Two recent Vintage Convergences

I'm working on the next post in my series on caring for vintage—working very hard to fill the gaps in my stain-removal knowledge. But while we wait for that to be completed, here are two recent Vintage Convergences. 

I call it a Vintage Convergence when I find a vintage ad, photo, or pattern with the same garment as one of my vintage finds. In the past year, none of these have surfaced—but in the past two days, I've found two.


The first came up as I researched a dress by the designer Chester Weinberg for listing in my Etsy shop. The dress is of outstanding quality, so I had to know as much as I could about it, and there it was, available in pattern form from the Etsy seller GransTreasures:


The second convergence appeared while I was reading the great Glamourdaze blog this morning, including a post featuring photos of 1950s fashions in Kodachrome. Here, in a photo of a group of ladies dressed for a formal occasion, is a gorgeous magenta and black strapless gown that I have in my Etsy shop. I love this 50s woman's black tulle wrap as an ethereal finishing touch! 


If you'd like to see more convergences, I share a Vintage Convergences Pinterest board with other vintage mavens.



Jackets are red, dresses are pink...

...and now they don't cost as much as you think!


Right now, and through February 7, all vintage fashion in red and pink is 20% off!

Click to shop the sale!


And because
get a free gift with every sale item purchased!


And apropos this holiday season, here's My Funny Valentines ...a compilation of vintage fashions + vintage Valentines + Frank Sinatra.



Care of Vintage: How to Clean Vintage Clothing

Continuing with my posts on caring for vintage, this one I hope should help answer the basic question of what and how to wash, and what (and how) to dry clean. Stain and odor removal, along with wrinkle removal, are topics for the next few posts.  In case you didn't catch the beginning of this series, I'm putting a draft chapter of my upcoming book out to you for comment in blog posts. The book is designed to welcome newcomers to vintage, although I hope it does something for those who have been around awhile as well.

In general, don’t throw vintage clothes in a washing machine for a regular wash. Clothes from the 1970s on may be labeled to show that they are washable, but if you would like to preserve the clothing longer, go the gentlest route, either a very gentle machine wash or hand wash. I can’t recommend using your dryer for anything vintage.

Choosing what to try washing:

Pure silk. If not a crepe-textured or knit fabric, or one that is loosely woven, you may try gently hand washing your item, with the caveat that you need to check for dye bleed first. Soak the garment in cool to tepid water with very mild soap or a gentle shampoo, rinse well in cold water, then add a small amount (several tablespoonsful in a 5-gallon bucket) of white vinegar to clean rinse water. The vinegar will help revive the silk’s luster and pull out any remaining soap. Rinse again to remove the odor of the vinegar, then roll up your item in a clean towel to remove excess liquid. Finally, lay any delicate item flat and hang any sturdy item to dry on a padded hanger.

Pure cotton. Mostly sturdy and washable in warm water with any detergent. Cotton may shrink, and its dyes and prints may fade. Some kinds of cotton have special finishes that may wash out, such as glazing or sizing. While many modern, synthetic finishes are permanent, vintage finishes made of glue, starch, resin, gelatin or paraffin may not be. Cotton often is best (crisper and smoother) when ironed, and easiest is ironing it while it is still slightly damp. Although you may use warm water for cotton, hot water and hot drying often shrink, fade and weaken cotton fibers.   

Chlorine bleach is hard on fabric, even sturdy cotton (it’s death to other fibers). It will weaken the fibers, fade the colors, and turn any synthetic component in the fabric yellow. A non-chlorine bleach such as Oxyclean or Biz may be used on cotton, but don’t use it to bathe silk or wool.

Pure wool. Gently wash unembellished knits in cool water and Eucalan, which is a gentle no-rinse wash. Always treat wool gently (so don’t wring or twist) when it is wet because it loses some strength in that state. Roll the knit in a clean towel to remove excess moisture and dry flat away from any direct heat after carefully shaping the piece. Woven wool is usually best dry cleaned to avoid shrinkage, and so often woven wool is made into tailored garments that benefit from professional pressing.

Show me a person who has never shrunk a wool sweater and I will show you a person who has never owned a wool sweater. Shrink happens, and although it may never return to its original state, you can at least try reshaping a mildly shrunken sweater by giving it a longish (30-60 minute) soak in cool water with a couple of tablespoons of liquid fabric softener or hair conditioner. Drain this out but don’t rinse, then gently lay the sweater out on a towel and carefully reshape it. Keep reshaping as the sweater dries. You might need to repeat the soak and reshaping to reach your goal.
If the sweater refuses to take your many gentle hints, my suggestion is to transform yourself into a diabolical sweater destroyer and hot wash and dry the sweater until it is heavily shrunken and felted. You can then cut it into shapes without it unraveling. Next year’s Christmas ornaments?

Pure linen. Dyed linen items can bleed color and unwashed linen can shrink, so some pieces are best washed in cool or cold water, otherwise, you can consider warm water. A very light and delicate linen piece should be treated to a gentle hand wash, other pieces can stand a gentle cycle-machine wash, but as always, hand washing is easiest on the item. Air dry the garment, and if you are going to iron it, do so while it is still slightly damp. Dry clean any linen garment with built-in structure, such as a tailored suit.

Pure rayon. Do not wash rayon with a crepe texture, or you will be donating said dress to a stylish little girl! In fact, I’d suggest dry cleaning any textured rayon fabric to avoid shrinkage. Plain weave rayons are, however, usually washable in cool water. Always test for the possibility of dye bleed before plunging your item into the drink. 

Pure nylon. Hand washing (not machine washing) in cool water will definitely help vintage nylon items last as long as possible. Always air dry nylon and avoid any high heat.

Pure polyester. Hand wash or gentle machine wash. Very often the care tags on polyester garments from the 1970s proudly boast that the item is machine wash- and dry-able, but you will extend the life of your garments by washing gently and avoiding the dryer altogether. All synthetic man-made materials can shrink, deform or even melt with heat, so hot dryers, hot water, and hot irons are all verboten.

Pure acetate. I tend to cold wash and drip dry 1970s acetate knits shirts and other newer items (in accordance with their care tags), and dry clean the acetates so often made into formal wear prior to the ‘70s. You know those poufy 1950s taffeta and tulle gowns? The taffeta in these dressy confections, usually acetate, is better dry cleaned to keep its crisp structure. I have seen washed acetate taffeta with tiny overall wrinkling and limpness from washing, which apparently comes from any heat at all…acetate is extremely heat sensitive. 

OK, maybe it’s the Virgo in me, but I believe in keeping notes on things that work so that I can—you know the old saying—lather, rinse, repeat. Notes on fabrics and what works to clean specific things are easy to forget, but almost as easy to note down and save. Examples of what to note:
·       The exact measurements of your favorite cashmere sweater, so you can reshape it perfectly (called blocking) while it’s still wet.
·       What items have bled dye when tested
·       How you got that Sriracha stain out of a washable silk dress
·       What finally removed ancient underarm yellowing from your favorite white vintage blouses


How to wash by hand

Hand washing can be done in a clean sink, a bathtub, or a bucket.

Always check for the possibilities of dye bleeding and shrinking by moistening a small spot of your garment’s fabric in an inconspicuous place, using the soap or detergent and water of the temperature in which you plan to wash. Let the liquid sit a moment, then blot the spot with a white towel. Embroidery and other embellishments should be checked too. If cold water doesn’t budge the dye, don’t assume that warm water won’t—always test with what you will be using for your wash water. If you see any color on your white towel, I would recommend dry cleaning. Allowing the test spot to dry you will see puckering if the fabric is inclined to shrink.

Always zip up zippers and fasten hooks to keep from having these catch on anything in washing.

Metal components can rust in wash water, including covered buttons (fabric on the outside, metal on the inside), which you would want to remove before soaking a garment.

There are washing machines that have “hand washing” cycles that may provide you a good substitute for true hand washing, but the genuine process has the added benefit of letting you monitor the situation. You can make certain there really is no dye running in the water, and you can check to see if your stains are coming out or need a bit more time to soak.

In about two gallons of water, wash using just a few drops of detergent or up to a couple tablespoons, depending upon whether your garment is lightly or heavily soiled. As the water discolors, change it out, adding detergent again, but less. Repeat until your wash water remains clear. Swirl the fabric in the water gently while washing, as fibers are weaker when wet.

Rinse very thoroughly, until the rinse water is suds-free—completely clear. Never wring or twist wet fabric to dry it, just gently press water out, then roll in a clean towel to absorb moisture. If the item is sturdy it may be drip dried, but dry your knits and fragile items flat. 

Before natural/manufactured fiber blends, it was a bit easier to try to decide how to clean your garment with no fabric content tag. If you try a thread-burn test and can’t figure out what fiber you have, it may well be a blend and will affect how you treat the fabric. A cotton and polyester blend shirt will be washable but will not take high-heat ironing…but it also won’t wrinkle as much as 100% cotton.

A special place in hell has been reserved for the persons involved in developing a certain double cloth with an inner synthetic knit layer that crumbles into powder over time. You find this fabric used mainly in the mid to late 1960s and into the ‘70s. Many vintage sellers I know call this “devil dust,” and it truly is a biohazard making the garment only fit to be disposed of. I have seen important pieces made with this crumbling fabric restored by museums, but it is not practical (or healthy) for most people to deal with. Check for it between the outer layer and the lining of a coat (it sometimes has clumped up inside the hem), and inside dresses, shoes and boots.

Dry clean only:

1.     Velvet

2.     Most garments with inner construction and/or lining, such as coats and suits

3.     Fabrics that tend to shrink such as those with crepe textures

4.     Fabrics or embellishments with dyes that run

5.     Fabrics that are embossed with a moiré or other pattern, with flocking detail, or with glazing or another special finish that could be washed out

If there are shoulder pads in a garment, I would not advise washing the item, even if the fabric seems washable, unless you are able to remove the pads and then tack them back in after washing. Their padding can irreversibly clump up or flatten; a couple more curses of washed shoulder pads are dye bleed and water rings from the pads’ coverings. Don’t ask me about my favorite 1940s novelty print dress (with shoulder pads) that I washed, unless you want to see a grown woman cry! At the same time, not all dry cleaners treat shoulder pads well either, so my recommendation is to remove and then re-tack shoulder pads of washable garments, and also find a dry cleaner you can really trust!

What to look for in a dry cleaner

You may think that dry cleaning is the gentlest thing you can do for a vintage item, and you may be right, depending upon the dry cleaner and the garment. In the wrong hands, it may be the roughest treatment for your clothes.

You might try asking for dry cleaners suggestions at any vintage clothing shops in your area. If you know anyone who wears vintage, ask if she has a recommendation. Search online and read reviews. Ask on Facebook or Twitter. When you find one you’d like to try, take something vintage (not your best dress!) to be cleaned. If you like the work done, try with a few more items. An ideal dry cleaner will pre-spot, wash vintage items in fresh cleaning fluid without crowding them, and press with a knowledge of the original items’ characteristics. They will cover or remove rhinestone buttons to protect them from losing their stones. You might ask about each of these things when you bring in your first item to be cleaned. Also, ask about their policy for ruined items. No dry cleaner is flawless, but you shouldn’t have to regularly lose your vintage finery because of an inept job of cleaning.

Special cases:

Leather, suede, and fur should go to a cleaner with expertise in these materials.

Hand-painted and glued embellishments should be approached with caution. You may do as well using cold hand washing as any other way, but first try dabbing each element of the fabric and embellishments with water to check for melting, dye bleed, etc.

Some things belong in the no wash/no clean category, and I can hear it now: What do you mean no wash/no clean!? There are items, mostly in the category of delicate antiques, that just can’t stand up to any sort of washing. In such cases, it is best to ever so gently vacuum the piece with a screen over your vacuum nozzle. Never wash any item with gelatin sequins, which were made in the 1930s (you can always tell them by the fact that they will get sticky and melt if you get them wet or too warm).


Next time: Stain removal tips




Care of Vintage: Fabrics 101

Are you a vintage virgin, or a vintage virtuoso? Perhaps somewhere in between? I have seen fabric unfamiliarity among vintage fashion enthusiasts at all levels. 

Continuing from yesterday, this is a draft of part of the care section of a book I'm working on. The book is aimed at newcomers to vintage fashion wearing, but I hope it also offers something to the more experienced types. Whatever level you consider yourself to be on, please let me know what you think! 

When it comes to fabric, I'm a bit of a nerd. I had to study up quite a bit to feel confident enough to write and compile the Vintage Fashion Guild's Fabric Resource. Actually, I thought my head was going to explode with information about long-chain polymers and jacquard weaving looms, silk moth cocoons and the retting of flax. 

I decided to include a primer on fabrics in this section of the book because I don't think it is possible to talk about the care of materials without some knowledge of the materials. Of course, knowing about fabrics helps immensely in choosing vintage items wisely in the first place.

Fabrics 101

The fiber is from what the fabric is made, while the fabric is the finished product. Fibers can be natural: mainly cotton, wool, silk, and linen, or manufactured: mainly rayon, acetate, acrylic, nylon, and polyester.

The fibers can be woven or knit into fabric. The most common weaves are plain, satin and twill.

If you see a fabric listed as silk taffeta, you are being told that the fiber is silk, and the fabric type is taffeta. Likewise, a rayon jersey is a jersey knit fabric made of rayon fiber.

If you have a piece of vintage clothing without a fabric content label and you’d like to know what the material is made of, try the most accessible test out there: A fiber-burn test. I described how to do this in detail for the Vintage Fashion Guild’s Fabric Resource. The basic process involves snipping a small piece of fabric from an inseam, carefully burning it with a lighter, then comparing how the fiber behaves (looks, smells, feels) while and after it is burned.

This takes a little practice, but I guarantee it can be learned. You can practice burning snippets of fabric that you already know to get the feel of how, say, silk burns.


How Fabrics Wear, Look and Feel


Cotton is a fiber obtained from the seed pods of the cotton plant. It is naturally fine, soft, fluffy and absorbent. Fabrics made from cotton can be crisp or soft; most are easy to care for, washable in warm water, cool and comfortable to wear. The wide variety of cotton fabrics range from sheer batiste to heavy denim, ribbed corduroy to the interlock knit used for t-shirts. 


Silk is obtained by reeling filaments from the cocoons of silk moths. The filaments from a single cocoon of one silkworm are on average a mile long, and are strong, glossy and resilient. Made into widely varying fabrics, silks are often very dressy and elegant. Find sheer and limp chiffon, sheer and crisp organza, lustrous satin, and textured shantung among many others.


Wool is a fiber obtained from the coats of sheep. It is spun into a yarn that is strong and flexible, an excellent insulator, naturally water repellent but also absorbent. The fibers are naturally crimped and springy, allowing them to bind together when spun. Wool is what makes heavy coat materials like melton and fleece, suit fabrics like gabardine, felt used for hats, light and drapable challis, and many knits.

Some of the related specialty fibers are angora (from the angora rabbit), camel’s hair (camel), cashmere (cashmere goat), and mohair (angora goat).


Linen is both the name of a fiber and the name of the finished fabric made from this fiber, which comes from the flax plant. Its natural fiber variations create slubs in the texture. Linen is famous for its use in making garments worn in hot climates—it is exceptionally absorbent and cool. Linen fabric is crisp and smooth when pressed, but also can wrinkle easily.


Made from cellulose, rayon was the first man-made fiber, dating back to the middle of the 19th century, and in commercial production during the first decade of the 20th century. The name rayon (“beam of light” in French) was first used in 1924 in the U.S., whereas viscose was used as the name of the most common process for making the fiber, and the cellulosic liquid from which the rayon was made. Viscose was adopted as the name of the fabric in Europe.

During manufacturing, viscose rayon can be blended with any other fiber, and the finished textile can be soft and silky or sturdy and strong.  It can have a dull or bright finish and can be silken, linen-like or even wool-like. Rayon’s clothing uses range from delicate lingerie to coats.


The second man-made fiber created from cellulose was acetate, patented in 1894. Both acetate and rayon were originally called artificial silk. Acetate was given a grouping separate from rayon by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 1953. Acetate is silk’s closest competitor for drape and sheen.


The first successful synthetic fiber, nylon dates from the 1930s. After women’s hosiery made of nylon was introduced at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, it became a raging success—the clamor for nylons (as they came to be called) was so great. Strong, elastic, quick-drying, insect- and rot-resistant, find nylon in blends with other fibers as well as on its own.


Invented in the ‘30s, improved in the ‘40s and finally commercially introduced in the 1950s, polyester is a synthetic manufactured fiber. Some may think of it as that somewhat-too-common and low-end fabric of the 1960s and ‘70s, but polyester’s uses and aesthetic qualities are wide-ranging. It is a strong and washable, relatively inexpensive fabric—one that is abrasion-, fade-, wrinkle-, insect- and mold-resistant. Its most significant drawbacks as a finished fabric are its lack of absorption, its tendency to hold onto oil-based stains, and the difficulty to remove its pilling.


First introduced to the public in the early 1950s, acrylic is a synthetic fiber manufactured to be used like wool, either on its own or in a blend. It can also be manufactured to imitate cotton. Acrylic adds strength in blends with wool, and on its own, it is washable in warm water. As compared to wool, acrylic holds its color and is resilient, but is not as soft and springy, nor as warm when wet.  


Something to keep in mind is that even though a fabric is characteristically made of a certain natural fiber, it may also be made from a blend of fibers, or a similar manufactured fiber. Let’s say you love the quality of silk and want to find a vintage evening skirt made of silk satin. Satin is not necessarily woven of silk, in fact, it is relatively uncommon to find this fabric made of costly 100% silk from a time after the introduction of acetate and rayon.

Another thing you may notice is the use of fabric trade names on labels, such as Dacron (polyester) and Acrilan (acrylic). Saying a polyester blouse is made of Dacron is like saying an adhesive bandage is a Band-aid, except in Band-aid’s case, the name (pardon the pun) stuck hard.

There is a lot to know about fabrics—consider this summary a mere snippet. You can explore fabrics in greater depth by looking through the Vintage Fashion Guild Fabric Resource, a project to which I am adding regularly, with a focus on the fabrics you most often find used for vintage fashions.


Next time: How to clean vintage



Taking Care of Wearable Vintage Clothing (your help please!)

When I started the book I'm working on (tentatively titled Getting Started with Vintage - A Modern Woman's Guide) I glossed over care of vintage. Or rather, I discussed a few things, sprinkling points throughout the text. Then something happened: I told a number of people about the book, and many of them told me they were excited about reading a chapter on caring for vintage.

Like, that was the thing that got people most excited.


Then, when I mentioned this subject to my editor, she thought a new care section might be something to seriously consider, among other additions. Fast forward (or perhaps slow forward!) to today, and I have a lot of the care section written. There are gaps which I hope to fill soon, and I plan to put some polish on what I've written.

Here is where you come in:

I have learned so much from putting ideas for my book out in my blog and reading your comments. Please let me know what you think—what is missing, wrong, right—anything. 

The gist of this care section is that I (who wasn't born into Martha Stewart's household!) have had to learn a lot of things, and I want to share just the best and simplest ways that I've found to care for vintage. My book is for the vintage fashion novice, although I hope it offers something to more experienced wearers as well. 

Here is the outline for the section Taking Care of Wearable Vintage Clothing:

  • Prevention
  • Fabrics 101
  • How Fabrics Wear, Look and Feel
  • How to Clean
  • Stain Removal Tips
  • Odor Removal Tips
  • How to Get Out the Wrinkles
  • Accessories Care
  • Basic Mending
  • Insects
  • Some Useful Tools
  • Storing Vintage
  • Mindset for Caring for Vintage

The order of these is still being jostled.


I harp on this a bit in the book because frankly, prevention of problems makes everything better and easier. 

I can’t say it enough: If you are just starting out with vintage, begin by choosing items that don’t have flaws, or with only minor flaws, then wear the clothing thoughtfully. Wear clothing that isn’t too tight (risking tears and seam breaks), take care not to spill while eating, and don’t overdo the fence climbing, Charleston dancing, corsage pinning, and puddle splashing. Hang your clothing up even if it is sweaty or dirty and you intend to clean it. Clean as soon as you can after wearing if needed.


I have many times felt like sending up a hallelujah for the dress shields I sometimes find sewn into vintage clothes. Dress shields are underarm liners that protect your blouse or dress from perspiration, and the stains you might get from deodorants. They can be attached to the garment or have bands that hold the shields on you, and/or your bra. You can find disposable shields, but we vintage people are into reusable, right? My favorites are by the same brand that I find in vintage dresses, Kleinert’s, which has been in the business since 1869.


Make sure you pin a brooch that has a very fine, sharp pin if you are going to poke it through any finer fabric. I like to test putting the pin through the fabric in an inconspicuous place to see how a pinhole looks.

I’ve seen a lot of dust, puddle stains, and heel tears at the hems of long dresses. Excessive length ought to be hemmed up, and a little lifting of trains and hems will help avoid damage.

Champagne looks so close to clear but ages to a brown stain, so make sure you wash or clean after spilling bubbly. It isn’t coffee or tea that has done in many a wedding gown, but champagne.

Make sure the vintage item is likely to fit before putting it on in the first place (the book has a section on ease and another on alterations).


Next time: Fabrics 101 and How Fabrics Wear, Look and Feel




Desert Island Vintage with Guest Liza Maltin Dolensky


Hello, and welcome to a new year of Desert Island Vintage, a blog series in which I ask vintage mavens the straightforward, yet ridiculously difficult question:


You can probably sense why committing to a mere eight items is a challenge. Not one of the vintage sellers, wearers, and bloggers I've interviewed has mentioned more than a couple of the famous vintage pieces in the world. Their answers, really more personal, have included much-worn items in their own closets, impossibly rare and obscure pieces, and fantasy items. Some have thought of how they would like to be wardrobed for an actual desert island. The variety has been incredible, but not surprising—it's one of the great things about vintage, just how many different directions you can go. 

The latest vintage aficionado to accept the Desert Island Vintage challenge is Liza Maltin Dolensky, the woman behind Better Dresses Vintage. The name of the website evokes the days of fine department stores and their best quality dresses shop— a glimpse into heaven, as Liza writes on her about page.

1920s black silk dress from denisebrain (Yay! I love seeing this again!) 1920s pink bead sautoir from Noble Vintage Clothier Late 1970s Capezio character shoes, from Liza's closet 1920s bag from eBay

1920s black silk dress from denisebrain (Yay! I love seeing this again!)
1920s pink bead sautoir from Noble Vintage Clothier
Late 1970s Capezio character shoes, from Liza's closet
1920s bag from eBay

With that 1950s better dresses department in mind, I thought her desert island picks would include mainly frothy 1950s numbers, but Liza is an eclectic soul. You are as likely to see her posting a photo of herself in 1920s (and earlier) garb as more recent vintage. She definitely accepts the challenge of dressing fully for period events, with gusto! Here she is on a tour of Swan House with her Atlanta Time Travelers: Vintage and Historic Clothing Enthusiasts Facebook group.


Liza's desert island choices might be summarized as eclectic, nostalgic—and longing. Get ready for mid-Victorian to disco, with stops all along the way!


Liza writes:

"In order from least to most coveted, are the eight items I'd need to take with me. True, it's closer to a wish list than a packing list, as the only things I'd really need on a desert island are my 30s beach pajamas and a mosquito net! Nonetheless...

8. "My own, beloved, Lee jean jacket. Cropped, form-fitting, well worn, and highly customized by me. And no, it's not the 'thick air' at Madison Square Garden that has me looking dazed. I had mono! The doctor said 'no way,' but I already had my Queen concert tickets and my parents relented. I was so exhausted, I sat through the entire show. But I got to see Freddie Mercury.


7. "An original 'over petticoat' for my mid-Victorian ensembles. I only have a chintzy modern reproduction. Intact originals tend to be very expensive. 


6. "A 1970s Whiting & Davis metal mesh halter top. Gold or silver, I'll gladly take either one! Both will coordinate perfectly with my black spandex pants—the ones I wore to see Van Halen (original lineup). They still fit. They're spandex, after all—very forgiving. In case there's a disco on the island.


5. "I suppose I'll need a fan to keep cool. Preferably one like this. I'd add a silk ribbon so it can dangle from my wrist. I do that with all my fans. No, really. I actually do. 

photo: Met Museum, late 1800s

photo: Met Museum, late 1800s


4. "I guess I'd need a swimsuit. I'm not feeling very fit these days and don't want to show more skin than my Gramma Bessie did at Coney Island in the early 1910s. In fact, were any of these ensembles made with long sleeves? 




3. "An original natural-form era (late 1870s-early 1880s) bustle dress. Incredibly flattering to the figure, lovely, and feminine, without any bizarre extremes. Here are some examples. Can't go wrong with stripes. Perhaps a pastel shade, though, for seaside wear. Have corset, will travel. 



2. "This antique chatelaine. It's 'the one that got away.' I lost the auction by about $2. So sad. It's not especially fine or fancy, but it's so sweet. Look at the little love birds and hearts! I'd load it up with sewing tools, so I can make repairs to my eclectic island wardrobe.


photo © Jumblelaya Vintage

photo © Jumblelaya Vintage

Then there's this dress, at the top of Liza's list:

1. "When I stumbled across the listing, it was already on layaway. Sob! I even contacted the buyer with an unsuccessful 'money is no object' attempt to pry it from her closet. This is my 'vintage holy grail.' Surely it can't have been the only one made? But I've never seen another quite like it. The label is Lauhala, 100% silk. The fabric! The color! The hip swag! Those sexy bodice seams! Swoon. And, being Made in Hawaii, entirely appropriate for a castaway. No? 


(This gives me a chance to remind you, and I'm sure Liza would agree: If you love something vintage, grab it while you can, because it may haunt you forever! Vintage has a way of doing that.)

"So, there you have it, Maggie. Perhaps a bit of an odd wardrobe for a desert island. But at least I'll be well dressed as I await rescue."

I forgot to mention, but I guess it's pretty obvious by now: Liza has a well-honed sense of humor! 

Check out the Better Dresses Vintage website and Liza's always interesting and beautifully-written From My Closet - The Better Dresses Vintage BlogBetter Dresses Vintage on Facebook, and @betterdressesvintage on Instagram.

BeFunky Collage2.jpg


I'm tempted to say, so I guess I will: From Freddie Mercury to Swan've come a long way, baby! 

Many thanks to Liza for her fascinating assortment of favorite vintage! 


Are you up for the Desert Island Vintage challenge? What would you want if you could have just eight vintage fashion pieces? If you'd like to be featured here, let me know!



Denisebrain best of 2017

It's time again for my annual round up of vintage that sold in the year just ending. I've been doing this year-end feature since I was selling on eBay and blogging on MySpace—Yes, that long!! 

Looking at these, I realize some I've chosen because the new owner was so pleased. I love a happy story, and I've heard quite a few good ones this year. What else made me choose these items as favorites? I see peplums, sweetheart necklines, hand embroidery, lace, luminous fabrics, soft knits, beautiful colors, unique prints, and wonderful style. In other words, I see why I love vintage, and why I get up every day wanting to do what I do. 

My year, personally, has had its ups and downs. I am still working on my health, including having a new right hip and psoriatic arthritis, which causes fatigue and pain. At the same time, I have been so fortunate to have great help. Honestly, why didn't I look for this help sooner? Read about all I have to be thankful for in this post. 

See all those silly grins on my face in these photos? They're real. I love what I do, and am lifted up every day by great colleagues and friends in the vintage world. I've been shown such amazing kindness this year. 

I hope you have found as many reasons to smile this year, and that 2018 brings you joy—and, of course, vintage! 

Here's to a New Year of love, health, happiness, and hope for us all! 


My very best to you, Maggie of denisebrain



So thankful

It's been quite a year for the world. Not at all easy, as I'm sure you have observed.

It has been quite a year for me personally as well. I guess that's the reason I'm so grateful this Thanksgiving Day...I'm grateful for every little thing that has gone well! 

One thing that has gone right: After total hip replacement surgery on October 30, I'm getting stronger "way quicker than expected." Many thanks to all of you who have sent me get-better notes. I'm buoyed by your thoughts!

Yes, I'm better, thank you!

Yes, I'm better, thank you!

Another reason for gratitude: Before the surgery, and with my psoriatic disease making it difficult to do my own modeling, I've had the great fortune of having my friend Fay Ripley (who is both a pro photographer and a vintage fashionista) set up photo shoots with her photographer friend Marc Harvey, and a crew of wonderful women who have modeled for me. I was afraid of this step in my business, but I am SO happy with the results. I hope I will still be able show some of my vintage finery on myself, but I now know I don't have to quit while my disease slows me down.

A scene from a recent photo shoot

A scene from a recent photo shoot

I'm very grateful to have been able to support Dress for Success Worldwide through the sales from the Pink Heart Shop section of my Etsy store. So many of you have purchased to help this cause, and several have even donated vintage fashion to me so that I can offer it for sale.

I love this little video from Dress for Success, that gives you a taste of their fantastic work.


At the same time, 10% of all the rest of my sales has gone to protecting manatees through Save the Manatee Club. Again, so many customers are eager to help with this great cause, and tell me so. Many people think of me as "the manatee lady" ...and I'm just fine with that. I love all animals, but one very large place in my heart is reserved for these awesome, gentle—and perilously threatened—creatures.

The rest of the good I want to mention is the everyday sort: Every single day I am thankful for what I do, the knowledge I gain, and the beautiful clothing I get to see and hold in my hands. I am thankful for all the wonderful people I meet and get to know in the world of vintage fashion. My customers, my readers, my colleagues, and my friends—all of you make what I do such a joy. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much!




Update on Pink Heart Shop Sales for Dress for Success

Why Dress for Success? 

I believe in the power of dress to change a woman's life. And, many women do not have the power to change their lives themselves.

Dress for Success exists to help women find the clothing and skills to thrive in work and life. Since starting operations in 1997, Dress for Success has expanded to more than 150 cities in 28 countries and has helped nearly one million women work towards self-sufficiency.

One year ago I opened the Pink Heart Shop, a shop-within-a-shop in my Etsy store, with 100% of proceeds going to Dress for Success Worldwide. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I sent Pink Heart Shop proceeds to Dress for Success Houston, which was on the ground delivering donations to people in need. 


Since starting the Pink Heart Shop, I have received two generous donations of vintage clothing for me to sell, from people interested in contributing to this cause.

I'm proud and happy to say that, with your help, I have been able to donate $1123.50 this year.

There are 40 items in the Pink Heart Shop today, with more added each week. Consider adding something to your own sartorial strength while assisting someone less fortunate to do the same.