Category Archives: I Didn’t Buy…

Shopping with the Vintage Traveler: Atlanta

As any good trip does, my recent visit to Atlanta involved a bit of shopping for old stuff. Just as a good exhibition is a learning experience, so is a bit of browsing antique markets.  So here’s a bit of what I saw, but did not buy.

I’m not too sure about the practicality of a ceramic flask, but I thought the one above was cute, even if the Scottie was a bit pudgy.

I first did a bit of looking in Chamblee, a town that has been overtaken by the urban sprawl of Atlanta. For years the place has marketed itself as a destination for vintage and antique shoppers, and there are still several very good antique stores there. However, I was really dismayed to find two of my old favorites gone, one a victim of gentrification. What used to be an Aladdin’s cave of treasures is now a cafe and a “design center”.  Still, there was more than enough to spend several hours of looking.

You would think that the bathing cap above would have gone into my shopping cart, but I’m afraid it was a victim of age and deterioration. The rubber was brittle and there were bald spots. A real shame, as this one was really great.

I really blew this one. I was so bummed about the store across the street being gone that I had a hard time concentrating on the good stuff. This is just a great pin, with the DC-3 plane and the two parachutes. What was I thinking?

This was rather cute, and I do love the nautical look, but I had to pass due to the amateurish appearance of the design.

Nothing amateurish about this coat, though. The first tip-off that this was a Bonnie Cashin design was her signature stripe used for the lining. Then there are the turn-lock closures, and the leather trim, and it all adds up.

That stripe is often found in Cashin’s work for Coach. This coat was labeled “A Bonnie Cashin, Sills and Co.”

Click to enlarge.

Besides Chamblee, I was able to fit in a quick trip to the monthly Scott Antiques Market. Scott’s has never been my favorite market, as it tends to cater to the decorator rather than the collector. But there are some very good vendors there, and I have found a few treasures over the years. I wasn’t in the market for a handbag, but this seller also had hankies, including a terrific Tammis Keefe that I did buy.

For those of you who were inspired by the Met gala this year, one seller has you covered when it comes to Christian iconography.

Here’s help for the fashion indecisive in the form of a game.

All that was left of this salesman’s kit was the suitcase.

Most of Scott’s is held inside, but there are also spaces for people to set up outdoors. The seller uttered those magic words, “Feel free to dig.” Unfortunately, most of the stuff was from the 1980s and later.

There were vintage bargains to be had. This dress was an incredible $48.

These were framed fashion sketches made for Laura Ashley in 1970. They were really fantastic, and had price tags to match.

The vintage traveler in me wanted these LV suitcases.

I am a real sucker for crazy quilts, and this is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. That spider is the absolute best!

And here is part of the reason I don’t make much of an effort to go to the Scott Market more than every three or four years. The market opens at 9 am, but for the first hour many of the vendors are still not open. And this was on the second day of the show. For someone like me who needs to get on the road to home, this is a big inconvenience. Sellers! If you are at a show to sell, you need to be there so I can your stuff.

 

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Liberty Antiques Festival – Spring 2018

It’s officially flea market season. This weekend was one of my favorites – the Liberty Antiques Festival. It never disappoints and this show was especially good. We have been in a rainy pattern here in the Southeast, and often that means dealers leave the textiles at home, but for some reason they all took the chance on the weather. As it turned out, both days of the show were beautiful, if a little on the cool side.

Despite the presence of clothing, I didn’t find anything I needed for my collection, but I did find shoes and skates and a great little pair of “ski-skates”. So, here’s what I saw that was interesting to me, but I didn’t (for the most part) buy.

I loved this, and could see how handy it would be for sorting all my embroidery thread, but where would I put it?

There was a new dealer who had the most fantastic photos. The ones above and below were all in a group from a news service, and were of the rich and famous. Many, like this one, were identified:

The engagement was announced yesterday of Lady de Clifford and Mr. Arthur Stock, of Glenapp Castle, Ballentrae, Ayrshire. Our photo shows Lady de Clifford with Mr. Arthur Stock at Murren in Switzerland.

This group of photos was a real treasure, and needed to be kept together, so there was no way I could afford the thirty-odd photos that were priced at $20 each. A shame.

This is a chromolithograph of the sort that people collected for their scrapbooks. So pretty, but again common sense whispered that the price was too much.

At first glance this looks like an ordinary shirt. But look at the $2 bill and the spoons, and you can see that this is a miniature salesman’s sample.

Flea market rule #14: Every single box of textiles much be thoroughly examined for hidden treasure.

Without a doubt, this is the best way to display vintage hankies I’ve ever seen. Most dealers just pile them in a little box and one has to stand and flip through the entire stack. This way potential buyers can see at a glance if this seller has any hankies of interest.

What about the Nunn-Bush salesman’s case? And it was surprisingly well-made, with nice leather trim.

I may have shown this little boy’s middy and knickers set before, as I’m pretty sure I had seen it previously. I don’t usually buy children’s clothing, but this was a temptation, as it shows a step in the progression of girls and young woman wearing middys for sports.

This scarf was pretty amazing.

I see a lot of overshot coverlets at shows like this one, but rarely one with light blue and red. Very pretty!

This handbag was tiny and made from cardboard. But look at that Scottie.

Here’s proof that I live on the edge. I took this photo to show in this post, but the more I thought about Peter’s Ski Skates, the more I wondered why I didn’t buy them. I even posted a photo on Instagram, hoping that would be enough, but all the enablers over there told me I should have bought them. By that time I realized a smarter somebody had probably scooped them up, but I got back to the seller’s booth and they were still there. He even gave me a generous discount.

Meet Rosco. Unfortunately, he was not for sale.

The show was a bit smaller than last fall’s show, and two of my favorite sellers were not there. Still, I found some fantastic things for my collections, which I’ll be showing off in the coming days.

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I Didn’t Buy… Two 1940s Sewing Pattern Counter Books

I spent Friday at the Liberty Antiques Festival, a show that always seems to produce some amazing things for my collection and “archive”. Fashion books are very high on my radar, and I was feeling especially lucky since finding a 1934 Butterick counter book the evening before at one of my favorite vintage stores, Design Archives. But something about this one looked off.

I moved it and when I did I saw there was another one below it, and I also realized the problem. These two books were much too fat. Realization set in, as I’d seen this unfortunate phenomenon before. These were used as scrapbooks.

Sure enough, these two books contained page after page of miscellaneous newspaper photos from the 1940s. Someone spent a lot of time with the scissors and the paste.

I have nothing at all against scrapbooks. So many of them are charming relics of a person’s life, or a stage in it. That type of scrapbook is an important historical document. But a good look through these revealed nothing about the person who collected all these clippings. It seems to be just a visual compilation of the news of the day, both local and national.

The question came up when I posted these photos on Instagram as to what happens to out of date counter books. I can remember when I was in high school in the 1970s that the local Belk’s store would save them for the home ec classes. I’ve also seen people’s names written across the cover , claiming them when a newer book replaced it. There was one such 1952 counter book in my husband’s grandmother’s stuff.

To a kid in the 1930s and 1940s when resources were tight, getting one of these books must have seemed like a real prize. Can you imagine how many of these books ended being cut up for paper dolls? And this is not the first time I’m seen them used as scrapbooks. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the Simplicity one is the exact same one I spotted in 2008! The scars and scratches all match up.

I did have a moment of insanity when it occurred to me that I might be able to somehow clean these up using a miracle glue remover. But then I thought about how many hours such a project would take. So I left them behind, as I had done nine years ago.

 

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What I Didn’t Buy – Chopped Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Dress

We laughingly call the Goodwill Clearance Center, “The Dig” for reasons that would be obvious if you have ever visited one of these centers.  Everything is piled high in huge bins, and one must dig for the treasure.  Sometimes I want to call the place “The Heartbreak” as was the instance this week when I pulled the above garment from a pile of Forever 21 and Kathie Lee.

This was a dress from Rive Gauche, which was Yves Saint Laurent’s boutique ready-to-wear line.  I say was a dress because someone had chopped off the bottom one third and left the unfinished “up-cycling” project to be put in their donate pile.  I was attracted to the fine wool plaid and was pleased to see the label.

I will say straight out that I am not an expert, or even a novice when it comes to knowing the various lines that Saint Laurent designed over his long career.  Something about the braid and the brass buttons were slightly reminiscent of his famous 1976 Russian Ballet collection, but the plaid was not.  Because of the damage, I decided not to buy the poor mutilated thing, but I was intrigued and wanted to find out more about how Saint Laurent developed his ready-to-wear collections as compared to his couture.

When it comes to a designer who does both couture and ready-to-wear, the relationship is often thought to be one of the couture being developed first, and then the next season’s ready-to-wear is often based on the ideas of the couture.  I had that in mind when looking at this piece.  But after reading about how Saint Laurent actually worked, I realized that he did it the other way around.  Rive Gauche was like an experimental workshop, and the clothes made for the boutique were often developed into the grand ideas of the couture.

Could some of the ideas seen on this dress gone on to be further developed as the Russian collection?  I’m sure I cannot say, but it points out a valuable lesson.  A garment does not have to be couture to be significant.  I think that was shown very well in the recent Museum at FIT exhibition, Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the ’70s where many of the garments on display were actually Rive Gauche, and not Yves Saint Laurent couture.

I like this photo because it shows the reverse side of the fabric.  Even though Rive Gauche was ready-to-wear, it was high-end and expensive.  This was a very nice, finely woven wool plaid.

I have said this before, but to to remind all the DIYers out there:  Think before you cut.

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What I Didn’t Buy – Ties + Denim = Disaster Skirt

When shopping at the Goodwill Outlet bins, I never know what I’m going to find.  For each found treasure, there are probably one thousand pieces of drek.  I’ve gotten really good at filtering out the Forever 21 and the Kathy Lee junk, but sometimes a garment will surface that makes me stop and think.  This is such a piece.

I posted this photo on Instagram, and got some really interesting comments.  One person asked if it mattered when the ties were so ugly.  Another pointed out that it could be the work of a student, as some schools’ textiles programs assign a tie reworking project.

My objection to this skirt has nothing to do with the ugliness of the ties, though there are some ugly ties there.  I’m not concerned with the haphazard construction.  And at this point in time, I can’t see that there would be much of a market for these late 1970s and early 80s ties.  What really bothered me was that I’m very certain that 7/8 of each of the sixteen ties and 3/4 of the denim from the skirt ended up in the trash, all for a skirt that was probably never worn.

A lot has been written lately about how much textile waste each person living in developed countries generates in a year.  I’ve read everything from sixty to seventy-five pounds of waste per person.  At that rate we will soon be buried in fiber.

There is no way that the Goodwill in my area can sell in their retail stores all the stuff that is donated.  Much of it never even reaches the store, as items thought to be unsalable go straight into the bins.  Items that have been on the sales floor for over a period of time are culled and put into the bins.  Even after spending hours in a bin that is sorted through by dozens of eager shoppers, there is a lot of textile items that are left unsold. At that point the leftovers are baled and sold to a rag house.

There is a great article in The New Republic about how these raggers work.  Basically, cloth items are sorted into three groups:  the really good stuff and vintage which is sorted and sold to vintage and other resale shops, the okay stuff which is sent to developing countries, and the stuff that is so bad that all they can to is sell it to be made into rags, felt, and other reprocessed cloth.

The article mentions that there are people in these rag houses who are trained to spot vintage clothing.  I’ve read elsewhere that some of these companies actually let vintage shop owners come in and sort through.  I do hope that all the great things that I see, but can’t justify buying, end up in a nice vintage store somewhere.

There is never a shortage of neckties in thrift stores, and my Goodwill is no exception.  I imagine that ninety percent of the ones that go through that place end up at the rag house.  But at least those ties will be recycled into rags or whatever for industrial use, and will not land in a landfill somewhere like the unused portion of the skirt ties most likely did.

But what about the project itself?  Is there any hope for the dated and seemingly ugly tie?  What can be made with all the millions of out of style neckties?

Actually, I think there is some hope for a similar project.  In this case, not only was the choice of ties unfortunate, but the execution of the project was poor.  Instead of overlapping and stitching the ties, they could be placed edge to edge and zig-zagged.  They could even be left unstitched, to make a dancing skirt with a lot of movement.  But most importantly, some actual pretty ties could be used, like those from Liberty of London.  But then, how does one come up with sixteen Liberty neckties?

As I spotted this skirt, another shopper also spotted it.  In one of the great cross-overs from digital to real life, this shopper was Jessamyn, who is a reader of this blog and who recognized me.  We ended up in a conversation that included the question of what can be done with unwanted neckties.  She mentioned that she had made crazy quilts using some of the wonderful silk ones she had found.  And that is a good point, for though it seems like the thrifts are full of the tacky ones from 1982, there are also plenty of fabulous Italian silks.

I recently mentioned that I always buy the Liberty ties because they make great bias binding and can be used for small projects.  Reader Nancy was so kind as to send to me two lovely Liberty ties she had found.  It’s just too bad that not all the old neckties were made of such wonderful fabric.

One last thought: I can’t help wondering if the ties that I consider to be ugly and pretty much worthless will someday become desirable.  It has happened before with neckties from the 1940s.  

Interior look at how the ties were attached to the skirt.

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What I Didn’t Buy – Antique Hatbox

I really have a thing for old hatboxes, and I’ve been especially captivated after seeing some of the wonderful old ones in the Cooper Hewitt collection.  Antique bandboxes or hatboxes, especially those covered with wallpaper, are hard to come by around here, so I always look at them, even if I know I’ll not be able to afford them.

The one above caught my eye the other day.  While it is not one of the lovely scenic boxes, it is an older one, covered with a nice paper.  The inside had a beautiful border around the rim.

So what was so objectionable about this pretty box? Was it the price or the condition? No, although there were condition issues, and it wasn’t exactly cheap at $65.  The problem with this box was much worst.

The person selling this hatbox put an adhesive price sticker on the lid of the box.  I was hoping that it was one of those semi-sticky things that would just pull off, but a quick look at a loosened corner confirmed my fears.

Someone before me had already tried to lift off the sticker, and you can see where the paper of the box was pulled loose.  Whatever value the box had has been completely ruined by the person who stood to gain by its sale.

Over the years I’ve seen lots of thoughtless stickers slapped onto paper of all kinds.  Usually it is just a nuisance because it is a magazine or a catalog that is still useful despite the sticker.  Unfortunately this hatbox is ruined.

We need to make a rule that no stickers are allowed anywhere near antique and vintage paper.

 

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What I Didn’t Buy: Betsey Johnson Sweater, 1980s

There are several reasons I did not buy this Betsey Johnson sweater.  First of all, my collection stops around 1975, and this sweater dates from sometime in the 1980s.  It has the distinctive “punk” label which was used for about eight years, starting in 1978 when Betsey formed her own business.

More importantly, I did not buy this sweater because I do not like it.  Even if I collected the 80s I would not have bought it.  And that brings up the question of “taste” and where it fits into a collection.

When  I first started collecting I would buy anything I found that I thought was “important.”  I can tell you that for me, collecting that way led to a lot of mistakes.  It was not until I began to narrow the focus of my collection that I was able to chose a garment based on its merits, rather than the label.   And to me, part of the charm of an old garment is that it pleases me, aesthetically.

That is not to say that every item in my collection is beautiful, but given a choice between two similar objects, I know that my personal taste will play a part in which one I choose to add to my collection.  I recently met a seller who had dozens of late 1950s and early 60s casual women’s shirts.  I have been looking for some to pair with my novelty print skirts.  Because the shirts were all deadstock, the condition of all was equal.  I went almost entirely by which ones I liked when picking the ones I wanted to buy.

And this leads me to another thought – the mistaken idea that just because an item is old, it somehow has added worth.  I see a lot of old clothes, and so many of them are just ugly, to my eye anyway.  Others are poorly made, and yet others are in horrible condition.  These things might not matter if the item in question is an 1818 pelisse belonging to Jane Austin, but in a 1978 polyester dress from K-mart, they do definitely matter,

Sometimes I’m just amazed at how much clothing from the past has survived.  I grew up in a home where if an item wasn’t useful, it was sold for charity, so I’m often astounded to read about people who find houses with rooms full of multi-generational clothing.  I’m glad they do because it allows me to be very picky.

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