The Misconception about Flappers

As a vintage shop owner, I get lots of requests for “flapper” dresses.  And when I show customers the flapper style dresses I have for sale, most customers are disappointed.  Why?  Because they dont fit into the stereotypical envision of what a flapper dress is.  Society has gotten one image into peoples head about what a flapper looks like, and that example is this:

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The problem is, the chances of all flapper dresses looking like this, are few and far between.  As a vintage shop owner for the past four years, Ive come into one dress that incorporated fringe, and it was beaded fringe.  Not to mention, Ive never seen in books or any online references – a flapper dress that looked anything remotely close to this costume above.

Lets talk about what a flapper dress truly looks like, shall we?

The definition of a flapper: a (1920s) fashionable young woman intent on enjoying herself and flouting conventional standards of behavior.

{The style of the flapper started around WWI when corsets and longer ankle length dresses were considered conventional and the norm – women having the right to vote was a new wind of independence for most women, these were the flappers}

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And how they looked:  Flappers cut their hair into bobs, they wore high heels and makeup was worn regularly.  They wore dresses and skirts that were at or just above the knee.  They partied hard, smoked, drank, drove cars (whoa!) and experimented sexually without fear of judgement.  And not all flappers wore fringe, rhinestones and feathers either.  Here are a few photos of actual flappers – and even a few dresses from the shops collection of “Flapper” style dresses.

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I hope this gives you a greater appreciation for the clothing of the 1920s – as well as a broader expectation of what flappers wore and looked like.

And here is a great read from the Smithsonian Museum, about flappers:

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/threaded/2013/02/the-history-of-the-flapper-part-1-a-call-for-freedom/

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Hello, Portsmouth!

In case you haven’t been made aware – the Newmarket shop is moving!  As of October 1st, we will be operating in Portsmouth!  Now, it may take me a few weeks to get set up and up and running…and I will have an exact date for the grand opening in the upcoming weeks.  (so stay tuned!).

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The last day of operating in the Newmarket shop will be September 14th (but Etsy will be fully operational!).  I’ll even have a few sales going on during those two weeks!.

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So – come see us at 7 Commercial Alley in Portsmouth in Mid-October…just in time for that perfect New England Fall weather!  Im EXTREMELY excited about the move…the shop will have an ALL new look with TONS of new clothing!

That being said – please plan for sporadic hours for the next two weeks in Newmarket as I get things situated.  Moving is not easy and moving a business sure is not easy at ALL.  Thank you for your understanding!

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(this is Commercial Alley!)

Set Your Eyes On These

The other day I went to the eye doctor to get my yearly check up.  Im practically blind, for those of you who dont know.  Over the years, with so much abuse of looking at a computer screen for about 3/4 of the day – my eyes have begun to fail significantly.  The worst about wearing glasses is finding a pair of frames that work well on my face.  Ive literally been wearing the same pair of Ellen Tracey metal copper colored frames for the last five years.

I found out that one of my favorite eyewear designers, Warby Parker, is coming out with a new line, specifically designed from a vintage style, named the “1922 Collection“.

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Unique and different, but absolutely vintage – I cant wait to give them a try!  Ive never seen anything like them, anywhere!  (except the real authentic thing, of course!).  The best thing. they also come in sunglasses!  You can see the new 1922 Collection here!  And with the new Great Gatsby film coming out next month, you know these are going to be all the rage with the vintage crowd.

A bit on Warby Parker – here! (and a bit about their “Buy a Pair/Give a Pair” program)

Here is a peek!

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I dont know which Im going to choose, the choice are so amazing!  Im so excited!

If I only had a place to wear that dress!

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I hear that statement nearly every day in this business.  Truly, every damn day.  Sometimes even from myself.  Sure, sometimes our daily activities dont always call for wearing full skirted party dresses, encrusted with rhinestones and lace – but that doesnt mean wearing a dress is out of the question.  Women from eras past wore dresses nearly every day.  In some eras, they ONLY wore dresses, as womens pants were almost unheard of (hence the lack of vintage pants in the older eras).  Only until the 1930s and 1940s were women wearing pants.. and very few at that.  It was still quite the norm for women to wear dresses every day.  I meet with women in their 80s and 90s almost weekly when I go on house calls – and I always ask, “Did you ever wear pants?  Do you have any?” – And the answer always is no.  Most women were never allowed to wear pants while living with their parents, especially if raised in a Catholic home (nevermind wear the color black!  Yikes!)

But many women did wear dresses…and not just to dances or cocktail functions.  They wore them everywhere.  Women now, only wear them to “fancy” functions and need an excuse to purchase or wear a dress – and wear pants most of the time.  Its funny how times have changed!  My take is:  You dont need an excuse or a function to wear a dress.  Just wear one.  Whats the big deal?  If you feel too dressed up – isnt that a good thing?  Isnt it better to feel too dressed up than under dressed?  (Think: PJ bottoms and a tank top with flip flops – GAG!).  I dont always dress to impress, but I try!  My biggest excuse is the weather – living in the frozen tundra of NH kind of puts a damper on dress wearing for about seven months of the year (not to mention, the shoes are limited due to slush/snow/etc).  But once that sun starts shining and those temps are rising – you cant get me out of a dress!  And for those fancy dresses, sure – sometimes you need an occasion, yes.  Dont have one?  Create one!  Make your boyfriend/husband take you out to a show/dinner/event!  I have a closet full of pretty dresses that give me a good excuse to make the old man take me out for a nice time every so often 😉

Here are some great vintage photos of women wearing dresses – doing average things – just to show you that you dont have to be doing anything special to wear a dress.

Just wear one!

Putting on a bumper sticker – and wearing a dress.

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Cutting a rug with your friends – and wearing a dress.

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Grocery shopping with your homegirls – and wearing suits! HA!

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Walking down the street – wearing a dress.

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Hanging out with your friend and acting silly – wearing dresses.

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Hitchhiking – and rocking a dress.

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Hanging out with some boys and their dog – wearing a dress

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Shopping at the local WalMart (?) – sporting a dress (as opposed to the preferred apparel)

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Hanging out at Jenks Boardwalk at Point Pleasant New Jersey (my old stomping grounds!) –  Wearing Dresses and Suits and Bikinis all in the same place!

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Last but not least – taking care of babies – and rocking dresses! (this one is for you, Amy!)

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Honored to Be the Best

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A few weeks back, Sammy Davis of Sammy Davis Vintage published a really cool e-book where she shares the best of vintage shopping online.  The book is an awesome reference for anyone that shops vintage online (whether its Etsy or Ebay, or stand alone websites).  There are so many amazing shops featured, along with specific categories of vintage as well (hats, shoes, mid-century, etc)

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I received my copy of the e-book while in the middle of a photo shoot with Lauryn (the shops brunette model).  We opened the book together and saw that my shop was named number one! We both stood there and looked at each other confused.  “Me?  My shop?”  I said.  Lauryn said, “Oh my goodness!!!”  It totally made our shoot (which is normally fun but a lot of work) a LOT more fun.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was up against so many other shops that had been around a lot longer than mine – and so many other shops that (I felt) kicked my butt.  But then I thought about it.  Maybe someone else saw something I didn’t.  Maybe the countless months of working seven days a week, 14hrs a day shows.  Either way – whatever it was – I was honored and very humbled.

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But know that none of this could have been achieved without the girls who are the face of Concetta’s Closet, possible – the models.

So thank you Sammy – for the honor of being featured and named as number one.  And congratulations to my fellow sellers for being in the book as well.  Its an honor to be among you all.  So if you follow my blog – you must obviously love vintage – so that means you must purchase this e-book, “The 100 Best Vintage Shops Online“.  It’s amazing!

Helping Out

As you all probably know, the East Coast has been pounded by Hurricane Sandy earlier this week.  Specifically the states of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.  And as most you may not know, I was born and raised in New Jersey and lived most of my adult life in New York.  Both states are extremely near and dear to me, especially the New Jersey Shore.  NOT the Shore that is depicted on that god-awful television show, although, I have been known to dance to techno and wear some questionable clothing.

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As the news unfolded, and the photos of the shore came about – my eyes filled with tears.  All I could think about were the memories I created as a child every summer, as my grandparents house at Bradley Beach.  The friends I had met when I was 12 playing..some that I still have now.  I wondered if they were OK, if their families were safe.  Landmarks, favorite pizza spots, ice cream parlors, skate shops, boardwalks, amusement parks and not to mention – Homes.  Places where people grew up and lived.  NOT just vacation or seasonal homes, Im talking year round homes, like my grandparents home (which they no longer live in, thankfully).  Not everyone on the Jersey shore only lived there from June to August, lets remember that.  And lastly, something that hits home the most – the small businesses.  New Jersey is made up of a LOT of these.  When the storm first started steering towards the state, I first though, OH NO!  School of Vintage is on LBI! – I couldnt imagine everything I put my heart into being washed away.

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So, as I sit here with tears in my eyes – Im going to ask you my local customers for some help.  For the entire month of November, if you come in and shop with me – PLEASE! – bring a small bag of donations that will be sent off to New Jersey?  Im going to offer everyone a 15% off discount for every donation they bring (not every piece/bag).  For now, Im going to be sending the donations via FedEx or UPS since USPS is not running in most areas of New Jersey.

A list of things that I am going to be asking for:

Toiletries – (shampoo, conditioner, soap, razors, shaving cream, feminine products, toothpaste, toothbrushes, lotion, etc)

Baby Needs –  Diapers (all sizes) baby wipes, pacifiers, bottles, gently used clothing.

Kids Needs – Small used/clean toys, gently used clothing and shoes, coats.

Adult Needs – Gently used clothing and shoes, coats.

General – Blankets and small books.

Remember, these things have to fit into boxes and we are also trying to keep the weight down, so the lighter the better.  I am not going to be accepting food right now because canned items just weigh too much and until I can get a better rate on shipping I just cant do it.  All donations will be drop shipped to a childhood friend who is receiving packages, she lives around the corner from the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River New Jersey, one of the areas hardest hit.

Its breaking my heart to watch the state that made me the girl I am, suffer so greatly.  So please help me, help them.  Thank you!

A few of my current favorites.

As some of us sellers can probably admit to, there are some items that we sell that we really regret selling – and some that we have a hard time even offering.  Currently in my shop, I have a few pieces that just melt my heart, and regardless of their sizes, I just want to keep them for their appeal, condition and overall amazingness! (is that even a word!?)

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Image1940s Embroidered Cigarette Novelty Dress

Image1970s Geoffrey & Lynx Fur Coat

For now, Ill just love them while they’re in the shop and make way for new pieces to fall in love with all over again.  I must admit, there is a closet at home with quite a few eh-hem…coats, cough, cough…and dresses,…..cough cough..that never made it to the shop.  *blush*

No, I would not like to rent my memories!

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I woke up this morning, turned on the news in my living room – put a Hazelnut coffee into the Keurig and sat down to check my email.  On the news, the local news station was doing a small bit on wedding dress rentals, and how it has become the latest trend among brides.  After hearing just that, I put down my coffee and watched the spot to find out more about this trend.

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“My wedding dress was just sitting in my closet, in a box, taking up space – I wasnt using it!” – said one of the women who had sold her wedding dress from just a few years ago – to a trendy bridal boutique in NH.  Puzzled, I sat and listened through the rest.  The owner of the boutique told the reporter, “Brides and Grooms have been doing it wrong the whole time.  Brides should be renting their dresses, and Grooms should be buying their tuxedos!”  (Insert jaw drop).  Was she really saying this?  Did she really mean it?  Please tell me it was just my morning brain without that first sip of coffee being fuzzy and playing tricks on me.

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I then thought about it.  Where is my wedding dress?  Well, I remember.  Its in my closet, in a garment bag.  Am I annoyed by it?  No.  Does it take up too much space?  Nope.  Am I all fidgety because its there and Im not able to use it?  Um, sure Id love to wear it everyday.  But Im A-OK with it being unworn.  You see, I have a different view on wedding dresses, than this boutique owner does.  I believe that wedding dresses should be worn and kept, perhaps to get passed down onto daughters or granddaughters, or whomever else wants to wear them.  The whole thought of 20 brides wearing the same rented dress cheapens the whole idea of wedding dresses in general.  From the beginning of time, wedding attire was something to be coveted.  It was ornate and usually quite expensive.  I am highly doubting that Victorian and Edwardian women went to a wedding dress rental shop for their gowns.  Sure, dresses were borrowed among family – I once knew of a dress that was worn by three generations of women in the same family.  How special that truly is.

As if weddings these days were not sterile and cookie-cutter enough, why encourage women to make their weddings even more impersonal by renting a wedding dress.  One bride-to-be during the interview said, “I wouldnt normally be able to wear this $7,000 Lazaro wedding gown, but I can rent it for $699!!” – So that just made a perfect point for me, I hope you got it too.  Normally, women dont spend $7,000 on a wedding gown, but perhaps they want others to think they did.  Thats what I think, at least.

It is absolutely possible to spend $699 (or less) on an incredible wedding gown.  When shopping for my wedding dress, I tried on 100 different styles but finally found a LaSposa gown that suited my taste perfectly.  Was it in my budget, kind of.  But luckily the boutique in NYC price matched any other store in the area – so I found the exact same dress across the river in Hoboken for $300 less.

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So, girls – please, for the love of lace – do NOT rent your wedding gown.  Buy one used, remake your grandmothers gown into something more suitable for you or even better, BUY VINTAGE!

Here are a few of my most FAVORITE vintage wedding gowns on Etsy, right now:

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A 1930s eyelet lace wedding gown in a VERY healthy size – $386 @ RococoVintage

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A 1960s simple white strapless short wedding dress – backyard farm weddings, this is your dress – $400 @ CoralVintage

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This 1950s wedding dress will let you channel your inner Kate Middleton! $435 @ DearGolden

The Price of Vintage

Have you ever looked at the price tag on a vintage dress and thought to yourself, “my GOSH! that’s insane.”?  I have, many times.  But over the years Ive started to realize what the going rate is for a dress of a particular era and of course, what inflated prices are.  There are several variables that go into the inflated prices.  Obviously the location of the shop plays a big role.  Bigger cities tend to have customers with bigger wallets.

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There are also other factors that go into the price of a vintage item.  One is rarity.  Right now, pieces from the 1920s and 1930s are scarce, so the price will be higher due to demand and the absent crop that there once was, with closets full of beaded flapper gowns and 30s cotton frocks.  The 1940s is starting to dwindle down as well, at least in this neck of the woods.  So why is the 1950s and 1960s in abundance?  Well, the people who wore those eras of clothing are still alive.

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Some of you may ask, “How can I justify buying an old used dress for $150?!” – While others may ask themselves a similar question, “How can I justify buying a $150 brand new dress that will be out of style in 6 months and that was made in a sweatshop and will probably fall apart after several washings?” – Obviously, we all have our own opinions and are entitled to them, but I find it very discerning that so many people do not give respect to vintage clothing, as they would a vintage piece of furniture, or even a vintage car/motorcycle.  In my eyes, there is no difference between investing in a piece of history, whether it be clothing, furniture or cars.  They are all collectible in their own right.

Lastly, so many people assume that the amazing vintage pieces we find are left for us to grab up at a garage sale or a thrift store – just waiting to be purchased for pennies and marked up 100% for sale at a vintage shop. Is this true?  It can be, but its quite rare.  Sure, youll find some 70s double knit polyester at a Goodwill.  Is it rare and sought after?  I guess it depends on who you ask, but I can bet most answers will be no.  Most vintage shop owners purchase clothing from the original owners, auctions, estate sales and vintage clothing collectors.  The false notion that we buy vintage for pennies and sell it for hundreds is common and probably adds to the devaluing of vintage clothing as a whole.

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A good way to know whether or not to buy a piece of vintage? – Trend vs. Classic Factor – will the piece be wearable throughout the years or is it just trendy this year?  Stick with key pieces – pencil skirts, circle skirts, classically cut dresses and coats – You can see tons and tons of vintage styling in today’s clothing.

Here are some examples of pieces from the shop, that are classic and copied over and over by today’s designers:

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Her name was Marjorie.

A few weeks ago, I went up to Kennebunkport for brunch with my husband and son.  We rarely get to go up into Maine because of our busy schedules – but this Sunday was gorgeous and the weather was perfect.  When we had finished brunch, we went for a drive out on Ocean Avenue – which rides along the coast.  I saw an estate sale sign, about 3 houses down from the Bush Compound.  I quickly remembered that my friend Kathy, who has an estate sale company – had called me a few days before and told me about a sale she was having, where there were some vintage  clothes for sale.  I was excited and told my husband and son that we were making a quick stop.  We parked and the boy stood at the car, while I walked up to the house.

I was greeted by Kathy and she told me that most of the clothes had sold – but that there was a wedding dress in the house.  I walked into this adorable little Cape Code house, that has a huge barn with horse stables and an apartment upstairs.  From the front of the house, there is a perfect view of the Bush Compound.  I walked up the front steps and into the foyer.  There was barely anyone there, but then again, it was also 1pm.  In the foyer, the walls were covered with gorgeous wallpaper from the 50s and there stood a dress form with a lovely satin wedding gown with a veil and train.  The price on it was quite a bit out of my price range, and the dress was also very damaged but I looked down on the floor and saw a brown box.  I opened the box and saw a silk satin and Brussels lace 1920s wedding dress.  As I was taking it out, Kathy told me, “Oh!  That was the mother of the bride dress” – I looked at her confused and said, “I can guarantee you, that this brides mother did not wear this to her wedding.” – And then after closely inspecting the train and veil that were on the 1950s wedding dress, I realized that they belonged with the 1920s wedding dress!  The lace matches up perfectly and the silk satin is the exact color of that on the dress.

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 I asked Kathy what the price would be, with the veil and train and she told me.  I was a bit taken back – it was a heavy duty price.  So I ask her if I could make an offer and that if the dress didnt sell – she would consider my offer.  She said yes.  So I put a very reasonable but still high offer in on a piece of paper and gave it to Kathy.  I took a quick look around the rest of the house (which IS GLORIOUS I might add!) and went back to the car to meet the boys.

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Here is a photo of the home – a bit in disarray, but oodles of charm.

The following week, I got a call from Kathy.  The dress was MINE!  This past Monday, I drove up to Maine and picked up the dress at the house – Kathy told me that there was a photo of the bride and groom, but it had been purchased the week prior at the sale.  I gathered up the veil and train, and put them into the box with the dress.  I wrote Kathy a check and went back home.  When I finally was able to sit down and look at the box – there was a pretty neat label on it, along with some penciled writing.  Helen (who we will talk about later) took the veil out in 1953, I assume to wear it at her own wedding) Here is a photo of the label that is on the box:

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So this is where it gets tricky.  At first, I thought the name of the bride was Mrs. Nathan Taylor.  I did an insane amount of research and came up with nothing.  But then I remembered that Kathy had told me the brides last name, Purves.  And if you look at the top of the label, you can see written, “MTP wedding dress and veil” – That was my cue.  So, after about 6hrs of research and some serious brain draining, I came up with history and timeline of Marjorie and her family – and the best part:  The amazing amount of American history that this family has.  I think the best way to give this information is in outline form, so here we go!

1904:  Robert Curtis Ogden purchased the home at the corner of of Ocean and Summit Avenues.  There was a main home, “The Billows” along with two other cottages and barns.  (The green home above, where the dress was found, was one of the cottages)

(Robert Curtis Ogden was a crusader for the education of emancipated slaves after the Civil War. He was the first of three generations to summer there who tirelessly championed the work of the Hampton Institute in Virginia.- More on Robert Curtis Ogden, as written by a Southern Maine Newspaper – with a photo of RCO and Booker T. Washington)

1926:  Robert Ogden Purves (Robert Curtis Ogden’s grandson) marries Marjorie Taylor, of Philadelphia.  Robert O. Purves was the treasurer at the Hampton Institute, the school that his grandfather worked at.

1953:  Robert O. Purves and Marjorie Purves daughter, Helen ” Hoppy” Purves marries John Barnard.  (John Barnard passed away last year, and his wife Hoppy is still alive – the house where the dress was found was being sold by the son of Robert and Hoppy.)

1973:  Robert O. Purves sells the cottage (not the one where the dress was purchased, its the one in front of it) to the Future President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush.  Robert O. Purves passed away in 1976.  I believe that Marjorie passed away in the early 1980s.

So, now – there are a 100 other little details in between and Im sure they would bore you, but this dress comes from such an amazing philanthropic family that is rich with well documented history.  I had to share it with you.

Here are some more links to the Purves family:

https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VRYP-VHY

https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-11816-145519-60?cc=1861144

http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=5199747

Newspaper Article from Hampton Institute with a photo of RCO’s daughter

Now, onto the dress – which is in remarkable condition, I might add!

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