Monday, 21 October 2013

Misdated Vintage Items

I guess it's not always easy to date a vintage item. But I think sellers offering vintage things should do some research before labeling an item as "true 40s vintage" or whatever.

I certainly do not pretend being an all-knowing expert, but after looking at tons of hats, purses and other vintage stuff, I guess I have a little bit an eye for certain details.

It all began with a row I had with a seller. The lady offered vintage 40s goggles or glasses. I liked them so I had a closer look. Suddenly I detected a clearly visible marking on the inside of one arm saying "CE". Living in Europe, this is a well-known marking to me, as it's common for many European products. The problem is: the marking was created not before 1993. Helpful as I am, I thought it might be nice to let the seller know about the mistake, so I wrote her a few kind words. She answers right away that she would take the glasses from the shop as they were not exactly "hot sellers". This had not been my intention at all, but as it was not my decision, I forgot about the whole affair.
About 2 weeks later I got a very angry, rude message from the very same seller. She was pretending that a collector bought on a different site the same glasses, that she would never ever again listen to a "so-called expert". Between the lines she was saying: "It's your fault I couldn't make a deal." I was very upset as well, as I knew I was right. And if there is something that gets me really angry, it's the ignorance of people who don't want to accept the truth and can't admit they were wrong. Well, I tried again to explain to her the thing about the CE mark. I even sent her the link for the article on Wikipedia, so she could look it up herself. No, she wouldn't listen to me.

I only regret I didn't make a copy of the picture with its original description to show you here. If you ever come across such an item, let me know. Just for the fun having a look at it.

I really think it's a pity. I am sure, there are many sellers out there doing a terrific job. They collect items, check them, store the, even clean them. I know how much work it is to take pictures and set up a listing. And there are all those who are not sure about the real age of an item and are grand enough to admit it. I can read so often something like "maybe from the 50s, but collectors know probably better". This is only fair, and I guess it pays off like that. Just be honest. Rather than pretending something and disappoint a seller that realizes she or he bought a reproduction item.

But there are other sellers who really appreciate getting an advice.

I saw this lovely hat up for auction, described as 40s hat. I didn't learn anything from my rather unpleasant experience. It was definitely beyond from what I can afford, but I had a look at the pictures nonetheless. On the last picture I could see the original price tag that was still attached to the hat. It was not only the familiar font, layout and words on the tag, but also the price itself that made me stop and look again.

The tag says: DA- HUT, "Damenhut", lady's hat, and "Groesse", size, in German. Therefore I realised it was a hat that was originally sold in Germany. And there was the price: 69 DM, Deutsche Mark. The trouble is: the currency Deutsche Mark was introduced only after WW2, 1948, so it would still fit in the sellers time frame. But from the look of the tag it was definitely not a 40s hat. The font style is very modern. To my guessing it was a 70s or even 80s hat, also the price could fit in that period, but I had to admit, it looks surprisingly 40s or 50s -like. To my opinion the visible pinking shear finish at the felt bow is a rather uncommon thing for a true 40s hat. (Since felt doesn't fray, what's the use of it at all?)

Of course a seller from the States cannot be so familiar with these details like me in this very particular case. I don't know very much about particular things that are well-known in the USA. But as it happens, I'm living very close to the German border, and since I was a child, we go shopping to Germany. So I know these details from my own experience. Maybe it was a mistake, but I thought it wouldn't be fair to deprive the seller of these informations, so I wrote her. She was very happy and said she would change the description. Yes, I know, I'm a naggy fault-finder. :)

There could be a lot such examples. Often you can see vintage patterns from the 60s sold as 50s or even 40s patterns. Of course, when it comes to fashion styles, it's not always easy to find the correct year, but it helps a lot to look at the hair-styles, the type of hat that's worn etc. And if still in doubt, just enter the pattern number in your favourite searching engine. It can provide you further infos, or look it up on Vintage Pattern Wiki - many patterns are listed with an exact copyright year, as someone else did the research job before you.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Goodbye Sew-Along, Hello Vintage Purses!

I am disappointed and a little bit sad. I entered my first sew-along, and what happened? I broke my toe. Then I got sick, for about 2 weeks a ghost. My daughter got sick too. And now September is over. That's life. I'm glad the little girl is well again, the toe is healing (it was the second accident this year...), and a missed sew-along is no disaster. I will finish my dress, promised. Maybe next year, in spring, as autumn was here so quickly with rather low temperatures that it's not really tempting to make a sleeveless cotton dress.

As I couldn't sew I planned tried to tidy up my studio. "Studio" is a big word for such a tiny room, but it's all I have, and I even feel privileged to have it. I didn't get far, as the two little ones were just to demanding. But I managed in the time between cooking and doing some laundry and playing with the little monsters to surf a little bit around the wide world of the web. And I was very lucky to find some rather inexpensive vintage items. Some were on sale, some were just lowly priced, but all, according to me are real bargains. As a stay-at-home mom I'm living on avery limited budget. (This is probably better. We would end up with Switzerland's first and only Vintage Hat, Purse and Pattern Museum.)

Some of my purchases arrived today. Have a look.

I found this crochet cord purse on Etsy. The condition is rather good. There are no damages at all on the crochet part. The handles still close well, even though the closure latch is missing. The screw is still there, so I guess it broke and fell off. But as I will have to keep the purse anyway in my hands, that's no big problem at all.

The handles show a pair of exotic birds, maybe peacocks. Made of cordet yarn, it shows the common pop-corn crochet pattern that can be found on many purses from the 30s through the 50s. The lining is made of black acetate, without additional pockets.

This darling is very clean (I wouldn't wear it if it was dirty or smelling), the handles have some wear from use, and the cord is partially a little bit discoloured, so that the purse is not deep black anymore, but shows some brownish "highlights". But these can bee seen only if you take a very close look.

After having bought this purse I found an almost identical one on Etsy too. It has clear handles, but is the same purse in navy blue. I even saw later more such purses, mainly in navy and black. I imagine this type was very fashionable and widely diffused.

Sometimes I wonder if these purses were handmade, and only the handles were bought, or if they were produced by manufactories. The handle is marked, it says "Made in the U.S.A.". I am not sure, but I once read that this mark can provide an indication that the item was produced most probably after WW2. I really don't know, I'm no expert. But the style is definitely suitable for the 30s, 40s and earyl 50s.

 Shipping was in the end more expensive than the purse itself, and each time this happens I get upset. Shipping all over the world is just a nightmare if you depend from international sellers. No, there are almost no vintage items for sale in Switzerland. I often wonder if everyone has thrown away their 30s and 40s stuff or if all 50s items are locked up in some private collections. Of course we are a small country, but from a vintage collector's point of view, Switzerland is a desert.

And I bought this little purse as well. 3, 2, 1 - it's mine.

I am not yet THE expert for vintage purses, but I'm getting better. You can learn a lot about such items by taking a very close look at them, how they are made.

This purse for example seems to be of a different making than the tiny coin purse that came with it. I bought them together, just like on the picture, and most probably they "belonged" together once. But the outer fabric of the coin purse is completely different, a kind of moiré taffeta. The lining of the purse is plain acetate taffeta and slightly more creamy coloured than the coin purse. Maybe the coin purse and mirror were bought items, whereas the crochet purse could as well be handmade. The snap fastener is sewn-on in a very bad way (I will have to re-do it soon), but this could be the work of a previous owner of the purse who was probably not the most brilliant sewing talent.

The crochet pattern is similar to the popcorn pattern of the navy purse, less puffy. I love the crochet covered button of the closure.

The closure, by the way, is a feature rarely seen on such purses. Most of them had the handles only. As mentioned previously, many handles had a closure latch. On most vintage purses of that type, the latch is missing now. So if you see a purse still featuring the latch, you have found a purse frame in an excellent condition. Consider to buy it.

The black purse is probably slightly younger than the cream one. I think the handle plastic, at least it feels and looks like it, and I guess the cream purse frame is made of celluloid, which was very common during WW2. At least it was sold like as a celluloid frame, and I can clearly feel a difference of material when I touch it, and there is a difference of weight as well. To my guess, the cream purse is older. The frame also looks kind of carved, and the black handles are definitely pressed or cast material.

It was a little bit spoiled, nothing serious, just dust from the decades and numerous touches, and a slightly greasy feeling on the crochet closure. It could be just my imagination, as I am very picky when it comes to smelly or dirty vintage textile items. At least there were no odours, but usually it doesn't do damage to clean vintage items. Just be careful! I soaked the purse in lukewarm water mixed with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), it came out very clean, and all the yellowish parts and what I thought seemed to be slightly greasy had disappeared. But it takes quite long for such a material to get dry again, so if you plan to clean you bag before using it, keep that in mind.

Now my two new old purses are carefully stored in a box. They are waiting for their first big day out.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Sew-along Project Choice

As I posted some days ago, I entered the "Fall For Cotton" sew-along. For my first sew-along I wanted to make something special, but I was unsure what to chose. I so much wanted to make a 40s outfit. But then, I have so many lovely patterns from the 50s as well...

Then I looked at the cotton fabrics in my stash. I have mostly children's fabrics, piles of children's woven cotton, cotton jerseys... I have wonderful woolen fabrics I bought in a previous live during my travels in Italy and Scotland. both countries that produce wonderful quality woolen fabrics. I have some cotton ginghams, tiny polka dot cottons, solid cottons that would make a lovely 40s dress. Some flowers too.

But than I had on the top of a pile this lovely grey cotton fabric with pink gloves and white strings of pearls. I am in love ever since I saw it, and finally the fabric made the choice of the decade. This fabric is so 50s.

This is from the "City Girl" collection (Timeless Treasures). I'm not a city girl at all, but we country girls too know about dressing chic.

And I knew which pattern. It had to be this gorgeous Simplicity 3846 I bought a couple of weeks ago, and which is wonderfully brought to live by one of my heroines of vintage sewing, Beccie of Sew Retro Rose. Have a look at her "emergency dress". (If emergency to her terms looks like this, then how's the rest?)

Well, the fabric is laundered and the pattern is ready. I had to adjust the size of the everything, as the pattern was in a size too small for me, but I think the modifications should be OK. 

As I have only 4 yards of fabric, and the pattern requires slightly more, I decided to make a white collar. I pray the rest of the pattern pieces will fit into the 4 yards... I always forget to buy more fabric. But then, I seldom buy fabric for a specific pattern, so usually I chose a pattern and see if there's a fabric with enough yardage in my stash.

I'm so excited!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

"Blue Rose Vintage" Hat Give-Away

The lovely blog of Chronically Vintage has this amazing post about vintage hats and a give-away which I though would be nice to share with you.

I must admit, I always liked hats, ever since I was a little girl, which for my parents was sometimes very funny (sometimes less) as I put almost al kind of stuff on my head just to pretend I was wearing a hat. I remember I had in my late teenage years a marroon felt hat who looked a little bit like the top a cupcake (I wonder where it has gone... it would have been amazing with one of my vintage dresses) and a black felt fedora who made me look like a Mafia gangster's bride. Still I have a lovely straw fedora I bought in Italy some years ago as a sun-hat.

And of course, there are the hats I am making now myself for my vintage outfits (which are not yet finished or ready to be shown). So I guess there's no need to mention that i LOVE vintage hats. I could spend hours looking at pictures of them in the internet, and I am trying now to figure out how they are made so I can make similar ones.

So Jessica's post just the bull's eye! I am so amazed to participate in this give-away, and I would be soooo happy to have one of the wonderful hats of Blue Rose Vintage. Have a look at the site, it's mouth-watering for someone like me...

Some of these genuine vintage hats already have been sold to hopefully lucky owners (and wearers!), but I think it's still worth showing them and get some ideas for my own vintage style hat creations.

These are my favourites...

A 1940s hat with veil and a huge fabric rose. Awww, I love roses...

This lovely from the 1950s cap is beautifully covered with blue flowers. A darling!

This headpiece from the 1950s would be perfect for a vintage bridal outfit.

A very special 1940s headpiece - I love the shape of it and the wonderful blue colour.

Again, a shape that suits completely my taste (1950s).

Have a look at Blue Rose Vintage's shop, I'm sure you will love these hats as much as I do!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

"Fall For Cotton" - My First Sew-Along

Today I decided to join many other sewers with this lovely sew-along! This is just made for me, as it's no competition (I wouldn't dare), and I love both vintage patterns and cotton fabrics! 

This is really a great idea, as I think cotton is one of the most versatile fibers for garments. So if you are interested, have a look at the original post at Lucky Lucille and join us too!

What you have to do:

- Join the Flickr group Fall For Cotton and introduce yourself in the discussion
- Pick a pattern that helps you recreate a garment from your favorite vintage decade: 1920′s through 70′s

- Pick any fabric that’s 100% cotton
- Start gathering supplies now, with a plan to start sewing on September 1st
- Have your finished garment photographed and uploaded to Flickr by the end of Monday September 30th
- One finished project = one chance to win some awesome prizes at the end of the sewalong! - See more at:

I have no idea yet how it all will work out, having two kids and trying to finish my project until Septemer 30, but somehow I certainly will make it.

And I have tons of cotton fabrics for my children sewing projects. The only problem is to find one I have enough of. I would like to make a dress from a vintage fabric I ordered some days ago, but I'm sure it will arrive rather late to start as soon as necessary to finish in time.

I have already a certain pattern in mind, one of those I recently bought... 

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Pattern additions for my collection

I recently bought these patterns and wanted to show them to you as I'm really excited about them...

The first one is a Simplicity 2718 from 1938, and it will probably belong to the oldest patterns of my small but growing collection... (Besides the whole Lutterloh pattern I own, which contains all patterns since the very beginning of Lutterloh, which is, since 1936.) I was fascinated by the way how the darts are arranged in a very special way and form a lovely bodice. I'm not sure if I would ever make an overskirt, but the dress is very nice and so is the bolero jacket. Simple, but sophisticated somehow...

Ta-daaa, and it has  a back zipper. I don't like side zippers so much.

Ah, and yes, I know, this Pattern (Simplicity 1777) is not a real vintage pattern, but... It's a retro pattern, and it's nice. I'm not sure how much they "copy" an existing old pattern, but in the end I just liked the design of the dress and thought I could give it a try... It was not very expensive, and if I don't like it, I could easily  give it away with no regrets.

I have never sewn one of these retro patterns before, so I'm quite excited how it will work and how the dress will turn out. It will certainly be interesting to compare the fit of vintage patterns with "modern" ones, and to see how the instructions are written etc... I guess home-sewers from the 40s and 50s were more skilled than many sewers of today, which is obvious as the vintage instructions are rather meagre compared to today's instructions.

I even think it could be possible to make a jersey know top after this pattern... 

And then I found this darling, Simplicity 3846, dating from 1952. I fell in love with the rather wide collar that makes the neckline quite interesting. Yes, I guess I have many, many similar patterns in my collection, and I could add a wide pointed collar to one of them easily, but this dress is designed like that and everything is "harmonious" and - well, perfect just as it is. Why change another pattern and run the risk of spoiling it when there is actually a pattern like this one? Hehe, and what a good excuse reason to buy another pattern...

Funny thing is that Becci of Sew Retro Rose just made an outstandingly beautiful dress after the very same pattern - what a coincidence! One of my heroines of vintage sewing has the same pattern as me. (This makes me slightly nervous, as it will take some courage to make my own dress after this pattern...) Have a look at the story behind her dress - it's really a story worth reading and her post is very instructional as well for vintage sewers. Her blog is highly recommendable anyway. 

As I'm getting deeper and deeper in this "hat-making and millinery thing", I bought this pattern booklet as well as it was from the same seller and made it worth the rather expensive shipping costs to Switzerland. I hope to find here some more lovely hat ideas for vintage outfits. And it's even my first hat pattern book that's not a PDF file. It will be nice to have something to hold and look at and feel some vintage spirit. A piece of history. (Yeah-yeah, I know, I'm getting pathetic... But I'm a historian, what can I do? Deformation by education, somehow.)

Aw, this pixie hat, doesn't it look adorable? 

 Well, I hope you can see one or another piece made after these patterns. Currently my limited time is consumed by the kids and the reorganising of my "studio" (sigh, a big name for a tiny room). I have to much materials. Well, not really too much, but a lot.

Hope you like my new old patterns as much as I do!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

In the mood for a snood...

When you are interested in vintage clothing or even sew your own wardrobe after patterns from the 40s or 50s, you sooner or later are confronted with the question how to "dress" your hair. Of course you can wear a hat (more to that subject will follow). But if you prefer a more casual look or something simple, there's the snood. For some people a snood is a kind of loop worn as a scarf, for others it's a kind of net to put your hair in. Depending on which side of the great pond you live.

Snoods were not only worn in the late 30s and in the 40s, but are an accessory that was common even in medieval times.

There are many, many pictures that show women wearing such snoods. As in modern times, it was probably always a question of fashion, when snoods were worn or not, how big they were, combined with other head-dressing items as hats etc. Of course, these snoods always reflected always the status of the women that wore it.

I am sorry I cannot mention sources for these pictures, as I just dragged them to my desktop and forgot to copy the links... :-(

Medieval drawing showing woman with snood / hair net

Modern samples for Renaissance snoods

Snoods were again of fashion in the victorian age respectively during the Civil War era. Some early photo portraits show women with snoods.

And then, of course, one of the most famous women of the Civil War era, Miss Scarlet O'Hara (as a widow) in "Gone With The Wind"...

I think that the snood in those times still was also an accessory to cover the hair and therefore show some modesty and decency. Yes, uncovered hair was also regarded as unseemly or even indecent even in Western cultures - for women, of course.

This scene obviously was NOT decent at all. :-) Aaaw, how much I love this movie... It was shot in 1939, a time when this accessory became a fashionable and practical item again!

During the WW2 era,  many women worked in jobs usually done by men. But men were off to the war, and handling all those heavy machines in sometimes dangerous environments called for a solution to cover the women's hair. So the hair was save from being entangled in machines.

I can imagine that women soon realised that this could also be a nice item to vary their hairstyle. There are snoods in different types, colours, and they also offered a nice solution for "bad hair days".  Your hair always looks neat.

 Snoods could be fixed with a ribbon and bow...

...or only with hair pins for a more simple style.

There are even beaded snoods...

... and some with sequins or rhinestones for evening wear.

As crochet and knitting was much more common for women to make their own clothing and accessories than today, there was a huge variety of patterns for hats and of course for snoods. (If you're interested, you can find a lot of these patterns on Etsy.)

There were also finer versions available like this hair net.

There are also the more sophisticated snoods with hats or with headbands, also in smaller versions for chignons.

The last picture is a modern sample of a chignon snood for bridal wear.

And of course, many today Vintage lovers and pin-ups still wear snoods, matching their outfits! These two are from wonderful Kitten von Mew. Thanks. 

If you would like to make your own snood, there's a simple crochet pattern on Ravelry.

And some more will follow here on my blog - I found some lovely ones I would like to make and show to you!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Girl's and woman's medieval Scottish inspired skirts

Two lassies, two lads...

In my previous post I was writing about the Highland Games we went to see. Hot summer temperatures asked for a light outfit for me and my daughter.

I had some tartan style woven cotton fabric in not too modern colours, which is always hard to find here in Switzerland. However, the quality of the material was no the best choice for this project, as it was very soft and almost like flannel on one side, difficult to cut and a fight to sew. But it was the only fabric I had. As it was quite inexpensive, I thought it would be OK for my free-style sewing project. I didn't have a pattern...

First I made my daughter's skirt. As an inspiration, I had this costume pattern, seen somewhere on the internet. It's McCalls M4090. It is apparently a favorite amongst beginner costume sewers and is a kind of an allrounder for the  Medieval, Renaissance and even later eras.

McCalls M4090

The skirt has six gores, so it would have some fullness, but not too much, as I was not sure how comfortable my girl would feel with a long skirt. I didn't want her to stumble across the skirt's hem. This thought and the detailed sketch of one of the original pattern's view (view B) led me to another idea. I could, instead of adding the ribbons to tie the long skirt up, add a drawstring in the front, so the skirt could be gathered with a better hold, without loose ribbons coming in my daughter's way.

An elastic waistband gathers the width of the skirt and is comfortable to wear. It even allows my girl to grow. Well, the skirt would get shorter, but as a long underskirt can be worn with the plaid skirt, this would still look nice. Even though the elastic waistband was absolutely NOT historically true. What a shame... I guess I'm still too much the historian I was trained to be. :)

For my skirt, I wanted the drawstrings as well, but I changed my pattern for more fullness. Especially the side parts were made much wider. However, I soon realised that it wouldn't look very nice with a waistband gathering the fullness of the skirt. Even with an inserted elastic. I preferred only the side gores to be gathered, thus leaving the middle front and middle back parts flat. (I thought it would be more flattering for someone with a slightly more female figure...) Using no elastic or zipper would even add some authenticity to my skirt. Ah, history!

Somewhere on the internet I have seen Renaissance skirts with eyelets and lacing. Metal eyelets are not  really true to such a type of skirt (again, history!), and I didn't have time to order them. I also knew they wouldn't be suitable for this type of fabric. Or vice-versa. So I made small loops of bias binding matching the tartan colour. I sewed them in the seams between the middle front respectively middle back and the side parts. I have 4 rows of loops, 2 on each side, that are laced up with a string, so I can gather the fulness of the skirt on the side only. 
This is very comfortable, as the fit of the skirt is adjustable. And it's a very nice detail. It's a bit of a fight to put it on, especially when you are in hurry as everybody is waiting for you. (Usually, I'm the last to be ready to leave. I'm a mom, come on, that's the way it is and will be for the next 15 years...)

This is how my skirted turned out. It was finished only 1 hour before we left for the Highland Games event. I wore it with my vintage Advance 6754 blouse I described in my previous post.
I was not sure how good the skirt would look like or how it would fit, but it was surprisingly comfortable to wear and it looked quite decent, especially compared to many commercially made outfits I saw at the event. And again I felt a little bit proud to have an unique garment, not perfect, but truly what I wanted and fitting my figure. I will make also for me an underskirt to wear with the plaid skirt, completing my medieval inspired Scottish Highland dress.

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