23 posts categorized "Magazines"

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

Paul Stuart ~ Houndstooth, Herringbone, Tweed & Twill & A Giveaway (Victoria Magazine November 1996)

1 Victoria Magazine November 1996 featuring Ralph Lauren fabrics (570x800) 


Velvet riding jacket, Han Feng; Blue & White Striped Shirt, Cego; Cuff Links, Paul Stuart ; Silk slacks, Nicole Farhi; Brown Hat, Lola Millinery ; Velvet lace-up boots, Emporio Armani.


2 Victoria Magazine November 1996 featuring Ralph Lauren fabrics 


Tea time at The Lord Thompson Manor, Thompson, CT.


3 Victoria Magazine November 1996 featuring Ralph Lauren fabrics (570x800) 


All furniture, Marie Albert; desk-chair fabric, Schumacher.


4 Victoria Magazine November 1996 featuring Ralph Lauren fabrics (556x800) 


Jacket & Yellow Ascot, Paul Stuart; Ivory Blouse with french cuffs, Romeo Gigli ; Pants, Ralph Lauren; Velvet Shoes, Emporio Armani ;  throw, Pendleton.


5 Victoria Magazine November 1996 featuring Ralph Lauren fabrics (570x800) 


Jacket (which I am coveting), Escada Sport; Skirt (also love), Rodney Vaughn Telford; Hat, Brenda Lynn, Suede lace-up boots, Ralph Lauren; Shirt, Flatiron Workshop


6 Victoria Magazine November 1996 featuring Ralph Lauren fabrics (557x800) 


Edwardian Sofa; Vintage plaid pillow, English Country Antiques


7 Victoria Magazine November 1996 featuring Ralph Lauren fabrics (563x800) 


Desk as sideboard & Ottoman, Marie Albert; "Medeival Red" Velvet Paisley Fabric, Ralph Lauren; Camel Shawl, Ballantyne Cashmere


8 Victoria Magazine November 1996 featuring Ralph Lauren fabrics (566x800)


Coat & bias-cut velvet skirt, Zuzka for Fabricology; Antique Bakelite pin, Rin Tin Pin; Velvet Shoes, Donald J. Pliner; Porcelain Cup & Saucer, "Vulcain" by Bernardaud; "Antique Velvet" on chaise longue, Schumacher;  "Herringbone" crystal stemware, Ralph Lauren


9 Victoria Magazine November 1996 featuring Ralph Lauren fabrics (568x800) 


Blue shirt, Cego; Pocket Square & Suspenders, Paul Stuart; c1880 Toiletry Set, The Mill at West Hampton


10 Victoria Magazine November 1996 featuring Ralph Lauren fabrics (573x800) 


Striped shirts in armoire, Flatiron Workshop ; Houndstooth Leather Bag (want!), Ghurka; Shoes (from left): Donald J. Pliner, Emporio Armani, Cole-Haan ; Leather Bag, Coach ; Blankets, Donegal Tweed, Faribault & Pendleton.  All furniture, Marie Albert


11 Victoria Magazine November 1996 featuring Ralph Lauren fabrics (563x800)


Irish plaid lamb's wool scarves, Foxford ; Paisley silk scarf, olive green hat & wool plaid bag, Paul Stuart.


12 Victoria Magazine November 1996 featuring Ralph Lauren fabrics (575x800) 

Brown stripe shirt, Cego ; Red Ascot, walking sticks,striped umbrella & tortoise cuff links, Paul Stuart ; Double breasted jacket & pants, Ralph Lauren ; Vest, Pendleton ; Shoes, Cole Haan ; Ankle Length Coat, Rodney Vaughn Telford; Driving Gloves, Joseph Abboud.


I've written about my adored collection of (almost vintage) Victoria Magazines a few times over the years here at "Tales".  For all the times I've looked through them, I never tire of them.  (If only people were that way...)  I just brought out my stack of November issues, ranging from 1990-2002, and found that I have some duplicates, November 1996 being one of them.  

It's a gorgeous issue featuring articles such as "A Colette Pilgrim's Progress" by Judith Thurman for all my fellow Francophiles, an article on "Creating A Timeless Toy" featuring English toymaker Tom Cobley, "Come Gather At Our Table" just in time for Thanksgiving, and, my favorite, painstakingly scanned & researched in the above photo collection: "Fabrics We Love for Home & Fashion ~~ Houndstooth, Herringbone, Tweed & Twill".  It features some lovely treasures, many from Paul Stuart, who, "since 1938, has been the leading arbiter of taste, style, and fashion for luxury menswear in the United States".

All photos featured here by Toshi Otsuki. Taken on location at The Lord Thompson Manor in Thompson, CT (my childhood stomping grounds).


~~ If you'd like a chance to win a copy of this issue of
Victoria Magazine, 
please leave a comment on this blog post.  
The winner will be announced on
Monday, 18 November ~~




xx ~ Michelle

Autumnal Equinox 2012 Give Away

We are less than ten days away from one of my favorite days of the year:  the first day of fall, or the Autumnal Equinox to be more precise.  The fall and spring equinoxes are the only days of the year in which the Sun
crosses the celestial equator.  While I love the beautiful re-birth of the earth in the spring, my heart belongs to the fall...

Emily Bronte quote in Victoria sept 1990_0009

Victoria sept 1990_0005

Irish Tweeds Victoria sept 1990_0007

Victoria sept 1990_0008

Victoria magazine September 1990 cover

To celebrate what I already know will be one of my favorite fall seasons in a very long time, I've decided to host a Give~Away:  You are cordially invited to enter to win a copy of the September 1990 issue of Victoria Magazine, from which the above photos were taken.  If you are/were a fan of the magazine, this issue will not disappoint.  A winner will be chosen & announced on the first day of fall, 22 September 2012.  
Simply leave a comment here or on our Facebook page if you'd like to have it!

xx ~ Michelle

In The Press: US Vogue

July 2011 US Vogue Cover 

Talking Back US Vogue July 2011 Charles James 

An article in April in the Nostalgia column of US Vogue prompted a letter from yours truly.  I had just discovered Charles James, thanks to that fabulous gray dress Angelina Jolie wore in "The Tourist" and was thrilled to see the article was about a woman who knew him well and her memories of their time together...you can read what I thought of it in the July issue of US Vogue, Talking Back, page 38. 

(You can read my letter in it's entirety here. )





xx ~ Michelle

Kimono Craze

I've had a bit of a "Kimono" thing going on lately.  It started when I found a great polished cotton cherry red one while out thrifting one day and decided it would be the perfect thing to wear when I am "beautifying"~~you know: masking, waxing, coloring, & painting myself in an effort to fend off the damages of time.  Considering it cost less than a Stella at my favorite watering hole, I can justify the chance of "ruining" it~~and it looks much more elegant than an oversized t~shirt & boxers.

Vintage black Haori Kimono Jacket  (2) Vintage black Haori Kimono Jacket

A few weeks later, I scored this amazing vintage Haori and I was hooked.  You can, literally, wear it with just about anything from lingerie to jeans and it looks amazing.  I was in love.

Dries Van Noten Spring 2011 kimono top 
When I saw this image from Dries Van Noten's Spring 2011 collection it caught my eye...not quite Haori or Kimono, but there was just something about it...

Vintage Pomare Hawaii Bold Floral Kimono Top Vintage Pomare Hawaii Bold Floral Kimono Top (6)

Then in March, I came across this little beauty: a vintage Pomare Hawaii Kimono style top with a keyhole neck & frog closure and just like the little piggy I carried it all the way home...because it reminded me of something I had seen but just could not seem to recall what or where...

Dries Van Noten Spring 2011 kimono top (2) 

Until I was flipping through my March issue of US Vogue and there it was:  an ad for the very same Dries Van Noten top!  

The Hovey Sisters Kimono perfection! 
(photo source: Hollister Hovey)

To wrap it up, today I visited one of my favorite blogs of all time: Hollister Hovey.  And there she was, with her sister Porter, showing us exactly how to wear a Kimono perfectly

Vintage Pomare Hawaii Bold Floral Kimono Top (3) 

This one is for the shop and will have to feed your Kimono craze and not mine as we were not made for each other.










xx ~ Michelle