and tend to mix and match eras with nothing like accuracy. Vintage expresses who I believe I am, a collage.

I don’t feel connected to modern “vintage culture,” although I see it exists. Rather, I will always believe vintage is a great way to be unique. When I started selling vintage clothing I knew right away that I wanted to share what I feel: Not cool, not part of a group, not special or beautiful beyond other people, I believe that vintage is a way to save money, wear quality garments, recycle, express oneself and enjoy a distinctive sensibility. I want others to share the joy of wearing what they want. I believe in the potential of vintage.

I am acutely aware that the 1940s and 50s—which I love so much for the clothing—were decades of racism, sexism and oppression of all kinds, along with WWII and the Cold War among other political and social events. I do not want to go back, I just want to borrow the clothes. Maybe some feel that wearing 1920s or 1960s clothing displays her freedom, or 1950s displays her desire for more stereotypical gender roles. For me it is never as simple as that.

As a seller I don’t use terms like ‘whistle bait’ or even ‘wiggle dress.’ I never show pin-up pictures of women. My intention has always been to respect history—and then gain some distance from it.

I believe anyone has the right to wear anything that expresses her personality, free from fashion dictates, gender stereotypes and assumptions.

I am not naive. I know that in 2014 there are countries where women’s dress is subjected to oppressive rules. I lived through the 1960s-70s feminist revolution in the U.S. and I think the plight of women and girls worldwide is still a huge unfinished business. I have a master’s degree while some girls are not allowed education; I can choose to wear 1950s dresses and some women can’t show their faces. Women don’t receive equal pay for equal work even in the rich and powerful U.S.

However, I believe that my vintage choice of clothing is not a damper on, but an expression of my rights and freedom.

If someone walks up to me while I’m wearing vintage and says “I wish women still dressed like that” I would consider the intentions. I have had many an older woman and man simply admire something that brings back some happy times in their own lives. There are also the not so welcome intentions, the comments that seem to imply “women ought to go back to being subjugated as you seem to be conveying with your dress,” or at least “I wish the world was more like it was in the 1950s.”

I have been around awhile and have heard and seen many things of all sorts that hurt me personally. I have occupied my time and career with some things that only men were once “supposed” to do. At times I’ve wondered whether admiration came from what I was capable of doing or what I was capable of looking like.

The one thing I have learned, and try to share with others, is that no one can make you anything other than who you are in your heart and soul. No matter how insulting, inappropriate or unwarranted a comment might be, it can not change your own truth.

In the history of human rights, this same self-truth has come up again and again. In most cases, words were not the only things that hurt the oppressed.

No one, no million ones, can tell you that you are anything you are not. You can dress in 1944 or 2014, no matter.

You won’t be able to quickly change a bigoted mind, but you can work for change. Be the most educated, respect-worthy, capable, informed, thoughtful, open-minded, and compassionate person you can be. Kick butt at whatever you do so no one can tell you that you can’t. Don’t oppress others.

And wear what you want. I believe that if you are the person you want and need to be, your clothing is just another expression of you. It magnifies the You of you.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Style Icon: Phyllis Diller

OK, not your typical style icon, but if style means being true to yourself and unforgettable, Phyllis Diller is most certainly an icon.

Phyllis Diller, who passed away in 2012, made her costuming, hair and makeup an integral part of her self-invented comedic persona. Diller’s 2005 autobiography is titled Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse. That is so her.

So what if her wig was unkempt, her colors loud and her makeup gaudy—She was all there, a complete package day in and day out, long before Lady Gaga.

Killer Diller style: “My photographs don’t do me justice - they just look like me.”
I feel a great affinity for this woman’s unconventional and wacky style. I’d rather be fun than elegant, at least some of the time. Most of all, I want to be myself. Phyllis Diller once said “I wanted to become me, totally me. The more me, the better. I instinctively knew this and I was right.” Apparently her famous window-rattling laugh did not need invention.

She was a beautiful woman. It took courage, talent and self-assurance to pull off an act in which being unattractive was part of the gag.

The mid to late 1960s were good years to have an over-the-top style. I love the way her style just goes one (or maybe two or three) steps too far, but always with fashion in sight.

House of Patou, 1968
Phyllis Diller in her cotton ball dress 
Schiaparelli, ca. 1930
A caged bird
A 1978 photo of Phyllis Diller in her closet (Los Angeles Times) “Honey, I adore clothes. Always have, even as a baby. I follow fashion like a scientist follows rats. If I like something, I buy it in all colors.”

This week at the Vintage Fashion Guild, the Parade is dedicated to the style of Phyllis Diller. Go funny and fearless...go maximalist! 

You think I'm overdressed? This is just my slip!”—Phyllis Diller
These items and more are found in the VFG Parade forum

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Seeing spots?

I’m hopelessly crazy about polka style or out, they’ll always be spot on with me! If you want to be spotted in vintage, have a look at my April theme for inspiration:

{click to view, sound up}
...and check out my Pinterest board of vintage polka dots too!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vintage with messages

I have heard from some of you how much you like the background stories of vintage items of clothing. Lots of times I’m asked about the history of a particular dress and can’t say, but personal encounters make the clothes come alive in a great way.

In the past few weeks I have found a couple items with notes. I didn’t meet the original owners but their notes are such lovely links to the past.

This hat, in my Etsy shop, was wrapped with tissue:

This dress came from another woman with a note pinned inside the neckline. It is in my web store now:

One of the more interesting time capsules I’ve seen in my vintage business is this linen clutch with its contents, from the years 1940 and 41, intact.