Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bellasoiree on Etsy (Antique Clothes 1900-1920)

Good morning!

How's your week shaping out? I'm feeling a touch of Towanda in 2014-- last night, I finished installing woven roman shades in the den to replace the yuck, ugh, no, so gross fifteen year old white plastic blinds that were driving me up-the-wall crazy. Last weekend, I dispatched a good four bags of clothes and knickknacks to Goodwill in hopes that they find better, less neglected homes than the one I had heretofore provided for them. I've been trying to whip this house into shape, and by Godfrey, things are on schedule. My resolutions are being kept and executed with military precision so far!

One resolution I did not make? Staying away from Etsy and Ebay window shopping. Can't stop, WON'T stop looking at old clothes. Though their three to four figure price tags may run reminder sensations of penury and envy down my clothes-lovin' little spine, it doesn't keep me from feeling a pure sense of aesthetic joy looking at "what could be". The shop I'm most jealous of on Etsy right now is hands down Bellasoiree Vintage, which, being as I am embarrassingly heavy into a teens' and twenties' feel right now from the silent movie binge I've been on, has got Gloria Swanson-like clothes that might even out-Swanson Swanson.

Wanna see?

Turn of the Century Victorian Velvet Cape Divine and Extremely Rare Beaded Ostrich Feathers 1900
This cape came up yesterday when I was looking for similar items to the velvet cape I found at the flea market-- um, this is not similar to my plain, fur-and-velvet cape. Don't get me wrong, I love my cape, but this is like something out of an Erte illustration. Let's look at what's going on here, as per the description:
It is a rich coffee brown silk velvet with embossed circular patterns through out the velvet. There is ostrich feather trim cascading around the neckline and down the front of the cape. The back is more divine that the front. It features copper beaded appliques along with Art Deco geometric soutache work in cream and rust that goes around the whole shoulder area and drapes down the front and back yoke .
Somebody quick! Fetch the smelling salts! Can you imagine a Sarah Bernhardt type at the Paris Opera, loosing the fastens at the neck of this cape to reveal an even more stunning evening gown underneath? Something just dripping in tiny, perfect sequins and beading. People in Belle Epoque France knew how to dress, brother! And this is drama-in-clothing at is finest. I don't think I've seen anything as eye-poppingly lush on Etsy for sale period.

Think that's all? Think again. The woman behind this shop has dozens of pieces of hundred-plus-year-old clothing in her online storefront. I was merrily clicking along through the other items in "Antique dresses" for most of my lunch break yesterday!

1920s Silk Velvet with Embroidered Tulle Metallic Lame Sash and silk Ribbonwork Original Dress

Victorian Metallic Embroidered Silk Cape French 1890s Steampunk Antique Rare Wearable
Something I wonder about, and I'm sure there's no "trick" to it outside of perseverance and good luck-- where do these things even come from? Once or twice at the flea market, I've felt bold for a moment and asked dealers "Where do you even get this stuff?" in the most politic way I know. Sounds a touch rude, but as a fellow picker, I honest-to-goodness like to hear the stories behind where these crazy-go-nuts antique finds come from. One of my favorite dealers at the antiques' shed mentioned that all his clothes came from a woman who ran an antique store for twenty years and left the business in the late nineties', after which the flea market guy bought up practically a storehouse full of her back inventory. But where did her things come from, I then mused-- you don't build collections like these by lackadaisically going to estate sales and thrift stores the way I do! Not that my own pieces are anything to sneeze at (except in the literal sense, seeing as a lot of them are still dusty with age), but you won't see me unearthing some 1910's picture hat or dripping-with-frippery twenties' gown at a ranch house across town at 8 in the morning of a Saturday. There was one sale that Patterson ran in west Nashville where there was a massive collection of awe-inspiringly old's where I bought this 1940's evening gown. In one room, I picked up a dressing gown with a handwritten note that dated the textile to the 1700's. THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY. No one is alive now that was alive when that garment was made. I think I actually gasped as that dated passed through my eyes and into my cerebral cortex, as I gingerly set it back on the barkalounger across which it was draped. 

Callot Soeurs Original 1920s Beaded Dress Museum Quality Amazing Rare Collectible Art Deco Period

Looking back, that was in March of 2011, and that's the only time I can say for certain, in a retail setting, that I've seen truly antique clothes! Anything I own from before 1950 is from the flea market, and was the result of digging through a refrigerator-box worth of sixties' and seventies' clothes to find the gold buried underneath, or freezing my ears off wandering through the animal barns where a lone Victorian piece is on a wire hanger across chicken wire partitioning. One of my favorite non-fiction reads that I just stumbled across in the stacks here at the library is Alison and Melissa Houette's Alligators, Old Mink, and New Money: One Woman's Adventures in Vintage Clothing. Alison Houette, a former model who opened a vintage clothing shop in Brooklyn, worked on the memoir together with her journalist sister Melissa, and wow is it a lot of bang for your vintage buck. Alison's stories of driving around upstate New York to look through boxes of old clothes in people's barn lofts, in auction lots, in a NYC rent-controlled apt where a recently deceased elderly lady has left a closet full of vintage Dior...I can't even talk about it, I get too excited about the thrill of the kill. But do you have to have a brick-and-mortar store with a blinking "now buying vintage clothes" sign to get these kind of inside-track finds? Know somebody-who-knows-somebody? Take out a classified ad (that, in itself, seems so retro)? WHERE CAN I FIND THIS STUFF IN THE WILD?

Antique Vintage 1920s Steel cut beaded dress great condition wearable chiffon satin flapper Gatsby

Fabulous Teens Downton Abbey Beaded Tissue Silk Dress with Wide sash waist Robins Egg Blue
For now, I guess I'll content myself to see-what-I-can-see online. I feel like all the window shopping is not in vain-- interior designer Albert Hadley had a quote I particularly liked in one of these old Architectural Digest, which stressed the importance of "training the eye" to know good stuff when you see it! I've been doing that all my life, of course, but even growing my vocabulary through these online auctions, I think, is a step in the right direction. I feel like I'm always learning new, more specific terms for things through what my own broad search terms can dredge up. Instead of "decorative trim" I can call the braiding I see on some of the capes from yesterday "soutache". Instead of just "beads", some of these tiny embellishments can be singled out as "steel cut beads". Now, this won't necessarily get me anywhere in bargaining with people in the Tennessee Flea Market's "swine barn", but it feels good, as a major enthusiast of these kinds of materials, to know what they're called and have those terms in your toolbox even when just "talking shop" with you readers! :)

Titanic Era Edwardian Silk Beaded Tulle Gown Downton Abbey 1912 Beaded finge skirt and sleeves

Titanic Era Original Dress Gown 100th Anniversary Liberty Print Metallic Lame Black Velvet 1910s

So! Tell me, which of these old, old, OLD clothes are your favorites? Have you been out in the world and seen something impossibly antique lately? Where have you had the best luck bloodhounding out hidden pockets and reservoirs of vintage goods? Don't forget to see even more gorgeous antique clothes over at Bellasoiree's Etsy store front, but you're forewarned-- you might lose an afternoon drooling over there!

Well, enough musing for one day, I have to get back to work. It's almost the weekend, kids! Have a great Thursday and I will see you tomorrow for Photo Friday. Til then!


  1. Ohh, how gorgeous! I could (and probably will ;) spend ages staring at their wares. I've been spending time in SoCal lately, and I see this store is in Oakland... the California antique / vintage market is surprisingly rich, because of all the Hollywood wardrobe departments. I would bet this store has ties to the movie costuming scene. Such lavish gorgeousness, sigh.... if only this stuff was still to be found "in the wild" by pickers like us!

    1. I know! I was in a vintage store the other day in Nashville (window shopping), and picked up a rayon forties' dress with a print of a woman's face all over it made out of tiny flowers. You go "OH. MY. GOD." and get all excited, it looks like a movie fashion spread from Photoplay, but then, the price tag? $400. HUNDRED. FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS. It should be behind glass at that price!

      I can't even imagine seeing real-Hollywood-wardrobe clothes, I MUST visit California some day. Those kinds of glad rags in a store, much less in the wild! It must be so hard (like my flower-faced woman dress) to see it and not be able to acquire it!

  2. Have you seen the tumblr...OMG that dress! It has plenty of eye candy, replenished daily. One of the ladies at work just gave me her mother's velvet cape. It's lined with red satin and has an art deco closure.
    You've got to learn to sew! I've made dresses from old vintage fabric and patterns for years. I loaned a dress to my cousin's daughter and never got it back. Years later I was working in a hospital and a total stranger came in to visit a patient wearing my dress! I asked her where she got it and she said a flea market! I must say, she looked pretty good in it.

    1. Oh, I bet your cape is fantastic, that description is killing me. I DO need to learn to sew. My fingers are so clumsy, but I know if I dang applied myself to it I could at least get better. I can't believe that woman not only didn't return your dress, but gave it away!!! At least it found a happy new home...still, though.



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