Back in Class

      Remember all the fun stuff about back to school when you were a kid, before the reality of homework set in?    Please join me for some arts and crafts and some back to school shopping in pursuit of classic plaid.    Sorry this is so tardy, I know it’s mid-September already, but the dog ate the first draft…   

         When I was a kid in the sixties, art class was a rare treat, saved for special occasions when the teacher was too frazzled to do anything else.   I recall making mothers and fathers day cards but that was about it.   I was never a Brownie or Girl Guide.   In older grades, I got a C in art which nixed my dreams of becoming a fashion designer.   I can’t draw a straight line or paint.  But today I am a regular patron of Michaels the craft store.   Their 50% off coupons lure me in every time. 

       I ran into someone a few weeks ago and she was looking for plants for her parents grave-sites.   We started talking about those hideous purple and yellow gravestone wreaths, and I asked why are you buying those when you can make your own much nicer and cheaper, with a green wire hanger from Michaels and some flowers from the dollar store.   She thought that was an excellent idea, so I hope someone else might find some of these ideas inspiring.   Here’s a link to last years (unpublished) post Arts and Crafts 101:     (As I recently explained in my one year anniversary post, my blog was private last fall for the first three months).

After picture

       I had a quick look through the mall recently and the stores are full of plaid flannel tops, despite the fact that the forecast this weekend is for the same hot and humid weather we have had all summer.   You would think we were a country of lumberjacks, but then plaid is a perennial fall favorite.   Here’s a link to my blog from last fall, Mad for Plaid.    Enjoy! 

Plaid pencil case

(I bought a new pencil case at the dollar store for old-times sake – it might be good for stashing makeup in or all those small things which fall to the bottom of your purse).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Quotes and a Wedding

A month ago, Chomeuse with a Chou, knowing how much I love quotes, challenged me to a repeat of the Three Days Three Quotes Challenge.   The whole month of May was devoted to gardening and all things floral, so I set it aside to ponder while digging in the dirt.    And speaking of dirt, while viewing the Royal Wedding on Saturday, this Jane Austen quote came to mind as being particularly appropriate, because who doesn’t love a little gossip.    Jane Austen quote

While the royals would hardly be considered my neighbors, I do live in a commonwealth country, (which makes me common and them royal), and I remember learning God Save the Queen years ago in grade school, but otherwise the monarchy doesn’t mean much here in Canada anymore, other than the occasional royal visit, which are few and far between now as people complain about the wasted tax dollars.   (Imagine how you would feel if people were expected to give you a party but then complained about the cost – would you want to go?)   I am not a royal-watcher but I do have a bit of a soft spot for the Queen as she is the same age as my mum and she has been through so much in her sixty-year reign.    So, a few random observations about the wedding of Harry and Megs.

I thought the Queen looked lovely and spring-like in her lime green and purple ensemble – so kudos to whoever put that combination together, plus Prince Philip was looking dapper and quite spry too – no cane two months after hip surgery at 97!

I remember getting up at 5 am to watch Lady Diana’s fairy-tale wedding (and we all know how that turned out, poor girl), but on Saturday I slept in until 7:30 and woke up just as they were saying their vows, so I missed the grand entrance into the church but like fashionistas everywhere all I wanted was to see The Dress.  I think  it is the nicest royal wedding dress yet.   Lady Diana’s was lovely and fitting for a young girl of 21, full of frills and bows and puffy sleeves in the style of the time, but Meghan’s was classic and elegant, in an Audrey Hepburnish way.    It was covered, and form-fitting, but not too tight, and no cleavage, (I hate it when brides yank at their strapless gowns to pull them up), so everyone’s attention was on her face.   (Beyonce-lovers of the barely-there-strategically-placed-cut-out look should take note of what true elegance is).   The veil was exquisite with the additional feature of all that embroidery representing the 52 countries in the commonwealth.  Her hair was lovely too, a simple chignon, but those strands on the one side that she kept pushing back annoyed the heck out of me so I can imagine how she felt, plus they ruined the first kiss by dangling in her face.  Was it a windy day?  Was there a shortage of hairspray?  Or maybe they were supposed to be there, as in one of the official photographs they have pulled them out even more, perhaps a quick repair job?    Conversely, I did not at all like the dress she wore to the evening reception, some high-necked halter thing that looked saggy in front, but I did like that little Jag convertible, very James Bondish.  Imagine driving away to your reception in that little gem.

The bridesmaids and pages were cute, but there should be an age limit on that position.  That littlest toddler waddled up the aisle like she was still in diapers.  As for Charlotte, she has that royal wave down pat, but no child should be required to wear a hair wreath with flowers bigger than she is.   The Mulroney page boys were cute, even if they did photobomb the entrance pic with their missing-teeth grins.    One of my favorite pics was a silhouette of the twins holding up her train at the entrance to the church.

Meghan seemed to be a very composed, relaxed, happy bride, but wouldn’t you expect a bit of nerves on your big day?   I suppose if you were an actress you would be skilled at covering it up.   I recall Kate barely cracked a smile in the church on her wedding day, and looked pale and tired, (plus her and Wills barely glanced at each other so nervous were they), and Diana who was young and nervous (and searching for Camilla), also looked tired under her veil.    In contrast Megan was smiling and looked rested, like she’d had a good night’s sleep.  But perhaps that is the difference between an introvert and an extrovert.   An introvert doesn’t like being the center of attention, (especially when millions of people are watching), while an extrovert actually enjoys it, and as an actress she would be used to having all eyes upon her.   If she was nervous, it didn’t show.   She certainly has a lot of poise, which is admirable in a way.   But all that gaze-into-your eyes and smiling just seemed a wee bit much to me, (like roll playing to the camera), but maybe it just seemed excessive in  contrast to the rest of the royals and guests none of whom looked very excited.   Maybe it’s against protocol to smile on such a solemn dignified occasion?   When they panned the camera over the pews, all I saw was a bunch of blank stoic faces, probably thinking, let’s get this over with and on to the party, although even coming out of the church they didn’t seem like a very joyful crowd.   (This could just have been the Canadian telecast however, maybe others had a different point of view?)

The guests:  Amal Clooney.   If you are that tall, you don’t need sky high heels, even if you do have bored-looking George to cling to if you feel off balance, but no one should ever wear mustard yellow, so pass on the mustard unless you’re at a barbecue.    And why oh why did they keep showing Harry’s old girlfriend – she’s jolly well relieved she didn’t sign up for all that pomp and circumstance.    Oprah, that dress was too tight, and too pink, and that hat way too extravagant.   I didn’t recognize anyone else, but I am not a big TV watcher, and have never seen a single episode of Suits even though it was filmed in Toronto.

Meghan’s mother did well to survive all the attention with dignity and style.  She looked nice in her soft green but should have had a better hat.    She must be commended for raising such a strong, confident daughter, (and Lady Diana likewise.  I hope she was looking down with love on Harry’s special day).   Hers was the only face I saw which showed any true emotion, as she was fighting back tears several times.   Hey, it’s a wedding, it’s okay to get weepy, although Harry apparently wiped a few tears away too.   I felt sorry for her being the only member of her family in attendance, as anyone who has ever gone to the wedding of a friend or colleague and known absolutely no one can sympathize.   I just hope they didn’t stick her at the singles table.    I felt bad about what the media did to Meghan’s dad before the wedding, but have to wonder, if she’s been going out with Harry for two years, and engaged for six months, and if the news reports are correct that her father had never even met Harry, well that should tell you something.   But what would a wedding be without some family dynamics or someone from either side disapproving?   Wedding drama always reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen Quote

Although single, Jane Austen had many quotes on the marital state, being the astute observer of human nature that she was.    She was a great defender of marrying for love, which was not a common theme in her time, as women were in need of financial support and expected to marry well to have advantages in life, (ie a carriage instead of a Jag).   Although it must be said, no one really knows what goes on in a marriage except the couple, as a seemingly  ill-suited match might be perfectly happy, while a perfect looking marriage might be hell.    

Hats –  the day was full of women of all ages in silly hats – if you are going to wear a hat, make it a hat, not a six-inch fascinator.    But Kate’s and Camilla’s hats were too elaborate and must have been strategically designed to hide their faces during the service.   They were even looking down when the vows were being said.    Perhaps they were in shock over the sermon, (does love require a 15 minute sermon, or did the happy couple know he was going to go on and on), and that gospel song I haven’t heard in decades and would rather forget.    As Meghan apparently attended a Catholic high school, (where she wore a navy and white uniform similar in ugliness to mine), I’m not sure what religion she is, if any?   If that was a nod to her heritage that’s fine, but it did leave me wondering.   I did however love the wide-brimmed hat she wore at her first post-wedding appearance – very chic.  I have faith in her choice of hats.   Except for the Queen, (I loved the purple sprigs on her matching hat), the rest of you ladies are hereby sentenced to watch reruns of Downton Abbey – take notes – not a bad hat to be seen in all six seasons.

Mr. Darcy – Harry was Harry, a decent chap, red and scruffy as usual.   (I know grizzly beards are in style, but could he have shaved on his wedding day?  His bride was perfection, while he looked ungroomed, pardon the pun).  Appearances aside, they seem well suited as a couple.   What impressed me was the fact they had gone to Botswana, (must be one of the 52 commonwealth countries), for a three week vacation early in their relationship.  Perhaps they just wanted to be alone, but any couple who can safari together can probably live together.   But who knows maybe it was glam camping.  But then she will be glam living.   (Perhaps she was very smiley at a future of not having to work, clean house, do laundry etc.  There’s something to be said for having servants, not to mention an unlimited clothing allowance).   Plus, if you can handle a herd of wildebeests on safari, you can probably handle the paparazzi.    I’m sure she knows what she’s getting into and has the poise and confidence to handle it.    I wish them all the best in their married life.   As Jane said, they have as good a chance as anyone.Jane Austen quote

The weather gods certainly smiled on them – it was a picture-perfect day for a wedding, and there’s nothing like some sunshine to light up the mood of the waiting crowds.    Even the horses were in high spirits.    I noticed they were  having a really hard time controlling some of them in the carriage procession.    I’ve often wondered who cleans up the streets afterwards?   Maybe they don’t feed them beforehand and they were hungry and galloping towards the stables…Rhubarb scones

Speaking of food, I made tea and rhubarb scones in honor of the occasion while watching the two hour recap in the evening, but the recipe was not the best, so I won’t post it.   I should have known better, as it did not have any butter just cream, and the oven temp said 400, which in my oven should be 350, so they turned out burnt on the bottom and soggy in the middle and  rather tasteless overall.  But they were certainly edible with some strawberry jam, and it gave me a chance to use my new blue teapot.    As my grandmother used to say, “there’s a lid for every teapot.”   I think I’ll stop now, as I have exceeded my three quotes. Blue Teapot

Twenty Pairs of Black Pants

March Break - AMc - 2005

March Break –  2005

          March really is the cruelest month.   The daffodil stalks are peeking up optimistically through the thawing ground, but the temperature is still in the negative.   The bone-chilling cold of January has been replaced by the raw damp winds of March, interspersed with a few bright sunny days, a tease of warmer weather to come.  There is always that one last snow storm or bout of freezing rain to crush your expectations of spring, when it is a relief to wake up in your cozy bed listening to the sleet against the window and know you have no place to go.   Now that I’m retired I have more days like that, in fact I don’t even have to get dressed at all.  I can stay in my PJ’s all day if I want.   And that is the dilemma with retirement clothes.  

           Just what do you wear when you are now longer working, or maybe like Cinderella you toil at home, not necessarily scrubbing the scullery floors, but looking after wee ones or freelancing or blogging.  (Does anyone else have writing clothes?)   If you have been a career person who lived in business clothes most of your life you may find after a period of social inactivity that your wardrobe has sadly deteriorated into a sloppy mess of old sweatpants and t-shirts, with perhaps a few dressy items for going out.   Even the last few years of my working life, my wardrobe had dwindled into a collection of black pants, of which I must have at least twenty pair (there might be more I’m afraid to count), and an assortment of tops which have lived in my closets for years.   Yes, I shop in my closet.

            A recent report on the CBS (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), said that the average Canadian buys 70 new garments per year, and we spend 400% more on clothes than in the 1980’s, all due to Fast Fashion which allows us to buy more for way less.   The report went on to describe how most of the old clothes we donate to charities end up in the landfill, either here or in African countries, as they are not needed, and urged people to hold swap meets and to buy less.  For once it seems I am ahead of the game, but not necessarily for the environmental reasons they suggested.  (see Sears RIP blog for the death of style). 

           Is it possible to look stylish and comfortable on a limited budget? Scraggly old sweats and stained t-shirts are fine for a few hours relaxing on the couch or doing laundry, cleaning or gardening but I’m not sure I want to live in them all the time.  There must be more attractive options – it’s time to hit the stores. 

             And the stores are full of black yoga pants and black leggings.  I have finally gotten used to skinny jeans but I hate yoga pants and leggings…worst thing ever invented.  All that spandex, and the material doesn’t breathe, and most of the time they are way too tight, your legs end up looking like sausages or toothpicks depending on your weight.   If they fit at the waist then they are baggy in the legs, or the legs are skin tight, and how attractive is that, unless you prefer the boots/hooker look, and really what MAW (mature adult woman), looks good in that?   Even Madonna is too old for that look although she doesn’t seem to know it, but then neither does Beyonce and she is still young.    I did manage to find a nice pair of comfortable black Puma sweatpants at Winners for $25, half price.  (When you are retired, you have to be frugal).   The material was thick too, not Lulu Lemonish, so they will be good for walking in cold weather, which is all we are having right now.    I also found a nice comfy pair at Reitman’s, under their Hyba brand, soft and minimal spandex.    Both had a drawstring waist, an important feature, if you plan on eating in them.  (When you are retired you tend to go out for lunch a lot.)   And because Reitman’s had a BOGO 50% off sale, (oh what suckers we are), I got a soft blue sweatshirt….did I mention it was soft.  Of course even the small was too big at the shoulders, but the saleslady assured me it should be worn off the shoulder with a tank top underneath, kind of like that old eighties movie, Flashdance.   I also bought some black fleecy long johns (top and bottoms) at Mark’s Work Warehouse, for $30 each….very warm and cozy, and great for winter walking.  I have worn these under my old sweatpants, and have been quite toasty even in minus thirty degree weather.  Now if they only made fleece for your face, I’m sure I would venture out more.   I also bought a pair of lined (T-Max Heat) black pants at Mark’s Work Warehouse for $40 half price, which I have worn shopping or running errands, and they are nice too, so we have the winter wear covered….oops forgot about the hat. Got a nice thick red and brown knitted hat to match my red parka, at Winners…$12.  It’s hard to find a decent hat unless you want to look like a Gap ad with a pompom on your head, maybe attractive for fifteen year old models but not MAW.  (I could do a whole separate blog on hats.)   Oh, and because it is Canada, boots are an essential item – practical boots, $62 with a $10 gift card (oh what suckers we are), at Marks Work Wearhouse 50% off sale, black suede with fur trim, mid calf, good for snowdrifts and shoveling the driveway, not so good for walking in, but they probably need to be broken in…did I mention it’s been too cold to walk lately?

         On the days when it’s so cold, you don’t even feel like getting dressed, pajamas are important, so two sets, both navy, one plain navy with white piping, (I call them my Rosemary Clooney White Christmas pajamas only hers were red), and one with a thin-striped navy top and navy bottoms, both from Winners.    I find I am spending more time sleeping, nine hours a night, (for the first time in my life people tell me I look good….what they mean is I don’t look tired), and they are both great for lounging around in the evening.  Both are very soft cotton material, although a bit warm for the winter nights when it’s minus thirty below and I have the heat cranked up so the pipes don’t freeze.  Then I wear my summer PJ’s.

             Before Sears closed I bought a navy blue with white trim (I sense a nautical theme here), designer one piece bathing suit for 60% percent off, at $25, a real bargain.   It was for those water aerobics classes at the sports complex, but I have yet to wear it.   It’s too cold to go to the arena but I’m sure my bone density test will love it someday.   My last purchase was a new rose/brown sweater, again end of season half price $42, for wearing with jeans or black pants for lunches/dinners out.     And there you have it….retirement wardrobe covered, total cost, approx. $400.    I could use a few more casual tops for the sweats, but before you know it,  spring will be here, and I can switch to t-shirts and start my annual hunt for Capri pants that fit.   Is there anything more enticing than stores full of colorful spring clothes in the last dregs of winter – such promise of summer days ahead.   Or maybe next winter, I’ll just skip the whole thing and wear that bathing suit down south. 

         I wrote this wardrobe update summary the first year of my retirement, but in the year since then I have bought even less, (three more pairs of black Hyba pants, two summer tops, and a mint green Columbia spring windbreaker jacket), so obviously I am not the typical consumer the CBS based their poll on.  It does seem excessive to buy so much, not to mention expensive.   I remember spending more money on clothes in my younger years because I loved to shop and people dressed up more back then.  (see vintage blog)   Maybe younger people are happy with the available Fast Fashion.   But I am older and fussier now too – it must be of good quality, fit well, look good, be comfortable, practical, needed, a reasonable price and also bring me joy – a tall order for any poor garment.   No wonder I am buying less.  I have been reading about all things Parisian for future blogs, and the French seem to be perfectionists when it comes to clothing, which may be why they have such great personal style.   A French woman will shop for months for the perfect article of clothing.  I think I would do well there.  Vive la France!  

(Disclaimer:  I do not own this Paris picture, it was from a box of note cards but it is so elegant I just had to share it.) 

Postscript:   The snowdrops are out, the first sign of spring. Snowdrops

Sears R.I.P.

             Our one and only department store has closed and I am partly to blame.  Note I said partly, as the other 99,999 inhabitants in the area are also responsible.  It does seem strange that a city of a hundred thousand people can’t support a department store, but that is the reality of the changing retail environment, and it’s not just here, department stores are in trouble all over.  Sears has gone bankrupt and closed it’s stores all across Canada, leaving us a nation with just one department store, Hudson’s Bay.  The Hudson’s Bay Company was the oldest, established in 1670 as a fur trading post, back when Europeans considered it fashionable to wear beaver pelts, so perhaps it is fitting that it is the only one still standing.   Eaton’s succumbed back in the late 1990’s, although it did a roaring trade in the eighties when every city had an Eaton’s Centre mall, back when people actually hung out at the mall.

       The Sears store in town had been in operation since 1954.   One of my earliest childhood memories was of my parents taking me to Sears to shop for a new dress, (my older siblings must have been in school, and perhaps I was soon to go), and I had to chose between a blue one and a brown one.   The dresses were both otherwise identical with short puffy sleeves and smocking, the kind of dresses little girls used to wear before they wore leggings.   I can’t remember which one I chose, it might have been the blue, but it sticks in my memory because it must have been the first time I was allowed a choice. Normally my mother dressed my sister and I in identical outfits, or I wore her hand-me-downs.   Slowly our retail choices are becoming more limited.   Other than Walmart which I don’t consider a choice, plus a few ladies shops for older women, and the usual teen jean stores, the mall is littered with empty store fronts, even the food court is deserted.   You could go through it in an hour, while I remember whiling away a Saturday afternoon shopping at one of our two local malls.   You couldn’t do them both the same day there were so many stores.   Now the nearest department store and decent mall is two hours away.     

            Yes, I know there are lots of choices on the internet, thus the demise of the brick and mortar operations, and I know the internet is cheaper, but I when want to shop for clothes, I want the thrill of the hunt.   I want to browse, see what catches my eye, feel the material, try it on, see if it fits – and I don’t want the hassle of having to return stuff.     Someone told me part of the appeal of online shopping (other than the obvious of saving time and money), is they like the idea of having a package waiting for them when they get home, but how many of those packages have to go back, or are kept because the alternative is just too much work.   And what about the porch pirates?  The delivery guy once stuck my Sephora order behind a flowerpot on the front deck and the $24 tube of Tarte lipstick melted in the ninety degree heat.  What fun that was to get refunded.   I have shopped online after trying something on in the store if they didn’t have my size.   Occasionally I have ordered from L.L. Bean (their perfect fit pants really are a perfect fit), but only because I know my size with them, and only when the exchange rate of Canadian to US money was on par, because we also have to pay customs and shipping when ordering from the States.  Unless you really love it, it’s just not worth the additional cost. 

          I could just as easily have titled this post, The Death of Style.  I loved shopping when I was younger, (see vintage blog).  When did it become so difficult to buy clothes?   I distinctly remember it as being fun, a hobby of sorts, retail therapy before the term was invented.   So, when I say I am responsible for the demise of Sears, it’s true – I hadn’t bought anything but socks and underwear there for years.   Other than my twice yearly trek to the Estee Lauder counter to buy Night Repair, which I have been using faithfully for over thirty years, (by now they should be paying me), I don’t think I will miss it, other than the gift with purchase.  Because the truth is the clothes were ugly or poor quality or just plain boring.   So, it’s not just my fault you see, it’s the clothing manufacturers too.  They need to start making better stuff and offering more choices.   Is it too much to ask to have a bit of style with function and fit.   As I have gotten older I have gotten fussier about what I buy, and that Marie Kondo tidying up book in January (click here) has only made things worse with it’s closet advice.   Now I have to ask myself – does it bring me joy?   That is why I have worn the same winter coat forever – I never find what I am looking for.   I have a vision of my new winter coat, (a nice rich red, not orange-red, belted, wool, three quarters length, classic cut), in my head but that’s the only place it seems to exist.  I would even settle for a new ski jacket (also red, with white or black fur trim), but all you could find in Sears were long over-sized puffy parkas – yes, it’s cold here but we don’t live in igloos.  Have you ever tried to shop in a parka – instant hot flashes.  Even when I do find something that might be somewhat suitable, I find myself critiquing it.   I found a nice black belted wool coat but why would you put such cheap brass buttons on a black coat.  Or maybe the style is nice, but the color is wrong.   When I was in grade school I wanted to be a fashion designer, but was discouraged by the guidance counselor who looked gravely at me across the desk and said, young lady, you have a C in art.   My dreams were dashed, but I wonder if it’s too late?  If anyone has an advice on where to shop for stylish clothes, either in-store or online, please leave a comment.

 (see part two: Twenty Pairs of Black Pants next week)

Postscript.  my fellow Canadian blogger, Anhistorianabouttown, has posted a book review on, Service and Style, a book about how the American department store fashioned the middle class…sounds interesting…..click here for a link to her review.   

 

Thanks, It’s Vintage

My love of vintage fashion stems from my inability to get rid of clothes, which is why I still have an eighties closet.   I suppose you could blame it on not having many clothes during my formative years.  We had to wear ugly nun-like navy blue uniforms in high school and for a young girl who poured over the pages of the few Seventeen magazines I owned like they were the Bible, I think it must have somehow damaged my psyche.   My entire wardrobe fit into half a small clothing rack in the upstairs bedroom I shared with my sister, and a few dresser drawers.   Oh, we went shopping with my mother, but mostly we looked.  When I was a poor university student who lived in jeans and polyester shirts, my dorm closet was the size of a phone booth and still held my entire wardrobe.  It was only in the eighties when I started working that I had any money to spend on clothes, and graduated to multiple wall length closets, separated by season.  It’s not that I think the 80’s was a great decade for clothes, all those big shoulder pads and billowy sleeves…. the reason I can’t part with the stuff is the fabric – the fabrics were so beautiful, and the clothes seemed to be better made than what is available today in our throw away society – i.e. if you haven’t worn it in a year throw it out.  All those beautiful velvet dresses, because yes people actually dressed up for New Years Eve (think of Meg Ryan’s strapless blue velvet dress with matching elbow length gloves in When Harry Met Sally), and Christmas, (think Donna Reed’s black velvet dress with lace collar in It’s A Wonderful Life).

 They dressed up for work too – I wore tailored suit jackets (with pocket scarves matching the blouse) with skirts to meetings, in fact I don’t think I wore pants to work until 2003.   I still have the shirt dress I work to my first job interview – a fine worsted blue wool – I paid $200 for it…. but I got the job.  Then there were the April Cornell cotton sundresses (such vibrant colours and prints), which I wore to work in the summer, under a lab coat of course, when the air conditioning was broke – because even though it was a hundred degrees out you couldn’t be seen in bare legs, capri pants or skimpy tops.   It seems we have chosen comfort over elegance, but I don’t remember it being a chore to dress up back then.  Although it might have been a relief to change into jeans and sweats, we didn’t live in them.  Clothes today don’t seem to have as much style, and the material is inferior, and you certainly can’t tell when shopping over the internet, so it becomes a hassle and an expense having to return things.  Maybe I am just in that in between age, too young to shop at the stores my mother shops at but too old for most of the stores in the mall, and department stores seems to be a dying breed.  I am still mourning the death of Eaton’s…will Sears be next?

      The decades I really love are the 50’s and 60’s – the elegant Audrey Hepburn Dior dress era with the little black hats with veils. 

Audrey-Hepburn-Breakfast-at-Tiffanys-Movie-Poster
Audrey Hepburn-Breakfast at Tiffanys

I remember my mother having a Jackie Kennedy-like navy blue taffeta dress with a small bustle which she would wear with a string of glass pearls, on the few occasions my parents went out…usually to funerals.   The dress is long gone, but I still have the pearls.   The roaring twenties was also a lovely era for clothes (think Downton Abbey – elbow length evening gloves and all those hats).  You had to wear a hat to church up to the mid-60’s or you would be excommunicated.   Hats made a brief come back in the 80’s with Lady Diana, I have two vintage hats, one black with a stylish brim and one white with a big feather…. hats are probably a whole other blog.

 Vintage purses are fun especially those that close with a decisive click, and it’s always interesting to look at old jewelry and see if it can be refurbished.  I like to browse in vintage stores, but I don’t care for tacky vintage, no matter how expensive the designer label.    Likewise, if it’s shopworn….it must be in excellent condition.   I once saw a beaded flapper top in a vintage store which I loved but it was so stained under the armpits I couldn’t even try it on.   The same store also had the exact same black velvet dress I bought in the 80’s (which still resides in my closet), for $80 – when I went back a month later it was gone, so there might be some money in selling some of this stuff.   My friend offered to make me a quilt with the April Cornell sundresses, if only I could be brave enough to cut them up.     Last June I needed a WW2 40’s style dress for a swing band dinner dance, (we got last minute tickets the day before), but after a quick visit to Valu Village and the Goodwill I still couldn’t find anything, so I raided my closet and wore a yellow Laura Ashley sundress with a full skirt – so sometimes that vintage closet does come in handy.  When we got to the venue, which was an airport hanger they had decorated with war memorabilia, there was a similar yellow dress on a mannequin beside an army jeep.  I wish I had thought to get my picture taken beside it, but when I got compliments on my dress, I replied, thanks, it’s vintage!

img074

1920 ‘s daring to show a little ankle

This is a picture of my grandmother and her sisters around 1920 when women were just starting to show their ankles.  I wonder what they would think of all those strategically placed barely there dresses movie stars wear now…

Songs of The Day:   Blue Velvet – Bobby Vinten – click here for music link

Frank Sinatra: They Can’t Take That Away From Me – click here for music link

Book of the Day:   Vintage by Susan Gloss – see The Vintage Corner on main menu or Goodreads review on the front page.

Mad for Plaid

Back to School Anthem:  September….Earth Wind and Fire – music link

           I was getting some computer help from a summer student at the library and on her last day she wished me a good year.   If you are a student (or teacher), the year starts in September, if you are not, the year starts in January.   So I started thinking about how it felt to go back to school when you were a kid, not that I would want to go back to those days, (like Billy Joel says in the Italian Restaurant song, you can never go back there again), but shopping for back to school clothes was always fun, and usually meant something plaid.   I blame my mother for my love for plaid as she dressed me in a little red plaid kilt with a red sweater for my grade one picture.  f5ed6be613e40c00a155c05639796ad2 I remember wearing a stylish dark cotton plaid dress the first day of grade eight when I was just starting to be fashion savvy, and thinking it was the grooviest thing ever.   High school meant a whole week of dress up days before we were regulated into ugly navy-blue nun-like uniforms with white shirts (which my mother had to iron every morning) and no pants either, although the boys could wear ripped jeans and t-shirts with bad sayings…..you would not get away with that kind of discrimination today.   How I would have welcomed a nice plaid kilt like other Catholic schools had.   Dress up days were also held the first Friday of the month and were a cutthroat competition as to who could look the most like a Seventeen model.   I remember wearing a short plum skirt with a gold blouse and a plum vest with a gold plaid pattern on the front, and thinking it was the epitome of style…. kind of like a cheerleader’s outfit.   Although I was never the type, I envied them their uniforms.   Skirts were short, (looking back, really short), as it was the early seventies, and the nuns would go around measuring with a ruler if they were in a particularly mean mood.  One winter when I was sixteen I bought a wool plaid winter coat at Saks where we hardly ever shopped because it was too expensive, simply because the sales lady talked me into it by telling me I looked like the cover of Mademoiselle, a magazine I was not familiar with at the time as it was for college students.   I think I only wore it one year as the next year it was out of style, and the plaid was way too loud and garish.   University meant jeans and plain polyester shirts with the occasional sweater – we were poor students with no money and high rent living in a big city where there was lovely shopping but who could afford it.  We window-shopped instead.   In first year, my roommate and I so coveted Viyella plaid housecoats that we used to stop by the nightwear department at the Eaton’s store and visit them when we were downtown.  I finally bought a knockoff version because you had to have something to put on in the girls dorm, because horrors what if you ran into some guy in the washroom.  

vintage red plaid housecoat

vintage red plaid housecoat

Does anyone even wear housecoats anymore…they seem harder and harder to find?   After squirreling away most of my summer job savings towards the next year’s living expenses, there might be a bit left over to splurge on a plaid shirt before back to school, usually red but one year black and gray.   I used to shop at Sears on my lunch hour and deliberated for hours over the color.   I remember wearing a red and blue checked plaid shirt with a jean jumper to a party and dancing to Abba’s Dancing Queen when I was supposed to be studying for midterms, and I was wearing a plaid shirt and tight jeans at a fourth-year party the night I had to go to the hospital with what turned out to be a kidney stone, but which I had thought was just really tight jeans.  These are my plaid memories – it seems archaic now when if you want something you just whip out a credit card, but back then credit cards were only approved for people who had good jobs, and you had to apply for them, they didn’t send you invitations in the mail.            

Navy Blue Plaid                                                                                                                            

      I am still mad for plaid – it must be my Celtic DNA.  I was in a material store the other day, looking for mesh bags for the lavender harvest, and saw my favorite red plaid tartan, and then the most beautiful navy blue flannel.   But what would I do with it – it has been decades since I have sewn – when I was a teenager I would buy the material, pin and cut out the pattern, both of which I enjoyed and then lose interest when the seams didn’t go right on the old machine, and my mother would end up finishing the rest.  My vision never quite matched the reality. 

When you are older you should take your plaids in smaller doses – a plaid carryall for gym stuff or a cheery winter scarf.  

Plaid bag

20170907_141629 (3)

There is something so inherently cheerful about red plaid and of course nothing says cozy like a soft plaid throw for the couch…how can it be that I do not own such a thing when I visit Winners on a regular basis?   It’s a sad truth that now that I have more money to spend I so seldom find anything I like.  But I will give it the old college try, and go shopping to see if something plaid catches my eye.   Wishing everyone a good year! 

Celtic Song:  I discovered this Irish group Celtic Thunder while watching PBS one night…..I love public television….  click music link here