pajaminated

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Let me tell you a secret that I’m sure every other person on the planet has already discovered: wearing pants is like getting away with wearing pajamas in public. For someone whose life is largely centered on the goal of figuring out how to wear pajamas in public, this is a godsend. I’ve always emphasized texture in my clothes – even in tight silhouettes, the fabric has to be soft. Finding my Hell Bunny Jackson trousers was an unprecedented surge toward that end: they’re fitted enough to keep me presentable, but soft and swinging nonetheless. Walking around Montpelier in them, paired with a slouchy coat, kept me cozy as all get out.

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I haven’t worn this coat in over a year, not since I moved away from the shorter dresses that complemented it. Still, it’s one of my favorite pieces, so I’m thrilled that my trouser renaissance has brought it back into my life. It’s a little faded now – I, in a classic display of genius, hung it too near the window all summer and leached some of the red. I kind of like it, though. Slightly damaged pieces feel more authentically ’40s, and looking authentically ’40s is all I think about these days. pantsredcoatxviipantsredcoatxipantsredcoatxix

I cut this headscarf from a length of fabric I was lucky enough to thrift recently. Roman pots and urns! I’m planning a summer skirt with the few remaining yards. A Latin major has precious little real-world application; the least I can do is wear it on my body.

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Pants: Hell Bunny Jackson trousers

Coat: vintage, gifted

Everything else: thrifted

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hepburn-hued

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As I lean toward older styles, I’ve also come to crave something a little less feminine. Well – not less feminine exactly. I’ll never abandon shapewear and curl sets. The word I’m looking for, I think, is straightforward. ’50s looks are so visually stratified. Everything matching, not a hair out of place. More self-fabric than you could possibly eat. I’m really loving the more bohemian sensibility of the ’20s and ’30s. More textures, more competing patterns, more dialogue between masculine and feminine. It’s muddier. I like that.

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All this #navelgazing to explain why, for the first time in years, I bought a pair of pants. I was bopping around in one of my favorite stores when these Hell Bunny slacks crossed my eye. Once I looked at my butt in them, I knew they were never coming off. I felt like the aviatrix-cum-land-girl-cum-intrepid-photojournalist I didn’t know I’d wanted to be. They came home with me, and I’ve fought to urge to wear them every day since.

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I rarely (read: never) wear reproduction, so I hardly ever get to say this, but you can purchase these Hell Bunny slacks for your very own! Here’s what you need to know.

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I’m wearing a Medium here, or 32″ waist. After seeing the photos on Hell Bunny’s website, I suspect I should have sized up, but a size big enough to flow from my hips would gape far too much at the waist. Hell Bunny has a (deserved, I think) reputation for accommodating curvy bodies, so I was disappointed that these pants gaped as much as they did. Not too disappointed – as a 42-31-43, I’m accustomed to tailoring my own clothes – but a little shirring or even an adjustable button at the back would have been well placed. I plan to add my own, but I didn’t have the time before taking these photos.

I did have time to take up the hem (my legs are pathetically short) and make belt loops from the discarded fabric. In these pictures, it definitely looks like I hemmed too short, but I’m chalking that up to the boots I’m wearing; they’ve got a higher heel than usual. I’m hoping the length will work well with my other shoes. The fabric did seem to constrict a little after I cut it, like newly short hair bouncing into a curl. It also frayed very easily. In the two minutes it took me to set the pins for the new hem, it was already unraveling. Everything’s held together so far post-hemming, though. I’m hoping the first wash won’t do further damage. pantsxpantsii

Nevertheless, these pants are hella cute and I feel frankly like a bombshell in them. Reproduction clothes are basically fast fashion for the retro set, so I’m not outraged by the flaws I mentioned above. Any pants that flatter my thickness should be clung to at all costs. I’ve already planned pants-centric looks for every season, and I’m saving up for a slightly more structured pair. I’ve heard great things about Emmy Designs – any other recommendations?

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Pants: Hell Bunny Jackson Trousers

Blazer: ’40s vintage, via Small Earth Vintage

Sweater: ’50s vintage, via Barge Canal Market

Collar: ’50s vintage, via The Getup Vintage

Everything else: thrifted

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black and pink and cold all over

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I took these shots in Montpelier with my mom last weekend, while we were killing time after having arrived a week early for the women’s march. Whoops. I’m not-so-secretly glad, though – the day I took these photos was so cold I couldn’t feel my anything. It was a day better suited for drinking tea and hunting vintage. It’s hard to have bite in your bark when the bite in question is “frost-“. I can’t think of many causes I’d lose a toe for.

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There’s something so very Old World about Montpelier, Vermont. Maybe it’s the bridges, or the slightly slanted streets, or the houses tucked into surrounding hills, but it reminds me of photos I’ve seen of Prague or Budapest. I wish I’d worn something correspondingly old-fashioned, maybe a turban or a drop-waist dress. I fully admit that my choice of this ’50s dress was informed almost entirely by laundry.

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Dress: ’50s vintage, thrifted

Blazer: ’40s vintage, via Cheshire Vintage

Everything else: thrifted

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saucer hats & authenticity

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The more I learn about vintage, the more I hesitate to mix my eras. When you’re starting out, everything makes one big ol’ midcentury stew. The finer you tune, the less you’d be caught dead wearing victory rolls with a petticoat. It’s only natural, right?

But here’s the thing: living history doesn’t work that way.

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I get why a lot of reenactors and vintage lovers insist on accuracy to a T. It’s backlash against a present that all too often doesn’t care about the past. Getting salty over antebellum hem depth is a battle cry: this knowledge is worth preserving. When it comes to material history, to the unsung songs of every workaday object, we should all know where we came from. I believe that matters.

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I also believe that history is dynamic. I believe that the best way to do it justice. is to reckon with the people behind the platonic ideals. That means looking beyond advertisements and fashion plates and into the way women actually interpreted trends. Was the bob a juggernaut of 1920s fashion? Yes. Did literally every woman have one? Of course not.

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Even though my dress and my hat were made probably a decade apart, who’s to say my 1955 counterpart didn’t inherit her mother’s dress? Our vintage style icons are only icons in the first place because they had the means to stay current. Out in the world, real people scraped and mended and wore their wartime dresses for as long as they would fit. The 21st-century didn’t invent personal style. Everyone everywhere has put their own spin on it. Seeking that essence might be “inauthentic”, but it’s much closer to the spirit than the letter.

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Dress: ’40s vintage, thrifted

Hat: ’50s vintage, Barge Canal Market

Collar: ’50s vintage, The Getup Vintage

Purse: vintage, Christmas gift from Mom

Everything else: thrifted

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hat appreciation life

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National Hat Day was officially two days ago, but here in my scrappy little kingdom, hats are cherished every day of the year.  Of all the vintage in the world, I love headwear the best. A really excellent hat divides the women from the girls. The society dames from the sock hoppers. I’ve seen it happen to many a blogger. You start out repro-chipper in ModCloth and novelty prints. Then, by chance or by choice, you find your first hat. Maybe a pillbox, maybe a fascinator, maybe a wee little cloche. Suddenly everything changes. Your neck all but buckles under pounds of fruit and feathers. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and soon you’re carrying entire aviaries with ease. Your pinky begins, inexorably, extending. You develop a mid-Atlantic accent. Your legal name is Joan Crawford. (What, that didn’t happen to you?)

You come to love, or at least I did, the drama of pure form. A dress, however impractical, serves a purpose. A hat is concentrated art.

Black women in the South call their church hats “crowns”. The grander the crown, the better to catch God’s eye. Women in Nazi-occupied Paris spun feathers and ribbons, the only materials not rationed, into “resistance pieces”. Even in the toughest times, hat lovers fumble toward elegance. A hat tells those who’d cage you: I will never bow my head.

One day is simply not long enough. I’ve got a week’s worth of hattitudinal content planned, but first – a tour of some of my personal favorites.

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1940s | Bos & Ruby Vintage | worn here, here, and here

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1940s | Gem’s Vintage Gems | worn here, here, and here

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1930s | Barge Canal Market | worn here

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1940s | thrifted | worn here, here, and here

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1940s | The Classy Closet | Worn here, here, and here

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1960s | gift from Mom | worn here, here, and here

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1950s | thrifted | worn here

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1930s | The Classy Closet | worn here

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1950s | thrifted | worn here

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1940s | thrifted | worn here, here, and here

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1940s | Luvsick Vintage  | worn here

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1950s | Mode de Lis flash sale | worn here, here, and here

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1950s | Barge Canal Market | worn here

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1960s | gift from Mom | worn here

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no idea | thrifted | worn here

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1940s | Fancy Lucky Vintage | worn here, here, and here

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1930s | thrifted | worn here and here

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1930s | Barge Canal Market | coming soon!

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1950s | Lang Farm Antique Center | coming soon!

 

 

 

 

nye in nyc

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If you follow me on Instagram (@quando_porpoise), you’ve gotten a super-special preview of this post. My partner and I spent New Year’s weekend in New York City with friends, and I documented the big scary world in real time. We stayed with our friend’s family in Washington Heights, which happens to be spitting distance from the Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park. Of course, New Year’s Day is one of, like, five days the Cloisters are closed, but I loved just looking at them. A stone wall’s distance from hundreds of medieval artifacts is still closer than I’ve ever gotten. And just ambling Washington Heights was a thrill – it’s Lin-Manuel Miranda’s old stomping ground!

Sorry for the potato quality. Phone photos look good on, well, a phone. They don’t scale up so well. nycxivnycxinycxiiinycxnycvi nycv   nycixnycxxiv

 

 

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Sue me: in my gut of guts, I long to be a fabulous louche of a society dame. Malory Archer‘s my first choice, but Lucille Bluth will do just fine. I’ll take Jessica Walter animated or not. While I’m sure I’d be a nicer matriarch than Lucille, damned if marching through the world with a suit on my back and a drink in my hand doesn’t sound appealing. And for a going-on-23-year-old, it’s pleasantly subversive. By dressing 40 years my senior, I find myself cargo-culting into authority. Nothing says “I’ve made a name for myself” like furs and pearls. They say to dress for the job you want, and the job I want is “lush librarian with Places to Be”.

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Blazer: ’40s vintage, via Cheshire Vintage

Skirt & Sweater: vintage, via Barge Canal Market

Hat: ’40s vintage, via Luvsick Vintage

Everything else: thrifted

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springing forward, sliding back

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The deeper in love a person falls with vintage, I find, the further they slip into the past. So many vintage ladies and gentlemen start out as master thrifters, hauling home the best of the ’80s and ’90s: all the polyester you can eat. Soon the bug has burrowed under your skin, and you begin hunting in earnest. Before long, you’ve gone from a casual collector of retro duds to an expert on Edwardian hemlines. Soon you won’t be able to rest until you’ve tracked down an authentic lampshade tunic.

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Once you’ve found yourself pricing Regency bonnets, just surrender. No one is free of sin.

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The 1950s are entry-level. It’s what most people out there in modernity picture when they hear “vintage”: housewives, greasers, petticoated rockabilly babes. Metonymy for the word itself. Not that there’s a damn thing wrong with it – hell, ask me how many ’50s dresses I own – but the longer I live in the vintage scene, the more I hunger for what else is out there. I feel my taste sliding back, hitting each decade like a marimba’s mallet. I started last year in full skirts and hairbows. I’m starting this one in tailored wool and grandma’s pincurls. I’m longing for the early ’40s and even the ’30s. Slim hips and crepe dresses populate my wishlist of late.

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I used to hate straight skirts, really truly hate them, but I gotta say – I’ve rarely felt sexier then when I first zipped this one and shimmied my hips into place. They feel more adult, somehow, than their fuller counterparts. No longer a fresh-faced babe but a woman who’s seen privation and come out the other side. They feel like armor.

And the main drag of Essex Junction, Vermont, made a perfect small-town backdrop while I killed time waiting for my train. Paint me in sepia and age the cars a few decades, and these photos could be a family heirloom.

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Blazer: ’40s vintage, via Small Earth Vintage

Blouse: ’50s vintage, via 1919 Vintage

Skirt: ’40s vintage, via Old Gold

Hat: vintage, thrifted

Everything else: thrifted

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