Monday, July 6, 2015

How to Date Vintage Clothing

A lot of people ask me how I tell if a piece of clothing is vintage, or how I tell what era it's from. This is something I absolutely understand, because it's something that baffled me in the beginning as well! It can be really difficult to tell since fashion goes through cycles, and often styles from past eras crop up again in a much different decade.  In the 1980s, there was a resurgence of clothing done in 1950s styles, however, while the styles might be the same, there are several simple clues that will tell you whether you've got the genuine thing or a reproduction! There's absolutely nothing wrong with buying a repro, often the condition might be better and if you're wanting to wear it, then it might be perfect for your needs! Personally speaking, instead of buying an authentic Victorian couch, I went with a quality reproduction from the 1980s, so I didn't have to get it reupholstered and because it just made more sense in the grand scheme of things for me.

There are four basic things I look at when deciding whether or not I want to buy a piece while I'm out thrifting: style, fabric, tags and labels, and seams and stitching. 


This is simple and something you're already looking at!  Check out the silhouette of the piece and the details put into the garment, such as pleating, embroidery, etc. Researching silhouettes of the past can be very helpful, but even just watching old movies or present-day television shows with accurate styling such as Mad Men, can be extremely helpful! The 50s had two main silhouettes that are easy to identify: the circle skirt and the wiggle dress. Circle skirts and dresses with circle skirts are what you imagine with a poofy crinoline underneath, they have a lot of fabric to them and are the perfect silhouette for twirling (Any guesses what my favorite activity was as a little girl?).  A wiggle dress fit tighter to the body and the bottom tapered down smaller and made a woman "wiggle" as she walked (no joking), because there wasn't a lot of room for leg movement.  I guess you could think of the recent body-con dress trend, but these dresses were made out of a thicker and less stretchy fabric and were quite elegant, not your standard club-wear! The 60s had a lot of empire waists and shift style dresses, while the 70s was full of quirky details like dagger collars, belled sleeves, and renaissance influences.  Don't expect clothing that looks like the Halloween costume version of the decade (but sometimes, maybe you should)!


Fabric is something you learn by feel. I don't understand what many different types of fabric are, but let me tell you, I can definitely feel the difference!  Fragility is something you should expect from much older pieces, as often they've not had the best care taken of them in the long run.  I find that fabric is often much heavier in vintage clothing, for example the lining for formal dresses is often stiffer. Fabric thickness doesn't always ring true; it depends on the decade, the style, and of course the purpose! The fabric is often just higher quality in older pieces, because clothing was meant to last longer, and it's often why many pieces will still look good today (unlike a Forever21 piece that will have probably disintegrated by even the time 40 years comes around).  One of the biggest exceptions on thicker fabrics, is nightgowns or undergarments.  For example, 50s and 60s nightgowns are often made of nylon that has an almost chiffon-like quality to it.  This stuff is unlike anything I've seen used in present-day and is absolutely glorious stuff. You can single it out almost instantly once you know what it feels like. It's light and airy, but not totally sheer, it's got kind of a gauze-y look that feels like it's soft-focus. Even while looking light and airy, this stuff has staying power. I rarely see damaged pieces unless they're stained.  They don't seem to "pull" like a lot of more modernly used sheer fabrics. If you get a chance to go to a vintage store, the best research is just to really "feel" the pieces, in my opinion, because it's going to help you single out things while thrifting much easier! You will also find that certain fabrics were much more prevalent in different decades, although cotton has been around for a LONG time! Manufactured fabrics, like Nylon and Polysester weren't really used until the 1940s and 1950s. This article by Julie of V for Vintage called "Nylon, a fashion history," is a really fascinating look at the history of man-made fabrics. Once you get the feel of vintage fabric down, you're going to be a lot closer to identifying if it's vintage and when it's from.


Checking out any tags or labels a garment may have is REALLY helpful in dating the piece, and one of my most used methods.  When a piece of clothing comes without labels, because they've been cut out, I get really sad as it is so helpful when learning the history of the garment! Some pieces might come without any labels though because they've been handmade. A piece of advice I've seen over and over again is that if a care label is included with direction on how to wash the garment, then it is not pre-70s, as this is when it became a requirement.  Another very helpful tag to look for is one from the International Ladies Garment Worker Union, otherwise known as the ILGWU.  These come in several types and a very helpful breakdown is included here. One of the best labels on a garment though, in my opinion, is the one telling you which company company/designer the garment was made by! Some companies will automatically give you the sign that it's a modern garment, like Forever21, Charlotte Russe, etc. However other companies we think of as modern might not be just up for current trends,  such as  Abercrombie & Fitch who actually have a long and proud history since 1904! Vanity Fair has also been around for a very long time, with the current company name being around since 1917. So, you ask yourself, "How am I supposed to tell between 1920's Vanity Fair and 2015's Vanity Fair?" Have no fear, while styles of garments change, the company labels in the garments also change! Your modern 2015 Vanity Fair tag looks much different than one in a 1950s nightie or the tag in a pair of tap panties from the 1920s. Vintage Fashion Guild has an incredible resource for your perusal that you can see here, that not only gives you a great blurb about each company but also has photos of many of the tags and labels you'll find and a close approximation for the decade the garment came from as well. Find a label you don't see? Send it to them along with some shots of the garment! This resource was made possible by people like you, and it can be even further expanded with your help. If it's a smaller company, it might not be included in their resource though, but it should be included in TESS, which is the Trademark Electronic Search System, which can tell you when the company was around!


Quite honestly, I'm no expert at identifying seams and stitching in a garment, but keep in mind that a vintage garment might not have the same finishing as a modern garment.  I was personally very confused by one dress I thrifted, because the seams had pinking sheared edges.  My mom's observation was that it must have been handmade.  However, a handmade dress isn't likely to have a label inside, which this one did! It turns out, that pinked seams were commonly used in the 1950s! Another helpful hint is that metal zippers were more often used in older garments. For example, a 50s dress is going to have a metal zipper, whereas the 80s repro is going to have a nylon zipper.

These are just a few quick and dirty tips for identifying and dating vintage that I've learned over the last few years!  I really hope it was informative and helps you find out more about the your vintage clothing!

Here are some other great tips and guides from fellow vintage enthusiasts:

Some more helpful tips: Quick Tips for Dating Vintage by Hollis Jenkins-Evans

A very helpful guide to silhouettes: 20th century fashion eras by Tuppence Ha'Penny Vintage 
How to Date vintage clothing by looking at zips by QueensofVintage

Happy thrifting!


Monday, June 22, 2015

The Catch That Almost Got Away

It seems like great deals always have some kind of crazy story behind them!  One day last week, I woke up extra early as a result of going to sleep super early the night before (I should really do that more often, because I felt super awake and wonderful). For some odd reason, I felt compelled to check up on some of my recurring Craigslist searches. I have been looking for patio furniture FOREVER, it has become one of the most frustrating things to look for to put in my new house! I've been looking for a good 4 months or so. The search was looking pretty standard, expensive, boring, or falling apart. But suddenly it was like a light shining in from the thrifting gods, when I refreshed the page, a newly posted set of spun fiberglass patio furniture popped up! I almost fainted at the price: $50 for 8 pieces!!  My little fingers couldn't zoom around my iphone keyboard fast enough to email the seller!  "I knew I woke up early for a reason today," I told myself! I then looked at the listing again because I just couldn't believe my eyes, and noticed with dread that it had been posted half an hour before I went to sleep early the night before.  A little later that morning I got an email that another person had scheduled to look at it at 4:30pm that afternoon, so I emailed back and told her to please let me know if the other person didn't end up buying it. I basically knew it was a goner at that point though.  My bright and wonderful day was ruined and the patio set of my dreams was gone. I got home that evening at around 4:45pm thinking of the "other woman" with my patio set, and how she was probably planning on flipping it (yes, I can be a bitter person). About 15 minutes later, I got an email notification from the seller, which I immediately assumed was a "sorry, it's gone" letter.  Instead, when I opened it up, it was a "The other buyer never came and won't answer my emails, if you want it you can come check it out tonight" letter. Practically hyperventilating, I called my mom and told her the story quickly, as we contemplated whether it would all fit in her Jeep Wrangler.  It turns out the seller lived in a subdivision right down the road, and she was super nice and so helpful! I think she could tell just how thrilled I was! She had previously bought it a yard sale and just never gotten around to painting it or finding cushions, and then realized it wasn't really a big enough set for her family regardless.  She and her husband helped us load the pieces in my mom's jeep, even thoughtfully wrapping the glass table top in a  moving blanket, and yes, it all fit in one go! The set included a table with a super thick round glass top with four matching chairs as well as a larger and deeper style chair with two matching side-tables. The set had been painted white and is starting to peel, but with some scrubbing and a new coat of paint, they are going to be dynamite! The real question is, do I need cushions? They are pretty comfy without!  And what color should I paint them?  Keep white or go for something more bright like turquoise or lavender? This might be the most difficult decision yet!  One thing I do know is that my screened-in back porch is finally coming along!
When I first got it all home...

I adore the way the fiberglass is woven on them! And the glass table top is SUPER thick!
I'm currently playing around with placement and accessories of course!

Final layout? I think it still needs a few more random pieces to feel right!  But I did get some new patio plants to add to it!

So, you may be asking "what the heck is spun fiberglass?,"A few months ago, I "discovered" this style, and soon after it became a fore-runner in my search terms, except that most people don't know what spun fiberglass is, so they call it a million different things, especially wicker.  From what I've researched, it's a very 50s/60s style popularized by Russell Woodard, but there are new repro sets being made. Instead of being wicker or rattan which can become fairly easily damaged, from what I've read about spun fiberglass, it's nearly indestructible! The beautiful interweaving of fibers is what really attracted me to this technique, and the super light-weight feel of all of the pieces just makes it even better! You also can't beat it for the bohemian but also very midcentury modern feel!

So, how would you refashion these?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dreamy Wishlist

You know how you have those things that are on the top of your thrifty wishlist (or maybe that's just me)? They're the things that you would absolutely die to find, like you'd probably start crying happy tears of joy if you found them while thrifting or estate/yard sale-ing for the right price? I've checked a few off my list over the years and I definitely looked like an insane woman with the biggest smile on my face! I'll be regaling you with my best finds off my wishlist in a future post, because sometimes you do find exactly what you've been looking for forever!

1) First on my wishlist is this 50s/60s Vanity Fair nightgown:
Source: Lucinda's Desire on eBay
 I've seen this in a few different color combos, but this was the first color combo I spied on ebay about a year ago. When I saw it on ebay, I obsessed over it, the ruffled top, the perfect blend of colors in the skirt, and the criss-cross ribbon detail underneath the bust).  I fell for it hard, but not $250 hard.  I've since seen it in various other places  as well as in other colors, but still way out of budget. This is my holy grail vintage piece at the moment. It's funny how you only have to see one and then they continue to taunt you ;)

2) Second, is a 1950s pinwheel table. I have no idea where I would put it, but this is just about the coolest piece of furniture I've ever seen.
Source: Decoratum on

I saw this style of table first on an antique tv show, and my jaw dropped,I just LOVE this table, so creative and fun! On the show they showed how you could arrange them in any number of different ways to create different looks, since they're all individual pieces. When I saw it on the show I had to have it, but I understandably balked when I saw that they were selling for a couple of thousand dollars...

3) Of course, something with a cat would make it onto the list! The Enid Collins Bird Watcher bag has been a favorite for a long time!
Source: Enid Collins
I'd be thrilled to find ANY Enid Collins bag while thrifting, but Bird Watcher is at the top of my list!  I adore the fact that there's a cat and a bird on the bag (two of my favorite things), and the combination of different jewels and textures are hard to beat!

4) A 1950s prom/formal dress
Source: All from Etsy: DearGolden, Stardustvintagestore, bloombird, and capricornvintage

Not a terribly specific thing, but I've wanted one for a very long time! 1950s formal dresses were what first got me into vintage clothing.  The full skirts and feminine details like bows and ruffles just have my heart!  I've been into vintage for a number of years, and I've yet to get lucky and find one! I do have an 80s-does-50s prom dress that's pretty lovely though!

5) A floral embroidered/applique nightgown from the 40s/50s/60s
Source: All from Etsy: Badgirlvintage, BellaBordella, HoardJewelry

 Ever since I came across the first one with the embroidered lilac flowers (already sold when I first saw it), I've really been looking hard for an embroidered nightgown! The combination of the sheer fabric and the way the flowers look like they're floating across bare skin is just so delicate and heavenly! The other two are just as pretty! The middle is by a vintage brand named Laros and I have fallen hard for many of their incredibly delicate designs!

 6) A peacock/fan chair!

Source: Style of Design
I have smaller version of one of these, but with not a big fan-back.  Weirdly enough, I bought it an estate sale at the house that I now own for only a couple of dollars. But I still really want one of the larger peacock-style chairs! You see them all over the place and they're super trendy and have been for awhile.  I see ones on craigslist for fairly good prices every so often, but they're always too far away or already sold. I even saw one in one of my favorite thrift stores, but they wanted $75 for it! I don't know about you, but I'm a bit more thrifty than that, and if I buy it at a thrift store it better not cost that much (I'm really cheap, I know, but getting something for an amazing deal is part of the fun)!

7) Last but not least is a 50s nightgown detail I added to my wishlist today while looking for more photos for this post! I've never seen this detailing before, but I came across 2(!) of them in today's online picture search!
Source: Both from Etsy: IntimateRetreat, SownThreadsClothing

Umm...yes please.  These are perfect! I'm curious what this detailing is called, because I need to add it to my future search terms on ebay for sure! It's almost a kind of piping? In any case, it is incredibly beautiful! The coral gown with the turquoise ribbon is such a perfect color combination that I think I'll be incorporating this color combo into some interior decor!

So, what's on your thrifting wishlist?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Vintage Thrifting Tips

Patience is key. I don't know how many times I've had to explain this to people, but it's the truth.  Don't get discouraged when you go one time and find nothing, because the find of the century is right around the corner! With that being said, there are also a few things to keep in mind that might be holding you back from finding treasure!  Here are some of my favorite tips:

1) Some sections can be a surprise.  

In the beginning,  I used to discount the lingerie section in my local thrift stores as a place for cast-off and dirty underwear, and who the heck wants that? I also assumed that any lingerie I found would be "sexy" lingerie.  You can find both of these things there, but there is also a wealth of other beautiful things! 1950s and 1960s nightgowns are some of the most beautiful pieces of clothing ever made on this Earth. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but believe me and heed my advice, look through the lingerie section. You know where else could have some really amazing things? The kid's section, no lie.  The people sorting through clothing don't necessarily know what they're looking at, if it's small enough looking, it's likely to get put over there.  I have also learned to not ignore the linens section, you can find beautiful hand-knit Afghan blankets, vintage lace tablecloths (that can double as backdrops if you're a photographer as well), and a bevy of other delights.

2) Look thoughtfully and thoroughly

A lot of people seem to think they're just going to walk in the store and see their holy grail right off the bat.  No surprise to the thrifting veterans among us, it takes digging! When going through a rail of clothing, look at every piece.  When you become more accustomed to what vintage clothing feels and looks like, it becomes a lot easier to scan more quickly. If you come across something that looks intriguing, stop to inspect it.  Does it have any labels/tags on the inside? What does the stitching look like? What do the seams look like? Inspecting your own modern clothes is a good way of knowing when something looks "different." I'll be more extensively covering vintage tags and labels in another post. 

3) Does it have a tag on it? Look it up!

I'd say at least 9/10 of you have a smart phone.  Use it! If you find something that you're unsure of and maybe the price makes you second-guess just buying it, give it a quick research!  If it has a tag/label on it, just punch the company into google with quotes around it, such as "Gunne Sax," "Vanity Fair," "Artemis," etc. If you don't get anything relevant back, try ebay or etsy.  Sometimes you're just out of luck, but most often, you'll find it somewhere and it will help you decide whether it's legit vintage or a modern cast-off. 

4) If you like it, put a ring on it.

Don't think, "Oh, I'll just buy this another time," because let me tell you, there's likely not going to be another time; I rarely go back to a thrift store and see the same items. If you want it and you have the money, buy it. If it's not something you end up using, you can always re-sell it! 

5) Old clothes come from...

And last of all, without being too subtle about it, older clothes from older people. You're not as likely to find vintage in a town with a relatively low elderly population.  My absolute favorite thrift stores are usually ones where older clients donate. While I love the occasional goodwill and salvation army trip, I enjoy the smaller thrift stores the most.  Not only are they easier to go through quickly, the employees tend to remember you as well. There's the sweetest elderly lady that work at one of my favorite Hospice stores.  And while she might not "help" me per se, her comments on my thrifty finds are the best. And if you're nice and polite (which I always strive to be), they're much more likely to give you your unmarked purchase for a bargain!

What are your best thrifting tips? 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Weekend Extravaganza

I really think I need to start updating this again! It's been too long, and I'm still thrifting away happily! I'll be blogging photoshoots on my new blog Dream Land here:  But I think I'll be keeping this my vintage & thrifting blog!  A couple of weekends ago, I had a really awesome thrifting weekend! I got some really great stuff for awesome deals, and I can't wait to put it to use!

First off is this glorious metal type-writer table! When my grandmother pointed it out to me and told me what it was, I was instantly intrigued!  Plus, it looks like something you would buy at Urban Outfitters for $100. Best part?  Mine was only $10! I was really surprised to see it priced for that. Mind you, it does have a few small issues.  One of the legs is missing a bolt to keep it firmly attached (easy fix) and it is missing one of the fold-down sides (not so easy of a fix, but it looks fine without). While I'm usually not of the mind to alter vintage or antiques, I think I'll be re-painting this, I'm thinking turquoise or maybe a really pretty soft but bright lavender. I have a couple of ideas for it.  One is to use it in my spare bedroom and actually put my type-writer on it (a novel idea, I know), or two to put it on my back screened-in porch and use it to hold some small potted plants. Hard choice, I know!

When I was looking through the same store at the dishes and such, I spied a pretty little rose-adorned mug.  I thought it had a very distinct Royal Albert look to it. Although I know next to nothing about Royal Albert patterns or shapes, I've been really jonesing after their new Cheeky patterns with the polka dots and roses. So, I was really excited to turn over the cup and see the Royal Albert mark on it!  It's in the pattern Centennial Rose, but I'm having a difficult time figuring out what style of cup it is?  It's not a teacup, but it doesn't look to be in the style of the mugs online in this pattern either. Either way, this cutie was only 50 cents!

We went to several thrift stores and of course at each one I have to comb through the clothing.  My favorite sections to search are usually the lingerie/sleepwear ones, because vintage lingerie & nightgowns are easier to find and they look amazing in photoshoots for a very soft and ethereal look.  I hit the jackpot.  Not only did I find several beautiful nightgowns, I also find two really gorgeous and flirty 70s dresses.

The first dress was this floral one by Mad Rags, you gotta love the tag on it! The floral pattern is really pretty on it, it was my most expensive clothing purchase at $7. This dress screams summer to me, it's got the perfect bohemian vibe to it!

 The other dress is a heavy cream-colored dress with a ruffled top. Somebody's cut all of the tags out of this one, so I can't say for sure what it's made out of, it looks sweet and wispy but it's got quite a bit of weight to it and it's stretchy! It was only $3.  It was from the same store, so the pricing difference was a little odd between the floral one and this one, but I'm glad this one was cheaper! Obviously ruffles were a key theme!

 Among the lingerie purchases was a pink nightgown with blue detailing ($5) in a stretchy nylon with a drawstring top, it even has the original string belt! Unfortunately the previous owner cut the tag out of this one too (which seems to be a theme for the day...)  It's a very well-thought out minimal piece, my first guess was perhaps it was a Vanity Fair piece, but I guess unless I see a similar one online, I'll never know!

I also grabbed a black slip with a scalloped cross-over top ($2), a long lavender gown with lace sleeves ($3), a white 3/4 sleeve nightgown with a sheer lace top ($5), and a blue and purple tie-front peignoir that looks to be hand made  or possibly re-made ($3).  

 I also bought this vintage white slip (which is kinda crazy if you've seen how many I own already), however it was only a $1 and this one has that great weight-y feel that only quality vintage ones have.  Not only is this one lined, it's DOUBLE-LINED. How awesome is that?  You wouldn't want anybody seeing through your slip after-all!  I get so excited about vintage slips though, the amount of detail and design in this one piece is quite wonderful. Unfortunately, somebody's cut the tag out of this one too, it definitely has the feel and design of several of my 1950s Vanity Fair pieces though, so I'm making that educated guess!

I might have went a little overboard that weekend, but I've got some fabulous new things to have some fun with! If it doesn't pour down rain this weekend, I'm hoping to make some photographs with my new lovely finds <3

Happy thrifting!