Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Real Talk: Vintage Clothes/Accessories I Won't Buy (Yes, They Exist!)

Good morning!

As I was flipping through an archive.org scanned copy of Sixty years of fashion: 1900-1960, the evolution of women's styles in America, I was struck by the thought that I've reached a point in my vintage wearing/collecting career where there are items which I actually stop myself from buying due to unsuitability for my wardrobe. This has not always been the case! I know, you're going-- "Lisa, you bought a dashiki and seventies' prom maxi dress and a button up shirt that would offend Paul Lynde for its loudness last time you were in full Goodwill swing...you lie like a rug!" but it's true! There are actually some things I look at and might ooh or aw towards, but do not buy. While they're exceptions to every rule (see the dress on my mannequin in yesterday's post, which is embellished with feathers and made for someone about a buck oh five and five foot nothing, but I HAD TO HAVE IT), here are some things you might not have known that I might not buy, haha!

Things on my vintage embargo list, as illustrated by excerpts from the aforementioned book:

1) Cloche or fitted hats

It has taken me almost twenty eight years to finally come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to wear about 80% of the vintage hats that exist on planet earth. Maybe, unseen by telescopic satellite, there's a tribe of six foot tall, watermelon-headed Venutians our scientists have yet to discover, all wearing the latest Jean Patou caps from 1939, but by Godfrey, lonely old oversized me here on terra firma cannot smash/crush/pin the better part of hats to my head in such a way that doesn't evoke comparisons to the fat-guy-in-a-little-coat. I know I need somewhere to keep all these brains, but it's frustrating to pat hat after hat down on my head in a hopeful, but essentially useless, gesture of faith. So, unless it's a tiny tilted cap like the 1931 model in the lower right hand corner, or a wide brimmed type that can sit high on the head, I don't even look at the kind of cloche or fitted hats at estate sales anymore (and don't even get me STARTED on vintage shoes!).

2) Animal fur with heads-still-attached

I think we talked about this in an earlier blog-- while I have no compunctions whatsoever about digging around in some recently deceased person's attic for thirties' chinaware or old movie star magazines, like it was nothing, humming a happy tune among the exoskeletons of spiders and dust older than I am... if my delicate, over-sized hands touch fur, it had better not have its ever-loving head still attached to it. Because I will FREAK. OUT. I tried to try on a gorgeous, and I mean GORGEOUS, Marlene Dietrich style grey fox fur at a Southern Sisters sale once, that I think was priced around $30. "I could easily seduce Gary Cooper with these foxes to pave the way! Glamour ITSELF!" My little cinephile's heart cried out for it. However, as the glass eyes of the formerly-living-animal caught mine, I had a shudder of revulsion that was so foreign to me it took me a minute to figure out from whence it had came. Was it primal fear of what had once been a dangerous animal up close? Was it grossed-out-ed-ness at the thought of some dead fox lying around all Hannibal Lecterized in the name of fashion? No, it was probably the fact that I realized, simultaneously, that the catch for the stole was ONE OF THE DAMN THINGS PAWS. With a little clip inserted on what would have been its palm. Yuck! A thousand times yuck!

Fur trim? Fine. Fur stole? Extra good. Fur stole with head-- NO. NO. NO. NO.

3) Fitted skirt, loose top (versus fitted top, a-line skirt)

This problem has plagued me since high school! I remember vividly the makeshift, particle board dressing rooms at the Salvation Army on Gallatin Road (a former HG Hills I think, it's now Young's Fashion, see here) and the teenage anguish of trying to fit my dramatically pear shaped body into innumerable Jackie-O style sixties' suits. Imagine a pale green boucle suit like what Tippi Hedren wore in The Birds. The top is gapingly big and a little too short, considering the overall length, and the skirt IMPOSSIBLY small. On the aformentioned 5'', 100 lb person, this would cute because of the way the oversized-ness on top would drape nearly over the fitted skirt (see the 1954 model above). But no-o-o-o-ot on me. I look best in the Dior New Look style full-skirt, tiny waist, fitted jacket, or in fitted jackets with A-line skirts. I don't even try on suit sets like the aformentioned sixties' Chanel-style anymore, unless the jacket is appropriately teeny and/or fur collared, because the skirt is just a waste of money and time.

PS: My favorite outfit in this book? Not sure if I'm suited towards this one or not, but I love everything about it:

Look at the enormous bag! The booties! The turtleneck that becomes a cowl! 

While I love every one of these looks (minus the dead-look the stole is still giving me, through its illustrated little beady eyes...I said I was sorry for trying that one fox on!), it's funny how I can eyeball items now that I'm almost in my thirties' that I would have had the optimism/lack of sense to try to wiggle into in my teens' and early twenties'. I feel like I almost might be developing a sense of style and what fits my body after lo, these many years of casting lots in the form of hangers in the dressing room.

Do you have any hard or fast shopping rules when it comes to either vintage clothes or knickknacks? Have you declared war on even ONE MORE such-and-such collectible into your house? How did you come to decide you had to put your foot down against this or that thing-to-buy?

That's all for today, but I'll see you back here tomorrow. Til then!


  1. I'm trying to think of anything I won't buy....hmmmmm....nope. Can't think of a thing! HA! Really though, there are a few things:

    Hats: I wont buy those grandma-ish straw rings with stuff attached to them. You know the kind. They'll just be a circle of woven somethingerother and have either a net and big old plastic flowers attached (ok, I HAVE bought one of these to salvage the flowers...but NOT plastic ones!) or they'll have a big bow attached to the circle. Ugh.

    Furs: I've yet to strike on buying a 'head attached' stole. I'm sure one day I will, but frankly most of the ones I see are just creepy. And it's not the head that freaks me out, it's the fact that the little hands usually look all dried out and beef jerky-ish. Eww.

    Dresses: Most things that are big and fluffy. I don't do ruffles. I'm not short, but I'm not tall either and ruffles just make me look like a toddler. So no '80s prom dresses for me!

    I love that last outfit too! I'd wear that in a heartbeat!

  2. As for your oversized head...ME,TOO. I wear a 7 3/4 in a man's fedora. When I was graduating from high school we rented real caps and gowns from a haberdasher uptown. A couple of dapper elderly men ran the place. One of the gents tried cap after cap on my dome and finally he called his buddy from the back to come witness the big headed freak. Finally they hit upon a hat that would sit on top of my head, and stay reasonably in place with the help of a thousand hairpins. I looked like the 'shroom the caterpiller sat on in the old Alice in Wonderland illustrations. So, yeah, I FEEL your pain, but, on the other hand, I graduated magna cum laude because I have these corners on my head I can tuck information in. Substance over style, I guess. It's not how I would have it, but there it is.

  3. Actually I HAVE worn those fox fur stoles; I don't anymore because I haven't found any, plus it's a harassment-magnet with all these obnoxious, self-righteous teenagers hassling me about a piece of fur that's well over TWICE THEIR AGE. Buncha glassbowls...

  4. Oh, I have started doing this too lately (EDITING!) and it's a really liberating feeling. "Yes, that's gorgeous, but not for me" is not something I'm used to saying at the thrift store, but I think my overstuffed house is gonna benefit immensely from it. Me, I am not a hat person in any way; I've tried quite hard to embrace them in the past, but my dedication to big hair always wins out, haha. Also, the super frilly feminine vintage, and all things pastel, have started to grate on me lately. I love how kitschy and cute those pink prom dresses and ruffled bed jackets look, but they're simply ridiculous on me, so no more of that.

    PS: That last illustration totally looks like beatnik Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face ;)

  5. I have also found my self attracted and very repulsed by furs with the head still on them. My solution is someday I'm going to knit a fox-shaped scarf. It will be cute and all wool. No actual foxes harmed. These knitting patterns already exist!

  6. of course I have a - character, type-and age-related - NO list. otherwise I would have to buy a second house for the wardrobes;-)
    And what should I do with clothes I never wear?
    Although I have exactly the opposite figure of you (busty, no hips) looks the classic Chanel suit also goofy on me. not sexy. Probably you have to be as thin as mademoiselle coco.....
    I really like the 70´s peasant dresses, but on me the whole gathered fabric at the waist looks just terrible. too peasant if you know what i mean.
    and of cause - NO evening dresses! they are a beauty to look at but there is no occasion to wear them in my live. even i would go to the opera i would be fine in a 50´s afternoon dress and still overdressed in comparison to the other guests.

  7. Love your funny posts on vintage fashion :D Hmm...I've declared war on buying more cups to resell unless I know they're valuable and will sell quickly. It's hard but the addiction had to end! I need to declare war on a LOT of things...too many collections!

  8. Someone doesn’t like fitted skirts – can’t blame you there. Fitted skirts, with tight body hugging tightness, will give you sexy look. However, it’s kind of hard to move around with them on, unlike with A-skirts which will give you a carefree aura. PipLey's Boutique



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