"Passionate" is the one of the first words that spring to mind when I think about July's exciting new interviewee in our fun ongoing post series, Meet a Fellow Vintage Blogger.
A truly dear friend and fellow veteran vintage blogger, this month I sit down with none of than Janey Ellis, (also) known affectionately to many by the name of her stellar blog, the Atomic Redhead.
Like myself, Janey has been vintage blogging for seven years now (though her blogging roots stretch further back in time than that, as she touched on in today's interview). During that time she has become on the best known and most respected vintage bloggers around, and her way with styling her gorgeous outfits is the stuff that yesteryear fashion dreams are made of.
Janey is a devoted blogger who posts frequently, plays an active roll in the vintage blogging community, and is keen on using social media, too. She has a multitude of different interests (a topic that we'll delve into her today), many of which are woven into the rich and exciting tapestry that is her blog. In addition, Janey is a deeply sweet, intelligent, caring person and someone that I feel sincerely blessed to count as a friend.
I was elated when she volunteered to take part in this series and equally excited to put together an array of interview questions for this immensely stylish mid-century fashion + Disney + southwestern + cosplay + so much more adoring lady.
Janey is a true delight and whether you're meeting her for the first time today, have been following Atomic Redhead for quite some time, or perhaps even know her in person, chances are you'll be as delighted as I was to learn (so much) more about her here in this post.
Thank you very much for sharing your time with us here this month, Janey. It is a true joy to chat with you! For those who might be meeting you and your awesome blog, Atomic Redhead, for the first time, can you please tell us when you started blogging, what inspired you to do so, and the story behind your site’s delightful name?
Thank you for including me in this wonderful series, Jessica! It’s been wonderful meeting new bloggers and learning more about ones I already follow!
I actually started blogging around 2003 on a movie website, where I wrote movie reviews as well as offered glimpses into my life. I didn’t have total control on that platform, and around 2009 the website was overhauled, and what little control I did have in terms of styling was taken away, so I chose to leave.
Patrick (my now husband, but then boyfriend) offered to make me a new blog, one where I would have complete control over design. So that is when I started blogging as the Atomic Redhead. I wanted to move away from movie reviews, and into vintage and sharing both my passion and knowledge if history.
The name has a rather silly origin story. When I was in high school I was up very late one night drawing, and I thought “What if I had a band? What would the name of that band be?” Of course I have no musical talent to speak of, but late nights are times for silly fancies.
I thought first of “The Atomic Cherries”, but then I thought “What if we were all redheads?” and “The Atomic Redheads” were born. I drew a lot of album cover art type illustrations for the band, but I also designed my original logo, the atom with the red flip hair-do at that time.
Much like myself, you’ve been fascinated by, and in love with, history and all things vintage for as far back as you can recall. In particular, what would you say were some of your earliest vintage related influences? Do they still continue to shape your passion for the past to this day?
My parents for sure. My parents were in the antique business, although their passion was really in Victorian furnishings. But I grew up going to antique shows, shops, and thrift stores with them. But my dad is into classic cars and hot rods, so we always had multiple old cars, and were involved in car shows. We also listened to nothing but the oldies station.
My parents were also good about showing me old movies and TV shows. Some of my earliest fashion inspirations were Jeannie (post-wedding) from I Dream of Jeannie, and Marilyn Munster from The Munsters. And, yes, I would say that these early experiences still shape my passion.
I still love old cars, and even though the mid-20th century is my favorite time period for furniture, I still love the Victorian era and its furniture, and I continue to listen to oldies and seek out outfits inspire by these early inspiration idols.
I greatly admire the fact that you are so vested in history and how it relates to your interests (including the fact that you have a BA in history). How would you say that such factors into the types of topics and outfits that you share on your blog?
Well I love sharing history. And when I learn about things, especially when the subject matter still has a physical element, like an important location/building or a museum, I want to go there, and then share that experience with readers, and hopefully inspire them to learn more about the topic, or even visit the particular location. I think a lot about the subject matter of a location when getting dressed. I love to tie in something that I am wearing with the location or persons related to it.
Your style is a stellar mix of different eras and influences. What are some of the decades/time periods and factors that currently inspire you the most when getting dressed?
Gosh! I do love nearly every decade! Lately I have been super digging the 70s. And what is funny is that it was the late 1960s and 70s where I got started with vintage fashion. When I was in middle school I told my mom I wanted to dress like the girls on the old TV shows I was watching, so she gave me some of her items from the 60s and 70s.
Is there anything in your closet that it might really surprise people to know that you own?
I have a shirt that is covered with images of Evan Peters’ characters from American Horror Story. Those that know me super well know I’m insanely in love with James Patrick March, his character from the last season, Hotel, and since the shirt had images of that character I just had to have it. And I have quite a few kind of silly and/or geeky tees that I want to start working into the blog more though that may also be kind of surprising.
And conversely, is there anything people might assume, being a vintage fashion fan, that you have, but which you don’t actually?
I’ve had nearly every “classic”, or “must have” item that people associate with the 40s-60s, and at times have called them “must haves” myself. But I had parted with many, so I actually no longer own saddle shoes or a snood.
Your wardrobe is one of the most beautiful, impressive, detail oriented and inspiring I’ve ever encountered in my whole life. I realize that doing so isn’t always easy, but how would you sum it up in a few words (e.g., creative, vivid, feminine, casual, formal, etc)?
Thank you! And let’s go with… Eclectic, western, adventuress, fatale.
You have a great love for vintage Southwestern styles. Was there anything in particular that sparked this interest?
The southwest and western images are another style that has kind of been with me my whole life. I adored Annie Oakley growing up, and had a cowgirl outfit when I was little. My grandfather on my dad’s side grew up on a ranch in Texas, and while I never got to meet him, the images of him on a horse or in chaps and a hat stick with me.
Additionally, my dad, being of the baby-boomer generation was very into cowboys as a kid, and still is. I remember going to the Roy Rogers Museum when I was very young. But it wasn’t until college when I spied a 1950s ladies Panhandle Slim sweater that I really got into it.
It was so unique as it was a knit sweater, but cut and styled like a western shirt, with collar, pearl snaps, and a yoke made of a different material. I wear it very little, and I don't think it’s ever been on the blog, because it’s just so rare, I’ve never seen another one like it. But that really kicked the western wear into high gear, followed by the Mexican and Native American influences.
What are some of your favourite types of vintage Southwestern pieces to collect and wear?
Oh, so many! I love the western themed boarder print skirts, they are like a wearable painting! I also love squash blossom necklaces. I would love to have more western wear suits, like what I wore to the Autry recently (seen in the first photo at the top of this post).
On the fashion front, you’re also very keen on Disneybounding and sporting outfits of this nature. When did this passion begin and what are some of your favourite Disney inspired looks to date?
I’ve always loved Disney, but what is funny is I didn’t give too much thought to Disneybounding until some time within the last year. Mainly because I lacked a lot of solids in my closet. But I’ve slowly been able to fill that gap.
I love my Maleficent (pictured below), because she is among one of my favorite villains. I also love the Nick Wilde I did recently, because I feel like it was the most successful with color blocking to reflect Nick’s outfit.
Dream Disney related outfit that you haven’t sported yet?
My favorite Disney villain, Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective.
You sew (and handcraft/embellish – such as your awesome Disney themed parasols) some of your own clothing and costumes (including some cosplay related ones). How much of your current wardrobe would you say is currently comprised of “me made” pieces?
Not very many actually. Sewing still very much intimidates me. I continue to admire those like Carla of Tiny Angry Crafter (who is a past interviewee in this series – see her post here), and Tasha from By Gum By Golly, who make so much of their wardrobe. But most of my sewing is now focused on repairs and cosplay.
How do you personally feel that the vintage fashion landscape has changed in the years since you first began sporting old school styles?
It’s become more mainstream. When I first started thrifting as a kid, I thought everyone did it. But I learned that wasn’t the case in a rather cruel way. When I was in middle school I scored some awesome bellbottoms with sunflowers around the hem.
I thought they were the coolest thing, and one day a popular girl told me she thought they were cool and then asked me where I got them, and I told her the truth, “Goodwill”. She laughed at me, thinking I was joking, but when I said it was the truth she showed up the next day with a bag of her old clothes, because she thought I was poor because I shopped at Goodwill. Today, especially with the popularity of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop”, and shows like American Pickers, thrifting and finding old stuff is now in/cool.
I think the environment has also played a factor. “Going green” is more popular and people now look to vintage/antique/thrift stores for items. On a different level, things have gotten more expensive. Skirts that used to be $125 a couple years ago are now going for $300. Especially for novelty prints.
It’s wonderful that your blog is still going strong and that you’ve continued to keep on blogging, even in the face of rising social media domination. What are some of the main driving forces that keeps your blogging mojo alive and well?
History. Sharing history really. I want to let people know about historical locations and why these places are important and cool. I’m a very firm believer in George Santayana’s quote “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” So I want to share as much as I can with people so they can learn from our world’s past.
In addition to vintage fashion, you have a huge love of many other history/vintage related things, spanning architecture to 1960s presidential race memorabilia to pinup art. What are some of your favourite non-fashion related vintage things to collect?
The 1964 presidential race is really one of my favorites. Lyndon B. Johnson is my favorite president, and I find the campaign between him and Barry Goldwater so interesting. I also love the Zorro television series that Disney did from 1957 to 1959, and collect the various items that were produced for it.
Do you feel that, as vintage wearers and bloggers, we sometimes run the risk – often through no fault of our own – of being pigeonholed in a way? (By this I mean, people see our vintage attire and blogs and forget that there’s more to us than just these things.)
Yes, totally. And it is something I’ve been working on with the blog with visiting historical locations, etc., but I know a lot of people come to my blog for the vintage fashion, so I try to combine the two with “What I wore” images, followed by location images and information.
But I also want to expand out of the strictly vintage fashion aspect, and I’ve done that a few times by showcasing a more eclectic and unique style that may feature vintage elements. I also have been working to expand my geek culture type posts.
What are some non-vintage related things that you wish people knew (or knew more) about you?
I really try to cover everything I like on my blog. I want to avoid being pigeonholed, as you mentioned. But I do love cosplay very much. Along with weird comics, movies, and TV shows, (even though a lot of them tie into the time periods I like).
And with that though, is attending comic conventions or visiting locations that have a significance to something of those genres. Like I have a few trips planned to filming locations of Star Trek and Star Wars. I also love auto racing. I don’t go to races as much as I used to, because it was something I did with my dad back in Oregon.
You live in sunny California these days, along with your husband, Patrick (who also has a deeply rooted passion for the past). How have you found the vintage scene (shopping, events, community, etc) to be there so far?
It’s amazing! The shopping is different from Portland, where we used to live. I shop a lot more at pure vintage clothing stores rather than resale shops or thrift stores. There are way more events, and a wide range of people create and attend them. And new ones are being created all the time!
I was overjoyed to bring Fur & Feathers to LA this year. We’ve been here a little over a year and a half and I still haven’t done all of the annual events that occur and am constantly meeting new people.
Has anything surprised you a lot when it comes to such in comparison to your previous home in Portland, Oregon?
On the vintage front, it’s how large the community is. In Portland everyone knew everyone. Here, many of us are meeting new people and making friends all the time, it feels. While not necessarily cliquey, the area is so populated that it allows for people to find and build niches around different eras. For example there is a heavy Art Deco and 20s presence, as well as a big 40s swing community, and a large rockabilly community, too.
Then there are the people like me, and many of my friends, who love all of it, and move throughout the various groups.
Your wardrobe includes a fantastic blend of true vintage, vintage reproduction, vintage inspired, and vintage inspired pieces. What sorts of garments and/or accessories, of any of those types, do you wish that you had more of at the moment?
Patrick always says I want everything, and it’s kind of true! The list is so long! There are some very specific vintage items, including several western boarder print skirts, more Re-Mix shoes, and I always want more turquoise.
But I also want to build up my vintage repro/inspired collection too, because they prove to be the best pieces to wear to Disneyland and the other amusement parks in the area.
If you could design your own vintage reproduction line, what sorts of pieces would you fill it with?
Trust me, this is something I have honestly given thought to! (Jessica's side note: So have I!) And it would be to have a line inspired by TV shows and movies. Many of my friends and I are obsessed with Lucy’s open skirt over pants ensemble, made famous in her scene with William Holden in I Love Lucy, and we dream of one day owning such an item.
What advice would you give someone who is just getting into wearing vintage for the first time these days?
Know your measurements! And carry a tape measure with you when you shop. This will make life so much easier, and means it is less likely for you to damage a garment when trying something on because you won’t attempt to squeeze into something that is too small. Which will make shop owners super happy!
Also, learn how to sew! You don’t need to learn how to make a garment from scratch, but knowing how to fix popped seams, buttons and such will add to the longevity of your wardrobe, plus you’ll save money, between doing your own repairs and being able to buy damaged pieces, which are often less expensive.
And last, but certainly not least, as a huge fan of traveling, what would your dream vintage related destination be and what would you hope to buy while there?
I’m not sure I have a destination in mind, as much as just a massive road trip coast to coast, but along the south, over through Arizona, Louisiana and into Florida. There is so much I want to see in all of those states! In the southwest though I would hope to buy loads of turquoise, vintage patio dresses, and more fun western wear!
Connect with Janey on the following sites:
Meet the past interviewees who have taken part in this delightful ongoing post series:
February 2015: Emileigh | March 2015: CiCi | April 2015: Helen Mae | May 2015: Esther | June 2015: Ms. Falcon | July 2015: Jessie, and Laurence & Sylvain | August 2015: Holly | September 2015: Rhia | October 2015: Franny | November 2015: Emily | December 2015: Porcelina | January 2016: Nora | February 2016: Kate | March 2016: Carla | April 2016: Jessica E. | May 2016: Skye | June 2016: Kate-Em
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Thank you, majorly, Janey, for this terrific interview and for speaking about so many of the things that spark your interest and fill the pages of your marvelous blog.
I've admired you since the moment I first discovered your blog, and adore that we've become close online friends over the years. You, your blog, your creativity, and your incredible sense of fashion inspire me day in and day out, and I wholeheartedly look forward to continuing to connect with you for a long time to come.
If you're not already following The Atomic Redhead, I really can't encourage you enough to do so. Janey's site is sure to speak to your vintage loving soul to no end as well!
Next month, it's looking quite likely that we'll be climbing back into our virtual jetliner and hightailing it to Europe again.
Exact details remain to be finalized however, and as such I don't have too much of a hint to give regarding just who it is that we'll be chatting with in August. Whoever they are though, I assure you that they'll abound with style, joie de vivre, and a love of all things old school as well.
Have a fantastic week and a great tail end of July, everyone!