Thursday, October 22, 2015

Get the Look: Jean Seberg

Jean Seberg (1938-1979) was the most stylish French woman to have ever come out of Marshalltown, Iowa. In fact, she seemed to have been born in the wrong place, embodying as she did effortless Parisian chic.  She developed her iconic look in sync with her career.

Although Seberg’s first film, Saint Joan, was panned by critics, she gained the attention and affection of the French public for her portrayal of Joan of Arc, and soon she became the darling of French New Wave films, particularly for her role in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (À bout de souffle). If no one saw or heard anything else of Jean Seberg’s work, they would still have a strong sense of her style from that movie.

Seberg’s life turned tragic after being blacklisted by the FBI for her support of the Black Panther Party (among other organizations devoted to civil rights, the others not controversial). She was insidiously “neutralized” (the FBI’s term) and it is assumed her death of a barbiturate overdose was suicide. She was then 40.

Perhaps the tragedy of her death makes Jean Seberg’s life, work and iconic style even more dear.

Jean Seberg, c.1958-60: Above all was the perfect pixie cut on the perfect girl for a pixie cut.

There was the fresh look of pared down makeup, light on the lipstick and without the usual heavy-lidded eyes of the time.

In button down shirts, straight pants and oversized sweaters, Seberg looked the perfect gamine.

With Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless

Her sporting, boyish, youthful looks presaged the Mod aesthetic of the mid 1960s.

Accessories were mainly kept to rounded cat eye frames, simple scarves and here and there a hat.

Unmistakable were the Breton stripes...

...and the simple, clean, modern aesthetic.

Jean Seberg didn’t always wear her hair in a pixie cut, she didn’t always wear stripes, her roles were not all youthful—but this is her time, place and style that seem to reach right out of photos, fresh as new. This is the eternal Jean Seberg.

Dress by Givenchy for Seberg’s role as Cecile in Bonjour Tristesse, 1958

Inspired by Jean Seberg, a collection of vintage items on Etsy:
Click to view these and more on Etsy

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How to wear vintage for the 40+ year-old woman, part IX

I promised a little personal summary to this series on wearing vintage for the 40+ year-old, including my best shot at answering the most impossible questions...

Does style matter? Does age matter?

Or, does style matter as you age, and should age impact your style? I say yes, and yes. There are many admirable people for whom fashion is of very little or no interest, but style is something else again. Style is a mode of expression, and even if your style is jeans and a sweatshirt, that is a mode of expression.

Do you feel something is missing from your style? I think that we owe ourselves the self-knowledge of what we want to express and how we want to express it. For me that will always include vintage fashions. I really believe in vintage and what it offers people of all ages.

My vintage manifesto (read in plain text here)

To the second question, does age matter?, I offer a more tentative yes. As we age we simply need to adapt our mode of expression to our current thinking. This is not likely to be exactly the same as it was when we were younger, but in some cases it may be. I can picture a timelessly dressed young woman who stays in a timeless groove throughout her life. However, many of us need to refresh ourselves now and then, updating, for instance, our skirt lengths or color intensities.

Besides, updating is fun—it gives us a chance to pay attention to how we see ourselves and how the world sees us.

Vintage on vintage

You may ask from what age I’m coming on this subject, and the answer is 50+. Is that relevant? For many things not really. I truly believe, as I wrote in the first of these posts, that age can be a state of mind and what you make of it.

If anything, age is a good thing for me. I can remember some of the fashions I offer from their first incarnations, and I have had a lot of time to think about and look at fashion and style. My parents were older when I was born, as were their parents, so I have had older fashions in my life from the beginning.

One of my sets of grandparents and my parents, 1890s and 1950s

Do I run around getting my work done as fast as I did when I was younger? No. I have recently been diagnosed with a condition that slows me down more than my age would suggest, but it doesn’t stop me. If anything, it makes me feel more empathy and concern for others, which I see as part of my business. (I like vintage manners as much as I like vintage fashion!)

Style, not youthfulness, is a virtue

OK, so I do look younger than my age...probably a decade younger than my calendar years, at least that’s what my most honest friends say. I’m just lucky. My photos sometimes make me look even younger, thanks to a bit of blowing out of highlights and other trickery. But youthful appearance is another subject; hardly anyone can hold back the fine lines and grey hairs of experience, but anyone can have style.

Dos and dos

You know those dos and don’ts pages, the ones with the right and wrong way to wear something? I have never liked those and now I feel experienced enough to disagree with fashion dictates without a care. 

Did you notice that some of the points made by my 40+ year-old readers (Readers tips and advice) contradicted others’ points? Yet these women are comfortable with their own styles? I believe that the only don’t that should carry a great deal of weight is this: Don’t wear something that isn’t your style just because someone else says you should. I started this series specifically because I hear women in their 40s and up saying they don’t wear vintage, but they would like to. That is a really threadbare don’t!

This is a time in fashion history in which most everything goes, from minimalism to baroque-ish flamboyance. Women of every age are being seen as fashionable, and there are more and more people living healthy and long lives. 

Do embrace this and enjoy it; most of us are fortunate enough to live in a time and place where our style can be our own. Do it for your sisters who don’t have this freedom, to show the world a better way. Do it for your friends and family, to show everyone who you have grown to be. Do it for yourself, and have some fun.

Rhonda says “Me in my favorite Swirl—(nearly) as vintage as the dress!”

See the previous posts in this series:
Part I Quit acting like you have something to lose
Part II Pin your style
Part III Be bold
Part IV Mix it up
Part V Get off to a good start
Part VI The fit bit
Part VII Reader tips and ideas
Part VIII Other blogs on the subject

Monday, October 12, 2015

Pink yourself up for Breast Cancer Awareness month

As in past Octobers I am devoting a portion of my sales this month to the highly respected Living Beyond Breast Cancer. 

From now through October 23, I will donate 20% of the sale price on any of your purchases from my Etsy shop and web store to LBBC.

Even though pink’s my favorite color, I know it’s not everybody’s. In the past I donated a portion of sales of vintage items in pink during weeks in October. Now, whether you like pink or not, I want you to be able to be part of this. This year, any color goes, so pink yourself up in any color you like!

Thank you for helping with this important cause that affects so many—too many—of us. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How to wear vintage for the 40+ year-old woman, part VIII

I have come to the conclusion that you can spend several weeks reading about 40+ style and not even scratch the surface. Are we “age appropriate” wearing vintage over 40? Should we be so visible? Can we go all out with it? Can we be elegant? Quirky? Too elegant? Too quirky? Does caring about wearing vintage over the age of 40 even matter?

I am going to try to summarize my own thoughts on the subject in the next (and last) post. Thank you for hanging on while I’ve rolled out these many posts. I’ve learned a lot from so many people, including discovering many thought-provoking bloggers writing on the subject.

A roundup of ideas from across the web

I was inspired to write about wearing vintage for the 40+ among us by a conversation started by Theresa of Blue Velvet Vintage in the Vintage Fashion Guild Forums. As a long-time vintage fashion wearer and seller, Theresa was feeling the urge to show to others that vintage is not just for younger people. She showed a number of 40+ VFG sellers in her blog How to Wear Vintage Clothing if You’re Over 40, and included their tips and ideas. 

Theresa is a stunning vintage dresser herself, and you can’t help but want to believe her when she says that 40+ year olds can wear their vintage any way they want to! 

Jessica of the Chronically Vintage Blog recently wrote a thoughtful and detailed post on the subject (By request: Advice on vintage fashion for women over 40).

Jessica includes an interesting section on the mid-20th century phenomenon of clothing made for specific age groups. (Do any of you remember Mrs. Exeter?)

Some of my favorite takeaways from Jessica’s post:

Consider dressing in vintage from decades prior to your youth to avoid the impression that you are living in your own past. 

Make the most of your best features with vintage. I love this point because various eras emphasized waists, backs, shoulders, legs... Consider vintage an open-ended resource for finding your best styles.

Jessica discusses what might work best in vintage-styled makeup and hair, a subject I can’t find many writers embracing. 

She makes a list of classic fashion choices that have been neither “too young” nor “too old” since they first appeared.

I wholeheartedly endorse her “the more we age...the more important it is that we retain a sense of our identify through our fashion choices.”  Jessica herself is in her early 30s; I look forward to seeing how all her advice evolves.

Lizzie of The Vintage Traveler blog covered the subject in her usual thoughtful way. Read Are You Too Old for Vintage?

The Suzanne Carillo blog has a post titled Top Tips For Shopping Vintage, and although it is not specifically aimed at the 40+ year old, her blog in general is filled with inspiring style ideas and photos featuring her proudly over-40 self. 

If you are not already clued into the Advanced Style phenomenon, you might start by the collection of posts that reference vintage. I owe a lot of ideas and images to the inspiration presented by Ari Seth Cohen and the fashionable older people he has helped us to know. 

One blog that is completely devoted to beauty and fashion for over-40 women is 40+ Style. Again, all an interesting read, but you might start with the posts on vintage.

Starting to form your own strong opinions on the subject? Please add to the list by commenting...or writing your own blog post. I look forward to reading it!

These are my own vintage-frame glasses; all the other images are from Dinah's Vintage Cat Eye Glasses (click on photos to view on selling site) 

Next time: Does style matter? Does age matter? (And can I possibly answer those questions?)

See the previous posts in this series:
Part I Quit acting like you have something to lose
Part II Pin your style
Part III Be bold
Part IV Mix it up
Part V Get off to a good start
Part VI The fit bit
Part VII Reader tips and ideas

Monday, October 5, 2015

How to wear vintage for the 40+ year-old woman, part VII

I have received many wonderful photos, links, tips and thoughts from readers, and I want to share a few with you. Kudos and many thanks to these expressive and stylish women!

Reader tips and ideas

And of course every woman who has responded to my request for photos and tips for the 40+ vintage wearer has a different style...each her own, each laudable.

Sarah is a vintage fashion aficionado (with a most amazing collection of vintage Western wear) and shows herself dressed in all-out vintage. When I asked her whether she sees any challenges in wearing vintage at over 50, she replied that some people have problems wearing age-appropriate clothes whether they are vintage or not.   

She makes a good point: One thing that doesn’t necessarily work is wearing exactly the same style you wore when you were young. I know I’m really attracted to the clothing that I loved when I first got into fashion as a teenager, but I have to be careful not to wear exactly the same things that would have been perfect on me in 1974. Also, trying to look young with your dress can be a self-defeating effort. Let’s just say it is a careful balance. 

Sarah wears her magnificent clothing collection with such flair and self-assuredness:

Speaking of self-assuredness, Denise says: “When I started wearing vintage in my 20s there were some things I couldn’t pull off because I didn’t have the panache that I gained by my 50s. For example, the Bette Davis off-the-shoulder black dress in All About Eve...I would have looked silly attempting it back then. But now out and do fasten your seat belts!”

Cherith of The Gypsy’s Closet is 45 and wears vintage from the 1960s and 70s daily. She writes, “Vintage is not popular where I live but I don’t care... It makes me happy!

...It’s funny because I met an older woman when I was a very young woman who inspired me, she had a small vintage clothing shop here in New Hampshire. I used to visit her every day, have tea and buy vintage clothes. I thought she was the coolest woman I had ever met; she didn’t care what anybody thought or what anyone else was wearing. I aspired to be like her...She totally rocked it in a classy way!”

See what you can do for younger women when you share the love of vintage and keep caring about style? 

Marcy is 66 and dresses in 1920s-50s with occasional 1910s or 1960s-80s. She’s a member of the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles and finds lots of vintage events in L.A., as well as people dressing vintage around town. Unless she’s with some of her head-to-toe vintage-wearing friends she usually will just go with a vintage dress and purse mixed in with other items from her wardrobe. She makes the point that you may have to be ready for attention (photo requests included!) when you go all-out vintage. 

Not a bad thing for some of us, as Romona (who is turning 51 in December) writes: “I wear vintage or retro 40s and 50s nearly 100% of the time! It’s timeless and classic. My friends say a little too ‘costume-y’ but at my age, frankly my dears, I don’t give a damn!” Confidence with your style is so important—Romona really owns her look!

Laurence of the amazing Lost in the 50’s blog and Instagram is not quite to 40 yet, but she feels the age differential when she notices that lots of girls in their 20s are more into repro clothing than real vintage. Her style is evolving, even in her mostly vintage wardrobe. “I think you must choose your clothes to make you happy not to be part of a group or show something to someone else...You know, I think I’m preferring my actual self more than my 20s one.” I hope that preference continues to grow for you Laurence!

Karen has been wearing vintage 30 years, since she was 16. She mentions that her style has changed through the years, mainly due to personality whims, not age. Certain things have come with her maturing interest in vintage fashion: “I’m much more interested in quality, well-made pieces and responsibly produced clothing. So aside from the vintage sourcing I do for my job [the great Small Earth Vintage], I shop much less than I used to, and vintage has become even more important to me.”

I’m with Karen—I’m to the point where shopping for new clothing (with some exceptions) is anathema to me. Real vintage can spoil a person!

Monica has also been wearing vintage since she was a teenager. She sees herself as giving these glamorous and well-made fashions a second life, as well as giving her co-workers a view of something interesting and distinct from the usual business attire.

Carol, who is 55, proudly wears vintage day dresses to work at “the coolest office in Sacramento, California.” She wears 1960s and 70s day dresses the likes of which some of her favorite vintage TV heroines wore on programs like Bewitched and The Dick Van Dyke Show, mixing them up with some funky modern accessories.

She buys most of her vintage online, and says it is pretty easy once you get the knack, cautioning to choose by measurements not size, and to carefully read the details about items including flaws, because these may not be obvious in photos.

She writes: “I consider the day dresses historical pieces of wearable art. I admire the details and craftsmanship on each garment; features like darts, side zippers, ornate buttons and pleating are not as common in today’s mid-budget dresses. I have bought many vintage dresses online and have had really good luck with my countless purchases.”

My friend and colleague from the Vintage Fashion Guild, Liza of Better Dresses Vintage, often is seen modeling her clothing for sale and wears amazing complete outfits for historical events and as a movie extra. 

Here she is (on the right, with her friend Sarah) dressed in late 1910s clothing from top to bottom, inside and out. I can vouch for Liza’s sense of humor and drama...she was born to take vintage out on a crusade like this!

However, when it isn’t for an event or a movie shoot, Liza usually wears one or two vintage pieces mixed with modern pieces and modern hair/makeup/accessories. She says that she finds vintage looks better, flatters more, and is aligned with her values; she’s been avoiding newly made, mass-produced fast fashion clothing for more than a year now.

Jean, of Bop and Awe, also does her own modeling as a vintage seller, and wears vintage in real life. She writes “I have opened some eyes here in my tiny little world of Corpus Christi.” 

I really appreciate what she writes in her Etsy profile: “I love anything old (myself included) and with a history (myself included) and turning it into something individual and glorious.”

One of my favorite vintage fashion mixers is Isabelle, who lives in Nice, France. Apparently vintage is not so much a thing there, but by mixing vintage, modern and handcrafted items in her unique way, she is no doubt turning heads and getting many compliments! 

This outfit mixes modern and vintage elements in a fall color palette: 

Isabelle is a connoisseur of details, for instance loving the just-for-the-wearer detail of a beautiful printed lining. She seems to know every vintage nook and cranny in her area, and frequents the vide-greniers (flea markets) where she gets to know the sellers, who sometimes save out things she might especially like. She has an arrangement with a vintage shop owner who will let her trade vintage that she no longer uses for new-to-her vintage items. 

Getting acquainted with sellers is a great tip, no matter what one’s age! 

Here is one of her colorful outfit mixes including an item she got in trade from the vintage shop:

I especially admire her ability and ambition to save vintage treasures and repurpose them into wearables for herself. About this jacket project she writes “half the tapestry was dead but enough was left to carry on my back this picture!” 

What got Pam hooked on vintage was wearing one of her mother’s novelty print 1950s dresses (shown on the right below) for a play in the 1980s. What started as a costume soon became a wardrobe staple which set the tone for her interest to this day. 

Pam still loves finding vintage novelty prints to wear, and at 52, unapologetically wears vintage almost daily. Her blog (about “all things groovy and mystical”) is called The Mid-century Mystic, appropriately enough!

When 45-year-old Sara checked in she was debating wearing these vintage barkcloth culottes with heels and a simple t-shirt for an event that evening:

Sara is attracted to the nostalgia and uniqueness of vintage from the 1950s-70s, and also to items because of their graphic and/or whimsical prints (such as horse print culottes!). She doesn’t wear vintage every day, but often—usually pairing one vintage piece with a modern twist.

Melanie would second that modern twist aspect. As she writes: “I keep my hair and makeup modern because I don’t want to look like I’m trapped in a decade or going to a costume party.” She prefers what she calls loud, flattering vintage from the 1960s and 70s, such as Lanvin shirt dresses or mod colorblock garments. 

Here is Sarah again, with a friend. She says: “We have both been wearing vintage since our late teens so are very comfortable with our own style.”

In the end, isn’t that what’s most important?

Next time: Some more writers’ takes on the subject

See the previous posts in this series:
Part I Quit acting like you have something to lose
Part II Pin your style
Part III Be bold
Part IV Mix it up
Part V Get off to a good start
Part VI The fit bit

Saturday, October 3, 2015

How to wear vintage for the 40+ year-old woman, part VI

Have you a measuring tape? And a list of your measurements?

This is not a cue to start worrying about how much your waist size (etc.) might have increased, just a reality check. In this case, reality is the key to enjoying vintage — looking and feeling really fantastic in it.

The fit bit

You need to know your measurements—not your modern size—to purchase vintage clothing. Heck, you need to know your measurements to buy modern clothing too, with modern sizes all over the place! As a vintage seller I do try to give an approximate modern U.S. size, but the only true way to tell if something will fit is by comparing your measurements with the garment’s measurements. All vintage clothing you might purchase online must have the piece’s dimensions (or don’t hesitate to ask the seller for them!).

There is a pretty comprehensive list of measurements and how to take them on wikiHow.

Then you need to figure out the extra room needed to move and breathe in the item. This is the ease.

If you have some garments that fit just perfectly and are in the cut of an item you are considering purchasing online, you can compare the size of the online item to your perfect piece. That is handy information, but I must say, we don’t all have the perfect-fitting 1950s sheath dress lying around.

I have written in the past about fit and vintage, and if you feel you need some priming on the subject, please do have a look at these.
  • This post gives information about the vintage sizing numbers vs. measurements; a bit about ease; and some great fit tips from my colleagues at the Vintage Fashion Guild. 
  • Here is a post that discusses waist length and a few other specific fit issues. 
  • In this post I discuss vintage underpinnings and how our mothers and grandmothers got the fit bit down.

If you haven’t already seen the point in taking a tailored garment to be better fitted on you by someone who is an expert at alterations (or doing the altering yourself if you possess the skills), then now is the time to start. Wearing nothing but modern, skimpy stretch knits is a cop out, and not a very flattering one at that. But an ill-fitted vintage piece, no matter how wonderful its quality, is not very flattering either. 

Your alterations person needs to have a clear sense of how the item would best fit, which may take having a knowledge of fashion history. Make sure you ask to have inseams and hems left uncut so that they can be restored if wanted or needed. Be in the habit of purchasing items that are either just the right size for you, or big enough in the most fitted dimension to be altered to fit you in other dimensions.

You may want to keep a list of the measurements that work best for you in certain items, for instance: 
  • The bust, shoulder width, waist, hip, back waist length and overall length of a woven-fabric dress
  • The waist, hip, back and front rise, inseam, leg circumference and outer leg length of pants
  • The length and width of the inside of a pair of shoes and your best heel heights
One last word: Please don’t buy into the rumor that vintage clothing is all tiny. Among many myths, this one is probably the most prevalent. I have seen vintage clothing in every size imaginable, even if your size (whatever it may be) is not the most common, believe me it is out there. I think the myth comes from the fact that vintage clothing is OOAK and you really do need to keep your eyes out for items you love in your size.

But you know what? It’s fun—and so worth it!

Next time: Your ideas, tips and photos

See the previous posts in this series:
Part I Quit acting like you have something to lose
Part II Pin your style
Part III Be bold
Part IV Mix it up
Part V Get off to a good start

Friday, October 2, 2015

What's hot this month?

The denisebrain October theme is up, and you’ll never guess what it’s about!

{click to view, sound up!}