Friday, October 25, 2013

Favorite vintage: Makes me happy just to think about

I have a dress that I purchased from an older woman when she moved from the area. She was collecting vintage clothing to start a business, but bad health got in her way. I answered a newspaper classified ad and drove a couple of hours to a remote town on a river.

I had almost no experience with buying vintage, so I’m sure my eyes were huge and my face gave away my love of what I saw. The very sweet lady, Joann, was easy on me regarding a purchase price for her 200-piece collection. She has called me since and I really feel she thinks her plans for her business were partly carried out by me, which is an honor. I have kept certain items which seemed singularly unbelievable to me at the time...some are still absolutely unique and wonderful to my more seasoned eye.

Now all that remains of Joann’s collection are sentimental favorites, but none so much as the “denisebrain dress.” Joann wanted to see a picture of me wearing something, so I chose my immediate favorite.

The quick shot I took (2001 it was) became my logo at the time.

I have used the dress for one of my monthly themes (Think Pink, naturally)

The dress has even been our Christmas tree.

Do I wear it often? No, not hardly, but it makes me glad every time I look at the dress...or even think about it. It’s my single most favorite dress.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fabric term of the week: Nylon

The very first synthetic fiber? It was a revolutionary creation at its invention.

The invention of nylon is credited to the chemist Wallace Carothers, working at DuPont in the 1930s. It was the first successful synthetic fiber, rayon and acetate being plant-based manufactured fibers. This first nylon was polyamide 6,6—made from hexamethylenediamine and adipic acid (the 6,6 designates the two stretches of six carbon atoms that are repeated in the polymer chain). The fiber proved strong, elastic, quick to dry, and insect- and rot-resistant. The first application was in toothbrushes in 1938, but in the next year women’s hosiery became nylon’s first big success. One might even have called it a raging success, the clamor for nylons (as they came to be called) was so great. 
During WWII the new fiber was used in the war effort, taking the place of Japanese silk for parachutes. After the war, the clamor for nylons took up where it left off, and soon nylon was used for other garments—and in many household products—as it is to this day.
Publicity photo for nylon, New York World’s Fair, 1939
1960s nylon tricot knit flapper-look nightgown in my Etsy shop

If you haven’t seen already, I made a handy-dandy (if I do say so) timeline of manufactured fabrics in the VFG Fabric Resource, and here on my blog.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Another favorite vintage item

I received this story and photo from Charlotte:

I think my grandmother’s 1936 platinum and diamond engagement ring is my favourite vintage item. I wear it at least once a week. Those who don’t know jewelry seldom notice it and instead go for my cheap, flashy, costume stuff. Jewelers, though, hone in on it like flies to honey and start to salivate. It’s simple, incredibly beautiful, and reminds me of a woman I admired a great deal, and the love she shared with my jovial, gentle grandfather.

Charlotte writes a blog called Sublime Mercies (“Style, feminism, disability... and finding small beauties in a big bad world”).  It is sometimes about colors and fashions and what Boo and Beau are wearing, but it is always about something more. I have rarely felt such emotion reading a blog as I have a number of times with Sublime Mercies...whether tearing up or laughing out loud. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Favorite vintage: My odd collection

This is a rerun post, originally published in 2006 ( whole years ago!). I have a couple of other small vintage clothing collections, but this is probably the one that would surprise most.

The first time I laid eyes on a crazily-bright half slip my heart did a somersault!

I think I love these because they came at a time when fashion was evolving. Particularly the late 60s ones seem to struggle to be relevant at a time when the previously mandatory slip was about to become uncool and outmoded. They are also fun, funny and undisclosed...a secret party!

I never go looking for these half slips, they just sort of fall in my path, like lucky pennies.

I have four more of these fun half slips now...and as always, they just fell my way.

Do you have a favorite vintage collection? A surprising vintage collection?

Monday, October 14, 2013

First and favorite vintage: Another story

Leigh Anne has a story about favorite vintage that really falls into a lot of categories: It’s her favorite vintage item, it’s a sentimental favorite, it’s her earliest memory of vintage, and it’s the one that got least temporarily. Read on:

My “first vintage” was before I knew what it was, or even before it could actually be labeled such—it is also one one my earliest memories (before I was 3). 
In the back of my mother’s closet hung this dress that she had purchased at the Neiman’s in Atlanta with her very first paycheck some 6 years before I was born. She paid $100 for it and was so proud of the fact that she had earned the money herself to buy it—definitely a splurge for a 20-something single working woman at that time. 
Fast forward to 1975: I had climbed into her closet to play with her shoes and came across this. It was hanging in its dress bag and my earliest “textile” memory involves feeling the wool chenille squares on the skirt. I remember thinking “what is this?” and being intrigued as I never saw my mother wear it. When I was older I asked her why it wasn’t worn. She said that after she was pregnant with me she couldn’t fit into it and of course, the style had changed. But rather than get rid of it, she kept it due to the expense and the memories of the dress. As a teen, I LOVED it and wore it for various 60s costume contests and such (and of course I won). 
In 1996, my dress was lost in a house fire and I thought I would never see it again. Then a couple of years ago out of the blue the dress showed up on Ebay with a seller in Dallas; she had purchased at the Neiman’s there and was finally selling. I immediately bought it and have it today. I wear this dress any chance I get now—not just the costume contests—and always get feedback on it. Amongst all of my vintage that I now have, this is still my most favorite piece—it’s what hooked me in the first place for a lifelong love affair with clothing and especially with vintage.

Leigh Anne told me it’s nice to know she’s not the only “crazy vintage girl” out there.

What’s your first vintage, your favorite vintage, your one that got away? Please share your story and let Leigh Anne know she’s in good company!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

First vintage

I can tell from comments on my Facebook page and blog that there are indeed many categories for our vintage stories. How about Leisa’s “One That Got Away?” (Her favorite piece, a 1940s black rayon crepe dress with silver beading is languishing in her ex’s storage unit. We’re all pulling for you Leisa!)

This morning I got a note from Kym: 

This is a story of my first vintage. Like so many auspicious accounts, it starts at a Saturday morning yard sale. I was in the fifth grade. The sale was hosted out of town on a secluded organic farm and my mom wasn’t optimistic that she’d find anything to her liking (“I think they’re hippies” she whispered when we pulled up). 

My mom wasn’t wrong, but amid the macramé and half-burnt candles, I seized upon something exquisite. All in a matching pea green hue: pumps, gloves and a beret. After some insisting ($5 is steep on yard sale Saturday), they were mine. Once home, I cleared a bedroom shelf to display them. 

When I assembled these pieces for their group photo today, I noticed something new. For all these years, I thought the pumps, gloves and beret were a matched set. They aren’t! Decades ago, one perfect woman cobbled together a set of accessories so perfectly paired that they’d pass as mates. What thoughtfulness. I’m proud to be the steward of such an elegant trio. 

I would have loved to meet the woman who shared my favorite shade of green and who probably felt self-conscious about her size 8.5 feet. I want to tell her that in 2013, we all have size 8.5 feet. These days, my first vintage has a lot of company. But I consider these an emblem of the moment I first knew I could (and should!) express myself creatively. 

What was your first vintage? The one that got away? Your sentimental favorite vintage? Do tell!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Favorite vintage clothing

OK, so it isn’t easy to pin down your single favorite vintage item as I asked a couple of posts ago. I myself can’t do it. I have favorites in these categories:

1. Amount of use/years of service
2. Sentimental favorite
3. Collection of items of one favorite type
4. Item I have hardly worn but makes me happy just to think about
5. So completely me

I’m sure the list could go on. Since I want to encourage your stories, I will start with the most used vintage item in my closet. If you know me in person you will no doubt recognize my late 1960s bright red-orange belted jacket.

My husband took this photo of me for my vintage fabric bag business back in 2002. The jacket was a 2nd-hand purchase a couple years before. I probably wear this jacket 50 or 60s times during a year, and about 30% of the time I get a compliment on it. 100% of the time I am happy in it. 

What vintage item do you use the most? 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Think pink vintage for Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and, as in the past, I am devoting a portion of my sales this week to the highly respected Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

Here’s the deal: Find any item that is pink, or has pink in the print or pattern, purchase it before October 15, and I will donate 25% of the sale price to LBBC. 

Visit my web store at

or my Etsy shop (page six is mostly pink) at

I will be adding more pink all week.

Wonder if you're seeing pink or not? Just ask! 

Thank you for helping with this important cause that affects so many.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Your favorite vintage clothing

Let’s get personal.

Do you have a favorite vintage clothing or accessory item? Your dad’s bowling shirt? A purse you purchased new when you were in high school 30 years ago? A 2nd-hand store score?

I am interested in your favorite item, and the reason why you love it. Pictures would be great. With your permission, I would like to post your story here on my blog. Please send your story and photos to me at

I’ll be eagerly watching for your story!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fabric of the week: Wool flannel

I can sympathize with people who say they can’t wear wool. I feel I am sensitive to it, but realized early on that there is a wide range of wool grades and fabric constructions, to which my skin has a wide range of reactions. Worsted flannel is a wool that I feel immune to, soft and smooth as it is. It is a sheep in sheep’s clothing!
Flannel, wool 
A warm fabric with a soft, close nap, flannel may be in a plain or twill weave. It is brushed to create the nap, and this may be on one or both sides. If woolen, it can be in a plain or twill weave, while worsted flannels are right-hand twills, finer and appreciably more substantial.

Flannel was originally always wool (the name is derived from the Welsh word for flannel, gwlânen, which is derived from gwlân, “wool”). It is now found in wool blends, often with cotton.

Uses: Jackets, suits (men’s particularly of worsted flannel), dresses, shirts, skirts

See also:
Flannel, cotton
Wool flannel
Worsted flannel
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photos by Hoyt Carter
1950s worsted flannel skirt by Evan-Picone in my Etsy shop

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

For the love of manatees

I am truly honored to be featured in the current edition of Save the Manatee Club’s Paddle Tales newsletter. I’ve never been in Vogue—that would be exciting, but I believe this excites me even more!

Manatees Are In Fashion: Margaret Wilds Raises Funds And Awareness Through Her Vintage Clothing

If you want to know more about my support for manatees, I have written (quite a lot!) on the subject in my blog. I’d be honored if you read those posts.

Thank you to my wonderful customers, friends and relatives who support and cheer on my efforts to help the manatee!