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.

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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.

 

How a Complicated Asian-Style Skin Care Routine Fits into a Vintage-Inspired Lifestyle

As I mentioned before, I’ve recently re-investigated Asian or Korean skin care and started developing my own multi-step routine. Currently, I mostly use relatively ordinary, Western products, but both the outlandish products and the ritual of the routine fit into my vintage-inspired mindset for my lifestyle. So many people have memories of their grandmothers or mothers sitting in front of the vanity and carefully doing their skin care routine. My own grandmother, though she is not fussy or vain in any way, had her vanity with her jars of creams. I used to play with them sometimes when I was over there, and had to be reminded that grandmother’s room is not for children.

Vintage-style beauty hearkens back to days when makeup was neither widely commercially available nor socially acceptable. While the red lipsticks of the mid-20th century are well-loved, and the feminist makeup boom of the 1920s is known, before that, women were expected to at least look like they were bare-faced and came by their glow honestly. What better way to do this, at least in part, than by having lovely, tended-to skin? And this philosophy is explicitly shared by Korean skin care devotees. The idea is to spend more time on your skin care so you don’t need as much makeup.

Obviously, some of us do just need makeup for things that skin care alone cannot entirely fix. I know I personally have inherited dark circles that no amount of eye cream will diminish, and so I use concealer as well as eye cream. But the idea that the right combination of skin care products will leave you with a perfect, makeup-free glow is an old idea indeed. And while so many “vintage beauty” guides focus on the fact that historical skin care products were made from pre-industrial ingredients, human beings have always had a fascination with the new and outlandish. Before widespread cosmetic manufacturing, odd ingredients or the odd use of ingredients piqued the interest of historical beauties. Rumors about beautiful women bathing in this or that showed that there was an idea that seemingly extreme beauty products were the secret to eternally youthful skin. Cleopatra and Empress Sisi were both said to have bathed in milk. Empress Sisi even wore raw meat sheet masks to enhance her beauty. So is snail secretion or donkey’s milk really that different or new?

And once cosmetic ingredients started to become industrially synthesized, such as the 19th-century discovery of fatty alcohols, people were fascinated by these new ingredients. Perhaps one of the reasons women would put radioactive materials on their skin was because such things were a novelty and thought to be the next big thing. I promise you that if Empress Sisi could have gotten her hands on a peptide serum, she would have tried to bathe in the stuff.

Finally, all this involved skin care helps me stay connected to the practice of enhancing one’s beauty through care and attention. Women in history, particularly in the upper classes, had to engage in elaborate routines to get their hair to curl or even to get in and out of the clothing they wore. So much of modern convenience has meant that some of us no longer spend that time on ourselves. And reconnecting with that bit of self-appreciation has been highly therapeutic to someone to whom “getting ready” used to mean pulling on jeans and a t-shirt and putting her hair into a ponytail (or pinning back a third-day-unwashed pixie cut). Becoming the kind of woman who has a skin care routine has helped me feel better about myself, even when I don’t bother putting on makeup. And that has always been the goal of a beauty routine, throughout history, I think.

Vintage-Inspired Amusements: The Lady Magazine

I’ve discovered something new online! The internet is lovely for lovers of the vintage because you can find all sorts of original documents and vintage-inspired webpages so much more easily than when you had to go to the library and make a date with the microfiche viewer to see them.

The Lady magazine is apparently where Wodehouse got his inspiration for Aunt Dahlia’s Milady’s Boudoir periodical. And it’s not hard to see the resemblance. They even maintain a classified section for those seeking housekeepers, nannies, and other service personnel. Apart from those, they run articles about timeless style and a series of columns. They have a good old-fashioned agony aunt column, as well as an advice column for excellent manners that rivals the Grande Dame Judith Martin herself.

They also tend to provide styling, fashion, and interviews perhaps geared toward a more traditional audience. Rather than following trends, they focus on timeless advice for elegance. And they interviewed the current star of my new favorite show recently.

The magazine has been around since the 19th century and has the distinction of being Britain’s longest-running lady’s magazine. And issues appear weekly online. I love to read the features occasionally as they highlight a more timeless and elegant style than many American publications, particularly when it comes to home and fashion.

Reading such a publication gives me a profound sense of being connected to the history of publishing for ladies. Rather than being a magazine that pigeonholes us into assumptions about our interests in beauty or fashion or lace curtains, The Lady allows that ladies may have diverse interests and as such publishes diverse features, sometimes discussing food, or travel. The columns even target a range of ages, leaving few gaps in the possibilities that one will find something interesting to them. And the style is vintage and understated, rather than loud and trendy. All in all, it is a magazine that suits my style perfectly.

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 Quick Old-Fashioned Treat

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Although the weather has been cooling, I have still had a taste for ice cream. Lately, I’ve been having ice cream sodas. I remember when I was a girl, my mother bought me my first ice cream soda, made with soda water, syrup, and ice cream, at a local old-fashioned ice cream parlour. It was coffee flavored and delicious.

Since then, floats and sodas have been one of my favorite things to do with ice cream. The soda brings a lightness to the drink that makes it easier to drink than a heavy milkshake, and doesn’t hold the problem of ice cream against one’s teeth that arises when one eats an ice cream cone or a bowl of ice cream. Plus the ice cream just lasts so much longer. I’m seriously considering buying a soda siphon to be able to make ice cream sodas whenever I want.

To make a soda, you can simply add a scoop of ice cream to a flavored soda, as in a root beer float, but I like to mix flavored syrup into plain soda water and add a scoop of ice cream at the end. The stainless steel straw has the double benefit of serving as a stirring rod. I add chocolate syrup to the bottom of the glass, as though I were making a chocolate milk, and then add a splash of soda water to get the syrup thinned out a bit. I mix in the soda little by little so it doesn’t froth out of the glass, leaving about two inches of headroom so I don’t make a mess when I drop in the scoop of ice cream. Topping with whipped cream is optional, but pretty.

Channeling Agent Carter’s Strength

It’s been a busy week for me. I’ve been moving into a new role at work, and it comes with a lot of new skills to learn, a lot of things to take care of, and a lot of people with whom I must interact. I’ve talked about the confidence boost that red lipstick gives me in the past, but I thought I’d mention a new lipstick I bought, along with a new television show I’m watching.

I finally started watching Marvel’s Agent Carter last week, and I love it. From the opening sequence of each show, they make it clear that this show is about a strong woman who’s been relegated to the background by a chauvinist society, much the same way I talked about the women of The Bletchley Circle found after the war. I mean, this was a woman who fought with Captain America, and now she’s mostly getting coffee in the SSR office.

I could talk about the plot, but it’s such a comic-book-perfect blend of intrigue and action that I leave it to the reader to check out this show. Also, I was unfortunate enough to wait until only the final five episodes of the 8-episode first season were available for free. So I came into the plot in the middle, but still found it gripping.

No, instead, I think I’ll talk about Peggy Carter’s faces. She makes the most amazing disapproving faces whenever she’s ignored or talked over. The show is faithful enough to the ethos of the era that she can’t just shout out and say “Hey guys, I know what I’m talking about and you’re being a bunch of jerks!” She has to keep her mouth shut and find a way to subtly maneuver situations to her advantage. It’s eye-opening, but also familiar in a way. When she finally saves the day and that is taken from her by a pompous colleague, she is able to maintain poise, even while another colleague becomes indignant on her behalf. And she does it all with her signature dark-red lip.

Hayley Atwell, the actress who plays Carter, announced last December that Agent Carter’s lip color is none other than Besame Cosmetics’ Red Velvet. While on my search for the perfect red, I happened to email a rep at Besame asking about their lipstick, and Red Velvet was one of the shades they recommended, along with Red Hot Red, a bright, warm red inspired by Marilyn Monroe. Well, when I saw Besame lipsticks were now available at Sephora, I jumped. I’ve been dissatisfied with the feathering of my go-to Poppy red, and Red Velvet is different enough from anything I currently have.

I have to say, I love the formula, the packaging, and the experience. I also love the color. It’s a very serious red, and makes me feel like a serious person, which has been fantastic this week, when I have to hold my own in meetings. Sometimes I have to keep my mouth shut when a superior is talking, even if I disagree with what he or she is saying. But just because I’m quiet, doesn’t mean I’m submissive, just like Peggy.

And I’ve gone ahead and ordered Red Hot Red, too!

A New Addition to the Boudoir

As someone who loves vintage style, particularly the Victorian aesthetic, I’ve started wearing nightgowns to sleep instead of t-shirt and shorts. I had my favorite Etsy seller, Sue Bradbury at Ellaina Boutique make me a three-quarter-sleeved nightgown in a lightweight purple material with cream lace trim. It has served me well, but as the days grow longer and warmer and the nights no longer chill me, I found I was in need of something lighter still.
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So I contacted Sue and we discussed using some new lightweight printed material she had gotten in. She had three floral prints that just shouted my name. So I chose one and had her make me a summer nightgown. It arrived earlier this week, and I’ve been wearing it to sleep ever since. I may have to order a couple more soon.

The material is so soft and light and doesn’t hang awkwardly, but also doesn’t cling. While it is a loose design, and somewhat old-fashioned, I find the delicious fabric drapes around me in a way that is not entirely unenticing. And it feels lovely against my skin. I find myself sweating less. The cream lace around the neckline and the hemline give it the perfect touch of something extra, but Sue is careful to sew the lace in where it won’t get ragged from wear.

Anyone looking for new, comfy clothing for the summer should definitely give Sue’s shop a look! I don’t receive anything for free from Sue, but I’ve bought much of my wardrobe from her.