A blog about vintage fashion, vintage jewels and art.....

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Questions in the Post

And so, Christmas is over and with great anticipation we all count the last hours of the old year and wait to welcome in a new one, all hoping it will be better, happier, healthier, brighter, kinder, lovelier, and wealthier all round. Sure enough, my only credo is to be thankful for all that lands on my lap and on that of my loved ones and providence just takes care of the rest.

Now, I got this bee in my bonnet to ask all you faithful followers and new visitors to this blog a wee little question..... it's all about vintage shopping. If, like myself, you enjoy vintage shops, vintage fashion, all things vintage... then you love vintage whether you unearth it at a jumble sale or whether you find it neatly hanging in an upmarket vintage shop.

But what do vintage lovers really look out for when they're out vintage shopping for fashion wear?

Here are my questions.... share your answers with the rest of us....

1. What do you look out for when shopping for vintage fashion?
2. What impresses you most in a vintage clothes shop?
3. What and where is the most fantastic vintage shop you ever visited?  Why?
4. What must a vintage shop have if it's to be exciting enough to visit again and again?
5. What do you hate in vintage shops?
6. What would make vintage clothes shopping easier for you?

As for myself..... I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who passed by this blog, those who follow it, those whose comments I have received and cherished over the past month or so since this blog was born.

I wish you a great final few days for 2009 and a fantastic start to 2010. All best wishes to you and yours...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I thought of Red today. I word a red coat, a red sweater, plonked on my red walking shoes and decorated it all with my Vintage Christmas Tree brooch wore my Vintage Christmas Charm Bracelet. And it gave me inspiration for this Red Christmas-y posting for you all to enjoy....

Diego Velazquez - Queen Maria Anna of Spain in a Red Dress

Saturday, December 19, 2009

One Knitting Knot

An advert for Bairns-Wear Knitting Wool taken from the
Vogue Knitting Book No.44 published in England some time in the 1950s

It's been ages since I held a pair of knitting needles in my hands. But I used to love knitting. I still have several old knitting patterns handed down to me by mother.  They proved to be great inspiration, though I never really used them because the styles were always so strange to somebody growing up in the 1970s and the 1980s, especially in the 1980s when everything had to be just BAGGY! These 1950s ladies were wearing everything cropped close to their silhouette weren't they?

Woman's Own Pull-Out Booklet dated June 7th, 1956.

Another quizzical question to those who are clever with knitting needles is how to read vintage knitting patterns so that the different sizing and the wool or yarn used, can be adapted to the ones we have today. Women wear larger sizes and the wool on the market presently is far different from what those vintage woollens were made of back then when even the word synthetic was probably unknown.

Take a look at this lady in red. Isn't she just picture perfect? She is wearing a Ridge-Pattern Twin Set. The jacket comes with tree-quarter sleeves worn over a sleevless blouse. And look at the detail - gold buttons, white belt, white gloves and white beads around her wrist. And red bag too plus white bead earrings and red, red lips. Notice the waves on her forehead and that arched eyebrow.

Something more sporty. This is a Norwegian Rib Sweater which required at least 21 oz of Emu Scotch double knitting, 1 pair of needls size 8 and 1 pair size 6.

Evening Jacket in Feather Pattern, Sports Sweater in Basket Weave, Silky Twinset, Stylish Spring Top, Leaf-Patterned Sweater, Angora Leaf Scarf, Light as Air, Tube Hat And Scarf In One are just some of the swanky little numbers you can knit for yourself on those cold winter nights when the blizzard is blowing fiercely outside. With the help of this little book....

This is what Thames & Hudson have to say about this book...
"Today, a new generation of knitters has discovered the pleasure of creating wonderful things by hand. At many colleges it seems as if the whole campus is knitting, and knitting classes and forums are mushrooming: there are even knitting events held at theaters and nightclubs.

The knitters of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s needed no reminding that knitting is hugely rewarding. They knew it could be glamorous too, and wore with pride the elegant garments they had crafted.
Vintage designs for women are wonderfully feminine and flattering, and they have become highly collectible. But the frustrating truth is that old patterns rarely produce satisfactory results for today’s knitters: they are often frighteningly intricate, the yarns used then produced different gauges from today’s yarns, and the sizes are too small in relation to our modern physiques.
In Vintage Knitwear, the designs have been carefully adapted for contemporary knitters: they use modern yarns, the patterns have been subtly simplified, and instructions are given for six different sizes. There are options for the novice, intermediate, and experienced knitter, with each pattern graded with one, two, or three balls of wool according to level of difficulty.The new garments are pictured alongside reproductions from the vintage patterns that inspired them.
This charming book is sure to inspire knitters and would-be knitters to take up their needles in pursuit of the authentic elegance of a bygone era. Lise-Lotte Lystrup’s company, Knitted Purls, specializes in re-creating authentic, hand-knitted garments for period dramas in film and on television."

Reviewers and experienced knitters have raved about this book saying it is full of great knitting patterns, gives the chance to do vintage knitting minus the headaches and is said to be a well-thought-out book. Have any of you tried your hand at knitting lately?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cleaning Delicate Materials

Recently I was trying to clean out some vintage clothes which came my way. The selection is quite impressive and the variety of eras range from the 80s through to the 70s and 60s. I found myself having to launder them, just to refresh them before putting them away. As I researched some of the materials, I found out for instance, that silk, which incidentally is one of my most beloved textiles, was not run-proof before the 80s. Sure enough, one dress, a fuschia pink evening fitted gown, did have its colour run as I handwashed it all so delicately.

In some instances though, I am sure that unless one finds an expert laundery which is professional in handling the really delicate laces, embroideries and really old textiles, then it's best to leave things be.

Another issue is recognising textiles which are in garments that do not come with an identifying label. Many times, I find myself at a loss - is this viscose or a mixture or is it silk? Some silks are quite thick, others are sheer and then there seems to be a fine boundary line between sheer chiffon and a particularly delicate kind of silk.

Things become complicated when delicate materials are embroidered with threads that tend to run. How on earth do you clean those? Is dry cleaning enough? One lady mentioned steaming clothes... but how is that done? And is it suitable for all kinds of garments?

Another issue - moth-eaten woollens. Along with the lot of clothes I had to clean, I discovered this beautiful multi-coloured check jacket... really warm and chique. BUT! Moths had been at it and the textile was eaten right through in some places. I decided, it was best to get rid of it before other clothes got infested. Am still wondering whether I could have done differently, but who would have wanted to wear a moth-eaten jacket anyway?

Do any FairyFiligree readers have any hints or pieces of advice to share about this topic?
[For this post I used Flickr images for the very first time. Click on the captions to find out who took these marvelllous images.]

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Who needs Handbags?

Handbags – have you got any? If you’re a normal female, chances are you’ve got loads. I mean it’s just like shoes – who needs just one pair and what would you do with it? Same goes for bags. Life would be too miserable with just one bag to live with.

- Gianfranco Ferre Pelletteria advert dating back to 1991-

Handbags are about our life. They accompany us through the thick and thin of it. Some bags bring happy memories, others bring sad ones and if you’re a collector, they are all prized possessions.

It’s always been a mystery to men, just what we carry around with us in those bags and just why we bother. As one deejay once said over the airwaves, he had asked his girlfriend for a chewing gum and out came the bag, and out of it emerged all sorts of things – much like a magician’s hat. After what seemed like eternity and the emergence of such myriad objects that he was half-expecting a washing machine to be pulled out of the thing next, the chewing gum saw the light and he resolved never to ask for anything of his girlfriend as long as she had a handbag around.

Needless to say, you all know the scenario full well. You’re driving home, chatting with your hubby, partner, boyfriend, or whichever male might be sitting along with you….. and you get carried away chatting and gossiping and being generally pleasant company; and you arrive at destination, emerge from the car, traipse up to the front door and then remember….. the key. Rightly so, whether it’s day or night, the depths of that handbag know no confines. And even if you had a torchlight to use, there’s nothing better than prying, poking fingers to delve deep in the entrails of that bag and feel your way around for those keys…… no that’s the tampon…… oh that’s the wet tissues pack….. ah there’s the lipstick…… is that the pen you thought you’d lost?....... dear me, where are they? Your fingers meet something which chimes like a bunch of keys, and with a self-satisfied smirk you bring the lot out… only to discover those are the other car keys. By now, your hubby, partner, boyfriend, or whoever is glaring down or up at you with sparks in his eyes, bright enough to x-ray through that bag if they only could, is getting nervous. Lucky for him, you’ve got a small bag on today… and you resume your search….. so that’s where the phone bill went……..yuuck, that liquorice sweet has seen one day too many in that bag……mascara….. lip pencil….. coins….. You finally resort to shaking the whole thing in the hope of hearing something chime the way that Donald Duck and Greek souvenir keychains do when they meet… and hey presto…. You dig out the proper bunch from the front pocket. Now that’s where you should have looked in the first place.

And men will always comment on our bags – ‘Is that a boat you’re carrying around?’ or ‘What is that for – to keep the change in?’ Whatever nasty jibe they hit at us and our poor little bags, they typically ask for elbow space in that receptacle you’re carrying, or at least just enough for you to carry their own of keys, fags, mobile phone (and do remember to keep your ears open in case it rings whilst it’s in your safekeeping) etc, etc.

- An 'a.testoni' handbag being used on a Volvo ad dating back to 1991-

I have always loved huge bags and when I had my boys, huge bags were always good things to own ‘cause they kept virtually everything I or they needed – from nappies to sweets to snacks to water bottles to books to toys. I kept lugging those big things around when all the rest of the female contingent was sporting bags which would have preferred being called purses and which could only carry, at most, a mini tampon. And I suddenly realised that the boys weren’t wearing nappies anymore, nor did they get hunger pangs quite so often. And with a huge sense of liberation, I placed my sack of a bag aside and proceeded to choose a tiny clutch of a bag, not much larger than five square inches.

- The original Gucci handbag re-worked for a '90s style -

I felt all excited on the first day I used this – my first real ‘handbag’ for what seemed like eternity. Before I walked out of the house, I felt like a 16-eyar-old again, ready to face to world as long as my own little world was well packed inside that bag. But once I was out on the streets……I felt completely and utterly stark naked and I spent a considerable number of days suffering of withdrawal symptoms, constantly feeling like I’d left an important part of me behind. But slowly I was converted and learnt the art of squeezing into that five square inch most nearly anything, to the extent that I felt ready to face the Guinness Book of Records on that score.

Now handbags have always been women’s allies. They are there to be cosseted, used or abused but generally loved and admired. But today’s bags are a far cry from 16th Century cloth bags which were practical affairs used to keep the odd coin and hanky. By the 17th Century small purses became fashionable and these were bolstered up by unique embroidery designs. 18th Century reticules were fashionable with space enough to carry rouge (yesteryear’s version of a blusher), face powder, a tiny scent bottle, a case holding the fashionable and dainty visiting cards, a fan to hide blushing cheeks and some smelling salts which ladies needed since they seemed to swoon all over the place courtesy of tight blood-restricting corsets.

The handbag only materialised in its modern essence in the 20th Century but incidentally it was not a lady’s accessory but referred to as hand luggage carried by gentlemen. But obviously women fell for these affairs, and producers fancied out new designs which included the kind of complications women fall for, including the odd jewel to embellish them as well as separate compartments to hold all those feminine knick knacks. Today we have mobile phones and snazzy shades. Yesteryear they had opera glasses and English Lavender.

With the Charleston, low hemlines and flimsy clothing, bags came into their own as Art Deco and bakelite doubled up with tassles, flair and fashion came together but only until pre-war and war years when nothing faintly flirty was to be found in the shops and bags of cloth, plastic and wood replaced anything that included metal which was being stacked away for the war effort.

The Fifties boosted the ‘New Look’ with bags that have just recently been revived by vintage lovers, making the selection available today quite extraordinary. If you fancy a leap into the ‘50s, before the Mary Quant bags and or the glitter bags came into fashion, then there are some of old materials to look out for - mesh, lucite, wooden box bags, plastic, raffia…. There were even bags that came with matching brollies or battery operated torch lights inside some models to help the ladies find those darned keys. I guess women always had the same old problem…

I got my inspiration for including this post on handbags after having featured the little brown clutch in my last posting. I draw a lot of 'handbag' lessons from this little book by Anna Johnson, published by Workman in 2002.

And these pictures featured today are gleaned from a vintage edition of MODA ITALIA magazine issue No.90 dated October 1991.

- Gucci handbag in black calf leather and bamboo handle - this is the first Gucci handbag dating back to 1957-

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas on the way

One of my two Christmas Cactus plants was preparing itself for Christmas. This is what it looked like just one week ago.....

And here is what it looks like today....

Simply Stunning! And it tends to get better as Christmas approaches so watch out for more pictures of its development later on.

Isn't nature marvellous?

And speaking of special things connected with Christmas, the season always makes me think of some of the special things I get which I like to use round about this time of year.
Like my very special vintage brown velvet clutch... 1950s original...

This I got some 12 years ago from a tiny stall in a mews where an antique market was set up every Thursday morning in Lewisham, that's in south-east London. We were staying there for the summer and I was already into buying vintage and thrifting at the time. But I had never really bought anything of 'value' and of vintage quality such as this. I got the purse from the lady who always had the most lovely things, few but distinctive.
Look at its inside.....

It is in impeccable condition, comes complete with attached purse & mirror. Mighty chic and great vintage value - If I remember rightly I only bought it for a tenner. It was a great investment to be sure!
Funny, how I don't wear it much... but it does call for special occasions...

Friday, December 4, 2009

How to buy from Ebay

- Part 3

When searching the item you need to purchase, it is best to start with a wide search and narrow it down to what you really need. For instance, if I search a ‘bracelet’ I will get some 45,000 bracelets. I can refine the search by requesting a vintage bracelet, which may bring the number of listings down to 20,000. But if I go specific and request a ‘Vintage Heart Charms Bracelet ’ to indicate that I want the charms to be heart-shaped – the selection will go down to perhaps 40 specimens and then I can really go into the individual listings and check if bracelets are signed, if they come from estate sales, if they are damaged or pristine, if the hearts are puffy, cloisonné enamel, glass, etc, if the seller seems to know what he or she is on about and if sales made previously have yielded satisfied buyers.

Once you decide you want an item, you must first register with Paypal if the seller demands this, or contact the seller to check alternative payment methods. Meanwhile you can watch the item and become an e-bay member by registering and getting your very own My eBay page where eBay helps you keep track of all the items you’re watching, the auctions due to end soon, those which have ended, your purchases and messages, as well as the chance of skimming through similar items to the finished listings you didn’t win, were watching or which belong to your Favourite Sellers.

You can also join the eBay community and share information with people collecting or researching what you’re after, whether it’s a button or a parachute. In short – it’s a whole new world, highly electronic, very fast, and extremely disciplined…. And above all – it’s great, great fun!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How to buy from Ebay

- Part 2

Last time, I explained what ebay is and how to start finding your way into this fantastic buying adventure. Many Fairyfiligree followers wrote back to comment and I enjoyed the feedback because as an ebayer of many years, I have often found it helpful to read other ebayers' hints on how to ebay safely & happily. Part 2 is about the sellers and advices on how to start buying. So.... who is doing the selling?

As a would-be shopper, you should know that basically whatever is on sale on ebay is placed there by two categories of sellers. Somebody who is trying to clear up their garage, or somebody who is professionally selling through eBay and making a business of it. Both categories can provide you with a good bargain to boast of, or a rip-off to break your bank. This is fundamentally an auction and you have to know the rules, including those belonging to the realm of self-control.

Be patient and don’t plunge into buying mode from day one. Before making a purchase, you should research to find out the best offers, bargains, sellers, products in the category you’re eyeing. Don’t be rushed into buying something just because its auction is closing in 10 minutes. Don’t panic. There will be plenty more of the same or even better, every other minute, every other day, week, month.
Sales are made through auction which bring in bidders who can raise prices ferociously throughout, or watch the listing and only bid at the last minute. Some listings offer a ‘Buy it Now’ option, meaning you can agree to the requested price and buy immediately.

If you see something you like, click on the title or image and check the listing. You will get the chance to ‘meet’ the seller, see his/her eBay name, rating, location. It is important to check the number and star colour attached to the eBayer’s name as this indicates the number of transactions made so far, and the percentage below will indicate the positive transactions to his/her credit. This will help you gauge how reliable, seasoned, and popular the seller is. eBay keeps tabs on who is performing well by abiding with eBay regulations of ethical behaviour and does manage to keep control over its members through the feedback system which allows potential buyers to see what other buyers had to say about sellers. Too much negative feedback will get an unreliable buyer or seller barred from making transactions.

Check out the actual item on sale. You get to know the amount of the current bid, the shipping costs, whether the seller sells to European buyers or perhaps uniquely to North and South Americans. Go further down and view the images, read the product description and skim down to check on payment details.

Cash & Carry

Payment details must be examined well. Most eBayers prefer buyers to pay with Paypal which is an account-based system that allows anybody possessing an email address to securely send and receive online payments using their credit card or bank account. It is easy, practical and fast. As an eBayer you will find it simplifies the process and eliminates the hassle of using payment methods which are not universally acceptable. Moreover, you will in time realize that a listing not accepting Paypal usually does not get a lot of bidders, which might mean it’s all to your advantage, in the long run.

In the final part of this series about ebay buying, I'll be explaining about choosing your preferred item, watching it, and eventually buying. Enjoy!