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. 



Desert Island Vintage with guest Hollis Jenkins-Evans



Today I'm thrilled to welcome Hollis Jenkins-Evans of Past Perfect Vintage to Desert Island Vintage.

Hollis in a 1940s suit jacket

Hollis in a 1940s suit jacket

In my early days of searching for vintage fashion online, a few sellers stood out. They knew how to sell to me—a Virgo through and through—with good photos and information about the garment, its construction, fabric, and the label. My favorites also consistently had vintage that made me swoon, at prices that didn't make me pass out. 

Not too many of my favorites from nearly 20 years ago are still around, but fortunately, Hollis and her Past Perfect Vintage are going strong. I have gotten to know Hollis through the Vintage Fashion Guild, where I have found her one of the most knowledgeable and helpful people in an elite membership. The lady knows clothes. She has been a seamstress and draper/pattern maker for decades. She is one of my long-time favorite people in the realm of vintage fashion, so I was excited to see how she'd answer the Desert Island question.

Like the other castaways on Desert Island Vintage, Hollis had a big challenge in winnowing down her list to a mere eight.

("This is overwhelming. Only 8 garments? Really? How can I possibly focus? I have trouble picking my 8 favorite 1880s bustle dresses, or my 8 favorite 1920s beaded party dresses, or my 8 favorite 1940s felt hats.")

Like some others, she imagined herself on an actual desert island, musing on what she would need to live there. Unlike anyone else though, Hollis' desert island doesn't come with sand and palm trees. Read on:

"Here it is. My list of 8 favorite vintage garments to take on my Desert Island. That's Mount Desert Island, Maine, where I hope to live soon. Once there I will need:

1. "Sweaters. This Pringle cardigan is a glorious color, and since I can't wear wool, the cashmere will work and it would be so warm and soft. Up there, cashmere is three-season wear.


2. "This Helen Bond Carruthers cardigan will be warm and perfect for both casual and dressy times. It's pretty casual on my island.


3. "49er Jackets. You can't have too many wool 49er jackets. This is a favorite one—for a while I had two identical of this jacket. I have five more 49ers in my closet, but this is the one that's going!


4. "A Wool Jacket. This Louella Ballerino appliqué jacket would just make me happy to look at as well as wear.


5. "A Long Coat. I love the color of this plaid coat—I'd feel so crisp and stylish in the snow.


6. "A Skirt. Not much call for a skirt on a wooded Maine island, but I'd have to take this skirt with appliquéd skiers on it.


7. "I love sporty knits, so this 1920s set in my favorite purple looks good, right? It's practical, right? I'll wear the cardigan as a separate, I promise.


8. "And because I must have one thing to remind me of how beautiful clothing can be and how it approaches art: This early 1920s silk velvet dress with the most glorious beaded tassel. I'd just hang it on the wall, or store it in an acid-free box and take it out and look at it occasionally. But I would know it was there.

All photos courtesy of Hollis Jenkins-Evans

All photos courtesy of Hollis Jenkins-Evans

"...one thing to remind me of how beautiful clothing can be and how it approaches art"

I love that thought, and that dress! I love the skiers skirt, the Helen Bond Carruthers cardigan, the 1920s knit set, and, and, and. I love all of Hollis' picks, and can envision her out hiking on Mount Desert Island in her pink plaid 49er jacket. 

Many thanks to Hollis Jenkins-Evans! Be sure to check out her website for vintage that belongs on anyone's short list. You'll also see her offerings on Etsy and Instagram.


What would you want if you could have just eight vintage fashion pieces? If you'd like to be featured here, let me know!



Are you in the "Vintage You" Gallery?

If not, please join the gang! These women all sent me photos of themselves showing how they wear their denisebrain finds. 

I've heard from many people that they are inspired by these, so why not send your photo in so I can show you off?: margaret@denisebrain.com

(There's always room for more!)



One year in sales benefitting Save the Manatee Club

Manatee on my mind. Illustration of me by Anna Davies.

Manatee on my mind. Illustration of me by Anna Davies.

I am a manatee hugger, pure and simple. Years ago, when I stood with my husband on the banks of the St. John River and watched a rehabilitated manatee being released back into the wild, I fell in love with these gentle giants. 

It was at this time last year that I decided to donate 10% of my earnings to saving manatees. Before September 2016, I ran fundraisers here and there...but I felt it was time to take the plunge and make this a full-time relationship. 

According to Save the Manatee Club, I have been able to donate $1665.00 since September 2016. I couldn't do this without my customers, who have told me so many times how much they care right along with me. 

At nearly the same time, I created the Pink Heart Shop section of my Etsy store, the shop-within-a-shop with 100% of sales going to Dress for Success. I'll update you soon on total sales for that great cause.

What can I say? Denisebrain has the best customers.

My warmest thanks and appreciation to you!



For Houston

Today, September 1st, I'd sincerely like to be writing...

How was your summer? 
Welcome back to school and work! 
and (of course)
Look how you can interpret modern fall fashions with vintage!

...but my heart is too heavy with concern in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the terrible damage it has done to Houston and the region. 

Photos of donations being delivered to the George R. Brown Convention Center, from Dress for Success Houston's Facebook page. 

Photos of donations being delivered to the George R. Brown Convention Center, from Dress for Success Houston's Facebook page. 

As a response, I am directing all sales through September 6 from The PINK HEART Shop of my Etsy store (usually heading to Dress for Success Worldwide) to Dress for Success Houston. The organization is on the ground, doing crucial work, right now. They will also be there as people try to get their lives back in the aftermath of the hurricane.

I've stocked up the PINK HEART Shop, and am adding new every day.

It's a small contribution from my customers and me—but huge contributions are made up of small contributions, right?


We can get back to talk of school, work, and fall fashion in good time.



Vintage Mixing


Vintage Mixing

Recently I took a stab at four general vintage-wearing personas, modes of style that you might choose for every day, or flit between. One of these styles, The Vintage Mixer, generated a lot of comments. It seemed to need expansion.


First, a quick review. In that previous blog I proposed that there are— 

1. Wear-with-alls:  Not driven by vintage, just looking for a unique, quality vintage piece here and there 

2. Time travelers:  The total look, hat-to-shoes right out of a vintage Vogue

3. Walking works of art:  Creative and bold, using vintage but not necessarily all vintage

4. Vintage mixers: Mostly or all vintage, put together from various eras


That last type? Too broad. I'm now proposing these four distinct types of vintage mixing personas:

All-vintage Mixers

Era mashing

The Era Mashing Mixer is a purist about wearing mostly vintage, but as to which era, she is an iconoclast. For one outfit she may mix a 1940s jacket with 1970s wide-legged trousers, a 1950s blouse, and a 1960s bag. This might be done with purposeful harmonizing, or ironic wit.

Zara wearing  a 1940s hat and belt, 1950s sunglasses, a 1970s polka dot dress, and a 1980s marabou jacket. I love that #justbloodywearit is her constant hastag and motto! Courtesy of @zeebeezsazsa on Instagram

Zara wearing  a 1940s hat and belt, 1950s sunglasses, a 1970s polka dot dress, and a 1980s marabou jacket. I love that #justbloodywearit is her constant hastag and motto! Courtesy of @zeebeezsazsa on Instagram


Showcasing collections of specific vintage pieces

The Specialist Mixer might see herself as a collector, connoisseur, and wearer of certain favorite vintage items in particular. She may tote vintage handbags, or cuff herself in vintage Bakelite bracelets, wear vintage modernist-print Vera scarves or pieces from the 1970s by Yves Saint Laurent. Her wearable collections may be estimable.

Just two of the many amazing vintage bakelite bracelet stacks the vintage maven Sandi of @lorrelmae has shown on Instagram. (Also, check out her Etsy shop!)

Just two of the many amazing vintage bakelite bracelet stacks the vintage maven Sandi of @lorrelmae has shown on Instagram. (Also, check out her Etsy shop!)


Interested in vintage, but interested in modern fashion too

Modern/Vintage Mixer types may seek out vintage that interprets new styles, or new styles that echo vintage. Not one to set aside the present state of fashion, but also fascinated by the past, the Modern/Vintage Mixer is a creative blender of the old and new.

People that I know in this group are sometimes motivated by the green side of vintage, being anti-fast fashion, careful to be sure their modern fashion purchases are ethically and sustainably made as often as possible. Sometimes their contemporary pieces consist of the basics, and they use vintage as the mainstay of their wardrobes.

Stop and ask! says Nicole, @theartyologist on Instagram and blogging (about vintage, sustainable fashion, art, and photography) at theartyologist.com 

Stop and ask! says Nicole, @theartyologist on Instagram and blogging (about vintage, sustainable fashion, art, and photography) at theartyologist.com 


The goal is the total look, sometimes using vintage repro clothing

This mixer contingency may not be able to find what they need in good shape and in the right size (at the right time), or simply want to wear something that looks vintage that they needn’t worry about if jitterbugging or pruning the rosebush. Often these mixers are close to Time Travelers, their full-on vintage look created with a certain amount of repro vintage-style clothing. The Inspired-by-vintage Mixer might, for instance, wear repro shoes and jeans with an authentic vintage sweater and scarf. 

Photo from the account of Instagram's @missharlowdarling; also be inspired by the Harlow Darling blog

Photo from the account of Instagram's @missharlowdarling; also be inspired by the Harlow Darling blog

What do you think? Do you wear your vintage like any of these stylish mixologists?




Manatee fundraiser

If you follow my blog, my Facebook page, my Tweets, my Instagram feed, or have spoken with me in person, you know I love manatees. 10% of my sales go to Save the Manatee Club year round.

Right now I've intensified my efforts. Through August 7, 25% of my vintage fashion sales will go to Save the Manatee Club, along with 100% of donations made directly on my YouCaring page set up for this special fundraiser.

Why the fundraiser at this moment? The reason is that I (along with countless others) am heartbroken by the tragic accidental death of Snooty, the world's most famous manatee. Perhaps you heard about his death, just a day after his 69th birthday was celebrated with thousands of people singing and cheering for him.

Having been born in captivity on July 21, 1948, Snooty was known by generations of visitors to the South Florida Museum, where he lived in a special aquarium. He contributed greatly to what is known and thought of manatees—and his personality stole our hearts. 

Snooty's aquarium at the South Florida Museum also hosts and rehabilitates wild manatees that have been rescued. The Museum states that they will continue this important program.

In memory of Snooty, my hope is to raise $1,000 by August 7, 2017, to be donated to Save the Manatee Club specifically for the rescue and rehabilitation of these beloved animals. Raising this much money in two weeks, I admit, is pretty ambitious. I only dare set such a goal because so many people have expressed their love for manatees to me. So many seem eager to help.

If you've had your eye on any items in my Etsy shop, know that you will be helping this cause a bit more than usual with your purchase through August 7, 2017. If you see nothing to tempt you right now and still wish to contribute, my YouCaring page is there for you too.

Thank you so much for your help! No way could I do this without you.


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Desert Island Vintage with guest Theresa Campbell McKee



Today's castaway on Desert Island Vintage, Theresa Campbell McKee, is the brains (and the beauty!) behind Blue Velvet Vintage. Anybody who knows the Blue Velvet Vintage look (and you really should know the BVV look) realizes it is all about classic glamour. As Theresa writes on the Blue Velvet website:

Like Coco, we believe "A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous."  We dream in black and white love stories, swoon for hourglass silhouettes and never leave the house without our signature red lipstick.

I anticipated Theresa's Desert Island choices would be glam, but I was delightfully surprised by how she has made these fabulous bombshell items seem all quite practical and appropriate for being stuck on a deserted beach. I'm almost convinced that one would need a sequined evening gown..." just for some variety." 


"When Maggie approached me about an article naming my eight favorite vintage pieces I’d want to have with me if stranded on a desert island, I must admit my mind initially went into some serious overdrive. There are just way too many eras of gorgeous vintage fashion to choose from—How would I ever be able to decide on just eight pieces? Being as I am really bad at picking a limited amount of favorites of anything I truly have a passion for, I knew this would be a challenge for me. It’s like asking me to pick my eight favorite things to eat! [Food is another passion—Theresa is a former personal chef and caterer.]

"That was until I decided that the best way for me to narrow it down would be to focus on the location for which I was choosing—a tropical desert island—and then have some fun with it.

"So by combining my love of both vintage tropical fashion and the glamorous outfits worn by actresses of classic film and TV, I was able to come up with my select Desert Island wardrobe, which includes my 'I can only dream' pieces. 

"The first two items are in my own wardrobe, and being as I live in Florida most of the year, I get a lot of wear out of them. They’re both by famous Hawaiian screen printer Alfred Shaheen. These two would have to be with me on any desert island. The original owner of the dress actually wore it for her wedding in Hawaii in the 50s.


1. and 2. "1950s Alfred Shaheen dress, and skirt

Then Theresa turns to her fantasy picks—

3. "I’d take this Edith Head sarong dress, worn by Dorothy Lamour in The Jungle Princess, because it would go perfectly with the orchids and hibiscus flowers I'd be wearing in my hair.

4. "For as long as I’ve been collecting vintage I’ve wanted an original 1930s beach pajama jumpsuit, so something in a bold floral print like these worn by the young Ginger Rogers would have to come with me for sure. They’d be so comfortable, I could even sleep in them.

5. "And of course, one can’t be stranded on a desert island without some swimwear, so I’d take this outrageous beaded gold bathing suit worn by Esther Williams. Its shimmer is sure to alert any passing ships.


6. "You never know when you may have a need for a chic evening dress as a castaway. It’s always best to be prepared should a stray cruise ship pull up and invite you to dinner at the captain's table. So I’d take a cue from Tina Louise, queen of the stylishly stranded, and bring this leopard print one-shoulder Nolan Miller number. Animal prints are a timeless look and especially appropriate for a desert island!

7. "And just for some variety, I’d also take this glam bombshell gown by William Travilla that Jane Russell wore in the film The Revolt of Mamie Stover which was set in Hawaii. I’d probably reserve this for the most special of occasions, like the day I was rescued!

8. "And last but not least, I'd take these Salvatore Ferragamo bejeweled red, gold and silver wedge sandals from 1938 because you can’t run around barefoot in the sand all day...it would be murder on your pedicure!


Well now, if you had Theresa's picks to wear, being stranded wouldn't be too bad after all! A wardrobe that's appropriate for a captain's table dinner? shimmering to alert passing ships? and for the day one is rescued? —I like the way you dream Theresa. And until you find your fantasy pieces, you will be a splendid beach comber in your Shaheens!

Many thanks to Theresa Campbell McKee for sharing her Desert Island Vintage wardrobe with us. Make sure to have a look at all the classic glamour at the Blue Velvet Vintage website, and Theresa's blog, Vintage Style Files.

What would you want if you could have just eight vintage fashion pieces? If you'd like to be featured here, let me know!


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Lemons to lemonade

Anna Bond painting

Anna Bond painting

Yeah, I know it's a well-worn (perhaps even a bit threadbare) vintage slogan, but it seems apropos


Until recently, I have always managed to carry out my vintage fashion business as a solo act, a one-woman sourcing, selling, and marketing department...even the modeling, photography, and shipping departments, all rolled into one. I don't know how many of you are entrepreneurs, and among those, how many are solo entrepreneurs, but I have a piece of advice from one previously solo act to another: Build a team.


Let me take a step back.

The hopeful type, I am one of those with a perpetually half-full glass. Still, it hasn't been as easy to see things in that rosy-tinted light with my as-yet-to-be-controlled autoimmune disease, psoriatic arthritis. Some days I don't feel like getting out of bed from exhaustion and pain. I have great doctors working with me to find the right combination for improved health, but it takes time and trials. For now, it is so very much harder to be who I want to be for myself, my business, and for my friends and family.

Denisebrain needs a team. Actually, it took a certain amount of disability to admit I already have a team, and then to add to it.

My husband is a graphic designer, the art director of a magazine. Guess who has always helped me with (among many other things) my websites and branding? Then there are the wonderful people who have consistently sourced vintage fashions for me over the years. There's my seamstress, who at 80 years of age is an inspiration to me with her vitality and creativity. I have been working with an editor to prepare my book for publication (I highly recommend my editor, Amy Scott of Nomad Editorial).

I probably get more comments about my photos than anything else about denisebrain. I have loved photographing vintage portraying the sort of happiness and healthiness you see in old magazines and movies. 

Right now, though, I can't find either the ease or the energy to take many photos. So, lemons to lemonade, in walked another person for my team.

Fay Ripley photo

Fay Ripley photo

Fay Ripley is an experienced photographer who takes artful narrative photos.

Fay is also a vintage lover who sells vintage fashions at Chosen Vintage in Spokane (her shop within Chosen is Red Leaf Vintage). Fay offered to help set up a photo shoot using her studio and equipment. She did so much more than help though—she truly brought everything and everyone together, including Marc Harvey, another great photographer with whom she shares the studio, and four of the five models.

Fay and Marc created a lighting set up that perfectly emulates my home studio setup. 

A couple weeks ago we had a photo shoot. I had no idea how it would go, never having dealt with so many people and moving parts before. I was very pleased—I think this is going to work for me.

So, after 17 years of photos of and by just me, myself and I, there will be some new faces. I will still make appearances too, just not all of the time. 

Every single one of the women who modeled for me recently gets vintage, and that makes a big difference. Trying to summarize how I wanted them to look for the photos, I said "not like you think you're cool—more like you're someone's sister or best friend. The Girl Next Door. Happy, healthy, having fun, smiling." They all pulled this off beautifully. 

A good friend suggested that I introduce these women to you, and, with their permission, I will. I may not be so lucky as to get the same group again, but at least for now you will see these smiling faces:


Victoria is an aspiring medical student with a love for the French horn and fashion. Yes, French horn, my instrument, which is how I got to know her. She was my student, and I've known her parents (her dad's another horn player) since forever ago. Victoria and I always snuck in conversations about clothes during horn lessons, so I knew she'd be great for this. Plus, I'm always overjoyed to see her, because she is one of my favorite people.

Grace is a model, and it absolutely showed; I love the attitude she brought to all her photos for me...she is a true pro. Bonus: She's (obviously) adorable and so sweet.

Kendra calls herself a filmmaker, graphic designer and vintage lover who is fond of travel and tea drinking. I'd say she understates her talents a bit; have a look at her website sometime. Kendra not only oozes talent and enthusiasm, but has an irrepressible smile. She fits right in with the denisebrain vibe, if I do say so myself.

Hayley is an Inupiaq Eskimo who comes from Shaktoolik, Alaska, a village on the Bering Sea. She is in college as an aspiring photographer, saying she has a lot of fun being in front of the camera but she also has her eye on being on the other side of the lens. I'd say that whatever side of the lens she is on, Hayley is going to be great, because she is so fun to be around, and super kind and helpful too.

Gianna is a yoga instructor (she owns a local studio) and paralegal, as well as a a vintage-specializing model. She says she loves to capture the essence of classic film stars when she models, "bringing life to a beautiful and elegant era past." Gianna has it all going for her: The knowledge to strike a pose that is pure vintage elegance, the just-right figure to show off clothes, and the obvious love of fashions from the past. Plus, she is a lovely character to work with. All that yoga is paying off, Gianna! 

Real women wear vintage. I've said that so many times, and now I get to show you.

Real women also need help at times. After all, it's a fine time of year for lemonade!