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!)


  1. Agghhh such magical finds! This post kills me. I would wear the brown 60s dress today! Thanks for sharing, I love these posts too :) xxx

  2. I love that black skirt with pintucks. It looks like something you would find at Anthropologie for over $100! You have such a great vintage collection and I just love seeing your fabulous finds. I actually have had good luck taking my vintage wool items from the 40's, blazers and skirts, to the dry cleaners.
    Keep those pictures coming,