Category Archives: Shopping

Super Find Becomes Albatross Becomes Happy Memory

I recently found a stack of wonderful old linens at my favorite shopping place.  As so often happens, a load of donations go in after the closing of an estate, or maybe a move to a smaller house.  Anyway, I sometimes find the entire contents of the linen closet, and that usually means at least a few great novelty prints.

This souvenir tablecloth from Cuba was the best of a really sweet group of printed tablecloths.  These tablecloths were very popular in the post WWII era, and I imagine that most homes had at least one – a Christmas theme cloth perhaps.  I still have the one my mother used on our holiday table.

Tablecloths were also a great vacation souvenir, and I’ve seen printed ones with destinations from Alaska to Florida and beyond.  Most that I’ve found are not labeled, but I know of one company, California Handprints, that made novelty and printed tablecloths.  My guess is that this one, though sold in Cuba in the 1940s or 50s, was actually made in the USA.

I was really happy to find the Cuba one, especially after checking the prices on Ebay.  So I took a few photos, wrote up my listing, and put it on Etsy to sell.  I also posted a photo on Instagram, where a fellow vintage travel enthusiast saw it.  She emailed with the great news that she and her husband are traveling to Cuba soon.  I clicked over to review my listing, but found it had disappeared.  After a long search, I discovered that Etsy had deactivated the listing.

That was a bit puzzling, but the next day I got an email that stated that the tablecloth was in violation of the US embargo against Cuban products!  I sent an email back explaining that the tablecloth was made before the Cuban Revolution and the embargo.  It was probably made in the US, and then imported to Cuba where a tourist bought it and brought it back to the States.  In other words, it is not an illegal Cuban product.

No matter, as the diligent people at Etsy can’t take a chance that the selling of my tablecloth might be the very thing that allows the Cuban government to break the (already weakened by US law) embargo.  So my option was to stick it on eBay where there are several similar ones up for sale.

But it just left a sad feeling, with my happy find turning into a problem.  I had to find a way to break the evil spell cast upon my innocent tablecloth.  So now the tablecloth is on its way north, to the lucky Beth who will soon be traveling to Cuba.

And by the way, the email from etsy’s legal department asked me to please keep our email exchange a secret.  They are probably embarrassed for the world to know that legal communications are headed with “Hi there” and are signed with a first name only.  Seriously.

But enough of that!  I’m not one to hold a grudge so instead of making fun of Etsy Legal, let’s look at the great details of this print.  Aside from the sleeping guy under the sombrero in which the designer got his Latin American countries confused, the print is full of references to the fun things one would encounter in the “Holiday Isle of the Tropics.”

Cruise ships! Tennis! Skiing! Rum! Sailing!

Dancing! Show girls! Tobacco fields!

And a whole corner of the US Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay!

I have opened my annual Etsy pop-up shop, in which I try to make a few bucks to support my collecting habit.  I sell vintage sewing patterns and other vintage finds from the past year that I’ve decided not to keep.


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Shopping

Liberty Antiques Festival, Fall 2016

The late September Liberty Antiques Festival has come and gone, and with it the year’s flea markets are pretty much over.  It’s a sad time but I have plenty of things to show and talk about, and I’m sure it will cheer me up a bit.

Above is a hooked rug, Scottie theme.  I took the photo, and tried to forget about it, but I could not, so hours later I made my way back to the booth, thinking that it had surely sold.  But it was still there, and the vendor even offered a generous discount.  So this one is now in my office.

I love seeing the contraptions that women have worn under their clothing in order to accomplish a fashionable silhouette.  One could sit, but not recline while wearing this bustle.

I thought this late Victorian tennis player was so lovely.  I especially like her hat.

Even if I were to not buy a thing, going to a market like this one is invaluable in the education department.  These old riding boots were way out of my range of knowledge, but it was fun to take a few minutes and study them.

I have to make myself take ten deep breaths when I encounter a nice grouping of vintage sewing patterns, especially when they are as great as these.  My new rule is that if there is no chance I’ll ever make it, then I cannot buy the pattern.  Still, I was so tempted by the 1920s one.

I was also tempted by this grouping of shoes.  It did not matter that I really do not need any 1920s sports shoes.  I stood there and tries to come up with a good reason to spend over $200 for these.  Common sense prevailed.

There are times when I turn down an object based purely on price.  In the 1950s when jet travel became available and people besides the rich leisure class could afford to travel abroad, handbags with travel destinations became popular.  I have several, but would have added this one as well, but I felt that it was over-priced.  These were not high quality items to start with, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to put a lot of money into something that is already well represented in my collection.

This is about the oddest Collins of Texas bag I’ve ever seen.  It was made after Enid Collins sold the company to Tandy, so it is probably 1970s.

I loved this uniform, and I had to remind myself that I’m not a uniform collector.  I do think women’s uniforms would make a fabulous collection though.  Anyway, the seller did not have any information about the dress and hat, which were a set.  The hat and one collar have plastic sword pins, and the other collar has a Red Cross pin.  The dress and hat looked post WWII to me, and were in incredible condition.  I’d appreciate any ideas you might have about them.

This 1940s poster really made me want to shop in that store.

And finally, I really do need an aviatrix’s ensemble, don’t you think?


Filed under North Carolina, Road Trip, Shopping

Variations on a Theme: Bloomers

Sometimes when I go on the hunt for vintage clothing, a theme appears.  Last week the theme was bloomers.  I first spotted this gymsuit with bloomers.  It has a nifty feature.

How about that!  Convenient, but I’m betting the girl who had to wear this suit hated it, and especially hated the drop bottom.

That girl was Margo Kellow.  The gymsuit was made a a company that is new to me, Pennco, or the Pennsylvania Apparel Company.

No sooner had I spotted Margo’s green suit than I saw these big black bloomers flapping in the wind.  I’m pretty sure that the vendor thought they were funny, and she seemed genuinely surprised when I asked the price.  The other shoppers then began to have a few laughs at my expense.

No matter, as I know a great pair of bloomers when I see them.  These are very long, and quite old, probably Edwardian.  Note the use of an overlock stitch.  Yes, the overlock was used this early, having been invented in the 1880s.

It’s very possible that these bloomers once had an attached blouse, as the waist band stitching has been removed.

It was not all gym attire, however.  This is an apron made in the shape of bloomers, which mirror the woman in the print.

Cute, no?

When I returned home, a package was waiting.  In it was yet another pair of bloomers, these a bit later than the top pair.  I got these from my new favorite etsy shop, Poor Little Robin.  Again, we are lucky to have the name of its original owner, Martha Wilson.

All these bloomers got me to thinking about my next research project.  I’m getting a pretty good selection of gymsuits, and so I’m going to be working on a timeline of the changes made in girls’ gym attire over the years.  Hopefully I will have enough information to write a paper for presentation at Costume Society, but if not, I can still post my findings here.

Later on I may be begging for help in the form of your family photos.


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Shopping, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

Shopping with The Vintage Traveler – Hillsville, 2016

Well, it’s happened again.  I wake up to find my Instagram feed filled with photos from vintage friends in New England, showing off the delights of the Brimfield markets.  One of these days I will be there as well, making other people who are not so lucky very jealous.  In the meantime, I had to be content this past week with the big annual market in Hillsville, Virginia.

Hillsville does not pretend to be an antiques market.  It is a true flea, with everything for sale from great vintage items to downright junk.  It started back in the 1970s as a VFW sponsored gun show, and there are still enough guns being carried around to make one feel either very safe, or very uneasy.  I avoid the gun selling area.

Like many flea markets and antique shows, Hillsville has been shrinking.  I first went there at least ten years ago, and since that time one of the fields has closed completely, and I noted the VFW area is also smaller.  But the pleasant side is that it seems like there are just as many sellers who have the types of things I’m looking for.  More vintage photos and fewer tube socks is a big win.

One of my goals when shopping a big market like this one is to try and learn something new, usually in the form of seeing something I’ve never encountered.  There is so much old stuff out there that it always happens that I seen something new to me that I probably should have seen before.  Such was the case with the print above.  Dated 1903, I’m not sure what the Turkish Trophies actually were – a tobacco premium perhaps.  One seller had four of them, all showing young women engaged in sports.  I’d have bought them but the condition and the price did not match.  But I did have to take a photo of the ping pong player.

I see a lot of Daniel Green slippers, as it was a major maker.  But this pair of kid’s slippers embroidered with pups and kitties made me wish for a pair in my size.

On of the things I saw quite a bit of this time was children’s clothing.  One seller had what looked to be an entire wardrobe of a little girl, who would have been about four or five years old, all from the late 1920s or very early 30s.  All were in such wonderful condition that it made me wonder about the fate of the child who had worn them.  These were her slippers.

Another seller had this nice assortment of men’s swimsuits from the 1930s and 1940s.  Note the zipper at the bottom of the red tank.  In the early 30s, bathing suit makers added this zipper in case the wearer got up the nerve to go topless.

Of course there were Scotties.  I really should have brought this one home with me as I have its pink gingham twin.

This lovely illustration of a 1920s golfer decorated the cover of a book of healthy hints from a tonic company.  It made me wonder if there is a whole range of these illustrated booklets.

One seller had five or six tables piled high with a mix of vintage and modern fabrics.  Had I encountered this early in the day, I’d have plowed through the massive piles, but I had been on the hunt for hours, and so I had to pass on the fabrics.  I couldn’t help but think that the seller would have been more successful had she made a better effort to properly display her wares.


Maybe it is just that I’m easily distracted, but when there is this much stuff, I can’t seem to see the forest for the tress, or actually, it is the other way round!  I didn’t notice until I was looking at these photos that I actually own the basket bag near the center.

It was a button lover’s paradise.

These little booties were made of some sort of plastic coated paper.

I love seeing pillows made from pre-stamped and colored kits.  This is one I’d never seen before, from the early 1930s.

So there you have what I passed up, so I know you are wondered what I actually bought.  Photographs – lots and lots of photos of women in pants.  I also found the best 1940s hat ever, which I’ll be showing off later.  I also got a mid 1960s beach bag that may or may not have been a Coppertone suntan lotion item.   A woman sold me her mother’s Catalina swimsuit from the 1930s.  It’s always a treat to know who owned an item. And best of all, I found a late 1930s playsuit complete with matching skirt.



Filed under Road Trip, Shopping, Viewpoint

Shopping with the Vintage Traveler: Southeast Tennessee

Sometimes I get a place that I’ve visited on my mind, and I just can’t shake it until I make another visit.  In the latest case of this shopper’s disease, I was thinking of some little towns in the southeast section of Tennessee.  The last time I’d been to these towns was in 2009, on a trip with my sister.  Perhaps that is the reason the area continues to have a special appeal.

So on a whim, I headed west, along with my non-antiques-obsessed but very patient husband.  Our first stop was the westernmost town in North Carolina, Murphy.  I knew of at least one good antiques mall in Murphy, and I was not disappointed.  Above are pictured a trio of 1920s  store displays of hosiery.  Can you guess which one was added to my collection?

We found another, smaller store in Murphy that had a great selection of antique and vintage photos and postcards.  I found some super sports related ones, including a 1915 illustrated postcard of a young woman bowling.

I’ve always loved shopping in Cleveland, TN, and I can’t believe it has taken me so long to return to this favorite little town.  There are several top-notch antique malls, and the photos came from three of them:  The Antiques Parlour, Mora’s, and Relics.  All had some seriously wonderful things, including the shoes above, which I bought.  Made from canvas with leather soles, I could not find a maker’s label.

After seeing Manus X Machina at the Met this summer, I’ve paid special attention to anything made with feathers.  There is a real art to working with feathers, to get the design to accentuate the structure of the feather.  I did not buy this hat, but I did appreciate the skill of the milliner.

These 1960s stretch lamé boots were never worn.  Could it be that the original buyer saw them and pictured herself as a swinging mod, but then lost courage?  I hope not.

If I were a collector of vintage children’s clothing, I’d have come home broke.  Almost every shop we visited had so much little cuteness!

I also found lots of very nice vintage patterns, but my vow is to buy none unless they are for my own use.  Still, these were hard to pass up, and almost made me wish I loved to be a pattern seller.

To prove a point, I do not buy every Scotty dog tchotchke that I run across.  I’d like to, but I do not.

Can you imagine a time when driving an automobile was so special that a series of books was written about it?  I need their hats and scarves.

And here’s a titillating look at a shapely ankle.

I didn’t buy this card, but I probably should have, as it really sums up our day.  “When he’s being obliging, don’t overtax him.”  It was time to head for the hotel, the pool, a cold drink and dinner.

We spent the night in Athens, TN.  I went off by myself to an old favorite antique mall in town only to find it had lost its lease and was closing.  That’s a real disappointment, but one I’m seeing more and more.

Is there anything more fun than a vintage button card?

The next day started in Sweetwater, TN, a very small town which has given over its downtown to sellers of antiques, vintage, and collectibles.  In other words, it is my kind of place.  The businesses in the town have changed a bit since my last trip with two of my favorites having disappeared, but there was still plenty to make me happy.  I found some 1970s Seventeen magazines, a wonderful little 1940s box handbag, and even Tim found a few things he just could not live without.

I loved this example of the 1970s nostalgia craze.

One store, Antiques at the Mill, had a nice selection of antique and vintage sewing machines, plus lots of patterns and other sewing stuff.  But even my eyes were beginning to glaze over from just the sheer volume of all of it.

Out next stop was Maryville, a town which I had fond memories of past finds.  But it was disappointing, with the best shops gone, and the others not really having any good fashion related material.  I did think this authentic vintage sign was interesting.  $695.

This was some seriously cute fish fabric that was backing a seriously ordinary 1950s quilt.

We finished the shopping in Townsend, TN, in two nice malls that were full, but not of stuff for me.  I have managed to avoid collecting these 1920s and 1930s sporty girl figurines.

We took the scenic route home, through the middle of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  As a final treat, we got a fine view of a large herd of elk resting in a meadow.  No photos, unfortunately, as we were too caught up in the moment to pull out the cameras.



Filed under Shopping


Our words are important.  This is true in politics and in fashion history.  I love people who have the strength to sell old clothes online because I know how much work it can be, but what I don’t like is how a garment can morph from its original purpose to something entirely different in the interest of selling that garment.

The garment shown above is a gymsuit.  Period.  It is not a playsuit.  It is not a romper. It is, despite what etsy listings would lead one to believe, a gymsuit.

This is a bathing suit by Tina Leser.  Period.  It is not a playsuit.  It is not a romper. It is, despite what etsy listings would lead one to believe, a bathing suit.


This is a 1911 bathing suit.  A similar suit is currently listed on etsy as a “1920’s Cotton Playsuit, Beach Romper, Athletic Wear,  Bloomers” but it too, is a bathing suit.  Nowhere in the description, nor in the tags, was the term bathing suit even used.  That would completely  eliminate that suit from the search I regularly do for older bathing suits.

But more importantly, things like this change the terminology of fashion and of clothing.  It’s like calling a short 1920s dress a “mini”, or a long 1930s dress a “maxi”.  These terms did not come into use until decades later, and so using them in an older context is incorrect.  I will agree that it is possible that some people might have referred to the Tina Leser type suit as a playsuit, but rompers were for toddlers, not for grown women.

As of this writing, there are 3125 listings for “playsuit” in the women’s vintage category on etsy.  Most of these are for 1950s and 1960s bathing suits.  Some are for 1980s jumpsuits.  And all are titled and tagged in a manner that a serious collector is never going to find them.

UPDATE: I know better than to make a statement so definite as ” rompers were for toddlers, not for grown women.”  A friend has emailed a photo of a 1920s sewing pattern of a one piece garment with legs for ladies, misses and girls, and the pattern refers to it as a romper.  Let me rephrase that to say that in my experience, rompers were worn by my little sister and cousins in the 1960s, and I wore culotte dresses in the 60s and jumpsuits in the 70s.


Filed under Shopping, Viewpoint

Nashville: The Rest of the Story

Nashville is one of those cities that changes depending on where you are standing.  You can be on one corner and it is a completely different city two blocks over.  This is Honky Tonk Row, and I pretty much bet that anyone who has never been to Nashville would think this is what the city is all about.  Actually, this is only a little over two city blocks.  One block past this area is a park on the Cumberland River, and three blocks up the hill to the left and you are in the middle of the Tennessee state government.  A couple of miles to the southwest and you are at Vanderbilt University.

That said, this is what tourists go to Nashville for.  By late afternoon this area was bumper to bumper tourists.  Because the three sites we wanted to visit were in this area, we had to take in a honky tonk or two.

Every restaurant/bar/honky tonk had a live band, and the place was noisy.  It was also a lot of fun.

Besides the Tennessee State Museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame, we wanted to see the Johnny Cash Museum.  As you might imagine there was a lot of black suits, though many of them were far from plain, as you can see above.  Most of the stage costumes from Cash and his wife June Carter were from the 1970s , during the time he had a TV variety show.  As such, Carter’s costumes were, frankly a bit too polyester for my taste.

Interestingly, there were no clothing items from early in June Carter’s career.  The dress above is vintage early 1960s, but it was worn not by Carter, but by actress Reece Witherspoon when she portrayed Carter in the 2005 movie of the relationship of Cash and Carter, I Walk the Line.

I’ve been meaning to rewatch that film because of an interesting mend on the arms of the dress.  Can you tell that there are multiple rows of machine stitching?  I suppose a supporting fabric was put beneath and then the dress stitched to it.  There was no attempt to hide the mend, and I’ve got to wonder if the dress was damaged while filming.  Or perhaps, the film was cleverly edited to hide the mends.

Even Cash’s boots were black.  These were custom made boots from Acme Boots.  He was pictured in Acme ads in the early 1980s.

Between the Honky Tonks and cowboy boot stores, there are a few gift shops. When traveling to a new place I have to always go into at least one so I can find the “gift” that is unique to that city.  These cowboy boot socks might just be that unique item.

Or maybe these Elvis pajamas are the thing, but I’m betting you can also pick these up in Memphis.

But back to the real purpose of the trip – vintage clothing shopping.  I didn’t take many photos of the big sale I attended because I was too busy looking, and I have no idea how I got a photo without other buyers in it.  This was a tiny, tiny bit of this massive sale.  It had been a very long day (and wait) and so by the end of it I was exhausted.  I did find enough wonderful things to have made the trip worthwhile, and I’ll be sharing them from time to time.

There are some places we’ve traveled to that we return to again and again.  Nashville is not going to be one of them, that is unless another big sale comes along.

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Filed under Museums, Rest of the Story, Road Trip, Shopping