Sparkling Vintage Fiction. Among other things.

Monthly Archives: February 2013

Vintage Style: How Come You’re All Dressed Up?

donna reed

Donna Reed

It happened again just the other day. I was in town running errands in a simple denim skirt, sweater, tights, and boots suitable for the Abominable Snowman (it’s February in Idaho, after all) when I ran into an acquaintance. After a few moments of chitchat, she asked me, “So how come you’re all dressed up?”

I glanced down. “Huh?”

I was anything but dressed up. Swap the denim skirt for denim jeans and my clothing wouldn’t have received any notice at all. I hadn’t even remembered to put on earrings. But because I was wearing a skirt, now matter how plain and workaday, I was assumed to be “dressed up”–a condition for which I apparently owe an explanation. In the general mind, “skirt” equals “dressed to the nines.” It was probably meant as a compliment, but it felt more like an accusation, like “Who are you trying to impress?”

The awkward incident got me to thinking about, of all people,  Donna Reed and Barbara Billingsley (the Beaver’s mom). We laugh now at reruns of these iconic 1950s TV housewives,doing the laundry and the vacuuming in their dresses and pearls and fresh-from-the-beauty-shop hairstyles. How uncomfortable! How impractical! How . . . well, silly!

Well, the joke is on me. Because it occurs to me that they may have been on to something.

As a work-at-home writer, I frequently fall into the trap of placing comfort over style, assuming that comfort is synonymous with stretched out, baggy, and faded. The trouble is, if I stick with this line of reasoning too long, I find that I personally start to feel stretched out, baggy and faded. It’s not a good feeling. Pajamas are supposed to signify rest and relaxation, not seizing the day and taking on the world. By dressing nicely (not ostentatiously, but nicely) for their daily tasks, those vintage housewives were showing respect for their families, their communities, and their work.

There’s a proclamation throughout the realm insisting that decent, neat clothes have to be uncomfortable. You’re either in bunny slippers or stiletto heels–no in-between. So this week I’ve been doing a little experiment. I’ve been “dressing up” on purpose, just to be a rebel.

Today’s choice is a simple black dress (yes, a dress! I can hear you gasping) sprigged with tiny flowers, with a plain black cardigan tossed over it for warmth, and black tights.  This dress is THE most comfortable thing ever–way more comfortable than jeans. I can do my housework. I can work at my computer.  I feel pretty. I feel ready for anything. And I bet dollars to doughnuts that if I head for town right now, I’m bound to see someone who will ask me what I’m all dressed up for.

Donna would be so proud.

Sunday Serenade: Oh, Happy Day

Recorded in the 1960s, “Oh, Happy Day” by the Edwin Hawkins Singers is not as old as most of my Sunday Serenade choices, but I needed an extra mood-boost this morning and figured this would do the trick. I was right!

Wikipedia tells me that this gospel classic was first written in the eighteenth century and revised in the nineteenth. It’s based on a story in Acts 8, where the apostle Philip encounters a man who has questions about what he’s reading in Scripture. Philip talks to the man for a while. “ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). The episode ends with Philip baptizing the man, and thus the older hymn was often sung at baptism services.

The Edwin Hawkins Singers began as a church youth choir in Northern California, founded by Edwin Hawkins and Betty Watson. Give it a listen and see if it doesn’t give your heart a lift today.

Enjoy a Sparkling Vintage Sunday!

Down to Business: You and Your Coworkers

work cartoon

“Naturally you will bid a pleasant “Good morning” to the people in your office when you come in. But don’t feel you must disturb anyone who is already at work and does not look up as you pass, merely to make him answer your greeting. Don’t chatter every time another employee is near you. One of the most important things to learn in an office is when talk is in order and when silence is golden. If you are in doubt, you had better try silence.

“In any event, keep away from office tittle-tattle–gossiping about salaries, the officers, and the blond girl upstairs. Make it a point of honor not to reveal confidential business matters to outsiders.

“Be friendly and obliging to all your associates, but don’t try to force friendships. Let these develop gradually, and you will avoid the risk of being snubbed. Don’t make the captivation of members of the other sex your chief occupation. When people show themselves overeager for attention, they appear to be too easily won to be worth winning.

“Probably the most unpopular workers in an organization are the officious ones. They meddle in other people’s affairs and importantly tell them how their jobs should be done, although oftentimes their advice is extremely poor. They may even snoop and carry tales. Yet they wonder why others avoid them.”

(from THIS WAY PLEASE by Eleanor Boykin, c. 1948)

Sunday Serenade: “What Wondrous Love is This”

(Youtube video courtesy of Susie Bella)

One of my absolute favorite hymns is “What Wondrous Love is This.” This version is sung by baritone Calvin Marsh. Mr. Marsh, who died in 2012 at age 91, was a former opera star. According to his obituary, in the 1950s and 1960s he “sang more than 900 performances of the Metropolitan Opera before forsaking the stage for a life in music.” There’s even a Calvin Marsh  Facebook page, if you want to learn more.

As for the song, “What Wondrous Love is This,” it  is a folk hymn pegged to  early 1800s Appalachia. I love its haunting melody and how it starts off asking a question (“What wondrous love is this?”) and ends with an answer (To God and to the Lamb I will sing.”)

Hope you’re enjoying this bit of nostalgia on a Sparkling Vintage Sunday!

For the Ladies: 21 Questions About Your Vintage Style

Vintage green velvet smoking jacket with satin collar

Vintage green velvet smoking jacket with satin collar

Cutest game ever! Jessica over at one of my favorite blogs, Chronically Vintage, posted her answers to these 21 questions. Apparently the tag was posted way back last summer by Stephanie of The Girl with the Star Spangled Heart . Stephanie posted a video, but, like Jessica, I’m more of a pen-and-paper type (or, more accurately, keyboard-and-pixel). Here goes!

  1. Who are your style icons?  The ladies of Downton Abbey
  2. What is your favorite way to get inspired?  Vintage magazines, old movies, costume dramas
  3. What’s your most-used hair tool? A simple flat hair brush.
  4. What’s your favorite hair tool? Barrettes large enough to hold my thick wavy hair. Runner-up is a headband.
  5. Updo, down, or half-and-half? Half-and-half, but I’d like to get skilled at  updos. I’ve never been very handy at styling my own hair.
  6. Is vintage something you do every day, on weekends, or for special occasions?  Once in a blue moon. I think about it a lot more than I do it.
  7. What’s your favorite blush & lipstick?  Blush: Don’t wear any. I’m naturally ruddy.   Lipstick: Neutrogena Revitalizing Lip Balm in Sunny Berry. 
  8. Dress, skirt, or pants? Heels or flats? Ideally, dress with heels. Practically, dress with flats. Pants in winter, but even then I prefer skirts and tights.
  9. Off the rack or homemade?  Off the rack. Would like to learn to sew, but there are only so many hours in the day.
  10. Do you swing dance?  Love it! But only with my dad; my husband’s not a dancer.
  11. Extreme vintage or subtle touches?  I’d love to go all out on occasion, but mostly stick to subtle . . . a string of pearls here, a cameo there.
  12. Favorite perfume? For day: Chantilly. For evening: L’Heure Bleue by Guerlain.
  13. Favorite skincare product? Eucerin Redness Relief for my rosacea.
  14. What does your family think of your style?  My husband likes it.
  15. Favorite accessory?  Pearl necklace. Maybe a little boring to some, but my favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla, so there you have it.
  16. Do you find the vintage community welcoming or snobby?  Warm and welcoming.
  17. What drew you to vintage style? Dismay at most modern clothes, even as I wear them to “fit in.”  An appreciation for grace, elegance, and just plain prettiness not easy to find in most contemporary styles.
  18. Favorite places to shop vintage?  Very limited choices in my rural community. A few thrift shops, but mostly online.
  19. What vintage eras are your favorite?  Early 20th century, Edwardian through WWII. 
  20. Most glamorous film stars? Grace Kelly, Gene Tierney, Vivien Leigh
  21. Favorite vintage object that you own? A green velvet jacket with a satin collar, pictured above. The label says “Esders & Dyckhoff Berlin.” I think it was originally a man’s smoking jacket, as (from what I can tell in my research) Esders & Dyckhoff was a men’s clothing company, but I can’t imagine any man I know wearing it. I seldom put it on except maybe at Christmastime. Not very many places to wear such a thing in my rural community.

What’s your personal take on vintage style? Pass it on!

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