39 posts categorized "Family"

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

A Month of Sundays

It's school pick-up time.  Despite the millions of dollars spent on our little elementary school, the engineer somehow pulled a "Titanic" as far as parking goes and scoring a parking space is as likely as getting into a lifeboat on the big T.  I've learned.  Always have something to read and something to listen to that you'll never get away with once she's in the car.  Culture gap.  In more ways than one.  I reach under the passenger seat to a hidden compartment where all my "Mom Music" is hidden and grab a cassette.  Oh, you don't know what that is?  Then you're probably too young to be reading this blog. 

I flip through the latest issue of Harper's Bazaar, mostly thinking to myself "people really wear that?" when a song begins to play that gives me reason to pause, be still, and reflect.  "A Month of Sundays" by Don Henley.


The demise of the farmer in this country and the role corporate technology and greed played in slowly destroying what many had spent generations building is told in this woeful ballad.   My grandfather was a dairy farmer and I am the grandaughter and daughter of a farmer.  I take great pride in that.  No other inheritance, no matter how materially valuable, could ever replace what my grandparents gave me in life at the farm.  If you are a farm-girl, you understand.  If you are not, you have no idea what you missed. 

Farmer's Daughters & Proud Of It

My grandfather was a quiet man.  A tall, handsome Swede who, I assume, kept most of his feelings on the inside and kept up a strong, quiet front on the outside.  That said, I can only write from what I observed.  His words were few and his routine was paramount to keeping the farm running.  We knew when we could be loud, silly, rambunctious kids and when it was time to be quiet.  Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights was most definitely quiet time.  Dinner was always planned around the show.  He would sip two highballs before dinner (Imperial & Gingerale) which usually left him in a light-hearted and less serious mood and I remember him, at times, throwing his head back and laughing at the three of us girls...I always looked at my grandmother then, and she smiled too, happy to see him joyful and free from the stresses that weighed in on him, if only for a few moments....

Dad playing organ with we three at farm

He had a tiny office just off the dining and living room of the big farm house.  In it there was a huge roll-top desk, a large grey metal filing cabinet, a waste paper basket and a small army cot that had a flat pillow and a blanket folded neatly at the foot.  There was a window that faced North.  Out of it you could see the banana yellow Piper Cub plane, the rusty green John Deeres, the tilting silo and the land he owned rising up like an ocean wave, speckled with seaweed made of black and white cows

Grandpa Johnson at the organ with Brandi

I used to sneak up on him...usually from the living room side as that was where my grandmother had created a "school-room" for me to play teacher in, blackboard and all, and sometimes he would leave that door open.  I would creep, very, very quietly toward the door to see just how long it would take him to discover me.  Sometimes he would say, without turning around: "Is that you, Shelly?"...but most of the time he just sat, very still, with his big journal spread out on the desk before him and a freshly sharpened pencil in his hand.  Not moving, not writing, his head bent down.  Sometimes, after what seemed an eternity, he would rub his forehead and sigh, then slowly turn to look out the window.

 "The Farm" c1910

As a child, I never understood this quiet, almost penitent time he spent at his big old desk.  As an adult, I came to understand it only too well.  His world was disappearing and he knew he was powerless to stop it.  He was an old-fashioned farmer in his golden years who was facing a very modern world and was up against foes his generation could never have fathomed a reality.  There was only one option for him.

Sell. The. Farm.

Those three words resonated across this country with alarming volume...but it was a cry, it seems, that only the farmers and their families heard.  And now, the wealthy masses flock to specialty stores to spend exhorbitant money on "organic", "home-grown", "grown in the USA" products that were once left in a crate on the stone wall of our farm--free for all.  Yeah, that's progress.

I know what fresh milk tastes like.  Do you?  Do yourself a favor--go visit a dairy farm, if you can find one.

Woodstock Fair 2012 (42)





xx ~ Michelle

They Survived

Housefire 2 Park Ave Westerly RI July 26 2012 (13)
(more photos)

My sister and 4 1/2 year old nephew were in a terrible housefire early yesterday morning and lost everything. The house will most likely be condemned and will be torn down next week. Their beloved cat died in the fire. It is a living nightmare and the feeling of helplessness is just overwhelming.  The community and The Red Cross has already come to her aid along with family, her co-workers & friends, and many have been asking how they can help, thus this post.  Thank you to everyone who has come forward to render help: moral support, hugs, lodging, food & drink, toys, babysitting, gift cards, monetary donations, and for just plain being there~~you will never know how much you have done to make this horrible nightmare somewhat tolerable.  

(Post update 1 August 2012):

There will be a Fund Raiser/Benefit held for all the victims of the fire on Sunday, 5 August, 2012 at Sandy's Lighthouse Bar at Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, RI  from 3:00 pm until close.  Tickets are $10.00 and can be purchased now at Sandy's, or the day of at the door. 


Your Donations are Greatly Appreciated


Thank You for Your Generosity & Human Kindness*

      Mr. & Mrs. Robert & Geraldine Ducharme

      Ms. Sheena Matthews

      Mrs. Joanne Horlbogen

      Mrs. Pat Hanzel

      Ms. Nicole Caron

      Mr. David Preble/Xtra Mart

      Mr. & Mrs. Michael & Doreen Euloth

      Mr. Jeffrey Boudreau

      Ms. Michelle Vangel

      Mr. & Mrs. Andrew & Stacy Wight

      Mr. & Mrs. Paul & Christine Hudon

      Ms. Anna Amaral

      Mr. & Mrs. Andrew & Cindy Tiplady

      Mr. & Mrs. William & Constance Smith

      Mrs. Christine Francis Barta

      Ms. Moe Tanner

      Ms. Deborah Gannon

      Mr. & Mrs. Robert & Diane La Charite

      Mr. & Mrs. Augusto & Margaret Chaves

      Mr. & Mrs. Andrew & Chelsea Berndt

      Mr. & Mrs. Douglas & Rhonda Wight

      Mr. & Mrs. John & Linda Brayton

      Mrs. Connie Medeiros

      Mrs. Brooke Bender

      Mr. Alan Horlbogen

      Mr. & Mrs. Carlos & Chantel Geneiro

      Mr. & Mrs. Jason & Heather Erler

      Ms. Jaclyn Farrar

      Mr. & Mrs. Billy & Heather Soares

      Mr. & Mrs. Thomas & Renee Rafferty

      Ms. Julie Karas

      Ms. Kelly Koslowski

      Ms. Katie Wilson

      Mr. & Mrs. Patrick & Tracy Riley

      Mr. & Mrs. Don & Sandra Daggett

      Ms. Racquel Johnson

      Mrs. Melissa Vicente

      Mrs. Beverly Spurrier

      The Westerly Fire Department

      The American Red Cross

      Applebee's of Westerly, RI

      Sandy's Lighthouse Bar & Grill

    *The names found here are those who either donated via this post, personally handed me donations & contributions in various forms, as well those who I have met/known that have sacrificed time, work, vacation time, personal belongings and far more on behalf of my sister and nephew.  It is, by no means, a true accounting of all who reached out to help.  We are truly grateful to EVERYONE who has shown support...you know who you are, as we do.  Thank You.

xx ~ Michelle

Heirlooms: Schiaparelli Hats & Shirl Miller Leather Bags

Summer is in full swing around here....apologies for the lack of posts but it's been a nonstop whirlwind of go, go, go with no signs of the pace slowing down.  A visit to my sister's for a family reunion sent me home with this lovely vintage Schiaparelli straw hat with black patent leather trim that once belonged to my grandmother, as well as three hat boxes chock full of more treasures from her closet.  (How she managed to hide them from me for the past 10 years is beyond me...)  I remember my grandmother wearing it to horse shows and other outdoor events that required fashionable shelter from the sun.  At the time, I had no idea it was a Schiaparelli providing such glamorous shade!

Schiaparelli vintage straw hat black patent leather trim (2) 

Schiaparelli vintage straw hat black patent leather trim (3) 

Schiaparelli vintage straw hat black patent leather trim (4) 

Schiaparelli vintage straw hat black patent leather trim 

From another side of my (rather complicated) family I was overjoyed to receive this lovely Shirl Miller vintage clutch in embossed leather. 

Vintage Shirl Miller embossed leather clutch Made in USA (3) 

Vintage Shirl Miller embossed leather clutch Made in USA (5) 

And of my own treasure hunting accord I came into possession of this rather fabulous vintage bar pump-decanter set that I am quite certain I will never be able to part with.

Vintage Decanter Pump Bar Set of 3 Glass Bottles 

Hoping to be back soon...wishing you many lovely summer days and nights until then.




xx ~ Michelle

The Tortoise and The Hare


The Tortoise and The Hare

There once was a speedy hare who bragged about how fast he could run. Tired of hearing him boast, Slow and Steady, the tortoise, challenged him to a race. All the animals in the forest gathered to watch.
Hare ran down the road for a while and then and paused to rest. He looked back at Slow and Steady and cried out, "How do you expect to win this race when you are walking along at your slow, slow pace?"
Hare stretched himself out alongside the road and fell asleep, thinking, "There is plenty of time to relax."
Slow and Steady walked and walked. He never, ever stopped until he came to the finish line.
The animals who were watching cheered so loudly for Tortoise, they woke up Hare.
Hare stretched and yawned and began to run again, but it was too late. Tortoise was over the line.
After that, Hare always reminded himself,
"Don't brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!"

I read an interesting blog post at Circa Vintage this morning and it got me to thinking about this beloved Aesop fable.  Circa Vintage resides in Australia and is the brain child of vintage clothing extraordinaire Nicole Jenkins.  She runs a brick & mortar vintage clothing shop in Melbourne, an online shop , has written a fabulous book "Love Vintage" , and she has also worked in costume hire, film, television, theatre and fashion in Australia and in the UK after studying costume design and construction at Perth Technical College and the WA Academy of Performing Arts. 


It was her list of what is involved in adding new items to her website that got me thinking:

"It’s quite a process – I’ll take you through it…the item is….

1 – Mended.
2 – Hand washed or dry cleaned.
3 – Checked for damage and mended again if needed.
4 – Measured and the particulars written up on a product sheet (if it’s a pattern we also check all the pieces are there)
5 – Photographed.
6 – The photo may be edited if needed, and is also renamed.
7 – The photos are loaded online.
8 – The content is added to the photos.
9 – More photos may be taken if details or damage have been overlooked.
11 – The item is published!
12 – If I really love it, I may post it to Facebook or Twitter too.

This process takes around 2 hours for each item and all four of us who work at Circa will handle it at some point as we all have different roles. Not surprisingly, there are currently lots of items that are at some point in the process so not all 1100 are published but quite a few are – if you’re looking for something and you can’t see it yet, stay tuned because every week more are being published."  (source: Circa Vintage)

Whenever I read posts such as this one, I have one of two reactions, depending how things are going for me.  I either:

1.) Feel vindicated and understood.  At least someone out there realizes the work involved in running an online vintage clothing store~~which is far different than simply an online store, where merchandise is brand new, wrapped in plastic or boxes and there are probably 500 of a particular item available, but only has to be listed once.  Not with vintage~~every item is unique and almost always needs TLC before any of the work can really begin.  If you want to be a respectable seller, that is.  We won't even go there today.


2.)  Feel completely overwhelmed & discouraged.  I look at the long list of steps involved~~and she's right, it is about 2 hours per item, whether the item is worth $12.00 or $1200.00~~and wonder how I will ever get it all done.  With the obligations of running a household (properly), being a parent, community & spiritual obligations, health & exercise, and making time for family & friends it is no wonder days will go by without even one single photo being snapped in my workshop.  Not one hem mended.  Not one dress brought to the dry cleaners.  Not one pair of shoes polished.  Nothing. None. Nada. 

When I read her post today, I felt a little of both.  My little one is home with a fever, a thick coating of ice gave us a 2 hour delay for school, so even if she were well, the morning is shot as far as getting any work done.  With her little pink cheeks and glassy eyes brimming with tears because she knows if the fever doesn't leave she won't be able to sing her solo perfomance in the school talent show this weekend, I submit to the ache in my heart for her and silently switch from Work mode to Mommy mode.....what's another day. 

"Slow and Steady won the race...."  even if we are down to a very slow crawl.




xx ~ Michelle

Party Like it's 1955

A family reunion on my DH's side late last summer found me plunked on a weathered picnic table bench digging through boxes and boxes of vintage family photographs.  I'm certain I proved to be the obnoxious in~law in my attempt to find out who was who, when was it taken, who was behind the lens, and the most dreaded for those who have no appreciation for preserving the past:  "Don't you WANT this????!!!!"  I carried on, undeterred, a woman on a mission to preserve the past....upon finding this mini~album I dared to ask yet one more time.  The answer:

"I think that was New Years Eve, maybe, then again, it could have been just another typical basement bar~room bash....we did that, back then, you know.  We had bars in our basements...."

Vintage NYE party pictures c1950s

Vintage NYE party pictures c1950s  (3)  

Vintage NYE party pictures c1950s  (5)
Vintage NYE party pictures c1950s  (4)
Vintage NYE party pictures c1950s  (6) 
My grandparent's had a basement bar...I remember it well. 

xx ~ Michelle

Let's Bring Back: Filene's Basement

It was the road trip I looked forward to the most every year~~my grandmother would pile we three girls into the back of her 1970s Cadillac (which felt more like a ship) and off we would go, onto the Mass Pike, into Boston to spend the day shopping at Filene's Basement.  She was so short she had to look through the steering wheel and the dashboard to see the road.  She could park that boat as if it were a Mini Cooper.  And she got us safely there and back every time.  The trunk could barely close by days end . . .

Filene's Basement Film Documentary 

"Voices From The Basement" premiering on WBGH Boston, December 9, 2010 at 8:30pm EST.

***Post update:  Share your memories of shopping at Filene's Basement Downtown Crossing and enter to win a $100.00 G/C from Filene's Basement!   Find the comment form here.  

***This post was featured @  Filene's Basement in Boston .

xx ~ Michelle

Pour Le Bébé

Childrens vintage clothing at The Red Velvet Shoe 

Yes, there will be some vintage wonderful for your precious little ones at The Top Shelf Flea II. 

Childrens vintage clothing at The Red Velvet Shoe (4) 

We'll have this lovely little girls vintage navy blue wool coat with matching hat from Ricky Craft Originals...about a size 3.

Childrens vintage clothing at The Red Velvet Shoe (10) 

Childrens vintage clothing at The Red Velvet Shoe (5) 

And for your little man, this charming Liberty of London double breasted tweed coat with brown suede collar.  Start them early, I say.

Childrens vintage clothing at The Red Velvet Shoe (9) 

Childrens vintage clothing at The Red Velvet Shoe (2) 

Who could resist this custom made in Argentina/100% cotton sailor romper?   Or the antique christening robe?

Childrens vintage clothing at The Red Velvet Shoe (7) 

A Black Watch Kinloch Anderson pure new wool beret~for a CHILD?  Tin Tin will be jealous.

Childrens vintage clothing at The Red Velvet Shoe (8) 

Childrens vintage clothing at The Red Velvet Shoe (3) 

A green velvet cropped blazer by Donna Capozzi will delight your little fashionista.

Childrens vintage clothing at The Red Velvet Shoe (6) 

A little lamb basinette music box that plays "Rock~A~Bye~Baby" would make a perfect baby shower gift. 
And this little ABC caddy would be perfect for stashing ribbons and bows.

"Children are like wet cement.  Whatever falls on them makes an impression."  Dr. Haim Ginott

So why not let some fabulous vintage clothing make an impression on your little people? 

xx ~ Michelle