Tag Archives: vintage fabrics

My Not-So-Secret Shopping Place

My life changed the day I discovered the Goodwill Outlet Center.  I’m not exaggerating.  Where else can you prowl through piles and piles of textiles and clothes, and then pay $1.10 a pound for your finds?

In case you don’t have one of these paradises in your area, let me explain.  The sorters go through all the donations and put anything they think will not sell on the regular Goodwill floor into the giant blue bins.  I suspect that 95% of the vintage donated ends up in the bins, along with all the fabrics and patterns.  There are also bins of “hard goods” which can be anything from vintage records to every VHS movie ever released.

The book bins are amazing.  Even though the regular store has a large book section, there are always at least four bins of books and magazines.  I look for sewing books and those on history and fashion.

There is a bit of a trick shopping here.  First, you do have to be willing to dig through the piles.  It is hard work.  And there is a bit of an ick factor, which is solved by the wearing of rubber gloves.  It helps to be methodical, sorting through one bin at a time.

I’ve learned that if I pull out one piece of vintage from a bin, there are probably others.  I think that sometimes the workers empty entire bags of donations into the bins if they feel that all the stuff from the donor is junk.   They must get a lot of donations where a house is being cleared due to an older person having to leave their home, because if a bin has vintage tablecloths and other linens, there are usually dozens.

Yesterday there were piles and piles of fabrics, ranging from the 1940s through the 1980s.  I feel pretty confident saying that a sewer’s stash was donated.  There was a lot of interest in it, and I got some very nice pieces, including a Christmas border print, and a nautical novelty print from the 1950s.

There were also dozens of these fabric circles, which were most likely cut out to make a yo-yo quilt.  Can you believe that dachshund print?

I could not capture the correct colors with my phone camera, but this is a great late 1960s or early 70s cotton duck.

There was also quite a bit of vintage clothing, probably from the same estate.  The print above was on a nylon print skirt.

There were lots of vintage patterns, mainly for children.  Lots of times when there are big fabric lots like there were yesterday, there are also bags of zippers and trims.  Unfortunately, I either missed them or they were not donated.  One thing that is rare to find are button boxes.  I think there must be a lot of sentimental value placed on them.  I know I have my grandmother’s box of buttons and I cherish it.

My Goodwill Outlet also sells the merchandise from the regular stores that has been on the racks without selling.  I’ve heard that in some places the contents of the outlets is entirely store leftovers.I wonder what they do with all the good stuff?


Filed under Shopping

Bates Fabrics and Fashion

A few weeks ago I got an email from a new reader here, Diana.  After exchanging a few back and forth she mentioned that she had worked for Bates Fabrics in the late 1940s . She had trained for a career in radio, and after college she worked doing women’s programs for a station in Maine.

Bates, which was at the time most famous for their bedspreads and home fashions fabrics, hired Diana as part of an effort to expand more into fashion fabrics.  Bates had famous designers do clothes using their fabrics, and Diana’s job was to travel around the northeastern US summer resort hotels presenting fashion shows utilizing these clothes.  She got some of her friends to model the fashions while she did commentary.

Here you see Diana at the microphone, describing a gown made of Bates fabric.  The model is Hazel, Diana’s sister-in-law.

Another photo from one of the fashion shows.  Isn’t it interesting how the audience sat around under the sun umbrellas?

Diana pointed out that while the young women had a wonderful time, she’s not sure that the campaign was very successful.  I do know that at least some of the clothes were produced for the market, including the Louella Ballerino for Jantzen swim suits in the 1946 ad at the top.  I thought it was really interesting that one of the women involved, Diana’s friend Cricket, sent her the same ad as an example of the clothes included in this campaign.  Below is another example.


Filed under Designers, First Person Stories