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You may select from the following list of articles by Ellen Werther, who also owns the Hearts Desire Vintage store.
Here are the articles that are available
Last night at the Vienna Grille, our regular Tuesday night Lindy haunt, a dear friend who will remain nameless (ok, it was Carole) brought in some vintage clothing for me and the rest of the gang to see. One piece, a black crepe lace dress, was on--I don't even know if I can write this--a WIRE HANGER. I know some folks are preoccupied about what is happening at the White House.
For my money, we would all do ourselves a favor if we stuck to the important stuff--like how to properly care for our great clothes. Why all this fuss about a stupid hanger....well ok, what happened last night illustrates my point perfectly. The hanger stuck a hole in the lace where the shoulder and sleeve connected. Well that rarely happens you might say....or That only happended because it was lace.... In both cases I say , "Wrong answer, vintage vixen."
Wire hangers--even some wood and plastic hangers--dig into the fabric. If the fabric is worn or fragile to begin with (and whoever heard of vintage not being fragile?) the hanger can (almost certainly will) poke a hole in the material, or cause it to be mishapen. At the shop I do keep most items on hangers; I have to, to show the stuff. But I use those hangers with the notches in them for some of the 30s items and for the 40s and 50s items, and thick padded hangers for the early items and for the wedding gowns.
Some of the early items and the really delicate pieces NEVER find their way onto hangers, no matter how padded. Even at home I keep my special and/or delicate pieces in boxes. If you want your prize to last, I suggest ROLLING, not folding, it in a clean sheet, preferably all cottom or muslin, or a piece of linen. Put the whole bundle in a container that breathes. (Next time maybe we'll discuss those naughty plastic bags!) When you take the garment out, the wrinkles will disappear in a short while. That's all for now, vintage people. Happy shopping!
Ok vintage vixens.....you've spent the past week diligently going thru your closets, ridding yourself of those HORRID wire hangers. You now only use padded hangers, or plastic hangers with notches. And you have--without even being told to do so--thrown out all those naughty plastic bags. (Plastic traps moisture; moisture breeds microbe-thingies; and we all know what microbe-thingies do to clothing--vintage or not. They EAT clothing. They cause RUST stains. THEY make good people do bad things!)
But in going thru your collection, it has occurred to you that you don't really know what you have. The following deals with women's clothing, but I promise, I will cover men's clothing in future columns.
The first thing to note is that for every rule, an exception exists--somewhere. But you can use certain clues to identify periods. One of the best clues is the ZIPPER--or lack thereof.
Zippers were invented in the late 1800s, but women thought they were awful-for clothing at least. Before the 1920s, clothing hooked shut During the 20s, when styles became straight-lined, no closures were used at all--meaning the wearer slipped the dress over her head. (Don't fret, vintage vixens, we will discuss styles in detail in future columns. Now we are focusing only on zippers and other closures) In the late 20s and most of the 30s, styles started becoming more curvaceous; dresses closed with snaps or hook-and-eyes. These were bulky and awkward by today's standards. FINALLY, in the late 30s, zippers came into vogue. These zippers were, in a word, UGLY. They were very bulky. But, they caught on. No pun intended. Early zippers can be identified by the shape of the tab you use to pull the zipper up and down. It is not rectangular, as is today's zippers, but rather odd shaped. And unfortunately, difficult to describe.
During the war (WWII that is) metal was needed for the war effort. So, briefly, dress designers went back to snaps and hook-and-eyes.
When the war ended, zippers returned with a vengance. Now they were sleeker than their predecessors, although tres bulky by today's standards. Up til the mid 50s, zippers (and other closures) were found on the left side of the garment. If any zipper was used in the back, it was small--and high up, near the neck. Long back zippers began to predominate in the mid-to-late 50s. By the late 50s, side zippers had all but disappeared. Also by the late 50s, zippers became more stream-lined, as the technology for making them improved. Plastic zippers--considered the epitome of bad taste, were not used until the 60s. The color of the zipper tended to match the color of the garment.
Note that I use a lot of fudge words. Like "tended" or "all but disappeared" or "generally speaking." That is because, if I am ever subpoenaed by Ken Starr, I want to have some wiggle room. In other words, as I said at the beginning, for every rule, an exception exists--somewhere. And keep in mind when examining your vintage wonders, that someone, somewhere, may have replaced an old zipper with a newer one.
But as with anything else, we have to start somewhere. And this should keep you vixens busy until next week.
If you have a question that can not wait until next week, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I will try to answer all questions.
October 12, 1998
Dear vintage vixens. This vintage goddess is tres tired. What with all the great dancing this week....And NOW she is getting ready for a shopping trip, which leads very nicely into a topic I would just as soon avoid. Cost. A few vintage vixens have asked, how much should it (whatever) cost? how do I know if I am paying the right price? How do I not get ripped off? Oh my goodness gracious. How you do go on!
The short answer is; You are not getting ripped off, vintage vixens, if you get what you are told you are getting....and if you like it. Now the long answer: Pricing is subjective. We are not talking, and I thank my higher power for this!, about Beany Babies which are catalogued and priced according to some contrived secondary market. Yes, you will run across vintage clothing price guides. I say burn them (or use the heavier ones to press flowers) because they are useless. I have seen things priced for $400 which I couldn't sell for $50. And visa versa.
The (other) vintage goddess (and gods) might be looking on you favorably one day and lead you to a great silk, handpainted tie c 1940s priced at $10. Not a hole or a stain to be found. Rejoice. Be greatful. But don't think that if the next time all you see a tie for $35 you are getting ripped off. If you like the tie and you don't have to sell your cat to afford it, buy the damned thing. I would say if the tie is more than $35 you should consult yours truly. But, again, if you like it, I will not dissuade you from buying it. Now, one poor shlub I know (we all know) buys ties that he claims to be $95 ties. How does he KNOW they are $95 ties. The dealer he gets them from marks them that high and then sells them for a few bucks less. This guy (the buyer) is not getting ripped off, because he truly wants to believe he has $95 ties. He needs to believe this. This guy, although he wears lots of vintage, is not a vintage vixen. He is just a shlub. But I digress.
Folks have suggested to me that certain on-line auctions can show real prices. These folks are wrong. What they show is what someone(s) is/are willing to pay for something at a specific period in time. I saw, on one of these auctions, a plastic bag (identical to one I have at the shop) going for more than twice my price. Did I immediately change the price on mine to reflect? Of course not. Someone in auction land really wanted that purse at that time. Go figure. Now you can get ripped off if you think you are buying one thing--a 40s suit, for example--only to find out it is something else entirely. How to avoid this. Keep reading of course! And e-mail me at email@example.com or call 703/644-3004 if you have any questions! Love to all.
October 20, 1998
Dear Vintage Vixens....this Vintage Goddess is tres sad (that's very sad, for those of you who don't speak French). Today a young woman--a girl, really; so young, in fact, I could probably be arrested if I mention her name--called to get directions to the shop. She was coming, she said, to find accessories to go with a great 40s dress she had just bought. When she got to the shop and took her new prize out of the bag, I blurted out "Oh that's from the 50s." As soon as I opened my big Vintage Goddess mouth I was sorry. But too late, the words were out; and my Goddess powers are limited: as hard as I try, I can not put words back in my mouth. Now this would-be vintage vixen was crestfallen. The tag had read "1940s," which is what she wanted it to be. All of a sudden this "great" dress--and it really was VERY cute--didn't seem so great anymore. So badly did she want this dress to be from the 1940s, she was willing to hem it, alter it, RUIN it. I did convinced her to leave the dress alone. And I explained to her that she could still be a Vintage Vixen. She is young, and she will learn. And I hope all you V.V's can learn from her experience. Lesson #1: You can't always trust those darn tags. Which leads to Lesson #2: Know your styles because (see Lesson #1)
In the late teens, after WWI, styles became boyish. Sociologists and other humanists offer some convincing explanations for this, but, well, who cares. Women wore undergarments that literally flattened them out, removing all signs of waists, hips, and (you should forgive me for using such a technical term) boobs. This led into the flapper era and yada yada yada. In the early to mid 30s, someone (I'm guessing it was a man) decided that hips, waists and boobs were not that bad after all. Dresses became a tad more shapely. By the late 30s, waists became waspish. Women wore waist cinchers to achieve the desired effect. Oye! Shoulders were often accented, helping to make the waist look narrower than it really was. Shoulder pads came into vogue in the latter part of the decade. At the beginning of the 30s, hemlines landed at mid calf. By the end of the decade, and into the early 40s, hemlines were higher, but still well below the knee. Hips were emphasized, often with long peplums or flounces, sometimes on one or both sides, sometimes in the front or back.
During WW II, manufacturers and designers, being patriotic souls, contributed to the war effort by trimming fashions (so as to conserve material for uniforms, parachutes, etc.). Skirts became narrower. Hemlines rose--but remained below the kneecap. Waists were still narrow, but not as narrow as before the war. The peplum stayed in vogue, but was shorter and narrower. Shoulder pads got smaller.
After the war, the New Look came into style. Christian Dior's name is most often mentioned in connection with this "New Look" but he is certainly not the only designer who created in this style. With Dior and others, hemlines dropped precipitously. Down to the lower calf or the ankle. Waists tightened. Skirts became much fuller. Except for the shoulders, which were now rounded instead of padded, if one skips the war years, the new fashions can be seen as a logical evolution of the styles in the 30s. Logical, but not conformable. Women cinched those belts to bone-crushing tightness. And they worn panniers (hip pads) to give them a fuller, rounder look.
The New Look evolved into 50s styles...and for that and more you will have to tune in next time, my vintage darlings. As usual, if you have any questions, or if you can't wait for next time, call me at the shop (703) 644-3004 or 1-877-4VINTAGE (get it?) or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. 'Till then, ta ta. Ellen
December 7, 1998
Women's Shoe Sizes and Bow Ties
I couldn't let another day go by without writing to my adoring vixens and wanna be vixens.
Speaking of vixens.....one of my favorites (yes, my dears, I DO have favorites!) is Mercedes Clemmens. She recently taught me something that I would like to share. That is: how to measure women's shoe sizes.
Take a measuring tape and measure inside the shoe from heel to toe. I start with size 7-1/2, my shoe size, which measures 10 inches. For each size add or subtract half an inch. A size 7 measures 9-3/4 inches, a size 8 measures 10-1/4 inches, and so on
The average width is 3 inches at the widest point.
All too often, shoes are mismarked. Or rather, the markings are inconsistent. And Australians, I have learned, use an entirely different measuring system all together; it has something to do with kangaroos, I think.
If you know your foot size, you can always determine if a shoe will fit you. It goes without saying that being vixens, you ALWAYS carry a measuring tape with you whereever you go. If you do not, please don't even dream of calling yourselves vixens, not even wanna-be vixens.
Another vintage vixen, Seth Sanders (yes, a boy CAN be a vixen--but more on that some other time) sent me three URLs that deal with the art of tying bowties. Few men have this essential skill (It is amazing that they can function at all!) I had trouble getting on to the first site, but that could just be because Bill Gates is mad at me. If you have trouble getting on to the site, call Bill personally. Then come into the shop and I will give you a copy of the instructions. I will NOT mail them (I'm a goddess and I don't have to!)
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