Nostalgia–what’s the point? Isn’t the present better than the past? What about dressing vintage? Jennifer answers listeners’ questions. Plus a special 1920s-inspired giveaway just in time for Mother’s Day.
If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down for the transcript.
Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube are also great sources of vintage inspiration.
Episode 10 Transcript
This is Episode number ten of the podcast, which I can hardly believe. The weeks have flown by so quickly. To mark our tenth weekiversary, today’s episode will be a Q&A with some questions listeners have emailed in.
On the writing front, I turned in my article on the history of City Beach here in Sandpoint, Idaho, and that will appear in the Summer 2019 issue of Sandpoint Magazine which will come out in a few weeks. I’ve had a few freelance editing jobs to complete, including a couple of novels and also exhibit labels for an upcoming exhibit on railroads at the Bonner County History Museum in Sandpoint. If you’re a train buff and you find yourself in or visiting the Sandpoint area this summer, you’ll wanting check it out. And above all, of course, I’m continuing to write the first draft of the 1930s Hollywood novel. It’s not progressing as quickly as I’d hoped, but it is progressing.
And now on to our very first Sparkling Vintage Q&A episode. Remember you can always email me questions and topic ideas for future episodes to firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise to read and respond to every email and maybe even address some on future Q&As here on the podcast.
Our first question today comes from Elisabeth. Elisabeth writes, “It seems to me that the world is better off today than it has ever been. Women especially were so oppressed back then and had so few options in life. Do you really wish you lived in the past?” Well, the truth is that, no, Elisabeth, I don’t really want to live in the past. Not permanently, although I’d sure like to visit sometimes. My husband and I sometimes joke that I’d last about ten minutes in any era that didn’t offer hot baths and indoor plumbing. When I say that I do, saying I wish I lived back then or that I were born in an earlier era, it’s a sort of shorthand meaning I regret missing out on certain aspects about an era, or feeling like I missed out on some element that sounds cool but that was no longer being done by the time I came around. You could say I suffer from “vintage FOMO,” fear of missing out on older ways of life. I don’t want to live in fear of cholera or TB or polio, or to have to travel around on horseback or grind my own wheat. I love air-conditioning. I love the Internet. Above all, I know God placed me here on this earth in this time and place, and He doesn’t make mistakes. He put me here on purpose. But that doesn’t mean I can’t look back and admire what has gone before.
The dictionary defines “nostalgia” as a wistful or sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place and time. I’d say that definition defines my approach. I’m not a professional historian. But I do want to counteract certain misconceptions.
You say in your letter that women were totally oppressed in earlier decades and had fewer options in life. That’s a huge topic that we’ll probably tackle another day. I’ll just say that my research is not turning up women whose lives were unending parades of misery and entrapment. Some things needed to be corrected, of course, but everything in the culture did not need to be tossed out and stomped on. All women were not miserable. In fact, some were quite happy and content. While there were always women who were dissatisfied with their lives in the past, many with quite valid complaints, there are a lot of women today who feel angry and dissatisfied today as well. Modern life is no panacea for the ills of the human heart. For me the answer lies in reaching back for what did work and bringing it forward, not to continue demolishing it with a hammer just because it’s old. I do not agree that whatever’s new is always better. I do not always think old is better, either. The point of A Sparkling Vintage Life is not to recreate the past wholesale. Clearly that’s impossible, and undesirable besides. But it’s to preserve the best aspects of the past, to study what worked and how to bring it back while leaving the bad aspects behind. I hope that that somewhat long-winded answer clarifies things somewhat. I’d love to continue this discussion, as I think it’s an important one.
Catherine asks if I dress vintage in real life. No, I do not, although I would love to. I love to read blogs of women who dress vintage, and it looks so fun! I’ll put a couple of links in the show notes. First of all, as a plus-size woman, frankly I’m too large to fit most authentic vintage clothing, which tends to be available mostly in small sizes. There are a few reasons for this. One is that women, and men too, tended to be smaller in past eras, both shorter and more slender. As a rule we’ve grown taller, bigger boned, and stouter with each generation, at least here in America. Another reason vintage clothing runs small is that those larger-sized garments that did exist have gotten snapped up over the decades, not only by people who wear vintage as a matter of course, but by theater companies and school drama departments and other people looking for costumes. The smaller sizes that fewer people could fit into have not been snapped up quite so quickly and thus they are still around today. What I do wear a lot of are things like vintage handbags, jewelry, scarves, which aren’t so size-dependent. Also, there are vintage reproductions that are made in larger sizes. But then of course they aren’t genuine vintage. I do own a few reproduction, but not enough to call it a whole wardrobe. I do hope to wear more and more vintage styles as time goes on, since I like them and they seem to suit my personality. I always feel good and get lots of compliments when I do wear something vintage-inspired.
Another hurdle is that scouting out genuine vintage clothing takes time. Not only is it hard to find garments in my size that I love, but there’s time, effort, and often cost associated with cleaning the old fabrics, doing repairs, and caring for the clothes in general. As for actually wearing them out in public, I’m clumsy. I spill things. I’m not as careful as I should be, and many old fabrics are quite fragile. I’m pretty tough on clothes. But, again, some of the modern reproductions can capture the styles without the headaches that come with authentic vintage garments.
All that said, would I wear a vintage dress or gown if the right one came along? Absolutely! Often the quality of the fabric is better, and the quality of the workmanship. You’ll find things like fabric-covered buttons and hand-smocking and details like deeper hems and more generous seam allowances that are hard to come by these days. Plus many of the styles were more becoming to the feminine figure, with seaming and darts meant to flatter curves. These details cost more to make so many manufacturers skip them nowadays to keep costs down. Also, some people have a problem with wearing clothing that others have worn before. I have absolutely no problem with this. In fact, I love to imagine who might have worn a garment before I did. To me that’s part of its allure.
Ginger asks, Will you ever have guests on the podcast? I’d love to hear some conversations with like-minded ladies. Yes, Ginger, I do plan to start inviting guests on the show now and then in the future. I have a few hurdles to get over first, mostly having to do with mastering all the technical aspects of putting together the podcast before I add more people to the mix. I figure that if I mess something up, it’s just me. When I have guests, then my mix-ups may inconvenience them as well. But, yes, having guests on is definitely something that’s on my radar for the future.
If you have a question you’d like me to answer or a topic you’d like me to address, drop me a line at email@example.com. If you can take a few minutes to stop by iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts and leave a positive review, that will help raise the visibility of the show so others can find it.
And I’ll be back in a moment with today’s grace note.
Today’s grace note is The 1928 Jewelry Company. If you like vintage-inspired jewelry and accessories and don’t mind if they’re not genuine antiques, the 1928 Jewelry Company is the source for you. They create modern replicas of designs from the past including Art Deco, Renaissance, Victorian, classical Greece, and more, check out The 1928 Jewelry Company. I’ll put a link in the show notes.
Thanks for listening, and come back next week when I’ll be discussing another aspect of A Sparkling Vintage Life.
In this follow-up episode to “What is Charm?”, Jennifer shares a list of twenty “shortcuts to charm” written by actress Arlene Francis in 1960. Surprisingly, these tips are as relevant today as they were almost sixty years ago, focusing on kindness, respect, and courtesy.
GIVEAWAY: If you enjoyed this episode, please feel free to leave a review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts..Stitcher, Doggcatcher, etc. Then shoot me a message telling me you did so, along with which of my books you’d like to be in the drawing for (You’re the Cream in My Coffee, Ain’t Misbehavin’, or Songbird and Other Stories). I’ll be drawing names on March 15, one for each book. You can send the email either to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Antiques* stores hurt my heart–in a good way. As much as I love browsing their musty, dusty interiors in search of treasures large and small, I almost invariably come across something that makes my chest squeeze tight, which sounds painful and sort of is, but not really. I catch my breath. swallow hard, blink, and try to look normal, hoping the clerk won’t think the customer in the ladies’ accessories aisle is having a heart attack. She’s not. She’s just having a nostalgia attack over an embroidered handkerchief.
It could be anything that sets me off–a glass snow globe, a teddy bear, a lamp that reminds me of Grandma. I never know, never see when or if it’s coming, which is part of the fun of antiquing–getting blindsided by misty watercolor memories, dreams, and yearnings.
Antiques stores help me unwind and forget (at least temporarily) my cares by drawing me into a world completely different from my own. Often this makes me appreciate my own that much more (chamber pots, anyone?). Sometimes I mourn the things we have lost, or that are increasingly hard to come by. Fine stationery and elegant pens from when people had the time and inclination to write real letters. Hand-sewn, knitted, and crocheted items that someone took the time to create instead of “finding them cheaper” at a chain store. Vinyl or shellac recordings of dance music from an era before anyone had ever heard the word “twerk” and when being asked to dance gave you an adrenaline rush like nobody’s business. Dishes and silverware and gravy boats (gravy boats!) from when families made the time and effort to sit down together at mealtime instead of passing fast-food bags around the minivan. Dolls dressed as belles of the ball instead of Bratz. Such items hurt my heart because they represent a world that is gone, or quickly going, and I can’t seem to hold onto it. Hard as I try, it eludes my grasp like vapor. And the worst is when I feel like the only person on earth left who gives a whistle. (Whistles, see toy section.) Obviously I’m not, since antiques stores abound, but it can feel that way sometimes, like everyone else can’t wait to gallop forth into the Next Big Thing while I’m saying “Wait! But…gingham aprons! But…rhinestone-encrusted owl pins! But…ceramic mixing bowls that held the batter of a thousand pancakes!”
And don’t get me started on the photographs. People sat for those photographs, and had prints made, and passed them around and exclaimed over them, and they were special and expensive and rare, unlike the there-and-gone images we send each other on Instagram and Facebook. That photo of a son or daughter, a husband or wife, was once a great treasure. And now here they are, gathering dust in an antiques store, flipped through by strangers like me who giggle over the fashions and hairstyles but know absolutely nothing about the people in them, or the stories behind them.
Oh, the stories! For a writer, everything in an antiques store holds a story, or a potential story. Every. Darn. Object. No wonder that by the time I tear myself away, I feel simultaneously exhilarated and completely wrung-out. (Wringer washers, try the housewares section.)
If cheerfully going through the wringer sounds like fun to you, check antiques.com for a dealer near you. And get ready for the routine: Squeeze, breathe, swallow, blink, smile.
(*I debated whether the correct term is “antiques stores” or “antique stores.” I decided that the former describes a store that sells antiques, while the latter describes a store that is itself antique, like stumbling upon a hardware store in some small town, complete with wooden floor, glass jars filled with metal doodads, the scent of sawdust and machine oil, and the creaky voice of an old-timer who knows how to use every tool known to mankind and is happy to tell you about it. The store has been at the same location for so long, it still has a cast-iron hitching post out front. Stepping through the door (complete with jaunty bell at the top, natch) is like stepping back a century, like the Brigadoon of retail. Just the thought of such a store makes me want to weep, and I don’t even like hardware. )