January 31, 2013

A look back at January 2013

 Right around the end of 2012, my dear friend Bunny Monroe asked me if I was planning to put together a year-in-review post about some of the vintage outfits I'd worn throughout the past year. I'd already been contemplating the idea of doing so myself, but, as I replied to Bunny, I held off because (stickler for accuracy that I am) I technically did not start posting outfit snaps here (on any kind of regular basis) until last March, and as such a year-in-review of my outfits from 2012 would not truly encompass a full a year (I could have recapped what appeared here all the same, but again, it just didn't feel right to do a year end post that did not span topics from January to December).

Bunny's question however, got me thinking about the general topic of “in review” posts and early on in the initial days of this month, I decided that I'd debut something here on Chronically Vintage that I've not really done before, and that is to recap some of the highlights (good, bad or otherwise!) from the past month will all of you.

I'd like such posts to become a monthly event that transpire on the last day of the month, or if that's not possible (or if the last day happens to fall on a holiday and I'd prefer to dedicate a post to that special day) during the first few days of the next month, and in the spirit of ensuring something takes place starting in January, we'll launch this new series- which I'm calling "A look back at (whatever month)" - today.

I'm not rigidly mapping out how such posts will go, they're open to all kinds of potential and will, at their heart, be about looking back as some of the blog posts that stood out for me during the course of a given month, as well as some of the things that transpired in my life, which I might not have yet blogged about. Photos, links to interesting stories on other peoples' sites, and an array of diverse subject matter may pop up here as well.

Overall, I'd say that this month fell squarely into the mixed bag category. On a personal level there were some relatively long, stressful days, but also some terrific ones. The weather, in true January fashion, was bracingly cold, but we were treated to a fair bit of icy sunshine as well. I was able to accomplish a lot on some fronts, and almost none on others.

Vintage 1950s winter S R toothpaste ad

{January hit much like a snowball that you happen to see coming straight at you: freezing, a little rough, but ultimately worth smiling about. Image source.}

My heart and soul didn't want to say goodbye to either the Christmas spirit or 2012 (as I discussed in this post), both having been so tremendously lovely. I think that in the wake of such a great year and holiday season, January felt a bit akin to when you return home from a fabulous vacation and have a bit of a hard time readjusting to the usual ebb and flow of life again. I lingered on taking down the decorations, packing away the Christmas records, ceasing to bake shortbread cookies, and hanging up my holiday cardigan.

Ultimately though, all of those things took place, especially since I needed to devote my thoughts and attention to other going-ons, such as doing our personal and business taxes, medical appointments, and (infinitely more enjoyably than either of those things) thrifting with my mom at a Value Village 50% off sale in the middle of the month.

Much as one often feels after a great vacation, I think I was more worn out from the (albeit mostly positive) hecticness of 2013 then I initially realized. This point didn't hit me as the ball dropped at midnight on New Year's or even for a few days afterwards, but by around the 10th (which, as a neat side note, is exactly the halfway mark to my birthday), it did and I needed a few days to unwind and recharge.

Interesting, right around that time, our home internet service was inexplicably down for nearly six days. I kept up with some of my usual online activities via my iPhone (an awesome recent Christmas gift from Tony) while out and about, but for the most part, I fell behind on emails, social media, blog feeds, etc for a few days and then spent the next week feverishly trying to keep up. This only wore me out more (I'm all for hiatuses, I just prefer them to be planned ones!), but it didn't shake the happiness from my spirit that was present as 2012 came to a close, and I'm very grateful for that.

As we sit here on the morning of the last day of January, I still feel like my batteries need some more boosting, but their energy levels, so to speak, are gradually climbing back up, and I'm sure the lovely festivities (Groundhog Day, Valentine's, the one year anniversary of when we moved to B.C. last year, etc) of this month will help that cause further.

Here on the blogging front a lot transpired this month, and before I go any further, I want to thank each and every one of you for your tremendously lovely comments, support, encouragement, help, and friendship throughout this month. As I remarked to Tony numerous times while reading and approving blog comments, I feel so blessed to have such amazing readers and online friends.

So what took place here throughout January? The year kicked off with a post that highlighted The importance of having a blogging schedule, then in New hair for the New Year I shared with all of you about the fact that due to years of ongoing hair loss, the time had finally come for me to start wearing a wig. The incredible outpouring of kindness and support that I received in response to both that post and my wig unveiling (a photo from which is pictured below) a few days later will stay with me for the rest of my life.

1940s winter skirt and turtleneck outfit, image_4

As the month rolled on, I talked about one of my vintage holy grains in The kind of vintage piece that pipe dreams are made of, celebrated six years of wearing glasses, explored how vintage clothes sizing works, took a peak at How I store, and why I love, vintage bangle bracelets; and in a very intimate post, I shared with you that Chronically Vintage and I are both now on Facebook for the first time.

There were other posts, too, but these are some of the ones that standout most for me from the past month. Another pair of highlights occurred when I won two online giveaways: a splendidly pretty cardigan from the gorgeous blog Circus Girl, and a fabulous Arthelia's Attic snood from Haute Rockabilly Fashionista.
In the case of the latter, I own my win entirely to the incredible kindness of Rockabilly Belle from Rockabelle Bombshell who, in what sincerely stands out as one of the most thoughtful gestures anyone has ever done for, donated her entry to me with the following giveaway comment, "I would love it if you would count my blogging of the Snoods towards Jessica's at Chronically Vintage, she is such a sweetheart and wants one so bad."

It's true, I did, but I never in a million years imagined that I'd end up winning one because of someone else's random act of kindness. Amongst a month that wasn't always a bed of roses, Rockabilly Belle's generosity and sweetness shine luminously as a definite point of awesomeness, and I cannot begin to thank her enough for the fact that I'm now waiting for my first even Arthelia's Attic snood to arrive because of her (with an outfit post including it to follow once it does).

So what does February have in store as we look ahead? In part, as always, only time will tell, but I can let you in on the fact that I'm planning posts on topics as diverse as the history of maple syrup, my first pink Christmas tree, and plenty of Valentine's Day festivities.

1940s General Motors car ad feauturing a young woman and a winter snowman

{Sno’ fooling, I have high hopes for February and suspect it will be a great month when all is said and done. Image source.}

Though I wouldn't call this past month my favourite January of all time, it was by absolutely no means the worst either. In so many ways, it was simply January, simplistic though that may sound. Cold, busy, taxing, sometimes quite fun, and the only way possible to begin the year anew.

Happy last day of January, my wonderful dears - may February bring us all nicer weather, scores of joy, and an extra big dose of some of the things (and people - in the case of the 14th) that we love the most!

January 29, 2013

How I store, and why I love, bangle bracelets

If you've been following this blog for any length of time (or really, odds are, if you've even seen just one or two of my vintage outfit posts), you've probably picked up on the fact that I adore, and very often wear, bangle bracelets.

Vintage bangle bracelet mosaic

{Photos of four of my ensembles that included multiple bangles being worn at the same time.}

Amongst us vintage loving lasses, I'm scarcely alone in this adoration (bloggers such as Solanah, Fleur, and Laurence, to name just three have often included swoon-worthily beautiful bangle as part of their outfits, too.), and thought it was high time I devoted a post unto itself to this particular passion.

Bangle bracelets have been in use for thousands of years, with the earliest versions being created from materials such as shell, gold, bronze, copper, silver, ivory, jade, wood, and soft (carve-able) stone. They can range from a very simple hollow ring that slips over the wearer's wrist to a intricately detailed work of art made from precious metals and jewels. Most however, when we're talking about mid-twentieth century vintage bangles, are less ornate or expensive, but to those who love them dearly, certainly no less beautiful.

Bangles have seen their popularity wax and wane over the centuries and more recent decades alike, but they're certainly never fallen out of vogue completely (they are, to my mind, one of the principle bracelets styles and I don't think they'll ever go the way of the dinosaur). They were especially popular during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, with the 1940s in particular seeing the a surge in the number of bangle fans.

{An illustrated Doris Dodson Juniors Original fashion ad from 1946 showing a young woman sporting two bangle bracelets. Image source.}

As a child of the 80s (a decade in which bangles were definitely a much loved fashion accessory), I think I've always adored this classic bracelet style, especially once I began seeing vintage photos and movies in which women were sporting anywhere from one to ten or more of these beautiful accessories when I was a little girl.

In my teen years, when I began to wearing vintage clothes, bangles were one of the first pieces of jewelry I reached for, as many of them (especially those from the mid-twentieth century) are completely nickel-free (a must for those like me who have a severe allergy to this commonplace metal).

In fact, I make it no secret that part of the reason I wear bangles so often is for this very reason. There are literally thousands upon thousands of bangle bracelets out there (be they modern or vintage) that are made from materials other than metal. In terms of the those from the 1930s-50s, some of the most commonly used materials were Bakelite, resin, acrylic, celluloid, lucite, other plastics, and wood (with metal bangles being more common during the 20s, 30s and 50s).

Though a few of my bangles date from pre-1960 times, most are more modern (or relatively so), selected because they had a classic, vintage appropriate look. Unlike many of us vintage wearing gals, I do not have  big collection of Bakelite bangles. In fact, it wasn't until just a few days ago (long after the photos for this post had been take) that I received (as an incredibly kind gift from a fellow vintage loving friend) my first Bakelite bracelets (thank you again so much, dear lady, if you're reading this).

The market for all Bakelite pieces - bangles very much included - has skyrocketed in recent years, and though stories still surface of folks finding them for a song, such is rarely the case any more. This means that buying Bakelite is often an investment for many of us, and its cost is the reason why up until this month, I'd never owned any jewelry made out of this classic material.

If Bakelite really floats your boat (and rightfully so if it does!), be sure to brush on some of the most highly recommended tips on how to correctly identify true Bakelite, such as those put forth in excellent posts such as this one by Brittany of Va-Voom Vintage.

I've certainly rubbed my fair share of vintage  pieces over the years at thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets, but again, have yet to come across any true Bakelite, and don't consider myself to be a seasoned veteran well it comes to handling this material - yet! (If you have amassed a collection of vintage Bakelite and would like to know how to polish it and help restore some of the lustre that may have been lost over the years to your pieces, definitely swing by the post Solanah from Vixen Vintage wrote on that very subject last year.)

Most of my bangle bracelets are made from some form of plastic/acrylic or resin, with a smaller percentage being wood, fabric, metal, or some other material. Over the years I've intentionally worked at building up a rainbow of bangles so that I would have one or more on hand to go with the vast majority of garments in my vintage wardrobe. I've also tried to stick to sizes, shapes, and styles that have a very vintage appropriate look to them, so as to easily integrate both old and new bracelets together in the same stack.

Jessica Cangiano turquoise and white 1950s dress, garden vintage photo shoot, image 12

While you certainly don't have to, and I don't always, often times a big part of the fun of wearing bangles is stacking them up in multiples on one or both of your wrists at the same time. You can have a blast matching, or alternatively, clashing the colours of your bangles with your outfit, playing around with fun colour combinations, and getting to really enjoy your collection on an ongoing basis.

Bangles were particularly popular during the 1940s (in part because of the fact that so many metals were rationed for war use and thus not available for the jewelry market, whereas the use of many plastics - some of which were fairly new to the scene - were not restricted and therefore could be used to make bangles and other types of costume jewelry), and were sported by Hollywood stars (just think of Carmen Miranda's wrists jangling under tall stacks of beads and bangles), fashion models, and everyday women alike.

I wear bangles as part of both my 1940s and 50s outfits, though do (naturally enough) find I'm especially drawn to them when sporting forties fashions. It can be painful for me from a medical standpoint to have a lot of weight or pressure on almost any part of my body, so I don't usually stack tons of bangles on each arm, but I do like to put together combinations of about two to six or so at a time, and adore seeing it when others who don't have to keep this point in mind load their arms up almost to the elbows with stunning stacks of bangles.

If you're new to collecting and/or wearing bangles, don't feel you you absolutely have to rush out and spend hundreds of dollars on Bakelite or other high priced options right away (though of course you can, if your budget permits).

I'd suggest combing through local second hand, thrift, and consignment shops, as well as turning to online sources such as etsy and eBay for a potential plethora of vintage bangles at all kinds of price points. Yard sales and flea markets, too, can be terrific places to unearth vintage and modern bangles alike - and often at very good prices (I've paid as little as ten cents a piece for wood and plastic bangles from such sources a few times over the years).

It may be helpful to start with a few fairly neutral hues that will go with a lot of your wardrobe and then expand your colour collection as time goes on. Black, brown (root beer, if we're talking Bakelite), butterscotch, "apple juice" (a relatively transparent shade of dark, warm yellow), grey, navy blue, dark green, red, amber, ivory, cream and white are versatile colours that will likely match or compliment a lot of pieces in your closet.

Often times carved, faceted, uniquely shaped, embellished, or otherwise fancier bangles can cost more (especially if shopping online or at a vintage store), but such pieces are usually immensely lovely and can really be the piece that end up being the star of your whole outfit, so you may feel they're well worth the sticker prices they often command.

Once you've started collecting bangles, you'll likely find yourself wondering how to store them. I sort and store my collection, sorted by colour, in quilted vintage lingerie boxes. An idea I picked up from a charming little consignment store in Calgary that I often visited while living there during my late teens.

(Interestingly - great vintage loving minds think alike, one might say - this is the same approach that Solanah takes for her beguilingly lovely collection, too.)

How to store vintage bangle bracelets_2

How to store vintage bangle bracelets_1

How to store vintage bangle bracelets_3

This method allows me to easily see my collection at a glance, takes relatively little space to store (I keep my lingerie boxes of bangles on one of the two dressers in our bedroom), and makes finding the exact bracelet I need a complete and total snap.

Over the years I've picked up vintage lingerie boxes (I have a couple unused ones waiting in the wings to accommodate my collection as it continues to grow over time) at thrift stores and online (eBay and etsy), and recommend those sources if this storage method appeals to you, too.

Five other possible ideas for storing your vintage bangles include:

-Hanging them on the pegs of a wall mounted hat rack (only do this with bangles that you're certain will not break should they happen to slip off and hit the floor).

-Sliding them onto upright paper towel holders (some styles of single hat vintage hat stands can also work in much the same way).

-Using jewelry store style circular bracelet displays.

-Slipping them into the pockets of a hanging, divided shoe, jewelry or craft supply holder.

-Corralling a few at a time in decorative bowls, boxes, small trays, etc and displaying them around your bedroom, bathroom, vanity top, or other areas of your house.

Bangles are fun, easy to come by (over the years I've even found some at modern mall stores such as Claire's, H&M, and Forever 21 - the later of which is where the cinnabar looking bangle in the photo mosaic earlier in this post came from), and thoroughly fantastic way to inject a great hit of vintage style into your outfits.

They're one of my all-time favourite accessories thanks not only to fact that so many styles are nickel-free, but also because they're often lightweight (on a per bangle basis), available at all manner of price points, super easy to wear, can be dressed up or down to your heart's content, and are a joy to build a rainbow of over the years.

Vintage navy blue outfit with eye glasses brooch, Chronically Vintage, image 7

I'm sometimes asked by those just starting out with wearing mid-century vintage fashions what some of the best accessories for them to begin adding to their wardrobe are, and amongst those I list, bangles are always included.

They work on every body type, add a jolt of style and colour to vintage ensembles, can be partnered with other kinds of bracelets at the same time, and are just plain fun to stack on your wrist and listen to their tell-tale clanking and jingling throughout the day.

January 28, 2013

Smiling in the snow at Skaha

Vintage red, grey and white outfit at Skaha Lake, image_3

Outfit details

1950s black and red hat: eBay
1980s does 1940s red and white floral print dress: etsy seller Superelder Vintage
Grey shrug: Fairweather
Vintage silver toned rose brooch: etsy seller Miss Farfalla
White skinny belt: eBay
Bangle bracelets: various sources
Red vintage purse: etsy seller I Love Vintage Stuff
Black vintage gloves: Gift from a dear vintage loving friend
Nude black seamed stockings: eBay
Black shoes: Thrifted (from Salvation Army)
Lip colour: MAC Russian Red

Photography by Antonio Cangiano

Vintage red, grey and white outfit at Skaha Lake, image_5

Vintage red, grey and white outfit at Skaha Lake, image_2

Vintage red, grey and white outfit at Skaha Lake, image_7

Vintage red, grey and white outfit at Skaha Lake, image_6

Vintage red, grey and white outfit at Skaha Lake, image_4

Vintage red, grey and white outfit at Skaha Lake, image_1

There's a scene towards the end of the 1960 movie version of the classic story Swiss Family Robinson in which the family, marooned on the island for quite some time now, have to fend off a group of pirates that have come ashore and are up to no good.

In it the family continually fights off the villainous pirates, only to have them spring back to life as if they hadn't just had a boulder hurdled at them or some such. As children, my little brother and I found this scene to be incredibly funny, as it seemed no matter what the Robinsons did, the pirates just would not die. As a result of the enjoyment we got out of this scene, we came to use the term "like the pirates" throughout our youth when something lasted for a comically and/or otherwise unexpectedly long time before running out or dying.

To this day, when something continues to keep going strong far longer than it was excepted to, I crack a smile and think back to those resilient Disney pirates. Over the course of 2012, the battery (technically, batteries, as he uses a grip that houses two batteries) in Tony's Canon DSL did just that. Time and time again we'd whip it out for a shot and they'd still be going strong, despite often shooting a hundred or two image per outing time and time again. It was handy indeed, and while we of course had no qualms with charging the batteries again before they reached the end of their current charge, we were both more than a little curious to see how just how long they would last for.

The answer to that question was delivered last month on Boxing Day when stopped to take a few snaps at Skaha Beach on the south end of town. After just a couple of minutes, the batteries (which, to be fair, had been showing an ever-decreasing amount of charge for a couple of months now) finally gave up their last ounce of life for the day. We were just taking pictures for fun and as this wasn't a particularly important shoot, we didn't mind and had a good laugh over the fact that they'd finally been defeated - or at least in need of another charging.

To grab a couple more photos, Tony whipped out his iPhone, and so two of the photos today were shot with that, whereas the rest were with the Canon. The batteries were charged up again shortly after we got home and it will be fun to see just how many months they give us again this year before they need to be charged once more (neither of us can seem to remember just when they were charged last prior to this, but we estimate eight to twelve months ago).

Throughout 2012 I introduced you to Okanagan Lake (in posts such as this one about the S.S. Sicamous), the larger of the two lakes between which our town in sandwiched, and discussed the smaller one, Skaha Lake, in this post, but I haven't shown it to you before today. Skaha is the first thing that greets visitors as they drive (or fly) into Penticton from southern destinations in the province, and while it pales in size to Okanagan, it is still a very respectable lake in its own right.

During the warmer months, just as Okanagan Lake is, Skaha (which means dog in a local First Nations dialect - so hence the original name given to it by early French explorers of the area, Lac Du Chien) is a massive tourist attraction, as well as a familiar haunt for many locals. Then, as now, when I was growing up, my family tended to spend more time at Okanagan, as it was closer to our home, but I've certainly swam at many of the beaches around its perimeters over the years, too.

As with most beaches the world over, Skaha doesn't see too much action during the colder months, which is part of the reason I love spending time there during the fall, winter and early spring. Though the waters are too cold to dunk your toes into (unless you're keen on doing polar bear dips!), there is an unmistakable serenity to the watching the water lap at the toast hued sands, tall (often - as in these photos - snow covered) mountains surrounding you on either side, and few other visitors to interrupt moments of peaceful thought and contemplation.

On this day, there was light snow and an icy wind blowing all around us, and I was very, very careful to watch my footing as I carefully made my way out towards the end of the little boat dock down near the marina, lest I take a tumble and end actually end up doing an unintentional polar bear swim! Thankfully such was not the case, but the exposed skin on my forearms was still mighty chilly, let me tell you!

I'd already been suspecting as much, but once I saw these photos uploaded on the computer, I knew for sure (as I touched on in two posts earlier this month) that I needed to trim the bangs on this wig. For some reason - most likely the hat pushing the whole wig further down on my head - the bands just look comically long (and full) here, so later that night at home I ultra carefully gave them a trim, and now like them a million times more (thus in all future posts featuring this wig, the bangs will be a bit shorter and you can see my eyebrows properly again).

I've never been big on spending Boxing Day out shopping (especially since most stores now have Boxing Week sales, which means you've got ample time to bargain hunt, if you're so inclined), instead I prefer tranquil post-Christmas days like this, spent outdoors or perhaps inside hunkered down in front of a warm fire, holiday feast leftovers and hot cocoa at the ready.

While my arms, ok, all of me, was a bit cold, I was also very happy and content, and didn't mind at all when the camera battery died. It just meant the setting became even more serene without the sound of clicking to interrupt the peacefulness of this little slice of Okanagan winter heaven (with nary a pirate anywhere in sight).

January 26, 2013

Saturday Snapshots: January 26, 2013

{Even though he scarcely looks old enough to be enlisted, in this immensely lovely 1940s portrait studio shot, we a young sailor and his equally youthful girl beaming mile wide-smiles for the camera. No background information is provided for this photo, and I can't help but hope dearly that he made it through the war, they remained an item, and went on to have many more years of happiness together.}

{Cutting a figure so dashing he looks as though he could have just hopped out of a Hollywood film of the day, this dapper 1930s fellow is identified as Wilson Buddo, and I highly suspect he could teach today's generation of chaps a serious thing or two about the fine art of gentlemanly dressing.}

{Vintage storefront window and street scene photography have both long fascinated me, as they hold such tantalizing glimpses into exactly how the real world looked back in the day. This great shot from 1942 combines both in one fell swoop, as we peak at pedestrians on the sidewalk in Midtown, Manhattan through a shop's front window.}

{At first glance this might just appear to be a nice vintage colour photo of two people posing on what looks most likely to be the grounds of a college or university, however, look a little closer and you'll instantly start to notice the many wonderful details of the young lady's ensemble. From her pink flower adorned hat to her studded purse, those stunning shoes to the fur collar, she's packing a rather fantastic amount of style into a single outfit, and I love every last inch of it!}

{This professional capture of two adorable yesteryear kids (most likely siblings) is so wonderfully sweet. No names, dates of other information is provided, but if we were to go off the girl's bobbed hair, this photo was most likely taken during the 1920s or early 30s. }

{Two words say speak volumes about why this photo is instantly noteworthy: Their bangs!!!}

{This 1950s colour photo is so charming and relatable. You just look this quartet of middle aged ladies - who could very easily be your own mother, aunts, and/or grandmas - and feel comforted, loved and sure that a great meal is coming your way any minute.}

{It was the placement of the elegant cake in this fifties wedding shot that instantly ensured it caught my eye. Smack, dab in the center, it's slightly more in focus than the bride and groom, and was clearly an important - and very beautiful - part of this couple's wedding day.}

{It's casual attire such as saddle shoes and cuffed jeans for this group of the 1940s gals - identified as Peggy, Marya, Norma and Velva - as they relax in rustic log cabin in front of the fireplace.}

{This is what childhood (whether in the 50s, as in this shot, or today) should always be like - excitement, sunshine, family to hang out with, and big, a carefree smile across your face.}

{All images above are from Flickr. To learn more about a specific image, please click on it to be taken to its respective Flickr page.}

♥ ♥ ♥

If someone asked me for a list of the words that best describe me, without skipping a beat, "happy" would come out right near the top of the pile. Like all of us, I have my blue days, my off days, and those days when it would probably take a basket of puppies to get me to break into a smile, but over all, I would consider myself a very happy person.

In part I believe that I just happen to have a sunny disposition, but another factor is that throughout my life, even in the face of great adversity, hardship or pain, I have made a mental effort to remain positive, (realistically) optimistic, and happy. Does that mean that I haven't frowned, scowled, or sighed along the way? Goodness, no! However, I've come to learn that it is very often doing such things - allowing yourself to confront and truly feel your negative thoughts and emotions - that quickly help but them behind you, and in turn usher a general sense of happiness back into your day (or your whole life, as the case may be).

I'm anything but naive and I know that happiness is much more complex and multi-faceted than merely possessing a drive and desire to feel happy, but both of those factors do truly go a very long way in delivering you to your goal of feeling pretty darn joyful as you go about your daily life.

Happiness is important not only because of how it affects us on individual basis, but also, I firmly believe - as Mark Twain so succinctly summed things up in today's feature quote - that happiness in oneself breeds happiness in others. Just as a seemingly simple simple smile can be contagious, so too can a sense of happiness.

One has only to think of the last occasion in which they spent a good chunk of time with someone was in foul, sad, or downtrodden mood to know how quickly someone else's attitude and emotions can easily effect your own. Chances are, in such a setting, though you may have tried to cheer the person up, something - some silent quality - of the person's mood rubbed off on you in the moment (or perhaps even longer).

By contrast, think instead to the last time you hung out with someone who was bubbly, jovial, and genuinely upbeat? Chances are your own mood quickly fell into pace with that individual's and you were keen to keep the good feelings rolling for as long as possible afterwards. Happiness might not be the easiest thing in the world to come by, but it's far from the hardest either, and whether that flame is lit for you my someone else's outlook or or your own internal source, once you've got the fire of happiness going, by all means spread it far and near.

The tail end of January (at least in the western hemisphere) is by no means the most rosy and enjoyable time of the year by any stretch of the imagination. We've slogged our way through a couple of months (or more!) of winter, nature's palette contains about as many shades as a single grey paint chip, and chances are spring is still anywhere from one to three months away, depending on where you reside.

Now is the time when a single spark of happiness can quickly turn into a raging inferno, if you let it, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Who amongst us - including those like me who are often naturally in good spirits - can't use more happiness, reasons to smile, and cheer in their life? The simple answer is, quite frankly, no one.

So if you're feeling like you're in a good mood these days, be sure to let others know, spread your joy, and brighten up someone's wintry day - and life - with your own wonderful brand of happiness.

January 24, 2013

Chronically Vintage and I are both on Facebook now!

For many years I watched from the sidelines as millions (perhaps even billions at this point!) of people around the world joined Facebook. Yet for very personal reasons pertaining to a dangerous, extremely abusive ex who stalked and terrorized me long after I ended our relationship, I held off on joining (because I knew for a fact he was/is there). Often times people would ask me to jump on the Facebook bandwagon, but I couldn't bring myself to do so, fearing the nightmarish can of worms that I might open if I did.

Yet, even though nothing has changed in that regard, as 2012 wore on, I really began to feel like I was sick and tired of living under the fear that individual's potential actions were having on my life. After several heart-to-heart talks with Tony on this subject, I decided about a month ago that it was high time I finally joined Facebook. As always, I will be very careful and take whatever measures are needed (including deleting my account if it truly came to that) to try and ensure my personal safety there.

The decision to sign up didn't come lightly, and I'm still a little nervous about being someplace that I know that person is as well. Again though, I want to stop letting them impart that much fear into my life anymore, and stepping up to the plate, so to speak, by joining Facebook is certainly one small way for me to do that.

So now that we've got that rather heavy introduction out of the way, let's focus on all the delightful fact that at very, very long last, I'm on Facebook!

My personal account is Jessica Cangiano, and here's the fan page that I created for Chronically Vintage.

I would be touched and honoured if you added me as a friend and liked Chronically Vintage's page.

A large part of the reason that I finally felt (as much as can be under the circumstances) comfortable joining Facebook is because I knew that I'd be surrounded by so many friends and loved ones there, and that those connections would (and certainly already have) help off-put my concerns a great deal.

I'm very happy and excited to be a part of Facebook after so many years, and truly look forward to connecting with many of you there. Thank you for letting me share this personal story and huge, huge thanks in advance for adding me and/or liking like Chronically Vintage's page.

*Edit* I just wanted to add, as I forgot to mention it above, that one of the first things I did when I joined Facebook was to block the person mentioned in this article. Thankfully he's the only individual I've had any reason to block so far.

January 22, 2013

Vintage clothing sizing 101

Over the years one of the most frequently asked questions that I've received from those who are just starting to get into vintage fashion, or who have begun buying vintage clothing but don't have a lot of experience with it is, how come vintage sizes are a lot bigger than those today? Often followed quickly by, why am I such a larger size in vintage clothing then I am when I buy modern clothes?

These are excellent questions and today this post is going to answer both, as well as to explain a bit of the history behind ladies clothing sizing.

One of the most common misconceptions about vintage sizing - which, for the sake of this post, is going to focus primarily on the sizing applied to garments between the the years of approximately 1930 and 1960 - is that women in the past must have been a lot larger than your average woman today. This simply was not the case at all, and in fact, the average lady today is both taller and wider than than her mid-century counterpoint.

Then, as now, however, women come in all kinds of wonderful shapes and sizes, and there has been clothing designed to (ideally) fit them right off the rack. Ready made, as known as ready-to-wear, clothing, complete with sizes tags, emerged from the industrial revolution as factory began to churn out millions of mass market garments, thus freeing many people from having to choice between either making their own clothing at home or turning to a tailor or seamstress for their garments.

Whereas today's ladies clothing size scale starts as zero or two, depending on the brand, in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, most clothes intended for adult women started their sizing off at eight, ten or twelve, not zero (or, as has even emerged in recent years, “subzero” or “00” sizing).

There was no size zero for adults during this time period, and it is only as the decades have progressed and clothing manufactured gradually lowered the size number applied their garments (wherein keeping the actual measurements of the garments themselves about the same as they'd always been) that single digit clothing sizes became the norm for adult many women.

While there are no hard and fast rules (especially as clothing size numbers continue to drop as measurements remain the same - a practise which is known in the fashion industry as vanity sizing), generally speaking, garments from the 1930s-1950s are sized double plus or minus one or two sizes than what the same garment, manufactured and labelled by a company today, would be. For example, a dress from the 1950s with a size 18 tag would likely fit a woman today who wears a modern size eight or ten.

Case in point, when it comes to modern garments (produced in the last decade), I wear anything from a size a North American 3/4 to a size 8/9, with sizes four on top and six on the bottom being the most common (or, if working off of a small, medium, large, etc scale, an extra small to a large, with small and medium occurring most often in my closet).

With vintage garments from the 1940s and 50s, I typically wear a size 14, 16, or occasionally an 18 (with size 16 being the one which graces the most tags in my vintage wardrobe). Then, as now, even sized garments (12, 14, 16, etc) were more common, but some brands used uneven sizes (9, 11, 13, 15, and so on), especially those targeted towards, petite women, women who wore "half sizes", and plus sized ladies.

As there is almost no consistency between brands when it comes to sizing today (there was some variance in past, too, but not as much as nowadays), your best bet, without a doubt, is to disregard the size number on a vintage tag and instead work off of measurements (this particularly true if you're buying clothing online and thus can't try it on in person first before purchasing).

Believe me when I say that, regardless of if you wear vintage or modern clothing (or a mix of both), one of the best things you can ever do for yourself is to pay little to no attention to tag sizes when it comes to quickly judging if a garment will fit you or not. Such numbers are incredibly arbitrary and should never influence how a person feels about themselves either.

Instead of striving to be a certain size, channel your efforts in to finding garments that truly fit you properly. The best and most important way to do this is to know your measurements. I highly recommend that you periodically measure yourself at various key points on your body and keep a list of those measurements with you when shopping (back in December 2011 I detailed how to do just that in a post called The list of clothing measurements I never leave home without).

1959 colour photo of a mom measuring the hem length on a dress she's making for her daughter (from Miss Retro Modern's Flickr stream)

{Measurements are your best bet when it comes to ensuring that you find the best fitting vintage garment. Do not rely merely on size numbers listed on clothing tags. Image source.}

Any online vintage clothing seller worth their salt should always include key measurements in their listings. Generally, depending on the garment, these will include bust, waist, and hips. Other measurements may include overall length, shoulder to waist length, waist to hemline length, sleeve length, neck circumference, back width, and inseam. If you come across a garment online that doesn't include these measurements, but instead just a size number, be sure to ask the seller to provide details on the actual sizing.

Just as I might wear a vintage size 16 and a modern size six, so too am I different size in the 70s, 80s and sometimes even the 90s, as clothing sizes continued to change throughout those decades (for example, I have 1980s dresses that range in size from 4 to 12, with size ten being the most common for me).

Measurements are always what matter most. A label could say size 739, if it wanted to, and if it fit me comfortably and was flattering, I'd happily buy that garment. I do not put any stock into tag sizes and never let a bigger tag size determine how I feel about myself, so long as I'm presently happy with my weight (and even if, for whatever reason, I'm not, I still try not to let sizing bring me down at all).

Once you know your measurements, you'll likely figure out that there's a small range of one to three vintage sizes that work well for you (for example, if you're very svelte, you may wear a vintage size 8, 10 or 12, whereas most ladies will likely wear larger sizes, ranging from 12 to 22 or higher) and that you'll naturally gravitate towards these sizes (just as you would with modern sizes) when shopping for vintage clothes, whether online or in person.

Another point to keep in mind about vintage clothing sizes is that some companies produced different size ranges that were based off of different measurements. For example, throughout the mid-twentieth century, Sears often released the same garment in one or more of its most common size ranges: Juniors (designed for the slender teenage figure), Misses (average adult sizes), Half sizes (designed for women who were 5'3" and under and/or were of average height but fell between two even numbered clothing sizes), and Women's sizes (designed for plus sized gals).

For the most part, you really don't need to pay much attention to such terms, as they usually accompanied a size number as well. The one notable exception to this would be Women's sizes, which didn't progressively continue on from Misses sizes, as plus sizes do from smaller/average sizes today. Instead they often started at 38 and went up indefinitely from there (with 38 or 40 to 50 or 52 being a somewhat common size range). Again though, please don't worry about these numbers! You'll be using your own measurements when you shop for vintage garments and will simply be trying to find clothes that are as close as possible to those.

For those who may be curious, the following is a list - copied directly from the pages of a 1955 Sears catalog - that details the measurements, in inches, for the brand's Misses size range:

Size 10: 32.5 bust, 24.5 waist, 34 hips

Size 12: 34 bust, 25.5 waist, 36 hips

Size 14: 35.5 bust, 27 waist, 38 hips

Size 16: 37 bust, 28.5 waist, 40 hips

Size 18: 39 bust, 30.5 waist, 42 hips

Size 20: 41 bust, 32.5 waist, 44 hips

There is such an incredible variation in sizing between modern clothing manufacturers, that there's little use in showing you a similar size chart from one of today's brands. That isn't to say that each brand doesn't (in theory) stick to set of measurements across all of the garments they produce, many do, I just mean that this set of measurements is not shared universally between all clothing manufacturers. I suspect that just about everyone reading this post is familiar with how, when shopping for modern clothes, you can be one size in certain brand and a very different size in another (this is true almost no matter where in the world you buy your modern clothing from these days).

Vintage clothing sizes do not have to be a mystery at all, nor should someone ever feel deterred from wearing a vintage garment because the label says a size that it much bigger than the modern size they wear. One only has to hold up a size 16 dress from the 1950s to know that it's not a big garment in the slightest. In all likelihood, it will best fit a modern women who wears anything from a (North American) size four to a size eight or ten, depending on her personal measurements. But truly, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to converting vintage sizes to modern ones or vice versa, and so once more, I must stress the importance of working off of your measurements.

These can certainly change over time to due to fluctuations in weight, but if you have a 38" bust today, you're likely going to fit into a garment with a 38" or 40" bust (assuming the seller measured the garment accurately), it's as simple, easy, and even fun as that. Once you know your measurements and have a decent idea of which vintage sizes fit you best, you can set about shopping for yesteryear clothing with much, much more easy and enjoyment.

Instead of flipping through a rack of garments that all have sizes such as 14, 16, 18, and 20 and thinking (erroneously) that they're all too big for you, you can instead (assuming one of those corresponds to your measurements) reach for your size and try it on in person, or buy it online (so long as the measurements stated in the listing will work for your body).

I may have touched on this point before in a past post, but it warrants bringing up again and is a very topical example to cap this post off with. It's often said that Marilyn Monroe, who was indeed famous for her va-va-voom curves, wore anything from a size 12 to 16. People often then rush to hold her up as a shinning beckon of plus sized beauty and body type because of this.

However, such folks are misguided because while Marilyn did in fact wear such sizes, they were vintage size 12s, 14s and 16s, not modern ones. If they were modern ones, she would fall into the lower end of the plus size scale, but again, they’re vintage sizes, which are equivalent to much smaller numbers today. As many of our own do, over the years Miss Monroe's weight fluctuated, but generally speaking, if she was alive (and the same size as she was back then) today, Marilyn would wear anything from a modern size 2 to a size 8 or even a 10, just depending on where she was buying her clothes.

By the same token, so too will your vintage size(s) differ from your modern ones. It would be virtually impossible for anyone who wears a size 16 in modern clothing to comfortably fit into a vintage size 16 and vice versa. You're not looking to match like to like, you're trying to find garments that fit you properly, and a list of your measurements is the key to making that happen.

So go out there, measurements in hand, and have a blast knowing that your vintage size is not the same as your modern one, and that such is exactly the same for everyone else on the planet! Fit, not size, is what truly counts, no matter if you're shopping for modern clothing or filling your wardrobe with nothing but vintage garments.

January 20, 2013

I want to love you, I really do, but...

Have you ever purchased a garment - be it vintage or modern - and wanted to love it dearly, but for whatever reason, something prevented you from giving your whole heart to it? I have, on numerous occasions, but the gods of good fortunate must have been on my side recently, because it had been quite a long time since that scenario last occurred.

Towards the end of 2012, I was contacted by a member of the customer service team for the popular online etailer, eshakti.com, who was curious to know if I'd like to receive one of their garments (of my choice) to review. I'd heard about eshakti before and read a few (mixed) reviews of their products and services online, but never purchased from them before, so I was totally game to sample their wares.

Today's post however, is not specifically focused on the garment I received from them, that will appear in a future post (I'm putting together an outfit around the my eshakti review garment and am in the midst of sourcing the items I need to complete the ensemble, which - hint, hint - is not in keeping with the decades I usually wear, but rather channels an earlier one). Instead it's about one of the two dresses that I bought myself from eshakti after I'd picked out my review garment. At that time the site was having a 25% off sale, so even though I'd not been planning to spend that kind of money on myself during the holidays, I bought two dresses from them.

For those of you who aren't familiar with eshakti, they are an online women's clothing retailer based out of India (their site is in English though, fear not) that offers semi-customizable clothing at fairly affordable prices (they presently ship to Canada and the US). Their inventory changes frequently (neither of the two dresses I bought are currently listed, so I can't provide you with links to either), the site offers coupons to new users, has sales on a regular basis, offers a wide range of sizes, and perhaps most appealing of all, allows you to customize certain elements of the garment(s) you purchase from them at the time of order.

Depending on the garment you select, some alterations (such as removing pockets or forgoing embroidery) are available for free, whereas others (including custom sleeve and hem lengths) are available for just $7.50 (which is generally less than you'd typically pay to have the same alterations done by a professional seamstress or tailor). On both of the dresses I purchased, I opted for 3/4 length sleeves and a mid-calf length hem.

I selected the two dresses that I did because both had a somewhat 1940s feel to them, and because (for all the frocks in my closet), I don't have many black vintage or vintage appropriate day dresses, and these two appeared to fit that bill quite nicely. I selected the size whose measurements, on paper, came closest to my own, as I always do when I buy clothing online, and also selected my height from a drop down list that was provided as part of the item selection process.

Considering that the garments were coming from India (and were shipped during the busy December holiday season mail rush), they arrived relatively quickly (about two weeks, I think). At the time of purchase, I was charged $11.95 US for shipping, on top of the $97.90 that the two dresses cost (for a grand total of $109.85). I thought this was very reasonable for international shipping, and still do, however...

While I was fully expecting to pay a bit of import on my purchase, I was not expecting the approximately $50 customs and import fee that I was charged when my parcel arrived. While only about $20 of that was true import fees, the rest was taxes, tariffs, fuel charges and the like the the shipping company, DHL, charged to deliver my order. I was gobsmacked by this. I've ordered clothing from around the world over the years and never before have I been hit with such incredibly high import (et al) charges on such a small (price wise) purchase.

For this reason alone, much as it pains me to say this, I would likely never order from eshakti again, unless there was an alternative shipping method offered (which, at present, there doesn't seem to be). I believe that getting charged the equivalent of one of the dresses I bought in import costs is flat out insane and a very, very bad position to put their customers (especially those on tight budgets) in.

On the eshakti site, in regards to this matter, they state that, "Personal purchases over $200 in a single day are likely to attract US customs duty at the time of delivery. Such duty charges will be reimbursed to you in the form of a gift certificate ONLY." This is good to know for those in the US, however I live in Canada and my purchase only totalled $97.90 before shipping charges, so there's no way for me to recoup any of the $50 I had to spend on import and customs fees, much to my chagrin.

This point irks me because, had it not been for that, there's a decent chance I would have bought from eshakti again, even after I tell you what I'm about to say (which better explains the title of this post, too).

You see, despite ordering the dress that appears in the photos here today in what I believed was my correct size, based on the sizing chart they provided, it proved to be too small in a really odd way.

Lest you think the problem is me/my body, let me tell you, the second I slipped off this bad boy after wearing it for the first time that day, I hopped on the scale (I was a pound less than I'd been for the past few of months, so I hadn't gained any weight) and busted out the tape measurements (all my measurements were just as they'd been on the day I double checked before ordering from eshakti).

When you look at these photos, it would appear that the dress fits me quite nicely. Even I, looking at them, almost get duped into thinking so, but I know that such is not the case. You see, this dress does not have a back zipper, nor does it do up the front with buttons (those fabric covered buttons are just decorative), instead there is a very small side zipper on the left hand side and that's it. The dress has to be put on over your head and then slid over your body, after which point the side zipper is done up.

Now, I don't have a particularly big bust at all. I usually do not fill out dresses and blouses (be they modern or vintage) all the way in the bust, and never think of myself as having as a voluptuous bosom, but this dress made me suddenly feel like I did, because it took an massive amount of work to get it over my bust. Even once I'd managed to (and believe me, if I was even 1/4th of an inch bigger in the chest, I don't think I could have gotten this dress on at all), it was very tight in the bust and abdomen area (if I'd not had a long line bra and girdle on, I really don't think I could have wore this dress at all). It doesn't look it here, but I promise you that it was.

I'd honestly guess that I'd need to be about seven, or more, pounds lighter for this dress to fit the way I expected it to, and has I have no plans to get drastically thinner anytime soon, this dress is pretty much a write off. I could squeeze into again if I had to, but when I have a closet full of clothes that fit way better, it doesn't make sense to wear something that's uncomfortable.

Another thing to note (and this is true of both dresses I bought from this company) is that the skirt does not hit at what I'd consider to be mid-hem. In both cases it's pretty much ankle length, which makes me wonder why they bothered to ask about my height (5’2”) at all. What would have happened if I was two or three inches shorter? I like longer hems as a general rule and don't mind this point too much, but it is a strike against them, as I was expecting mid-calf length, not ankle grazing.

While, to their credit, eshakti does offer returns, you have to pay for them and they recommend you send garments back via courier. It honestly would have cost me as much or more, to use a courier from Canada to India as the price of my whole purchase, so there's no way that's going to happen. Instead I'm left with a very pretty 1940s-esque black dress that looks like it fits, but actually doesn't. I measured the dress, and indeed, it comes up two inches in the bust and waist smaller than the size it was supposed to be according to eshakti's sizing chart.

I debated ordering this dress in a larger size just in case it was smaller than it was supposed to be (I've encountered this once or twice before from other brands over the years), but gave them the benefit of the doubt and ordered what I believed was my correct size. You better believe that's the last time I'll be doing that for any brand. It's always easier to deal with a dress that's a little too big (belt it!) than too small.

If we put the fit issue and the highway robbery that was the import and custom fees aside, I like this dress a lot. It's femininely sweet, lined (hard to find in a dress in that kind of price range), nicely constructed, made of pleasant feeling fabric, and the multi-coloured Swiss dots are cute as all get out. I know that if this dress fit a bit better, I'd wear it often (for those who are curious, the other dress, while also tighter than expected and should be, based on the measurements I took, fits a bit better than this one).

As is, unless I happen to loss weight for some unplanned reason, I may one day end up selling this dress (which I only wore for a couple of hours early in the day on Christmas - there was no way I was going to attempt to do Christmas dinner is something that was already too tight!).

It's strange when you have a mixed bag experience with a company and their products, but I suppose it beats an experience that was nothing but a nightmare every step of the way. The review garment that I received has less issues (and thankfully, because of how the package was marked due to it being a review item, I didn't have to pay any courier, import and/or customs fees on that one) and I look forward to sharing more about it in a post of its own a little later on this year.

For the time being though, may I present a few snaps taken in our dining room on Christmas Day of me in one of the black dresses I recently purchased from eshakti.

eshakti multi colour black polka dot dress_image 1

eshakti multi colour black polka dot dress_image 4

eshakti multi colour black polka dot dress_image 2

eshakti multi colour black polka dot dress_image 5

eshakti multi colour black polka dot dress_image 3

Outfit details

Adorable sterling silver & Swarovski crystal kitty necklace: gift from Tony ♥
Vintage white lace trimmed slip: eBay or etsy
Black dress with multi-coloured Swiss dots: eshakti.com
Iridescent pink plastic beaded stretch bracelets: Forever 21
Nude black seamed stockings: eBay
Black faux suede round toe pumps: Wal-Mart
Lip colour: Clinique Raspberry Glace
Nail colour: Joe Fresh Mint

Photography by Antonio Cangiano

Looks like it fits, I know, but hand on my heart, in the bust and torso, it truly doesn't (at all!). Such a shame, as I sincerely wanted to love this dress, but as they say, que sera, sera.

I'm just glad the other eshatki dress and the review item I received fit a bit better, and that I didn't end up spending more money than this whole experience cost me, given that this particular dress is pretty much a write-off. Oh well, you win some, you loss some, and this time I struck out.

January 18, 2013

Flickr Favourites: January 18, 2013

{Milk for warmth, WPA Poster, 1941 ~ trialsanderrors}

{Fiestaware ~ L.Jacobson}


{Red Bird ~ MEaves}


{Electrolux Users Manual 1954 ~ saltycotton}

{Green Glitter Eyeshadow ~ jordan23queen}

{Redpath sugar cookies ~ sweetopia*}

{1950s rare trench coat ~ Pernille Lassen}

{Interlude ~ dovima_is_devine_II} 


{January 2012 ~ lily_whitebear}

{Popular Photography 1945 ~ Captain Geoffrey Spaulding}

{All images above are from Flickr. To learn more about a specific image, please click on its title to be taken to its respective Flickr page.}

♥ ♥ ♥

Now half a month into January, the hustle and bustle, the cheer and the roar of the holiday season is behind us once again. I will miss the unmistakable magic of December, but am also eager to watch a new year progress and to watch the ways in which I hope my life will further develop throughout 2013.

After the whirlwind of activity in 2012, I suspect this may be a calmer year, which is perfectly okay with me, as it means more time to focus on certain areas of my life, projects and plans I have in the works, and to continue (I hope) to create a greater sense of balance on a day-to-day basis (a topic I wrote about here last October).

So while the twinkling lights, huge feasts, ornament bedazzled trees, and festive tunes of the holiday season have come and gone, that certainly doesn't mean that January is devoid of reasons to celebrate.

Whether you're all about resolutions, find yourself embracing the return of serenity, are hard at work mapping out the next twelve months, or are simply unwinding and letting life come at you one moment at a time, in the midst of the bone chilling temperatures and pale sunlight, there's no need to let the upbeat spirit of December vanish entirely quite yet.

Instead celebrate the little things, the world of creativity, and the moments that made you smile. Start a new inspiration board, read those books you've been yearning to get to for ages, try some of those recipes you've been tucking away for longer than you can remember.

Wear bright hues to counterbalance nature's often pale January palette, clink glasses over small milestones and achievements, and stay in touch with all those people you mailed out holiday cards throughout the coming months, instead of just touching base through the post at the end of the year.

I'm eager, joyful, and optimistic about 2013, and hope that - even when those unexpected curve balls that life is so fond of tossing our way come along - I'll be able to find a different reason to celebrate every day this month, and throughout the whole beautiful year, too. Just as I hope the very same rings true for you as well, sweet friends.