In Thrifting, as in Real Life, Sometimes You Win and Sometimes You Lose

While perusing the goods at my fancy shopping place (aka the Goodwill Outlet Center), I’m always on the lookout for vintage table linens.  I keep some for myself, but others I pass along to people I know can use them.  While making a quick pass through the bins last week I spotted the tablecloth above.  At first it looked to be mid 20th century, but something about it looked a little too much like a modern interpretation of a vintage design.

I pulled the cloth out anyway, just to make sure I was not making a mistake.  The first thing I noticed was how thin the fabric was.  Vintage printed cotton and linen tablecloths are usually very hefty in weight.

Then I looked at the hem.  The almost half inch turn under and the very wide stitching had me convinced that this was not vintage.  But then I noticed the real proof.

Oh, well.  I knew it was too good to be true.

The popularity of retro and vintage design has really made it hard to tell what is new and what is old unless you educate yourself as to the differences.  Several weeks ago I posted a photo on Instagram of a display of new hankies that were designed to look old.  After a few washings I’m sure these new hankies will look even older.  And reissues of Vera Neumann designs are identical to those she produced in the 1950s through 1970s.  The difference is in the fabric and the finishing.

When I spotted these Vera napkins at the same fancy shopping spot, I knew they were the real vintage deal.  The linen fabric was soft but sturdy, and the edges were beautifully finished in cotton thread.  It really took the sting out of being fooled by Martha.

16 Comments

Filed under Shopping, Viewpoint

16 responses to “In Thrifting, as in Real Life, Sometimes You Win and Sometimes You Lose

  1. I felt your pain on that tablecloth! More than once I have found what looked like a vintage piece of glass or pottery and then found a “Made in China” sticker 😦 – Karen

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  2. Those Vera napkins are gorgeous! Hope they came home with you.

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  3. Not just linens. I don’t shop at Kohl’s brick & mortar discount department stores (I do occasionally buy “intimates” from them online) so I wasn’t aware that they have hired designers to create clothing lines for them. Been fooled twice — Dana Buchman and Simply Vera [Wang]. Got all excited thinking I had found fab designer items (although the fabric seemed skimpy and the finishing rough). Nope.

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  4. Kathy Todd

    I am big Vera Neumann collector. I get my best finds at Estate Sales. I’m the old lady pulling all the mixed up and disorganized linens from the linen closet. Watch for her lady bug or label to be sure it’s Vera. Best find ever were four sets of twin sheets in her fern pattern, which joined my set of four drape panels of the same pattern.
    See Kohl’s sometimes has kitchen linens and towels which are reprints of her
    patterns.

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  5. So true! Luckily, as you said, you can usually tell with linens and garments by checking the construction and fabric. But Andy–who has been doing this longer than I have–was once fooled by what he thought was a cool graphic 70s t-shirt. The fabric had that soft, thin feel that those poly blend t-shirts get with age, and the tag looked old school. But it was from some current mall store (I can’t remember if it was American Eagle or what); he was a bit crushed when I showed it to him!

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  6. I found some Vera napkins I will send you along with the prints this week-

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  7. I suppose the good thing about stuff being remade is that it keeps people happy who might otherwise only have the original things for a while before getting bored of it and moving on. I don’t have a problem with really authentic repro, it’s the half-hearted stuff that waters down the original design that bugs me. (And the poor quality of a lot of modern fabrics.)

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  8. I feel your pain and struggle. It is painful and annoying to be fooled for even just a second by a contemporary piece.

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  9. Funny that modern retro textiles are flimsier than the vintage versions. By contrast new Fiestaware is heavy and clunky–it makes vintage Fiestaware seem like delicate porcelain!

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