7 posts categorized "Wardrobe Staples"

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

Winter In New England Wardrobe Staple

New England dress code

Today was an absolute "Wellie-Weather" day here in Massachusetts.  If you're a New Englander, you probably have a pair sitting at the back door, if not at every door of your home.  We have wellies with whales, wellies with autumn leaves, navy blue wellies with super warm snow boot-like lining, and my new favorites:  Tommy Hilfiger Women's Viktoria Wellie Boots.   

But I'm letting you in on a little secret (part of why you still read this blog, I hope):  I paid $19.99 for them at Burlington Coat Factory earlier this week...I know it's crappy out, but if that's not going to get you to get out of the house this afternoon then I don't know what will. 

Tommy Hilfiger loves the New England look

xx ~ Michelle

Nothing Like a Man in an Ascot

Vintage paisley ascot cravat (3)

Four lovely vintage paisley ascots/cravats are on their way into my Etsy Shop.  From left to right:

For the Captain Wentworth in your life...

Captain Frederick Wentworth Persuasion Jane Austen white ascot cravat

xx ~ Michelle


Brahmin ad 
Yet another advert torn from some magazine quite some time ago.   I'm not sure what I love most in this photo; the scarf, the leather gloves, the wide belt, the pooch, and let's not overlook that amazing bag.  It's all perfect. 

 Brahmin would be the perfect place to find this wardrobe staple. . . and did I mention they have factory outlet stores?

"At Brahmin we have a long standing dedication to manufacturing in the
United States. We are a rarity in our field keeping as much
production as possible at our state-of-the-art manufacturing
facilities at our headquarters in Massachusetts. We are proud to be
an American brand and continue to keep as much of our production as
possible here in the USA."
(Courtesy of Brahmin.com)

 What's better than that?

xx ~ Michelle




My new spring shoe purchase (see yesterday's post ) has brought to mind a vintage shoe staple I am determined to add to my wardrobe this spring. 
The classic  Spectator Shoe.  
Preferably in navy & white . . .

(photo courtesy of
Fashion Preserve )


While the original spectator style was pretty basic, today's modern designers have put quite a spin on them:


I found this lovely pair over at The Preppy Princess but no further information was to be found . . .

This delightful pair is already in the closet of some gal with fabulous taste . . . from Dear Golden Vintage .

This jazzy pair is from designer D&G  ~~ The Lucy T Strap for a mere $499.00 . . .



A lovely offering from the tasteful Marc Jacobs, coming in at $470.00 . . .


The epitome of the perfect summer high heel, in my humble opinion . . . while open toe is generally frowned upon, this manages to be elegant & refined ~~ perfect pedicure required . . .   the Nami Air OT Pump on Canvas/Anthracite by NIKE AIR (???!!!)   $295.00 isn't bad if they offer the comfort of a running shoe . . .

From Shoes and Your Mom. . .Salvatore Ferragamos  in the classic style . . . worn once . . . $300.00

40's Vintage Navy and White Wing Tip T-Straps 7N
While the modern offerings are intriguing, this beautiful 1940s Johansen vintage pair has won my heart ~~ but not my foot ~~ they're too small.  Available at Max & Chloe Vintage 
for a mere $32.00!!! 

Romeo, where art thou?

(photo courtesy of A Suitable Wardrobe)


And yes, we love to see the gentlemen sport them . . .
" 'Cause every girls crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man . . ."


xx ~ Michelle