10 posts categorized "Domesticity"

Vintage Clothing: Repurpose With A Purpose

If you know anything about vintage clothing it's that, for the most part, true vintage clothing runs on the super-small side. Sourcing a vintage dress that would fit a modern size 12 + is pretty much a modern-day miracle. The lack of larger sized authentic vintage clothing has actually created a niche for retailers who focus on reproduction vintage: Unique Vintage, ModCloth, and Hell Bunny to name a few. Some sellers, like BERRIEZ, focus on more modern vintage from the late 80's and 90's, when the plus-size market was finally, after decades of being ignored, embraced by designers & retail giants.

Combine that with the fact that few today know how to thread a needle, never mind use a sewing machine. I was in Junior High when "Home-Ec" was taken out of the curriculum "for lack of interest". Without giving away my age, that was c.1979. Thankfully, my grandmother was an amazing seamstress (that's her and my grandfather in the picture below a year before they wed) and did her best to teach me how to make simple alterations and repairs to clothing to both accommodate my changing form and extend life due to wear and tear. She was born in 1914 and lived through some of the leanest days of American history, so nothing was thrown away.  Ever. It was repaired, repurposed, given to a friend or neighbor once no-one in the family could make use of it, and last but not least, went into the rag pile where it would be used for cleaning, polishing, and sometimes wiping down a new-born calf in the dairy barn. Like I said: no waste.  Ever.


1936 Gram & Gramp year before wedding
My grandparents in 1936, a year before they wed.


I have to admit that, at times, this miserly outlook was a bit embarrassing. I practically grew up on the farm, I knew the hard work and diligence it took to run a dairy in a dying farming economy. I knew that, even though our family owned a lot of land and a lot of livestock, the stress of staying afloat outweighed what appeared to others as a very successful family business. But I was coming of age in the 1980's, an era of crazy indulgence and excess. More was MORE. New was BETTER. Excess was COOL. Waste was EXPECTED.  I can't tell you how many times during my waitress years I would find expensive bottles of champagne practically full after a lavish party of four moved onto their next party. (Thus, my exquisite taste for fine champagne.) I was fighting an inner battle between the standards and ideals I was raised by with the modern world of luxurious excess that seemed so inviting. I'm certain my grandmother sensed it. It wasn't until after she passed and I inherited her vintage clothing and jewelry that I realized she, too, had felt trapped between two worlds. She fell in love with a tall, quiet Swedish man who was a dairy farmer. I'm certain she knew that didn't translate to a life full of elegant parties, dinner and dancing to live orchestras and extravagant shopping sprees in the best fashion houses. But she had a wardrobe that would have said otherwise. Thus began my love affair with vintage clothing.


My grandmother on her honeymoon in 1937.


It didn't take long for me to regain my senses. In 1988 I sent a letter to the editor of Elle Magazine, outraged over the placement of an Hermès ad followed by a story about the homeless in their March issue; it was published  I suddenly had clarity of mind about issues that a decade of excess had attempted to cloud. My foundation held and my adulthood became grounded in the ethics and standards of my childhood training. I reconnected with my grandmother on an even deeper level; one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given.

Years later, my aunt sent me my grandmother's sewing machine. I set it up and just stared at it for a long time. So many memories. So much I didn't know. I felt polarized by my lack of know-how and the potential I knew it held. I dreamed of my grandmother that night. I could smell her Elizabeth Arden 8-Hour Cream, feel her arthritic hands in mine, hear her contagious laugh. I didn't want it to end. But the next day, I threaded that machine and started practicing on scrap pieces of fabric. And slowly, I relearned how to do the things my grandmother had taught me so many years before. I mended, darned, hemmed, let out seams and took them in. And finally, on one brave day, I altered the waistband on a skirt from one of her vintage suits and wore it later that summer.

Grammy's vintage seersucker suit
The author in her grandmother's repurposed vintage seersucker suit.

As we approach 2020, there's a lot of talk in the industry about "slow fashion" (vs. "fast fashion"), "circular fashion" and "sustainable fashion" - all the tenets of my grandmother's generation coming back full circle. It's like going home again. What's old is new again. Or, can be "like new" again, with a little bit of TLC.  Repurpose with a purpose.


Visit this page for a Tutorial on a Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration that was inspired by my grandmother's suit project.

#slowfashion #circularfashion #sustainablefashion #recommerce #repurpose #sewing #homeeconomics #retail #shopping #clothing #vintageclothing #1980s #secondhand #family #values #ethics #legacy #tribute #fashionblogger


xx ~ Michelle


Sorry I've been a bit scarce around here.  Trying to get ready for The Top Shelf Flea & dealing with a flooded basement due to the enormous amount of rainfall we've been "enjoying" here.  As you may recall, my workshop/studio has it's home in said basement, so it's a bit difficult to work right now.  We know it will happen every Spring, and I have everything organized so it is far above sea level, with just the area carpet to roll up, which I wait to do until the last possible minute.  I need atmosphere to work in!

So, since I can't do very much on the that floor of the house, I've decided to start at the top and get some Spring Cleaning underway.

A vintage gals closet

Starting with this disaster of a closet . . .

So I like boots! 
Like the black velvet Donna Karan granny boots?  $5.99 Thrift Store Score!

A gal can never have too many shoes or purses! 

 I know.  I know!

Boudoir drawer filled with vintage jewelry 

 This is the one drawer that is organized . . . all my vintage costume jewelry. . . some of which will be available at The Top Shelf Flea.

 Spring Cleaning 
(Photo courtesy of House & Garden Magazine) 

As the project progresses and I find myself completely losing interest, I will remind myself that:

"A clean house is the sign of a boring person. "
~Author Unknown

 I will then pour myself a glass of wine and call it a day . . .


xx ~ Michelle


Whether we like it or not, here in the North East we are now watching the sun set a bit earlier each day, feeling that little bit of chill in the air upon rising and as we're finishing up the dinner dishes, yes, we are in the final days of summer. . .

Vintage sailorette gal

Those long, lazy days lounging by the pool, sipping on a cool libation in the afternoon, & letting the children stay up way too late are  (so sadly!)  coming to a close. . .

If, like me, you're not quite ready to let go of summer & attack that endless pile of ironing that has been multiplying all summer long

hey, why not?

(Photo courtesy of "Things Your Grandmother Knew")

 and "Back~To~School" means a little more spare time for Mom (finally!)
 then you might enjoy taking a peek at some of these links I've been saving up over the summer to share with you:


This is an amazing site that caters to all things vintage/antique or collectible.  They just posted a wonderful interview with the owner of "Glamoursplash" ~~ the best vintage swimwear collection on the web, in my opinion.  You will find so much to read/see/learn & yes, even purchase if you feel the need to spend a bit on yourself now that school shopping is pretty much over!


The name says it all~~this is practically a Home~Ec course on-line!  You'll find vintage cleaning secrets, vintage recipes, vintage sewing tips, and pretty much everything else your Grandma knew and you wish you knew, too!  This blog is chock~full of vintage research/images and many more links to more great vintage!


If, like me, you wish the word "MALL" had never been invented, and a day spent shopping meant dressing up, lunching out, and spending hours browsing through a beautiful department store, with a doorman, an elevator that had a floor for each department, a secret~code bell system to let clerks know when or where they were needed, and lovely boxes tied with ribbon to carry your treasures home in, then you will love this site.  Once again, the name says it all~~you will find some lovely photos of famous, old departments stores and a torrent of information about them.  You can even ask a question about a department store from your area and find out practically anything you wish to know.  Shopping the way it used to be. . .


Got a thing for shoes?  (Who doesn't?)  Then a visit to this site will be a decadent treat!  I won't say anymore, you have to see for yourself!


Wish, like me, you knew more about sewing & vintage/antique fashions?  This site has a wealth of information for all things sartorial, including a Tailoring Vocabulary Dictionary.  Priceless!


For all Jane Austen lovers~~a lovely site that will transport you back in time. . .fix yourself a cup of tea and enjoy!


In the blog owner's words: "Vintage advertising ~~  found in my mother's basement, flea markets & various corners of the Internet ~~ dusted off and displayed for your viewing pleasure."


Housework rules 

After all that wonderful vintage distraction. . .

that pile of ironing doesn't seem so daunting after all!!




xx ~ Michelle


Please don't tell on me!  My DH thinks I'm busy packing~~we are getting ready to cruise our little ship to "The Vineyard" (no, we are not part of the Presidential entourage which will descend upon that poor little island!)

But I just found this great little vintage shop and had to show you some of the great offerings they have~~I seem to be on a RED roll:


1930's Red Plastic Coffee Pot Napkin Holder



1940's Canvas Nautical Duvet Cover
(I am in love with this nautical piece!)




1950's Wilendur Tablecloth with Napkins



Mid Century Mod Cherry Red Ericofon Telephone



Vintage Diner Glass Syrup Pitcher



Vintage Set of Startex Kitchen Towels

(All photos courtesy of  LISTIT VINTAGE CAFE )


Do you see what I mean?  I hate packing anyway, especially for the boat, so this has been a fun, cheerful respite! 

Alas, I must get back to the torture packing!

At least I have this wonderful news to cheer me on:

Thank you, Mr. Sunshine!!!!

(Someday I'll share my rather harrowing experience on our boat and then you will truly appreciate how much this forecast means to me!)

Have a wonderful weekend!


xx ~ Michelle


My sister has a few things in her closet that she knows I would just die for.  A 1930's peach satin bias-cut nightgown is one.  I can admit that I truly covet it.  I know that is wrong considering how much vintage stuff I already possess but it's so beautiful it gives me goosebumps.  She also has a lovely green velvet vintage suit, c. 1960's.  The problem with the vintage suit, as with many vintage items, is that the waist band on the skirt is teeny, tiny.  The jacket fits her beautifully, but the skirt is a "never going to happen" deal.

So, being the closet "I~wish~I~were~a~clothing~designer" that I am, I volunteered to fix the waist band for her, to make it a larger size. 

Read on to learn how.  


Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe (My dream atelier)


by Michelle Horlbogen 

  • small seam ripper
  • 7/8" double fold bias tape Quilt Binding (in coordinating color)
  • Stitch Witchery Fusible Bonding Tape
  • common pins
  • iron & board
  • sewing machine
  • scissors

(TIP: Click on the photos in the tutorial to zoom in.)

1)  First, you need to remove the existing waist band.  I use a sharp, small seam ripper.  The only issue with this can be that the clothing label is on the waist band.  If it is, just carefully remove it and save it to hand sew back on later.  Trim any frayed or long threads you find.  If there are darts at the waistband, you can determine if you need to let any out by slipping the skirt on to see how it fits.  If you still need more room, take out either the two front or two back darts.  (Depending on the fabric, removing darts may leave some marks, so think it through before you do.)


Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe


2)  Take the bias tape and pin it to one end of the waist band with @ 3/4" extra (so you can have something to work with to finish it later.  Measure it all the way around to see how much tape you need (don't forget to add the extra at the other end as well).


Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe 


3)  Pin the bias tape to the skirt, starting at one end and working around to the other.  The tape just folds over the top of the skirt. As you pin, you may have to stretch the fabric and tape to get a smooth, flat finish.


Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe 


4)  Now you have to do something with the ends of the tape.  As you can see in the photo above, I just folded in & pressed the tips of the corners, and then place a small piece of the heat n bond tape on the bias tape, just about a 1/2" from the end, so you can fold it over and iron it down.  The goal is to have a nice edge to the tape where the zipper is.


Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe 


5)  As you can see in this photo, the edge has been folded in and "glued" down, then pinned.  You'll have to determine where to end the new waistband.  I like to just barely cover the top of the zipper, so the two new ends of the waistband touch.


Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe


6)  Now that your pinned and the ends are "glued" down and pinned, it's time to sew.  I usually gage where I want the seam depending on what's inside.  Sometimes a skirt will have a very flimsy liner, so I tend to sew pretty close to the bottom of the bias tape to make sure I catch the lining all the way around.  I've also done it with a double seam, one along the top and one along the lower part of the bias tape.  I don't think it really matters, as long as all four layers are sewn together well.


Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe 


7)  Trim your excess thread and VOILA!  Your vintage skirt is ready to wear!  If you removed a label, don't forget to sew it back in.


Vintage Skirt Waistband Alteration Tutorial The Red Velvet Shoe 


Now, with that said, there are a few concerns.  Firstly, there is the BIG question of whether vintage clothing should be tampered with. I definitely believe that high end, Haute Couture / Couture vintage clothing falls in the category of Fine Art and should never be altered (unless it's in utter disarray with no chance of restoration to it's original state).  That, in my opinion, is indisputable.  However, when you are fortunate enough to have, as I do, some of your grandmother's sweet cotton day dresses or pretty suits from the 1950s/60s, and with a slight bit of alteration you could have some fantastic, unique vintage clothing in your wardrobe to actually WEAR, then I say go for it!

Secondly, if you remove a vintage skirt waist band and replace it with quilting bias tape, it is not going to look quite as nice.  So think about how you will wear the skirt - will you want to tuck your blouse or top in?  If so, then aesthetically speaking, this could be an issue.  A great way to "skirt the issue" is by wearing a wide belt, even if you tuck something in, this will give you a more modern look and is a great way to hide the waistband. 

Thirdly, I must humbly admit I am by no means even remotely close to being a tailor or seamstress, so you may want to try this out on a skirt you don't really care about (maybe one your daughter has outgrown or even pick one up at the thrift store on dollar day to play around with).  This will allow you a chance to try out the idea and maybe even improve on it.  By the way, does anyone have a different way of solving this vintage waistband size issue?  If so, I'd love to hear from you, so leave a comment!

My sister was very happy, the skirt fit her perfectly.  Look how she thanked me, how great is she?


Vintage paris couture




xx ~ Michelle


In light of the fact that the entire globe is in an unprecedented, staggering economic crisis, I thought I would devote this post to a very simple, old fashioned, somewhat outdated past~time:

Mending   DARNING : (noun) 1. Mending holes in clothes, the work of repairing holes in clothing or fabric with long interwoven stitches.

Seamstress by Renoir  MENDING : (noun) 1. articles, especially clothes, to be mended.


SYNONYMS :  Restoration, patch~up, healing, renovation

It used to be that every domestic diva had a basket full of things that needed mending.  A bit of attention with needle and thread could extend the life of a garment by years and that used to matter to people.  As the years passed, this simple past~time gave way to the notion that "it's a lot easier to throw it away and buy a new one".  Businesses were booming, advertising took on a major role in society, and mass production of just about everything left lots of grandmother's shaking their heads and wondering if the day would come when not one bride~to~be would know how to thread a needle, much less know how to mend something.

But now, it seems, consumers are not so quick to throw things away.  Many are actually choosing to "make do" with what they already have and if it needs a little TLC, well that is better than having to purchase a new one.  While this poses a challenge for those of us in the "Retail" sector or some version of it, I still find this trend heart~warming in a way.  After all, if my adored vintage frocks were not cared for the way they were, I wouldn't have the pleasure of working with such beautifully crafted garments.  And so. . .

From socks to cars~~people are choosing to be:

THRIFTY :  (adjective) 1.careful with money and resources, managing money and resources in a cautious and sensible way so as to waste as little as possible.  2. Prosperous

Isn't that interesting: PROSPEROUS was the archaic meaning of the word THRIFTY!

In our day, being thrifty has generally been equated with being cheap, tight~fisted, even poor.  And yet now being "Thrifty" is suddenly in style.  Everywhere.  Good Morning America ran a prime time segment on "Secrets of a Thrift Store Shopper" . . .their retail business is booming!!   Not to mention that thrift/resale/consignment store shopping is a wonderful way to "Recycle".  Check out this interview with clothing designer Elizabeth Kramer and take a peek at her creative flat/studio infused with vintage finds.  A far cry from this story of CEO extravagance by Mark Patinkin in the same section of my Providence Sunday Journal. 

Seamstress in red

Perhaps the antiquated meaning of "Thrifty" will come to be in fashion once again. . .while we usually equate prosperity with wealth, this beautiful word means far more. . .

PROSPEROUS : (adjective) 1. thriving  2. flourishing  3. abounding  4. successful

Doesn't that put a lovely new angle on "Prosperity"? 

It's who we have, not what we have, that makes us prosper in the most genuine sense of the word. . .and in lean times, remembering that can make a big difference in our outlook every day.


Ladyinbluesewing1  I'm going to try to think about that while I'm sewing today. . .but of course I will be tuned in at half time to watch you know who!








xx ~ Michelle

Spring Cleaning the Workspace

The home of my on line~boutique is actually in my basement.  I have one half and our daughter shares the other half with the tread mill and the wood stove.  I love to be down there in the winter~~especially if my DH makes a little fire to keep us company.

But when Spring rolls around I have a harder time descending the stairs when I know the sun is shining bright and sunny up here in the real world.    So I usually take a day and give my "Boutique" some Domestic Spa Treatments~~some dusting, vacuuming, a scented candle & a bit of rearranging.  I can actually spend hours and hours just puttering (as opposed to actually working!)

Here are a few pictures of my workshop/studio/boutique or whatever you want to call it!  This is where I am when I am working on The Red Velvet Shoe:

100_2061 This is my grandmother's sewing machine.  I have all my sewing notions in that enormous Tupperware thing to the left~~I have a strong aversion to plastic but this is so practical and I like the fact that I can see all my stuff~~the bottom drawer is full of Vintage Sewing Patterns!  That beautiful peignoir set hanging on the right is right out of a 1930's movie~~I love, love, love it even though I will never, never, never fit in it!  It says Size 12 but it's more like a Two! 

100_2062 This is actually a pool table my handyman husband built years ago.  I dragged it into the corner, covered it with some fabric and Voila'~~a work table!  That's my favorite Robert Doisneau picture on the wall, and hanging to the right of it are my wedding bouquet and two bridle bits from my grandparents farm~~we had a bunch of horses and grew up riding English, Western & most of the time bareback because we used to take them in the pond to swim.  I think these belonged to our Palomino.  And see all of the hats hanging there?  They are all for sale, I just haven't put them in The Red Velvet Shoe yet!  I'm too embarrassed to show you the racks of clothes that still aren't on the floor yet, either!  Let's just say what you see in the Boutique is about 10% of all the Vintage Stuff I have!

100_2060 While I don't actually have a Brick & Mortar store, my friends are known, on occasion, to drop by to do a little "Shopping". . .this especially seems to happen after dinner parties when the men leave the table to crash in the living room. . .the girls usually grab their wine glasses and  head South~~as in down the basement stairs!  I love this~~probably because I really wish I did have an actual store and this gives me a little taste of what it would be like.  So to give them a bit of privacy I created this dressing room for them.  That's Coco my dress form hiding in the corner.  I hung a curtain rod from the ceiling beam and the curtains can be pulled together when someone is trying on something. 

100_2066 Old issues of Victoria & a picture of my Mom when she was about five.  I love this picture because I see so much of my daughter in it.

So it's not the fanciest place in the world, actually it is nothing like I would like it to be. . .it's just making do with what I have which is a good thing to learn how to do, I suppose!  I would LOVE for it to look something like THIS beautiful space over at Vintage Home!  If you haven't been there you should check out her site~~beauty, beauty, beauty!

Now that it is all clean & organized maybe I can actually get to work!!  You may have noticed I also made a few changes around here. . .I was having a hard time reading the tiny font I had chosen and thought maybe some others of you have too.  I hope you like it!  And find my ramblings easier to read!

Happy Spring Cleaning everyone!


xx ~ Michelle



Spring is here!  I thought  I would share this beautiful image with you  today. 

I am almost anxious to get going with my Spring Cleaning! My favorite day is setting the patio furniture out!  It makes it official that we will be outside and not cooped up anymore!

Cleanclosetbw Which will hopefully inspire me  to tackle that closet we have been stuffing boots and bulky sweaters into all winter and turn it  into something more like this.

I hope you had a wonderful first day of Spring and are as anxious for the warm, sunny days on their way as I am!

Little cotton dresses, ballet flats, short~sleeved vintage cardigans my grandmother once wore.

Oh yes, it is Spring!!!

xx ~ Michelle