Monday, August 16, 2010

Thrift Store Gems

When I was a little girl, I remember playing in the back bedroom of my grandparents' house. This was the room where my grandmother kept all of her old hats and dresses and coats from the 1940's & 1950's. Like many of the people who grew up during the Depression, my grandmother saved everything. I remember stacks of hat boxes, sequined dresses and cardigans, and pretty heeled shoes. My grandmother had worked in a dressmaking factory when she was younger, and also knew some very talented seamstresses, so there were boxes of old buttons, rhinestones, and sequins to look through too. Some friends of hers had hand-beaded a collar and several cardigans as a gift to her back then - priceless items that she kept wrapped in black tissue paper and stored in a black velvet box. I've been meaning to do a post about that with pictures soon...She also kept her wedding dress & veil from the 40's, stored in a cedar chest. It fascinated me to be able to look at the wedding pictures of her and my grandfather, and then lovingly finger the same gown in-person. I suppose you could say that I grew up loving vintage from the very beginning. Unfortunately, many of the old clothes, hats, and other items were eventually sold at garage sales when I was away at college, but what I could save from the claws of my family, I have held on to. Because I was roughly the same size as my grandmother and aunts, I inherited what little remained of the clothing (though I still want to cry myself to sleep at night over the loss of so many beautiful hats!): the velvet box of sequined sweaters, the wedding dress, and a few purses and dresses and jewelry that belonged to my grandmother in her youth. Priceless items that I would never part with.

Because vintage clothing and accessories have become such highly collectible and in-demand items, the price tag on most pieces is rather high. I have looked into trying to replace some of the items lost to me through "secret" yard sales, but alas, my budget does not allow replacing 4 pristine dresses from the 1940's, lucite shoes from the 50's, hats, least not through vintage clothing dealers. Thus, I have taken to yard sale-ing and thrift store hopping. I worried that, living in rural southern Oregon, there would not be much to find. However, with luck and a lot of persistence, I have managed to come across a few gems. Here are some of my recent finds:

While perusing one thrift store last week, I noticed in the glass display window a gorgeous fur hat from about the 1940's. The label reads "Favorette Fashion," and I think the fur might be mink? In any event, it was a great find! The price tag for this little gem? $5.

Also in the display case was a real vintage fur collar (beaver fur?) for $9. I couldn't pass it up! Based on the tag and lining, my guess is it's from the 40's or more likely 50's. Still, a great find! But the true discovery came when I began thumbing through the rack of coats in (of all places) the men's clothing section!:

A 1950's mink fur wrap, with pockets for your hands (so you can wrap yourself with it)! It was originally marked $49, but I got a 10% discount. I knew it was real fur the minute I touched it (having a large farm gets you very accustomed to knowing what real animal fur feels like). I didn't know what kind of fur it was, and it did not say on the tag. So I bought it, brought it home, and tried to investigate. Finally, after peering into one of the pockets, I found the tag that read, "Genuine Mink." Score! I love this wrap, and it will go so very well with my next Estate Sale find: a vintage red Lilli Diamond cocktail dress.

But first, a brief note on vintage fur - Before I get screamed at by various sensitive people, I am not pro-animal-death-for-fashion. I think we can ALL agree that I adore animals and absolutely hate to see a single one suffer (I can hardly handle turkey slaughter season!). That being said, I enjoy vintage fashions, and fur is a part of that. A vintage fur piece was made many years ago - I was not the woman who specifically requested it. Therefore, I feel ok in buying and enjoying the pieces because the animals were already killed years ago, and I am not supporting (nor would I ever purchase any) NEW fur coats and accessories.

I found this beautiful screaming red Lilli Diamond cocktail dress at an Estate Sale in Medford last weekend. I tried to talk the woman down, but she was firm on her $45 price tag. At the time, this seemed pretty reasonable (if high for my budget) for the dress AND the matching calf-length red coat. However, when I brought the dress home and tried it on, I discovered one of the side seams had ripped open. Easily fixable, but I wish I had seen that before the purchase! I would have haggled more...

It's a GORGEOUS dress, and it fits me like a slightly-too-tight glove. Still, I love it, and I look great in it! I think when I go to repair the broken seam, I am going to let the dress out a hair in the hips. I checked, and there's enough fabric that I can do it if I am careful. So that is on my repair to-do list.

At that same Estate Sale, I also purchased an adorable little vintage hat with white flowers that I love! It actually looks pretty good with the Lilli Diamond dress!

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