August 23, 2014

Back to school edition of 25 vintage deals under $100

Though I went to school in an era of Trapper Keepers, Lisa Frank stickers, Mr. Sketchy Markers (I still madly love the smell of those!), and Lunchables, when I think back on my school days, I can't help but almost view them through vintage tinted glasses and picture and era of pleated plaid skirts, books lashed with one of pop's old brown leather belts, a shiny apple on teacher's desk, and elegant, stately red brick buildings.

{Image via Corbis}

Though I was fortunate to attend a high school that fit the description of the former, by and large, those other elements existed, by the time of my youth, only in TV shoes, movies, and story books. It's a picturesque version of school life, but certainly one that many in earlier generations knew intimately and it's the way that the return of a new school year will always look in my mind's eye.

Thus, as countless families the world over gear up once more for homework, brown bag lunches, and a year chalked full of learning, I thought it would be especially fun to put back to school related/themed items at the heart of this month's 25 vintage deals under $100 post.

It's been a good long time now since I last saddled up to a desk, fresh box of #2 pencils and a stack of crisp notebooks in hand, but as August dwindles down, I still love stocking up on school supplies and items that remind me of my days as a student and all 25 of today's entries definitely make the grade (pun intended :)) on that front.

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1. Cute as the day is long and perfect for the class room, home school room, nursery, or play room, amongst other spots, these fantastic, good sized 1950s Mother Goose school day paper cutouts are too darling for words! $30 for the trio from Kris Vintage Clothing.

2. Schooldays and plaid go hand-in-hand like blackboards and chalk, so why not use this time of the year as the perfect excuse to introduce a gorgeous new vintage plaid frock like this circa 1940s stunner into your wardrobe? Fits up to a 42" bust/32" waist. On sale at the time of writing for $57.80 from Rockabilly Raven Vintage.

3. There is something so timelessly cheerful and back-to-school season perfect about this jaunty, beautiful red and white cotton 1950s hat to me. Currently on sale at the time of writing (along with everything else in their fantastic shop) for $31.50 from Dalena Vintage.

4. Quite possibly the most iconic school supply product ever (rivaled only by the fountain pen and ink well, to my mind), the humble, and simultaneously mighty, pencil is a still a must even in this digital age. Stock up on a dozen lovely circa 1939-1940 Venus brand pencils for just $12.00 per box from Peppermint Pigs.}

5. And to go with them… a terrifically cute vintage metal novelty pencil sharpener in the shape of a hen! This would look right at home in any country chic, farm, vintage or contemporary decor setting alike. $4.99 from Quite Right, Slick.

6. Super perfect for all my vintage loving friends in Portland (or those who, like me, don't live there, but adore the city all the same), this vintage Portland High School charm bracelet is all kinds of mid-century jewelry fun! $20.00 from My Yiayia Had That.

7. Great teachers really are like angels for society and this immensely cute 1950s Napco angel of the month figurine pays homage to that in its own deeply sweet way. $10.00 from Molly Finds.

8. Score of some serious collegiate style creed in this vibrant, comfortable (believe me, it was hard not to keep it for myself!) 1960s Chaus cotton plaid blazer. Fits up to a 35" bust/30" waist. $42.00 from Chronically Vintage on Etsy.

9. And the award for what must be the cutest cardboard vintage pencil case goes to – drum roll, please - this massively sweet pink 1950s School Daze one! $12.00 from I Want Vintage.

10. You'll be scoring straight A's in style when you wear this timelessly fun c. 1950s black and yellow letter sweater boasting the first letter of the alphabet smack, dab in the middle of it. Fits up to a 36 bust/34 waist. $55.00 from Zoom Vintage.

11. Maybe it's the toque wearing canuck in me, but I am madly smitten with this splendidly cute hand crocheted acrylic wool apple hat - and its super reasonable price. Fits an adult sized head. $20.00 from Uniquely Ann Made.

12. How chic and beautiful are these elegant, unused 1930s French notebooks? They're far too pretty (and old/rare) to actually write in, if you ask me, but I think they'd make for sublime office or library decor pieces. $20.00 for all four from A Farm House in France.

13. Gear up for art class or any creative endeavor you fancy with this incredibly darling 1950s dog print artist's smock blouse. One size fits most. $45.00 from Carmen and Ginger.

14. Bring the classroom into the dining room or kitchen with this lovely pair of vintage school supplies salt and pepper shakers featuring a pencil and a fountain pen. $8.00 from Vintage Bakelite 4 U.

15. Instead of tucking a pencil behind your ear, slide this seriously charming vintage "School Days" barrette into your hair before heading off to class or anywhere you fancy. $10.00 from Rosebud Cottage.

16. Perfect for any room in the house, and of course a classroom, too, this lovely, classic vintage map print pencil pen and pencil cup (which could probably hold skinny handled makeup brushes as well, I'd imagine) combines mid-century function and style together splendidly. $12.00 from Hendricks and Daughter.

17. Keep those art class basics, the primary colours, close to your heart - and your head - with this fabulously fun red, blue and yellow polka dot fabric hair flower corsage pin that would look as great on a five year as a ninety-five year old! $7.99 from Blue Velvet Vintage.

18. Ensure you pass your Spanish exam with flying colours care of this lovely trio of 1930s language books. $8.57 for all three from Winter Moon Vintage.

19. Still one of my favourite types of art supplies - not to mention scents - few things compare to the fun and possibilities housed inside of a box of wax crayons like this delightful box of eight different coloured c. 1940s Bri-Ton ones. $12.00 from Red Dress Hanger.

20. Without a doubt one of the most iconic types of shoes worn by students in the mid-twentieth century (along with saddle shoes and white bucks), the elegant and practical penny loafer will always prove to be a great choice for campus, no matter the decade. Red-brown leather ladies size 9.5-10 vintage penny loafers, $24.99 from Manor Born.

21. If cardigans are more your style when it comes to vintage letter sweaters, than this terrific red and white example with a patch indicating the original owner was a member of their school's concert band, is highly likely to tickle your fancy. Fits up to a 38" bust/36" waist. $40.00 from Cricket Capers.

22. Perfect for teaching kids, home decor or craft projects, these classic 1950s multiplication flashcards are sure to bring a wave of nostalgia to grownups everywhere. $12.00 from Boutique.

23. Look back with fondness to schooldays past care of this beautiful 1930s class autograph book which includes writing in the original owner's hand and 18 photos of her friends. $19.00 from Appropriately Frayed.

24. Tote your recess snack and lunch in this endearingly charming 1950s metal kid's lunchbox or use it as a purse, small book bag, decor piece, whatever your heart desires! $30.00 from Retro Rick's.

25. Store everything from paperclips to your favourite autumn candies in this pair of timelessly pretty vintage glass apple containers, or alternatively, give them as a thoughtful present to your favourite teacher. $16.00 for the pair from Little Red Chair Shop.

{Please click on a specific item, or the link in the description below it, to be taken to its respective listing.}

♥ ♥ ♥

One certainly doesn't have to be a student, teacher, or parent to enjoy and/or load up on back to school related goodies like these lovely vintage and handmade bargains! In fact, now is often the best time of the year to find great deals all kinds of stationary and office supplies, as well as fall/winter fashions.

When I was growing up, by and large, we usually only got multiple items of new clothing once a year and that was right before school started, so the end of August/start of September will forever be tied to refreshing my wardrobe and my desk drawers alike. Do you find that you're drawn to a lovely spot of shopping yourself as the seasons begin to swap over, the nights grow chillier, and school buses become a frequent sight again on the roads each morning and afternoon?

What sorts of things - school supplies/fashion related or otherwise are you looking forward to kicking off September with this year? I'm going to load up on markers, notebooks, perhaps a new sweater or two (I need medium and heavy weight ones something fierce), and - if I can find a good deal - maybe even a new plaid skirt to go with my saddle shoes for that perfect mid-century school girl/collegiate look! :)

August 21, 2014

The importance of knowing what styles do not work for you

Nearly any thorough article or book that offers fashion guidance will usually tell readers to determine and then gravitate towards those styles that work best for one's particular body type. This is solid, wise advice for sure, and is often one of the hallmarks that can help make someone look like they clearly have a great eye for style and styling alike. I too suggest that you do the same, but by the same token, it's important to stop and think about the pieces that don't work for you and why such is.

It's easy to slip on a frock in the dressing room, take one quick glance in the mirror, and quickly shake your head as you shimmy out of it at the speed of light. Did you stop though to consider why this piece didn't seem to work for you at first glance? What was it about the item or how your body suddenly appeared in it that didn't sit right with you?

Chances are, if I asked you to tell me five styles right now that almost always look great on you, you can, and that's wonderful. Can you though, tell me just as quickly five that don't do you any favours? Ideally, you want to be able to answer both questions with the same degree of confidence because knowing what not to wear for your body type can be every bit as important as knowing what to wear.

{What are your figure's strengths and weaknesses? Do your wardrobe choices currently flatter your best features and minimize or help disguise those that you'd happily banish in a heartbeat if such were possible? Image source.}

You might be thinking, well, Jess, if I know one, don't I know the other by default? Solid question. To a degree, yes, but not entirely. Think for example of all those middle ground styles. The ones that look so-so on you and that you might own some of at this very moment, perhaps often pairing them with others that suit you even more better.

They look neither awful, nor flat out fantastic on you. They're functional and may be filling a void temporarily until you can replace each one with an even more flattering similar piece, or you may be content with them as they are, but they're not clear cut stars in your wardrobe and you'll want to move away from them over time, if possible.

One of the true keys to having a stellar wardrobe, of any size, is filling it not so much with pricey items, but with ones that fit you excellently, compliment your skin, hair and eye colouring, and which look not just good, but marvelous on you - and when paired with each other.

Believe it or not, while certain styles will flatter each of us more than others, there are actually not a great deal of pieces that most folks can't wear at least one version of. Usually it comes down to a matter of fit, cut, colour, length, and material used as well as - and this is a biggie - the other elements of the outfit you're wearing that day.

For example, the following are some examples of styles that typically look horrible on me, why such is, and what I've learned from years of devoted fashion experience can help get around those problems in many cases (this is by no means a complete list of such items, just three that really stand out in my mind).

-V-necks: As discussed back in this 2012 outfit post, v-necks rarely do me any favours. Why? Because I have small shoulders, am not overly busty, don't have a particularly long neck (which you'd think a v-neck would help with, but oddly, doesn't seem to in my case), and am relatively short waisted. V-necks tend to suddenly give me unwanted linebacker shoulders and only serve to shorten the appearance of my waist's length further.

As a common fashion element though (very much including on many 1940s dresses), I'm not in a hurry to bypass them entirely though and have discovered that I can sometimes wear them if I opt for a wide v-neck, not a narrow one, a fitted cut to the garment (and/or over all ensemble) such as with this great 1940s red wiggle dress, and a thin fabric. Adding a layering piece with a different type of neckline that is more flatter can also be very helpful, as can not wearing a necklace, which would further "chop up" the shape of my collar and chest area, thus further shortening the over all appearance of my torso size.

-Pleats: As someone who is short and curvy, pleats can spell style disaster for me in a New York (Fashion Week) minute. Often they add width to my hips and the appearance of many unwanted pounds to my figure, especially if they're either very wide or very narrow. The trick, I've found in many cases however, is to opt for pleats that start not at my waist, but lower down my legs, say at mid-hip or ever further down (such as with this great vintage pleated plaid skirt).

In doing so, I keep the top of my hips streamlined looking, not wider than that area really is, and allow the volume of the pleats to pool towards the lower half of my legs, which can at times actually help make them look longer, especially when partnered with high heels (as I almost always do when wearing a pleated skirt or dress).

-Stripes: We've probably all heard that horizontal stripes make you look wider, and in some cases that can be true. I've experienced as much, but have also found vertical stripes to be unflattering, arguably even more so. For some reason, they (especially if they're wide), just don't seem to work on my petite height-ed hourglass figure. Unless...I keep the width of the strips very narrow and only sport small does of it at a time. Case in point, this charming cropped thin knit top (even there though, I'm not wild about how wide the stripes make my upper arms, which are by no means the thinnest part of my body, look).

Now, inquiring minds will no doubt want to know, are there pieces that no matter how much you play around with their proportions, shapes and other elements are simply so unflattering that you avoid them like the plague. Yes!!! Goodness gracious, yes!!!

{Like everybody on the planet, I have certain styles (and colours - but that's another post entirely) that don't do a lick of good for my figure. I've worked diligently over the years to recognize and be honest about myself when it comes to such pieces and rarely purchase or wear them, as I know they'll simply languish in my closet and be a source of frustration for me when I do try them on. Three such examples of which - cloche hats, drop waists, and skirts that hit above the knee - appear in the 1920s photo above. Image source.}

Though I am typically the type that's keen to live by the expression "never say never" and that certainly applies to my fashion choices, as a general rule certain things that look so intensely unflattering on me that I never or almost never wear them in any form are shorts (unless they're Bermuda style and hit below the knee), mini skirts or any skirt that hits above the knee, leggings, collar-less suit jackets (they, like v-necks, tend to make my top half look wayyyy bigger than it really is), mock necks, round eyeglass or sunglasses frames, knit skirts and dresses, slinky 1930s style bias cut or other similar dresses, drop waist dresses, thick cable knit sweaters, cloche hats, pillbox hats, white and other really light coloured tights, lace and most decorative patterned hosiery, choker style necklaces, sheer sleeved tops (unless I'm wearing something with opaque sleeves overtop of it, say like a blazer or cardigan), and two-piece swimsuits, amongst others.

Note, this is not a list of fashions that I necessarily dislike. The two can, and often should be, very separate camps. These are garments and accessories that time and time again I have tried on and looked frighteningly bad in. Instead of lifting up my figure, playing to my body's strengths and making me feel positive about my appearance, they did the precise opposite.

The universe, compounded by very key factors like genetics and my health, has not blessed me with a supermodel's body by any stretch of the imagination, however by learning about, and honing my eye for spotting, those pieces that don't do me one red favour, I've been able to build up a wardrobe of items that genuinely do. They (or at least the bulk of them) make me look taller, leaner, and better proportioned.
I've learned that 3/4 and full length sleeves work best for me. That I absolutely need my hemlines to hit below (not at or above) my knees and ideally in the mid-calf range. That wide skirts are best partnered with fitted tops, that bulky fabrics can actually make thicker upper arms look bigger than they are, not camouflage their size, and that t-strap shoes can actually work well for those with curvy calves and short legs, assuming you have fairly average sized or slender ankles. There are other points like this too, all of which I think about every single time I go clothes shopping, get dressed, or even in many cases, add an item to an online wishlist.

Each of us, no matter the shape and size of our body will have pieces that don't work for us. While it may be tough to accept that, for example, a turtleneck sweater, a mini skirt, or a crop top isn't our fashion BBF, in doing so, we allow ourselves to focus on those items that do work. We stop wasting precious fashion budget dollars on pieces that end up gathering dust in our closets and build a wardrobe of items that we can turn to day after day with the utmost of confidence.

{Just because you've been wearing a style for years, it doesn't mean that it's actually one that works well for your body. Take a long, hard look at the way a piece falls, hugs, drapes and sits on your. Does any part of your figure look bigger or smaller or differently shaped than you'd ideally want it to? What would an unbiased stranger say if they saw you wearing that piece? What is your own inner voice telling you when you're brutally honest with yourself? All of these things should factor in when building up your vintage wardrobe. Image source.}

If you haven't spent much time in your life focusing on the pieces that don't work well for you, I encourage you to do so asap. Go to closet and take out five, ten, twenty, however many pieces you want that you rarely, if ever, wear.

Try each one on in front a full length (or the largest that you have) mirror and access the situation. Is there a reason that you've worn an item so infrequently? If it's not because you need something else to make it work (say, the right pencil skirt to match a vintage suit jacket that's missing its original skirt) or it's a piece like an evening dress or holiday sweater that typically only gets worn once or twice a year, what is it about that item that has kept you from embracing it?

Chances are, the fit is a good part of the problem. You know it already, but you may not have wanted to admit as much to yourself. After all, you probably plunked down some cold hard cash on that piece at one point, loved it on the hanger (or online listing), and kept telling yourself you'd make it work one day, but you haven't - and in all likelihood, you never will.

That's okay! Fashion, like all things in life, is not without its own degree of trial and error. Instead of bemoaning the fact that that pair of 1930s beach pajamas, wide shouldered 40s suit, or strapless 50s sundress make you look like you've gained fifteen pounds and/or shrunk three inches, confidently decide to sell or give it away and move on. Focus your attention on the pieces in your closet that work wonders for you and purchase others like them. The more you surround yourself with, and actively wear, fashions that look fabulous on your current figure (and that's a key point unto itself, as few us will have exactly the same figure throughout our whole life), the less likely you'll be to buy items that don't work for us.

You'll have only to spot that over-sized polka dot blouse or Grecian goddess inspired dress to know that, no, no, that's not for you, as you beeline towards the Swiss dots tops and sweetheart neck dresses instead. No one can have everything work for them. That's just a simple fact, and while I do ardently believe that one is free to where whatever they please any, ol' time, objectively most of us to want to get the best out of our figures that we possibly can and making smart fashion choices centered solely around items that we know work well for us is a vital component there.

So the next time you go shopping, online or off, remember to keep your eye out not just for pieces that work well for you, but for those that don't, and before you find yourself tempted to buy a coquettish floral cape or cute culottes, stop and ask yourself, will they actually look good on my body or just when they're hanging in my closet? Your wardrobe, your wallet, and most definitely your figure, will all thank you for it.

August 19, 2014

Voodoo Vixen love at first sight

Outfit details

Vintage pale pink nylon/chiffon scarf: eBay
Pink sparkly bow earrings: Payless
Pearl necklace: Birthday gift from Tony ♥
Turquoise cardigan: Cleo
Circa 1950s silver tone rose brooch: Miss Farfalla
Aqua and pink Flora dress: Voodoo Vixen
Pink plastic rose bangle bracelet: Walmart
Vintage straw handbag: Yard sale find
Nude seamed nude stockings:
White pumps: Payless
Lip colour: Clinique Raspberry Red
Nail colour: Sally Hansen Rogue Rush over Essie Pink Diamond

Photography by Tony Cangiano


A little earlier this summer, when I took the (massive - for shy little me at least!) plunge and decided to start filming YouTube videos, I knew that I wanted to wear something that really and truly represented my personal style. Various wardrobe options swirled through my head, but ultimately I happily opted to sport this uber charming vintage style pink and blue Flora dress from UK fashion brand Voodoo Vixen on video camera.

I had been contacted by a lovely rep from Voodoo Vixen a little earlier this year about collaborating on some product spotlight outfit posts and the company very kind sent me this dress, as well as a seriously darling ladybug cardigan (which I'll be featuring in a post unto itself here in a few weeks). I sincerely appreciate both pieces and have fallen head-over-heels in love with each of them.

Seriously in love, that is. I wouldn't have donned my new Flora dress as the key outfit component of my first YouTube video if I didn't have mad adoration for it! :)

This soft, comfortable cotton frock channels the spirit of the 1940s, but can easily be styled in a 1950s or more contemporary direction, too, if so desired. It's well constructed, true to size, made of very good quality materials, has darling cap sleeves with one pink button on each (the same kind of buttons that appear on the torso), and a flattering vee meets sweetheart sort of shaped neckline.

I'm also a big fan of its mid-calf length (on my 5'2" torso, that is) and the fact that the skirt on this dress has a wonderful amount of swing to it. Indeed, I could see being able to dance the night away, if one wanted, in this dress no problem. By the same token, you could take it in a fancier direction, adding gloves, a hat, perhaps a lace or crochet shawl, or anything else your heart desired for events such as weddings, garden fetes, baby showers, or a timelessly lovely tea party.

The moment I saw this dress on Voodoo Vixen's website, which is chalk-a-block with vintage inspired styles that are sure to provide no shortage of wishlist fodder for many a vintage loving, pinup, and rockabilly lass the world over, my heart skipped a beat. Its fabulously feminine colour palette and floral motif instantly reminded me of a similarly patterned wallpaper that hung in one of my childhood bedrooms (in the first house we lived in here in Penticton, actually). I adored that wallpaper and have found myself drawn to things that resemble it ever since.

In person, Flora was even more stunning and she and I hit it off splendidly! Though it wasn't a chilly day by any means when we were shooting (photos and a video!), I knew we'd be in the shade a bit (at the always stunning Guisachan Park in Kelowna), so I topped this lovely aqua and pink dress with a turquoise hued cardigan and pulled colours from its palette for my accessories and nail polish choices.

Interestingly, unlike many patterned dresses, there is no white, black, grey, red, or navy blue in this dress' design, which is relatively uncommon amongst the frocks in my closet and made me really give thought to what hues my accessories should me. As the dress itself is vibrant and eye-catching, I wanted to ensure it remained the star of the show that day and that it wasn't overpowered by darker accessories. Thus, I opted for pale coloured ones - specifically a classic pearl necklace, pale pink nylon/chiffon scarf, pink rose pattern plastic bangle, sparkly pink bow earrings, a silver tone vintage rose brooch, white shoes and a pale straw handbag.

Idea for spring, summer and the first few still-warm days of autumn on its own or topped with a lightweight cardigan, as I've done here, this dress could also be hugged by a pale hued (think cream, light grey, beige or taupe) fur wrap come the nippier days of the year. In fact, I can easily picture this dress and the person wearing it looking like a million dollar against a snow covered landscape, the gentle colours of the pattern popping all the more thanks to the marshmallow hued background.

You only get one first time for every new thing that you try, and for my inaugural YouTube video, I will always remember and be very happy that I had recently received such a gorgeous floral print vintage style dress from Voodoo Vixen, which I was able to wear on camera that day. It is me and my style to a tee and will forever remind me, in the loveliest of ways, when I wear or see it hanging in my closet, of the nerves, excitement and happiness of that majorly cool experience and exciting new step in my life.