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What were you doing on July 20, 1969?

I know, I know, you were T-minus 15 years or so. Me, I was watching Neil Armstrong take man’s first step on the moon. I was eight years old, just the right age to be completely riveted on space travel, knowing all the details of Apollo 11 that I could get my little mind around. You can bet I was glued to the television at this very moment:

Neil Armstrong descending onto the moon’s surface

Neil Armstrong descending onto the moon’s surface

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For a denisebrain moon landing tribute, I invited one of my favorite people and models, Gianna, to join me, and she did the most fantastic job of channeling a mod Twiggy vibe.

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We had an awful lot of fun taking these photos. I didn’t plan it this way, but when I looked at the pics, I saw that Gianna had captured a bit of what it was like for me, being a kid in 1969. I remember being clothing crazy even at that young age. I would have LOVED any of these clothes! 1969 was tumultuous in so many ways, and fashion was no exception. You might have been wearing space age synthetic knits or hand-embroidered muslin, looking fashionably mod or anti-fashionably hippie. The length of your skirt could be micro mini…or you might not have been caught dead in a dress.

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My brother was 10 at the time, and could not possibly have been more consumed by the Apollo 11 mission. We built model rockets, and even launched a few into backyard orbit.

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I had an Earth globe, as well as a moon globe. I knew exactly where to point out The Sea of Tranquilty, where the lunar lander came down on the moon, and had a star on the Earth globe’s Cape Kennedy, the place I wanted to visit more than anywhere else in the world.

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On July 16, 1969, we had lift off.

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As exciting as that successful lift off was, nothing could possibly have prepared me for the moment when the lunar module, The Eagle, came down so gently on the moon’s surface.

If you want to relive the final minutes before the lunar landing, check out this very cool site.

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Just the idea of setting a foot on the moon, and seeing the Earth in the distance. Believe me, it was an 8-year old’s dream come true!

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We all wanted to be astronauts, eat space food, collect moon rocks, bounce in zero gravity…and we wanted to have moon shoes. It wasn’t too long after, in the 1970s, that Joe Famolare came out with his Amsterdam, an outsized fiberglass clog that I remember calling a moon shoe. I had a pair in navy blue.

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It happens that I found five pairs of these unorthodox and cool shoes some years back. I’ve been holding onto them for just this occasion.

Famolare Amsterdam: A big step for woman kind

Famolare Amsterdam: A big step for woman kind

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Many thanks to Gianna for helping me relive my moon landing dreams!

 

Find all these fashions from the era in my shop in the coming week.

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Prime Vintage Day

If you’re not too busy with that other Prime Day...

Some people may be ready to grab a steal of a deal from Amazon today, but I know that some of my glamazon customers would rather grab a deal on vintage finery. That's why I am hosting my first annual Prime Vintage Day, featuring many items in my shop at half price!

Which items? Just some of the best in my shop, that’s which ones! Labels include Nat Kaplan, Helga, DeWeese, Anne Fogarty, Lilly Pulitzer, Lanz, and Harold Levine. There are 1940s through 80s silks, wools, and linen.

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You’re not a used car salesman, so why are you doing this?

Good question!

This is the biggest sale I've ever offered. Why am I doing this? It's time to make room for more, plain and simple. I stand by each of these items and its quality, and each purchase will benefit the cause that is described in its listing, to the full degree described.

How do I get this fabulous discount?

All items that are 50% off are marked as such in my shop, no coupon code needed. The sale is July 15 only, from 12:01 AM through 11:59 PM PDT.

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The Pressures of Social Media

Is my red lipstick staying put? Are my curls holding? Do I have the right gloves for this dress? Am I doing vintage right?


For years, even decades of my life, vintage was not a mainstream thing in popular culture. Those of us who loved and wore vintage were certainly not in the majority. Television, movies, a few books, and the very occasional magazine spread influenced us, but not the overwhelming, non-stop presence of social media and its cast of influencers.

Me at 19, wearing a vintage happi coat

Me at 19, wearing a vintage happi coat

When I first wore vintage as a teenager, I felt a certain power in my self-expression through vintage. So many that wear vintage got started because they are independent, creative types, not prone to following others’ styles.


But then came the internet—especially when social media took off—and the ability to see what others are doing around the world. This gave people of all interests a vastly larger community.

Social media has changed the world of vintage fashion wearing, buying, selling, collecting, and learning. Much of this is for the good; it’s wonderful to get to know people across the globe who share your interest, and the vintage community online is mostly very welcoming and supportive. But even in this community, there are rumblings of anxiety, self-esteem issues, and depression that seem to correlate with comparing oneself to others or groups of others. After all, we can now witness perfected images, the highlights of lives, and the success of businesses by the thousands every day.

Starting to get anxious just reading this? It isn’t just you: A November 2018 Forbes article cites studies which show that time spent on social media is directly related to feelings of depression and loneliness in research subjects. In the world of vintage:

Vintage wearers: So-and-so is the perfect size for wearing vintage, knows everything about it, has all the money to buy the best items out there, gets to vacation at vintage events, and always has perfect hair and makeup. Oh, and her super attractive partner takes her stunning photos. Did I mention she wears a 5 1/2 in shoes and has zero competition for vintage footwear?

Vintage sellers: So-and-so has 100 times my number of followers, finds the absolute coolest items, has free help from her sister, and sells everything instantly for insanely high prices. Oh, and her house is mid-century modern, and even her cat is unbelievably photogenic.

You know the bit. If you don’t, I’m thrilled for you!

How do you feel when you see an email subject line that reads “Vintage Wearing Do’s and Don’t’s,” or look at a vintage maven’s Instagram feed that seems to include 100% of your wish-list items (all strictly NFS)? How about when you see that everyone you follow seems to be getting fabulous at applying winged eyeliner even though you’ve decided it isn’t for you? Vintage people aren’t bullies but we—being only human—can feel distressed, belittled, and lonely.

Further, it isn’t just social media that pressures us. I have been at vintage shows and events where I saw a definite hierarchy, and even heard expressions of inadequacy, as if you had to be somebody in particular to be at this event, or even to wear vintage.

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How to combat this?

Just because a certain style of vintage fashion is popular doesn’t mean you should adhere to it. There is a vintage style for everyone, and I would invite you to find your way to what makes you feel confident and happy.

Spend time IRL. See your friends and cruise your town. Surf the real world, as one of my friends says.

Practice noticing the beauty and confidence in others who are not perfect, then practice the same for yourself.





 
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What is the difference between fashion and style? Fashion says, 'Me, too,' and style, 'Only me.' -Geraldine Stultz

 
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Real style is never right or wrong. It's a matter of being yourself on purpose. -G. Bruce Boyer

 
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You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody. -Maya Angelou

 

I’m writing this blog at this moment because I need it. Now 58 and with a chronic illness, I realize that I need to get out of the joy-killing comparison and jealousy trap myself. I know I genuinely root for others being themselves, and my goal is to accept myself too. I want to be conscious of the perceived perfection I can feel closing in on me when I’m on social media or even at live events. I want to get back to the joy of vintage, which for me is about self-expression.

This is an excerpt from the draft of my book:

Now that wearing vintage fashion is trendy, you’ll find that in some places there is a tribal aspect to vintage, where people who identify with each other tend to dress similarly in their vintage fashions. Often hair and makeup is part of the look, and a great deal of effort goes into a perfected appearance. That can be a lovely sight, but it can also be intimidating. Don’t let it be. It’s never wrong to be a self-assured and stylish pack of one.

Who can wear vintage? I can’t think of one single person who can’t. You do not have to be part of the boho or rockabilly scenes. You don’t have to have perfect red lipstick and victory rolls, false eyelashes and a Vidal Sassoon bob, finger waves and silk stockings. You don’t have to be part of any tribe, or belong to any club…

 

Among other human hierarchies, social media doesn’t have to feel bad if we understand our relationship to it, and live not only with it, but without it.

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My advice: Be-YOU-tiful.

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Shopping for Spring/Summer ... in 1961

I was recently given a stack of Montgomery Ward catalogues dating from 1961 through 1970 by a good friend. A VERY good friend.

 

Have you ever yearned to order from a vintage catalogue? These items from the 1961 catalogue would be my first picks. From the look of this book, stripes, tucks, polka dots, eyelet, and animal prints were the thing for spring/summer ‘61.

In my vintage business, I think I may have seen a few items in this catalogue, including a veil hat, a two-tone bouffant party dress and a sophisticated rayon dress with sheer chiffon sleeves and yoke.

Besides imagining ordering fabulous clothing from a catalogue that is now vintage, I’m sure we all have fantasized about paying these vintage prices. That first striped dress with matching scarf? A mere $22.84. However, adjusted for inflation, that dress would cost $195.21 today…and that dress came from value-priced Montgomery Ward, not Bullock’s Wilshire!

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Earth Day and the Denisebrain 20th Anniversary

Today is Earth Day, and that alone is absolutely a cause célèbre! But it also happens to be the 20th anniversary of denisebrain, which I started on April 22, 1999. Why on Earth Day? I didn’t plan it that way, but I love that this day coincides because I believe that wearing vintage fashion is the most beautiful of recycling. I’m all for walking as gently as possible on our Earth. Did you know that I use 100% recycled-content tissue paper to wrap your items to ship? And that my web host MacHighway is wind-powered? And that I donate 10% of my sales to Save the Manatee Club?

On Earth Day, please consider wearing vintage (from me, or anyone else) as if the Earth depends on it—because it most likely does!

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Twenty years of age—That makes my business officially vintage

I have BIG plans for this year, starting with a 20% off sale in my Etsy shop just today and tomorrow (April 22-23). Click HERE to jump to my shop and have the discount applied at checkout, or use the coupon code HAPPY20TH when you check out.

Now let’s get the 20th Anniversary party started, shall we?

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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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