Monthly Archives: November 2011

Old Hat: the November Vintage Social

The second Old Hat event finally happened! We all gathered Friday night for our November social, and once again a splendid time was had by all.

We had the event at The Green Room Lounge down Enmore Rd, which is a rad 50s bar I’ve spoken of countless times on Ravishing Retro. Commandeering a little corner of the room decked out in mod sofas and coffee tables, we bonded for hours over a great deal of quality cocktails.

Here are some snaps from the evening:

Me, with the gorgeous ladies Jesse and Molly

Nick and Rachael: snuggling and looking glamorous

Bonding with my dear friend Kate, who you may remember from this post

Tim and Jesse (also known as Johnny and June)

And here is The Outfit, which you will recall I dated in my last post. It looked lovely all styled up.

“You can never have too much tartan” – Molly

1960s frock: Mint Condition
Second-hand belt: Zoo Emporium
1950s hat: Mint Condition
Shoes: Milu
Bakelite bangles: thrifted, and from Peppergreen Antiques

We’re planning a festive vintage picnic, so ready yourselves.

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Dating a Vintage Frock

Dating vintage really is quite an art. A lot has been written about the various idiosyncrasies of vintage clothes you can look out for when trying to sort out their eras. I won’t give you an exhaustive list of these because some other vintage bloggers and resources have already covered it very well: click here for Tuppence Ha’Penny’s brilliant post, and click here for tips from the Vintage Fashion Guild. Rather, I’m going to show you how I dated one particular frock.

I bought this lovely dress recently from Mint Condition in Rozelle. Of course the shop tag tells me it’s 50s, but I went looking for evidence of this nonetheless. There is also variation in styles of the 50s, so it’s useful to know if it’s early or late 50s, or even early 60s.

The first thing to consider is the style. It’s a little difficult looking at this picture of the dress as it’s hanging rather than being worn, but the frock is in the classic New Look silhouette we know dominated dress styles from 1947 to the early 60s. This means it has a fitted bodice and a circle skirt. So we know it is, at least stylistically, from or inspired by this era.

Nonetheless, I’m inclined to say that this frock is from the late 50s or early 60s because of its length. This picture isn’t the perfect way to check it out, but you can hopefully sort of see that the skirt isn’t really all that long by mid-century standards – on me it’s just about knee-length. Though the same silhouette carried through the 50s to the early 60s, one of the obvious changes was the rise in hem-lines which lifted hems up to the knee, whereas previously frocks were almost almost below.

Another sign it’s in a vintage style: the matching fabric-covered belt. You can see this dress is actually in flawless condition – a lot of frocks lose their matching belts over the years, which is kind of sad.

One of the most convenient things to look at when dating vintage is the zipper. Metal zippers were used all through the 50s and early 60s, until later when they starting using plastic and vinyl instead. You can see that this zipper is clearly metal, so we know the dress has some age to it. You can also see that it’s in the side seam of the dress, which indicates that it’s probably from before the mid-sixties at which point they began to put zippers in the back of frocks instead (thank god). Note that zippers are often replaced over the years, so if you’re 100% sure a dress is 50s but it has a plastic zipper, don’t fret.

It’s handy to look at the hem. I find a lot of vintage frocks have hand-sewn hems, or at least the stitches aren’t really so neat. The most important thing to look for is overlocking, which if you don’t know what it is looks like this. Overlocking wasn’t commercially available until 1965, and after that it was used to finish most hems, so if you don’t see it this is a good sign. You can see this hem has been hand-stitched, and rather than having overlocking to finish it, the hem has simply been folded over before being sewn up.

In this picture you can also see the “pinking” which features in a lot of vintage frocks – pinking is the zig-zag edge you can see. “Pinking shears” were often used to finish off seams before 1965 because overlocking wasn’t available yet, or else seams were also often left raw/unfinished.

I was super-excited to discover a Union Label in this frock, which I’ve never been able to find before. Union Labels were put in American and Candian-produced garments up until 1995 (I believe), and by looking at the label design, you can figure out which era a dress is from. There’s a really good guide to them here on eBay. This label features the logo which I discovered is from the period 1955-1963 (see it on another dress here). The description of it from the eBay guide is as follows:

“This label was issued after AFL and CIO merged in 1955, and lasted until June 28, 1963. It is usually printed in blue on white, and features a scalloped circle with a threaded needle diagonally behind it. In the center are the large letters ILGWU, crossed with a smaller AFL-CIO. Around the edge is printed Int’l Ladies Garment Workers Union.”

Another thing to note here is that the label designates the fabric content as “100% cotton”. This brings me to think that the dress is from the period 1960-1963, as it wasn’t until 1960 that the USA Textile Products Identification Act mandated the use of labels listing the fabric content. It could perhaps be an odd garment from before this, but I’m going to wager now that it’s very early 60s.

Also, it’s listed as a size 14, which wouldn’t at all be accurate by modern sizing standards. Vintage clothes often have wacky sizing.

It was also exciting to buy the dress as “deadstock”. This term means the dress has never been worn, and still has its original tags which is very cool. Looking at tags or labels is very helpful, first of all because it gives you the brand, but also because by looking at the style of the tag you can tell some things. The tag here is in an elegant sort of font, which means it’s probably 50s or early 60s, because after that the fonts became a lot more modern or psychadelic.

Here’s the other side of the tag:

Having the designer name is a treat, because if you do some research you can figure out more about the origins of the dress. The Vintage Fashion Guild has an excellent database of vintage fashion labels you can sift through if you have the time. A google also reaps rewards. Barba Dee wasn’t in the database, but googling the name uncovered an August 1959 edition of the “Milwaukee Journal” in Wisconsin featuring an ad for a corduroy jumper by Barba Dee. And then I found this December 1959 advertisement in the “Pittsbourgh Press”:

It turns out there’s a whole resource of old newspapers in Google News Archives. Barba Dee was advertised in papers between the years of 1955 and 1963, mainly around the East Coast of America – this tells me some interesting things about the origins of my dress.

So that’s my little process for dating a vintage frock. As you can see, shop tags are sometimes a little inaccurate – it seems my dress is from the very early 60s (1960-1963), not the 50s as the store suggested. If you want to know more about dating frocks, I definitely recommend checking out the Vintage Fashion Guild website.

I’m going to be wearing the dress out tonight for the Old Hat Social, even though it will kill me to cut off the original tag. I hope you all have lovely weekends, and research your wardrobes if you have the time.


Filed under Vintage 101

Baking in Blue

Today I baked:

Oh la la – check out my Shepherd’s Pie. I lined a cake tin with shortcrust pastry, filled it with leftover Bolognese from last night’s dinner, added mashed potato on the top plus a sprinkling of grated cheese, and cooked it in the oven for fifteen minutes. Mmmm.

Dress: Basque, Myer
Belt: C’s Flashback, Crown St
Shirt: borrowed from Mother – Ralph Lauren
Snood and Bow: Arthelia’s Attic

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Entertainment Guaranteed

I’ve finished uni for the year, so naturally I’ve been browsing my google reader with fierce intensity. Here are some things I’ve found pretty and/or interesting.

Ok that’s all. As a bonus photo, here’s a shot from my jaunt to France in June/July that I recently unearthed:

Blouse: The Vintage Nest, Bellingen
Skirt: Gorman
Cardigan: Thrifted
Bag: Thrifted


Filed under Links

It’s Always a Mojito Moment

Mojitos top my list of classic cocktails; they’re always classy and always delicious. I’ve had countless mojitos in my time as a legal drinking adult, and save for one unfortunate incident with a dark rum mojito, they are yet to disappoint me.

Apart from being delicious, the mojito has always seemed to me a particularly old-fashioned drink. Having investigated this further, I have discovered that the drink has a very illustrious history. It seems Ernest Hemingway himself was devoted to the mojito after it was first mixed up in Cuba in the 40s; and Ernest Hemingway was a very dapper man. Legend has it that he would frequent Bodeguita de Medio, a bar in Havana, where he would take his mojitos without sugar, but with a twist of grapefruit. Oh Hemingway. I feel like his literary spirit must linger amid the other spirits that mingle to create the mojito I continue to enjoy in 2011. Just a theory.

Not all mojitos were created equal. That is why I popped into the Green Room Lounge Bar in Enmore with my friend Alyssa last Friday night, for the mojitos there are perfect concoctions. We had a lovely mojito date, spending happy hour in earnest discussions of travel, lingerie, blogging and the like. Speaking of which, you can check out Alyssa’s blog here.

Dress: Sarah-Jane
Cardigan: Topshop
1950s bakelite bangles: Peppergreen Antiques, Berrima
Belt: Dangerfield
1950s necklace: Camden Passage markets, London
Hair flower: Sportsgirl


Filed under Eat/Drink

Outfit Post: November 14

Bonjour friends! Today: an outfit post. This is what I wore for an outing into the city yesterday for shopping, a birthday celebration and the like. It’s one of the few outings this dress has had since I brought it back from London in August, and I don’t know why because I’m such a fan. It was made by British label Sika which sources ethically-made fabrics from West Africa and then fashions them into adorable 50s-inspired frocks such as the one I’m wearing here.

This was also one of the first few outings of my snood which was an eagerly-anticipated addition to my life. I bought it on etsy from Arthelia’s Attic, and it’s so fabulous, I don’t know whatever I did without one. Admittedly my hair was never long enough, but seriously, it’s so great – the bow tops it off.

I hope your week is excellent.

Dress: Sika
Belt: Zoo Emporium, Surry Hills
1950s bag: Brisbane Antique Centre
1950s bakelite bangles:  Peppergreen Antiques, Berrima
1940s brooch: Berrima
Snood: Arthelia’s Attic
Shoes: Bloch

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Doris: So Much More than the Girl Next Door

It was a happy day when I discovered there was to be a musical about Doris Day. She’s my Grandma’s heroine of choice, and this love of Doris has naturally filtered through to me. I was sold on Doris from the opening number of “Calamity Jane” when I watched it a year ago – she’s so fierce.

Making up something of a Doris Day Fan Club, Grandma and I went along to “Doris Day: So Much More than the Girl Next Door” at the Lyric Theatre in the the newly refurbished “The Star”. It was terribly exciting. As expected, the crowd seemed to have a fairly high average age, and the merchandise was suitably old-fashioned – we bought Doris Day tea towels.

The show itself was fabulous. Melissa Schneider didn’t impersonate Doris Day, but rather sang her songs as a sort of tribute. She picked excellent Doris songs as well, though perhaps I’m biased because I love “Calamity Jane” with such a passion. I nearly died when she sang “I Just Blew in from the Windy City”; it was so great. Melissa interspersed all this with a commentary on Doris’ life, charting her four failed attempts at marriage, as well as her various artistic pursuits. Melissa was just so likeable, channeling Doris’ sunny disposition. Plus the costumes were divine – very neo-50s.

“Doris” has finished in Sydney now, but I believe it’s off to Brisbane next. Buy a ticket if you have the chance as it’s a fabulous show.

Grandma and I with the “Doris” tea towels.

1960s dress: Camden Passage in London
1930s bolero: Camden Passage in London
1950s necklace: Camden Passage Markets in London
Shoes: Bloch
1950s bag: Brisbane Antique Centre

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REALLY Vintage Dressing: the 1800s and Beyond

Though I’m thoroughly devoted to mid-twentieth century aesthetics, I’m also quite fond of historical costuming – I’m sure a lot of vintage-wearers can relate. I have a great love of fashions from about the Georgian Era onwards, particularly of the Regency and Victorian eras. It’s probably my weakness for period drama and my indomitable love for Jane Austen that has made this the case. It’s probably also to do with an all-encompassing nostalgia for the past, wherein anything old and musty is instantly appealing.

What has made me ponder this is the string of updates I’ve been hearing about the 2012 Jane Austen Festival, which has put me in something of a 19th century mood. I went to the festival for the first time this year and was utterly overwhelmed by how intensely devoted some people are to historical costuming. It was the first time in awhile I’d felt underdressed, though my friend Julia and I did glam up for the Regency Ball in period-appropriate attire (we even made it into the Canberra Times – see here). I spend so much time immersed in the vintage subculture which is mostly concerned with the twentieth century that it was almost surprising to discover that there are devotees of eras far older and grander than this. It would be a different sort of obsession, as I daresay the curious looks you’d get on the street would increase exponentially if you began to wear bonnets and floor-length gowns out in the day-time, and therefore I suppose there wouldn’t be so much opportunity for total immersion.

I had a fun experience with this sort of thing when my visit to Guernsey in the Channel Isles earlier this year happened to coincide with a local folk festival called the “Le Viaer Marche”. It’s an annual festival during which locals dress up in Victorian garb quite earnestly and folk dance for hours. It was a curious thing to behold. I’ve been dying to share some photos of the event, so voila. Perhaps you can appreciate the absurdity as I did.

Seeing as I regrettably did not bring a Victorian gown with me on my travels, I did my best in a Victorian-necked blouse and brooch.

Have any of you ever strayed into historical costuming?



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A Very Belated Outfit Post

I was flicking back through the Photo Booth library on my Mac and found some pictures I took earlier this year, assumedly in a moment of self-indulgence. I think it was Easter-time and I was up visiting my Grandparents. It was one of my first attempts at pin curls, and they turned out quite well, which was probably the motivation for this kitchen photo shoot. My hair was a lot shorter in April – I’d just had it cut for a 1920s party. Short hair is the best for pin curls.

I’m wearing an early 1960s dress I bought in Portland when I was there in January. It’s an odd sort of mustard colour that I wasn’t sure about at first, but it’s grown on me since then. Plus the fabric is beautiful; you can’t tell but it’s almost a brocade.

Dress: 60s, Ray’s Ragtime in Portland
Belt: second-hand, Ray’s Ragtime in Portland
Cardigan: Alannah Hill
Necklace: Disney Couture
Hair Flower: Sportsgirl


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Just Dropping By

I hope you’re having a splendid weekend, friends. Here are some internet-y things that have taken my fancy this past week:

If you’re in Sydney this week, you should definitely come to Old Hat: The November Social to hang out with myself and other fun vintage-loving friends for an evening of cocktails and lively banter. It will be worth your while!

I am currently immersed in essays and such, but freedom awaits! Here’s a little snap from my day which was unfortunately spent studying and mooching about the house.

Blouse: 40s/50s, etsy
Necklace: 50s, Camden Passage markets in London
Sunglasses: 50s, Emporium in Greenwich
Scarf: David Jones

I hope your weekend lasts forever.


Filed under Links