No, this stunning vintage yellow nylon nightgown isn’t an actual prop, but it does have ties to more than pom-pons — it has ties to television.
This vintage nightgown or peignoir wasn’t worn or, to my knowledge, used on the set of TV’s Bewitched, but one just like it was!
In fact, Lucie Ann lingerie designs weren’t only used on Bewitched (or, for that matter, Green Acres among others), but one episode of Bewitched not only this pretty pom-pon lingerie style but the Lucie Ann Salon was actually shown too!
I remember being so smitten with the lingerie shown on these classic television shows, that I couldn’t wait to grow up and wear such things… It seemed the ultimate mark of being a grown-up woman. Little did I know, that by the time I would be mature enough for such floaty pieces, they would be out of fashion. *sigh* Thankfully, we can hunt for, collect, and wear vintage lingerie.
At an estate sale I recently was lucky enough to get this little, unassuming, antique book… Plain brown boards, penciled notes and a math problem… A slim 6 and one-half inches 3 and one-half by inches.
It may not seem appealing to you — and that, likely, is how I managed to procure it. But hubby and I always look for old books; no matter how bland and boring their outsides are, the insides can be fabulous. And this is one of those fabulous ones. Inside, on the fragile old pages, are little Victorian hair braids — Victorian mourning pieces!
There are only a few of them, each carefully glued in place, the fading script documenting the details. But holding the book in your hands is a magical sort of a moment. I find it as close to sacred as any experience I’ve had.
Some people find this creepy. Or just plain wrong. But Victorians didn’t pretend death wasn’t a part of life, yet they also took their mourning seriously. They had more than the short and simple funeral services we have today; they had many more rules of etiquette. And they had more rituals, most of which I think would be more comforting and that I find beautiful. Including mourning hair art.
Because hair is symbolic and it lasts forever, Victorians would save hair from the deceased loved one and make mementos they could keep forever. According to Godey’s Lady’s Book (circa 1950):
Hair is at once the most delicate and last of our materials and survives us like love. It is so light, so gentle, so escaping from the idea of death, that, with a lock of hair belonging to a child or friend we may almost look up to heaven and compare notes with angelic nature, may almost say, I have a piece of thee here, not unworthy of thy being now.
Sometimes it was jewelry they could wear. Other times it was incredible sculptures, like the one seen on Oddities. And sometimes the hair was simply and eloquently braided and placed in a memorial book like this.
Notice how the neat old script includes the name, age, and either the death or birth date of the lost person below their braid of hair.
In the above photo you’ll see the wispy curl of hair that has not been braided so much as decorated around… It is the only piece of hair not braided and glued in place, but rather it’s affixed to a small swatch of fabric and golden “stickers” surround it. The roughly inch long piece of hair was not long enough to braid… It belonged to a three month old baby.
[Everyone say, “Awwww…”]
I’ve not yet decided how long I’ll keep this beautiful memorial book…
Part of me wants to keep it forever. But I also know I risk becoming obsessed with finding more, of building another collection… And this is a pricey category of collecting.
As a proud feminist, the suffrage movement is near and dear to my heart; as a girlie lover of glam, jewelry with stones, especially sparkly stones, appeals to me. So naturally I am drawn to suffrage jewelry. However, all that glitters in antique suffragette jewelry isn’t gold — or as bought and sold.
There’s a common misperception or two about women’s suffrage items, in terms of color and purpose — which are entwined and lend themselves to myths and ill-informed purchases of these antique collectible items.
While many folks, including uneducated sellers of such proclaimed items, believe and insist that the official colors of the suffrage movement were green, white, and purple (or violet), it simply isn’t true.
It was, in fact, very popular for the jewelry of the time (Edwardian) to be adorned with amethysts, pearls, and demantoid garnets or emeralds — which easily accounts for the colors. And as cute as the symbolism that these colors (green, white and violet) stood for (G)ive (W)omen the (V)ote is, there was no global suffrage color. This is in large part due to the many suffrage organizations in both England and America; there was never one official suffrage organization—there were many. And no agreed upon color scheme.
One of the myths is that jewelry and other items served as a “secret color code” among women to identify themselves as members or indicate support of the movement — while being afraid to reveal their sympathies to their husbands, sons, and society as a whole.
This might be a romantic notion to some… But not only is more romantic and impressive for me to recall these women taking the insults, slights, rebuffs and attacks which a suffragette had to endure head-on, it is historically inaccurate — and insulting all over again!
Can you imagine leaders like Katharine Houghton Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn’s mother and president of the Connecticut Women Suffrage Association, even suggesting such a mousy attitude as wearing colors in secret?!
No. The opposite was true: The women who supported the suffrage movement were insistent, loud & proud.
If you don’t believe me, perhaps you will believe the words of Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence, treasurer and co-editor of the weekly newspaper Votes for Women. In the spring 1908 issue of that paper, she explained the symbolism of the colors used by the most prominent suffrage group in England, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) — but before you read it, repeat after me: These are the colors & reasoning of one such group!
Purple as everyone knows is the royal colour. It stands for the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette, the instinct of freedom and dignity…white stands for purity in private and public life…green is the colour of hope and the emblem of spring.
The colours enable us to make that appeal to the eye which is so irresistible. The result of our processions is that this movement becomes identified in the mind of the onlooker with colour, gay sound, movement, and beauty.
Again, in this particular case, purple (or violet), white and green were the colors for this group; as you read and learn about the suffrage movement and it’s memorabilia, such as photos, penants, publications etc, it becomes clear that many colors were used. What’s important here to note is that there was no secrecy.
Moreover, there is evidence (Anaconda Standard, Montana, May 3, 1914) that in the US, yellow was a favorite color used by a national women’s suffrage group. There’s obvious evidence of that color as well.
Also, when it comes to jewelry, there’s plenty of evidence that the average “radical” suffragette did not buy jewelry for her cause, but rather sold it for her cause. Evidence from The Washington Post, August 2, 1914:
In Iowa’s Bode Bugle, January, 28, 1916, this tidbit bragging about prosperity in the US also provides a clear picture of the economic times in terms of consumerism:
While her sisters in London, Paris, Berlin and Petrograd are discarding their jewels, giving the gold to the common treasury and selling the gems to swell relief funds and keep the wolf from the door, the New York lady is daily acquiring an increased penchant for the finest jewelry that the world produces.
While I’ve no doubt there were some wealthy women, New York or no, who both supported suffrage and bought jewels, I’m certain the average suffragette was more concerned with melting, selling, jewelry etc. than consumerist “lady” acts.
In any case, between the radical acts of melting jewelry to support the cause, the devastating effects of The Great Depression, and just plain old time itself moving on (loss, less appreciation, the stories lost as the pieces were handed down, etc.), finding suffrage jewelry is even more difficult than finding any piece of antique jewelry.
Jewelry in this purple, white & green color scheme is gorgeous, and if authentic antique pieces, even more so desirable, at least to me; but the color alone does not mean it is a suffragette collectible piece.
If you are interested in buying or collecting such jewelry for reasons other than its own beauty, please research suffrage jewelry. It is better to be safe than sorry!
Even if the information seems to scare you off on a purchase, or make you doubt the ability to find authentic suffrage jewelry, take heart! It also means that while others are scrambling & bidding up fakes or those items in purple, white & green only, you may have better luck on suffrage jewelry & memorabilia of the political movement in other colors.
As a (small) dealer at Antiques On Broadway, I have the opportunity to see items as they come in or are waiting to be priced; that’s how I came to discover these funky vintage political pinback buttons.
(I apologize for the poor quality of the photos; I snapped them quickly with my cell.)
The first vintage pin caught my eye with its simple line drawing of a presumably Republican elephant on a brown background.
I gather the “Trunks up!” phrase is some sort of rally cry.
Elephants with the trunks turned up are supposed to be good luck, as opposed to elephants with the trunks pointing down; many collectors of elephants (figurines, etc.; not the actual animals!) will only collect them with the trunks up. However, I’ve met other collectors who dare to do the opposite. And many collectors who don’t care one way or another.
The second vintage pinback button was far less iconic in its simplicity — but far more intriguing…
A white flower shape on a blue background with “Organized Housewives For Forsythe” printed in the same shade of blue. It begged me to do a little research. (Oh how I love such invitations!)
While I did learn a lot more about political women’s organizations and housewives and social issues in general, the Organized Housewives For Forsythe was a needle in a rich historical haystack.
The only concrete thing I could find was this political advertisement, published in the Austin Daily Herald on November 1, 1966:
In 1966 Walter Mondale would defeat Republican candidate Robert A. Forsythe and retain his Minnesota Senate seat — but it wasn’t with the help of the Organized Housewives.
If you know more about this group, or these pinbacks, please share by leaving a comment.
More things for collectors to learn from that 1940’s Hint Hunt booklet — this time the tips could explain some condition issues you find with vintage vanity collectibles. These vintage beauty and cosmetic tips explain why you might just spot pinholes in powder boxes and find beads in perfume bottles.
For me, such pin pricks and beads are the tangible evidence of the intimacy of these old items… Clues to the connections between decades, even centuries, of women who desire both beauty and practicality.
Often when a new collector finds unworn lingerie in a box clearly not its original, they shy away from the purchase, concerned the lingerie is not authentic vintage. While there are unscrupulous sellers, finding panties in a slip box is not uncommon; on the contrary, it is quite common.
Those who collect vintage lingerie — and who do so not only bidding at online auctions, but by attending estate sales — know that ladies used to store their delicates in boxes. Lingerie boxes, pretty satin and other fabric covered boxes to fit inside drawers or be displayed on top of dressers and vanities as well as cardboard boxes from maker or retailer (as well as lingerie bags), were used to spare delicate garments from potential snags from wooden drawers and their metal hardware. But more than this, the original cardboard boxes the lingerie itself came in were used for storage.
Ladies didn’t put all their lingerie pieces in one place and paw through it for their daily selection; several pieces, enough for a week or so, would be in the rotation, with the rest waiting their tour of duty. New purchases and gifts of lingerie would be kept in their original sales box, or placed in one of the emptied and saved boxes, and then taken to closets, where they’d sit on the shelves, waiting their turn to be unpackaged and sent to the lingerie boxes and drawers.
Since boxes from previous lingerie purchases and gifts would be saved to store future under garments, panties would be placed in slip boxes, bras would be found in girdle boxes, etc., and even girdles found in girdle boxes may not be the same brand, size, etc..
Stocking boxes are the most commonly found of the vintage lingerie boxes. This is due in part to the fact that stockings continued to be sold in boxes (usually as sets of multiple pairs) far longer than other forms of lingerie; slips, nightgowns, and foundation garments were displayed on hangers in stores, and packaged at the retail wrap desk in paper and ribbons at the time of purchase.
While stockings can often be found still in their original boxes, they may not be in unworn condition. Once one stocking was too worn to be of good service, that stocking would be removed from the stocking rotation (either tossed out, put in the old scraps bag for crafts, or otherwise recycled) — but its still-serviceable mate would continue on. It might be removed temporarily from circulation, placed into a box and put back into the closet again, but a satisfactory used mate would arrive soon enough as ladies often purchased stockings in multiple pairs of the same maker, shade, and size.
Perhaps the most delightful part of all this, is the plethora of pretty vintage and even antique lingerie boxes left for collectors.
Like any other are of collecting, vintage lingerie boxes are collected for nearly as many reasons as there are collectors.
Some collect for the pretty illustrations and stunning graphics; others for the historical preservation of a particular brands logos and marketing over time. There are the cross-collectible cases of advertising collectors, pinup collectors, collectors of individual artists, etc. And I know one collector who just collects blondes — a vintage blonde printed on an old lingerie box will sit pretty with her collection of blonde figurines, dolls, postcards, etc.
Sometimes the boxes are deceptive… Plain outsides often hide their goodies inside, like this beautiful antique bloomer box.
Sometimes the insides of plain boxes are just as plain as the outsides, but you never know just what you might find inside… Lingerie, lovely vintage tissue paper, old store tags &/or receipts, love letters — who knows? Always inspect the insides of the boxes — and the folds of any lingerie contents — for such goodies.
However, there are times the box itself is far more amusing than what you find inside. *wink*
The saddest thing about collecting vintage lingerie and boxes, though, is to find the most beautiful lingerie that was set aside and never worn…
It’s difficult not to imagine that like too many women today, yesteryear’s woman set such lovely pieces aside for a “some day” that never came — or worse, she just didn’t think she was worthy of such fragile, delicate beauty.
…Then again, maybe she just intended to re-gift?
In any case, such finds are a collector’s dream. But it’s also a reminder that we can’t take it with us, so we should enjoy what we have today.
Or, at the very least, save it for someone who will — no matter how many decades later they find it.
Where else can you find the best tips about caring for your vintage fashions and foundation garments then from vintage women’s publications? Then, as now, magazines shared tips for female readers interested in stretching their fashion dollars by not stretching their garments out of shape.
Inside a 1941 issue of Modern Woman Magazine, tips on how to launder your girdles:
And in another issue of that magazine, circa 19445, tips on caring for foundation garments for New Look fashions to preserve the their fit:
Christmas time always brings up toys. Now that I’m a parent, I try to remind myself that finding the perfect toy ought not to be the pressure point I make it out to be…
Some of my favorite and most memorable toys were not ones I asked for. Even if my grandma would sit us down with the Sears Christmas Wish Book and have us play “pick,” by going through it page by page and picking one item we wanted from each page, she didn’t really shop off our list of picks. Instead my cousin Lisa, my sister, and myself each got the same thing — and for many years, this was the latest big ticket item in Barbie’s world. (It wasn’t until I was 16 or so that grandma deviated from this plan, or gave me any one of my picks — a manicure kit signaled the end of childhood.)
So each Christmas Eve, gathered with extended family, we three girls would open our gifts at the same time, simultaneously revealing the Barbie airplane, house, camper, etc. It made for fun with all three of us playing together — after our dads did the some-assembly-required parts. (My poor dad had to put together two of the darn things, while my Uncle Mike only had to do one before he returned to his holiday beer; the year we got Townhouses, the assembly was so intense, that I do believe all boxes remained sealed, were carried home to sit beneath the Christmas tree, and then went directly to reside in attics & basements.)
Not only were the campers most mobile and self-contained, but they had cool features. Features we put to use whenever the neighbor’s cat had a litter of kittens. And as a non-spayed, part-time outdoor cat, she had a litter every spring, giving us plenty of early summers to put tiny kittens into the campers and play with them rather than Babs and friends.
Once those kittens could eat crunchy kitten food, we’d filled the tiny camper sink with kitten chow, stick a lucky kitten or two in the camper, close the door, and extend the table off the back end, achieving a perfect view of kittens chowing down on the chow in the sink.
We watched them eat until they did as kittens do, and fell asleep, nose first in the chow-filled sink. Such sudden and sound sleep made us giggle — and it assured us that we could then drive the kitten-filled camper up and down the block.
When the kitties woke up and had the kitten zoomies, as kittens are want to do, we’d stop the camper and open the kit-tent (yes, we know it’s technically called a pup tent, but we couldn’t find any puppies small enough…) and watch the kittens crawl out of the orange plastic and down the vinyl ramp.
Sometimes momma cat followed the camper full of kittens; sometimes she just watched us return for another one or two of her babies, whereupon we’d start the process all over again.
Vintage stockings, original non-stretching nylon stockings, are sold by two measurements: foot size and leg length. But what if the stocking’s size markings, usually printed on the stocking welt (the top, where you attach the garters), aren’t legible or missing entirely? Well then you are going to have to measure the stockings themselves to determine their size.
Before we begin, please note the following:
In this case, “vintage stockings” refers to non-stretch nylon stockings which were made mainly from the 1940s through the 1960s, when Lycra and other stretch hosiery entered the market. Though 100% nylon stockings continued to be made, and its form of sizing continued to be used by some brands, the stretch hose limited the range of sizing to today’s more familiar ‘Small’, ‘Medium’, ‘Tall’ and ‘Queen’ — and the related A, B, C or D. (The extra give in these stretchier stockings and pantyhose literally allowed manufacturers to ‘lump’ women into fewer sizes, reducing cost and, we vintage fans feel, decreasing a more specific fit.)
Then, as today, there are variations in sizing by stocking brand — and sometimes within the same brand. The top brand names tend to be more consistent in their sizing (Hanes & Berkshire, for example, tend to be incredibly consistent), but even specific brand consistency may vary greatly from the sizing of other brands (stockings by Alberts, including the sub-brand of Araline, for example, measure an extra half inch in the foot and an extra inch longer in length too).
Since worn stockings will be a little larger (even freshly laundered ones), than unworn stockings, these sizing measurements work for unworn vintage stockings.
However generalized these sizing measurement tips are, you can get a pretty good idea of fit — especially if you compare the measurements to the measurements of your favorite fitting pair of worn vintage stockings!
How To Find The Size Of Vintage Stockings
In order to best measure the stocking, I recommend beginning by securing a tape measure to a table top, taping it down just like at the counters in fabric departments, so that you have both hands free to handle the stocking.
If you don’t have a measuring tape, get one; they’re cheap and you’ll use them over and over again. (I suggest you carry a tape measure with you when you visit estate sales, thrift stores, flea markets, etc. too — you can always ask for a literal hand with measuring!) Or, you can tape paper the length of the table, mark off your dimensions, and measure them later.
Once you have the measuring tape securely in place, you’re ready to get your measures. Since true stocking size is always determined by the foot measurement, we’ll begin there.
The industry standard for measuring the foot of a stocking is to measure from the tip of the toe to mid heel, however, most people are more comfortable defining the end of the heel rather than making a guesstimate of the middle of the heel, so I’ll be discussing measurements from the tip of the toe to the end of the heel. That said, that’s what you do.
Place the tip of the stocking toe at the top of your measuring tape and, holding it firmly in place, extend the stocking foot taut along the length of the tape measure. As you extend the stocking’s foot, keep it pulled taut — not stretched; apply just enough tension to remove the folds and wrinkles in the nylon. Measure the distance between the tip of the stocking’s toe to the end of the heel (the darker, reinforced area).
Just as with shoe sizes, a measurement of 10 inches does not equal a size 10 stocking — well, not quite, anyway. If your measurement was taken from the tip of the toe to mid-heel, then the number of inches does indeed give you the stocking’s foot size. (So if you’re comfortable with assessing the middle of a stocking’s heel, go for it!) But if you’ve measured the stocking from the tip of the toe to the end of the heel it’s still easy to get the size: subtract either ½ or ¾ an inch to obtain the true stocking size.
Which one? If your stocking is smaller, measures 9 ½ inches or less, subtract half an inch; if your stocking is larger, measures 10 inches or more, subtract ¾ inches. (Larger stockings have a larger heel reinforcement.)
To get stocking length, measure from the bottom of the heel to the top of the welt, using the tips above. The measurement you get is the size; no math necessary.
Many people think of aprons as charming relics from our past, or as evidence of enforced domesticity; but the truth is, aprons have a practical role in modern lives too.
Grandma always said you should be proud of your work around the house; you should be proud to take care of your home and family, and dress to show that pride. While grandma was a lady who liked to dress up, she wasn’t the June Cleaver type who wore pearls while scrubbing out the oven or baking cookies (even at holiday time). But she still believed in being properly & attractively dressed for housework.
Sure, they can be absolutely adorable and therefore bring a smile to your face, but they are incredibly practical. Even the frilly aprons, traditionally called hostess aprons were practical; worn for show, they still offered a place for the hostess to wipe her hands while serving guests. Heck, making aprons even had the advantages of teaching and improving sewing skills. But aprons are more than practical and/or fun.
As my grandmother taught me, aprons are worn with pride to show pride. You should care enough about your clothes to want to protect them, yes; but you should also care enough about yourself to feel good, clean & pretty in a good, clean & pretty apron.
So change your apron often, wash it often, and once it’s served it’s usefulness — including as an attractive garment — stop wearing it.
As for vintage aprons, feel free to wear them — but treat them well. Many vintage handmade aprons are like works of art (at least for those who wouldn’t know how to even sew the pocket on). Avoid washing them in wash machines, or, if you must, at least on the gentle cycle; and let them hang to air dry.
While my grandma taught me a lot about aprons and the values they held, I don’t own any of her aprons… When I buy and hold vintage aprons, I like feeling that connection to my grandma and all the other women who worked to make the aprons, make the meals, make the memories — collecting them makes me feel tied to all their apron strings.
Unpacking delicate vintage glass ornaments, untangling glowing orbs of flickering light, placing winter village scenes just so, divided camps of garland vs tinsel, and don’t forget the tradition of tree topper placement. Some believe less is more (those weird freaks!), and others (like me!) believe holiday is the time of year to go all out. But no matter what our design style, we all deck those halls.
We decorate our homes in the right fashion & in the established order as dictated to us by tradition.
And by “tradition” I mean the stuff that mothers and wives say.
We women get away with all of this for many reasons. After all, it’s usually the women who rule the roost, so it’s we who decorate the roost. We choose between real & artificial trees. We direct the placement of the tree – based on the ability of it to be best seen by those inside & outside of the home, with a dose of practicality to household traffic pattern. We tend to be the ones with the largest collection of ornaments, ceramic villages, and other family historical objects & know the importance & lore of each object as well.
Women tend to be the keepers of family history. The story keepers. We remember whose ornament is whose, the when & why, and we need to balance the old memories of our ancestors with the newer stories of our own families. Not only do we remember the stories, but we also, and this is perhaps the most important part of it all, we share those stories.
And in order to share those stories, we know that there must be proper placement. For how else can we bring up the funny stories of ice skating gone bad, if the winter pond scene isn’t displayed? How can we discuss the history of Uncle Marvin’s elf collection, if the elves are not displayed properly? Without seeing great grandma’s tree skirt, no one can mention how lovely it is, and then we might forget to tell the story of her first Christmas in America.
The physical placement of objects & ornaments is directly tied to our oral traditions.
So it seems only natural that at the holidays, a time of family & tradition, that women give all the dictation on the decoration. This goes here, that goes there, use the angel – not the star, just a little more to the left please. More lights, less lights, all white lights.
If you don’t want the oral tradition to include the tale of the year there was no presentation of Marvin’s elves (a story to be repeated each & every year), you’ll just carry & tote, move & remove, then, yes, then get out of the way & let her do her holiday thing.
Now please bring down those other 8 boxes marked ‘Holiday’ from the attic, honey – we must begin to set up the Winter Wonderland on the console table behind the couch (which will now have to be moved to better appreciate the view of the tree). Everything must be just so.
And some folks already began in October, so we are late.