Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Birthday Balloons!

Hey guys!  Today I'm switching it up a little.  This past week I posted a Sunday Snapshot, which I plan on making a weekly thing, just as a sort of check-in on what vintage-related happenings I'm up to each week.  Today I'm going to reverse the order and do a Snapshot today, and finally--finally--talk about Marlene Dietrich this weekend.  I'm a little bummed, as I'd hoped I could make the Marlene post coincide with my birthday today, but I need to switch for two reasons: I'm a little swamped by Dietrich research (I'll talk about why this is in the actual post), and because today provides a perfect opportunity for a vintage snapshot.  Today, the balloons for the 89th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade are inflated!  Since the parade began in 1924, it technically qualifies as vintage, and hey, who doesn't like birthday balloons?

I've always loved the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Every year, I get up in time to make coffee and cinnamon rolls and watch the floats, balloons, and Broadway performers go by.  I can't really explain why I structure every fourth Thursday in November around this thing, but I do, and this year is the first I've been in New York on Thanksgiving, and able to actually participate in some fashion.  Now, I won't be at the parade itself tomorrow--I watch my parade like I watch my tennis: on TV, with commentary and perspective.  But the balloon inflation? I'm there.

Since this is a vintage blog, first-- a little history. 

This photo is from the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (then called the Christmas Parade) in 1924.

The original parade (the title's visible on the elephants!) featured zoo animals.

Felix the Cat made his debut as the parade's first giant balloon in 1927.
Walt Disney helped design this Mickey balloon!
 Giant balloons were introduced to the parade four years later, thanks to the recent discovery and use of helium.  What hadn’t quite been perfected, though, was exactly how to release the helium, so after the parade, they simply released the whole kit and caboodle.  The release turned into a game of sorts, as Macys sewed return labels onto the balloons and offered a monetary award for their return.  But after pilot Annette Gipson tried to snag a balloon with her plane, nearly causing a fatal crash, the questionably intelligent contest came to an end. 

A great shot of early 1940s New York City, overseen by Uncle Sam.
Dale Evans and Roy Rodgers wave from their float

I'd always wondered about this character--it turns out,
Harold the ____ is a parade tradition dating from the 1950s.
Here he's a fireman, but he's also been a policeman
 and baseball player.

Ok so this one isn't historical, but who cares?  It's Kermit.  Everyone loves Kermit.
A lot has changed since the parade's early days, including a shift from horse-drawn floats used until 1939, its first televised route in 1945 after a two-year hiatus during World War II, and a downsize from 6 miles to 2.65.  Today, five- to six-story-tall balloons are assembled in a former Tootsie Roll factory in Hoboken at least a year in advance, and are brought in to the parade’s entrance at 77th and Central Park West to be inflated the night before---which brings us to tonight!

Guys, I've gotta be honest.  This inflation thing is not for the faint of heart.  By the time I got there after work, it was swamped, but I did manage to see some balloons:

Buzz Lightyear!

Hey!  It's Harold the Policeman!

And Harold the Fireman!!
Well I'm not quite as excited about this dude, but to each his/her own.

Official sponsor of tomorrow morning's cinnamon rolls.
But even better-- my family got to see the inflation earlier in the day, and took video of the Uncle Sam being inflated:

Don't worry, it's not beginning to end, just the prep and start.

Anyway, however you celebrate, I hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving!  

Fun Facts about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:
--In 1957, heavy rain filled the brim of the Popeye the Sailor balloon, eventually tipping him—and 50 gallons of water—onto onlookers. (NB: Sources are divided on this event, with some, including Time, citing this accident as occurring in 1962 with a Donald Duck balloon.  Either way, I think we can all agree it’s just hilarious that it happened.)
--Floats are designed to collapse in order to pass through the Lincoln Tunnel
--Balloon wranglers are required to weigh at least 120 pounds, and each balloon uses from 50 to 70 wranglers.
--The film Miracle on 34th Street (1947) features the actual 1946 parade.

--Preparations for the parade begin at least a year in advance, including celebrity bookings (…which may explain some of the often-rando people we’ll see waving from the floats.  Really?  That guy?)

TLC's "Ultimate Guide to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!"
Time's "A Brief History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade."
All historical photos of the parade are courtesy of Macys, Inc., sourced from this ABC article, "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: A Look Back."
The French Hatching Cat's thorough look at cat-related parade catastrophes, including the ill-fated plane attempt

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Snapshot: Baltimore Vintage Roundup

This weekend I went to visit my girlfriend in Baltimore, and while I was there, I got to follow my favorite (unofficial) Vintage Crawl. I give Baltimore a lot of flack (some of which it deserves), but one thing I always loved about the city is its great selection of vintage, particularly on the famous 36th Street, also known as The Avenue, in Hampden. 

Hampden is the charming neighborhood made famous by John Waters' films, and it's largely retained the distinct Baltimore "look"--cute row houses out of which could step a Hon, that unique Baltimore breed of beehived, bizarrely accented housewife. During the holidays, Hampden boasts a really awesome tradition-- Miracle on 34th Street. Two blocks from the main drag, the residents of 34th Street deck their houses with outrageous and intricate holiday decorations, stopping traffic for the whole month of December. It's insane, and I'll have to see if I can make it down this year to snap some photos. 

Hampden is also home to some of the best vintage stores in the city. My very favorite is Avenue Antiques, a three-story behemoth:

It's a fairly nondescript red building, a neighbor to the thrift shop The Ideal, but inside it's a treasure trove. The first floor is dedicated to jewellery, housewares, and various vintage living pieces. This time, it had broken out the vintage Christmas decorations:

I generally don't approve of pre-Thanksgiving Yuletide decorations, but how could I not love this tree?

The second floor hosts vintage furniture and odds and ends:

Among the finds:

Now... I can't ice skate or swallow oysters, but for someone who does, wouldn't these be amazing?

For me, the basement floor is where it's at--vintage clothing as far as the eye can see. 

Though of course, as with most stores, a lot of stock hails from the 80s and 90s, there's still a huge collection of 60s and 70s, as well as fantastic scores from the 40s and 50s. Here I found a blue wool Pendleton skirt with belt ($16), beautiful grey 1940s gloves ($5), three patterns ($3 each), and three millinery veils ($5 each). I also found three hair nets in original packaging ($8)-- I *adore* vintage hairstyling tools!

I also got in a visit to Dreamland, one of Baltimore's oldest vintage shops, at 30 years and counting. Though it used to be located on the avenue, its new owner, Maurice Lease, who bought Dreamland a few years ago at the previous owner's death, moved it to the more central Mount Vernon area. The shop is slowly shifting its focus more towards costumes, but that doesn't mean there aren't amazing pieces to be found--Dreamland has a great men's selection, as well as lots of hats, jewellery, and odds and ends including patterns (I'm on a bit of a binge; now I really have to ace my sewing classes!). Also very much worth mentioning is the charity Maurice recently founded, the Pink Safe Foundation, which, among other causes, helps members of the LGBTQ community with hospital bills in the wake of hate crimes. I was happy to contribute during my visit. 

Finally, a few blocks from Dreamland is the Zone, with an eclectic selection of mostly 80s and 90s clothing, as well as lingerie, a sizable men's section, and, my favorite, a killer collection of Chrismas sweaters. 

That's right, guys. I have a Christmas sweater collection. Get ready for some kick-a photos come Christmas week. 

Well that's about it for my Baltimore vintage round-up. If you stop by Charm City, be sure to swing by these fantastic shops, and take care, hon. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

1940s Style: New York in Autumn

This week in New York, we're being treated to a brief respite of warm weather before it plunges back into pre-winter weather.  You know, that weather where hats go from accessory to necessary.  It's wonderful, and not just because I'm not ready for winter: it gave me a chance to really enjoy the gorgeous fall scenery at Central Park.  I also thought it would be an excellent opportunity to take some photos before work, and boy, could I not have scored a better backdrop.

For some reason, I have a hard time assembling a 1940s look.  Maybe it's the creative hairstyling or the wide lips, but I think it's mostly because for me, the iconic wartime look is the long line skirt suit with strong shoulders.  As I confirmed while shopping this past weekend, the cut of these suits can really overwhelm my frame, particularly since the jackets are often full coverage.  (Not to worry--I did find two *fantastic* 40s pieces I'll be writing about later!)  I realized, though, that with the slim cut of this pleated skirts, I could channel a more casual wartime look.

A hat to match the foliage--from its brown color to the leafy, feathery, textured patterns--tops it off, with brown gloves and shoes that draw from the color scheme without drawing attention.  The hat's probably from the 1950s, an example of the cocktail hat style, but I thought it was perfect regardless.

I love the appliqué on this sweater--it's a gold and white swirling pattern that eliminates the need for jewelry.  Something you may notice as I continue to post--I'm not actually a big fan of jewelry.  Janey at Atomic Redhead inspires me to try to break out my small and sorely underused brooch collection, but apart from those and a few more eye-catching necklaces I wear once in a while, I'm not big on accessories.  I'd rather those accents come from the clothing itself--like the gold threads in the sweater decoration, or rhinestone buttons (like on this dress), for example.  Laziness?  Yep.  Probably.

Walk faster!
Seriously, you're late for work.

 Just a few more glorious Central Park photos:

I snapped these photos mid-stride, on my hurried way out of the park.
The park is actually just that photogenic.

Anyway, I was really happy to figure out how to make this skirt work, and to be able to touch on an era  I love, but from which I don't have many pieces to pull.

What about you?  What eras do you like to emulate, either with vintage-appropriate garments, or with a mix of eras?

Outfit details:
Hat: 1950s cocktail hat, vintage fair
Sweater: Brooklyn Flea
Skirt: Ralph Lauren, thrift shop score
Shoes: Thrifted
Gloves: Antique mall, Fayetteville, PA
Purse: Michael Kors

Next week: My profile on Vintage Queer Marlene Dietrich.  (FINALLY.)

See?  I'm preparing, I promise--that thing is 700 pages!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Vintage Potpourri

Hey everyone!  It's been an incredibly busy week-- I started taking my very first sewing class, I got and trained for a part-time holiday retail gig (I roll 3+ jobs deep, guys), went to two markets, and I'm getting set to go visit my brother in Dallas starting tomorrow evening.  Needless to say, it's been hectic, and while I have every hope of one day making 2-3 posts a week, I think until the holidays are over, I'll probably have to stick with one weekly.  The good news is, I'm hoping to have my Queer Vintage/Vintage Queer: Marlene Dietrich post up either this coming week or the next-- I'm reading books and watching films as quickly as I can--and, the new retail job gave me an idea as well.  In the meantime, I'm excited about what's coming up, I just have to get the time to make it all happen!  

This week, since I only got a little bit of a number of things accomplished, I thought I'd do a sort of Vintage Potpourri post--a little bit of an outfit, a little bit of wardrobe management, and a really spectacular market find.  It's picture-heavy, so get ready!

First Up:
So thanks to my busy week, the only time I found to do an outfit shoot was yesterday morning, before work.  Guys, it did not go well.  Between busy carpets, bad lighting, and figuring out where to prop up my camera, it was a straight-up mess.  Here's the best I've got:

This rug is great, except for when it's stealing my thunder.
 If this is the best, I leave it to your imagination as to what the worst looked like.  It's a shame, because I really love this dress-- it's a 1950s cotton dress with a great amount of fullness in the skirt, and a wonderful allover texture to the fabric:

This fabric is really fantastic.  It has a heft to it that makes it perfect for colder days.

I'm pretty undecided over black tights in a vintage ensemble, and I'm not convinced it works here.  I thought I'd give it a try, though, particularly since, when running late, they're easier than stockings.  I also only seem to be able to find wool tights in black or grey, so I'll have to get used to it.  They do go with the hat, though, and check it out--

I bought this hat in Baltimore, and it just happens to come from an actual milliner in Baltimore!

 Look who learned how to use hatpins?

I'm so proud, guys.

That in and of itself is a victory.  And don't worry.  After seeing the photos, I immediately--as in later that day--went out and got a tripod.  Amateur hour is over.  Or, you know.  At least slowly coming to a close.

Next at bat:

Though I'm liking New York so far, one of the most notoriously challenging aspects of living here is the lack of storage.  Like most people here, I have a very small closet, which makes it difficult to figure out how best to store not only clothes, but various vintage paraphernalia--stockings, collars, gloves, etc.  I'm a pretty visual person, and I like to be able to see all my options.  (The poor intern who shares my desk at work would corroborate my need to see everything I have all at once.)  It's just not possible here, though, and I know I'm missing out on outfit combinations, simply because I can't actually see them together--things are in hatboxes, suitcases, shoe boxes, shelves, anywhere I can find a little space.  So, I'm trying out an app called CollageIt (free version), which allows you to, you guessed it, create collages from your photos--something I haven't figured out in iPhoto.  So I created a photo catalogue of most of the pieces I own, and am starting to use CollageIt to see my options:

I pretty much wore this outfit yesterday, actually.  It's working already!
There are some drawbacks so far--the collages can only be saved with CollageIt's own file extension (which can't be previewed, but has to be fully opened for viewing), and have to be individually exported in .jpg format, which is a pain.  It also doesn't seem possible to size the photos within the collage , hence the giant shoes in the first collage, and the white space in the second.  But it's at least getting me to look at what I already have in combinations.

And finally, the Find:
This weekend I went to two markets-- the Antiques Garage Flea Market in Chelsea, and the Greenflea Market on the Upper West Side.  My intention was only to go to the former, and to write about it, but of course, I forgot my camera.  While I was there, though, I found and purchased an amazing photo album.  I've recently started collecting photos, which I choose partially by hair inspiration (I love my signature 1930s waves, but I'd like to be able to achieve some variety), and partly just on instinct.  I've only acquired a few, and just one at a time.  I'd only begun considering trying to find a whole album when I arrived at the Garage and immediately found this gorgeous gal on the left.  Instinct told me to buy it  despite its slightly hefty price tag; I'm not totally sure yet why I needed to have it, but it spoke to me-- so we'll see.  
The albums: on the left, the one from Greenflea, and on the right, from Antiques Garage. Isn't the detail on the right incredible?

In an attempt to redeem my potential market post, I also went to Greenflea.  I'd never been before, and I'm not sure why, but I'm glad I did-- it's huge.  It covers the playground of PS 334, and even extends inside the school.  


Very creative display.  Also, the longer I look at this photo, the more I realize I'm an idiot for not looking into that sheer black number.  Ugh.

A view of the appropriated cafeteria
I got a little nervous about asking permission to photograph vendors' wares, so I ended up just doing the oh-so-mature Rapid Paparazzi Shot here.  I'm sure no one noticed.

Though the market has, like all NYC markets, its fare share of rando vendors (I'm looking at you, dog coat seller), it had tons of clothes, and even more antiques and collectibles, which were mostly located inside.  I have to admit, I didn't take any time to look through the clothing--something's been pulling me away from collecting clothes recently.  Maybe it's because, thanks to sewing classes, I'm hoping I'll be able to create my own?  Or maybe I just finally realized I don't need more clothes right now.  

In any case, what I got pulled towards was another photo vendor, who had boxes on boxes on boxes of old photos, priced at a dollar each.  Rummaging through the bins, I found he also had a few albums.  I picked up one, and fell in love.  The vendor wanted twice what I had with me, though, so I did the traditional walk-around, and watched it out of the corner of my eye. When I felt my heart seizing like a jealous girlfriend any time someone rifled through it, I realized I had to at least give it a shot.  I went back, and just told the vendor what I honestly had on me.  I don't know if it was the hopeful desperation in my eyes or the way I was clutching the book, but he looked through the album again, spotted the three photos I'd picked out as a consolation, in case he declined, and asked if I wanted those, too.  I said I didn't remotely expect to get all of that for what I had, but he looked at them and said, "You have a great eye for detail.  It's a deal."  He said he appreciated the photos, but had so many of them and never could sort through them.  I can't emphasize enough that I do not recommend lowballing a dealer, but in this case, I think he knew they'd be going to a good home.  Or that I'd cry if he said no.

I need to find out ASAP how to best preserve the photos.  They're displayed on crumbling black paper, and while I'm hoping to figure out how to display them in their original covers, I'm assuming the priority now is getting them on acid-free paper.  (Any advice on this is very, very welcome).

These will be scanned eventually, but since I want to proceed with caution, here are photos of some of my favorites--from the hundreds of stunning, stunning photos the albums contain.

This is actually the one that prompted the remark about an eye for detail-- I adore the way the woman kicks up her heel.  It's a perfect embodiment of the zeitgeist of the Roaring 20s.

From the Greenflea album:

This trio is so chic I can hardly stand it.

This beautiful woman's photograph alone is worth every cent.  Every single cent.

Did I score a photo of a vintage lesbian couple???  Well, not super likely.  But I can dream, and, you know... who's to say they aren't?

From the Antiques Garage album: 

This woman is adorable, and I like how well her sweater sets off her necklace.

This album is filled with newspaper clippings of wedding and engagement announcements.  I wonder whether these hold the key to why I knew I needed to own it? 
The woman on the left is my spirit animal.

I hope you liked the mishmash of subjects here-- I'm aiming to settle into one topic at a time in the future, but this seemed to both reflect the last week, and to make the most of what it brought!  Have a fantastic week, and I'll see you next Wednesday!