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.

Monday, March 24, 2014

My vintage sources

I sometimes get to know something of the women from whom I acquire vintage clothing.

I’ve written about Jacqueline, the mother of a very good friend of mine (I love my vintage clothing sources)

Juana, who worked as a model for one of Spokane’s department stores (Another favorite source)

Helen, a philanthropist (An ode to Helen South Alexander and A tiny fraction of Mrs. Alexander’s clothing)

I woman I only know through her grand niece (The suitcase lot)

Mrs. Gordon, whose husband was blinded in WWII yet she dressed to the nines (You’re a sight to see, Mrs. Gordon!)

Alice, about to be married for the second time at the wonderful age of 85+ (Lovely lady lot)

Betty, who was a manager at one of Spokane’s department stores (She’s a Betty)

There are more, and they have been so gracious to me. I have many unofficial grandparents!

I think of Ruby, who made her own clothes with impeccable skill and cried when I offered her money for the clothing, which she was just going to “put out on the curb.” All 100+ pieces of it!

Mrs. Walls, who had “forgotten she had all these clothes” in her basement

Shirley, who let me come to her garage sale way out in the country a day early because she figured no one would care about the clothes (there were enough to open a store)

There was the gentleman whose wife had passed away and he was finally ready to let go of some of her clothing. He gave me a fantastic set of highballs he bought at the 1963 Seattle World’s Fair when he found out I’d grown up in Seattle.

One man I met had just purchased and laid down a load of stones to make his driveway a little smoother for my visit. His wife had been a manager of better sportswear at a department store in Spokane. We talked quite a bit because my father played jazz trombone and he had a boatload of jazz albums and played jazz himself. He asked me where I thought he got his accent and I guessed New York. He said Chicago, which is his nickname. He came to Spokane when he was 12 and he is now 105. 

Then there was Elaine who was sweeping her walk when I first met her. She is African American and came to Spokane on V-J Day, September 2, 1945. Her clothes were so precisely cared for and pristine that they were as if new.

There are many more. One that truly haunts me was an Italian-American model whose daughter offered me her mother’s clothing. She had wonderful items, including this Howard Greer dress. I happened to see her photo and she was one of the most beautiful women you could possibly imagine. She had died estranged from her family and had a very hard life, including alcoholism. Her clothing was very well kept and of spectacular design.

I like to think that we perpetuate these people through carrying their stories—and their clothing—forward.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Zing green in pantone history

I’m using the name ‘zing green’ to describe a color that is like spring green with pizazz. I want to wear this color, but it isn’t so very easy to find in just the right vintage clothing. Discovering a color I haven’t worn but want to wear is my vintage resolution for March...wearing the color may take a little more time.

So when was my green most in?

I have consulted the book Pantone: The Twentieth Century in Color by Leatrice Eiseman. This book shows color palettes from the “Edwardian Affairs” rich and pale colors through the golds of 1980s “Conspicuous Consumption.” I spot my green in the 1930s, in WPA posters, in the color palette Pantone refers to as “Parks and Recreation.”

It comes on strong in the 1960s again, possibly a tad too zingy but close, in the palette called “Warhol.”

Self-Portrait, 1966, Andy Warhol

Different as they are, I really like both the 1930s and 1960s combinations above.

If you have a favorite color for home design or for your wardrobe, do you know when it was popular? This Pantone book places colors not only by era but in context with other shades.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The rites of spring

Ah, spring—the perfect time to be inspired by a zing green glove and a flowered hat!

Vogue, March 1943, John Rawlings photo

It’s also time for that annual rite of spring, the Vintage Fashion Guild’s Vintage Inspiration. I have been working on this project since 2007, so you might say I’m an inspiration veteran. Many thanks to the VFG Site Committee and all the members of the VFG who participated with their fabulous items.

Click on the image to view the whole inspired lot of it on the VFG site:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Vera vintage convergence

I love it when I see an ad, pattern, or magazine article that shows something vintage I have on hand. I call this a Vintage Convergence, and you can see more by clicking on the label at the bottom of this post, or visit my Pinterest page on the subject.

The latest? This 1955-vintage Vera ad found on The Vintage Traveler blog (this is truly one of my must-read blogs) matching a Vera scarf in my own collection. I love this scarf, with its cool mid-century drawings of instruments. I love the colors too. Now I also love the ad!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Zing green

I believe the color I want to wear that I haven’t worn (as per my Vintage New Year’s Resolution for March) is a color close to chartreuse. I see items about the right hue called spring green, lemon-lime, acid green, absinthe green, poison green. Maybe bright peridot. I call it zing green.

Me, colorized in zing green
There is a Bakelite color exactly right and the shade has had various resurrections over a century. I know I’ve seen some 1930s, also some 40s, 50s and 60s. By the 1960s this color comes perilously close to being neon which we all know is great for running and bicycling at twilight but—taking most of us into account—not for general use. Wearing the 1990s incarnations of this color is probably not going to be my thing, style-wise.

I know some of you are cringing. Chartreuse is a tricky color, and has to be the right shade. Here are some vintage items I spotted that are in the ballpark both for their colors and for styles I like. You can find these in my Zing Green favorites on Etsy.

It turns out this color is making a bit of a comeback in fashion this spring. 

Jenny Packham
Nanette Lepore
Oscar de la Renta
 Maybe I should also say that my engagement ring is set with a peridot and I have always had a fondness for the color.

Am I crazy?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Color Seasons...what was I thinking?

In my last blog post I wrote that I believe I have clothing color prejudices. I promised to address the seasonal color palates that are supposed to enhance your natural coloring. These are based on such aspects of your appearance as skin tone, hair color and eye color. You’d think this would be fairly simple, and it might be if you were Elizabeth Taylor—she of black hair, pale skin and violet eyes.

I on the other hand am a color season mongrel. My natural hair color is brown with gold and red highlights. As a matter of fact, if you looked at a swatch of my hair when I was 20, you’d see very fine strands of brown and blonde, slightly thicker red hair, and the occasional much thicker black hair.

To tell if your skin tone is warm or cool one of the tests is to look at the color of your veins, say on your inner wrist. Do they look blueish or greenish? Mine are blue-green. My skin is fair and cool in tone, although I have a little bit of pale olive skin above my lips. I have a few freckles and can get a mild suntan after a burn. My eyes used to be an indefinite dark hazel, and now are green with golden brown spots. When I wear red lipstick the best color on me is very neutral red, neither pinkish nor orangish. See what I mean by mongrel?

One grandmother had red hair, one had black hair. My mother and brother had blonde hair until they were about six then went dark brown. My father had dark brown hair. My mother’s eyes were deep blue, my father’s were grey-green. I have a bit of Native American ancestry according to a recent DNA test and I might also be related Berber sheep herders, Basques and Saami, as well as people of the British Isles.

Which is to say, I come by my mongrel status honestly.

So, I had this idea: I showed a group of images of me in different color palates on my denisebrain Facebook page.

This is the photo I worked with, showing my true color now.

Then I showed season colors such as “clear spring”

...and “deep autumn”

...among 11 groupings.

The votes were for everything from pastels to brights, blues and greens to oranges, warm and cool shades. OK, I crossed my Facebook group’s eyes, I’ve crossed my own eyes and maybe I’m crossing yours too!

I think this means I have a pretty neutral coloring that can go various ways depending on the item, the intensity of the color, the season of the year, and the occasion. This is just great with me: I really think I can wear my beloved bright and royal blues and greens, orange, bright pink... 

Which leads me to this question: Would you stop wearing a color it you were told by an expert it wasn’t right for you? I wouldn’t. If it makes you happy, there should be a place for it. No one told me I look good in red, but I still claim my beautiful red shoes. Red is the best punctuation to an outfit, at least to me, and your shoes are in a safe zone, not able to conflict with your natural colors.

I think it is good to know a few colors that have ZING on you. I have some clues as to those colors on me, because people regularly tell me that certain shades are great with my coloring. Other clothing I hear compliments on, but not about the color on me, just the item. I’m thinking specifically of a bright reddish-purple jacket (thumbs up for the color), and an orange-red jacket (thumbs up for the jacket). I want to wear my zing colors for special occasions, and as necklaces, scarves and hats.

My goal for the month is to explore color and start to wear shades I’ve neglected. Now that I’ve uncrossed my eyes, I have a few ideas...which I’ll save for next time. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Wearing a color I don’t usually wear

At the beginning of the year I resolved to work on one vintage resolution per month.

So far I have gotten my clothes closet organized and fun to visit, and I have discovered the vintage lounge wear that I love. This month I am going to wear a color I don’t usually wear.

Yes, I am fairly aware of the colors that work well on me and make good use of those as often as I can. I do think, though, that I could see what happens with some colors that I am not so used to wearing.

I have the feeling part of the reason I don’t wear certain shades is prejudice. For instance, if I could choose a brown coat or a green coat, I wouldn’t even look before choosing the green. Why am I giving brown the shove-off?

I did a small (last time I looked it was up to 54 people) highly unscientific survey of Facebook followers and found that among the respondents, the favorite color to wear is blue, tied with black, 15% each, followed closely by pink.

87% of people like to wear their favorite color, in other words, the color they choose to look at also translates to wearing the color.

Yellow is the big “winner” of colors that people don’t like to wear...24% of respondents named it. The biggest reason for not wearing a color is that they feel it makes them look ill or washed out. Often mentioned was the way a color clashed with the person’s skin tone.

34% of the people responding were wearing black at the time they took the survey.

Many respondents made it clear that there are very specific shades of color that do and don’t work for them. Almost nobody named blue alone, but usually qualified it. Aqua and turquoise were most liked by 35% of the blue fanciers. The style of the item being worn made a difference that some articulated and if in a print, some said they would definitely accept even poor-old yellow!

A few people mentioned dislikes of colors for social reasons, like pink being too stereotypically “girly,” and brown and navy evoking small-mindedness for another respondent.

Which do you think you’d prefer, a 1940s green gabardine coat or a 1970s brown velvet wrap coat? If you are like me, you’d have all kind of prejudices for the 40s coat, but when I compare these two from my previously-sold photos, I think the brown makes a pretty good case for itself:

Which of these coat do you think I’d be searching for by keywords online, and which would I reject almost out of hand from a written description?

You know those colors by season, colors meant to highlight and enhance your own natural color?

Did you know all but one of the types listed (soft summer, clear winter, deep autumn, etc.) includes at least one yellow? Many brown and brown-ish shades are also listed.

I confess, I have had my color season told to me by an expert. In 1981 my mother had a large piece of green silk satin brocade, a gift from a friend from Japan. She just wasn’t convinced I would look good in something made of it, and she was dedicated to having it go for the right purpose. She may have also been wanting to support a friend who was doing this color reading...I suspect that may have been most of it.

At that much younger time I was a bit tricky, but was declared a winter. I think it is time to reconsider. time.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Get lucky!

My March theme is up—and with it I wish you a wee bit of Irish luck: 

{click to view, sound up}