On Vintage Clothing Shopping Triumphs and Fails

When I first started this blog, one of my very clear goals was to share my love of vintage style. I fashioned my beauty routines after historical practices I read about and had started buying more vintage clothing to create a vintage and vintage-inspired wardrobe. Over the years, my wardrobe has fluctuated, but I still love a little vintage style. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that many of my previously purchased vintage pieces fell victim to my occasional bouts of decluttering. Add to that a new personal effort to be more sustainable, which translates into attempting to reduce the amount of clothing I purchase new, plus changes in both my body shape and needs at work from pregnancy, and I was in need of a few vintage and secondhand basics. First, I made a plan for my color scheme, and since most of my clothing is neutral colored, with some jewel tones, I decided that neutrals (black, white, dark navy, grey, brown, and cream) paired with two accent colors would work. Since they are my favorite colors, my accents are green and purple.

I started, as I usually do, on Etsy, but soon grew somewhat disillusioned with both the prices and the need to ship from different countries. I realized that for some of my basics, if I wasn’t buying new fast fashion, I at least needed to find a place to buy secondhand that fit my schedule. So, after watching a video from Rachel Maksy, I decided to investigate ThredUp, an online thrift store of sorts. I started by putting together a custom “Goody Box” of ten different blouses that fit my pseudo-Victorian/Edwardian aesthetic, but with effectively free shipping (if I kept at least one item) and an easy-to-navigate return process when I didn’t want to keep everything. I ended up liking two of the ten blouses (I almost liked three, but ended up with an odd shoulder pads situation). While ThredUp isn’t perfect, it was a great way to buy secondhand for someone with enough going on in my life that I can’t really browse thrift shops for gems on a regular basis. And I particularly like that I can filter by material, so I can only look at items made with cotton, linen, silk, and wool.

After my initial Goody Box, I bought a few more things on ThredUp, including another couple blouses, some blazers, and a skirt. Only the skirt was a miss, but only because I misjudge the silhouette online, and it will still come in handy if I ever need to dress like a normal professional rather than a professional hobbit. But the jackets were some real finds. I found a jacket that is a modernized version of an historical-style riding jacket, as well as a velvet blazer that is probably from the 80s or earlier (because the company it’s from went out of business in the 80s). It’s interesting because nothing is labeled “vintage” on ThredUp, but they do definitely sell some things that might be considered vintage (I just keep reminding myself that when I was a teenager in the 90s, 70s was considered “vintage,” so, yes, 90s can be vintage now).

But now on to the main event: Etsy. Eventually, I realized that ThredUp wasn’t really going to fit my needs for skirts, so I returned to Etsy. Knowing that I would be spending more, I decided to get two wool skirts, to replace the two skirts (one cotton and one linen) that were my standard work rotation in the warmer weather. I wanted one to be black and one to be a neutral non-black color, or one of my accent colors of green and purple. Then, I needed to get an accurate waist measurement and determine how long I needed the skirt to be to fall below my knees, which is what I feel most comfortable wearing. Sadly, the amazing purple wool skirts I found were all too small for me, but I found a lovely black wool skirt and a brown tweed wool skirt. I was struck when they arrived how much nicer they were than the previous skirts I’d remembered buying on Etsy. The fabric is sturdy but not scratchy, and there is even little piping sewn into the black skirt to create a ridged embellishment. Plus, the waist measurements were scrupulously accurate. And the seller who sold me the black skirt even included a lovely scarf as a little extra, which is fun thing about buying from Etsy sellers.

Of course, this post is called “triumphs and fails,” not “vintage triumphs,” so now we come to the fail. While I was on Etsy, I started looking around at some of the vintage “[decade] does Victorian” blouses and fell in love with an adorable Victorian-inspired silk blouse. The main problem with Etsy is that there is no consistency in how vendors disclose the condition of their items, so when I didn’t see any particular issues called out in the listing, I splurged. But when it arrived, the cuffs were frayed and missing some stitching, not terribly so, but badly enough that I would have felt like it needed to be repaired before wearing it to work. After going back and forth with the seller, they decided they’d rather just accept a return than have me get a quote for repairing it, which is fine, but it meant that I had to pay to ship it back overseas. So there is a sense of buyer beware on Etsy. Don’t be like me; contact your vintage sellers and ask about condition before clicking “Buy.”

So there is my current status on fall/winter fashion. I’ve created a largely second-hand or self-thrifted (i.e., from my own closet because the most sustainable option is to wear what you already have) wardrobe with strong historical influences. I’m certainly not “fashionable,” but I feel like my clothes show the strongest sense of personal style that I’ve ever had, and I feel the most like myself. I’ll definitely be wearing these clothes in future tea videos, so you’ll get to see them even without modeling shots here. Happy dressing!

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One last thing: For anyone who has watched my most recent tea video, today is the birthday of the lovely friend who made the handmade mug I use in that video (and that frequently makes an appearance on Instagram). If you wish her a happy birthday in the comments, I’ll certainly pass along the well wishes!

NB: This post is not sponsored or affiliated with any of the companies mentioned.

My Historically-Inspired Morning Routine

I’ve written before about my vintage-inspired routines, but lately, I’ve been finding myself going even further back in history for inspiration. Because the summer always makes me yearn for airy muslin dresses, I’ve been stuck in the Regency period lately. And because I never just limit myself to fashion or beauty, I’ve found the practices of the Regency period bleeding into my morning routine.

Since having a baby, the early morning is often the only time I get entirely to myself, and adding childcare to my morning routine has meant that I have to rise particularly early. While my hours may be more akin to that of a Regency servant, I’ve taken some inspiration from Regency middle and upper classes to carve out a few quiet moments to myself in the morning.

I rise between 5:30 and 6 a.m., and wash up. I shower every morning, although it is often a very quick shower to wash my body and face, while I keep my hair protected in a cap or turban. I spritz my clean skin with rosewater and apply a few drops of facial oil, put on a robe, and go into the kitchen.

One thing I’ve learned is that I no longer wake ravenous, so I don’t need to make a full breakfast immediately upon rising. In true historical fashion, I’ve started eating my breakfast around 10 a.m. in my office. But I need something to get me through my commute, so I’ve been making a cup of drinking chocolate. I’ll share more about my particular recipe a little further on, but while my chocolate boils, I usually have enough time to prepare the few things I need to bring to work for my breakfast and lunch: some sliced bread and cheese, a couple boiled eggs, some fruit, and a salad.

To make my chocolate, I bring water to a boil, add chopped chocolate, spices ground in my mortar and pestle, and sugar. I stir until the chocolate melts, and then bring it to a simmer. Then I remove it from the heat, add cream, and whip it to a froth. This is poured into a cup or mug and enjoyed with a chapter or two of a book. I’ve lately tried to keep myself from opening up my devices too early in the morning (although I often fail to resist temptation), and instead have been reading classic books. I recently finished Jane Eyre and enjoyed it immensely.

By the time I finish my chocolate, Elliot and Dan have usually woken up, so I sit and nurse Elliot while Dan takes his shower. Once both have finished, I can make the final touches to my skin care by applying sunscreen, and then dress my hair, dress my body, and put on a little makeup. Then, I can gather my things and leave for the train station, my little oasis of calm having thoroughly prepared me for the day.

Regency-Inspired Drinking Chocolate
(inspired by this post)

1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 cardamom pods
3 allspice berries
1 Tbsp. of sucanat (unrefined sugar)
1 cup of water
2-3 Tbsp. heavy cream

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Break open the cardamom pods and empty the seeds into a mortar. Add the allspice. Grind the spices to a powder with the pestle. Chop the chocolate. Add the chocolate, spices, and sucanat to the boiling water. Stir until the chocolate has melted and blended with the water, then bring back to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add cream. Whip to a froth and serve. Makes one generous cup.

Unexpected Vintage Inspiration: Love for a Thousand More

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about vintage fashion, and I realize it’s been some time since I’ve talked about what I’ve been watching when I have the spare time. Part of the reason for this is that 1.) I’ve been less focused on vintage fashion right now and more focused on using what I have so I can spend my money on wedding stuff and 2.) I’ve been reading a lot and spending most of my screen time sharing shows with Fiancé, whose tastes are decidedly different. But the other day, I happened upon a Korean drama online that I’ve never encountered before and it reminded me of something important: Vintage style is not just about the West.

Most of the vintage bloggers I follow take their inspiration from Americana or the vintage styles of European countries, and a large part of that is because they themselves are American or of European decent. The problem of diversity in vintage blogging has been talked about by better bloggers than I, so I won’t get into that too much. But what I do want to talk about is the main character of the Korean drama Love for a Thousand More.

The premise of the show is that Mijo is an woman who was made immortal sometime during the Koryo Dynasty and is currently 999 years old. In that time, she has had many lovers, and all relationships have ended sadly for her. So she has decided to give up on love. But of course, she’s a love counselor by profession (who could have more experience?). From there, in typical Korean drama fashion, the demands of love cannot be denied and our heroine finds herself with a choice between two men who represent different worlds or philosophies.

But the costumes she wears! Mijo is a woman who, from the outside, looks like a young woman who is very into vintage fashion. While Westerners often think of “Asian fashion” as being the traditional styles that are not widely worn anymore, especially by the younger generation, this drama puts Mijo’s dated attire in start contrast with the other character’s more modern sense of fashion. Indeed, not only does Mijo dress like a granny and wear old-fashioned, sensible pumps, she also knits, drinks tea traditionally, and does old-fashioned exercises with the older people in the park.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

And her specific flavor of vintage fashion is drawn from the traditional hanbok clothing of Korea. Her skirts are shorter and she doesn’t wear sandals, but the styling is unmistakably hanbok. Her uniform of a crisp, wrap blouse with a full skirt, her hair tied into a demure bun at the nape of her neck is utterly relatable to someone who has found their own Western-style vintage uniform.

Meanwhile, her makeup would not be out of place on Empress Ki. She wears minimal eye makeup and occasionally has her lips stained a slightly brighter shade of pink, but always within the bounds of tradition. And all of this happens in contrast to the other characters, who present a modern, trendy picture of Korean fashion.

I haven’t made a secret of the fact that I’ve found myself drawn to Korean-style beauty routines over the last year, and anyone who reads this blog knows that my tea appreciation spans the globe, but this drama has now reopened my eyes to the beauty of Korean-inspired vintage fashion. Watching true period dramas is fun and beautiful, but not terribly practical. Love for a Thousand More takes the beauty of period Korean clothing and fits it nicely into a more modern world. Perhaps I shall consider adding some of that inspiration to my own wardrobe in the future.

[Image Source]

On Helping Friends in their Time of Need

One of my favorite bloggers and all-around lovely person is Jessica Cangiano of Chronically Vintage. I’ve written about her before because she was a wonderful guide when I first got started blogging about vintage-inspired style. She also has an Etsy store with the most fabulous variety of vintage baubles that I love to browse. In fact, my favorite necklace, the one that gains me the most compliments when I wear it, came from her shop.

It was this weekend that I was browsing said baubles, toying with making a little purchase of a gift for myself. And then I saw a post on Instagram saying that Jessica and her husband Tony lost their house and all their possessions and likely their cat. It was devastating. I’m not a crier, but I found tears in my eyes as I read about this tragedy that struck them. I saw that a friend of theirs has started a crowdfunding page to help them get back on their feet and I naturally went on to donate. After all, I was just about to give Jess money by making a purchase, so why not use that money to help her now that her business has had this setback?

Here is a link to the site, if you would like to help out this pillar of the vintage blogging community and wonderful, friendly woman who has been a bright spot in my life over the last year or so. I hope you will consider it. And Jess, I wish so much love and luck in rebuilding after this.

On Major Life Events, Planning, and Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

As those of you who follow me on Instagram know, I have a bit of a reason for not blogging for a month.

Boyfriend is no longer Boyfriend. Instead, he is Fiancé. He asked me to marry him just before our vacation at the beginning of August. So I have spent the last month, yes, in Montreal for a week, but also in a flurry of preparation. Since we have just booked our venue, I hope I can calm down and devote mental energy to other things.

Just don’t bet on it.

In the meantime, here is the ring, in case you missed in on Instagram:

Because Fiancé knows me very well, he found a simple, vintage ring from the early 20th century in rosy gold with two moonstones, in a setting called “Toi et Moi,” or “You and Me.” It’s simple, lovely, and just a bit old-fashioned, while also seeming very different from many engagement rings I see so often.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last month. While I still have plenty of planning yet to do, hopefully, I find some time to update this space a bit more regularly.

 

The Freedom of a Bicycle

Since starting my new job, I have discovered the joys of getting around a city, not only by the subway, but also under my own power. Most days, this means walking, about an hour every day. But my city also has a bicycle sharing program, which I have joined. So now, with a minimal cash outlay at the beginning, I can check out a bicycle whenever I want from one of the numerous stands around where I work, and take short trips around the city. It has come in marvelously handy when I miss an early train and get downtown a bit later than expected, or when I feel like stopping for breakfast and have less time to get to work. I can hop on a bicycle and be at work in less than half the time it takes me to walk.

But the most striking thing about bicycling is how it opens up your boundaries. Before, I was limited in my dining options to those places nearby where I worked or on the way to the train. By taking a bicycle, I can easily extend this reach many times over, taking weekday lunches at new local restaurants, or even meeting my mother at a tea room that would be an untenable walk. And when I stop for takeaway for dinner before rehearsal, I can give myself some extra time and distance and not be limited to the one sandwich shop right outside the train station.

It puts me in mind of something I saw when I first saw a film of A Midsummer Night’s Dream from the late 1990s: There was a statement that the film set the play in the Victorian era, around the time of the advent of the bicycle, when men and women found themselves with a new sense of freedom not afforded by more expensive modes of transportation. There was some truth to this in history, and indeed the bicycle was praised by such women’s rights leaders as Susan B. Anthony.

Personally, I like knowing that I can get around the city more quickly without resorting to bringing my car into downtown traffic. The step-through styling of the bikeshare bicycles are also something new. I can ride in my workday uniform of a below-the-knee dress without discomfort. On the rare occasion that a gust of wind pushes my skirt up a bit, I can simply stop and adjust quickly. The bicycles also have fenders and guards so I don’t arrive splashed with mud. I’m excited to be taking part in bicycle culture and it helps me feel much more urban.

A Vintage-Inspired Work Uniform

Vintage-Inspired Work Uniform

 

With my new jobs comes both a long commute and a new office environment. Gone are the days when I’m dressed up if I wear a blazer with my jeans. Now I have to wear business casual every day. In order to make mornings run as smoothly as possible, I’ve opted for a version of the work uniform, made popular by minimalist bloggers. But, being that I love vintage style, I couldn’t be satisfied with a neutral skirt/slacks, blouse, sweater/blazer combo.
No, my work uniform keeps my personal style in it, while being very, very simple. I’ve based it around a dress because with a dress, you don’t need to match a top and a bottom. Despite the fact that they look put together and stylish, a dress requires minimal input when I choose it in the morning. I found the a-line flounce dress at Land’s End and rejoiced, as it is long enough to cover my knees, but fits well enough to look attractive and not dowdy. The sleeves are capped enough that if I get warm in the office, I can wear it without a cardigan, and I don’t feel uncomfortable going outside on a warm day without a cover. It also comes in a variety of colors and prints. I have it in four colors right now: blue, purple, berry, and black.
But, being that offices are cold year-round where I live, I’ve decided to add a neutral cardigan. Most of my dressed are jewel-toned and look perfectly lovely with a plain black cardigan. But the black dresses I pair with a white cardigan for something different, and to avoid the all-black look. I may also buy some grey and tan cardigans to add to my rotation.
For autumn and winter, I pair my dress and cardigan with black opaque tights and a pair of black Oxford shoes with a bit of a heel. The heels feels a bit more feminine than Oxfords alone, but Born shoes are fantastically well-made and comfortable. I will probably look for a pair of their ballet flats for spring and summer. And, of course, no winter look would be complete without a tweed coat and a crocheted scarf to keep the chill at bay. When it is bitterly cold, I add a hat and gloves.
So here is my work uniform. Yes, I wear approximately the same thing every day to work. It is not stylish or current, but it looks good on me and it marries my vintage aesthetic with my minimalist needs. And of course, I always pair it with a swipe of bright red lipstick.

A Busy Weekend and a Busy Monday

Sunday morning, we woke up and realized that our front garden bed was woefully neglected. We hadn’t weeded in weeks and the weeds were almost as tall as the azaleas. So that we didn’t get too much sun, I suggested we go out and weed in the early morning. The front of the house is shaded until about 9:30 a.m., so we had plenty of time to pull most of the worst offenders in the weed department. We’ll have to get out a couple of weeks in a row before fall to keep things under control and then put down more mulch as the weather cools. We also gave them a bit of water since it was drier than usual last week and they were looking crispy.

After that, we decided it would be nice to walk to the store to get supplies to make waffles. I had most of the ingredients already, but we were out of maple syrup and butter. I was really excited to find Kerrygold Irish butter at the supermarket, and at a surprisingly good price. So I got fancy butter and went home to make waffles. I stirred up the batter and Boyfriend took care of cooking them. Waffles with butter and syrup was the perfect post-weeding treat! We did get a little down time for a couple hours while we ate breakfast, and I used the time to start watching Series 3 of Downton Abbey on Amazon, and do a deep conditioning treatment for my hair.

I’ve decided to officially try to grow my hair out again, and to that end, I’ve re-joined the hair forum of which I was a member many years ago. There’s a few treatments that have attained near-cult status and I knew one of them worked for me, so I put together a treatment with conditioner, honey, and aloe. I managed to use the last of my Griffin Remedy conditioner, but since I don’t want to order online when we’re going away soon-ish, I’m trying a brand from the natural food store where do our normal shopping. I’ve used it in the past and always thought of it as expensive, but it’s not actually that much more expensive than Griffin. Anyway, I let my treatment sit for an hour under plastic wrap and a bandanna, and then rinsed it out. It left my hair very soft and shiny. I let it dry hanging over one arm of the sofa while Boyfriend showered, and then put it up while we went to the store to shop.

After shopping for the week, I set to work, baking muffins and putting together lunch things for the week. I found the absolute best whole-grain blueberry muffin recipe last week, which I made again this week and froze for breakfasts. They’re fabulous with a cup of tea at my desk after I’ve made my smoothie at home. I also made a chopped salad, and hard-cooked some eggs for protein. I’m finishing out my healthy July re-boot strong!

Sunday evening was nice because we took my mother out for a birthday dinner. I was able to have a cocktail and a nice meal with her at one of her favorite restaurants. We even all got dessert and coffee (except I had tea!). It was nice because the slightly larger dinner served me well the next morning because I got up to go running early. I’m experimenting with only washing my hair three days a week and adjusting my running schedule so I run on days I already plan to wash my hair. This allows me to skip showering on some days, saving water and my skin, which has started to get more dry lately. We’ll see how it goes.

After running and a full day at work, I spent my Monday evening at an audition to which I’ve been looking forward for a long time. It was very busy and lasted longer than I would have liked, but I got to read for both characters in which I’m interested, AND the director remembered me by name without prompting, even though he asked almost everyone else to remind him of their names throughout the evening. So maybe that’s a good sign. Either way, it was fun to get to read something from the script. It would be a fun show to be in because it would further indulge my vintage loves!

I managed to make it home very late and fall into bed, but not before eating some pizza Boyfriend saved for me. He really is so sweet!