Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Women at war - with themselves (1943)

During the war, with all the chaps away at the front, feminism took a great leap forward. This is an interesting article discussing the 1940s attitude, most particularly women's internal struggle between the call of home and career.

Woman's instinct to submit, to serve (and in some cases to wait on hand and foot), to believe men 'superior', has stopped her from reaching her status as equal citizen.

Any one who has read the literature of Women's Suffrage can read between the lines a struggle far deeper, far more bitter, far more significant: it is woman's personal struggle against the instinct to submit.

One thing I am sure of: Women must rid themselves of the slave mentality, and the belief that there is something sacred in submission and ignorance and stupidity.

We are at the crossroads. The choice is not between a new world and the land of our fathers. Our path leads forward -- or back into the Dark Ages.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

1930s Nautical

Two nautical outfits in a row? And why not! This dress was made for me in Thailand from a vintage early/mid 30s pattern illustration. On a related note, I'm excited to start sewing my apple dress, as the pattern arrived today. My Spoonflower order also came today, and it looks great.

Dress, tailor-made; Vintage belt, gift from Mother; Feather fascinator and swallow earrings, purchased in Thailand; Vintage (bone? ivory?) seagull brooch, car boot sale; Vintage glass bead necklace, can't remember; Sandals, M&S.

How to play Lawn Tennis (1915)

From Home Notes magazine, July 15th 1915 - check out those sportswear fashions!

This is the first of many scans from a pile of about 25 magazines ranging from Edwardian to Great War period. They make a fascinating read!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fantastic Plastic

I've had a super successful weekend at the boot fairs - lovely Mr. Matin kindly drove me to not one but three in two days. I scored some great booty - some for me, some for the shop - including marcasite ear-clips, a swallow brooch, a 30s/40s dress, a pair of crochet gloves, a large collection of glass buttons, a pair of 1940s-style 80s shoes, a lovebirds brooch (which was a gift from Matin), a cute printed fabric pouch, a tupperware box of sewing notions, and a 1960s psychedelic shift dress. But of my new acquisitions what I'm most excited about is the plastic jewellery.

Have I mentioned how much I love vintage plastics? I don't know why, I just find them really appealing. When it comes to jewellery, I'll take plastics over metal and rhinestones every time - whether it's bakelite (though I'm still waiting to find an affordable bakelite bangle), celluloid, hard plastic or lucite. My personal collection is shown above. I recently listed a couple of pieces in my Etsy shop. I've actually been intending to write a guide to vintage plastics for a while, and I've finally got round to it. It's long, but I hope you find it useful!

An Overview of Vintage Plastics


Generally considered the earliest plastic, and included here really only for the sake of completeness, Vulcanite is heat-treated rubber, and was popular around the late Victorian to Edwardian era for mourning jewellery as a replacement for jet.


Celluloid was originally developed in the 1850s by Alexander Parkes, under the name Parkesine, but was commercialised about 20 years later. Celluloid jewellery - more delicate and lighter than bakelite, and sometimes flexible - was most popular from the Edwardian to Art Deco period. Celluloid was used to imitate more expensive materials like mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell and ivory, and was popularly used for trinket boxes and vanity sets. Imitation ivory known as Ivorine was made by pressing sheets of celluloid and then slicing through, giving the ivory-like striations.

Celluloid is very flammable. It is also sensitive to heat, moisture and excessive dryness, and can denature quite dramatically if not cared for correctly. Some celluloid gives off a vinegary smell under hot water.

In 1927 a new non-flammable material was launched by the Celluloid Corporation, marketed under the trade name Lumarith. This material could be manufactured in bright colours, or transparent with inclusions, like coloured or metal flakes. New injection moulding techniques meant large quantities of plastic objects could be produced quickly and cheaply, in almost any shape or size. Designers quickly realised the possibilities and enormous quantities of inexpensive plastic jewelry appeared on the market in the USA and Europe in bold colourful designs.


The most famous of the early plastics, invented by Belgian chemist Dr. Leo Baekeland in 1907 and commercially available from about 1912. The material is a combination of phenol and formaldehyde, compressed at very high pressure. The term Bakelite is used both as the trade name of Leo Baekeland's original plastic, and as a term for the group of thermoset plastics made from formaldehyde-based resins, which can sometimes lead to confusion (it certainly confused me in researching this article, as I came across conflicting information).

Most early Bakelite has a mottled appearance resulting from the addition of wood sawdust filler to the brown phenol-formaldehyde resin for stability. Bakelite's properties - it did not readily conduct electricity or heat, and could be moulded into exciting shapes - lent it to a wide range of applications and it was particularly popular for radio casings.

The Catalin company acquired the patent around 1930 and refined the manufacturing process to produce a bakelite that was translucent and colourless, rather than opaque brown, so unlike other bakelite phenolics it could be dyed bright colors or even marbled, making it highly popular for decorative uses. The Catalin company produced huge quanities of beads, earrings, bangles and pins through the 1930s. Most "Bakelite" jewellery is, strictly speaking, Catalin. has an excellent guide to the differences between Bakelite and Catalin.

Bakelite Properties and Identification
Bakelite plastics are notably very heavy and very brittle - it's prone to shattering if dropped, whereas a more modern plastic would crack or split. Items of bakelite jewellery were individually cast and polished, so have no seams or mould marks. It can often be identified by the acidic smell of formaldehyde when warmed by rubbing or holding under hot water. Tapping two bakelite pieces together will produce a clunking sound. Catalin has very similar properties to Bakelite except that even in darker colours it is slightly translucent, so if you hold it up to the light some light will filter through, while true Bakelite is completely opaque.

Urea Formaldehyde

Bakelite's oft-forgotten cousin. Unlike the Phenolics, Urea Formaldehyde could be made in white, as well as bright colours, solid or marbled. It found widespread for kitchenware, picnic sets and homewares during the 1920s and 30s under catchy trade names like Bandalasta, Lingalonga and BEATL Ware. It is lighter than bakelite plastics. It seems that the name Catalin can refer to Urea Formaldehyde as well as phenolic.


Lucite is an acrylic resin (other brand names include Plexiglas and Perspex) that could be manufactured in almost any colour and can run from opaque to transparent. First developed by DuPont in the 1930s, Lucite was inexpensive, easy to work with and versatile: It could be carved, moulded, and inset. Embedded Lucite made by incorporating glitter, rhinestones, sea shells, and other materials was widely used for box purses and shoes, which are now highly collectable.

In jewellery design it was often combined with Celluloid or Bakelite for effect - brooches made with Lucite overlaid with moulded Celluloid cameos were very popular. Another effective technique for brooches and pendants was to reverse-carve flowers, which were then either coloured naturalistically to appear lifelike, or left unpainted to resemble etched glass. My mother has a lovely collection of these.

Other Vintage Plastics

Also worth a mention is Casein, a plastic derived from milk protein. Casein plastic could not be moulded like Bakelite, but had to be cut or carved from rods or sheets. It was glossy and could be polished to a long-lasting silky lustre, but due to its tendency to warp or splinter could only be used for small pieces. It was used for jewellery, and more commonly fountain pen cases and knitting needles. Because of its ability to take surface dyes (the colour could be added to the finished piece, rather than at the manufacturing stage as with many other plastics), Casein found its greatest success in buttons and buckles, which could be dyed to match fabrics. It is still used for buttons today.

Much of 1940s-50s plastic jewellery, like the blue bow-shaped pin in the top right corner of my photo, is made from generic "hard plastic", about which I can find little information. It seems to be sometimes referred to as celluloid.

Plastipedia has an interesting History of Plastics timeline (did you know that Scotch tape was invented in 1930?).

Above: 1950s hard plastic Scottie dogs brooch; 1950s-60s reverse-painted Lucite daisy brooch; 1940s Celluloid flower basket brooch; 1950s soft plastic feather/fern brooch; 1950s soft plastic swallows brooch; 1960s Moonglow Lucite (?) necklaces.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunny Sunday - and a Nautical Giveaway!

It's been roasting hot today, so I'm dressed more for the weather than for sartorial elegance.

I've decided to do a series of mini giveaways - I'm so overdue for my 100 followers that I'm hoping the series will also mark reaching 150! Plus this way gives more people the chance to win.

We'll start with a nautical necklace the same as the one I'm wearing. To enter just leave a comment below - simple as that. You can blog or tweet this giveaway for a bonus entry. You don't have to be a follower to be eligible, but becoming one will mean you'll hear first about the next giveaway! I'll leave this open for a week, so it will close on Sunday the 4th of July.

Friday, June 25, 2010

New and Coming Soon - Vintage Swimwear!

Left to right: Red 1950s swimsuit with faux pockets and nautical button detail (M); Navy blue 1950s-60s swimsuit by Salamander, labelled size 38" (L); 1950s Jantzen with nautical button detail and bullet bra cups, labelled size 38 (L). I'll be adding these (and more!) to my Etsy store over the next week or so. Let me know if you would like a reserve.

I dreamed a dream

Some of the things that have featured in my dreams in the last week or so - talk about vintage on the brain! Liquid eyeliner I've had on my mind because I need to buy a new one. The feedsack dream was good - in it I found a whole bunch of vintage feedsacks in a charity shop. The tattoo one was last night and it was less good. I have a feeling I also dreamt recently about a vintage blogger, but now I can't remember who it was (and even if I could, it would probably seem pretty stalkerish to confess I'd dreamt about her!). Do you remember once I also dreamt I was a time traveller? And I've dreamt about finding vintage hidden gems on more than one occasion. I think I may be obsessed...

Is it just me? Do you dream in vintage?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Channeling Marilyn

A trip to West Wittering beach with my sister and nephew this morning provided an opportunity to try out a Marilyn style red polka dot umbrella beach photoshoot. I don't have a white swimsuit, as in Marilyn's original shoot, but this 1950s red Tweka suit arrived the other day and fits rather nicely! (And yes, the other beachgoers did think I was loopy as I pranced about in vintage swimwear, dashing back and forth to the tripod to set the timer!)

Following from my reminiscences a couple of days ago, and my painted planes post yesterday, I was pondering this afternoon on the origins of my affection for pin-up. It's been with me for as long as I can remember - we have a vintage "Pin-up Girl" arcade game in our hallway at home, which came with my stepfather, and which I always loved. Also from his collection was a framed set of vintage cigarette cards featuring early Elvgren pin-ups. So maybe it's down to you, Roger!

More photos on my Flickr.

Vintage Florida postcards from Old Postcards set by SteveM_61 on Flickr.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Painted Planes

Just thought I'd share these photos from WWII Flyers set on Flickr. The photos are from a collection of negatives found at an estate sale, and depict US pilots posted to England during the war. I'm just loving the pin-up girl plane artwork!

A Girl's Best Friend

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was one of the movies I grew up with. Along with other Marilyn classics like Some Like It Hot and various Laurel and Hardy films, we watched it regularly on my stepfather's Betamax (which he hung onto despite its having long been rendered obsolete by VHS). So I knew all the words to "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" by the time I was about ten, and wanted to be a showgirl when I grew up.

The hot pink gown worn by Marilyn in the extravagant scene in which she sang "Diamonds" - surely one of the most iconic costumes in Hollywood history, which has continued to inspire copycat looks ever since - was just sold recently, surpassing all the estimates to go for a very healthy £213,000 ($312,000). Which to be honest doesn't surprise me - come on, it's Marilyn's dress! (Her "Happy Birthday Mr. President" shimmering sequinned gown sold for over $1.2million back in 1999).

While searching for images I also came across this page of Marilyn Monroe Costume Tests, which has shots of Marilyn in many of the costumes she wore in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (oddly, not including the pink gown) and other movies - great fashion inspiration!

Vintage fashion - surely a girl's best friend!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Finding Myself

I've had this topic for a post vaguely on my mind for some time - a little background on my love for vintage.

Funnily enough, I started selling vintage clothes before I got into actually wearing them. I decided a very long time ago that trousers don't work for my body shape, so I've lived in skirts most of my life. I've also had a lifelong interest with fashion history, ever since the fascination with Victorian dress which started when I was nine.

I started out selling vintage on ebay with my Mama. She used to run an antique shop, and when she closed the shop (to look after my grandmother) she still had a lot of stock. This was mostly homewares and curiosities, but also included some clothing and accessories.

Although by then I had long loved the 1950s look, and had developed a vaguely retro influenced wardrobe, I didn't have the confidence to dress in vintage. I even sold some pieces which would have ended up in my wardrobe today (nothing so spectacular I regret selling them, thankfully!).

Gradually, though, my style absorbed more and more vintage influences, until eventually (inspired in part by various vintage bloggers) I decided to ignore my inhibitions and follow my heart to 'go vintage'. Since then, developing my vintage style has coincided with huge personal development. I've gained confidence, and feel more settled than ever before; I feel like vintage has helped me to find a clear direction in life. Without wishing to gush that "vintage has given my life meaning," it actually kind of has!

So anyway, on to the outfit! I went full-on late 40s with the dress, hair style and sandals - then mixed it up a bit, adding a cheeky touch of kitsch in the pink retro TV earrings.

40s two-piece dress, TMHL on etsy; Earrings, purchased in Thailand; Shoes, M&S; Hair flower, H&M.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Vanilla Ice Cream

Going all vanilla ice-cream - with a cherry on top, naturally! Met Matin for a picnic lunch by the Cathedral. On the way back I passed two army chaps sitting in a tank outside the council offices. One of them said to me, "I like your hat." "Thank you," I said, "I like your tank."

1940s silk blouse, belonged to my grandmother; 1950s cherry hat (another from the collection!), ebay; Pencil skirt and jacket, hand-me-downs from my sister; Gloves, gift from Mummy; Sandals, M&S.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Radiant Simplicity the Keynote for Ascot (1926)

Ascot fashions from The Sunday Express newspaper, June 6 1926, "By a Woman Correspondent". It's worth reading the whole article, but I've summarised the main points below:


The keynote for all Ascot fashions this year is simplicity. The skirts are short and flared, the bodices long and plain, with the addition in all cases of the lace coatee, or flowing capes. All the frocks for Ascot are slim and straight hanging, none reaching further than to just below the knees.

Materials and colours

Colours are mainly soft and pastel in hue, and materials of the fluffiest. Nothing heavier than crepe-de-Chine, chiffon, or georgette is used, while organdie, last season's rage, has entirely disappeared.

Beige and black, black and scarlet, or black and white form the most definite colour schemes. All colours of pink are in vogue.

Silvered leather is one novelty in the way of trimming, and appears on a charming model displayed by Peter Robinson.


Hats for Ascot are all one style, wide-brimmed and droopy, usually trimmed with velvet or flowers.

The only addition to the otherwise boyish silhouette in all Ascot models appears in the little flowing capes of many and various colours, usually in contrast to that of the dress, and with either flowing bishop's sleeves or no sleeves at all.

Fur plays quite a part in these new designs, entering either in the form of a collar on a lace cape, or as an edging on a chiffon frock.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Field of Poppies

We were mid-way between Chichester and Brighton on the motorway when I cried out "poppies!". Matin was so sweet - he couldn't just screech to a halt right there and then, so we went to the next junction, turned around, back to the previous junction (because we can't walk across the motorway so we had to be on the right side of the road), turned round again, stopped in a parking place right next to the poppy-strewn hillside and hopped over the fence into the field (it's alright, we weren't trespassing - it's a public footpath).

I bought this dress at the end of the summer last year, and wore it once before putting it away for the winter. I pulled it out yesterday to photograph to sell, but when I put it on I decided to keep it. It has a really sweet print of Venetian scenes, postcards and roses, so to go with the travel theme I carried a small vintage suitcase as a handbag.

Dress, ebay; Belt, hand-me-down from my sister; Favourite cardigan, Marks & Spencer; Celluloid hat brooch, Car boot fair; Socks, Marks & Spencer school uniform; Suitcase, boot fair; Hair flower, New Look.

New and Coming Soon!

There's a whole lot of fabulous new stuff to go into my etsy store over the next week or so! Here's just a selection (clockwise from top left): 1970s Bombshell 2-piece peplum dress (love this, but although the top is a perfect fit the skirt is just too small for me, so I'm forcing myself to let it go so it can be worn in its full glory); 1960s Birdie print mini dress; Amazing 1920s-30s Silk chiffon wrap with jet and glass beading and rhinestones; 1960s Elephant print mini dress; Sunshine yellow stripe sundress (sorry, the cherry hat is not for sale!); Late 50s / early 60s novelty print shift dress.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pop Art Tart

When I was in Thailand last November I couldn't resist this Roy Lichtenstein inspired Martini T-shirt, even though I never wear T-shirts. When I came across it in my drawer today I challenged myself to wear it, and this is what I ended up with. Now all I need to complete the theme is one of Janine Basil's fabulous woven fascinators (there's even a Lichtenstein "I hope Brad will understand" speech bubble!).

A brief history of Pop Art:
According to wikipedia, Pop Art is "characterized by themes and techniques drawn from popular mass culture, such as advertising, comic books and mundane cultural objects". The arly Pop Art works were collages of 'found' images. Later, artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol made their point by removing grocery packaging and comic book illustrations from their context and presenting them as art in their own right.

Below: Lichtenstein's "Kiss"

It's a Wise Woman... (1942)

"It's a wise woman who can cope successfully with the little things in life that are so important" - tips from Everywoman July 1942 for correctly packing a suitcase, keeping cut flowers fresh, smoking a cigarette, wooing sleep, wearing trousers ("as long as your hip measurement is not more than 4in. greater than it should be"!) and coping with worry.

Bournemouth Beach

Just a quickie of me and my darling nephew Teddy at Bournemouth beach yesterday - I accompanied my sister to Bournemouth so she could visit a sewing machine shop. As it's over an hour away we made a trip of it and had a picnic lunch on the beach. And I played with Teddy whilst trying to protect my early 50s wool gabardine dress from the salt water (I love this dress but I've never managed to make an outfit post for it! One of these days I'll get a decent picture of it).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Make Do and Mend for June

The first scans from my now very large collection of vintage Everywoman magazines! I'm planning a few regular features from the magazines, starting with Make Do and Mend articles.

June 1945

June 1943

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cherries and Checks

When I pulled this dress out to wear I was thinking about accessorising with pink for a change. But the latest addition to my growing collection of cherry hats arrived the other day (PS, Mark, Matin already knows so you can't dob me in!), so I decided to give that a spin (ok so it's a re-run of Saturday's theme, but who says you can't do cherries and checks twice in one week?). It's a Mr. John Jr toque with celluloid cherries, leaves, blossoms and velvet bows all around the brim. Because it's a junior hat it's actually too small even for my little head, so after playing around with tilting it this way and that I bundled my hair up into a sort of chignon thing and pinned the hat over it. I'm rather pleased - I think it's got a sort of Switzerland / Heidi look about it.

Because of the super bright sunshine (check out that blue sky!) my outdoor outfit photos came up ultra contrasty, so I took a couple of indoor ones too so you can see the hat a bit better.

1940s hat, ebay; Dress, Primark, via ebay; Belt, purchased in Thailand; Vintage carved rose brooch, boot fair.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Repro Vintage Feedsack Fabric

I'm on a huge vintage fabric kick right now. This is what I've been working on over the past few days - digitally reproducing vintage feedsack fabric prints! It's very time consuming, but I'm loving the results. I'm completely in love with the washday print - isn't it adorable? The fan design is still a work in progress, but I have to leave it alone for the moment and get on with some actual work.

I'm still waiting for my first spoonflower order to arrive - can't wait to see how the prints came out!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Vintage magazines - oh my!

I'm so happy - I just took delivery of a massive stack of vintage 1940s magazines I won on ebay last week. I loooove vintage magazines! I frequently leaf through my two or three tattered 1941 "Everywoman" magazines, so I was super excited when I saw someone selling a near complete collection covering over a decade, separated into lots. I ended up paying a little more than I'd orignally hoped (though still a very good price per magazine), because someone else came in for a snipe in the closing seconds and nabbed some years from under my nose, but I did come away with 1942, 1943, 1945, and 1947-1950. I've had a quick flick through some of the wartime ones, and they're stuffed with fabulous make do and mend ideas, knitting patterns, home front news and household tips, not to mention all the adverts and beautiful cover artwork and story illustrations. Oh my!

In related news, this new arrival - and the resultant need to make room for more magazines in my bookshelf - has given me an idea for my now rather overdue 100 follower giveaway! Stay tuned for that...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Basket of Cherries

Yesterday's outfit: Basically a summertime reworking of an outfit I wore back in February - yes, one set of clothes really can see you through the year, for those of us who don't have Solanah's extensive wardrobe (yes I am jealous). The stylish addition of a knee support is because I still haven't recovered from the 22-mile walk three weeks ago.

I embellished the 1950s wicker handbag myself with vintage millinery cherries, inspired by one I saw on etsy (which was about $45 plus postage, if I recall; I paid less than $30 for my version, all in).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Boot Fair Booty

(That's booty as in pirates, not as in J-Lo).

We don't really have thrift stores as such in this country, we don't have estate sales, and yard sales don't exist either. What we do have is the Great British Car Boot Sale! We have quite a good one near us, at Ford, and there's always good stuff there. The downside is that the vendors are usually pretty clued-up, so prices are quite high, but there's still usually a bargain to be had. That's my sister in the picture, rummaging for sewing notions.

I came home with a dress, a jacket, a 1940s silk blouse, an adorable set of folding travel hangers, and a selection of vintage hankies and collars. Result!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sequinned Buttons Are New And Gay

From My Home magazine June 1946

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Bit Barbarella

I bought this super ray gun earrings and necklace set in Thailand - although 1940s is my first vintage love, I adore all things space-agey and atomic! (behind the scenes I'm currently working on an atomic fabric print to spoonflower). So today I'm going for something a bit different, and trying out 1960s for once. First attempt at a beehive - not too dramatic, but I rather like it. I think I'll try this again sometime, probably with the aid of a tutorial (know any good ones?).

Also, on a related note, Spoonflower's fabric design contest this week has a Robot theme - what fun!

Best Cocktail Hats

Cocktail hats are great. I love wearing hats, but it's hard not to look dressed up with a hat on. Cocktail hats bridge the gap between hat and fascinator, so they look less out of place in a modern world, but still have fabulous retro appeal. My picks range from wearable to wacky:

1 Swallow in flight, Stylesmith; 2 Mini Sailboat hat, Charm School Design; 3 Turquoise felt bow hat, Chi Chi Me; 4 Cup and saucer hat, House of Batt; 5 Gold birdie hat LiD Designs Boutique; 6 & 7 Cupid's Arrow Hats (I couldn't pick a favourite!), Janine Basil; 8 Red feather headband, Lily Lady Blue; 9 Nautical rose fascinator, Emerald Angel.

In fact I'm all inspired to create now! I bought a whole lot of vintage millinery cherries recently, and I've just ordered a few straw cocktail hat bases to play with - watch this space!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

1940s Interiors in Colour

Everywoman March 1940

Woman's Sphere March 1941

My Home June 1946


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