Tuesday, September 30, 2014

From a Basement in Kaisertown

Let's hear it for vintage kismet--- those times when you've been dreaming of a particular garment, say, a 40s peplum dress or a 50s wool cardigan, only to find it hanging on the rack at your favorite thrift or antique store.
Or when the little old lady down the street finds her collection of hats in the attic and knocks on your door because she thinks you'd appreciate them.

When that vintage find finds you and it just seems meant to be, this is vintage kismet.


Time and time again I've told the tale of Mrs. Bolton's and that defining moment early on in my days of collecting, and, while I don't generally subscribe to the notion of fate or some cosmic force steering my life, sometimes, like with Mrs. Bolton's, it's hard to deny the existence of vintage kismet.

I suppose, like most things, what it all boils down to is what you know and who you know. Having a seemingly fated meeting with that vintage item of your dreams is all about knowing where to look, looking often, and knowing kind folks that think of you whenever they see something old (in the best way possible, of course). 

This outfit brought to you by vintage kismet and the thoughtfulness of friends.

My last journey to Western New York provided me the opportunity to visit a new friend at the home of her grandmother in the Kaisertown neighborhood of Buffalo, New York. Originally we had planned that her grandmother, Theresa, would be present and guide me through her incredible collection of vintage finery stretching from the 1940s-1970s, but before I could make the journey north, Theresa passed away unexpectedly.
How I wish I could have gotten the full story on many of the things we found-- the boxes of scarves and hats, the beautiful jackets and jewelry, to have know exactly what was made when each apron was worn, instead I received a beautiful recollection of family history, complete with pictures, which was pretty fantastic.

While it's true I have a (rather unhealthy) love for the vintage item itself, it's the story I'm really after. I like the idea that an object wasn't just created for me, that it has a history that precedes me and a future beyond me-- I am merely a part of its story.  

Scarf and Blouse--- Collection of Theresa T., Kaisertown, Buffalo, NY
Earrings--- West Germany glass clip ons from Fair Sails
Ring--- Gift
Polka dot capris and belt--- Modern department store (Bon-Ton?)
Patent leather wedges--- Piperlime, years ago

This outfit, and variations of such, has been a staple in my end of summer wardrobe. With loafers, it's suitably casual for milling about the house, add some wedges and it's perfect for errands around town, and un-belted, this blouse would be just perfect for the expanding waistline of an expectant mother (though I'm definitely not anticipating that anytime soon).
 I only wish I knew how Theresa wore this blouse and if she ever paired it with the same scarf. 

Other pieces of Theresa's collection are currently being added to my online shop-- Fair Sails.

So here's to vintage kismet, 
to the story behind every item 
and to, as always....

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Eyebrow Game

Sure, the eyebrow fashions of the decades are recognizable-- the thin brows of the 1920s and 30s, the more natural brows of the 40s, and the thick, dark, sharply arched brows of the 1950s and 60s, but can you recognize an actress by her brows? Let's find out.

How'd you do? Pretty well, I bet!
 You see, eyes and their corresponding brows are incredibly distinctive.

 In fact, when we take away brows entirely, a famous face becomes almost unrecognizable.

Audrey Hepburn without her signature brows via People with No Eyebrows

To tell you the truth, I had no idea what Audrey's nose looked like, but without brows, my eyes are drawn to that part of her face. 

Here's a more contemporary example:
Lana Del Rey with and without brows via Celebs with No Brows

Without brows, Lana's face looks wider and, somehow, more masculine to me. Also, her eyeliner looks incredibly out of place and she looks just plain scary (as do most people without brows).

After considering these beauties, browless or otherwise, I can see why I hold such a fixation with eyebrows--- they're incredibly important.

At some point in time during my development, perhaps about the time I started shaving my legs (middle school), I began to notice the well groomed brows of my peers and of older women. My best friend at the time, who had two older sisters, shaved parts of her very dark brows, which resulted in odd, unnaturally shaped brows and garnered a bit of teasing from girls who plucked their brows or had them waxed.

Lacking older sisters, and as the daughter of a woman who plucked her brows to oblivion in the 1970s, I was pretty clueless as to what should be done to create and maintain "good" eyebrows.
Mom's senior picture, 1978. Her eyebrows never recovered.

Little me was pretty certain that should she pick up a pair of tweezers, she'd end up like her mother.

 Eventually I did tweeze, which evolved into waxing, light plucking and, later on, dyeing and filling. (Oh how I wish I knew about filling in one's brows when I was still wearing a ton of black eyeliner, how much better that would have looked. Yes, I grew up under a rock!)

Though I continued to admire brows, I was pretty satisfied with grooming habits and brow shape for years, until my brows thinned thanks to my under-active thyroid. During the worst of it, I could go two or three months between waxing, with little plucking needed; not only were my brows not growing, the hair was falling out, too!

October of 2009: my 40s style brows. June of 2013: my hypothyroid brows and swollen face.

As my brows diminished, my brow fixation returned, fueled by the hashtag "eyebrow game strong" on Instagram

As my brows slowly grow back, I'm contemplating their shape and care. Although I know I will never have lush brows a la Lauren Bacall, I've decided to go thicker for the first time in my brow journey. 

 Recently I invested in Anastasia Dipbrow Pomade, as I've always been better with a brush than a pencil. While I'm not sure I've yet hit my stride with the product, or if thicker brows are really for me, I'm enjoying experimenting and trying to find that look that may define the next few years of my brow journey,

So, what era of brow shape do you prefer? Which set of famous brows do you find most appealing above? And lastly, just how do you keep your brow game strong? Tell me tales of your brow journey!

Monday, August 18, 2014

August the Cruel

This past week, Summer eased her balmy grip on the coast, and, as I stood here on the porch on Friday night in the soft light of the setting sun, I acknowledged the wane of the season. 

While T.S. Eliot cast April as unkind, August can be terribly cruel as well, teasing with symptoms of the coming season: a cool morning, a grey day damp with drizzle, followed by an abrupt return the summer inferno.

Though we are wise to the tricks of August, we cannot help but dream of fall. 

Time should never be wished away, but it is hard to love a season with such a brazen disregard for personal comfort. Just as one grows wise to the artfulness of August, one does the same for summer. True you cannot change the weather, nor the season, lest you change your location, living in the South means adapting. 

This year has by far been my most joyous summer here, attributed mainly to the shearing of my once-mighty [unruly] mane. 
The simplicity of having short hair-- humidity resistant, healthy, cooperative, short hair, has been a boon, not only to my ego, but to my health, for, in my experience, looking good can often lead to feeling that way as well. 

After a long day in and out the heat and humidity, my set, though a bit untidy, survived unassisted by hairspray or pomade. Had I actually remembered to spritz my 'do before heading out, this picture might have been much more impressive.

Last Friday, a day originally intended for errands, turned into a day for me. 
It's not often that I head out on my own, as my beau and I generally run errands together, but the mortgage needed to be paid, my beau was at work, and, feeling good in one of my favorite frocks and my summer-proof coiffure, I couldn't help but deviate from the bank-then-straight-home plan.

The friendly hound: after a day spent cooped up, Sam is always eager to give hugs when we return home.

Time spent perusing the softly lit aisles of the cosmetics store (my first visit ever), an hour or two spent pawing through the racks at my favorite thrift store, and an energetic, nearly frantic, visit to one of the most amazing time capsule estate sales (shopping for myself and Fair Sails) and my day was complete. 

Sometimes bliss is just browsing, alone and unhurried.

Dress-- Vintage, "A Junior First Fashion"
I cannot, for the life of me, remember where I picked this dress up, but after years of it being too big, the hypothyroid-related swelling in my lower half fills it out nicely (a glass half full approach to an otherwise annoying symptom).

Shoes-- Black patent leather wedge sandals.
(Not pictured, of course, because I couldn't be bothered to venture any farther than the porch)

Earrings-- 40s/50s West Germany faceted black glass clip-ons purchased from Fair Sails

So, here's to feeling good, and feeling you look good. To taking a day for yourself, to dreaming of fall, and adapting to the wiles of the season.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

At Home: Screen Porch Makeover

After a busy weekend, I'm pausing to appreciate, and share, one of my very recent decorating triumphs, our screen porch.

Over the three years we've lived here, our porch has become the dumping ground for all of my half finished craft projects and collected seashells, a bird feeder filling station, an outdoor dining room, and a disaster. With this makeover my goal was to revamp each space to make a porch that we would actually want to spend time on.

Seashell Sorting Center

One corner of the porch was occupied by stacks of random shell-filled plastic containers and ragged cardboard boxes all heaped on and around a weathered particle board desk. What had once been an organized craft area had become an embarrassing eyesore.

before-- I'm really embarrassed that I let it get this bad!!
After: my re-purposed old suitcase, seen earlier on the blog, has now been converted from a cat bed into a dog toy holder for all of Sam's outdoor toys.
 Seashells are sorted into glass containers and baskets and the terrible particle board desk has been painted.

This project really got its start with shell sorting. Tired of the sun bleached and brittle (not to mention ugly) plastic containers, I made the decision earlier this summer to find baskets and jars to sort my shell collection into. The goal--- attractive storage that would still allow me to find the type of shells I need for craft projects. 

While I lusted after apothecary jars and other ornate glass containers, I found them to be beyond my budget so I mixed thrifted glass jars with dollar store basket and vases and cleaned out old candle jars to create the storage I need for the various types of shells, sea glass and shark teeth that I've collected. 

About halfway through my sorting project I realized that there was no way I was going to put my beautiful jars back on that ugly black desk, and no way I could afford something new, so I dragged the particle board monstrosity off to the garage and gave it a quick coat of paint with colors I already had. I embellished the desk with some cotton sash cord and seashells; I hope to add more cord and continue with the shell design soon. 

Outdoor Dining Room

At our last house, which we rented, a table was left for us by the previous tenants, an older couple that we had the pleasure of meeting while considering the property. This table made the move with us to this house and, right now, is the only dining table we have since our actual dining room has been taken over by my business, Fair Sails


Earlier this year, a new family moved into the house behind us and immediately got to work creating outdoor living spaces in their back and side yard, making our outdoor space less private and less appealing by comparison.
 In need of a more inviting and secluded dining area, my thoughts turned to tablecloths and curtains.

After: I added sheer curtains, a spaghetti wear pitcher and my great aunt's tablecloth. 

While at my local Salvation Army, I spotted a few bundles of sheer curtains and decided that they would be the perfect addition to the porch, sure to provide the privacy we need and diffuse the strong morning and evening light the porch receives. I strung the curtains up using cotton sash cord (love that stuff!), and metal cleats, for a nautical appeal. I intend on adding more curtains for a more lush look when the curtains aren't tied back. 

After seeing all of the vintage tablecloths at our wedding last year (which my mom has kept) my great aunt sent me a tablecloth she received for her wedding. While it cannot live out here full time, for fear of mold, it looks lovely on the table for company and special occasions. 

Amazing how a few yards of fabric can change a space; now we have a pretty place to eat out of the prying eyes of surrounding neighbors. 
In the future, I'd like to add an outdoor area rug to the floor beneath the table-- perhaps I stumble on one at a thrift shop!

Bird Feeder Filling Station
turned seating area


Since installing the fence in the backyard, I've moved my galvanized trashcan filled with birdseed to the screen porch for easy access. In the future we hope to build a shed in the yard, which would be a more suitable home for this can, but for now, it's stuck on the porch. Though I will need to access the can regularly, I came to the conclusion that I don't actually need it to be visible and began to think of ways to hide it.

After: relocated vintage bench and plant stand hide the trashcan.
 A thrifted throw and a vintage boat cushion make the bench a comfortable place to sit and relax.

Wanting to relocate my bench (another refinishing project on my list) from the un-screened front porch to the back, I realized it would be perfect to hide the unsightly can. By inverting the lid on the can, I was also able to create an elevated spot for my potted gardenia to sit and a spot to store my collection of oyster shells.

While thrift shopping for curtains, I found this white throw and thought it would be a good temporary solution to hide the bench cushions that are in desperate need of reworking or replacement. I also like the fact that the throw can be washed regularly as this bench seems to already be a popular spot with the pets.

There's still plenty of work to be done, but for now I'm incredibly pleased with the results of my efforts. I'm also quite pleased with the price tag attached to this makeover; with the thrifted curtains, white throw, shell containers and by using materials I already had, I kept this project under $30. Such a small investment to make a space feel so much more inviting.  

Finally, we have an outdoor living area worth living in!

Wishing you luck on your own decorating adventures!
And, as always...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Why Pink?

The lives of little girls are saturated with pink-- pink toys, pink clothes, toiletries, school supplies, candy.... so much pink that the cheery hue has spilled over into lady hood. 
While perusing the aisles of my favorite hardware store, I ran into a selection of pink hand tools, tool belts, gloves and hardhats, no doubt intended for grown women. I've seen pink firearms, pink boxing gloves, pink camouflage, pink fishing rods (okay, I have one of these, but for the record mine is primarily teal)-- pink anything that is traditionally considered masculine, likely to make us "dainty" ladies feel at home with these "manly" objects (because a black hammer is so intimidating!).

I look forward to the mimosa bloom each year, some of the most unique flowers!

Pink has never been my favorite color. Sometime after I started dressing myself, and had banished my Barbie dream house to the garage, I decided that the color pink was reserved for the frivolous girly girl and the empty-headed Barbie want-to-be-- strong opinions for a third grader. Eventually, all color would be banished from my wardrobe, save for red and purple (always paired with black), and would not return for the better half of a decade.

I still hesitate with pink (sometimes for fear it clashes with my hair) and refrain from buying most of those very pink products marketed for women, but Mrs. Bolton must have liked pink, as did many other vintage ladies, so a fair bit of pink has found its way into my wardrobe

 With all this pink comes the question of why? What is so special about this color that it has become synonymous with being a girl or being a woman?

While there is some evidence of a deep seated, and biological, preference for warmer hues in women (relating to ripe fruit and the health of children), most of the preference for pink comes down to marketing.

We are told girls like pink, dressed in pink as babies, immersed in pink as children and sold pink products as young consumers... and it's been this way for a while, long enough that pink has become part of the female identity.

July in the south means crape myrtle-- such beautiful blooms.

Chances are, however, if you were born and raised before the second World War, you were excluded from this childhood "pinkwashing," in fact during the teens and twenties of the last century, pink was encouraged for boys and blue for girls. And before that, both young boys and girls were dressed in white dresses!

The post-war consumer culture that brought about so many beloved fashions, such as the frock I'm wearing here, also spawned the idea of pink for girls and blue for boys, however it wasn't until the mid-late 80s that the colors defined the genders. 

Smithsonian.com has a fascinating article concerning pink-- read more here.

Lingering blooms on my neighbors' hydrangea.
I finally have a spot picked out to plant one of my own.

Shoes-- Miz Mooz

I've also purchased a tube of pink lipstick whose shade I actually find pleasing (a first for me)! While an eventual purchase of a pink Besame lippy is in the works, I played it safe with a tube of Milani's Hot Pink Rage (matte), which is what I'm wearing here.
I'm also wearing my hair in a center part, which I should remember to refrain from in the future!

And I cannot forget to mention my magnificent moon! This moon was part of our wedding and last month we hauled it from storage in New York to a shabby corner of the yard here in North Carolina.. I've still got lots of work to do on the garden I placed it in (my wildflower seeds are struggling terribly in this shady spot), and I can't wait to fill the space with some of my favorite shade-loving plants! 

It's taken three years, but my lily has finally bloomed!

So, Pink, love it? Hate it? What's your motivation for wearing it or avoiding it?
Tell me all about it.