Today was finally "warm" enough for an outfit that didn't involve multiple layers of pants. Bundled up in cozy flannel, thick wool, and an oversized hat from knitting rockstar Yokoo (purchased during her fantastic after-Thanksgiving sale), I felt very much like a Scandinavian grandma.

Outfit details:
Penfield shirt via Mid-Atlantic Mercantile (a Pittsburgh clothing boutique)
1950's wool skirt purchased at an estate sale
1940's men's bowling shoes purchased at a (different) estate sale
Yokoo hand-knit "English Thompson Hat" in "Walnut Shell"
J.Crew belt


Verna, part 1

Lately, I've been loving the vintage haul photos that people have been posting on Instagram, so I thought I might try to do something similar here on the blog. I'm always curious what other people find at estate sales, buying appointments, and flea markets, what condition the clothes are in, and how they go about bringing them back to life.

The clothes in this post came from the estate sale of an opera singer named Verna who performed in Germany and Switzerland during the 40's and 50's. My sister Amy and I purchased 13 pieces (some for us, some to sell) as well as two souvenir hankies from Europe and a stack of Verna's personal photos. I'll definitely be making a second post with scans of the photos and more about Verna herself, but for now, here are the clothes I purchased and what I'm doing to make them wearable again.

We found four suits--blazers and pencil skirts--from the 40's and 50's. (Not pictured is a red and black plaid set that looked blown-out in every. single. photo.) The skirts are fairly basic, but the jackets have incredible details: embroidered arrows, unusual buttons, and wool that looks like multicolored television static up close. They're in such great shape, but two of the blazers have discoloration inside their collars. I'm always reluctant to take vintage wool to the dry cleaner, so I may attempt to spot clean them. (Or not; you can't really see the discoloration when the blazers are being worn, and I'd hate to ruin these.)

I almost left this black 50's dress behind because it's made of a funny synthetic that feels like nylon. Now that I've had time to think it over, I have to admit that the material drapes really beautifully, and the dress fits like a dream. Unfortunately, this one needed/needs a lot of work. I spot treated a few large brown stains on the skirt, then hand washed the dress in a mild detergent. The stains came out (yes!), but there are seam breaks under each arm that need repaired, and the skirt will have to be taken up at the waist and hem to get rid of several small holes.

We found a bunch of great separates at the estate sale (some in better shape than others) and ended up buying two skirts and one sweater. I don't have any photos of the first skirt--a sturdy black cotton one from the 50's--because it's currently soaking in a basin in the sink. But I was able to take photos of a soft-as-clouds pale blue angora sweater and a black wool skirt with pintucks. I spot treated the skirt (more brown staining), then hand washed it in a detergent designed for wool and cashmere. The skirt's hem still needs repaired in a few spots, but it looks a whole lot better, and I think the sweater will be good as new after a quick steam.

I don't buy a whole lot of clothing from the 60's, but I really like this brown plaid wool dress. It's accented with metallic gold threads, doesn't seem to have a single hole, and will be good to go as soon as I steam it.

The main reason this photo is so close-up is because I wanted to avoid shooting the crazy underarm staining. This dress is definitely a project, but we couldn't leave it behind! Look at those tiny matching fabric-covered buttons (never mind that one is missing). I have a hard time saying no to printed cotton 50's dresses, because they respond so well to soaking, but one 8-hour soak later we don't seem to have made any progress...

And finally, a little bit of magic in the form of a floor-length plaid taffeta 40's gown. This was the first thing I grabbed when I walked into the sale, and it is made even better by the fact that I have a photo of the original owner wearing it! (I didn't take photos of the matching black velvet bolero or another long 40's gown made of black and white lace and accented with rhinestones!)


Fashion Frocks

In my last post, I mentioned that I'd purchased a pile of sample cards created by Fashion Frocks, a dress manufacturing company located in Cincinnati, Ohio, from 1908 to the 1970's. I finally finished scanning my favorites, so here they are! I love everything about these cards--the carefully attached fabric swatches, the awkwardly funny ad copy, the matching turban pictured above that "will complete this fashionable masterpiece for a tiny sum!"

I forgot to mention that the lot I purchased included a few cards from a similar company called Janalene. They're from 1940, look slightly 30's to me (something about the way the women are drawn), and are at least as fantastic as the Fashion Frocks cards. (And a note: Clicking on any of the images in this post will open a larger version in a new window.)


Animal crackers in my soup

I recently purchased 28 Fashion Frocks style cards. Fashion Frocks was a dress manufacturing company located in Cincinnati, Ohio, from 1908 to the 1970's. They sold their dresses door-to-door (Avon style) and gave their salespeople sample cards with illustrations of each dress style accompanied by fabric swatches. The Fashion Frocks cards I purchased are from the early 1940's, and feeling inspired by the gorgeous printed rayons, I decided to toss on this fun elephant dress I got for a tiny sum (in the neighborhood of $20) from Lawrence. It seems that folks who collect vintage have a couple categories they love best--printed cotton 50's dresses, Edwardian whites, or, in my case, printed rayon 30's/40's dresses (along with a few others). In that spirit, I'll be posting scans of those Fashion Frocks cards within the next few days.

Outfit details:
1930's dress via Lawrence
Golden Ponies heels



I purchased this 1960's knit set at Market Supply Co. in Chicago. I mostly hated the new Bonnie and Clyde miniseries, but Bonnie's wardrobe of colorful 1930's knit sets and slouchy berets was outrageously good. The nice thing about the set I'm wearing in these photos is that it looks like something out of the 20's or 30's but is actually much sturdier. (I have plenty of almost-too-precious-to-wear vintage dresses.) Topped with a winter coat, it was perfect for a quick stop at Phipps to check out the winter flower show.

Outfit details:
1960's does 1920's knit set via Market Supply Co.
J.Crew belt
Nina Payne heels via Anthropologie


A belated Christmas tree post

I know that the holidays are over and that most people have already moved on, but I wanted to share a few favorites from my growing Christmas ornament collection. I've never really bothered to decorate my apartment for the holidays, but this year I decided to acquire some vintage Christmas baubles and a small white Christmas tree. My mom found the tree while I was in Wisconsin visiting my brother. And I've spent the past several weeks picking up the ornaments at estate sales and antique shops and on ebay. All the ornaments pictured below are vintage, except for the owl and narwhal, which my mom sewed for me using patterns from Grainline Studios. And while the tree still looks a little bare, I figure that means future ornament purchases are completely justified.

I've taken to calling this last ornament the "crystal prison," which is a kind of terrifying name that I think I'm remembering from a 90's unicorn board game. Anyway, it's easily one of my favorite ornaments on the tree.