Friday, May 26, 2017

Creating Your Dream Vintage Inspired Wardrobe : An Introduction

For those of us without an infinite budget, or for those who have more modern leaning measurements (Super cute 1930's dress for sale now!!! Great cotton print, waist size 24....oh wait, umm,yeah that's not gonna work) , or if you are like me-- both, the best way to build the vintage style wardrobe of your dreams is to learn to sew.

Now, I'm sure that's not what many of you want to hear. Sewing apparel is a rarer and rarer skill t pick up these days, but with practice, sewing gives you the power to create the wardrobe of your dreams. As if learning to sew wasn't task enough, I'm going to be even bolder and recommend you learn to make your own patterns too. WHAT! I know what you're thinking "well, I'm gonna close this tab now because this girl is crazy". Hear me out! We all start somewhere, and once upon a time I was just learning to sew, stuck in a pile of ripped tissue paper wondering why nothing I made from commercial patterns ever seemed to fit right. Not to mention my self esteem was so in the toilet I wouldn't even let myself wear vintage style to begin with, thinking I somehow didn't deserve it. I've come a long way in the last five years, and maybe perhaps some of you want to make a journey too...

Which is why I want to renew my focus on sharing how I achieved my goal of not only being able to have a closet full of vintage style clothing, but also how you can have one too. Maybe you have done some sewing before but the idea of making patterns yourself sounds like way too much trouble, perhaps the idea of learning to sew at all is just too daunting, or maybe you enjoy spending quite a lot of moola on a basic repro pencil skirt when you could have made one yourself for half the price, I don't know where you're at, but I figure I ought to start sharing how I have come this far.

Of course this is not to say you can't have the wardrobe of your dreams without learning to sew, of course you can! Vintage is often expensive, but you can save up for each piece. Vintage in larger sizes is even rarer, but maybe you are ready to wait for the right pieces to come along. Perhaps repro brands are your purveyors of choice, and there are some amazing repro companies out there making some great stuff, but being small scale retailers in the scheme of things, their ranges are only so big each season, and finding items more vintage leaning than pin-up can be a challenge. Not to mention a lot of repro dresses cost as much as a vintage piece... but I can't say it isn't doable, of course it is! Even those on a budget can find vintage appropriate pieces thrifting and build a wardrobe that way.

All ways of dressing vintage are good ways if you enjoy them and are having fun and feeling beautiful! As I mentioned recently, nothing makes me more peeved than people who think their way of wearing vintage is somehow better than others. In my opinion, (and hey, you're on my blog so you are gonna get my opinion) repro, whether bought or home sewn, thrifted or modern items that fit the bill, and authentic vintage items are all equal in the goal of vintage style. Some gals have a mix going, some have closets of only authentic vintage pieces, some girls wear mostly repro brands, and none of them are more "right" than the others.

Still, there really is nothing like seeing a vintage image of your favorite old Hollywood starlet in a great dress and thinking to yourself, "ooo I can make that!" and then a few weeks later to have a replica of the exact ensemble hanging in your closet. I don't want to say sewing your own repro is better, I just want to share about how it has been the easiest and best way for me personally to achieve a vintage style wardrobe while on a budget and being an impatient person! Unless you have got a personal dressmaker (and if you do, I'm rather jealous) it falls to you to become your own personal dressmaker.

2014, 2015, 2016
As your sewing skills improve, and you spend more time studying vintage clothing and styling, your style is bound to evolve. I started my journey to creating a vintage inspired wardrobe with just two simple pencil skirts in cotton twill from Joanns. The navy skirt in the first outfit above (from my first ever, and now cringy to me, outfit post!) was one of those two skirts, the other is black. From just these two items I build up an entire closet full of reproduction vintage clothing sewn to my own size and specifications!

I have so often had people ask me what pattern I used to make a dress or blouse, and I always feel bad saying that I didn't use one I can recommend because I made the pattern myself! I dream of launching my own pattern line someday, but until then I figured I'd try my best to do one better and try and teach anyone who's curious about my patterns and sewing how to do it themselves. I think every vintage loving gal (or guy, or person) deserves to have the wardrobe of their dreams, and if I can help at all in that endeavor, I'd like to do so!

I have long hesitated to teach pattern drafting and sewing because I figure there are already so many blogs and resources available out there on the subject. I realize now though that while much of what I want o talk about can be found out there somewhere, I have my own way of doing things that may work better for other people too.

So today I wanted to announce a new series here on the blog (and most likely in video format over on YouTube too) dedicated to the basics of pattern drafting and sewing with a vintage wardrobe in mind. We'll dive into the more psychological topics too, like wearing vintage as a feminist, dealing with the general public's weird comments, and knocking down the mental walls telling you you can't be a glamorous bombshell. Finally we'll be taking a look into how ladies of the past styled their fabulous vintage clothes in each era and for different occasions!  First things first, as all things start somewhere, we're going to need to draft a basic sloper (which means some math will be involved, unfortunately). So that post will be coming soon, and in the meantime I'd love to know; what would you like to know about creating a vintage wardrobe? Pattern drafting questions? Sewing inquiries? Let me know what you would like to know more about and I'll add it to my little table of contents in a jiffy!

I'm excited to start this series, and I really hope I can articulate my process and hopefully inspire some of you to give creating your vintage inspired wardrobe from scratch a go too :)

(header image of Diana Doors from here)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Den of Thebes

Just a little pun perhaps. but still true enough. After all, these Egyptian wonders didn't leave their homeland of their own accord now did they?

It is important to realize upfront that there is simply no way to explore the entirety of the Louvre museum in one visit, nor three visits, nor even a whole week dedicated to the task I'd wager. A much better approach is to determine what you would like to see by choosing perhaps a single wing or department and then plan to see the rest in the same such manner upon subsequent visits. For example, the last time I traveled to Paris in 2012, I visited all of the paintings (Italian, French, etc.) in several visits. On this second visit to the city and its largest museum, I wanted to focus of the Egyptian art and the European decorative arts galleries. Even only trying to see these two areas, one day was obviously not enough, because now home and consulting a map of the building I realized somehow we missed a large portion of the decorative arts! It won't be my last visit to the museum, so I suppose that section will be first on my list next time. I get so turned around in places as vast as the Louvre, especially when loopy from jet lag. More espressos next time for sure. Still, it was amazing to see the Egyptian galleries, as I am a huge fan of ancient Egyptian aesthetics and history. 

From the huge granite statues down to the tiny fragments of jewelry, the scope of the Louve's collection of Egyptian antiquities is large. I would love to visit again and take more time and get the audio guide (we skipped it this time forgetting how little information was available in English). I find with museums sometimes one is in the mood to just admire and imagine, and other times one is in the mood to learn and invest. This visit we admired, and next time I wish to learn. The colors and textures, from painted sarcophagi to a small stone temple you could walk inside were of course beautiful and imbued with a magical quality, a strange magnetism that only centuries of time can impart.

I wore my black and brown color blocked twill suit, a silk scarf, and my favorite scarab brooch for the occasion. I like to think my love safari/adventurer styles can expand into the more polished scholar/Marion-in-DC/proud librarian zone. That's a real style right? The adventurer-at-home-to-secure-funding sorta look. One day I'll take some courses on anthropology and archaeology so I don't have to just play at looking the part ;)

I hope you enjoy these photos, it was certainly both fun and challenging to shoot in the busy galleries. As these were all shot indoors the lighting is super varied and most of my photos came out pretty grainy. The good thing about grainy photos is that when you turn them sepia they instantly look quite vintage, so at least that is a good outcome! I'll put up some of the noisy sepia ones up on Instagram soon <3

Jacket & Skirt: Made by me
Shoes: Royal Vintage Shoes
Fishnets: Amazon
Scarf: Gift
Jewelry & Clutch: Vintage

Monday, May 22, 2017

Pink Parasols and a Frenzy of Florals

Poor plants, they finally got nuts with the new leaves and blooming flowers, and Colorado-Crazy-Weather™ goes and drops nearly a foot of snow on them in late May. Yep, turns out we hadn't had our last snow yet, and the wintry weather returned with a vengeance this last week, snapping more branches and dashing more blooms (my poor peonies!) under the weight of buckets of heavy wet spring snow. So much for more flower filled photos like these!

Taken before the freeze, these photos at least captured some of the beauty that was unfolding before the snow returned. This dress was my first project after returning from France and came together just as I had planned. Got to love a full circle skirt! The bright colors make the accessorizing options quite endless and I can't wait to track down a pink handbag to wear with this dress one day. For it's first outing I paired the new dress with dark brown accessories, including a wooden bead necklace I made recently, a new-ish brown leather belt, and a very newly acquired straw and wicker handbag with raffia embroidery. Funny enough straw and basket style handbags are very on trend in modern 2017 fashion this season, so look at me, being all trendy! At least following this trend is easy enough to do, as souvenir vintage handbags like this one are readily found and inexpensive online. Or since designers are making new (nearly identical often) copies of the vintage ones you could pay $500 plus for a bag like this if you would like, ha!

Luckily the snow outside my window seems to be melting fast now that the sun is out again. Being stuck inside from the sudden chill did mean I got some more sewing done as I continue my quest through my stash of summery fabrics. Speaking of fabrics, this floral sateen was one of a few fabrics I picked up online from Mood Fabrics before I left for my trip last month and you can see the rest and hear about what I plan to make in a new video over on my YouTube channel (red button link in the side bar over there <= ). I've been trying to be good about making and posting more videos and I am constantly surprised by both how long video editing takes, but also how much I enjoy editing! Hopefully I can keep up this pace.

I hope you all had better weather than we did and had a lovely weekend! Also don't worry, I have more Paris photos coming up! (You were worried right?...) I got photos all over town ;) Back to the sewing room for me as I work out how to make a high collared dress pattern for my next project!

Dress & Necklace: Made by me
Belt, Handbag, Earrings & Bracelet: Vintage (Etsy)
Shoes: Unique Vintage

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Top 5 Don't-Miss Spots on Your Trip to Paris

I know I don't have to tell you you should visit the Louvre, Notre Dame, take a day trip to Versailles, but what are some of other things to do in Paris you may not automatically know you should add to your Paris trip itinerary? I'm here to help! 

Whether you are visiting Paris for the first time or the tenth, hopefully at least one of these marvelous places will be new to you. Paris, like many great cities, seems to have an endless supply of museums and other fun places and things to see. I know haven't discovered all of what Paris has to offer yet, but I look forward to my next visit whenever that may be! Here are my top 5 places you absolutely should visit on your next trip to Paris!


Perhaps like the Louvre and other big sites, I also don't have to tell you you should visit Ladurée. For me it is always a must-visit in any city I should visit that has a location. I will forever blame Sofia Coppola's 2006 Marie Antoinette film for my longtime dream to visit this famous patisserie, and though I have now been dozens of times (most casually to London's Covant Garden location post-cocktails on the way to the Tube at the end of a great night out!), the magic of Ladurée never fades for me. The pastries, including the famous macarons, are of course divine, but so are the teas! I really recommend stopping in for an afternoon tea so you get to experience the beautifully decorated rooms. A personal sized teapot of one of Ladurée's yummy teas will set you back about $8 euros, a fancy pastry is around 10 euros, so you know--about 2 times the cost of your average Starbucks visit ;) In all seriousness, though a pricier snack stop, I really think the experience is worth it! We went for tea twice on this last trip, buying macrons before we left each time to enjoy later, and on the final day of our trip we even stopped in the special tea and candle only boutique along the Tuileries to buy some teas to take home. With several locations around the city, it is easy to find one close to the other attractions on your itinerary to visit!

Parc Monceau

Though the large Tuileries gardens or the Jardin du Luxembourg may be in your plans already, my new favorite park in Paris is the Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondissement. Smaller now than it was when first created in the late 18th century, parc Monceau is filled with utterly charming follies. For those unfamiliar with this landscaping term, a folly is "...a building constructed primarily for decoration, but suggesting through its appearance some other purpose, or of such extravagant appearance that it transcends the range of garden ornaments usually associated with the class of buildings to which it belongs"(wiki naturally). AKA cute fake roman temples, ruined castle towers, or in the case of parc Monceau even a miniature Egyptian pyramid. Filled with these fun follies, a cute retro carousel, and a gorgeous variety of trees and flowers we enjoyed walking through the park even in the chilly rainy weather we were stuck with that day. With several smaller museums nearby, the parc is a great addition to any day of exploring the city!

Galerie de Paléontologie et d'Anatomie Comparée

Speaking of smaller museums, though the Galerie de paléontologie et d'anatomie comparée is rather a large building (and huge collection) I had never heard of it before I began doing research for our trip. Part of the complex of museums in Paris' botanical gardens (Jardin des Plantes) and natural history museums, this is a gallery unlike any you have likely visited before. I have been to several natural history museums, I rather like them, but this place really blew my mind. Two floors seem to house every type of skeleton possible, from tiny mice to pterodactyls. Endlessly fascinating on their own, the specimens themselves are arranged and labeled just as they were when the gallery opened in 1898 for the l' Expositions universelles de Paris of 1900 creating an even more transporting experience as you step back in time to view natural history just the way the visitors of the Belle Epoque did. You must visit this museum! (and I've got a whole bunch more photos coming up for you soon in a whole dedicated post soon) A magical place, similar to my next pick...

(photo source)
(Photo: Marc Dantan, source)

Unfortunately this next must-visit spot doesn't allow photos inside, so I had to *ahem* "borrow" a few from around the web. Perhaps it is better that they don't allow photography inside however, as then I would have been there for hours just photographing the amazing things inside this storied interior. Since 1831 Deyrolle has been the institution for natural history lovers passing through Paris. In its current location since the 1880s and still the city's favorite (and most famous, even featured in the Film Midnight in Paris) taxidermy shop by far, I had jotted down the address hoping we would have time to try and find the shop to have a browse. I never imagined just how magical it would be inside, with beautiful (and ethically sourced, according to them) taxidermy, sea shells, bones, and corals in old Victorian style wood and glass cabinetry every where you look.

Then there was the entomology room (as seen above with the butterflies), what a dangerous room! You see, I have always wanted framed butterflies, so when faced with a room full of every butterfly (and moth, and beetle, and bee...) imaginable, and helpful attendants ready to place them in shadow boxes for budget just fell to the wayside and I just had to get a butterfly. You can see the specimen I chose in my recent YouTube video (Paris Haul), and though I chose a pricier butterfly (oops) some were really affordable and going through the endless drawers of beautiful colored wings was an enchanting experience to say the least. Even if you don't have any interest in starting a cabinet of curiosities yourself, Deyrolle is a must visit shop in Paris even if you only end up browsing.

Musée Jacquemart-André

Who doesn't love a glorious house museum? My favorite museums in the world are all house museums (hello Wallace Collection, I miss you!), and the Musée Jacquemart-André is certainly among these. I actually visited this museum on my first visit to Paris in 2012, and unfortunately don't have any photos of my own to show you. I'm pretty sure, at least this was the case when I visited, they don't allow photography inside (goodness I hate that, I sorta understand, but as a blogger I HATE it....). Pity because this place is a visual feast!

The museum consists of the collection amassed by Édouard François André and his wife (herself a painter) Nélie Jacquemart-André. Prolific art collectors in the middle to late Victorian era, the couple curated a glorious collection of paintings, objects, and decorative arts and then built a glorious mansion to house it all. André left everything to his wife, who knowing how her husband wished the house to become a museum, left the house and collection to the Institut de France. Opened to the public in 1913, the museum was instantly popular due to the renown of the couple. The house itself is beautiful, and the artworks inside elevate the place to a fairy tale worthy mansion. I can recommend visiting the museum's restaurant as well as we had a lovely lunch after our visit back in 2012! Put this museum on your list, you will not regret it!

Some other spots to visit? Take the time to visit the inside of the Palais Garnier opera house for the full Phantom of the Opera experience, or just because it is above and beyond gorgeous. A visit to the famous bookshop Shakespere and Co. is always fun, even if sure- you can buy English language books at home. How often can you wander through an extra quaint bookshop with a cat on the second floor and a view of Notre Dame out the front door? Then if you are going to be visiting the Parc Monceau (and you are right?) you must visit the adjacent Musée Nissim de Camondo, as it is another great house museum with beautiful 18th century decorative arts.

Paris is full of great attractions and museums, but it is definitely worth getting off the well beaten (for good reasons don't doubt it!) tourist path and visit some of the smaller or less known places and museums! What are your favorite smaller museums in the places you have visited? And for those who frequent Paris (lucky you!) what else should I not miss next time I visit Paris?

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