Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and I am more than just a little thankful for the people I’ve met in the world of vintage fashion.

Since 1999 I have sold to several Parisian designers; an Aztec princess and school teacher; a woman working in the Pentagon (on 9/11/01) who apologized for paying me late for a suit after part of her workplace was destroyed; a mayor’s wife; a mayor; an actress or two; several museum curators, journalists and writers; a policewoman; an opera singer; an indie music artist; a biologist; my neighbor; a woman in her 80s who wanted to relive an event from her youth; a girl of 13 who wanted to experience what her great grandmother had experienced; a skiing star; my best friend. I have had loyal customers purchase full wardrobes from me; I’ve outfitted weddings and high school plays. You have a lot of fascinating stories to tell.

Even if all I know of you is your postal code and that you purchased a blue polka dot blouse...thank you.

Some may know I often try to raise funds for causes that mean a great deal to me, and not only have you tolerated my ongoing mentions of manatees and grizzly bears, you have supported my causes with me. There is no way I could be making a real impact for these causes without your support.

I have numerous deepening friendships with vintage clothing dealers, experts and collectors...people without whom I would not be where I am. Not only do I learn something new every day about fashion history, fabric construction, and the business of selling online, but I feel I have a real support network.

I had a decent opinion of human nature prior to starting the business, and 14 years of positive dealings with thousands of people pretty well proves to me that we’re a decent lot. My most sincere thanks.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Vintage convergence time again

I love it when this happens: I find a vintage ad, magazine spread, or pattern that appears to exactly match a vintage item I have or once had. I call this a vintage convergence, and you can see all my previous here.

I always love to see how someone once styled the same item, and have been surprised that I have sometimes managed something at least slightly similar.

The most recent find was a hang tag, and the dress was first sold in 1967, and later (by me) in 2008. It was a lovely pink linen dress with appliquéd flowers. I wish I'd let the A-line shape be more apparent in my photo—but see? I turned my toes out like the model in the ad!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fabric of the week: Gabardine

It is my 50th fabric of the week entry, and I can’t believe I’m just getting around to this one! Gabardine is a revered fabric—I’ve had many an older woman confess to me it is her favorite. I just wish younger people had a chance to know it better.


Gabardine is characterized by either steep or sometimes regular twill, tightly woven, with fine, distinct diagonal ribs on the surface and a smooth back. Wools are right-hand twill, cotton may be left-hand. The warp generally has twice as many threads per inch as the weft. Made of worsted, cotton, manufactured fibers, blends, and (rarely) silk. 
Because gabardine is tightly woven (particularly in a steep twill weave) the fabric is hard-wearing and rain resistant. Its name derives from the Medieval Spanish word gabardina which means protection from the elements. 

The name was originally used for a cloak worn in the Middle Ages.
Uses: Suits, coats, rainwear, slacks, skirts, uniforms, dresses, sportswear, shirts, hats
See also:
Covert cloth

Worsted wool gabardine

Rayon gabardine
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photos by Hoyt Carter

Monday, November 18, 2013

Favorite vintage: It’s just so ME

I’ve been sharing stories about favorite vintage, both yours and mine. One category of favorites is It’s just so ME. You know the one, don’t you? The item that, whether it is the best or not, just seems to express your personality perfectly?

I think I sometimes surprise people at how loudly I can dress on a daily basis. Bright, bold and brash are pretty much exactly my style. I love strong prints and bright colors (especially pink, orange and green).

Here is a 1960s dress I found in a 2nd-hand shop at least 10 years ago. It had a stain on the front and I didn’t think that would ever come out. Yeah, that’s it, a stain that really made it impossible for me to offer for sale—at least that’s how I rationalized keeping MY dress. Not only does it feature favorite colors and a bold butterfly print, but it has a full skirt, which is my favorite silhouette.

I wore the dress on the beach at Coronado when I visited for my niece’s graduation. It looked right at home in that brilliant sunshine. 

I feel so happy and confident in this dress that I even sported it when I helped my friend Anna Newman with her booth at the San Francisco Vintage Expo a few years ago. You’d think I’d want to dress in Bonnie Cashin or Claire McCardell for this discerning crowd, but no, it had to be my ME dress. 

Oh, and the stain came out. But you knew that, didn’t you? 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fabric term of the week: 2/1, 3/1, 2/2 etc.            

Before you think this week’s fabric term is a math problem: These fraction-like numbers are a way of quickly describing how many yarns cross each other in a fabric’s construction.

2/1, 3/1, 2/2 etc. 
Woven fabric consists of warp and weft yarns crossing each other one at a time or in groups. Plain weave always consists of one warp yarn crossing one weft yarn, a 1/1 weave. When two warp yarns cross a weft yarn, this can be indicated as 2/1 weave. 2/2 weave has two warp yarns crossing two weft yarns. 
These fractions are read, for example, “three up, one down” for 3/1, indicating that three weaving harnesses are raised, then one is lowered for three warp yarns on the face, then one weft yarn. 
See also

A satin weave is most commonly 4/1 with warp yarns floating over weft yarns in numbers of 4 to 1, but can be 7/1 and even 11/1, and the interlacings do not occur in rows, giving the most uninterrupted gloss possible.

One of the more jaw-dropping satin dresses I’ve had a chance to see up close is this Ceil Chapman ball gown currently in my web store. The fabric really defines “pour of satin.”

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Favorite vintage: The goddess dress

Kathryn’s favorite vintage dress met an untimely end, but she may yet find another like it—Now that I know this story, I will keep both eyes open for another.  

My favourite vintage item sadly does not exist any more but I’ve never forgotten it. I bought it from a secondhand shop in the High Street of Oxford (in the United Kingdom) where I was at university in the 1980s. Back then, selling and wearing vintage was not as commonplace as it is now, but this shop stocked a small selection.

The dress that caught my eye was what some people now call a “Goddess” dress. It was navy blue and finely vertically pleated throughout with a boat neckline and a matching cinch buckled belt. The dress was straight, knee length, sleeveless (I think there was some gathering detail at the shoulder) and was labelled as being from 1964. It had a touch of the Audrey Hepburn about it, although she is the last person I resemble, but I tried it on and it looked like it had been made for me, so I bought it on my meagre student income. I think it was the first vintage item I ever bought.

With its simple lines, it was timeless (it would look equally as good today), chic, slimming and in total contrast with the fussy, ruffled, brightly-coloured fashions of the day. I wore it a lot and always got compliments in it. It worked for day or evening. It didn’t need jewellery as the statement neckline and the pleats spoke for themselves.

It went with me on dates and parties I’ve long forgotten but I’ve never forgotten that dress.

Sadly, it met an untimely end.

I came back from university and and my mother took it upon herself, without telling me, to wash the dress in the washing machine. I don’t know what happened but all the pleats fell out, leaving the dress just a large navy blue tent—it was ruined, unwearable.

This is the only picture I’ve got of me in the dress—it was taken in a grassy field in the country in Somerset (told you I wore it everywhere!) when I was on break with a friend just before my final exams at university. It doesn’t really show all the fine details of the dress but you can see its clean and simple lines.

I’d love another dress like that but have sadly never seen one.

Funnily enough Margaret of Denisebrain had a very similar dress up for sale on her Etsy site a year or two back, in the very same colour, but by the time I saw the link, it had already been sold...

I know just the one she means, and now I’m so sorry it didn’t sell to you Kathryn—The next one is yours, I promise!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Favorite vintage: Sentimental favorite

My sentimental favorite vintage item is my mother’s ring.

My mother, as I’ve mentioned before in my blog, grew up in Iowa during The Great Depression. Her father was a banker who worked with farmers to keep their farms from being foreclosed upon. My grandfather also worked with prisoners at a local penitentiary to find skills for them to take back into the real world. He worked with an expert forger to create the Sheaffer Signature Pen.

One man learned to craft jewelry. As a thank you to my grandfather, this man made a ring “to match his daughter’s eyes.” It is sapphire blue glass in a gold setting, very simple and elegant. My mother’s eyes were exactly this color. My eyes are green, but I still love wearing this beautiful ring.

My mother showing off her new ring
What is your sentimental favorite vintage clothing or accessory item, and why? I’d love to add your story to my blog.

Friday, November 1, 2013

All that glitters...

You know the saying “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold” ? 

My theme for November will remind you that vintage glitters brightest...

click to view, sound up

Vintage western stretch lamé pants, coming soon to my Etsy shop