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What were they thinking?!

Once again for April 1st, I’ve scraped the bottom of my WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?! files, in order to show you the very “best” of vintage BADvertisements, beauty concoctions for those with a death wish, questionable record jackets, and this year featuring the ever popular bridesmaids of the 1980s.

Oh, those “Back Aches” peculiar to LADIES. You know the ones.

Oh, those “Back Aches” peculiar to LADIES. You know the ones.

No one’s dissatisfied because they’re no longer living.

No one’s dissatisfied because they’re no longer living.

 
And if the hair thing doesn’t work out, it makes a reasonable Jello mold.

And if the hair thing doesn’t work out, it makes a reasonable Jello mold.

What could possibly go wrong?

What could possibly go wrong?

Yup, that looks real.

Yup, that looks real.

Germs aren’t the only things that will die.

Germs aren’t the only things that will die.

Pop Tarts and several Cokes for breakfast and she’ll be good to go.

Pop Tarts and several Cokes for breakfast and she’ll be good to go.

Why am I just finding out about this?

Why am I just finding out about this?

Gap-osis: it makes a guy's eyes shoot not daggers, but zipper teeth. A warning to us all (about zippers, or possibly guys) from 1940.

Gap-osis: it makes a guy's eyes shoot not daggers, but zipper teeth. A warning to us all (about zippers, or possibly guys) from 1940.

Why suffer when you could be wearing one of these babies?

Why suffer when you could be wearing one of these babies?

Those born with dimples are part of a secret society that have been placed on earth to bring joy to all.

Those born with dimples are part of a secret society that have been placed on earth to bring joy to all.

For tightening those full lips…without any obligation on your part.

For tightening those full lips…without any obligation on your part.

Never worked for me…

Never worked for me…

Ah the good ol’ days, when you weren’t fat enough.

Ah the good ol’ days, when you weren’t fat enough.

The girl on the left should have been born in 1995.

The girl on the left should have been born in 1995.

I could show you how to do that, no trouble.

I could show you how to do that, no trouble.

Really? In public??

Really? In public??

Don’t miss this one folks!

Don’t miss this one folks!

To each their own special purpose.

To each their own special purpose.

And speaking of blowing, Illinois’ 1956 Miss Universe contestant certainly has nailed her talent segment.

And speaking of blowing, Illinois’ 1956 Miss Universe contestant certainly has nailed her talent segment.

Warning: These are the last three faces you will see before you meet Jesus.

Warning: These are the last three faces you will see before you meet Jesus.

The puffier the clothing, the longer the marriage.

The puffier the clothing, the longer the marriage.

The look on the face of the girl on the floor says it all.

The look on the face of the girl on the floor says it all.

So THAT’S where my mylar space blankets went.

So THAT’S where my mylar space blankets went.

Sale at the tanning parlor.

Sale at the tanning parlor.

I Janine, take you Moth…

I Janine, take you Moth…

Put some wheels under this and you actually have a half-decent parade float.

Put some wheels under this and you actually have a half-decent parade float.

Until next April 1! 👋

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Barbie at 60

She doesn’t look a day over 19, does she? And no plastic surgery!

The ever-youthful fashion doll was first introduced at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959, so that day is considered her date of birth.

Since the early days, Barbie has undergone many transformations, changed races and faces, run for President (six times!), been a paleontologist and a rock star. She has had over 150 careers and broke the plastic ceiling when she reached the moon four years before Neil Armstrong.

It’s the very earliest years of Barbie’s fashions that intrigue me the most. She started her life with a miniature wardrobe worthy of Best Dressed lists. With names like “Gay Parisienne” and “Golden Elegance,” Barbie’s outfits from 1959 to 65 were detailed and coordinated. The fashion designer at Mattel (can you believe they even had a fashion designer?) was Charlotte Johnson. The original dolls were manufactured in Japan, and their clothes were hand sewn by Japanese homeworkers.

Is it weird to extol Barbie doll style? The reason I ask is because I was not allowed to play with Barbies (et al.) when I was a child—my parents thought they were too “adult” to be right for a child. I do get that, but then every single time I saw a Barbie at a friend’s house, I dropped everything to play with her clothes. I eventually got a fashionable doll that looked like a girl my age, in something like 5th grade. For me, the dolls were not emotional friends like my teddy bears and other stuffed animals, but I loved their clothes. I ended up getting a lot of fashion ideas almost out of the corner of my eye. The moral of this story? I don’t really know. But I do know Barbie fascinates me to this day.

Ever wished you could dress like Barbie? Recently I photographed vintage clothes that I picked from my inventory to most adhere to early Barbie sensibilities, complete with plenty of accessories. I have worked with a number of very talented models in the past few years, and the one that stood out as having just the right look for Barbie is Roxy Lang. I was thrilled that she is a fan of Barbie. She told me her grandmother has a collection of the dolls. 

Will the  real  Barbie please stand up?

Will the real Barbie please stand up?

Find all these items, while they last, in my Etsy shop (P.S. A few are yet to come):

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Happy Birthday Barbie!

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Does vintage spark joy?

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Are you a fan of Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? Or her recent reality show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo?

I read the organization guru’s first book early on. My husband and I live in a 1907 house that has 698 square feet. We really don’t have much extra space to get sloppy in, and so organization fascinates me. Am I organized? In a sense, I think so. I always know where things are, even if they are stacked or cluttered. Could I do better? Oh yes.

One of the central tenants of Kondo’s KonMarie method is that the items you keep must “spark joy” for you. According to her, you must hold each of your items in your hands and see if you register that feeling of joy. If you don’t feel it, you must let the item go, after properly thanking it for doing its best for you.

Spark joy. Hmmm. I can honestly say that is the best way for me to choose what to purchase in the first place, especially clothing. If I don’t love something viscerally—immediately and terribly—it isn’t going to serve me very well. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pair of black socks or a sequined green dress—it has to be exactly what I want. Once I have a loved item, it doesn’t usually fall out of favor for me. I might not fit in it properly forever, but I still love it.

Another important aspect of Kondo’s technique is the spiritual connections she makes. She explains that she is informed by her background in Shintoism, the traditional Japanese religion that emphasizes ritual and the spiritual essence of everything. The connectedness that she teaches making with a home, and with each item in it, gives each thing a value that maintains it as not readily disposable, but also not readily bought. I think this is the soul of her method. How many of us who would take the time to really connect to an item would buy the wrong thing? At the time (eventually) that we let the item go, we would offer it thanks, and it would feel very real.

I love that. Everything that we own is a piece of the world; its creation uses the world’s resources, and it should not have been made in vain or for one use and immediate disposal. I don’t know if that is Marie Kondo’s message, but her thinking slows you down and makes you contemplate each item in your possession. It makes you see everything.


How does vintage clothing fit into this? I think it fits very handsomely.

  • A vintage item has not just been made, so it is part of a history of passing something along. It most likely has been used, appreciated, and thoughtfully let go of already in its life. You can be part of its continuing story.

  • A vintage item is usually not a quick and easy purchase; it demands some thoughtfulness.

  • A vintage item is not usually briefly and faddishly fashionable the way readily available fast fashion is. It stands to reason that if it is not the newest style, it isn’t going to be only temporarily the hottest thing.

  • A vintage item is most often better made, with better materials and workmanship than the majority of modern-made clothing. It is meant to be preserved through care, and not ruined after several wearings.

  • A vintage item has undeniable karma, the sort that gives it a presence that transcends a brief existence. Think long simmering stew vs. instant noodles.

A vintage item slows you down in all good ways: It takes more patience to find, it gives you more time to think about how much it sparks joy for you, it doesn’t fan the flames of instant gratification, it doesn’t break down if cared for properly, it demands a certain respect and sustenance. It will care for you if you care for it, and then be glad to go on to its next home.

What do you think…am I missing something? How does Marie Kondo’s method work for you and your vintage? Have you taken the KonMari technique to your clothing yet?

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Will you be my Vintage Valentine?

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I have no trouble promoting pinks and reds any day of the year, but get heated up around about February 1st, with Valentine’s Day looming. Have you had a look at my Etsy shop recently? It’s positively bursting with these colors!

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And, as extra incentive to take a look at these beauties, through February 7, take 20% off anything primarily pink or red in my Etsy shop, no coupon needed. ❤️💘❤️💘❤️💘

Here are a couple of my favorites:

This gorgeous pour of magenta silk satin was created by Carlye in the late 1950s

This gorgeous pour of magenta silk satin was created by Carlye in the late 1950s

This rosy dress and swing coat is labeled Sandra Sage

This rosy dress and swing coat is labeled Sandra Sage

While on the subject of pink and hearts, I want to remind you that the Pink Heart Shop section of my Etsy store is stocked with vintage with all proceeds benefitting Dress for Success worldwide. 

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(And yes, my model Kendra and I were inspired by The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel when we photographed that last set above! We are both diehard Maisel fans!)

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What do 3,000 sales look like?

It says it right there at the top of my shop: “On Etsy since 2008”

Years before using Etsy as a selling platform, I sold vintage fashion on eBay. Then when Etsy came along, I decided to make the jump. It has been 10 years now on Etsy, half the time denisebrain has been in business, and my shop recently reached the milestone of 3,000 sales. Would you like to see what 3K pieces of vintage finery look like?

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OK, so that’s not half—it’s not even close to half, but I figured it was sufficiently dizzying!

To celebrate, I am offering 25% off any sale of $50 or more from my Etsy shop through January 26. Just use the coupon code HAPPY3000 when you check out, or use this link to receive the discount automatically.

Now, what do 3,000 sales look like on my face?

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Yup, I’m pretty excited! Thank you!!

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Denisebrain best of 2018

It’s time once again for my annual round up of favorite vintage sold last year. It’s always so hard: One can’t choose everything, but I really do fall in love with the things I sell, and this fact comes through in the sheer lack of editing down you can witness below. Sorry not sorry.

Also in the mix you will catch a glimpse of a few customer images, and you can see more of these on the Vintage You page.

You will also see a lot of non-me models in my photos here. I’ve gone from being terrified of having anyone but me in my shots (because I was afraid that no one would know it was my shop anymore) to being overjoyed for the unique character that all the models have brought to my clothes. This is what I want for my denisebrain business, a feeling of everyone being welcome in. I think the models are helping me show that, and I’m so grateful to them all.

I have a lot—I mean A LOT—of vintage to show you in 2019, so hold your horses!! (And yes, there will be more wooden horse pins!)

I hope you have found as many unexpected reasons to smile this year as I have, and that 2019 brings us all our share of joy, health, love, and hope—oh and of course, vintage!

My very best to you, Maggie of denisebrain

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Giving the gift of vintage

Made your list and checked it twice? For those who have been especially nice, I suggest vintage! Here are a few pointers.

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giving vintage items as gifts

Always make sure the item is in excellent condition or has a great reason for not being in excellent condition (a vintage book marked up by the author would probably be a treasure).

Make it personal! Consider the birth year of the giftee, or some another significant year in that person’s life. Initials or name, hometown or another meaningful place are also good bets. Favorite activities, favorite color, artist, era or material—maybe something that belongs to a collection that the recipient already has (and isn't sick of!).

As much as you personally love something, remember it is a gift so think of the recipient’s own style (no shabby chic for a mid-century mod fancier!).

Allow yourself plenty of time to look around.

Combining vintage with new items makes old new again: How about your famous holiday bread wrapped in a vintage tea towel?

An item passed from one generation to the next can be very meaningful, especially if you add the history of the item—or even a photo—that gives context for the item.

My great grandmother’s locket was a very meaningful gift for me as a young person, especially with this photo of her wearing it included.

My great grandmother’s locket was a very meaningful gift for me as a young person, especially with this photo of her wearing it included.

Some vintage fashion gift hits

Fashion—whether new or vintage—may be the most difficult type of gift to give because it is so personal. Still, it can be the best gift to give! Thinking over my two decades of holiday seasons here at denisebrain, these are the vintage items sold as gifts most often:

Jewelry So many options! How about something Christmas-y like a vintage garnet necklace? Or a novelty brooch with the recipient’s favorite animal? Or an initial brooch?

Capes Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but you can see how a vintage-wearer would like one—very few fit issues! On Etsy, there are nearly 500 vintage plaid capes alone, and over 7,000 vintage capes in all! I own a vintage Pendleton tweed cape and I always get compliments when I wear it, so I found the same model to show you (bottom right in the collage below), available on Etsy now.

Hats For the man or woman who has everything (vintage), a hat can be a fantastic choice. A good quality vintage faux fur hat is a perennial favorite, as is a vintage fedora.

Robes Fairly easy to fit, and a woman can wear a man’s robe just fine, so there are many options. (Since they will be spending a lot of time in it make sure it is in truly great shape.) Silk and rayon kimono-style robes are having a fairly strong fashion revival, and you may as well find a vintage equivalent!

Scarves Not everyone wears every kind of scarf, but almost everyone wears some kind of scarf, whether of warm wool or fine silk. I just happen to have a few in my shop right now (wink, wink).

These items, being offered by other vintage sellers, are in my Etsy Giftable Vintage Fashion list:

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In the accessory category, another current “hit item”—vintage train cases. Some use these for decorative storage, some even for (gasp!) travel. The kind with the mirror inside the lid is great for keeping and putting on makeup or hair products.

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Don't forget using any vintage gift wraps and ribbons you’ve been hoarding/saving to add the finishing touches. You can even incorporate those sadly orphaned or broken vintage clip-on earrings into your package wrapping!

Image from  hausbest.com

Image from hausbest.com

VINTAGE FASHION GIFT “OUTAKES”

Giving the gift of vintage—while rewarding—isn’t always a sure bet. Here are a few of the less than perfect gifts that I’ve learned about over many Christmases (and other holidays) past…

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Gloves. We’re not used to this dilemma because these days it is rather rare to find fitted gloves with a specific size beyond S, M or L. Don’t assume that, for instance, a pair of vintage leather gloves will fit the recipient without knowing that person's glove size. I mentioned a hat being a popular choice, but there are fit issues with hats too, so it is best to avoid a hat that fits down on the head (a cloche style for instance) unless you are certain of the wearer's size.

Anything that is valuable and covetable but not the giftee's taste is liable to be a flop. There isn't anything sadder than giving something truly wonderful to a person who simply isn't interested and just hides it away. I can tell you about a deeply carved Bakelite bangle and a 50s Hawaiian shirt that seem to have disappeared from the face of the Earth...

Anything with major problems is almost surely a miss—unless you know the person well and he/she loves a well ripped up vintage rock band t-shirt or something else well used. Clean and mend any tiny flaws in your gift and package it up beautifully. Yes, there is always that "old stuff" ick factor to consider for those on the (vintage) fence.

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Even with caveats, I predict there’s a vintage gifting hit for just about anyone on your list. Many people care about the environment and love the idea of recycling, including fashion. If you do a great job of picking and presenting, who knows, maybe you will make a vintage fashion convert!


So...What vintage is going under your tree this year?

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So thankful

My most sincere thanks—for everything.

I am thankful every single day that I am able to run my vintage fashion business. I have met the most wonderful people through vintage. You are customers, colleagues, collectors, historians—stylish, fascinating, caring people with so many stories to tell. And you even put up with my talk of manatees!
 

You read my blog, my newsletter, and my wordy (!) item listings, you visit my website and let me know what you think. You cheer me on when I do a good job, and forgive me when I make a mistake. You constantly make me realize that we aren't such a bad lot. Thank you.

I wish you every happiness on Thanksgiving Day, and hope you are surrounded by all that you love best.

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