A Sparkling Vintage Life

Monthly Archives: April 2014

The 1950s: What’s to Love?

thingsmoneycantbuy-851x1024-e1307460476653-300x203I stumbled across this older post by Dr. Julie-Ann at Modern Retro Woman titled “Seven Reasons I Love Being a 1950s Style Woman” that so gracefully expresses what I feel about vintage living that I want you to head over there right now and read it.

My favorite reason is #5: The “We Can Do Anything” Optimism. I also like #3 on the difference between being “feminine” and “girly.” I get called “girly” a lot, although in middle age, I’m clearly not.

And for those who might be inclined to pounce on all that was terrible about the 1950s, Dr. Julie-Ann followed up with a post about “Seven Reasons I’m Glad I’m NOT a 1950s Woman.”

Have a happy, sparkling Sunday!

Fashionable Friday: Vintage-style shoes

tie shoeIf you like vintage-style shoes (Renaissance, 18th century/Regency, Victorian/Edwardian, and 1920s), American Duchess is the last gasp.

From their website:

“American Duchess is a small, historical, reproduction footwear company based in Reno, Nevada, USA. It was born from an inability to find elegant, affordable, comfortable and historically accurate footwear. Partnering with a community of hundreds of frustrated costumers around the world, we now manufacture a growing line of beautifully hand crafted 18th Century, Regency and Edwardian shoes as well as reproduction shoe buckles and silk stockings.”

I haven’t pulled out my credit card yet, but believe me, the next time I’m in the market for vintage-style shoes, I’ll know where to go!

Retro Recipe Wednesday: Orange Soup

sunkist adThis odd-sounding recipe caught my eye in a 1929 copy of Modern Homemaking. As I read it over, it began sounding kind of nice–maybe as a dessert on a warm day, if we ever again experience warm days (she said in discouragement, gazing out the window at the chilly April rain). It’s certainly a simple enough dish to assemble.

The story accompanying the recipe says:

“Not many years ago the orange was rare enough to be a special treat–often used only in the toe of the Christmas stocking. Rapid transportation and modern methods of commercial refrigeration have transformed it from an occasional treat to a year-round daily food. Aside from the flavor and fragrance of the orange, which act favorably upon the appetite, it cleanses the body from clogging accumulation, provides vitamines (sic), natural fruit-sugars that are readily assimilated, vim-giving salts and in combination with the digestive juices–oranges make an alkaline reaction neutralizing acids formed by foods such as meat, fish, eggs, bread, and cereals.”

Sounds yummy, eh? The article continues:

“As a breakfast-fruit, whether eaten from the shell, sliced or served in the form of juice, the orange rates at the top. In both raw and cooked dishes, from soup through to desserts, the orange is a welcome ingredient. There is roast goose made tender and tasty with frequent bastings of orange juice. Oranges are used with vegetables–thin slices of sweet onion or crisp slices of cucumber nad slices of orange are good together for salad. So is cut-up orange and well drained canned tomato served with cooked salad dressing or mayonnaise into which is folded whipped cream and a little of the grated yellow rind of orange. Sweet potatoes mashed and seasoned with butter and salt, then whipped light with orange juice instead of milk, are good with bacon or ham or fried chicken for a supper dish. Cakes, pies, and puddings are all good made with oranges, but the best thing about this food, so rich in medicinal properties is that, lacking time or inclination to use oranges in made dishes, they can be served without any preparation. In buying citrus fruits, to get the best value for your money, they should be fairly heavy for their size.”

Orange Soup

1 quart boiling water
4 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in a  little cold water
Speck salt
1 teaspoon grated yellow rind of orange
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice

Boil water, cornstarch, salt, rind, and sugar until  mixture is thick and clear. Cool, add fruit juices. Serve very cold garnished with whipped cream and candied orange peel, or with a slice of orange at each serving.

Down to Business: The independent woman of 1934

The-Kitty-Foyle-Dress-lgoIn The Complete Book of Etiquette, published in 1934, Hallie Erminie Rives reflected the changes wrought on society by the modern businesswoman of the day, and the image she might have projected to younger women:

“With the financial independence of woman has come a new social independence which finds expression in separate homes, self-decided lives, and far greater freedom of behavior (freedom that is not to be confused with license) in many of the smaller social forms which once were considered as unalterable as the laws of the Medes and the Persians.

“Until women began widely to earn and dispose of their own money, they did not appreciate the extent to which social conventions were built upon financial dependence. A man’s womenfolk–his wife, his daughters, perhaps his mother, an elderly aunt or maiden sisters–lived under his roof and regarded him as the patriarchal head of the family. Maiden aunts indeed often bitterly earned their keep by acting as housekeepers, errand runners, nursemaids, and caretakers, and were grateful for such pin money as was occasionally bestowed upon them.

“Nowadays Auntie is apt to turn to good advantage the executive ability once spent in waiting on other people and bringing up their children, by holding a well-paid position and living in her own apartment, with perhaps a maid to wait on her. Does she hesitate to venture forth, night or day, for any amusement they consider worth the pains? Not at all. Aunties after this pattern buy tickets to the show, go to a hotel for dinner, take taxis to and from the theater, and scoff at any tradition that tells them they must not.

“And what of Auntie’s eighteen or twenty-one year old niece–just out of high school or college, and hesitating, perhaps, as to what she will do until the inevitable Mr. Right comes along and settles her future in the proper way? Ah, there’s the rub! Miss Twenty-One sees Auntie’s propitious circumstances–the pretty clothes, the clever friends, the attractive apartment (with no rules other than those of her own making to trammel her) and the apparent complete independence of family precepts and conventions. Who can blame Miss Twenty-One (who may feel herself somewhat unappreciated at home) for rather fancying such ideal surroundings? For the girl who leaves her home for the city and the home table for a delicatessen diet in a small apartment which, for all its discomforts and inconveniences, she passionately defends, is in the grip of that age-old feminine desire, born into every woman whether it is her destiny to marry or remain single, for a home of her own. This was as strong in her aunt and in her great-aunt as it is in her, but in their day few women who did not marry found it possible of gratification.

“Let Miss Twenty-One take heart. As she grows older–should Mr. Right delay his appearance–she may emulate Auntie’s independence and no one will criticize her for it. But first, as her aunt did before her, she must earn the right to it, and that demands maturity of mind as well as of body.”
–(from The Complete Book of Etiquette by Hallie Erminie Rives)

I met my husband at age twenty-eight and married him at thirty. I well remember the longing for a place of my own in my earlier twenties, after I’d finished college and was working, with no Mr. Right in sight. My first apartment was a third-floor walk-up in a prewar building that was hot in summer, steam-heated by clanging old radiators  in winter, and came complete with ancient plumbing fixtures and hot and cold running water bugs. But it was a real charmer with wood floors, built-in glass-front cabinets, generous windows, and gorgeous woodwork. I didn’t appreciate it at the time and decamped for a more modern, anonymous, air-conditioned box after a couple of years. Ah, the folly of youth! Probably by now that old building, located in a desirable neighborhood near the commuter train, has been renovated, and I could no longer even afford to live there. But I’ll never forget the thrill of having my own four walls, my own kitchen, my own rooms to arrange and decorate the way I wanted. Heady freedom, indeed, and while I looked forward to eventually getting married, I cherished those years of singlehood, too.

Have you ever lived on your own, either temporarily or permanently? If so, did you like it? What do you remember about the very first place you called your own?

When’s the last time you wore lace-edged anklets? Remembering Easters of yore

easter2I’m old enough to remember how people used to get all dressed up for Easter. Of course I understand this was a secular tradition that had little to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and I suppose I’m meant to be glad that this human-centered emphasis of dressing up has fallen by the wayside. Because ordinary workaday clothes are so much more authentic, right?  I’m being a little sarcastic here, but it’s true that the traditional “Easter parade” was peripheral to the glory of Christ’s resurrection. (I’m told that the tradition of new clothes at Easter had its origins in the early Christians, many of whom chose to wear new white robes when they were baptized on Easter, to signify their new life in Christ. Or maybe it was an invention of the milliners’ union. Who knows?)

Theological considerations aside, in my heart of hearts, I miss the tradition of dressing up at Easter. I still dress up, somewhat, but more and more I feel like an anachronism, a beacon of pink or peach or lilac in a sea of practical neutral colors. I can’t help but miss it all–the pretty spring colors, the hats, the gloves, the lace–the effort put in to mark Easter as the special day that it is.

As a child I was always decked out for Easter. I remember bonnets with elastic under the chin, full skirts, petticoats, lace-edged white socks, patent-leather mary janes. And white gloves. Oh, the gloves! Standing out in my memory is the year my older brothers spent the better part of the ride to church in the backseat of the car, wrestling my wiggly preschooler fingers into white cotton gloves. So difficult was this task that I was warned on pain of–well, I don’t remember, exactly, but something awful, surely–not to remove those gloves under any circumstances. Wouldn’t you know, we were given chocolate in Sunday school that day. White gloves plus chocolate equals one major mess. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), in those pre-digital-camera and pre-Facebook days, no one thought to snap a picture to preserve the wreckage for all time.

I notice that nowadays a lot of moms dress their little girls to the nines on Easter, but for themselves wear their same old everyday mom clothes. I wonder what that says to the little girl–that growing up means no more pretty dresses? That dressing up is for children only? That seems so very sad to me.

I stumbled upon this new blog, A Ribbon in My Journal, written by the editor of Victoria magazine, in which she shares her own Easter memories of dressing up. It brought back memories for me–maybe it will do the same for you as well.

What do you remember about your childhood Easters?

Handkerchief apron–cute and easy!

Just in time to add some vintage charm to hosting Easter dinner–a handkerchief apron! Have you ever seen anything so sweet?

vintage_handkerchief_apron_patternI just found a delightful site, Bramcost Publications, where this vintage apron and loads of other patterns and instructions are available! Bramcost publishes “vintage sewing, millinery, hairstyling, beauty, knitting, crochet, and entertainment books.” So thrilled to have found another vintage-loving kindred spirit!


Sparkling Vintage Fiction: Sincerely Yours

sincerely yoursIf you appreciate shorter reads, this collection of inspirational historical novellas might be right up your alley. (A novella is shorter than a novel, but longer than a short story. Many of them can be read in one sitting–great for busy moms and others who don’t get a lot of time to read, and would actually like to finish something.)

Sincerely Yours is a collection of four novellas by four Christian authors known for the high quality of their historical fiction. Laurie Alice Eakes contributed “Moonlight Promise,” a romance set on an Erie Canal steamboat in 1825. In “One Little Word” by Amanda Cabot is set in New York City in 1892, the family fortune is at stake if the heroine does not make a proper marriage, and soon. Jane Kirkpatrick’s “A Saving Grace” moves the reader to Oregon in 1911, where Grace must rescue a friend from a “clinic” that is anything but healthy.

Because I love all things Chicago, my favorite story of the bunch was Ann Shorey’s “Lessons in Love,” set in Chicago of 1858, in which Merrie finds success as a fledgling magazine writer [another plot element to love!]. The trouble is, since she signs her correspondence with her initials, her editor assumes she’s a man, and she hasn’t corrected this assumption, since in those days men had an easier time getting published than women did. When the editor asks to meet in person, she has to think of a viable solution, and fast. Meanwhile, she’s falling in love with her handsome-yet-humble piano teacher, throwing her social-climbing family into a tizzy, since they expect her to make a Good (read: rich) Match.

Look for Sincerely Yours if you’d like some light, wholesome reading that transports you to another time and place. Also, until April 8, Jane Kirkpatrick is running a giveaway on her blog, where you can enter to win a free copy of Sincerely Yours along with a pen and stationery gift set. Visit Jane’s blog for details.

Disclosure: I’ve been given a review copy of this book by the publisher. This generosity, while appreciated, has not biased my review. I also post some of my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.



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