Category Archives: Shopping

Shopping with the Vintage Traveler – Fall 2017

I need to re-title this type post as Browsing with the VT, as I didn’t actually buy any of the items I’m showing here. Does the word “shopping” actually include “looking but not buying”?  That’s one of those tough Mensa questions.

Some of these photos, like that suitcase of buttons, date back to September. I love buttons but rarely buy them. That is probably because I have boxes full of them, you know, just in case I need one.

This cotton scarf was an almost buy. I loved the late 1950s graphics, but the fade was just too prevalent, and it was almost threadbare in spots. Still, it was hard to pass on a girl and her duck. That would be an inflatable float toy, right?

A seller in Hillsville, Virginia had a whole stack of antique men’s nightshirts. The trim on these was so beautiful that I wanted one for myself. Unfortunately, “LG”, the original owner, was not my size.

I really can’t afford to buy everything I want, so I reluctantly left this old print behind. It is such a great illustration of the mid 1890s divided skirt that was used by women who had taken up the wheel. What is this story about? Is it true that men have always had the reputation of not wanting to ask for directions?

There was a conversation on the Vintage Fashion Guild forums recently about the value of beaded and fancy handbags. It appears to many vintage sellers that these have dropped in value. It probably is a case of supply outpacing demand. If you have ever been to an estate sale you know that there might not be a single old garment, but there are almost always the hats and handbags that were saved.

An apron with cocktail recipes can come in very handy.

A couple of weeks ago I made a trip into downtown Asheville (a major mistake during leaf season…). I was on an errand for a friend, and ended up in my favorite Asheville old stuff shop, Magnolia Beauregard. Seriously, that place is like a treasure house, and though the shop is small, it takes a while to see it all. It’s worth a trip just to see the hat heads and the wax mannequins.

The hats are for sale; the heads are not.

A small look inside Aladdin’s cave.

These last photos are from an antique mall in Florence, South Carolina. One of the advantages of being retired is that when one of us makes an off-hand remark about always wanting to have seen a certain place, the possibility is great that a hotel room will be booked and we’ll be on the road the next day. In this case Tim mentioned that he’d always wanted to see the racetrack and museum in Darlington, SC. I’m not a fan of racing, but experience has taught me that even the most unlikely museums often have old clothes. And once again, I was correct.

Above is a mesh corset cover or bra-let of some type. I’d never seen anything like it.

You may not be able to tell from my photo, but this head and hat were five feet above my head. I understand that dealers who are renting a space want to make the best of it, but putting stuff that high up seems to be pointless unless it is something that a prospective buyer has on her wishlist. In this case, I thought the hat was interesting, but not interesting enough to get an employee to bring a ladder so I could get a closer look.

And finally, a very poor photo of a great 1950s dress. Look at those pockets. They are about fifteen inches deep, with a bow and a rhinestone button to boot. It was really adorable, and had a great label, Gigi Young. Gigi Young was the sister label to Suzy Perette. Both were made by Lombardy Frocks which was known for their Americanized versions of Dior’s New Look. Picture this dress with full petticoats, and you’ll get the picture.

Quite unbelievably, yesterday someone on Instagram posted a photo of the same, or very similar dress, but in pink.

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Shopping with the Vintage Traveler – Summer 2017

Could you use a diversion? I thought so. I need one too, and to get my mind off the sorry state of the world, let me share one of my true loves – vintage shopping.

I really haven’t been shopping much this summer, but the few trips I have made have been really, really good. Above, and in the next few photos, you see the Greenville, SC shop of Kate DiNatale. Kate has a full range of vintage clothing, plus home furnishings, all presented in a lovely old building.

It used to be that vintage clothing stores were stuffed to the brim, making finding anything a real chore. And while I do enjoy a good dig, I prefer the experience of shopping in a lovely space where everything is presented to its best advantage. That dress on the left came home with me.

I probably should have gotten this bathing suit, as it has a super Claire McCardell vibe. There was no label, though.

I was also tempted by the cutest giraffe pants ever.

I’m afraid I caught Kate’s two shop assistants sleeping on the job.

Here’s another view of this fabulous space, with lingerie and little black dresses in the background.

If you are in the Greenville area and plan to visit Kate’s shop, set aside a bit of time to also visit her mother’s antique mall, Old Faithful’s. Kate had a booth there as well, with even more great vintage clothing and accessories. Too bad I’m not a “cat person.”

A couple of weekends ago I took in the Virginia Highlands Antiques Market in Abingdon, VA. It’s held every July and August, and it is always an interesting show. Little Lizzie above is actually a doll printed on cotton for you to cut out and sew together. Or, you can paste it to a board and hang it on your wall.

I love old pennants. I don’t know why; I just do.

Here’s an example of my restraint in buying things I do not need, and for which I have no space. I love this little Scottie bookshelf, and seriously contemplated buying it, but I was a real adult and told myself I had nowhere to put it. When I went back to say goodbye to it, the piece had been sold. Not a surprise.

Old quilts always get my attention, if for no other reason than to appreciate the old textiles. I do love a good hexagon.

I was completely taken with this old canvas trunk. I wanted it, badly. I didn’t like the price tag.

No buttons were harmed in the making of these plastic bracelets.

Is this not the best salesman’s sample card ever?

Amazing, size 17 Pro Keds! I could get both my feet in one shoe. I’m pretty sure this is the largest vintage sneaker I’ve ever seen.

 

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Marshall Field & Co, Chicago (aka Macy’s)

When visiting a new place, I’m always interested in the history of fashion retail in that town or city. In so many ways, in Chicago this is epitomized by Marshall Field’s, a long established department store located in the heart of the old shopping district of State Street inside the Loop. To sum up a lot of history, the store that became Marshall Field’s was started in 1852 by Chicago big-wig Potter Palmer. Field became involved in a partnership in the store in 1865.

In 1868 the renamed Field, Leiter, and Co. moved to where the store is now located on State Street. But this is not the same building, which was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. As the city rebuilt, so did Field and Leiter. In 1881, Field bought out Leiter, and Marshall Field and Co. was officially born. A series of building additions ensued, and in 1907 the store as it exists today was pretty much finished.

Over time, Marshall Field became a Chicago institution, so much so that in 2005 when the store was bought by Macy’s there was a big protest. Fortunately, much of the interior was left intact so that visitors to the store today can get a good idea of the grandeur in which people shopped in the early part of the Twentieth Century.

The store has two large open areas, and one of them has a favrile glass mosaic vaulted ceiling decorated by Tiffany. It’s worth taking a stroll into the building just to see it.

Today, of course, the shopping experience is just not the same with the bright florescent lighting and the same Macy’s merchandise available across the country. Still, if one uses their imagination…

The Chicago History Museum has a display on Marshall Field & Company, which was a fashion leader in the city.

One block down State Street is the site of another great Chicago department store – Carson, Pirie, Scott. As you can see, today the lower floors are a Target, but the beautiful ironwork in the Louis Sullivan designed building still amazes anyone who takes the time to stop and really look at it.

As I was thinking about the grand old department stores and their disappearance from American retail, I turned to Jan Whitaker’s book on the subject, Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class. Rereading the first few chapters reminded me that while we mourn the demise of stores like Marshall Field and Wanamaker’s and Rich’s, when the department stores took over one hundred or so years ago, people were mourning the loss of the little private owner specialty store. And interestingly enough, it looks like today’s retail beasts – Walmart, Target, Costco, and the like – will soon be at the mercy of Amazon as it moves into the grocery and brick and mortar business. Will we have the same nostalgia for the big box chain store?

As the French say, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

 

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Shopping with the Vintage Traveler – Midwest Edition

We’ve just returned from a trip through the Midwest, and while this was not a shopping trip, I did manage to sneak in a few antique malls and a really great vintage market in Chicago. The first mall was in Southport, Indiana, which is just south of Indianapolis. I loved this huge, rambling mall.  There was quite a bit of clothing, and I found some nice things for my collection. I’ll show them later, as today is all about what I didn’t buy.

Here we have two boxes full of promises. Nothing makes me happier than a crate of reasonably priced vintage patterns.  I bought three.

Here was a little treasure, and I would have bought this if I did not already have a similar one.  This is a Chimayo or Rio Grande woven clutch bag with a silver decoration. Best of all is the label.

Fred Harvey was a restaurateur who established a series of restaurants, hotels, and gift shops along the route of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. You might have seen the 1946 film, The Harvey Girls, starring Judy Garland, Cyd Charisse, and Angela Lansbury. In the film the “girls” worked at a Fred Harvey establishment in Arizona.

This little cardboard trunk looks like it was a toy box. I loved it, but could not justify the purchase.

Cases like this one require close examination. I found a pair of 1920s ankle socks with the original paper label.

Our next stop was Chicago. I didn’t plan this, but we were there the weekend of the Randolph Street Market, which I learned about on Instagram. I felt like this was not just a coincidence, but more like a sign that I needed to be there. Unfortunately I didn’t take many photos because I was just too busy looking. There were plenty of vintage clothing sellers, and I was able to see some really topnotch stuff. The rack above had some real gems.

Things like this great 1930s or 40s made in Germany sweater.  I wanted it, but my wallet said no.

I’m really sorry I didn’t take more pictures, as there were some spectacular pieces. I suppose I was just overwhelmed.

After leaving Chicago, we headed to Upland, Indiana to see Taylor University. My husband’s grandfather was a history professor there in the 1930s, and so his father spent part of his childhood in Upland. In the nearby town of Marion I found another good antique mall, Jake’s Antique Mall.  I spent way too much time looking through stacks of photos and other ephemera. The illustration above is from 1915.

I always look through old advertising cards because they often show women participating in sports. The two above have a textile theme, but I found it interesting that two different businesses in the same town used cards from what was obviously the same series.

Lastly, I spent three hours trying to make my way through three large malls in Springfield, Ohio. I knew what I was in for as I had been there before, but by the time the closing hour approached, I was pretty much running through in order to see it all. There was a lot of stuff to be seen.  I sort of mourned for the hatbox above, as it looked like someone prior had also cried and left tear drops on the lid.

Older fashion magazines are getting harder and harder to find, but even a 1915 Harper’s Bazar with severe water damage is not worth $66.

I’m always looking for old images of women participating in sports, but one can’t always believe what was shown in past illustrations. And look at those tiny feet!

This is always a good sign…

Someone loved this print so much that she bought it in two colorways. Aprons, not skirts, unfortunately.

I love old display items, and this glove hand was priced very reasonably, but it has a repaired thumb, and I was sure we’d destroy it before getting it home.

In Chicago I saw Making Mainbocher, an exhibition at the Chicago History Museum.  In 1947 designer Mainbocher redesigned the uniforms of the Girl Scouts of the USA, and this is an example of one of the dresses. It was really fun seeing this after having just seen a similar one at the museum.

That’s all for the shopping. Expect several museum posts in the near future.

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Liberty Antiques Festival – Spring, 2017.

I’ve been attending the big outdoor antiques show at Liberty, NC since 2005, and in those years I’ve only missed the show one time.  That’s because this antiques show is good. In the past few years I’ve reported that the festival was shrinking, with fewer vendors, but I’m happy to say that this spring’s show seemed to be the most robust in years. I’m hoping that is a sign that the economic recovery that began in 2010 is finally making sellers, and buyers, more confident.

Not only were there more vendors, it seemed as though there were more buyers. In years past I’ve noticed how the majority of buyers seems to be in the plus 60 demographic.  This time around I saw lots of younger people out looking to build collections.  It’s a cheering thought.

Still, one woman I talked with, older than me, was lamenting the state of things, saying I’d missed the golden years of Brimfield.  That may be the case, but I still managed to see so much great old stuff here at Liberty, and I even added a few prime pieces to my own collection.  There will be more on that later, of course. For now, here are some other items of interest.

The days of stumbling across big stacks of vintage fashion magazines seems to belong to the past.  I spotted only one, and as luck would have it, I already have this issue of Vogue in my collection.

Continuing with the doggie theme, I spotted a salesman’s book of textile samples, got all excited only to find that the swatches had been removed and the book reused as a scrapbook.  There were some adorable Scotties in it so that made me feel a bit better.

A lot of clothing dealers don’t like to do outdoor markets, but Liberty has a few that are always there, regardless of the weather. It was warm and dry this weekend which made looking even better, as some dealers only bring textiles if it is dry.

It seems like there are always a few great old dressmaker’s dummies. This one with the bustle back was the oldest one I saw at the show. (And check out the Serro Scottie camper!)

This was a new-to-me item – a homemaker’s workbook.  All aspects of keeping a 1935 house were covered, from sewing to laundry to cooking. My guess is it was used in home economics classes.

This Kickaway box held underpants for little girls, but the company also made knickers for gym wear.  I have a pair in my collection.

Great old poster for Indian motorcycles had a great (big)  new price tag.

These double knit poly bells made a stunning display! Seriously, these are some of the best I’ve ever seen for sale, and all dead stock.

These are probably the oldest roller skates I’ve ever encountered, and only the high price tag kept me from buying them.  The wheels are made of wood, as are the soles.

I’ve also noticed that the Liberty show is attracting more sellers of country antiques.  There were lots of old rustic furniture, handmade baskets, and North Carolina pottery. This is not really my thing, but sometimes these dealers have great older textiles, which makes for a good learning experience.

All in all, it was a very good day!

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Flea Marketing Rules

I first wrote this list ten years ago, and I’ve repeated it and updated it several times since then.  Since flea market season is upon us (I’m headed out early tomorrow for the big Liberty Antiques Market!!) I thought it would be a good time to remind myself of my own rules.

Every year I miss some good stuff at the first market just because I forget to follow my own rules.  I thought writing them out might make them stick, kind of like the teacher making you write “I must not chew gum” 100 times!

1.  Go prepared.  Many of these events are partially or entirely out-of-doors.  I keep my VFG totebag packed with a hat, lipgloss, hard candies, tissues and antibacterial lotion.  I usually throw in a snack and a bottle of water. Food is often of the junky variety, so a healthy snack that you bring along might be more to your liking.  Keep in mind that restroom facilities may be primitive (so stop at the closest fast food place before entering) and handwashing not possible.

2. But don’t take stuff you don’t need. If the fair is in a field, a rolling cart is pretty much useless unless it has very large wheels.  Leave your big and full-to-bursting handbag at home, and carry a small bag with just the essentials.  I have a little wrist bag that holds just my cash, cards and cell phone.  I attach it to my totebag so I won’t accidentally drop it.  Do not bring along family members or friends who will slow you down and whine about being bored.

3. Take cash. Many vendors will take a check, but few take credit or debit cards, and they don’t give the best deals if they have to pay bank fees.  Most big flea markets do have an atm, so credit cards can be handy.  Try to have a stash of small bills for cheap purchases.

4. Dress comfortably. For now and the fall, layers are great.  The mornings are cool, but the afternoons hot.  And wear comfortable walking shoes that you are not afraid to get dirty! If it has been rainy and the event is out of doors, take a pair of rubber boots.

5. Identify yourself. With your clothing, I mean.  I carry a Vintage Fashion Guild tote that has a  logo that identifies me as a person who is interested in fashion items.  I also often wear a Scottie dog pin, as I also collect Scottie items.  Dealers notice these things, and will offer you things you might have overlooked.

6.  Buy it when you see it.  I don’t care how big it is, I don’t care that your arms are full, I don’t care that the vendor is very busy and you are in a big hurry.  If you spot something that you intend to buy, do NOT leave the booth without buying it.  If you do, one of the following will happen – You will forget about the item until you are half way home.  You will go back to the booth just in time to see another buyer happily paying for YOUR item.  You will forget where the booth is and spend hours searching for it a second time, but never finding it.  Trust me on this one.  If I had time I’d tell you about the 1920s velvet cape with a Paris label, but it always makes me cry.

7.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. Most dealers will give you at least 10%, and if it is near the end of the show, often they will offer quite a bit more. But be nice and not demanding.  Please, don’t be greedy.  If the price is $1, just pay it!  If you pull a pristine Pucci scarf out of a box of ratty old linens, please give the guy his $2 asking price.  It’s good Karma.

8.  Ask dealers if they have what you are seeking. If you find a dealer who seems to have a lot of vintage clothing, or whatever you want, ask if he or she has more.  Chances are they do, and chances are you’ll be going to other fairs where that dealer will be selling.

9. Carry some of your business cards and give them to anyone who might have leads on what you are looking for.  Even if you are not in a “business”, you need business cards if you collect or blog.

10.  Inspect items carefully.  I’ve been known to get so carried away with a find that I neglected to give it a good going-over. This can lead to heartbreak when you get home and realize half of the 1920s Vogue bargain magazine was used to make paper dolls.

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Shopping with the Vintage Traveler

I’ve been shopping again, this time mainly in the Franklin, NC area, and in Asheville. By shopping, I really mean looking, because I actually don’t buy many things at all. But I look at window shopping as an education of sorts, and it’s a rare day spent in antique stores that I don’t learn or see something new.

I really liked this Scoreze handy golf score pad, and would have bought it except I felt the price was too high. I’ve found a few online, and most of them are in the same price range, but I’m just not willing to pay what people are asking. The price reflects the fact that the store display is intact, but all I want is the little pad and holder. I’m sure I’ll eventually run across one.

It’s rare that I even talk about prices.  Most importantly, it’s my wish that people reading this blog think of the items I present more as historical artifacts, and less as items to be bought and sold. When I see an item that I want to add to my collection, what the item is “worth” is not a big consideration, but unfortunately, the price tag is.

Having spent some time as a vintage seller, I understand that sellers deserve to get fair prices for the goods they sell.  It’s not an easy job. Finding great stuff to resell is getting harder all the time as attics are emptied. So for the most part, I don’t complain about prices.

I thought this was interesting.  I had to look up the history of Trader Vic’s, and to my surprise, there are still a few locations in operation.  This is older, as the prices prove:

I could really go for some Cosmo Tidbits about now.

I really hope there are some collectors out there who are saving all the great vintage kids’ garments. Sometimes the cuteness is just overwhelming.

This is the oldest Rit Dye case I’ve ever come across.

I love how a few well-placed scallops can make a boot look pretty.

I live for a stack of good antique magazines. I usually don’t buy copies of the Ladies’ Home Journal, but I do love the covers.

This card was a new one to me.

They may be making fun of Miss Fishley, but she was wearing a really great bathing suit.

Things like this always confuse me. Why would anyone have eight copies of the same cookbook for sale?

If you are ever in Asheville, NC, and have time to visit only one antique store, make it Magnolia Beauregard’s on Broadway. The store has been in business for decades, and is just as interesting now as it was years ago when I was just learning about historical clothing.

I know there is more to the story of this item.  It is the cover of a songbook, dated 1928.  Interesting that a flooring company would be producing a musical “frolic”.  Maybe it was put on by the employees, as the Fulton Opera House is also in Lancaster, PA.  I can’t help but wonder if the performers wore a version of the pajamas seen in the illustration.

Outing is one of my favorite sources for information on sportswear from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  The issues are online, but it was fun seeing an issue in the wild.

 

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