Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Link Love #4

Lots of sartorial inspiration for this edition of Friday Link Love. Enjoy!

  • You know how I love leopard print. If you do too, you must check out this round up of vintage photos featuring leopard print on Johannas blog

  • This post on Dear Golden Vintage about french artist Claire Basier. Aren't those spaces so beautiful?! I wish I could paint…my house needs a mural. Click the link to see more amazing images from this artist!

  • This incredibly beautiful image taken by photographer Marcin Ryczek.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Outfits: Vintage 40's Tilt Hat

There's nothing like a good hat to spice up an otherwise utilitarian outfit. I bought this charming 40's tilt hat from Ragpickers a few years ago. I've pinned the flowers to it for a little boost of colour.

As you can see, my love of black and white this winter continues. It's just so classic! You can't go wrong!

White Flower Brooch & Purple Flower Brooch: Ricki's
40's Grey Felt Tilt Hat: Ragpickers
Black Bobble Necklace: Le Chateau
Vintage Cameo Ring: Things Antiques & Gifts
White Blouse: Jacob
Black Skinny Jeans: Forever 21
Black Pumps with Rhinestone Bow: Forever 21


Monday, January 20, 2014

Wishlist: Vintage Monogrammed Cardigan

I'm a bit sad posting this…the image below is a cardigan I was coveting heavily on Etsy for a while, but didn't have the money for. It sold not that long ago.
It was perfect…perfect colour…monogrammed 'L' and the right size… sigh…

Now I'm on the hunt for something similar…

Please tell me I'm not the only one this happens to…it might cheer my up…


Friday, January 17, 2014

Thrifting Tips 5: Wearing Vintage

Wearing vintage shouldn't be intimidating. Fashion recycles looks and silhouettes from the past all the time, which means that a lot of vintage pieces can be reinterpreted very easily into a modern wardrobe without looking like a costume.

So for my final post about thrifting tips I'll tell you what I know about wearing vintage.

1. Mix it up with modern pieces. 
    This is my favourite way to wear vintage. It instantly updates an old piece. I would say my wardrobe is 15% new clothing, 50% thrifted (including vintage and non-vintage clothing) and 35% vintage store bought (from online or in brick and mortar shops) and my style is an eclectic mix of all these items.
    The trick to wrapping your head around mixing vintage clothing with modern is to take the vintage pieces out of context. By that I mean, don't think of that dress being from the 40's - or whatever era it hails from - just let it be a dress. Focus on the cut and colour when pairing it with other pieces, not the era it's from and what it would have looked like in an outfit then.

    The dress below is a good example of this. It's a mid-to-late 50's wool sheath dress. If you think about this dress in context, you might only wear it with a belt, a great pair of earrings and some sexy heels, but paired with this modern cropped cardigan, a statement stretch belt and some eye catching accessories like the thrifted, 80's, oversized, faux pearl necklace, vintage raccoon fur hat and 50's spectator pumps this dress gets a unique update and looks totally modern. Granted, this may not be a look everyone wants to pull off, but imagine it without the fur hat and it's actually a very business appropriate outfit. In the end, vintage or not, a black dress is a black dress.

    This is a really modern look peppered with a few vintage pieces - the 80's leather motorcycle jacket, the navy 40's suede box purse and the 60's gold leather belt. Everything else here is modern. 

2. Don't be afraid to wear pieces from different eras in the same outfit.     
    The easiest way to have your outfit confused for wearing a costume when wearing vintage is to replicate a look from a particular era or year from head to toe. Granted, there are many vintage enthusiasts out there who proudly rock this kind of look every day and I think that's amazing. I often look to those folks for sartorial inspiration. However, wearing vintage this way is not for everyone.
    The beauty of fashion "norms" in this day and age is that there literally are no rules. Take a look at any street style fashion blog and you'll see what I mean. Never in history has fashion been so free and open to interpretation.
    Most of the vintage clothing I wear came from a time in history where there were strict social rules about how men and women should dress. I am exhilarated at the thought of taking these pieces and wearing them in a whole new way - giving them a second life. Take risks with your wardrobe. Be bold. Wear what thrills you and don't let what you think something should look like affect how you want to wear it.

    The outfit below is an excellent example of mixing eras, as well as taking vintage "out of context".
    This late 30's, early 40's novelty print day dress would have never been worn out of the house to dinner or for a special occasion (I have worn it on two such occasions!). It would also have been buttoned up right to the collar and never worn unbuttoned as I have worn it here with my slip peeking out - how scandalous! I've paired it with a 60's does 20's brown straw cloche hat, a cluster of 50's enamel flower brooches and a hot pink 80's clutch. The belt and the shoes are both modern.
    This outfit works on so many levels, even though all of the pieces are from different eras and - in theory - shouldn't go together. What makes it all work here is colour continuity. The dress and the colour pink - found in the clutch and even in a few of the flowers on the brooches - are the main focus, with brown as a supporting player. If there were too many colours at play in this outfit the disparate pieces may not talk to each other as well and read as whole.

    This outfit is another great example of mixing eras. The dress is a late 50's floor length bridesmaids dress which I hemmed to a more wearable length. I'm wearing a 70's velvet blazer over it with a cluster of 50's rhinestone brooches and a 40's leather satchel purse. All of the other accessories are modern. This outfit follows the same colour theory as the last outfit: Purple is the main focus (the shoes and tights are both purple, but it's hard to see in this photo) and black and white are the supporting players. 

2. Play with opposites.
    One trick to wearing vintage without looking overdressed is to play with opposites. Pair that feminine 30's dress with a leather studded belt and some gladiator sandals. Wear an over-the-top feathery 40's tilt hat with a plain t-shirt, a great pair of jeans and some killer heels.

    Or match something super casual with something super dressy like the outfit below. The denim jacket knocks the formal factor of this 60's chiffon dress down a few notches. Now imagine this outfit with a killer pair of lace up boots and you've knocked it down even more making this seemingly special occasion dress totally wearable for not-so-special occasions. A leather jacket would do the trick here too.
3. It's ok for your look to have a "vintage vibe".     
    Another way to wear vintage is to interpret an era. Most of us vintage lovers replicate the feel and silhouette of the era we love instead of duplicating it in minute detail from head to toe.
    Mixing actual vintage and vintage appropriate clothing is an excellent way to give your look a "vintage vibe" (the amazing term 'vintage appropriate' has been borrowed from Jessica over at Chronically Vintage. It refers to a garment which appears as though it could have come from the past, but which is actually modern and unintentionally happens to be wonderfully old school looking. Click here for more info about vintage appropriate clothing. And click here for her guide on buying vintage appropriate clothing.).
    Take what you learned about silhouette and era specific details in clothing that you learned in yesterday's post and use them as a guide for interpreting vintage and non-vintage items into an outfit with a retro feel.
     Here is an example of one of my outfits that has a definite 50's vibe to it. The dress, shoes and sunglasses are modern (vintage appropriate - if you will), but definitely have retro flavour. The belt is an 80's stretch belt, but since the 80's drew inspiration from the 50's this belt feels right at home here. The necklace is 70's. The purse is the only genuine 50's item in this look.
    See what I mean about a "vintage vibe"? This look doesn't quite look straight out of the 50's, but has enough of a 50's feel that we interpret it as vintage or retro when we see it.

    This is one of my all time favourite outfits. It has serious vintage flavour, but doesn't scream one decade or another. My hair and makeup are serious contributors to the vintage feel of this look - which I will address in more detail at the end of this post. But its's the combination of classic looking/vintage appropriate pieces worn together - the white sweater with neck bow, the micro dot high waisted shorts, t-strap pumps - that give this outfit a vintage vibe. 

    This is another 50's interpretation with more vintage pieces this time. The dress is 50's and so it the hat, but I'm wearing it like a 30's/40's tilt hat instead of straight on the way it was originally meant to be worn. The clutch is modern with a retro feel. What really keeps this outfit from looking too costume-y is the modern shoes. I love pairing a modern shoe with a vintage dress - it's a sure-fire way to bring a vintage look into the 21st century. 

4. Pick a focal point.
    If mixing eras seems a bit daunting to you in the beginning I would suggest starting with one standout piece as the focal point of your outfit.

    The nautical flavour of this outfit was inspired by and is centred around the purse. The rest of the outfit is fairly simple. Once again, I've kept the colour palette to a few choice hues - red, white and blue (are you noticing a trend yet?). A white t-shirt would have also been a great choice here, but I went classic red and white stripes instead.

    Accessories don't have to be the focal point of an outfit. Here, the vintage pleated skirt is the focal point. Everything else has been left simple so the skirt can be the star in this look. 
5. If all else fails, just wear vintage accessories. 
    If you are still finding yourself intimidated by wearing vintage start with accessories. Not only are they devoid of the usual sizing issues that can arise when buying vintage clothing, but can be found fairly easily and inexpensively in thrift shops and online.
    I personally, have a penchant for vintage brooches of any kind, but I also love hats and small purses and clutches.

    For more inspiration on wearing vintage accessories check out this post from a few years ago: 5 Ways to Add a Vintage Touch to Modern Basics

    Here are a selection of close-ups of a modern outfit with vintage accessories. The hat is 60's, the blue necklace is 30's/40's and the metal work butterfly brooch is 40's. I also wore a vintage handbag with this outfit which is not shown here. For a look at the complete outfit click the link below the picture.

    What I've written here are simply my tips for incorporating vintage into your own closet. The bottom line is: shop for whatever you love and wear it with your modern wardrobe. The beauty of buying vintage is that more often than not what you've found is unique and the next girl won't be wearing the same thing as you because yours hails from another era.

Bonus: A note on vintage hair and makeup.
    Wearing vintage doesn't mean you have to master the art of pin curling. It also doesn't mean you have to wear red lipstick every day. But don't discount the way that hair and makeup can affect the way an outfit looks. I like to use the way I style my hair to counter balance or compliment a vintage outfit in one way or another.

     For example: if I am wearing a particularly girly, very vintage looking outfit and don't want to look to dressed up I leave my hair straight, or put it up in a high bun. The outfit below could have looked much dressier with curled hair and red lips.

    On the other hand, if I'm wearing a modern outfit or a t-shirt and jeans with vintage accessories I might curl my hair and wear some red lipstick to help give my outfit a vintage vibe. You can see here how my vintage styled 'do influences how you perceive the outfit below - even with the modern knee high boots.

   Or if I want to be totally glammed out I curl my hair and wear red lips with my vintage. It's a foolproof way to look put together and classy.

   Experiment with your hair and makeup and see how it affects what you are wearing - vintage or not. 

For more inspiration on wearing vintage check out my Pintrest boards:
Retro Modern Style, Vintage Inspired Fall/Winter Fashion & Vintage Inspired Spring/Summer Fashion 

So there it is! Practically everything I know about thrifting. If you have questions about something I didn't cover this week please contact me and ask me! Or, if you have a thrifting tip that I didn't cover please include it in the comments below.

Check out the rest of this series:


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thrifting Tips 4: Caring for Your Finds

You've made your wish list, you've found yourself a thrift shop, you've found some treasures - some of them might even be vintage, you've made your purchase and brought your treasures home. In my experience, most items need a little TLC before they're ready to wear - even if it's a simple washing.

1. Know your sewing limits.
    If you plan on wearing vintage it's practical to know or learn some basic sewing skills - these clothes are old and things happen, but alternately, sometimes a new piece needs altering or mending to make it just right. It's important to know what you are capable of taking care of yourself and what is beyond your limits so you don't ruin your new treasure.
    I know that I am able to sew on a button, mend a split seam, take in certain items and hem most dresses. I let my tailor take care of major alterations, such as lifting the waistline on a dress (which I do often - I'm a bit short-waisted), remove sleeves, alter a neckline or hemming a dress that has a really full skirt (getting it straight takes tools and skill I don't have). A good rule of thumb is: when in doubt, leave it to the professionals. 

2. Find a reputable tailor.
    Finding a good, talented tailor you trust can be the difference between a piece looking pretty good on you and looking spectacular. There is nothing quite like custom tailoring.
    Ask for recommendations. Check for reviews of your local tailor online.
    I always try out a new tailor with an item that I'm not heavily invested in emotionally and only needs minor work. Sometimes I test a non-vintage piece before I start bringing in my collection. Talk with the tailor. Be specific about what you want done and don't be afraid to ask who will be working on your piece - sometimes the people doing the tailoring are different than the person who is waiting on you. If you would like to speak to the person doing the actual work do it! It's your clothing and your money - you deserve to get what you want and what you paid for.
   That being said, I do listen to what my tailor recommends. They are the experts. I know how I want the garment to fit, but I don't always know the best way for that to happen. They do.
   And don't cheap out on alterations. If a dress needs major work and your tailor is recommending a cheaper alternative to save you money, don't always take it. I have done this and been unhappy with the results. In the long run I would have rather paid more for my alteration and have had it done the proper way. Have a frank discussion with your tailor about the best way to alter your item and make the decision from there. Communication and trust are key in this relationship.

3. Mending at home.
    What you will require at home to do your mending and altering will depend on your skill level. At the most basic level I would recommend the following:
  • various sized sewing needles
  • polyester or poly blend thread. Start with a few neutral colours and expand as necessary - black, white, cream, navy. When buying coloured thread bring the item you need to match to it with you so you buy the right colour. The thread should disappear when you lay it onto the fabric. 
  • a stitch ripper
  • good, sharp scissors
  • a thimble
  • a dressmakers tape measure
  • straight pins
  • a domestic sewing machine. depending on your skill level this could be optional, but it's nearly impossible to sew a straight line by hand.
    If you want to learn more about basic sewing skills or altering and mending the internet - and YouTube specifically - are great teaching tools. You could also take a class in your town/city.

1. Let your fabric be your guide.
    What your fabulous new treasure is made of will tell you know how to take care of it. As I said in yesterday's post, washing instructions were not made mandatory until the 1970s, so unless you covet clothes from the 70's onward you'll have to know what your piece is made of by feel to know how to care for it.
    Silk, wool, taffeta, rayon, crepe, bark cloth, velvet and velveteen, satin, cashmere, angora, leather, suede and anything heavily beaded or sequinned should be dry cleaned (this is not an all inclusive list, I'm sure I've missed a few here). When in doubt as your dry cleaner.
    Furs should be taken to a specialty cleaner.
    Most cottons (be wary of colour bleeding in patterned fabrics), polyester (including vintage polys like dacron, but also including poly made georgettes, chiffons and satins), poly-cotton blends, linen, flannel, twill, nylon, denim, broadcloth and 100% acrylic are all machine washable (again, this is not an exhaustive list).
    The Vintage Fashion Guild has a great A-Z fabric resource

2. Find a reputable dry cleaner.
    Find a good dry cleaner. I cannot stress this enough. They can make or break your vintage. Literally.
    Just like when looking for a tailor, ask around for recommendations. Ask your local vintage shop where they get their dry cleaning done.
    I would recommend doing your mending and altering before you dry clean. If something has loose beads, buttons or split seams it can be damaged further through the dry cleaning process if these things aren't taken care of beforehand.
    After you've found someone with a good rep call them and ask if they specialize in delicate fabrics and vintage items. If no, keep moving. Trust your instincts - if they sound hesitant, but insist on being able to handle the cleaning and you don't feel right about it don't give them your business. You will regret it if they wreck your piece. If they do specialize in dry cleaning vintage take something in (I would recommend it be something without beading - see more on that in the next paragraph) and ask to speak to the person doing the dry cleaning if they are available. Politely let the cleaners know about your piece and tell them how important it is to you.
    Just like with your tailor, once you've found someone you trust develop a good relationship with them. 
    A note about vintage beaded and sequinned items: some vintage beads and sequins will not survive modern dry cleaning methods. They melt or disintegrate. If you are wary of your piece being ruined by cleaning you can liberally spray your piece with vodka (more on that later) to take any smell out and have your dry cleaner professionally steam your garment. This will make it look like new again. If appropriate, dress shields will help you from staining and stinking up your item if it is delicate.

3. Cleaning at home.
    Over the years I've become a bit of a whiz at stain removal. I would recommend the following items in your laundry stock to tackle most stains:
  • Borax
  • Sunlight Soap Bars
  • Oxyclean
  • some sort of spot remover - I like this Resolve All-Stains product right now
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • bleach
  • white vinegar
  • a delicate laundry detergent for hand wash only items like Zero
  • regular laundry detergent for machine washing after spot removal - I like liquid because it doesn't leave a white residue on black clothing.
    My most used products are Oxyclean and Sunlight Soap bars. I often soak dingy looking clothes in warm water and Oxy before washing them. Oxyclean is also great for localized spot treatment. I wet the stain, rub a little Sunlight Soap in and then make a paste with the Oxy, gently apply it to the area I want to treat and let it sit for an hour or more, then wash as usual.
    There are a million sites online dedicated to spot removal tips. This one is pretty good. And I like this one as well. I also like this article about removing unknown stains - very helpful with second hand clothing.
    Bad smells - like mothballs, or B.O. - can also be a hazard of second hand clothing. Get yourself a bottle of cheap vodka and a spray bottle with a mist setting. A liberal vodka spray inside and outside of a garment and left hung to dry will eliminate bad smells in clothing. Check out this old post of mine for more information about how to successfully remove bad smells.
    When you can wash something in the machine - I wash most of my vintage cotton day dresses in my washing machine - make sure all of the buttons are done up and the zippers are zipped. Check pockets for stray items - you don't want anything banging around in the washing machine that might wreck your clothes. Also, get yourself a couple mesh laundry bags to wash delicate items in your washing machine. 

1. Clothing
    Proper storage will extend the life of your clothes. Most modern and many vintage clothes can simply be hung on a hanger in the closet. I would recommend a velour covered or plastic hanger over a wire one if you can afford to switch yours over. Wire hangers are very hard on clothes.   
    Also, do not store your clothes in plastic dry cleaning bags. Most fabrics are organic and need to breath. Plastic bags suffocate them and can cause damage and disscolouration.
    Light can damage clothing, so whenever possible, keep your clothes out of direct sunlight.
    Sweaters should be folded. Hanging sweaters can make them stretch out of shape.
    Heavily beaded items should be stored flat if possible or folded mininally. They are often too heavy to be hung up for long periods of time.
    Use padded hangers for items with delicate shoulders - like a chiffon or silk dress. This will help distribute the weight of the garment and keep the fabric from tearing.
    Leathers and furs, when not in season, should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place and never in plastic. Dry cleaning and plastic garment bags can pull the top later of hair out of a fur and damage it irreparably. If you need a garment bag for your furs I would recommend a 100% cotton bag.
    Antique clothes (anything 80 years old or older) and delicate items (a silk dress, for example) should be stored in acid free tissue and in an acid free box. Acid free boxes and tissue can be bought online.
    If you are worried about moths and bugs when storing clothes, but don't want to use mothballs there are many natural, non-toxic alternatives. Try cedar chips, or make a lavender sachet. Check Google for other alternatives.

2. Accessories
    Where possible, structured hats should be stored in an appropriately sized hat box, but any box with a lid would suffice in a pinch. Stuff soft hats with paper towel or tissue to keep their shape while in storage.     
    A felt lined box with many compartments is an excellent way to store and organize jewellery. Necklaces should be stored separate from one another or hung up to avoid tangling - which can cause damage.
    Belts and scarves can be stored hung up, or in a bin or basket.
    Purses should not be stored hung from the handle. This can put stress where the strap meets the body of the bag and cause breakage. They are better stored stuffed with paper towel or tissue and propped upright in a bin with a lid to keep dust and light out.
    The key to successful accessory storage is organization. Accessories can multiply and pile up. You want to develop a good system so you can find what you need quickly and easily to complete your outfit.

Now that we've cleaned, mended and stored everything we can get on the the best part - wearing it! Tomorrow I will tell you what I know about wearing vintage.

Check out the rest of this series:


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Thrifting Tips 3: Finding Vintage

Finding vintage in a thrift store requires research.
You have to know the tell tail signs that the dress your holding is from the 50's and not an "80's does 50's" dress (that is a great link about "80's does" pieces) or a modern repro.
One could write a novel on how to identify vintage clothing (and there are many incredible books on the subject). I'm going to give you an overview and provide you with some resource links to help get you started.

1. Find your "decade".
    Finding the decade which speaks to you can take time. I've dabbled in many eras before I discovered my love of clothes between 1947-1963.Which is also proof that you don't have to settle on "the 20's" or "the 60's", fashion is fluid and doesn't start and stop at the beginning of a decade. Don't be afraid to make mistakes - it's just fashion - I don't restrict my vintage choices to those specific dates either. I have a 20's cloche I love wearing with my 50's dresses and I also own some great evening wear from the 80's - buy what speaks to you and you can't go wrong. Also allow your taste to change. I loved casual clothes from the 70's in high school and I wouldn't be caught dead in them now.
    As I said, research is key to finding your decade and knowing whether a piece of clothing is from that era.
    I know whether something is vintage or not from years and years of shopping practice, working in a vintage store and in a costume shop - in short, handling the real deal and learning about fashion history. If you're new to vintage and want to know more I would strongly suggest visiting a brick and mortar vintage shop if there is one in your city/town. Look at the clothes and how they are constructed, ask the shop owner questions - tell them you're interested in wearing vintage (I've never met a mean vintage shop owner!!) and try on things that fit you. 
    Watching old movies can be helpful. Find out when the movie was made and study what's worn. Same goes for old photographs.
    Have an older family member? Do they have any of their old clothes? If yes, ask to see them and find out about when they were worn.
    Have you bought something vintage and don't know when it's from? Scour eBay and Etsy for similar items and compare (Note that this is not always fool-proof way to date something as sellers sometimes do not know what they have either, but it's a good start).
2. Silhouette
    Silhouette is another great way to date a piece of vintage. Google images from that time and see what people were wearing. Every decade has a signature silhouette - the straight, androgynous look of the 20's; the sleek, feminine look of the 30's; structured, military influenced looks of the 40's; the hourglass, new look of the 50's and beyond…

    Sleeve shape can also help determine the age of an article of clothing.

    Some examples of sleeve shapes in certain decades from the diagram above:
       1920s: Sleeveless, Set-in, Long, Cuff, Bell (narrower than 60's styles), Flounce
       1930s: Butterfly, Cape, Puff, Set-in
       1940s: Puff (pre-war), Three-Quarter, Long, Cuff, Cap, Set-in, Kimono (late 40s)
       1950s: Cap, Set-in, Raglan, Dolman, Puff, Kimono, Three-Quarter, Sleeveless
       1960s: Sleeveless, Set-in, Cap, Raglan, Bell (late 60s)
       1970s: Angel, Butterfly, Cape, Bell, Leg-of-Mutton, Flounce, Ruffle
       1980s: Dolman, French Cuff, Ruffle, Set-in
    A quick note about set-in sleeves: armholes were much smaller and fit closer to the body before the 1970's. Armholes started to get larger in the 70's and really expanded in the 80's.

    The length of the skirt can also be an indication of age.

    The 20's was the dawn of the modern age of fashion. It was the first time skirts were worn well above the ankle - everyone is familiar with the look of a flapper dress. In the 30's skirts were long, and typically cut on the bias with hemlines shortening by the end of the decade. WWII and rationing made skirts narrower and brought the length of them to just below the knee in much of the 40's. Dior's New Look in 1947 brought fullness back into the skirt both in width and length - sometimes using up to 20 yards of fabric for couture garments. Skirts were typically still full in the beginning of the 60's, but shorter, hitting just below the knee again. By the mid 60's skirts had reached a new height when the mini was invented. The 70's found a variety of skirt lengths from the maxi to the mini. 

   Knowing the overall silhouette of a decade - and the details therein is a great place to start when dating a piece.

3. Fabric
    Fabric is a great way to determine if something is vintage or not. It's a bit difficult to put into words, but there is something about the look and feel of older fabrics. Once you've handled some vintage clothing you will know what I mean.
    Certain fabrics types are indicative of an era. Becoming familiar with them will help you determine if something is vintage and help you figure out when it was made.
    Feedsack prints were popular for daywear in 1930's America due to the Great Depression. Alternately, glamorous silk, rayon and and satin was used in evening wear - think classic Hollywood starlet from a black and white movie.
    Rationing was adopted in nearly every country in the world during WWII and most fabrics were rationed for the war effort. This left few options for civilian clothing. For example: silk was used in parachutes, wool for military uniforms. Rayon became the number one fabric for garments in the 40's. It was made to resemble a multitude of other fabrics during the war. Vintage rayon has a very specific hand feel and can be a key clue to placing a garment in the 40's.
    Post-war and the end of rationing saw a resurgence in silk, wool and cotton during the 50's. Synthetics such as acrylic and nylon were also growing in popularity. Taffeta, tulle and chiffon were popular for evening wear - think iconic 50's prom dress.
    The beginning of the 60's saw little change in fashion - clothes closely resemble those of the 50's. The mid 60's, however, saw drastic changes to fashion with the space age and mod movements, bringing bright bold prints and lots of synthetic materials including PVC and vinyl. The end of the decade saw the hippie movement which brought an ethnic vibe to clothes with batik prints. Blended fabrics (eg. 50% polyester/50% cotton) began to appear at the end of the 60's as well.
    The hippie movement at the end of the 60's continued into mainstream fashion at the beginning of the 70's. Synthetic fabrics and blended fabrics continued to be popular throughout the 70's. Disco brought us clothing containing spandex and lycra with tons of sparkle. Denim was also a popular fabric in the 70's.

4. Inside: Seams, Lining and Hem
    The inside of a garment has many clues to dating a vintage piece of clothing. There are a number of things to look at when inspecting the inside of an item.

  • French Seams were typically used in the 20's, 30's and 40's on finely tailored items. They never stopped being used, but alternate methods became more popular in later years.
  • Raw Edged Seams (no finishing at all, usually the fabric is a bit frayed) indicates a handmade item. Many handmade garments from the 30's have raw edged seams, but this type of seam can be found in handmade garments from the 40's and 50's as well. 
  • Pinked Seams can be seen in some 30's garments, but also appear in 40's items as well. Pinked seams became the norm and can be found on most garments - handmade and machine manufactured - in the 50's. 
  • Serged Seams replaced pinked seams in the 60's. Sergers were invented at the turn of the 20th century, but at home machines weren't affordable until 60's. Serged seams continue to be the preferred method for finishing seams until today.
 Great resource for dating seams from the 20's to the 50's here.  

      Most garments pre-1970's were unlined because women wore a slip beneath her clothes. By the 70's clothing was typically more free-flowing and women were not wearing the complicated girdles and underpinnings and no longer required a slip between them and their clothes to smooth out the body line. Lining became poplar in the 80's - replacing the need for a slip - when styles became more body conscious again.

       Hem binding is a good indication that an item is vintage. The width of the hem can also be an indication of era. A wider hem - 2" or more - can be a clue that the item your holding is 50's. 30's and 40's garments would have narrower hems due to rationing during WWII and conservation in the Depression. 

5. Zipper
    Zippers are a great, quick way to identify a piece of vintage clothing. Keep in mind though, that zippers can be replaced so this is not a foolproof way to determine the age of an item.
    The zipper was invented in the late 1800s, but was not used in clothing until the 20's and then, only in men and children's clothes.
    Ladies clothes were generally closed with snaps or buttons until the 40's. If a garment used a zipper in the 30's it would typically be on the side seam and would be metal.
    Garments from the 40's to the early 50's have zippers located on the side seam and are always metal.
    Zippers started to move to the centre back of garments in the 50's, but often did not extend all the way to the neck. Metal zippers and side seam zips were still the norm in the 50's.
    By the 60's the zipper had permanently moved to the centre back on dresses and unzipped from the neck down. Side zippers were only used on pants and skirts.  Metal zippers started to be replaced by plastic zippers after 1963 with the invention of nylon.
    Plastic zippers placed in the centre back continued to be a trend in the 1970's through to today.
    Invisible zippers became widely used in the 80's and continue to be used in modern garment construction.
    This is a great quick reference guide to zippers with more detail than I've outlined here. 

6. Labels
    There are several different kinds of labels that can appear in a vintage garment: maker, designer and manufacturer labels; union labels; size tags and care labels.
    That being said, labels of any kind are not always present in vintage garments for various reasons. Labels are absent often due to a garment being handmade - if you believe that your item is vintage, but does not have any labels to help you identify its age you will have to use the other methods of detection listed in this post to help you identify and date an item of clothing as vintage.
    You certainly don't have to know the entire history behind vintage labels to identify one while you're out thrift shopping. Like knowing how to identify vintage fabric by its unique feel, you must only be able to recognize that a label has a different look than a modern one to know something is vintage and snap up a bargain. The real beauty in labels is that there is a plethora of resource material online to help you narrow down the specific date of a piece of clothing by its label.

   Maker/Designer/Manufacturer Labels
  • Vintage maker labels are sometimes larger than modern labels and the writing on vintage labels is almost always embroidered, not screen printed. 
  • Obscure shop names with local, domestic city and town names can be an indication an item is vintage
  • Check the tag for "Made in Canada" or "Made in the USA" - offshore manufacturing for clothing didn't become popular in North America until the 80's, but keep in mind that this is not a hard and fast rule, many 60's and 70's handbags have "Made in China" or "Made in Japan" labels in them.  Also remember that people brought home items they found as souvenirs from trips overseas and those special items have survived along with the locally made products. I have a beautiful 30's evening handbag that was made in France that I found at a local thrift shop right here in Winnipeg. 
  •  Just like the feel of vintage fabric, there is something about the look of a vintage makers label that stands out once you know what you're looking for. This is another thing to familiarize yourself with when you make your research trip to a vintage shop - look at the tags!
  • The Vintage Fashion Guild has an incredible A-Z label resource if you are looking to date your item. It's not all inclusive, but it is definitely a good place to start and an excellent place to see vintage labels from many eras. 

    Union Labels
  • A union labels is a sure sign the item you're holding is vintage. Union labels indicate that the item you've got was made by a group of unionized workers in North America. Due to more overseas manufacturing in the 80's these labels began to disappear from our clothing. If a union label is not present, but the piece appears to be vintage it is likely it was made in a dressmakers shop, or handmade at home. 
  • Union labels appear in many places on a garment. Sometimes they are near the makers label, or sewn into the hem, I have also found them sewn into the side seam in the skirt of a dress. 
  • Here is an example of what a vintage union label looks like. Not all union labels are identical to this one though, they came in many different colours and had many different looks over the years. 

  • Here is a great resource for identifying union labels on eBay
  • Here is another resource from Sammy Davis Vintage

    Size Labels
  • If an item seems small, but has a double digit size tag it's probably vintage. For example: I fit a size 12 in vintage clothing, but I am a modern size 6 with a  27 1/2" waist. 
  • Don't disregard something because the size label doesn't match what you wear in modern clothes. This is another reason to try everything on!
  • Here is a size chart comparing modern sizes and measurements with a vintage size chart:

Women's Vintage Clothing Conversion Chart - pre 1970s


   Care Labels
  • Washing care labels were not mandatory in clothing until the 1971. If your piece is missing washing instructions you can be pretty sure it's pre-1971.

7. Reference Material
    Here are some more incredible sites to help you learn more about dating vintage:

From Mintage :
  Intro & 1930's

From TuppenceHapenny:
  History of Synthetics
  Vintage Fashion for Beginners great images in this post

And a few others:
  Fashion Era
  Vintage Fashion Guild Quick Tips for Dating Vintage This site also has great resources for dating and identifying vintage fabric, furs and lingerie. 
  Vintage Textile This is a shop, but they have incredible pictures of the construction of garments. This website helped me so much when I was starting to collect
These books have been helpful to me too:
  Vintage Fashion
  Vintage Shoes
  Vintage Handbags

Tomorrow I'll deal with care and maintenance of your new finds - be they vintage or not.

Check out the rest of this series:



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Thrifting Tips 2: Finding the Good Stuff

So we're in the store. Now is the moment that most first time thrift shoppers get overwhelmed, but I'm here to help.
Shopping second hand doesn't mean you have to be looking for vintage. I don't always buy vintage when I'm in a thrift shop. These tips are for anyone looking for quality items to add to their wardrobe for less money than buying retail.

1. Bring your wish list.
    Remember the list we made yesterday before we went shopping? Bring it with you! It's a physical reminder of the things you really need in your wardrobe and it will help you get started when you are feeling overwhelmed. Is a new pair of shoes on your list? Head to the shoe section and start hunting.

2. Don't rush.
    You will miss things if you rush. Take your time, touch and look at everything on a rack. Walk around the store several times and look at each area from different perspectives. I can't tell you how many times I've found something amazing I missed the on the first walk through walking back through a section and seeing it from a different angle. Things get jammed in and tucked away in weird places in a thrift shop.
    You will also need time to search through bins. Dig in, you might be missing treasure if you only sift through the top layers like everyone else. 

3. Familiarize yourself with quality fabrics.
    Learn what silk, cashmere, velvet, quality cotton and other high end fabrics feel and look like. I shop 50% with my eyes and 50% with my fingertips. I run my hands over everything on the rack while I look and let what I see and feel inform what I take off the rack to inspect further.
    If you are a first time shopper with little experience in textiles shop this way too. Feel every item while you scan the rack. If something feel luxurious have a closer look at it. Check to see if there is a tag inside with a content list. Even if you don't buy it you're learning what these quality fabrics feel like. 

4. Inspect your finds for stains and rips.
    When you do find something you like take a good look at it. Inspect the fabric and seams for rips and stains. Look on the inside, check the hem, check the armpits for stains.
    Learn what can be fixed and what is better left on the rack. Unfortunately, sometimes learning what  can and cannot be fixed must be about trial and error. I have bought things in the past I thought I could repair, but sadly couldn't - that's the way the thrifting cookie crumbles.
    Fallen hems and split seams are easy to remedy, even for a novice seamstress. Missing buttons can be trickier, sometimes there is a spare on the inside, but usually it requires finding a completely new set of buttons. Leave behind items with thinning fabric, or worse, holes in the fabric.
    And if you aren't the kind of person who will repair something, don't buy it! Be honest with yourself - you're not doing yourself or your wallet any favours by taking home something that needs work only to let it languish in your closet while you let the guilt eat away at you. There are many like-new garments and sometimes items with the tags attached at the thrift store.
    If you are someone who is willing to do repairs I will deal with caring for items that need mending and talk about spot removal in detail in a few days.  

5. If you like it don't let it go. 
    When you get in the store grab a cart or a basket right off the bat. You will need it to hold your loot while you shop. If you like something hang on to it even if you're not sure you're going to buy it. There is only one in the store and someone else may grab it if you leave it on the rack while you ponder your decision.

6. If you're a lady, check the menswear section too!
    I've bought menswear on several occasions to alter it for myself. Men's jackets - if small enough - can be great finds. Suspenders, belts and even hats can all be great additions to a gal's wardrobe. 
    My brother wears vintage and I keep an eye out for stuff he'd like on my travels too. 

7. Try everything on.
    Once you've been through the store and your basket is filled head to the change room and try everything on. This is another great way to narrow down your choices - if it doesn't fit or doesn't look fabulous on you don't buy it. 

8. Get picky. 
    After I try everything on I try and narrow down my choices some more if I still have a lot of items in the 'yes' pile. The goal is to have a fabulous wardrobe full of quality items that make me feel fantastic, not to hoard everything that fits.
    At this stage I have another look at everything in my basket and ask myself some questions:
  • Do I already own something similar to this? Is this one better - could it replace the one I have? Getting dressed in the morning becomes overwhelming when you have too many of same thing. I don't need another black t-shirt. But if this one is better than the one at home I commit to getting rid of the old one and buy the new one. 
  • Will this item work with existing pieces in my wardrobe? Similar to the last point, there is no point buying something you have nothing to wear with no matter how fabulous you look in it. It makes your closet disjointed and makes getting dressed a chore because your clothing doesn't co-ordinate.
  • If yes, how many different outfits could be made with the addition of this item to my closet? If the item in question does match several pieces in your closet try and visualize how many different ways you could wear it. The more ways you can wear a piece the bigger bang for the buck you get from the item.
  • Do I like this item so much I would pay full price in a retail store for this it? Don't buy something just because it's cheap. I don't buy anything I wouldn't consider buying new at full price. 
  • Is this something on your wish list? If it is, it fits and you love it, buy it! No brainer. 
  • Be honest with yourself - will I actually wear this and do I feel great in it? If the answer is no or even if I'm on the fence I don't take it home. Period.
    The longer I shop the quicker I am assessing a new potential addition. Practice makes perfect. 

9. Visit frequently.
    I firmly believe that part of the reason I'm so "lucky" in thrift shopping is because I go often. I can't tell you that there is a magical formula for the number of visits in a certain time period to guarantee great finds, but when I'm in serious need of something and have some cash to spend on it I go once a week or more if I have time. Other times I'm cash poor or don't need anything desperately, so I go less frequently.
    With some time you will learn when your favourite stores put out stock and when is the best time to visit.

Tomorrow I will talk specifically about how to spot vintage items in a thrift store.

Check out the rest of this series:

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