Dare I suggest that the Long Winter is nearing it’s end? With the warming of temperatures in the past week, it feels like it! Of course, we’ve still got a ways to go before Spring, and while that cold snap wasn’t really that long, it sure felt like it! We’ve gone from -38C to + 8C within a couple of weeks, and it has been so incredibly lovely to be able to go for a walk and open the windows for some fresh air and be able to leave the house to take some outfit photos without having to bundle up like a marshmallow. Even though I know that the temperatures will drop again before Spring, it is still worth it to have this small respite!
So, in other news, I’ve been searching for a new “everyday” purse for quite a while. I have been looking for a new one since my other purse started wearing out. (The leather strap was beginning to crack, the metal buckle had broken, and there was a hole forming in the top fold…) I bought that purse five years ago in England and carried it almost every day, though, so that wasn’t too bad, considering that it wasn’t full grain leather.
In looking for a new purse, I didn’t have a definite idea of what I wanted, but I did have a list of requirements.
I’ve realized over the years that, while I do love a good statement bag to coordinate with an outfit, most days I walk or ride my bicycle and a large handbag is just not practical to carry for long distances. I also like having my hands free for when I am running errands or going shopping, so I wanted a crossbody bag.
I also didn’t want the purse to be too big, because while I do want to be able to put everything in my purse, I didn’t want it to become to heavy to carry, or too big to fit in my bike basket. However, I didn’t want it too small, otherwise I would end up carrying a purse and a tote bag.
It also had to be brown or cognac leather and I wanted something in a vintage satchel style, but not too bookish. I wanted something timeless and classic, but not too vintage either, considering what I talked about in my recent personal style post.
I searched for quite a long time, and while I came across a lot of purses, none of them quite ticked all of the boxes until I found this one on Etsy, made by Sunray Family Workshop from Ukraine. It was a bit more than I had originally planned on spending, but I used the money I earned on Poshmark so, as my mom said, it was like I traded a bunch of clothes and accessories that I didn’t want for something that I did! I was also able to get it on sale, so that was nice too.
I was nervous about purchasing online, because I’ve been disappointed in the past with online purchases, but my fears were unfounded, as the bag was even better than I hoped it would be. I asked the seller to make it in a darker colour of leather for me, and I love the shape and style of it. It’s so nice to be able to purchase a piece directly from the person who makes it, and it really is a piece of craftsmanship. I think that this purse was a good investment, and is definitely going to be a good addition to my wardrobe since it fits in with my style description, “unconventional classic with a dash of history” pretty well.
I recently read somewhere (and I can’t for the life of me remember where) that we should stop saying that we are “investing” in clothing purchases, because the value of clothing depreciates immediately after purchasing. You only have to scroll through Facebook Marketplace, or Poshmark or ThredUp to see how much clothing has devalued once it has been worn. Even designer pieces aren’t worth as much as when they are new. Until an item has survived long enough to become “vintage”, it really can’t be called an investment.
However, I do think that even if we aren’t “investing” in clothing in a monetary way, there is another definition for “invest” that can apply to our wardrobes:
“Devote (one’s time, effort, or energy) to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.”
We should carefully choose which items we buy and add to our closets, even though that may add a bit of extra bit of time, thought and effort. I think that many of the clothing pieces that find their way to secondhand selling sites or thrift shops were not thoughtful purchases, which is why they are for sale again. (I often even see items with the tags still on!) Perhaps we should coin the phrase “purposeful” or “thoughtful” shopping. I think that it is a principle that most of us could use a bit more of- at least I know that I do!
While purchasing a higher quality item might not be an investment we will have a monetary return on, it may still be one that still has a worthwhile result. Having one higher quality item is always going to be more sustainable than ten cheaply made items because it will last longer, thus reducing the need for so much production. Fast fashion in and of itself is not sustainable because of the model of consumption that it is built upon. For example, vintage clothing is a testament to the longevity of a well made item- garments from the 1960’s will outlast a newly purchased item from Forever21 because of the craftsmanship of the items.
Another worthwhile result of investing in clothing purchases, may be in having less items in your closet because the one item you truly love is better than having multiple items that you don’t love as much. I am not advocating for coveting fashion pieces, but if there is one particular piece that you want, then it’s not worth buying something else and being unsatisfied with it. Saving up to buy this one specific purse that ticked off all of the boxes was a better choice for me, than settling for a purse that I would end up decluttering down the road in favour of another because I wasn’t truly happy with it. As I’ve been going through my own wardrobe, I have tried to be careful to not turn around and immediately replace everything I’ve gotten rid of. Instead, I have been taking my time to see which are the items I should be concentrating on, and “investing” in, rather than continuing to have a closet full of clothing (or purses) that I don’t wear.
I have a few more posts coming up related to the topic of personal style and creating a purposeful wardrobe, so I think I will end this post here for today, but what do you think about “investing” in clothing? Have you ever saved up for a long time to be able to finally buy something your really wanted for your wardrobe?
The other day I pulled a couple of fashion history books off my shelf for a different post I’m working on, and realized that I actually have quite a library of fashion books. (Disproportionately so, compared to other topics, some might say….) I’ve built up this collection over the years, either purchasing them for myself or receiving them as gifts. As nice as a Google search and Pinterest can be for inspiration, there is still something special about pulling out your favourite books and leafing through the pages.
Today I thought I would share some of my favourite ones along with summaries and thoughts in case you are looking to add some fashion related books to your own library. (I have quite a few, so I’ll do some more posts in the future as well.) First up today are Dress and Fashion History books!
“Decades of Fashion” edited by Harriet Worsley and published by h.f.ullmann
This square little book is probably the one that started my love of vintage fashion, and was the first vintage fashion book that I bought. While I was at college, someone left their copy of this book out on the bathroom counter one night, and I paged through it. (There was some sort of dress-up event happening, and they must have pulled it out for reference) I never knew whose it was, but I copied down the name of the book and checked it out from the library as soon as I could. After a while, I decided that it would be a good one to own, and even today it is one of my favourite books to page through.
It’s mostly a compilation of photographs from the eras, with a tiny bit of historical information at the beginning of each section. I like being able to see photos of what the couture houses were wearing as well as average people. Don’t be fooled by the ugly cover- it’s actually a really great book! (Also, the original edition had a Missoni photo from the 70’s which was way better- it’s too bad in 2011 they reprinted it with this cover!) This one is 603 pages and spans the years 1900- 2010.
“1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s Fashion The Definitive Sourcebook” edited by Emmanuelle Dirix & Charlotte Fiell and published by Goodman Fiell
These three books are great resources for these three decades, as they are full of original images and fashion plates. The editors and writer chose to include mainly fashion illustrations from the time, rather than photographs, because they wanted to be able to show how colourful these eras actually were. When you’re looking strictly at black and white photographs, it can be hard to imagine what the colours would have been at the time.
These are quite thick books at 510 pages, and they are heavy! I originally checked the 1920’s one out of my local library, and then eventually purchased the set of three. They are definitely worth getting if you want original fashion plates for inspiration. While they do have a historical write up at the beginning of each section, these are mostly all about the beautiful illustrations! I wish they had continued with the series and done one for the 1950’s too.
“Everyday Fashions As Pictured in Sears Catalogues” edited by Joanne Olian & Stella Blum and published by Dover
This series of paperback books spans 1900 to the 1960’s and each book is split into sections for each year. This is a good series to be able to see what the average person was wearing during these decades. While looking at couture fashions is a lot of fun, it’s also nice to be able to see which of the trends trickled down to the street. There is a wide variety of fashions shown in these books, from daywear and accessories to evening wear and formal, as well as a small selection of menswear and children’s wear.
Each book averages around 100-150 pages, and since they aren’t too expensive, they are a great alternative to buying original catalogues, since that can get pricey. The only downside is that they are printed in black and white, and I think that some of the catalogue pages would have originally been in colour.
“Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion, 2nd Edition” By Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta, Ph.D. and published by Fairchild
This is a very technical book that my friend gave me. (It was a library discard.) It’s not the sort of book you’d just sit down and page through, but I probably should do just that, since there is quite a wealth of information in it. For example, there are nine pages dedicated just to describing the many different kinds of dresses across the world, or if you’ve ever wondered what an escarelle is, you can find out here. There are also some illustrations and photographs to further illustrate points, and at over 600 pages, it’s a very good educational resource. It’s the sort of book you’d have if you were going to fashion college.
(BTW an escarelle is “a pouch or purse attached to waist or hip belt in the 14th and 15th century into which a knife was frequently thrust”)
“The Mode in Costume” & “The Mode in Hats and Headdress” by R. Turner Wilcox and published by Dover
Finally, these two are my favourite fashion history books. Written in 1942 and then republished in 1958, these two books cover the history of fashion beginning in the earliest (recorded) days of 3000 BC and going up to 1958 (the year it was republished). Each chapter begins with a historical overview and descriptions and then ends with several pages of illustrations. These illustrations are based on surviving images and real garments, so they are quite historically accurate, and reveal quite a lot of detail. The books cover a lot of ground, but don’t go so fast as to miss out on the smaller trends such as the French “Directoire” of 1795-1799.
The books also cover mostly Western/European fashion, but they are split into different countries, since different countries each had (and still have) their own spin on the fashions of the day. The Mode in Costume is 477 pages and The Mode in Hats and Headdress is a bit shorter a 348. These are a great educational resource if you want to learn about the evolution of fashion over the centuries. There is also one about The Mode in Shoes. I haven’t read it, but I’m sure it’s excellent as well.
So, there are some of my favourite books for studying and learning about fashion history. With the rise of popularity in vintage fashion in the past few years, the number of books about vintage fashion has also increased; but they are definitely not all equal. I am not a fashion history expert, but I have caught errors in some of the more trendy vintage “overview” style books before. If you are wanting to actually learn about fashion history, these are a good place to start- though they are only the tip of the iceberg! There are so many more books out there…
If you’d like to check these books out, I’d definitely recommend that you look at your local library first. That’s what I did with each of these before I ended up purchasing them. Also, while I did buy the majority of these books new, I am not sure whether they are each still in print, so you can always check at second hand book stores, as you never know what they might have. (I just did a quick search on Thrift Books and Better World Books, and they do have many of these in stock. I’ve never purchased from these online book sellers myself, but I just wanted to give you an idea of where you could look.)
What are some of your favourite fashion history books? Do you have any recommendations for us to check out? I’m always looking for some good new books to read!
Hello and happy Valentine’s weekend everyone! I didn’t do a dedicated Valentine’s post this year, but I thought I would still share the cards I made and a tiny bit of festive decor…
I didn’t do anything very exciting this week and was starting to feel just a bit housebound, since the temperatures plummeted this week. It was deceptively sunny outside; but the thermometer was actually at -38 Celsius!!!
There were also so many beret and hat themed posts that I saw this week- including several perfect for Valentine’s Day! If you’ve decided you want to follow my tutorial for making a beret out of an old sweater, here are some great free tutorials.
I think I’m going to spend my weekend crafting and creating…and maybe baking some sort of heart themed treat for Valentine’s Day tomorrow. Do you have any Valentine plans? Or other plans for this weekend? Do you think you’ll try making one of these hats?
Today I am starting a new series of posts all about personal style. Personal style can be a tricky thing to hone, but once you’ve figured it out, it can be a great tool to use to create a wardrobe you’ll love and wear.
Like many other people around the globe, I spent much of 2020 working from home. To my surprise, because I wasn’t going out most days, I realized that much of my wardrobe wasn’t suiting my lifestyle anymore and as a result, I was sticking to a very, very small “capsule” wardrobe, while the rest of my clothing was left forlornly in my closet. (It wasn’t really a capsule- that just sounds fancier than saying I’ve been wearing my favourite harem pants and a t-shirt most days…)
I realized, as time went on, that my “personal style” was maybe not as representative of my lifestyle as I thought it was, so I took 2020 as an opportunity to finally start going through my wardrobe, evaluating it and deciding where I wanted to direct it from here. I read “The Curated Closet” by Anushka Rees several years ago, but had never followed through with a closet evaluation, so I decided that this was finally the time! I also referred to other online resources, and while I don’t want this post to end up being a repeat of what many other talented bloggers and YouTubers have talked about, I thought that I would share the process of how I took these principles and used them to create a better wardrobe for myself.
I have broken this into several blog posts that I will be publishing over the next while and first up today is how I came up with my personal style “mission statement”, for lack of a better way of putting it.
CREATING YOUR PERSONAL STYLE STRATEGY
When I was first getting into vintage style years ago, I used to buy or sew whatever clothes struck my fancy…if it was a vintage piece and I found it at a thrift store, I would most likely get it. If I saw some pretty floral fabric and a vintage reproduction pattern at the fabric store, I would buy it. I didn’t necessarily have any clear idea as to how those pieces might fit into my existing wardrobe, but I was always excited to find something new, especially if it was a great bargain! It’s not as though I ever bought things that were “ugly”; I was always drawn to them in some way or other, but that didn’t always result in pieces that went together or were good additions to my closet.
This method was actually really great in some ways, since it gave me an opportunity to experiment and try out new things (especially if they were lower priced items from the thrift stores -remember those days when you used to be able to find reasonably priced vintage?) but it also resulted in a LOT of pieces that I didn’t wear very often. My closet looked full, but many of the items hanging there were unwearable or un-pair-able for one reason or another.
Thankfully, time has helped me to better figure out what I like and I’ve come to the realization that just because something is cute and vintage, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “me”. So, while I wouldn’t say that purchasing all of those clothes over the years was a waste of energy and money, it was time for me to move on with a better plan for the future of my wardrobe.
So how do you get from that point, to actually creating a wardrobe that reflects your unique fashion sense and lifestyle while not limiting it and ending up with a boring closet full of what the magazines call “basics”?
Taking a moment (or a lot of moments) to evaluate the “why” of why you wear some pieces and not others in your wardrobe is a great first step because, not only can it help you to figure out your personal style, but it also prevents you from buying similar things in the future that don’t actually suit you.
So, in order to figure out the new direction that I wanted to take my closet in, I first looked through my own blog (it’s very convenient to have a photo log of my past several years of outfits!) and took notes of which pieces I already wear that are my favourites, and are in regular rotation. For example, these outfits above are some of my favourite outfits of all time, and I would wear them again in a heartbeat. Actually I have repeated some of them several times (don’t underestimate a good Tried and True outfit!)
While I was looking back through to see which outfits I liked, I also took note of which ones I didn’t like anymore. I wanted to discover the reason as to why some of my outfits made me feel like a million bucks and others were a bit “meh”. These outfits below, are ones that I don’t think really fit my style today, even though I enjoyed them at the time.
Once I had finished looking through my favourite outfits, it was time to go to my closet. I pulled out the items that I both love and wear.
The key in this is in separating out the things that you are actually wearing semi-regularly, and not just pulling out things you like, but don’t actually ever wear.
I then evaluated the reason I why I liked those pieces. Maybe it was the fabric, the cut, or the colour…?
I then looked at anything I hadn’t worn for a long time, and figured out why I wasn’t wearing it.
Was it because it was for a special occasion or out of season?
Did it not fit?
Did I have nothing to pair with it?
Or, was it just because I didn’t actually like it anymore?
Answering these questions helped me to figure out what was already working in my closet, and what wasn’t, which really gave me a foundation to now move on to planning the future of my wardrobe.
Now it was time to daydream as to what my ideal closet would be like. I looked through my fashion scrapbook and images I had saved on Instagram etc., but Pinterest would be a good tool here as well.
I wrote down some random words that I thought described pieces I already own or would like to incorporate in, and came up with descriptions such as “earthy”, “Jane Eyre”, “50’s”, “cotton”,“lace”, “comfortable”, “elegant”, “classic”, “Beatrix Potter”, “floral”, “skirts”, “Bletchley Circle” etc.
As you can see I took inspiration from many places as this is quite a random list! It’s also quite a mash up of different style aesthetics, but once I narrowed down why I liked each of those things, I was able to blend them together into a sense of cohesiveness.
For example, I like the muted tones and simple un-fussiness of Beatrix Potter’s costumes in Miss Potter.
I like the silhouette of the 50’s, but I also want the clothes I wear to be comfortable, so I am not thinking of New Look, but rather more casual.
I am drawn to the colour palettes and patterns of the costumes in The Bletchley Circle, and I like how wearable the clothes are.
I love floral prints, especially historical/vintage ones.
I also narrowed some of my current likes and dislikes:
I like skirts and dresses instead of pants.
I like to finish off my outfits with hats, but I don’t like it when I have too many accessories.
I like fitted garments, yet I still want them to be comfortable to wear.
I prefer feminine outfits, but not when they are too fluffy and frilly or too delicate.
I like classic elegance, but with a bit of a twist…
I like historical touches, but I don’t want to stick to one era.
I like fit and flair silhouettes, but don’t like skirts to be too wide or bulky.
It can be really helpful to think through and write out the things that you do and don’t like.
For example, when I have those clearly defined in my mind, and I see a gorgeous pair of cigarette pants, I’m not tempted to get them because I already know that I don’t like wearing fitted pants, even though they look amazing on the model.
Or when I see a beautiful floaty 1910’s Edwardian gown, and am inspired to add those details to my wardrobe, I will know to simplify it a bit, because I don’t like too many frills and ruffles that get in the way. Perhaps instead of adding the 1910’s to my wardrobe via lace and chiffon, I would instead be more inspired by the “college girl” look with wool and tailored details in the same silhouette.
Instead of limiting you, having these parameters for your wardrobe can actually help to filter the good stuff out of all the inspiration that comes your way. And what constitutes “the good stuff” is different for each of us.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t be inspired by new things, or discover different trends you’d like to try out, but when you want to try something new, you can adapt it to fit into your personal style so that you know you’ll love wearing it and it won’t end up buried at the back of your closet. When you know what your own personal style is, it is much easier to adapt those trends to fit yourself, rather than creating a wardrobe that looks perfect…for someone else.
So what did I discover about my personal style through this process?
I came to the conclusion that as much as I love vintage fashion, I don’t like it when I limit myself to only vintage styles. This post that I wrote a few years ago still easily describes my style today: “Modern Girl Goes Vintage”. I love fashion, and from pretty much any era in history I will be able to find something to love. However I don’t want to channel myself into any one particular era or genre. I am definitely still a “Vintage Mixer” as described in this post by DeniseBrain.
Before I ever loved vintage style, I loved Fashion. That doesn’t mean I always had good style (because I definitely didn’t!) but I loved it. Thus, most of my favourite outfits have been ones that are not too historical. They definitely have that vintage touch, but with a little bit of a clashing element. Maybe it’s a modern styled shoe (such as above) or a piece of fair trade jewelry from India, or mixing a 1960’s style hat with a 1940’s dress…the options are endless.
I’ve also realized that, for me, paring back is best. Some of my past outfits that I didn’t really like anymore was because there was way too much going on. While for some people “more is more”… for me not so much. I don’t particularly love it when I wear outfits with a matching hat, shoes, gloves, purse etc. I do love to make a statement, but I’ve realized that I am actually more drawn to a more classic style than I thought.I like this quote by Coco Chanel; “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off”.
Also, I like things to be timeless. Some of my favourite pieces are ones that you aren’t quite sure if it’s an authentic vintage piece or not; it doesn’t look quite new, but then it doesn’t look quite old…it falls into a bit of era ambiguity. I guess in a generation of “trends” that come and go almost each week, I’ve never really been one to follow them.
I used to think that creating a style manifesto would be too narrow of a window, that it would limit my wardrobe and take away the fun, but going through this process made me realize that it can actually free you to focus on what you love and filter out all the rest!
I am not very good with coming up with descriptions, but the one I came up with for my style is:
“Unconventional Classic, with a Dash of History”
Your personal style statement could be anything that you are interested in and want to incorporate into your wardrobe.
How about “Audrey Hepburn at College” or “1930’s Lord of the Rings”? It can be a lot of fun to brainstorm and come up with a description that perfectly encapsulates your style. Of course it can be anything you want, and the best thing about fashion is that it always changes and evolves over time as we change and grow and discover new things. We can always add in new things and take out old things. For example, I used to have two pinafore dresses and I wore them all the time. However, I recently moved both of them out of my closet, since I realized that they no longer reflect my style…and that’s totally OK.
Creating a personal style mission statement is a great step to creating the ideal wardrobe for YOU, not based on what other people like. Coming to an understanding of your own personal style can be extremely helpful in creating your ideal wardrobe and avoiding all the trends and marketing that are thrown at us every day. If you have your own unique style, you can avoid looking like everyone else, and truly enjoy getting dressed because you will feel like yourself.
And if you succeed in defining your own unique style, and you truly love each and every piece you have, you can pull just about anything out of your closet and come out feeling happy!
Have you ever gone through your wardrobe and taken time to evaluate your own personal style?
Have you read “The Curated Closet”, or do you know of any other helpful resources?
I can’t believe it’s already the weekend! This week seemed to go by fast for some reason, even though I wasn’t particularly busy. I didn’t do much this week other than work and sew and read…not a bad mix though, right?
This week I finally decided to just go for it…. and sewed a t-shirt! This might seem like a relatively easy project, and it did go together quicker than I anticipated, but I was intimidated to start because I was afraid that the knit would be hard to manage and it wouldn’t turn out well. I know the hem is kind of wrinkly, but it will always be tucked in, so I don’t mind that. There are a few things I will do differently for my next project, but all in all, it turned out way better than I thought it would!
Janey of Atomic Redhead re-opened her vintage shop this week, with a few changes; she is now selling downloads of vintage cards! She has such an amazing collection of vintage ephemera, including valentines and other holiday cards that she decorates her home with each year…what a great idea to do digital downloads of them! She has quite a few cute valentines, if I hadn’t already made my cards this year, that would have been such a great option. You can browse her Etsy shop here.
Lauren of Wearing History has been putting out so many good blog posts lately! Here is another one I enjoyed this week, about how the “cottage core” trend of late is a reiteration of similar trends of days past.
As I’ve been sorting through my hard drive for my year long goal of finally organizing it, I have been looking through pictures and realizing that I really should print them out, so I can enjoy looking at them. I’d also like to do a family history album of sorts, with photos of my grandparents and other relatives, so I found a few photo albums this week. Vintage photo albums so much prettier than modern ones, aren’t they?
Well, that’s about all for this week. We’ve got an extreme cold warning in effect here (-40 celsius!) so I think I will be spending the weekend cozied up by the fire with a cup of tea and a good book. How are you planning on spending your weekend?