Interestingly, the person - a long-time member of our online community - that I'd originally thought I'd be interviewing for September's edition of Meet a Fellow Vintage Blogger very recently opted to retire from vintage blogging and also from wearing yesteryear styles on a regular basis.
Much like the seasons themselves, people and their interest change and while I will sincerely miss this individual's presence in our midst, I'm happy that she has a clear vision of where she wants to take her wardrobe, blogging and life in general going forward from here, and wish her nothing but the best on all fronts.
It would have been a lot of fun to chat with that person, but it is every single bit as much so to sit down and have an awesome public tête-à-tête with none other than the very sweet, very talented Karen LaPorte (pictured below) from the engaging vintage blog Bobbins & Bombshells, which has been online for an impressive eight years now.
In addition to her blog, Karen also runs a beautiful Etsy shop, which she stocks not only with covetable vintage items, but also with her own line of handmade products, such as the darling hand crocheted fingerless gloves that I featured in an outfit post here last winter.
Karen is a great lady. I've had the pleasure of knowing her through her blog for many years now and, in more recent times, we've developed a lovely online friendship along the way.
Smart, motivated, creative, caring, warmhearted, and a pleasure to interact with, this terrific lady was kind enough to step in on a moment's notice and be this month's Vintage Blogger interviewee.
I'm thrilled that she was keen to do so and am equally excited that she wanted to share so much about herself and her interests here with all of you. I just know you'll adore Karen - as well as her blog and Etsy shop - as much as I do!
Read on to hear more about Karen overcame a serious injury to keep her love of crafting alive, what old school lingerie items she thinks need to make a major comeback, her passion for yoga, and so much more!
Thank you very much for chatting with us here today, Karen. For those who may not have encountered your terrific blog, Bobbins & Bombshells before, can you please tell us a bit about when it started, the story behind its name, and some of the topics that it covers?
It's my pleasure! Thanks for having me! There's a bit of history related to how I started my blog. I owned a brick and mortar boutique in Brooklyn called Ouvrez La Porte from 2003 - 2008. I sold handmade factory-free indie designer lines, including my own with the same name of the shop, and vintage items.
Prior to that I worked on Seventh Avenue. I always loved the craft of fashion and became a little discouraged when production started heavily leaving NYC and going overseas. Fashion was going in a faster direction and designers started having to compete with H&M and Forever 21 etc.
As a designer (I earned my BFA in Fashion Design from Parsons), naturally I wanted my own line, but I also wanted a place to sell to and soon became connected with other designers from around the country who were like-minded on this front. It was - and still is - a great community and I was happy to have a place where they could sell their wares.
When I closed my shop in 2008, my blog was born, as I couldn't entirely let go. Bobbins refers to Handmade or the craft of fashion and Bombshells refers to Vintage such as Hollywood starlets and pinups. I wanted to stay in that community and stay connected with slow fashion and vintage.
A whole blogging world opened up for me as I met even more creative and vintage inspiring individuals. Topics included Fashion History- which I'm still crazy about, Retro Looks in the Modern World, My Projects- where I share my sewing and knitting projects, Shop News, Inspirations, and more!
You mesh crafting with vintage and your deeply rooted passion for yesteryear underpinnings. Did this engaging mix come about organically or was there a conscious decision to make each of those elements a part of your blog?
It's very organic, I can't even imagine anything else. If I look back to my childhood I was always crafting. I grew up in Maine and spent many winter days and nights doing some sort of craft or another by the wood stove. I also grew up in hand-me-downs from my older sisters and hand knit mittens and hats that my mom would make us.
It was the 70s and my mother was very resourceful. As a teen, I discovered real vintage clothing. Both of my grandmothers passed away in my teenage years and I remember getting bits of costume jewelry and old photographs that they had owned. This had a huge impact on me. I was a very sentimental child and loved looking at what people wore or did in the past.
My mom also introduced me to old movies, she loved Hitchcock. I devoured the fashion while watching those movies with her. Me and one of my sisters would save our babysitting money and buy vintage clothing when we could. We reveled in dressing unique and having things you couldn't find at the mall.
In my designer days, after college, I was always inspired by lingerie, especially vintage lingerie. The trims, the laces, the attention to detail gets me every time. With modern manufacturing you can't recreate some of the details that were available then, at least not a price point that can come even close to affordable! So buying vintage was my ticket to not only that workmanship but also a unique piece. This really directed my style. None of this has changed for me.
On top of blogging, you also extend your love of vintage in the online world to your wonderful Etsy shop (also called Bobbins and Bombshells). What inspired you to launch B&B on Etsy?
Thank you. Yes, well it didn't start out as Bobbins and Bombshells on Etsy. At first I opened The Sparkling Cocktail in 2008. After I closed my bricks and mortar shop, I had merchandise to move from my line, which was mostly silk charmeuse and lace (see the lingerie influence!) cocktail party wear! I also sold some trims and notions, things of that nature.
As well, I started to make handmade bridal garters because I had so much lace trim and elastic left over. Bridal accessories are really fun to make and didn't take up a lot of space in my tiny NYC apartment. So that store was handmade oriented.
I also opened another Etsy shop called Femme Fatale Vintage, where I sold some vintage merchandise that I had. Even though I had a B&M store combining both, I didn't think about combining both on Etsy - as so few people did, or do, save for re-fashioners.
I had two Etsy shops, which for me was hard to run. A year later in late 2009, I had a horrible accident and injured my right hand severely. I was in occupational therapy for a year to gain the use of my hand back. Needless to say, my Etsy shops sat there for awhile.
After I recovered, I had to get a job with a salary to make up for being out of work for a year. I got a job managing a lingerie store in Manhattan and as a result Etsy and my blog became a hobby. Not having a lot of time, I put more energy into my blog.
A bit over a year ago, I got the itch to put more energy into the shop side of things again. I had already closed Femme Fatale Vintage and put some of the leftover vintage items in The Sparkling Cocktail. I then decided to change the name of the store to match the blog, because it really sums up what I'm about.
I created my website Bobbinsandbombshells.com and moved the blog over from the Blogger platform so that everything would be all together. Even though I was working full time crazy hours - now as the Regional Manager at that lingerie company, I knew I had to get back to my core.
That is how Bobbins and Bombshells launched on Etsy. I'm a firm believer in not giving up and directing your energy where you want it to come back to you. You never know what that road will look like, but I'm still connected to what makes me happiest!
You are such a strong, resilient woman who has done amazingly in the face of dealing with such a challenging injury. As you’ve been there (on Etsy) for a while now, what have you found to be some of the most surprising things about being a part of a big community marketplace site like that?
I absolutely love being in this community. When I had my boutique, Etsy wasn't a "thing" yet - or it was in it's early "felt years". Now, it's filled with so much inspiration and the very thing I loved being connected to when I had my store. I've sold great things to great people.
I can also really focus on my store, as I don't have to worry about servers and too much tech stuff. It's been wonderful to see the handmade and vintage world grow! Etsy even has a wholesale division now. That would have been a dream for me when I was a Brooklyn store owner!
Looking back, is there anything you wish you would have done differently with your Etsy shop?
I wish I kept my true vision at the start and combined things like I do now in it's Bobbins and Bombshells reincarnation. But sometimes you have to try many paths to find the one you were on all along. Sometimes, I find myself wondering if I should, say, open another store just for my handmade knits, and then I tell myself to be quiet. I'd rather have one store with twenty things in it, then two with ten a piece in them.
I'd also rather have my store reflect myself. I don't only live in vintage, I love quality handmade items too. Why can't we get that in one shop? In the blogging world, it is not as divided as it can be on Etsy. Most of my vintage blogging/wearing friends sew and knit!
Any advice you’d like to share with those who may be looking to combine both handmade items and genuine vintage finds in their own online shop?
Go for it! Share your passions! The one thing I think people confuse the most is assuming that the vintage is re-worked or re-fashioned. So be clear about what you are selling. I'm not into refashioning vintage items, I don't even change a hem! I love true vintage and true handmade!
Speaking of handmade creations, please tell us more about the beautiful creations (including your awesome fingerless gloves) that you make and sell in your shop?
The two areas of handmade are the bridal accessories mentioned before (see examples in the photo above) and handmade knits.
As I start giving myself more time for my shop, I'd love to expand these categories. Handmade knits are my new love. I taught myself how to knit and crochet in 2008. I had to re-learn in 2010 while hand was recovering from my accident. I now can't stop knitting!
I started selling some fingerless gloves to keep yarn money coming in. Now, I actually am creating new items each season and sell my knits on Etsy Wholesale as well as in the shop. I currently have three series of fingerless glove styles; Lady Bows (which you so gracefully shared in a wardrobe post!), Miss Sailorettte, and the Tweed & Heather Cables.
This fall, I'm debuting a cowl and a pompom toque! They may be in the shop by the time this post is published!
Do you currently sell online only through Etsy or can folks purchase your wares (vintage and/or handmade) elsewhere, too?
Online is Etsy only at the moment. The shop link on my site directs to Etsy. This Fall, I will be starting to sell at local markets and bazaars which I am really excited about! And a selection of my handmade knits will be in a new shop in Three Oaks, MI called Goods + Heroes that is opening in November! I'm honored and thrilled!
You’re a passionate fan of yesteryear lingerie and sleepwear. What are some of your favourite types of such garments?
I love it all, but slips and nightgowns are my favorites as they fit the best! For me it's really the details that make it all so special. 1930's bias gowns, 50's and 60's peignoir sets, 20's tap pants.... bows, lace, lace bows...love it all!
Is there an old school underpinning or nighttime piece that you wish was still much more commonplace these days?
The bed jacket! I love to sit and read in bed. Who wants their shoulders to get cold? Also, we should really bring back the word peignoir. I love a floaty full length peignoir with matching nightgown worn with boudoir slippers!
Have you ever considered launching your own line of vintage reproduction (or more contemporary, as so desired) lingerie and/or sleepwear?
Great question. Having worked in lingerie industry for the past six years, I know some wonderful lingerie designers. I would love to collaborate on a vintage inspired line! Absolutely! However, I also love slow fashion and would need to find a way to balance the manufacturing process.
This is the area that makes it very difficult for designers starting out. The fashion industry has changed a lot. I must say that What Katie Did and Dita Von Teese are great collections! I'm a huge DVT lingerie fan!
Do you have a large collection of such yourself?
My lingerie collection is sizable - both modern and vintage. It's crazy addiction! Any favourite pieces you’d like to tell us about? I must say, my vintage boudoir slippers were a holy grail purchase for me! I'm a size 10 and never thought I'd find a pair my size.
Are there any – aside from your own, naturally - vintage related lingerie blogs and/or websites that you’d recommend for those who are wanting to learn more about this topic?
The Lingerie Addict is great because Cora covers everything- reviews, sales, body image, trade news, and vintage.A Slip of a Girl is a great resource for vintage lingerie. She has featured a few of my pieces and finds some great finds!
And by the same token, any books or magazines (vintage or modern) that you’re recommend for fellow vintage lingerie/sleepwear fans?
Honestly, I don't own any lingerie specific books- but that doesn't mean there aren't any great ones out there to be had. Keep an eye out for museum shows. There was a great one at FIT a couple of years ago. I also love to find vintage lingerie ads on Pinterest. They can tell you so much!
To my mind, perfume and lingerie are often highly intertwined. Do you feel this way as well and has perfume/scent played a role in your own vintage fashion journey so far?
When it comes to perfume, I'm a classic French perfume kind of girl. I wear Chanel's Coco and Coco Mademoiselle. Perfume is a huge world that I can't say I've fully entered into. But it is the second thing I put on I every morning. Lingerie, then perfume!
Do you wear vintage on a regular basis yourself?
Yes, but not head-to-toe and not everyday. My summer wardrobe is filled with vintage dresses and purses, which I love. In the winter, it's mostly beaded cardigans, vintage coats, and holiday dresses. I also wear handmade clothes, too.
I've been trying to amp up my wardrobe with my own projects. Mostly from vintage patterns which is really fun! I really admire the vintage bloggers, such as yourself, that make the time and effort to share outfits of the day! I'm lucky to get to share a handmade skirt!
How would you describe your current style? What decades are you (presently) most drawn towards when it comes to your own wardrobe?
I'm eclectic mixing modern with vintage and not dedicated to one era. I really love to mix things up and I hate rules. I would say I lean the most towards 1960s Riviera and French New Wave styles.
I have a Pinterest board that is called Le Ciné, it's filled with images of Anna Karina, Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve etc. I love that look and always return to it!
Five fun, quick facts that folks online may not know about you?
1. I've been married to my husband for 5 years!
2. I got married at age 39 and couldn't be happier.
3. I have just completed my 200-hour yoga teaching training and am now a teacher!
4. I have lived exactly half my life in Maine and half in New York City. 22 years each!
5. If you follow my personal IG (@bobbinbombshell) you might know that I love to travel. I caught the travel bug when I was 12. My family went on a cross country road trip from Maine to Oregon and back. We drove in a van with my Mom, Dad, 2 Grandmothers and 2 of my 3 sisters. It was a blast!
When not crafting, blogging, sourcing and selling vintage, what might folks find you doing in your downtime?
Yoga and meditation. Enjoying a glass of wine with my friends. I also love to cook and bake!
Granted it’s only late September, but as we look ahead to 2017, do you have any new and exciting plans in the works for B&B for next year that you can share with us?
Well, I've dedicated this past summer to laying the foundation for what I hope will continue to prosper and grow!
On the blog, I will continue to have educational posts on fashion history with the Fashionable History and Label Love series. I love to share knowledge and hope it inspires young vintage collectors and designers! I will be resurrecting My Vintage Vanity series late this fall to include inquiries into my vintage loving friend's closets and furniture favorites!
I also hope to find more time to complete sewing and knitting projects for myself to share in My Projects series. I will also be sharing Tips & Tutorials and am hoping to include some free knitting patterns!
I've started a newsletter (you can signup on my About page) that will keep you updated on all my postings and events - plus it offers a discount to my Etsy shop!
In the shop, I have expanded into vintage designer clothing and accessories, too. Some current labels that I have in listings for include Valentino, Bill Blass, and Courreges - to name a few. And finally, I hope to expand my handmade offerings with new styles and reach more stores with my wholesale division.
And last, but certainly not least, what’s currently on your needles as we head into fall and winter?
I have two projects in rotation. One for a personal project- working on a sweater for myself! And the other is work- Tweed Cables for my wholesale order!
Connect with Karen 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 | July 2016: Janey | August 2016: Nella
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Thank you very much for this fantastic interview, Karen. It was a joy getting to know you better and to discover more points that we have in common (from a love of bed jackets to adoring the act of meditation).
Karen really is a gem of a person and her blog is a must read for anyone with an interest in early to mid-twentieth century fashion - lingerie very much included. I highly encourage you to add Bobbins & Bombshells to your feed on the double - you'll have a blast following this charming blog.
Next up, as we embrace the return of my all-time favourite month (October), we'll be earning some more frequent flyer miles as we board Air Vintage for a lovely jaunt back to the UK.
Once there, we're sit down and talk with a highly knowledgeable vintage fashion blogger who has a particular penchant for beautiful jewelry, classic scarves, a great lipstick, and a well organized dressing table. You won't want to miss it, so be sure to watch this spot for that interview towards the end of next month.
And speaking of months wrapping up, it's hard to believe that September is nearly over. What a full and exciting month it has been on this end - in no small part because of our twelve day trip to Edmonton.
Before we wave goodbye to September entirely though, I'll be sharing a couple more posts (including the first one here with outfit snaps from Edmonton) and then we'll progress quickly into an exciting string of fall, Canadian Thanksgiving, and Halloween related entries, coupled with the usual assortment of outfit and other types of posts here.
It's going to be spooktacularily fun!!!