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Gifts For Vintage Film & Fashion Fans

By , 2 December, 2009, No Comment

Save Your Shoes From Salt This Winter (And Beyond)

By , 23 November, 2009, No Comment

Few things are worse for footwear than the salt — those white salt marks aren’t only ugly, they eat the leather away, drying it, cracking it, and damaging it. But it’s not only the salt put down to de-ice winter sidewalks and roadways that’s the problem. Rex Streno, owner of Ullrich’s Shoe Repair, explains:

Salt doesn’t come from the road. Salt comes from the leather itself. The leather is tanned with salt. When it gets soaking wet, the salt rises to the top of the shoe. That’s how you get the salt stains. The salt is in the lining, and it’s in the leather.

(In that article, Streno gives general tips for shoe care and repair — but again I remind you to please consult a shoe repair person experienced in vintage shoes before you agree to any services.)

Because tanning methods, ancient and modern, used salt, it’s likely your vintage leather shoes were tanned with salt. And ‘weather’ or not you fear winter’s salt or the salt already in your shoes which will be brought out from snow (or rain) — or if your town uses sand for traction rather than salt to melt away ice, your vintage shoes and boots are also at risk as sand grinds it’s way into soles, seams, and uppers — it is time to think about how to protect your shoes.

The best way to protect your footwear is to not wear it outside and tempt the fates and weather systems. Slip off those vintage darlings and slip your feet into some cold weather boots. Not only will you avoid salt damages to your shoes and keep your tootsies warm, but you’ll avoid slipping on wet and/or icy pavement, which puts your safety at risk and increases the potential to damage vintage shoes with scuffs, tears, broken heels, etc.

I know we fashionistas tend to resist real cold weather boots (I myself bought only fancy leather boots with heels for years), but the best way to save our pretty babies is to wear those less than fancy boots.  And since modern made boots can be more properly prepared to brave the elements, restored or even replaced when problems occur, it only makes sense to wear them not only in bad weather but in seasons where bad weather is more likely — or just left around on the ground, ready to trip you up.

The good news is that, via A Tad Too Much Tan For Taupe, I discovered a contest that’s giving away a free pair of Whooga ugg boots every month– enter to win here!

Maybe you can save your vintage shoes for free — and save some money to invest in more vintage shoes *wink*

Fun Antique Handbag History & Facts

By , 20 November, 2009, No Comment

The first means of carrying personal items were pockets (not always one sewn into the clothing, but often a flat envelope pocket was belted beneath the skirt) or chatelaines (items on chains fixed to a belt). Then, in the Regency period, when skirts hung straight to the ground and bulk simply would not do, there was the reticule bag.

The reticule, a small drawstring bag still generally attached to belts as chatelaine, became an “indispensible”. The reticule does in fact get it’s name from the French ridicule, which likely has something to do with left-over sentiments regarding the over-indulgent Regency period in which the bags were born — as well as the fancy embroidery, beading and other adornment of the bags themselves.

Reticule Handbag With Asian Theme Embroidery

Reticule Handbag With Asian Theme Embroidery

These bags were small, as ladies really only carried about their handkerchiefs, calling cards, some smelling salts, etc., makeup was not en vogue — and certainly ever applied outside one’s bedroom.

Antique French Beaded Reticule Bag

Antique French Beaded Reticule Bag

When skirts resumed their width, some continued to use reticule bags, but they were not high fashion and you rarely see them in fashion plates until about 1870.

Though made as early as 1820, it wouldn’t be until the late 1880s that the more modern handbags with frames were in popular use. This is when those fabulous hand beaded bags on metal frames with carrying chains were made; followed not long after by the incredible slinky metal mesh handbags.

Women typically made their own bags as well as for friends and family, but quickly making beaded purses became a respectable way for a lady to make money.

As a cottage industry in the United States, women would make the purses at home — mindful to place a single white bead in a particular area of each bog (on both sides), so that the store owner could identify the purse maker and so properly pay her the commission she was due.

Single White Bead On Antique Beaded Handbag

Single White Bead On Antique Beaded Handbag

From Somewhere In Time:

If you don’t find a white bead in a beaded bag, you can assume that either the bag was made solely for the use and enjoyment of its’ maker, or that the bag is from a European country, where even if the bag was made for the tourist market, there was another type of arrangement, perhaps outright purchase, between the beader and the store which sold it.

High Five Friday: Vintage Fashion & Beauty Edition

By , 20 November, 2009, No Comment

High-Five Fridays are easy ways to acknowledge cool articles you’ve read during the week, or a way to give a high-five to a blog or blogger you just like in general by giving them a link — and some readers, we hope! Here are mine for this week:

1 One of Klaudia’s Shoe Fits is finding boots like Brigitte Bardot wore in 1968’s Shalako.

2 At GadaboutMedia, Deanna looks at the shades of history in cosmetic powder colors.

3 At Collectors’ Quest, Val Ubell wishes she had saved her clothing because it’s vintage now — and I agree! (Not only do I wish I had saved more of my own clothing for the return of the 80s, but if Val had saved her own there would be more to buy!)

4 & 5 At Kitsch Slapped, Deanna (how does she write it all?!) shows us vintage cosmetic products used to hide bare legs during wartime rationing — and, while researching vintage mesh purses, she discovered an unusual bit of film history.

Is Rebecca Minkoff A Big Fat Liar? (And Other Fashion Designer & Magazine Sins)

By , 19 November, 2009, No Comment

I told you I was sick and stuck looking at a bunch of magazines… If anyone thought that looking at the marked pages later would temper my responses, they were wrong! I am trying to move past the rants (and the 1980s) as quickly as possible, but here’s an upsetting thing from November’s Marie Claire that I could not ignore:


Rebecca Minkoff’s leather bracelets. Inspired by the strap on her handbags. Biker meets Barneys.

Is Rebecca Minkoff a big fat liar? A picture’s worth a thousand words — so here’s a picture of two of my own leather bracelets that I still saved from my days and nights in the 80’s:


I’m not going to say that these leather bracelets are a pure invention of the 80’s; they owe inspiration to the 60’s — and heaven knows who and where before that. Somethings go far so back, it’s nearly impossible to give proper credit. But to intimate that a current designer is responsible for or invented a look is maddening.

Marie Claire staff may be as young as Minkoff, and so maybe not one of them wore one of these ‘back in the day’, but shouldn’t someone recall seeing these before? They were everywhere in the 1980’s. If they forgot that mom, the cool babysitter, etc., wore them, then how about seeing them in glossy fashion magazines? Maybe even in their own publication, say September, 2008 — or the competition they peruse. Everyone’s talking about the 80’s (even though they might be doing poor jobs of matching looks), so how on earth does anyone miss these facts. (Period, cuz that’s rhetorical.)

OK, so maybe calling Minkoff a liar is a bit much… But let’s not act like she — or any of the plethora of studded and adorned leather bracelet designers out now — were inspired void of any knowledge of these accessories, of the styles and designs which came before them.

Designers who replicate the past and do not acknowledge such inspiration annoy me to no end; magazines who pander & promote such inaccuracies will get smacked in the nose by their own rolled-up glossy-page publications– just like a dog who pees on the carpet.

Remembering The 1980s Fashions In Valley Girl

By , 19 November, 2009, No Comment

I had spotted this fashion shopping spread in that Elle‘s Women In Hollywood Issue, and the minute I saw it I was confused.


“Break out the jelly platforms, biker shorts, neon bouclé and juicy bangles for a totally rad ensemble,” it says — for Valley Girl?! That’s not the way I remembered the fashions in the film. So, jumping the que in our NetFlix account, I got Valley Girl (1983) to refresh my memory.

Valley Girl stars Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman in the ultimate 80’s Romeo and Juliet story — with a much better ending, as no one dies. *wink* It has sat in my memory all these years as a great film in terms of capturing and expressing the look and feel of the times presented — not just the decade, but those teen years — projecting it all onto a screen then, and preserving it for us now. (I’m not the only one who feels this way either.)

To be honest, Kleph has an excellent review of the film; I found it while Googling for photos and insist that you read it because I probably couldn’t say it better or add anything, really. Plus, this post is about other things about the film: the fashions in the film. So let’s get to it.

Like I said, I could have been wrong recalling the fashions in the film, so I watched it again to be sure… But I wasn’t wrong. Valley Girl is not full of jelly & neon.

Valley Girls Mall Shopping

Valley Girls Mall Shopping

This was a period of bright colors, but not neon; think hot pink, turquoise, and yellow, not day-glo colors. The 80’s also had a strong punk influence — black, red, and more black.

Teen House Party In Valley Girl

Teen House Party In Valley Girl

Overall, bright solids, stripes and blocks of color were predominant. Collars were ‘up’. Patterns and stripes were bold, clear & crisp, not the colorful cluttered-on-black zippered things Elle shows.


Julie and Randy in the Mall Food Court

And Julie also wore quite a bit of the that romantic lacy look that I can best describe as Gunne Sax — not just in her prom dress (or the prom dresses of others), but lacy tops with long sleeves with plenty of buttons.

Lace Blouse In Valley Girl

Lace Blouse In Valley Girl

Julie doesn’t just wear these clothes for the cinematic conveyance of her difference, her ties to her hippie parents, her romantic side, or her nervousness dressing for a party (when her friend has to help her button those buttons on her sleeves); these fashions were strong in the 80’s. I owned and wore several of these sorts of blouses — and my prom dresses were all Gunne Sax.

Posing For Prom Pictures In Valley Girl

Posing For Prom Pictures In Valley Girl

I didn’t live in Southern California, but my friends and I dressed a lot like this (the ‘trickle to the heartland’ theory of fashion); one of the reasons that this movie spoke to us all then — and is fondly remembered now.

That Elle might get the fashions wrong is sad… It’s not just that I want the staff to be old enough to remember Valley Girl (though that would be nice!), fashion was a huge part of the film. As Kleph wrote:

That’s partly because Coolidge understood the distinction was a fallacy to begin with. The valley kids define themselves through what they buy while the Hollywood kids do it by what they don’t – but they still show their allegiances via what they wear. And it’s important that, in Valley Girl, when Julie and Randy first see each other – first become interested in each other – it’s at the beach when they are not in the usual garb of their tribes. It’s also no accident the film starts inside a mall but ends outside it.

Valley Girl is an iconic film which preserves fashions of the time as much as it uses them for a point, yet in pushing the return of such retro 80s fashions, Elle gets it all wrong. For the fashion mag to get the fashions so wrong isn’t ironic; it’s a tragedy.

Josie Cotton Performing In Valley Girl

Josie Cotton Performing In Valley Girl

When Film & Fashion Really Meshes!

By , 16 November, 2009, 1 Comment

These vintage Whiting & Davis mesh bags with the faces of screen legends enameled on them are really the ultimate in film meeting fashion!

These and other stunning pieces up for auction at Collect.com (starting November 23, 2009 through December 12, 2009), rare vintage mesh bags from the LaMothe Collection; found via Deanna’s Collectors’ Quest post on vintage Mandalian mesh bags.

Whiting & Davis Charlie Chaplin Portrait Mesh Purse

Whiting & Davis Charlie Chaplin Portrait Mesh Purse

Whiting & Davis Enameled Mesh Clark Gable Purse

Whiting & Davis Enameled Mesh Clark Gable Purse

How To Determine Vintage Stocking Size

By , 13 November, 2009, No Comment

Vintage stockings, original non-stretching nylon stockings, are sold by two measurements: foot size and leg length. But what if the stocking’s size markings, usually printed on the stocking welt (the top, where you attach the garters), aren’t legible or missing entirely? Well then you are going to have to measure the stockings themselves to determine their size.

Before we begin, please note the following:

In this case, “vintage stockings” refers to non-stretch nylon stockings which were made mainly from the 1940s through the 1960s, when Lycra and other stretch hosiery entered the market. Though 100% nylon stockings continued to be made, and its form of sizing continued to be used by some brands, the stretch hose limited the range of sizing to today’s more familiar ‘Small’, ‘Medium’, ‘Tall’ and ‘Queen’ — and the related A, B, C or D. (The extra give in these stretchier stockings and pantyhose literally allowed manufacturers to ‘lump’ women into fewer sizes, reducing cost and, we vintage fans feel, decreasing a more specific fit.)

Then, as today, there are variations in sizing by stocking brand — and sometimes within the same brand. The top brand names tend to be more consistent in their sizing (Hanes & Berkshire, for example, tend to be incredibly consistent), but even specific brand consistency may vary greatly from the sizing of other brands (stockings by Alberts, including the sub-brand of Araline, for example, measure an extra half inch in the foot and an extra inch longer in length too).

Since worn stockings will be a little larger (even freshly laundered ones), than unworn stockings, these sizing measurements work for unworn vintage stockings.

However generalized these sizing measurement tips are, you can get a pretty good idea of fit — especially if you compare the measurements to the measurements of your favorite fitting pair of worn vintage stockings!

How To Find The Size Of Vintage Stockings

In order to best measure the stocking, I recommend beginning by securing a tape measure to a table top, taping it down just like at the counters in fabric departments, so that you have both hands free to handle the stocking.

If you don’t have a measuring tape, get one; they’re cheap and you’ll use them over and over again. (I suggest you carry a tape measure with you when you visit estate sales, thrift stores, flea markets, etc. too — you can always ask for a literal hand with measuring!) Or, you can tape paper the length of the table, mark off your dimensions, and measure them later.

Once you have the measuring tape securely in place, you’re ready to get your measures. Since true stocking size is always determined by the foot measurement, we’ll begin there.

The industry standard for measuring the foot of a stocking is to measure from the tip of the toe to mid heel, however, most people are more comfortable defining the end of the heel rather than making a guesstimate of the middle of the heel, so I’ll be discussing measurements from the tip of the toe to the end of the heel. That said, that’s what you do.

Place the tip of the stocking toe at the top of your measuring tape and, holding it firmly in place, extend the stocking foot taut along the length of the tape measure. As you extend the stocking’s foot, keep it pulled taut — not stretched; apply just enough tension to remove the folds and wrinkles in the nylon. Measure the distance between the tip of the stocking’s toe to the end of the heel (the darker, reinforced area).

Just as with shoe sizes, a measurement of 10 inches does not equal a size 10 stocking — well, not quite, anyway. If your measurement was taken from the tip of the toe to mid-heel, then the number of inches does indeed give you the stocking’s foot size. (So if you’re comfortable with assessing the middle of a stocking’s heel, go for it!) But if you’ve measured the stocking from the tip of the toe to the end of the heel it’s still easy to get the size: subtract either ½ or ¾ an inch to obtain the true stocking size.

Which one? If your stocking is smaller, measures 9 ½ inches or less, subtract half an inch; if your stocking is larger, measures 10 inches or more, subtract ¾ inches. (Larger stockings have a larger heel reinforcement.)

To get stocking length, measure from the bottom of the heel to the top of the welt, using the tips above. The measurement you get is the size; no math necessary.



8 1/2 28 1/2 29 31 33
9 29 30 1/2 32 33
9 1/2 29 1/2 31 33 35 37
10 30 32 34 36 38
10 1/2 31 32 1/2 34 1/2 36 1/2 39
11 33 35 37 39
11 1/2 33 1/2 35 1/2 37 1/2 40
12 40
13 40

What You Need To Know About Vintage Full Fashioned Stockings

By , 12 November, 2009, 16 Comments

After getting the following email from Crystal, I decided it was time to do another primer on buying and wearing vintage:

Hi Jaynie,

I have a question… After hearing that “vintage full fashioned stockings are the best!” I bought several pairs on eBay. They feel lovely, but after a few hours of sitting at work I find they are bagging around the knees and wrinkling at the ankles… Is that normal? Am I getting the wrong kind — too cheap of ones? Or am I buying the wrong size?

Thirteen Points To Know About Vintage Fully Fashioned Stockings

#1 ‘Full Fashioned’ or ‘Fully Fashioned’ stockings are easily recognized by the sexy seam that travels the length of the stocking and the famous ‘keyhole’ or ‘finishing loop’ at the back of the stocking welt (the top portion of the stocking, made with a heavier gauge of nylon which is doubled over and finished closed, were the garters are attached).

Vintage 'Star' Full Fashioned Seamed Stockings With Key Holes

Vintage 'Star' Full Fashioned Seamed Stockings With Key Holes

#2 Full Fashioned stockings are also called ‘flat knit’ stockings because they were knitted flat and shaped to fit the leg; flared at the thigh, and curved to fit the calf.

#3 This ‘knit to fit’ shaping was done by decreasing the number of stitches towards the ankle, dropping stitches much like hand knitting. This cast off stitching gives the stockings ‘fashioning marks’ — the little V’s on the back near the seams — and so explains their name.

#4 The stockings are then joined at the back on a looping machine by hand, creating the seam up the back. This is how black, contrasting, or other color nylon seams can be made.

Vintage Glamour Girl Fully Fashioned Stockings Ad

Vintage Glamour Girl Fully Fashioned Stockings Ad

#5 Generally speaking, the ‘knit to fit’ shape of a vintage Full Fashioned stocking favors a long slender leg; lengths are available.

#6 For those who have shall we say a curvier or more difficult leg proportion, look for ‘outsize’ vintage stockings which were made wider for larger legs. Fewer outsize stockings were made, which makes them more difficult to find (and pricier when you do find them); but the better proportion makes for a better fit and so they are worth the extra investment.

#7 Because vintage Full Fashioned stockings are 100% nylon and do not contain Lycra or stretch spandex, they will generally wrinkle (and even sag a bit at the knees) after a few hours of wear, requiring some adjustment in the ladies’ room. (The good news is that perhaps your face could use a bit more powder, your lips more color?)

Tiana Hunter Wearing Black Stockings

Tiana Hunter Wearing Black Stockings

(I think we can all agree there’s not a thing wrong with the lovely Tiana Hunter‘s legs, yet her stockings have that — to be expected — bit of wrinkle at her ankle. So don’t take it personally; nylon is not Lycra.)

#8 Once the stockings stretch, they’re stretched — until you wash them. Washing them frequently not only helps them regain their original shaping, but prevents damages. (Even the smallest grains of sweat & dirt can do a great deal of damage to such fine nylon yarn.)

#9 I recommend that you always wash hosiery by hand. Don’t even be tempted to trust those hosiery bags for vintage full fashioned stockings.

When it comes to fit, some ladies also consider the denier and/or gauge of the stocking:

#10 Denier an Italian unit of measure for the density of knitting yarn — it’s mathy, and really all you need to know is the basic principals here: The lighter the thread (the less number of deniers) the finer the weave; stockings knitted with a higher denier tend to be less sheer but more durable. So a 15 denier (15d) yarn is twice as fine and sheer as 30 denier (30d) yarn. And some women swear that a 30d fully fashioned stocking resists stretching (wrinkling) twice as well as a 15d stocking. Also note that the seams usually are less visible on low denier stockings.

#11 Gauge is an English unit of measure, equally mathy, which measures the number of needles in a 38-millimeter section of a knitting bed, so a 60 gauge (60g) knitting machine has 60 needles to a 38-mm section. What you need to remember here is that the more needles you have in a section (the larger the gauge number), the finer the needles are — and the tighter the weave will be. The two most common gauges of Fully Fashioned stockings were 51g and 60g; the 60g stocking will have a have smoother, denser look (and feel) — and the tighter weave will help the stocking keep its shape longer.

Vintage Taylor-Woods Ad Explaining Nylon Denier & Gauge

Vintage Taylor-Woods Ad Explaining Nylon Denier & Gauge

#12 If all else fails, check your size. Vintage stockings are sized differently than modern ones; Stocking Showcase has great sizing charts.

#13 When buying vintage stockings, check the stocking welt itself for the stocking size rather than trusting just the box. The box may be easier to read (much easier than the previously worn & washed stocking welt), but the box may no longer contain its original contents. Even when the stockings appear never to have been worn or are “new old store stock,” what lies inside may be quite different — sometimes the pairs don’t even match! So look them over carefully or ask the seller to check for you.

Come back soon for more on buying vintage stockings!

More Thursday Thirteen participants can be found here.

Personal Drama In A Street Car Named Desire

By , 9 November, 2009, No Comment

I’ve been meaning to talk about A Street Car Named Desire (1951) for quite some time… I’ve put it off because it’s a heady film, connected to some pretty personal things for me and I’ve never been quite sure how to separate those things from a ‘film review.’ Or end up with a post too long for anyone to bother to read. *wink* But since this week’s Monday Movie Meme is about movies that have changed your life or your behaviors/beliefs, I thought now’s the time to try…

Though I am speaking personally, about changes, and not giving a real review of the movie, I will clarify and say that I’m speaking of Elia Kazan’s film version, starring, among others, Vivien Leigh (as Blanche DuBois), Marlon Brando (Stanley Kowalski), Kim Hunter (Stella Kowalski, Stanley’s wife and Blanche’s sister), and Karl Malden (Harold ‘Mitch’ Mitchell, a suitor of Blanche’s). It’s the only version I’ve seen, and the only one I wish to — because it is perfection.

Also, if you have not seen the film and do not wish to have my story color your viewing of it, please, stop reading now!

There are three points that must be made and understood before I can tell you about the effects of the film. One is that I’m a survivor of abusive relationships, including date rape and physical violence; the second is that my husband is, among other things, a kind, sensitive, and intelligent man who became my husband after I survived such horrible things; and the third, as I’ve mentioned, hubby was a theatre major.

These things matter; they are all tangled-up in this mess.

It was only a few years into our being married. I had previously seen the film, when I spotted it on TCM’s lineup and asked hubby to watch it with me. He resisted, for, as it turns out, he had some sort of college class discussion on the play and felt he’d floundered through it — he’d felt there was ambiguity between reality & fantasy in this film, and wasn’t able to defend his position on such plays of the ‘modern theatre genre’ which seem to force audiences to conjure questions and evolve, rather than watch story and its characters evolve.

This discomfort of his would surprise me greatly for I found nothing ambiguous in the film. And when our discussion fell to the subject of hubby using the rape scene as an example of fantasy, of not having occurred but a figment or excuse of Blanche’s, I was stupefied.

Street Car Names Desire

Street Car Names Desire

Naturally, as a survivor of acquaintance rape, I would find no ambiguity in that scene — nor anything but pain in those which followed, when Blanche is not believed.

Finding my husband questioning even a fictional film victim was difficult. Yet defending or debating my stance that I was ‘right’ didn’t feel right when hubby seemed so vulnerable to those past fears and failings of his own… Should I remain silent, out of deference to his feelings, or give voice to my own feelings and needs?

I opted to remain silent and watch the film, hoping that he would see something in this film version which would remove any doubt that Blanche’s rape was film-reel real.

But it didn’t.

One one hand, my silence had worked; post viewing, hubby felt comfortable enough to assert his beliefs that Blanche had imagined, if not fantasized, the rape and used its cry in an attempt to manipulate her sister.

On the other hand, silence didn’t work for me; it rarely does for victims.

I felt the heat of anger rise and knew I’d need to confront the issue for myself. But I didn’t want to be confrontational with my husband. Plus, didn’t he, the theatre major know more than I? I’m a simple movie lover — who admittedly watches a lot of film purely for the fashions and vintage style, yet; what do I know? …Maybe I’ve got Street Car all wrong?

In the end, I was brave. I forced myself to voice my opinions, thus not cowering as the silenced victim nor playing the ‘intimidated ‘girl’ to his ‘educated man.’ But I also didn’t need to be right. For this is a movie; named as much, in my opinion for it’s ability to move emotions and project passions as for the moving images projected on the screen. And that means no two viewers will — or even need to — be moved the same way.

A Street Car Named Desire remains one of my favorite films. I don’t think he particularly shares my sentiments; but our relationship has more than survived — it thrives because we can share our feelings, our individual vulnerabilities, even when we disagree.