Tag Archives: VA

Currently Reading – Mary Quant

This new book, Mary Quant, is the catalog (of sorts) of an exhibition currently showing at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  The exhibition and book have been a long time in coming. I’m not going to fight the old did-she-or-did-she-not invent the mini skirt, but I am going to say that Quant’s work influenced how we all dressed in the Sixties and beyond.

Before this book, the best account of Quant’s life was her autobiography with was published at the height of her career in 1966. And while the book is fantastic, it was a bit of a letdown to a person like me who tends to dwell on details. The lack of dates in the book was extremely annoying.

But curator and author Jenny Lister and her collaborators on this book have definitely filled in those gaps. It was greatly enhanced by an appeal on the museum’s social media sites to get women to share their Mary Quant stories from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Some of the stories and the garments connected to them actually ended up in the exhibition and the book.

Besides showing many of the garments shown in the exhibition, we also get to see photos from the Quant archive of the clothes as worn by models. This Ginger Group dress probably dates from 1966.

Here’s the same dress in a different colorway. The V&A acquired this dress for the exhibition. I know this because they got it, and another one, from my friends at Style and Salvage.

Because the curator had access to the Mary Quant archive, we are treated to the supporting material of many of the designs featured.

This dress, “Stampede”, is quite early, 1962. Skirts were getting shorter, but the mini was still a couple of years in the future.

In 1963 Quant released her Ginger Group line. It was less expensive than the clothes she made for her own Bazaar boutiques, and was wholesaled to stores. The Quant girls in the ad were designed by Maureen Roffey.

The dresses in the whimsical advertising were actual clothes included in the line. Do you recognize the famous face on the left?

And here are the design details for the dress on the right in the ad. It dates to 1965.

With the exception of the three Bazaar boutiques which were all closed by 1969, Mary Quant was a wholesaler. She maintained a design and sewing workroom to make samples, but her clothes were made by other firms. She (or actually Archie McNair, her partner along with her husband Alexander Plunkett Green) made lots of deals to sell her designs. In the US, JC Penney made and sold Quant designs, as well as Puritan. Starting in 1964 Butterick patterns released Quant designs as part of their Young Designer line.

Often the clothes designed for one line ended up in some of the other collaborations. Some of the Butterick patterns are very similar to the JC Penney clothes. The early Butterick design above was also produced as a completed garment.

To a collector and complete label fanatic, this chart is incredibly helpful. The Quant labels have been confusing people (me) for years, but the V&A staff was able to match extant garments with dated material with the archive to come up with this lovely timeline. Because of this I was able to correct some errors in the VFG Label Resource, and to more correctly date the three Quant garments in my own collection.

People interested in the history and culture of the Sixties will want to read this one, as well as those of us who grew up in the Age of Quant. The only beef I have with the book is that as a catalog of the exhibition, it is not complete. I’ve seen so many Instagram photos of the exhibition that I know that much more was included than what we are shown in the book. I wish they had at least included a listing with thumbnail photos of the entire exhibition.

There’s still plenty of time to catch Mary Quant at the Victoria and Albert. It’s on until February 16, 2020.



Filed under Currently Reading, Designers, Museums

Martha Washington College, now the Martha Washington Inn

I just spent a few days with friends in my favorite type of place – a town full of history.  The town is Abingdon, VA, and more specifically, I’ll be telling about the inn where we stayed, the Martha Washington.  The central part of the inn was built in 1832 as a residence for General Francis Preston and his family.  Much of the original structure is intact, including the family’s parlors, and a lovely oval staircase.

The house was sold in 1858 to the Methodist church, which was in the process of establishing a school of higher learning for girls which was to be named for Martha Washington.  The school actually opened in 1860.  Over the years the building was enlarged and new wings were added on either side.

All the sources I’ve found call the school Martha Washington College, though, especially in the early years, it was really more of a finishing school.  A girl could attend for two years if she had graduated from high school, or for four years if she had completed two years of high school.  By the 1920s the school was in effect, a junior college.

There are a lot of legends and ghost stories surrounding the school, including tragic love stories involving students and Civil War soldiers.  I also found a lot of differing information concerning dates.  This is a topic in search of a good researcher!

What made the stay at the Martha Washington so interesting to me was the presence of many photographs and other memorabilia concerning the school that lined the walls of the main floor of the inn.  Most of it was from around 1895 to 1932, when the Great Depression forced the school to close.

Many of the photos from the Teens and Twenties show the girls in sports uniforms.  Here’s part of the basketball team from 1924.

And here are some basketball players from a few years later.

Students were properly attired for golf in 1924.

Many of the photos showed the girls wearing middy blouses, that most schoolgirl of all garments.

The inn really has taken great pains to remember the heritage of the old building.  Each guest room is identified with a different vintage photo of the school and its students.  One of the parlors is named for First Lady Edith Wilson, who was a student at Martha Washington for a very short time.

After the college closed in 1932 (some sources say 1931) the building stood empty for a few years.  But fortunately for Abingdon, a new enterprise opened across the street – the Barter Theatre.  In 1933, young (and out of work) actor Robert Porterfield got the idea to open a theatre and let people pay their admissions with either 40 cents or an equivalent amount of food.

The theatre was an immediate success, and that created a need for a hotel.  The Martha Washington opened as an inn in 1935.

In 1948 Abingdon was the “Second healthiest town in America.”  I would love to know which town was number one!



Filed under Curiosities, Road Trip, Vintage Travel

Virginia Highlands Festival Annual Antiques Market

One show and sale that I try to attend every year is the Virginia Highlands Festival Antiques Market in Abington, Virginia.  It is held outside under two huge tents, but you’d never call this market a flea market.  It has a great mix of antique and vintage items, with absolutely no junk.  I like this one so much because I always see things I’ve never seen before.  It is simply a nicely edited show of quality items.

Conversely, this is not the place to expect a huge bargain.  Not that the prices are crazy high, but these sellers have great inventories and they know their stuff.  I find markets like this one to be just as valuable for an education as for shopping.

A table of Scotty cuteness.  I especially love the big guy in the back which is a riding toy with little wheels.

A seller had this book, and had taken it apart to sell the illustrations separately.  I see a lot of this, mainly when the illustrations are exceptional (as these are) and when the entire book is quite pricy.

Here’s an example of one of the prints.  Most of them were done with this technique of using blocks of color and white to form the picture.  You can see more of Coles Phillips work here.

Proof that a hat box needn’t be round to be terrific.

I loved this old sign for the Old Abington Weavers.  The weavers made and sold coverlets (note designs on sign) to the tourist trade.

There were some super cosmetics pieces.  The red swinging compact still had little rounds of rouge and pressed powder.

It’s a good thing I’m not a grandmother, because stuff like that little dress and sailor top would bankrupt me!

This 1910s suit was love at first sight.  It was in perfect condition, and even included the original matching boots.  Admire the details:

This seller also had some lovely hats, including this one and the one in my top photo.

And it looks like she made a sell to this lovely woman!

I’m not familiar with the Utility Dress Co., but isn’t the sign nice?

On the way home I made a quick stop in Bristol VA/TN to check out their antique malls.  The dividing line between Virginia and Tennessee runs through the center of the main street, State Street.  Thank goodness all the antique stores are on the Virginia side as there is a big difference in the sales tax rate.

I love this reminder of the old Bristol.  Wouldn’t an hour at F.G. Pitzer be an experience?


Filed under Shopping

Hillsville, VA Flea, Labor Day Weekend, 2012

Last weekend I went to the big Hillsville, Virginia flea market, and I hope you enjoy this review because it will be my last one of this particular market.  It is just too big, too crowded, too hot and too filled with junk.  I could deal with the first three problems, but the last one is just a deal killer.

I actually had made this same vow to never return last year, and then I started thinking about some of the wonderful things I’ve gotten there in the past, and so I weakened.  And what is so frustrating about the entire thing is that all they would have to do is section the place off with an area just for antiques and vintage, an area for crafts, an area for guns (this actually started as a gun show) and so on.  But wandering through the entire space with only about one third of it being of interest is too exhausting.

Not that I didn’t spot some lovely things.  I certainly did:

From one of the prettiest embroidered wool quilts I’ve ever seen.  And the icing on the cake:

Signed and dated.

Click to enlarge

If I had a cabin or a lake house, I’d have pounced on this charming painting.  It’s in need of a cleaning, but in person it was really sweet.

My number one hint for places like this is “Don’t be afraid to dig.”  These boxes looked like curtains and calendar towels from the 1980s, but scattered thoughout the boxes were some nice vintage frocks.

In case you are going on a trip and need a lot of pencils.

This is a bad photo of a very nice advertising piece.  It’s for Phillip Morris cigarettes.  It was really super, with a price to match.  And what does one do with something this massive?

And speaking of Phillip Morris, here’s a poster from a few decades later.

This one is here just because I thought it was cute.

But how weird are these!

And I’ll end with a buyer beware.  If you have ever been tempted to buy a concert poster that might be authentic, just be aware that these are being printed by the thousands.  This guy had dozens of each design, and he must have been doing a great business with the other dealers because they were everywhere.



Filed under Shopping

Rambling Thoughts

I’m back from the big Hillsville, Virginia Flea and ready to share a bit. First up, the one I just barely got before the sky opened up and rain poured down, closing the market an hour early.  Can you guess what I bought from the above display?

I bet those of you who are regular readers are thinking the hatbox, and that is a great guess, but I already had that particular box.  No, I bought the Hapi Cat box handbag, an Enid Collins favorite.  I’m really not a particular fan of cats, (having lived though nineteen years of Aramis  the Wonder Cat) but I, and most Collins of Texas fans, have always thought the cat was one of her best motifs.  I’d tell you what I paid, but I’m afraid it would inspire envy.  Even with the missing jewels, it was a very hapi find.

Otherwise, it was an Art Deco sort of trip, with all my other purchases coming from 1925-1932ish.  I can’t complain about that.

But on the whole, this flea market trip has gotten to be a bit too much.  The main problem is that anything goes here.  This does not pretend to be an antiques market.  It started out as a gun show and just grew and grew.  Today there are some wonderful antiques and collectibles sellers, but there is a heck of a lot of down right junk, and it is all mixed together so that to find the good stuff you have to pass by an awful lot of pure tacky.  It all just leaves me exhausted.

So, this may be my last trip to Hillsville.  It’s weekends like this that make me wish I were farther north so I could easily go to the vintage show at Sturbridge, and the fields at Brimfield.

I also liked:

Very nice sweater, but I’m just not set up for fur.

These prints are quite common, but always pricy.  Pretty, no?  There are several others in the series.

And just for a smile, a bit of Holt Howard.

I took the slow road home, just because I needed to catch my breath.  In this case, the slow road is the Blue Ridge Parkway, which follows the crest of the Blue Ridge from the middle of Virginia through western North Carolina.

This is Grandfather Mountain.  On the far left, near the bottom is the Linn Cove Viaduct, a specially designed bridge that was built so as not to disturb the fragile eco-system of Grandfather.  It curves around the mountain, and was the last link of the road to be completed, in 1983 at a cost of $10,000,000.  You can actually park and go under the Viaduct for a very interesting view of it.


Filed under Road Trip, Shopping

These Made the Cut

Like many people, I’ve been working on scaling back the stuff.  That doesn’t mean I’d ever give up collecting, it just means that I’m a lot pickier about what I do buy.  It has to be something I really love, or really need.

Lately, I’ve been wanting to get back to the sewing machine, now that the weather has cooled a bit.  So I was especially looking for some great vintage fabric.

Seek and ye shall find:

Some really great 60s or 70s duck which will make some nifty travel bags and journal covers

There were only scraps of this print, but I’ll find a use for it, I promise.

Someone is going to get new pajama pants!

And there’s more that I don’t have photographed, including a super red print from the 40s that I already have cut into pieces to make a blouse, and a white with black and blue tattersal that is also destined to become a blouse or shirt.

I thought this dress was pretty, but it was the Jerry Gilden label and the $5 price tag that sold me on it.

I’d had a bag of this type on my want list for a while, and the detailing on it is very nice.

I pulled this Hermes for Wear-Right set out of a $1 box!

Can’t resist art hankies.

I’m always searching for fashion magazines, and was happy to find these two.  Unfortunately, I already had the Bazaar, so it will be listed on etsy tomorrow.

If one buys fabric, than one must also buy patterns.  It’s one of the rules.

This is a 1920s candy box, and it needs no explanation!


Posted by Karen/Small Earth Vintage:

I would say you did very well, very well indeed! I can’t pick one item I love above all the others–they are all fantastic! 

Wednesday, September 8th 2010 @ 7:32 AM

Posted by Em:

Incredible finds at unbelievable prices–wow!!!!!!!! 

Wednesday, September 8th 2010 @ 6:54 PM

Posted by Lin:

The Tourist candy box? My total favourite. No shock there then! 

Thursday, September 9th 2010 @ 4:05 PM

Posted by Helen:

These are brilliant! I love the candy box so much (anything to do with the history of travel seems to be one of my weaknesses). I’ve just stumbled across your blog and it seems to me that you find such great things. I love how there is so much history comes from some of things people love and have. I’ll be watching your blog from now on! 

Monday, September 13th 2010 @ 5:15 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Thanks all. If you have time, click on Helen’s name and go to her blog to see a very interesting video on LV trunks. 

Friday, September 24th 2010 @ 5:40 PM

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Filed under Road Trip, Shopping

Hillsville Flea, 2010

I just returned from two days of the madness otherwise known as Hillsville.  As usual, it did not disappoint, though I’d sure like to make some changes to that place.

Hillsville is a small town in southwestern Virginia, and they have been hosting the Hillsville Gun Show and Flea Market since 1968.  This year they predicted there would be close to half a million visitors over the long weekend.  And this is a small town of less than 3000!  The show completely takes over the town, with streets turned into selling spots.  It really is madness, and is only for the hardened flea market fanatic.

The show is about 40% junk, 40% good vintage and antiques, 10% food and maybe 10% guns.  The big problem is that it is all jumbled up together.  You have to walk past a lot of tube socks and tin can yard ornaments to see all the old stuff.  And because it is all spread across two high hills and one deep valley, it can really wear you out.  Add the crowds and the heat, and you can see why I’d never take anyone but myself to this place.

So why do I keep going back, year after year?  Because there are some top notch dealers who go there and not to any other shows in this area.  I’ve made some incredible finds.

So here is a little taste of Hillsville, showing some of the things I thought were interesting, but for which I didn’t find a place in my already over crowded home.

Dated 1928, I thought this manicure set was just lovely.

Here it is in its natural habitat.

Traveling the USA popup book from the 1940s.  Cute but pricey.

I could collect vintage letter sweaters, really, I could!

I almost bought that pink tote, and will probably regret that I forgot to go back and give it a second look.

Big girl’s dress with fabric dated 1964.

See what this place does to you?  I really wanted to join these 2 in their afternoon nap!

Tomorrow, what came home with me.

Posted by Sarah:

Goodness, that does look arduous! All your ‘left behind’ picks look so tantalising. 

I struggle with big events such as this because its so hard to evaluate what to spend my very limited budget on. Do you go with that great item you find in the first hour, or wait and see if something better turns up? Its all part of the challenge I suppose!

Monday, September 6th 2010 @ 1:00 AM

Posted by ++f+:

oh my. 1/10 of that and i’d give up already. but i’d still go, for sure. how i wish i could score a vintage camera! 

Monday, September 6th 2010 @ 7:32 AM

Posted by Karen/Small Earth Vintage:

Oh, that Mary Poppins dress! I find flea markets so overwhelming. Ours seem to have a much higher percentage of junk, too. 

I can’t wait to see what you brought home!

Monday, September 6th 2010 @ 8:10 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

I guess I should point out that the top photo is just a very small part of the entire spectacle. Multiply it times about 12 and you get the full picture. 

Monday, September 6th 2010 @ 8:30 AM

Posted by Melinda:

Good grief, what a scene! You must have had fun! 

Friday, October 22nd 2010 @ 6:28 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Fun?? Yes!! 

Friday, October 22nd 2010 @ 7:04 AM


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