I love DIY remodeling and home decor projects, especially when I can repurpose a used or vintage item. I was super motivated when we first moved into a new house last summer and tackled some things right away, like converting the sunroom into a mudroom where we could store our coats, boots, sports equipment, etc. I turned some old bookshelves into shelving units, made a wall coat rack, and completed a few other DIY projects in relatively little time with materials I already had on hand.
Read on for some simple vintage-inspired mudroom decor ideas that you might be able to make with things you already have or finds from garage or estate sales. Some of these are my own projects and some are ideas from other bloggers that I’d love to try someday.
Window Frame Coat Rack. This is a very simple project that you can do in an hour or two. I found this old window frame among the odds and ends left in our garage by the previous homeowner and decided to make it into a coat rack for my new mudroom. It was originally a pale blue so I painted it to match other items in the room and added some vintage-inspired hooks that I found on Amazon. I was really pleased with how it turned out and it’s been extremely practical as well.
Wooden Crate Boot Racks. Laura and Dana Putnam of Finding Home Farms made a vintage boot rack for their mudroom by attaching a variety of wooden crates with metal brackets. They provide detailed instructions here. You can often pick up these crates at garage sales and flea markets.
Bookcase Lockers. Our new house has lots of built-in shelving, so I converted some old oak bookcases that we’ve had for years into storage areas. I primed them before painting them to match the coatrack and added some adhesive hooks and fabric baskets for mittens, hats, etc. The bottom two shelves are lined with waterproof rubber trays that I got at Home Depot, so we can store winter boots without worrying about ruining the wood.
Vintage Trunk Bench. My next goal for the mudroom is to add a bench and I love the idea of finding an old trunk like this one featured on LushHome. It would be fairly easy to add some DIY pillows for the top.
Wood Plank Mats. XXX from How Does She used repurposed wood from an old fence to make this weathered welcome mat with a great vintage feel (see instructions here). I would leave the wood as is but might add a waterproof mat underneath so I could use it inside the doorway.
That’s it for now — I’d love to hear your thoughts and hear about other mudroom makeover ideas!
A Brief Survey of Famous Designer Purses from the 1930s – 1990s
While there are a great many vintage bags—with and without attached brand names—a few have attained almost mythical status over the years. Typically, a bag might become wildly popular after catching the eye of a celebrity who made it part of her signature look. Some bags had fleeting popularity when introduced then faded out of view, only to reemerge years later on a wave of nostalgia.
For this post, I’ve picked out some famous designer bags starting in the 1930s and extending into the 1990s. This is by no means an exhaustive list (I plan to devote an entire future post to novelty bags from the 1950s) but these beauties will be familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in vintage fashion. Many of them are now coveted collectibles that fetch astronomical prices, if you can find them at all.
The Alma. Named after the Alma bridge over the river Seine, this domed satchel by Louis Vuitton was introduced in 1934 and reflected the Art Deco style of the time. The bag is distinctive for its structured design, long zipper extending over the entire arc of the purse, and rigid handles. Jackie Onassis and Audrey Hepburn—icons of sophistication—were big fans.
Vuitton also introduced its Speedy Bag during this decade, a structured bag with cowhide leather handles and logo canvas.
The 1940s and 1950s
The post-WWII years signaled a return to better economic times, fueling the rise of designer luxury handbags.
The Gucci Bamboo Bag. Although this bag is now considered the height of luxury, it was designed with value in mind. European countries were rationing resources after the end of World War II so Gucci artisans began experimenting with bamboo imported from Japan, according to PurseBlog. The bamboo was heated and bent to form the handles. Once attached to the bag and cooled, the wood retained its shape.
The Kelly Bag. This classic bag made by Hermes was named for movie star Grace Kelly, who used it in the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock film “To Catch a Thief.” It is shaped like a trapezoid and made of leather, with ballasts and clasps made of white or yellow gold. Each bag is crafted individually and takes about 25 hours to make.
Grace Kelly may have been rich and famous but she appreciated a good value and probably would have been a fan of vintage purses if she was alive today. Signs of wear and tear on her original Kelly handbag suggest that she carried the same one for many years, according to an article in The Guardian.
The 2.55 Flap Bag. Introduced in 1955 by Coco Chanel, the flap bag features a double flap with a mademoiselle closure and metal chain. According to Eugenia (Yoogi) and Simon Han, co-founders of Yoogiscloset, which resells vintage luxury goods, Coco wanted a bag that could be easily flung over the shoulder or arm so she could keep her hands free.
Variations to the original Flap Bag over the years include leather interwoven through the chain, use of different leathers and fabrics, and a single instead of a double flap.
The Jackie Bag by Gucci. As its name implies, this timeless bag was created for Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Genuine bags have the signature Gucci piston clasp and are handmade in Italy.
The Coach Willis bag. This was Coach’s best-selling handbag and the first to incorporate its signature dowel frame, according to Glamour.
Birkin Bag. Introduced in 1984, the Birkin bag was named for actress Jane Birkin and has become a symbol of wealth, class and fashion, according to BragMyBag. It is carefully handcrafted of genuine calf, crocodile, ostrich, or lizard leather and each bag is handmade individually.
The bag has a famous back story, according to Purseblog. Hermes CEO Pierre Louis Dumas was sitting next to Jane Birkin on a plane in 1981 and saw she was struggling with her carry-on luggage and complaining about the lack of suitable leather handbags for traveling. The encounter inspired Dumas to start working on a leather bag that would combine fashion with function.
Customers who can afford a Kelly or Birkin bag often wait a year or more for them to be individually handcrafted by Parisian artisans. And it isn’t exactly clear whether you can simply purchase one or whether you need to be a celebrity or have some special in with the folks at Hermes. Today, Birkins sell for upwards of $10,000.
The Lady Dior Bag. Like the Kelly bag, this purse was named for royalty, says PurseBlog. The bag was presented to Princess Diana in 1995 by French First Lady Bernadette Chirac. Diana carried it so after that that it was dubbed Lady Dior in her honor.
The Baguette Bag. This bag was introduced by Fendi in the late 1990s and was often featured on the TV show “Sex and the City.” Designed by Silvia Venturini, the bag was made to fit under the arm like a loaf of bread. The bags have been made from many materials, from denim, to pony skin, to crocodile, notes The Richest blog.
I’ve never come across one of these storied bags in real life but I do love searching for stylish vintage purses. Here are a few of my favorite finds (links are to my Etsy shop):
When we moved into a new house last summer I had a seemingly endless list of things to do. My first milestone was getting rid of all the boxes, which until recently were still hidden away in disparate corners of the house. Then, perhaps ill-advisedly, I took it upon myself to paint the entire downstairs, which ended up taking months. Our basement is a bit of a labyrinth once you get outside the main room, which we’re using as a den/media space.
Fortunately, it includes a guest room which I’ve never been lucky enough to have in my previous houses. Then there’s a half-finished kitchenette that the previous owner started but then probably rethought after realizing the headaches that would come along with legally permitting a downstairs apartment. In between the unfinished basement area and the guest room is a nook that I’ve turned into a combination library, music, and craft room. I truly love having that space which has also been out of reach in other houses. All these spaces demanded attention — but more on those projects later.
Today I’m describing a satisfying one-day makeover of my kitchen “pantry.” I put the word in quotation marks because it is actually a closet. For the past 10 or so months, it has been stuffed with cleaning supplies, extra bags and other paraphernalia. I decided to take matters in hand one Sunday and do a no-frills makeover that would put things in order. Here’s a picture of the empty closet after I got rid of all the stuff and pulled out the ugly shelf brackets on the back wall:
I didn’t get too fancy with colors but I wanted to cover up the marks left by stripping the shelf brackets off the wall. So I gave it a quick coat of white primer that I had left over from another project.
Step 1: Spice Racks. I already owned a spice rack that we brought from our last house so I promptly attached it to the back of the closet door.
Step 2: Make more use of the door. Below the spice rack, I added a couple of hooks for oven mitts and a dispenser to organize all those plastic bags.
Step 3: Organize the Cleaning Supplies. As I mentioned, I was also using this closet as a place to store my cleaning supplies. I didn’t want to mix them in with food-related items but there seemed to be enough space for both. I purchased this 3-tiered chrome shelving unit for about $30 and slid it into the bottom half of the closet.
Step 4: The Back Wall. On the back wall, I installed a top shelf for paper towels, etc., with hooks below to hang a few awkwardly-shaped cooking utensils. I also added two more spice racks.
Step 5: Side Wall #1. On one side wall, I hung two organizers for pot and pan covers, which I always find difficult to store and organize in drawers or cupboards.
Step 6: Side Wall #2. I decided to move some of the cleaning supplies to a mesh basket that I attached to the wall. Here, I put specialty cleaners such as silver and copper polish. The other basket holds foil and plastic wrap. These mesh baskets are often sold as desk organizers but are perfect for pantries too.
Step 7: Finish. The final product isn’t perfect but I’m pretty happy with how much more organized I feel.
Having everything hanging on the walls as opposed to installing traditional shelves makes it seem far roomier and a bit like a walk-in closet. I’ll probably make improvements as I go along but overall it was a very satisfying one-day makeover. I’d love to see your ideas for a DIY pantry!
Here are a few (much more elaborate) DIY pantry projects that I admire and would love to try someday when I have more time:
Before World War I, most women didn’t carry any sort of handbag or purse. However, as the century progressed, fashion evolved to suit their changing habits and lifestyles. Young women were getting away from wearing the long, full, ample-pocketed skirts and dresses that their mothers and grandmothers wore, and turning toward styles more suitable for working in offices or socializing in the evenings. People were also starting to travel more.
For all those reasons and others, women needed something to carry around their everyday essentials like keys, vanity cases, and cigarette holders. And they wanted that something to look good with their newly fashionable outfits.
It all started with the reticule, which I cover in another post. Those gave way to evening bags in the 1940s, which remain very popular today. According to one blogger on Fabrics.net, “it was said that the woman of means could indulge her fancy in its wildest flight, so beautiful, extravagant, precious and costly were some of the bags.” Bags were often elaborately designed with embroidery, beading or tapestry. The relatively strong economic times of the 1950s strengthened this trend. Designers catered to women’s fascination with glamour and luxury.
Following are some popular variations on the standard evening bag, starting with the clutch purse. Photos are from vintage Etsy shops (including mine) and various other vintage purse and collectors’ sites, as noted:
Clutch Purses are the more modern and glamorous cousin of the reticule. Popular in the 1920s and 30s, they remain a favorite vintage style today. According to Fashionista, the handheld structured bags are the preferred accessory for stars and socialites at special events.
Unlike shoulder bags or larger purses, clutches compliment an outfit without detracting from its effect with handles or straps. As women began to carry more in their purses, the clutch purse became more of an accessory than a practical carryall. Women would carry a larger shoulder bag during the day and reserve a collection of dainty clutches for evenings out.
Today, designers hire artists to handcraft specialty clutch purses, says Fashionista. The price reflects that special care, with top label clutches priced in the thousands of dollars. One of the most famous modern designers is Judith Leiber, who is known for the minaudière (from the French meaning ‘to be charming’). One of her best-known bags is shaped like a red tomato covered with hand-set red and green crystals.
Lucite box purses.These plastic purses started as a fad but have become coveted by collectors. (Lucite should not be confused with Bakelite, a hard plastic that was often used to make jewelry in the ‘20s and ‘30s).
Clear Plastic Purses. A variation on the Lucite box purse, these bags seem to contradict the notion that women liked to keep the contents of their purses private. However, the novelty and appeal of the design inspired workarounds—women would wrap their belongings in colorful silk scarfs, which in themselves would become part of their fashion statement. Besides the private aspect, the strategy allowed women buy one purse and change its look to match different outfits. So you could say that it was actually a cost-saving measure!
Compacts and cigarette cases. Many Lucite purses included matching compacts or cigarette cases mounted ontotheir lids, says Collectors Weekly.
The Pochette isa handle-less clutch carried under the arm that may feature elaborate geometric and jazz motifs.
Bamboo handled bags. Gucci artisans in Japan used bamboo as an alternative to more expensive materials during wartime. The bamboo was bent after heating and shaped into a handle.
Drawstring bag. These small bags, often homemade, emerged during the 1940s when expensive materials like leather were scarce.
Shoulder clutches. Popular in the 1960s, these were dainty bags with long chains or straps.
Metal Bags. The Chatelaine (a predecessor to the minaudière) was the first metal bag, made by Judith Leiber in the 1970s. They were popular in the “glam rock” era and featured lots of buckles, sippers, and rhinestones.
The IT bag. The Fendi Baguette became the first IT bag in 1997. It was designed to be carried under the arm like a loaf of bread
A few designers have revived some of the popular styles from the past. These are not cheap knockoffs, notes Vintage Dancer, but beautifully crafted recreations. Two designers stand out in this regard, according to a post on 1920s bags:
Whiting and Davis has have revived some of the original metal mesh bags that they first produced in the late 1800s.
Mary Frances makes elegant, artful small beaded bags inspired by 1920s techniques. I checked out her web site and these bags are truly whimsical and unique. The “before midnight” bag, for example, is shaped and decorated like the magical carriage that took Cinderella to the ball (a powerful motif, as I cover in a previous post inspired by my wedding dress) . A few bags depict animals while another is in the shape of a vintage typewriter.
Collectible Lucite purses are made by Llewelyn, Gilli Originals, Rialto, and Wilardy Originals.
Taking a short hiatus from my exploration of vintage purses (back next week with a post about evening bags and clutches) for a fun look back at movies from the 1980s.
There are many top movie lists from that decade, which was an even more prolifically creative decade than I remember. To take one example, Vintage Everyday recently posted a list of “29 Movies from the 1980s You Need to Watch Again” and it’s a pretty amazing collection. Many films on this list launched the careers of the actors who starred in them and became cultural touch points. Molly Ringwald had an unbelievable run, starring in Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club (along with costars Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy and Emilio Estevez). Michael J. Fox starred in Back to the Future and Tom Cruise headlined Top Gun. The 1980s also gave us ET, FlashDance, The Goonies, Nightmare on Elm Street, Dirty Dancing, Fatal Attraction, and Moonstruck, to name just a few.
That’s enough for any decade but this list doesn’t even mention some of my favorites. So I started perusing other “best of” lists, which led me to create my own Top 10 of personal favorites, listed below. It was hard to narrow it down to 10 as the decade was insanely packed with quality material. So I freely admit that these do not include some of the most culturally influential or popular movies of the day. They are just sentimental favorites that claimed a place in my heart for one reason or another. (Listed chronologically; I couldn’t pick one top favorite).
I’d love to hear your thoughts — Do any of these strike a chord with you? (Movie titles are linked to synopses on Rotten Tomatoes).
The Shining(1980): I’m not generally a big fan of horror movies but The Shining is an exception. Jack Nicholson’s gradual descent into madness is brilliant and no one can let out a blood-curdling scream like Shelley Duvall. I’ve seen it more than once and each time have been scared out my wits when Jack’s psychic son Danny rides his tricycle down the big empty corridors of the hotel toward Room 237. And when Jack reveals what he’s been typing all day. And a lot of other times…
The Elephant Man (1980). I admit this is a downer, but it’s also deeply affecting, with stellar performances by Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt. Set in 19th c London, it’s based on the story of John Merrick who is treated like an idiot and freak because of his extensive physical deformities but is actually very sensitive and intelligent. Hopkins’ character rescues him from the circus side show circuit but he’s never accepted by society at large.
Amadeus (1984): I loved this interpretation of what it might have been like to be a contemporary of Mozart. The story is told in retrospect by the royal composer, Salieri, who could never reconcile himself to Mozart’s talent. Mozart, played by Tom Hulce, was serious about music but completely irreverent and often childish in other ways, and his lack of seriousness infuriated Salieri. It’s fascinating to watch Mozart’s declining health as he labors over his last Requiem. Winner of numerous academy awards.
This is Spinal Tap (1984): A hilarious mockumentary about a British heavy metal band on a “comeback” tour. Starring Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer, how could it not be brilliantly funny?
Purple Rain (1984). This wasn’t universally praised when it came out but I remember loving it on the big screen. Prince (may he RIP) was a musical genius and this movie turned me into a major fan.
Room with a View (1985). Adapted from E.M. Forster’s novel, this one has a familiar plot (should the lovely heroine marry safe or go with her heart?) but it’s elevated by the screenplay and the actors (Helena Bonham Carter in one of her many period pieces). My favorite scene is when Denholm Elliott’s character asks why you should need a room with a view when (pointing to his heart) “here is where the birds sing, here is where the sky is blue.”
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). One of my favorite Woody Allen movies. The impressive cast includes Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, Michael Caine, and Barbara Hershey. Lots going on with these sisters and there are many subplots running through the narrative. The funniest is Woody’s character who believes he’s going to die the whole time and is looking for answers in various religions.
The Princess Bride (1987): One of the many brilliant movies directed by Rob Reiner, who couldn’t put out a bad scene in the 1980s (his other movies included Stand By Me, another one I really like but couldn’t fit on this list). This movie, starring Robin Wright and Carey Elwes, is essentially a fairy tale where a handsome hero rescues a beautiful princess — but so much more. Witty dialogue and hilarious situations that remain funny every time I watch them.
Moonstruck (1987). A sentimental favorite, for sure, and one that I’ve watched several times. Cher’s Italian family is hilarious and her mom is played by the amazing Olympia Dukakis, who I love. The most romantic scene is when the characters played by Cher and Nicholas Cage meet at the Metropolitan Opera House. Watch it whenever you need a mood booster.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988) – Ostensibly, this is a kids’ movie but I would recommend it to anyone. It is one of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s most beloved films, and that’s saying a lot because he was an animation genius. The mystical creature Totoro helps two young girls through a difficult time when their mother is sick in the hospital. Extremely touching but never preachy.
Dainty drawstring bags called reticules were fashionable in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The term is defined by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as “a woman’s small netted or other bag, especially with a drawstring, carried or worn to serve the purpose of a pocket.” As that definition suggests, the bags were initially seen as a necessity to make up for the absence of pockets in the slimmer, more form-fitting skirts and dresses that were becoming popular at the time. However, they turned out to be a forerunner of the modern handbag.
The name reticule is derived from the Latin “reticulum,” meaning “netted bag,” reflecting that the first bags were made of netting or loosely woven cloth. In 1801, Catherine Wilmot wrote a letter in which she mentioned the bags, and the description was so apt that the OED included it in its next edition, according to the web site World Wide Words: “Reticules,” she wrote, “are a species of little Workbag worn by the Ladies, containing snuff-boxes, Billet-doux, Purses, Handkerchiefs, Fans, Prayer-Books, Bon-Bons, Visiting tickets.”
The bags eventually caught on as a fashion statement, to be hung from the waist or carried. They began to be made from silk, velvets, handmade lace, or knitted materials and decorated with beads, tassels, fringe, lace and ribbons, according to The Reticule: A Fashionable Accessory in the Regency Period, posted by Jane Austen’s World. Jane Austen’s Emma Wodehouse and her contemporaries would have carried dainty silk or beaded reticules as their purses of choice.
Reticules were often elaborately embroidered with “beetlewing,” an applique made of iridescent spangles against black satin, according to Fabrics.net, which wrote about the history of the bag in its informative post, “Please Don’t Ridicule my Reticule! Purses from Clutch to Lug.” Victorian women were particularly fond of an offshoot called the money-miser or stocking or ring purse.
Most bags in the mid-1800s Victorian Period were made in Czechoslovakia, France, or Italy, notes Fabrics.net. They often featured brocade and beads woven into the fabric. Makers took great care with the bags, sewing beads individually with thousands of tiny stitches. Beads were made of a myriad of different materials, including glass, shells, crystals, amber, and coral.
Designs evolved into the 19th century, when many bags were crafted with ornate frames and chain handles. Following World War I, designers began to apply images directly to the fabric in an early form of silk screening. These are some of the most collectable bags from that era.
Reticules remained popular into the 1920s. Bags with screen-printing or enamel zigzag patterns were especially prized by flappers, says Collectors Weekly. The style dropped out of sight for a while after that but reemerged in the 1950s, revived by stars like Ingrid Bergman and Jane Russell.
Stay Tuned! My Vintage Purse Guide continues next week with a post about evening bags and clutches. In case you missed it, check out last week’s post that offers some tips on how to shop for vintage handbags.
In the meantime, take a moment to peruse these vintage bags listed on Etsy in the reticule style. Thanks for stopping by!
There’s nothing like a vintage handbag to complement the right outfit. Whether it’s a dressy night out or a special occasion like a wedding or anniversary, a vintage bag can be the perfect accent. In Europe, some women are embarrassed to carry shiny new bags, writes Tina Craig of Bag Snob, in an article she penned for Harper’s Bazaar. Why? Simple: a vintage accessory sets you apart from the trend-followers. It marks you as someone who recognizes and appreciates classic styles.
If you don’t like the idea of buying standard off-the-rack purses from department stores, vintage bags may be the answer. They provide that special touch that separates you from the crowd.
But where do you find these perfect accessories? Ideally, you would have a stylish grandmother with a penchant for designer bags that she saved for future-you in a dust-free cedar trunk or closet. You could then browse through a selection of vintage classics with full confidence in the authenticity of each bag.
Alas, few if any of us have such fashionable and forward-thinking relatives. In reality, it isn’t always easy to tell whether a bag is old or just made to look that way. Classic bags from decades past by top designers like Chanel or Gucci are rare and expensive. You can usually identify those bags by their price tags—if the price doesn’t shock you, it probably isn’t the real deal. However, many attractive vintage bags made by lesser-known designers are quite affordable. And many genuinely vintage bags have no label but are of perfectly good quality and design. It comes down to how much you care about labels.
For many of us, the name brand really isn’t that important when it comes to vintage handbags. What matters more is how a bag looks and feels and whether it suits the occasion or outfit you have in mind. So how do you tell if a bag is vintage when the label is either obscure or missing altogether? You may never be absolutely sure but it helps to make a careful assessment before you buy. Here are a few tips for making a smart selection:
Trust your instincts. If buying in a store, carefully consider the quality of the materials and craftsmanship. If it feels light, cheap, or synthetic, it probably isn’t vintage. When purchasing online, look closely at the photos. Conscientious sellers post clear pictures of bags from multiple angles, along with close-ups of the labels, when present.
Read Reviews. Check up on sellers’ reputations and read reviews from previous customers. Look for trends. There can be legitimate reasons for one bad review but several customers expressing dissatisfaction should raise red flags.
Feel the bag in your hand. If buying in a store, pick up the bag and hold it. If a bag feels light and insubstantial, it might not be vintage. Even if you’re buying online, check the description to see if it’s lined. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most Etsy sellers, myself included, love to receive queries and comments from buyers and we usually answer very quickly. One nice thing about Etsy versus a massive retailer like Amazon is dealing with individual shop owners who offer personal customer service.
Notice Details. Genuine vintage bags are carefully crafted. Look for quality workmanship in the stitching. Note whether the hardware looks cheap. Beads should be attached securely. Interiors should be fully lined.
Be alert to fake leather. Real leather is made from animal skin, which, like human skin, is full of natural imperfections. If the surface of a purse is perfectly uniform or smooth, it’s probably not genuine leather. It should also feel supple and flexible, not stiff or hard, and will regain its shape after being wrinkled.
Caterini Bidini of Bidini’s Fine Leather Handbags offers some useful tips on how to use your senses to make an educated assessment:
Real leather scratches. If you run your nails over the surface and nothing happens, it’s probably not leather.
Real leather has a “leathery” scent whereas fake leather might smell like glue or plastic.
Although you probably won’t want to spit on a bag in a store, it can be another way to eliminate fakes. Leather absorbs saliva whereas synthetic material will not.
Here are a few more great vintage bags listed by some of my fellow vintage sellers on Etsy:
Stay Tuned for my next post on vintage purse styles, starting with the reticule. Want to receive these posts in your inbox? Sign up here.
Stylish hats are back in style for women who like a vintage look. But it’s hard for some of us pull off the looks that women achieved in the early decades of the 1900s. Back then, hats were part of everyday styles, whether at the office, nightclub, or Sunday church. Looking back at some pictures from that era illustrates just how adept these women were at picking the perfect hat for any occasion. Below are some photos that I think showcase some of the most attractive pairings.
Vintage Everyday, which stores a trove of nostalgic photos on its web site, recently posted, “50 Vintage Fashion Photos that Reveal Just How Awesome People Used to Dress.” There are so many fun photos in this feature, including some that highlight fashionable hats.
Check out this picture of a crowd on the streets of London in 1908 — people going about their daily business in hats of all shapes and sizes. Note how they pair long dresses and boas with appropriately large brimmed hats with feathers. Even the kids are wearing hats.
This model at a photo shoot in New York City in 1956 sports a jaunty tam. I love how it looks with the cape. I haven’t seen many capes among vintage clothing today but it looks so stylish and comfortable.
“A woman’s hat is a part of her outfit as a whole, not an afterthought,” says Solanah at Vixen Vintage. She posted a collection of vintage hat looks on her blog that is worth checking out. She makes the important point that unlike men, women didn’t remove their hats when they entered a room. The hat was not only a necessary complement to her outfit but also integrated with her hairstyle. Hats were often pinned on with the woman’s hair arranged to suit her hat style.
Audrey Hepburn provides a case in point. She didn’t need a hat to look great but she definitely rocks this pink bowler. Note the positioning pinned on the back of her head rather than perched on top. I think it really accentuates her beautiful face and simple pearl earrings.
African American women routinely wore hats to church and on other special occasions in the early part of the century, and some still do today. Vintage Everyday recently posted photos of some of those women from the 1920s-1940s. I was struck by how well they pitched them at the perfect angle and paired them with just the right outfits. Here’s one who appears to be waiting to leave for church, sporting a wide-brimmed straw hat.
Kristina Uriegas-Reyes at xojane has blogged about her love for the pillbox hat. Finding the perfect positioning is key, she says, rightly pointing out that a lot of older hats are too small for the average woman’s head. However many can be worn at an angle using pins or combs.
Here are some of the hats I’ve collected in my recent travels to thrift shops and estate sales. What are your favorites?
I’ve recently ventured into vintage fashion in my Etsy shop, which now includes a small but growing selection of vintage hats and purses in addition to vintage housewares. As a result, I find myself revising the styles of decades past. I have to admit it seems strange to see the styles of the 1960s and 1970s making a comeback. Truth be told, I have often thought we were well rid of some of the looks we sported when I was a kid! However, it’s worth looking back on some of our fashion influences.
Denim was big and we all wanted to look casual and cool — your clothes were supposed to look like you’d lived in them for a while. Nothing new and shiny. Pure white sneakers were an embarrassment as were stiff, unfaded jeans and overly coiffed hair. Stars of TV sitcoms tended to be highly influential to tweens and teens. Remember, this was back before cable, videos, or DVR, so we watched a lot of TV shows and when the regular broadcasting season ended, we watched them again in reruns (no summer programming).
Here are a few of the trends I remember.
The 1960s Denim Craze.
Personally, I’m old enough to remember when denim cutoffs were just that: our old jeans that we actually cut up with scissors and wore as shorts in the summer. Back then, no one was selling new jeans made to look old and beat up, so we designed them ourselves. We waited and waited for our new jeans to turn old and faded so we’d look cool. Then when they got threadbare they got a second life as shorts. We used the discarded scraps for patches.
What was cool: Long flowing hair, frayed bell bottoms, jean jackets, wide buckled belts.
1960s Capri pants.
Mary Tyler Moore rocked these on the Dick Van Dyke Show, and it turns out she had to do some lobbying to wear them on screen. The producers thought housewives should be seen mostly in dresses but Mary argued that no one she knew wore dresses around the house (yeah, Mary!) and proceeded to wear them on the show. According to IMBd, it was because of Mary that capri pants went on to become a huge fashion craze in the early part of the decade.
‘Who can turn the world on with a smile’? Love Mary as Laura in Dick Van Dyke. (Image from Violet Gray)
The mystery of 1970s fashion.
I was a kid in the 1970s and remember some very odd fashion choices, many of which can be seen in the photo below of the Brady Bunch (which ran in perpetual reruns). Wild colors, wide lapels, bell bottoms with patch pockets. And everyone’s dad had a “leisure suit” with matching turtle neck.
The feathered hair, unzipped look.
The Partridge Family was another one of our favorites in the 1970s. We loved sexy Keith with his long feathered mane and sensible Laurie with her long, straight (unfeathered) locks. (It often seemed like Keith took more trouble with his hair than Laurie). They played in the family’s rock band but acted as if they had normal teenage problems, too. The biggest fashion faux-pas here, by today’s standards, has to be Keith’s ribbed sweater with long, open zipper. At least to me it looks pretty lame, but maybe that look is coming back too.
When I was young I used to love watching Elizabeth Montgomery in “Bewitched,” the 1960s-70s sitcom about the beautiful witch, Samantha Stephens, and her mortal husband Darrin. To her immense credit, Montgomery was able to make Samantha seem like a perfectly plausible witch and an equally believable suburban housewife.
As a girl, what really drew me to Samantha was her power, and I don’t just mean witchcraft. She could handle any situation, and look perfect doing it. It isn’t, of course, easy to live among mortals and carry out boring mortal rituals, like driving to the grocery store and cooking dinner, knowing all the while that you could take care of those mundane tasks in seconds with the twitch of a nose. But she took on this burden because she (inexplicably) loved Darrin and she always succeeded in whatever she set out to do. (It’s often unclear what she sees in the hapless ad exec).
The antics of Samantha’s witch and warlock relatives often played havoc with the Stephens’ home life as well as Darrin’s career. But Samantha repeatedly saves the day, not to mention Darrin’s butt. On quite a few occasions, she is instrumental in securing huge advertising clients for her husband. Of course, her actions were often in response to her witch relatives meddling in Darrin’s client meetings. Still, not only did Samantha always restore harmony but she often came up with an even better plan for the client than Darrin ever could have thought of.
A case in point is an episode in which Samantha’s uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde) tries to impress his girlfriend by displaying practical jokes around the Stephens house. When Darrin’s boss, Larry, and the prospective clients arrive, they are confronted with a string of strange and annoying events: drinks sticking to the table; a boxing glove appearing out of nowhere and knocking Larry unconscious; a the sudden appearance of a barrel of monkeys in the living room– you get the idea.
Anyway, just as the clients are preparing to leave in disgust, Uncle Arthur agrees to stop the nonsense. Samantha quickly arrives at Darrin’s side for the inevitable “explanation.”
“Go ahead and tell them about your plan, that you can enjoy your home without making it a Coney Island funhouse,” says Samantha to Darrin. Of course, Darrin can’t fathom where she’s going with that at first, but the upshot is that Sam saves a huge ad account by quickly thinking up a campaign idea related to the practical jokes — and Darrin gets the credit. All the while, Samantha stands by his side seemingly content to play a supporting role. Of course, the irony is that she is the star of this show and no one even for a moment gives Darrin serious respect.
As long as we’re talking about not getting credit, it also happened to Montgomery herself during the show’s run. According to the blog, Neatorama, Montgomery “also played her deliciously mischievous cousin Serena in several episodes. She was not credited for the role, as producers figured it would be obvious.”
On some levels, “Bewitched” is a silly sitcom. But there was something special about Samantha. She made me long to cast spells and become invisible, but also to remember that you don’t need magic to feel powerful. Her quick intellect and calm, sure manner get her and those around her through some tough situations. Not a bad model to follow, I thought then. And still believe now.
“Bewitched” rose above the average half-hour comedy in the early days of TV, and it’s stuck with me. Does anyone else feel the same about a favorite childhood show?