vintage style

A Fashion Moment With (1949) Styles By Beehive: Sweater Weather

Styles By Beehive by Patons & Baldwins cover featuring a knitted sweater vest, skirt and sock combination

I found this great vintage knitting book when we were organizing our new sewing/craft room. It was mixed in with some sewing patterns and books from the 1980’s, so I’d never looked closely at what was in that folder (the anorak pattern dissuaded me) but when I emptied out that folder to put on the shelf, I came across this book by Patons & Baldwins Limited Toronto: Styles By Beehive Series No. 40. The back page was torn, so I didn’t know what year it was from, but judging by the styles I guessed 1940’s. I was able to track the year down online and I was right; it was from 1949! This book was my Grandma’s and it was open to Page 9, the “Antelopes” sweater, below right, which is why much of the colour is rubbed off that page. I wonder if she ever made that sweater?

I hope you enjoy seeing these lovely 40’s fashions!

styles by beehive ski sweaters from the 1940's

styles by beehive by Patons & Baldwins book with a lady wearing a dressy knitted sweater

On a different style note- I love the waistband of this skirt, above, it looks kind of like a half waistcoat.

styles by beehive book with several ladies wearing knitted pullovers and cardigans and a head scarf

The checked grid pattern on the cardigan above adds such a great detail.

styles by beehive by Patons & Baldwins lady wearing a pair of jeans, knitted boots and a casual cable knit cardigan coat

The earliest “Uggs”, above.

styles by beehive knitted accessories

page 1 of the styles by beehive knitted accessories featuring socks, scarves and gloves

Would you wear a hood like these?

page 2 of styles by beehive featuring accessories including hoods and socks

styles by beehive pages showing a lady wearing a tennis outfit and another with a casual pullover sweater

styles by beehive book featuring ladies wearing straight skirts paired with knitted pullover sweaters and cardigans for a dressy look

I like the texture of the one on the left, above.

styles by beehive by Patons & Baldwins lady wearing a cardigan and skirt combination

styles by beehive lady wearing a sweater with a hare and tortoise pattern knitted into it

I love the cardigan on the right, below, too. It’s lightweight and would look so nice paired with a skirt.

styles by beehive by Patons & Baldwins two ladies wearing dressy knitted sweaters

Wear Vintage Now | Book Review

Wear Vintage Now book by Margaret Wilds with jewelry, shoes a hat and a purse around it

I met Margaret Wilds of the shop DeniseBrain Vintage on Instagram a few years ago. I believe it was through the #myvintagecover challenge that Tanith Rowan and I hosted in 2017 and 2018, and I have been following her blog ever since. (I have linked to her posts in the past here and here) In 2019 Margaret asked me whether she could use one of my photos in a book she was writing. I was, of course, honoured and said yes! I finally was able to buy her book, Wear Vintage Now: Choose It, Care For It, Style It Your Way, just over a month ago, so I thought I’d share a review of it here.

Note: I purchased this book myself, and was not asked to give a review or receive compensation- I just wanted to share it with you all. 

wear vintage now book wrapped in pink tissue paper

Firstly, in terms of the book itself, it came beautifully wrapped in bright pink tissue paper… and I was so excited that I ripped it off before I took a picture- oops! But at least I was able to get a picture of the sticker afterwards. Also, Margaret signed the book for me, which was such a nice touch; I love buying things from small businesses, since it feels like you’re opening a gift.

It is a softcover book, 150 pages, and she did such a sweet cover design (the cover is laminated with a soft touch, velvet finish too). The only critique I have of the book is that I wish the pictures were larger! But I know that would have changed the price of printing…and so I completely understand why they were on the smaller side. I just wish I could have seen even more details!

As for the content, I really liked her premise for the book, “Who can wear vintage? I can’t think of one single person who can’t!” She focuses on several topics: how to find your vintage “look” or “style”, how to shop for vintage online and how to care for your vintage pieces.

In the first section, she shares tips for styling vintage, whether you want to be what she calls a “time traveler” or a “modern/vintage mixer” (which is the category my picture is in!) She then moves on to talking about which pieces to select if you’re new to wearing vintage, and easy pieces to add to your wardrobe first if you’re not quite ready to dive in headfirst. This section is definitely aimed at those who are new to wearing vintage, and I wish I’d had this book 10 years ago when I first got interested in wearing vintage clothing.

wear vintage now book open to the page my picture is on

In the next section she shares tips on how to measure, figure out what will suit you and make wise purchases avoiding pieces that are going to be more of a headache than a joy. With over 20 years of experience in collecting, repairing and selling vintage clothing, she has a wealth of knowledge about buying vintage online. I don’t buy very much clothing online, but armed with her tips, I actually might start doing so.

Since I’ve been following vintage blogs for years, I honestly wasn’t sure whether there would be much “new” information in this book for me, but I really liked her final chapters on “Taking Care of Your Vintage Finery”. She shares a lot of information on fibre content, laundering and stain removal, damage prevention and storage. I learned more than a few new cleaning tricks that I will definitely be using in the future.

And then in the final section she gives some information about vintage reproduction and alternatives to authentic vintage, in case you’re interested in a vintage look, but true vintage is not an option.

Margaret’s love and passion for vintage clothing shines through her entire book, but especially in her last part titled “Wear Vintage and Make the World Brighter” where she says “Vintage fashion is the creative, high quality, thoughtful and beautiful answer to fast fashion. Go forth and wear it well!”

I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself; those are my exact feelings about vintage clothing as well.

If you have any interest in wearing vintage clothing, then this is the book for you. I’m glad that I finally bought Wear Vintage Now because it will be a great reference to have on my bookshelf.

The book is available either through her Etsy shop, or via her website. (I purchased through her website, since the shipping on Etsy was cost prohibitive to Canada).

Going to the Chapel

wedding guest outfit of a straw hat and purse paired with a navy cross printed dress with a pearl necklace and tan sandals. Nicole is on a grassy lawn with trees in the background

…Not to get married, but to witness one! Summers for most people means weddings, especially with the backlog of weddings from the past two years, but I actually haven’t attended very many weddings in my life, and I only had one to go to this year. Of course, where there is a wedding, there is wedding attire, and this one was no exception. When planning what to wear to this wedding, I needed it to check three boxes: a colour that wouldn’t clash with the bridal party (green) because I was going to get some photos taken with the bride (my friend Chantelle), something comfortable and in a natural fibre because it was going to be an outdoor wedding in August and, finally, something that coordinated with my giant straw hat- because it was going to be in the sun and I needed to bring my own shade!

Nicole is wearing a navy blue fit and flare dress with a large straw hat with a navy ribbon and a straw tote bag. She is standing outside in front of some trees

Despite the fact that I knew about this wedding since March, I didn’t actually figure out all of these important details until July, and then I didn’t actually sew the dress until a week before the wedding. In my defence, I was hoping to be able to find something to buy in the shops, but that shopping trip immediately reminded of why I even started to sew clothing in the first place. If it wasn’t synthetic fibres, it was cheaply sewn, and if it was good quality, it didn’t fit…which meant that it was time for a sewing project! (And one with a deadline too, but I got it done….and my mom’s outfit too!) 

I knew that this wasn’t going to be a quick and easy sewing project, since I’ve changed sizes and needed to draft an entirely new bodice block. After a failed attempt at draping a bodice, I found a tutorial for creating a bodice block, and another for fitting it, and with the help of my mom we were able to make a fairly well fitting bodice block/sloper. Then from that base, I was able to customize it and turn it into a pattern for this dress.

detail of a simple classic pearl necklace with a v-neck dress made out of sevenberry fabric by Japan

I originally planned on buying some new fabric, but when the fabric search also proved unfruitful, I turned to what was already in my stash and decided that this cross printed navy cotton would be elegant, yet still good for an outdoor event. I had originally intended the fabric for a button front skirt, but am actually glad I made it into a dress instead, because the tan and navy colour combination probably wouldn’t have coordinated with very many of my tops, and as a dress, it is a perfect one-step outfit. 

The fabric also proved to be a great choice because it’s 100% cotton, with a linen textured weave, so it was lightweight and breathable, but it didn’t crease! I wore it from about 10:00 am to 10:00 pm and it looked almost as fresh in the evening when I took it off as when I’d put it on, which was incredible because we were outside melting in the summer sun. I bought this fabric from the clearance rack at Fabricland, and it’s by the Japanese brand Sevenberry. (That’s all I know about it, as that info was printed on the selvedge).

nicole is wearing a navy patterned cotton dress and a straw hat and pearl necklace. She is walking away from the camera in a grassy lawn with trees around it

When thinking about the dress, I first designed it as button front, but then the thought of making 20+ buttonholes in a short period of time just seemed like asking for trouble, so I opted for a simple back zipper, v-neck, short sleeved bodice and knee length pleated skirt. In the end I’m actually glad that I went for the zipper closure, because that meant that I didn’t have to fiddle with the buttons and make sure they weren’t gaping or pulling.

nicole is wearing a navy knee length dress, tan leather sandals, a pearl necklace, a straw hat with a navy hatband and a straw purse outside in a treed area

When you are sewing, you need to keep in mind not only your ideas for the design, but what the fabric itself calls for. When designing, I planned for a turned up sleeve cuff with a button detail and maybe a bit of navy contrast fabric. I’d found some pretty cream and antique brass buttons in the stash and designed the entire dress around using these button accents on both sleeves and at the back neck. As it turns out, the fabric had a mind of it’s own and it did not want to have a cuff or button detail on the sleeve, and instead asked for the simplest of sleeve styles. I kept trying to add some sort of feature- a pleat, a contrast binding, a keyhole…but the nature of the fabric called for something simple and structured.

neck button and keyhole detail of the dress made of navy cross patterned fabric

Likewise, after I had sewn the keyhole at the top of the back zipper, I discovered that the cream and brass buttons I’d planned for actually didn’t actually look good! Then I had to go through the entire stash (of course it was at night) looking for a new button. This one (an extra from my green cardigan) was a bit more subtle in colour and sheen and worked perfectly. When sewing, things don’t always turn out the way you planned…but sometimes they turn out even better. This simple style of dress is actually a better addition to my wardrobe than any kind of statement piece. It’s almost like a “background” dress in the fact that the fabric pattern is interesting and detailed, but can easily be matched with many of my accessories for a different look. Those simple sleeves will also layer very nicely with cardigans for Fall and with the heavier texture of the fabric, it isn’t going to just be a summer dress, but will carry over for cooler weather too.

wearing a navy v-neck knee length dress with a straw hat and bag outside in a treed area

For the day of the wedding, because it was outdoors in the sun, I wore my giant straw hat. I love this hat, and was so thankful for it because we were sitting in the sun with no breeze. (At least a rainstorm came up after to cool us off.) I made a hat band out of a coordinating navy grosgrain ribbon, and while it wasn’t perfect, it worked well for one day. However, that is not the hatband you are seeing here because…I lost it somewhere. I guess I put it somewhere “safe”, so I had to quickly hot glue a new ribbon for these pictures. Oops!

large straw hat with a navy ribbon hatband

I chose to wear my pearl necklace and earrings, since they make any outfit instantly more dressy and for shoes wore my low heeled sandals since they are comfortable and don’t have heels that would sink into the grass.

tan cognac leather sandals with an ankle strap

And I didn’t actually bring this purse to the wedding, even though I wanted to, because I didn’t get the handles in time. I bought this straw bag from the thrift store, removed the (ugly!) fake leather handles, put a new lining in the bag and added leather handles I bought from this Etsy shop. (She did a custom size for me, 26″ x 5/8″ in cognac leather.) I wish that they had arrived in time so I could have carried this bag, since I had to use a tote bag instead, which was way too floppy, and not nearly as stylish.

straw purse with leather cognac handles

So, that’s what I wore, and I’ve already worn this dress again because it’s so versatile. I’m am so glad that I went to the effort to make a new bodice block because that means that the hard part of fitting (the most hated part) is already done, and it’s pretty easy to whip up a dress once that’s out the way. I was planning on making another summer dress, but decided that since we are almost at the end of the season, I will instead start some sewing for fall and winter! That’s the thing with sewing…you always need to be thinking ahead to what season it will be when your projects will be finished. I’ve got some plans for more cool weather sewing projects, hopefully my next projects will be as quick as this one was, and I will have a few more things to wear this winter!

Have you attended many weddings in the past couple of years? When you go to a wedding, do you repeat the outfits you wear, or try to find something new? 

walking away wearing a navy knee length cotton dress and a large tan straw hat with a navy hat band

Vintage Fur of Yesteryear

wearing a tan wool jacket and a fox fur stole

There is danger when you scroll through the Poshmark “vintage” tag with the intent to not purchase anything, because you very well might just find something to purchase. And when you’re looking at vintage items (especially when you find one for a good price) you know you might never find anything like it ever again. I’m not usually an impulse buyer, but when I saw this little vintage fur fellow in excellent condition, I decided he had to come and live with me.

wearing a tan wool jacket a fox fur stole a pearl necklace and a cream ring

I know that feelings run high when it comes to fur, and some people might find wearing a fox fur stole macabre, but I quite like this little guy. Fur collars and stoles with the head and tails were very popular through the first half of the 20th century, and in my vintage Sears catalogue books they have quite a few available in the 1920’s and 30’s. In a world of PVC and polyester, where fur, and even leather, has started to become taboo, it is strange to see advertisements for furs that can’t be mistaken as anything but dead animals.

wearing a tan blazer embroidered shell and pearl necklace

I haven’t had an occasion to wear him out, so I had to create my own occasion for his debut. I actually don’t know whether I will ever wear him; I think he would need a very particular occasion, and he is kind of hard to wear because of where the clasp goes. I’m also a little concerned that despite the fact he is in great vintage condition, furs do become fragile with age and I don’t want damage him through pulling and strain.

Anyway, the moral of this story is: don’t browse through vintage clothing unless you are fully prepared to bring some pieces into your collection!

closeup of fox fur stole

The Costumes of Jane Eyre (2011): Film Fashion Inspiration

jane eyre wearing a hooded cloak

I am back today with a Part Two in this series of my favourite film fashion inspiration: this time with the costumes of Jane Eyre (2011)! You can find Part One about Miss Potter, here.

One of my favourite books of all time is Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I first read it in Grade Nine, for a book study, and fell in love with the heroine of the book’s title, Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre was published in 1847, although the time period in which the story itself takes place is a bit unclear. Most film adaptations place the story either in the same decade the book was published, the 1840’s, or slightly farther back in the 1830’s. The only film version of Jane Eyre that I have watched is the 2011 one directed by Cary Fukunaga starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. The costume designer for this film was Michael O’Connor and I absolutely love what he designed for this film: the attention to detail in each character’s wardrobe means you never run out of interesting elements to look at.

The director and costume designer chose to go with an 1840’s time period for this film, because they liked the styles from that decade more than those of the 1830’s, and I am inclined to agree with them. I am not enamoured with the large sleeves and shorter hems of the 30’s, so I’m happy they gave Jane the much more elegant looks of the 40’s.

1833 and 1848 illustrated fashion plates

I am not an authority on early Victorian fashion by any means, but I appreciate the, seemingly, quite historically accurate costumes of this film. Some historical dramas try to modernize the characters’ dress, which can sometimes be jarring, as well as becoming easy to spot as time goes on. (For example, the animated Snow White and Cinderella by Disney are easily recognizable as being from the 1930’s and 1950’s respectively.) In this version of Jane Eyre, they chose to keep the garments and even hairstyles accurate to the time period the story was set in, even if some of those fashions are decidedly unpopular today. Why do historical films always skip the bonnets, right? While most of us won’t be sporting 1840’s dresses for daywear anytime soon, there is still so much inspiration to be found in the costumes of Jane Eyre.

Ps. This interview from Vanity Fair gives a bit more insight into the choices of the director and costume designer.

One key feature of Jane’s wardrobe is her subdued and dark colour palette. She wears several shades of grey, black, brown, deep plum, and dark blue. She also later wears an earthy tan/pink. While these dark colours are specifically used to create a moody feel for the film, I think they also reflect an aspect of Jane’s character: her practicality. Dark colours are a sensible choice for clothing, since they don’t require as much washing or stain removal in the same way light colours do.

Queen Victoria was married in 1840 and was the first to bring popularity to the idea of a white wedding dress: the light colour of the dress made her easier to see, and was a dress fit for royalty (or at least someone who had an army of laundresses at their disposal). While Victoria’s dress caused a stir in the fashion world (that remains to this day), for most people, dark coloured clothes were a much wiser choice. Even today, many work clothes and outerwear are made of darker coloured cloth. While grey and black might not be good colours for everyone, I still take inspiration from Jane’s costumes in choosing more practicable colours for items of clothing that aren’t easily laundered. For example, instead of choosing a cream coloured dry-clean-only, wool winter coat, perhaps navy would be a smarter choice.

jane eyre wearing the same dress 3 times

I also appreciate that Jane has a sort of “capsule” wardrobe; which is really what a standard wardrobe for any time period, before the modern era of fast fashion, would have been. She is consistently seen repeating the same small selection of dresses throughout the film. One nice thing about wearing dresses, is that they are such a quick and easy outfit. You don’t have to worry about finding a matching blouse or skirt, because a dress is a one step outfit, all ready to go!

Another very clever idea from the past that Jane utilizes in her outfits, is wearing separate collars and cuffs. Having one dress, but several separate collar and cuff sets to pair with that dress results in many different looks. While it might not be a dramatic change, it still adds variety to your wardrobe. Accessories really are the best tools for stretching your “capsule” wardrobe. And, on the topic of laundry again, cuffs and collars tend to get dirty before the rest of the garment, so this makes them easy to clean. Also, if the cuffs wear out, it’s easy to make new ones without having to make an entirely new dress!

Jane’s costumes are all very pared back versions of the 1840’s fashions. When you compare her black evening dress to Blanche Ingram’s, you can see how subdued Jane’s dress is. While her dresses are not as frilly and fancy as the wealthy women’s dresses, her clothing choices are still far from boring and there are so many subtle details in her clothes.

jane eyres plaid grey dresses

For example, the patterns in Jane’s dresses are classic prints such as plaids and dots which have been pieced to form interesting designs. In her plaid gowns, the diagonal piecing on the bodice is gorgeous. There are also lots of visually interesting bows, ruched sections and elegant V shaped bodices. There’s so much inspiration for future sewing projects!

I personally prefer Jane’s understated elegance over the frilly fashions of the early Victorian period. My favourite styles from the past are ones that are more classic than trendy- which it is still true for my wardrobe today.

jane eyre wearing a lace bonnet

I also like how Jane’s character and style stays consistent throughout. Even when she buys new dresses and bonnets and spends more on her clothing, she doesn’t slavishly follow the trends. Her more expensive clothing doesn’t clash with what we know of Jane from before.

jane eyre 1840's style wedding dress and bonnet

Her wedding dress is a good look at the consistency of her style. Despite Rochester’s wish to lavish her with jewels and rich fabrics, this dress is still rather restrained compared to wedding dresses of the time. Queen Victoria’s aforementioned wedding dress is much more opulent than Jane’s, and we can’t imagine Jane feeling comfortable in something like that. Even this wedding dress is a little too fine for Jane’s taste.

jane eyre light grey plaid dress

Throughout the film, Jane remains true to her personal style, and wears garments that are flattering to her particular body type and style, which is a great reminder for us all to choose to wear what we like and what we look good in, despite what the trends may be at the time.

Another iconic element of Jane’s look is her signature hairstyle. I’m not a big fan of hairstyles from the 1840’s: they were really into the centre part (which is apparently coming back in?).

While lots of upper class women wore their hair in ringlets (see Blanche Ingram again), Jane wears hers in an easier to keep style- a low bun with loops over her ears. She wears variations on this look- sometimes more elaborate like for her wedding, and sometimes simpler, like when she is living in the cottage. I like that Jane has a signature look, and one that she can easily maintain and execute herself. This is a lesson that I have learned over time: find a hairstyle that works for you! This is why I usually wear my hair in a chin length bob with bangs- it just works for me. I don’t have to fight with it, or set it every night (only to find that the curls fall out by midday) etc. While it’s sometimes fun to change it up, find your signature hairstyle and run with it!

jane eyre wearing a hooded cloak

One final element of Jane’s wardrobe that I absolutely love are her capes and shawls. While capes have been mostly replaced by coats nowadays, there is just something so elegant and dramatic about a cape, isn’t there? (Especially if it has a hood!) They are perfect to wear over dresses if you have a full skirt and your coat isn’t wide enough to accommodate it. Oh, and they are cosy too. A shawl is also the perfect thing to wear on a chilly day (even indoors); they are easy to put on and take off as needed, and are nicer to wear than trying to bundle up on the sofa in a blanket!

jane eyre wearing different shawls

Well, this isn’t an exhaustive list of all of the costumes of Jane Eyre, but these are some of my favourites from this film. Have you seen this version or Jane Eyre and what did you think of it? What parts of her wardrobe do you like? And which version of Jane Eyre is your favourite?

jane eyre wearing her evening dress