Friday, February 28, 2014

A 1930s Suit in Brooklyn

This 1930s suit came to me by way of the Antiques Garage in Chelsea, a giant market in, accurately enough, a garage on W 25th Street.  Though its full name is the Antiques Garage Flea Market, I really hesitate to bill it as a flea market; this is the first thing I've ever found there that was a deal, let alone a steal.  It's definitely worth a visit, but be prepared for the vibe to be a little less convivial than you may expect for a flea market.

In any case, I was thrilled to find this suit in the stall of a very nice woman who used to wear it herself in the 80s, funnily enough a decade more known for its reproduction of vintage silhouettes than the popularization of the actual garments themselves.  Since then, the suit fell into some disrepair, unbeknownst to the seller-- I had that awful vintage collector's moment of having to point out numerous flaws in a garment she'd thought was still in great condition.  Really hate that.  The jacket was so gorgeous, though, and had almost entirely been spared the damage done to the skirt, so I bought it hoping I could just patch up the skirt.  It's not the first time I took on a fixer-upper, but I'd learned my lesson about what I can and can't repair.  I'm pretty happy with the results, and even happier it was so warm when I wore it out to meet friends in Brooklyn a few weeks ago.

A photographer friend of mine was nice enough to take photos of me, the suit, and the entrance of Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park.  It's a really beautiful monument.

Photo courtesy of NYC Parks

The detailing in the jacket is really what sold me on the suit. The shoulder pads give it that really sleek V silhouette, and the embroidery along the front, almost in a sort of leaf pattern, is just gorgeous.  The metal closure (I learned the name for this at the FIT 1930s exhibit, and then promptly forgot it--anyone know?) is original, and gives it that added luxe feel while wearing it.

Another detail worth mentioning?  The fantastic embroidered tag.  The fact that the suit came from New York only makes me love it more.

I think the design in the mirror is the number 10; I haven't researched yet to see what that's about!

I've been dying for a piece from the 1930s--I have one other that I need to repair before I can wear it without risking further damage--and this find was beyond what I'd hoped for.

"V"-shaped silhouette
The skirt's construction is still pretty sturdy, with two clasps at the waist, and I love the inverted pleat at the front.  The suit on the whole feels like something I can wear full-on vintage, as shown, or that I could modernize for a job interview.  (I think the idea of what a vintage woman could wear to an interview is a blog entry on its own; I wouldn't want to falsely advertise on the one hand, but on the other, I always wonder if I'm taken seriously enough when I wear vintage. Future post brewing.)

On the way to brunch, we walked past a wall of graffiti, and actually loved the juxtaposition of old and new it provided.  I was kind of at the end of my ability to pose for photos, though, so uh, most of the ones I took might belong in a "bloopers from photo shoots" reel.

Back in Baltimore I got these really fantastic veils, one of which you can see here.  I'm not sold on the way it photographs--it has a clustered, textured detail throughout that I think looks a little odd in photos--but thought I'd post it regardless.

I really love how elegant I feel in this suit--what garment makes you feel like a million bucks?  Or a piece you love that just won't photograph?

Photos courtesy of Tristan Nash.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Senator

Kate and I are officially out of the apartment, as of this weekend-- it was the final push to get things in storage, sent off, or brought with us.  Before we left, though, I wanted to make sure we visited the newly rebuilt theater around the corner-- the Senator.

When we moved into the area in September 2012, the Senator had been shuttered off and on for years, and though there were rumors it was going to reopen, it looked pretty desolate.  I kept hoping it would reopen--because how amazing would it be to live around the corner from a gorgeous Old Hollywood-style movie theater?--while Kate tried (in vain) to keep me from getting my hopes up in case nothing came of it.  About six months went by without any signs of life, and then one day, a fence went up around the side of the building. Weeks later, a ladder appeared out front, unmanned and totally alone, but still a hint that something might be coming. Weeks after that, the renovation was officially announced on the placard, and that's right about the time I got a job offer in New York.  About five months after I moved, the Senator reopened, and this weekend was the first time I was able to visit.  I'm really glad I got the chance to see it.  I wish I'd been able to do an outfit post, but uh, moving day isn't really the time for nice clothing, vintage or otherwise.

The Senator originally opened in 1939, and it's a great example of Art Deco style.  Thankfully, the renovations were aimed at preserving, not overhauling, and the main theater still retains a lot of its 30s charm.

Though it currently has three screens (one large, two smaller), the theater was built as a single-screen movie house. This beautiful gold curtain is still raised for the films presented in its main theater; unfortunately, on the day we went, it opened to reveal the Lego Movie in 3D.  So.  I didn't see it.

This is from the entryway-- just gorgeous.
Ladies don't rest, they lounge.
A detail from the main theater.

Outside, the sidewalk is filled with paved monuments of the theater's history:

And of course--
You don't get any more "Baltimore" than that.

I'm really happy I got to experience the Senator before we left. It felt like something we'd waited so long for, so it was a really perfect way to end our time in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Winter Is My Spirit Animal, But It Can Also Go Ahead and Leave.

I remember the start of winter.  When it was crisp and cold and refreshing, when the air crackled with lively possibility, and when I was excited for the change in wardrobe.  Now, four months in, the weather's just biting, the streets are filled with gross grey slush, and the only crackle in the air is static electricity.  Man I am so tired of winter.

Since it may still be here for a while, though, let's hearken back a little bit to the beginning of the season, if for no other reason, than to get a refresher on what's good about winter.  Namely, silk shirts and fur hats.**

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ellen Page Came Out, And It's a Big Deal.

Tonight, gay women got the best Valentine's present short of actual love from an actual girlfriend: Ellen Page came out.  This is a big deal, and I want to briefly explain why.

I'll preface this by saying that no one has an obligation to come out.  It's a very personal decision.  And I should say that the familial environment of my childhood has greatly changed since I've passed into adulthood.  But I want to emphasize what is possible when people choose to live openly, and the way it can help counter some of the attitudes under which so many gay children are raised.

Hey Ellen Page.  I'm not single, but if I am one day, I promise I'll hit on you right after I strike out with Michelle Chamuel.

I grew up in Texas, in a conservative, Christian family that taught abstinence, to the point of giving each of us kids a purity ring when we turned 13.  For a straight child, this would certainly create a bit of repression, but for me, this meant both repression and a reprieve: with sex forbidden by God On High, I could put on blinders and ignore it completely.  I internalized what I believed these teachings meant--sex was dirty and aggressive and somehow also sacred--at the same time as I absorbed some of conservative Christianity's other none-of-your-business teachings.

Growing up, gay was dirty, gay was diseased, gay was sinful and it was hellbound.  Gay wasn't an option.  Lesbian was even worse.  For some reason, even now, gay has cultural traction--women have glamorized gay men, but no such fashionable fetishization exists for lesbians, just a fake idolization by a certain type of man.  There's a reason Ellen DeGeneres was essentially banished from television after she came out, when I was in eighth grade.

What would it have meant to me to have an Ellen Page come out when I was a teen?  I didn't have a clue about my sexuality until midway through my 20s, so I won't pretend it would've led to a sudden, lighting-strike moment in which I Realized; it would've meant a cool, funny, pretty woman I liked watching on film just so happened to be a lesbian.  Might it have led me to think about some things?  Yep.  Might it have made me wonder why I felt an impulse to kiss girl friends?  Probably.  But on a more basic level, she would have been a counter to what I had internalized, and maybe would have been a sort of beacon for me--she would have represented an option I didn't have.  She may have helped beat back the waves of homophobia and self-loathing I still battle.

One of my biggest reasons for blogging is to hopefully do this sort of work: to show people, gay and straight alike, the depth and breadth of gay history, and its extension beyond the stereotypes with which we're familiar.  It's what I want to do with Queer Vintage/Vintage Queer, but it's work that can be done so much more powerfully when people just come out, live openly, and simply show others they exist.

Thank you, Ellen Page.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Risking Hypothermia for the 40s!

Between moving and an upsurge in work, this week's already getting away from me!  Thankfully, my brother came to my rescue and sent me photos we'd taken during his visit over the holidays.  It was far too cold a day for what I was wearing, but his photography's so beautiful, I really wanted to get him to take a photo of this jacket in particular.  And as I actually found the jacket (and hat!) when I visited him in Dallas, it just felt appropriate.

This 1940s jacket was a real find, with really stunning latticework.

I love the coral color and the half-length sleeves.  Because it was so cold that day, this is the One Shot we got before I had to put my coat back on and not die.  I think Tyra Banks would've been proud that I got the shot anyway.

I just love this wonderful 1940s wide-brimmed hat.  Soon after this shoot, it started to get too windy to wear it without taking flight, so it (and I) are patiently waiting until spring.  I paired it here with the jacket and slim-cut skirt to really bring out an early 40s silhouette, which I generally prefer to the Dior "New Look" late 1940s silhouette.  I'm coming around, though--at the moment I'm working on a very full skirt to wear with my Doris petticoat, so I'll be playing around with the post-1947 look here soon!

The grey skirt, grey suede boots, and grey suede gloves I chose to reflect the rather overcast, cold weather, both through color palette and texture, and to really focus in on the pop of color from the jacket.  I really adore this outfit, and can't wait until it's no longer inviting hypothermia to wear it again.

Photos courtesy of Spencer J Eggers

When's the last time you wore something you knew was totally weather-inappropriate, but too amazing not to sport?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Letting Go of Baltimore

This past weekend I started packing up the first apartment my girlfriend, Kate, and I shared.  Next month, we're headed up to Providence for a short-term opportunity that's just long-term enough to make keeping our place unfeasible, so I decided to take some shots in our bedroom, which has always had the prettiest lighting.

I talked a little about the packing process in my last post--cleaning and readying for storage--and at the back of our closet waited this dress, a full-skirted 1950s yellow gown.  I wore this to an event nearly three years ago, during the exact period I was still trying to convince Kate to like me.  (It took a little effort.)  I wore it with red suede pumps and a bunch of red flowers at the waist and felt invincible, and in retrospect, I suppose I was.  It might have helped that the shoes were a little inspired by what turned out to be one of both Kate and my favorite movies, When Harry Met Sally: "Oh!  I've been looking for a red suede pump!"

I remember wearing it and just hoping.  I haven't worn it since, and though a lot's happened over the intervening years, it felt fitting to wear it again as we said goodbye to our first apartment in the city where we met.

For this shoot, I paired it with a 26" Doris Petticoat in peach.  I didn't wear it the first time around, but the volume and soft texture it gives are just beautiful.  "Lush" is the word usually associated with this particular brand of petticoats, and I can see why.

This move is bittersweet, as moves usually are.  I hated Baltimore, but we loved that apartment.
Kate and I lucked into the place, as a friend of ours moved out just when we'd started looking, and though it's not perfect--the refrigerator leaks, there's a crack that reaches from my dresser to the ceiling, the flooring is uneven, and the stove lives in a weird and likely unsafe alcove--after living in artist housing for a little too long, it was ideal.  

This corner in the kitchen housed the tea paraphernalia I picked up in Moscow, St Petersburg, and Istanbul. You know. Like you do.

I got Kate started on collecting records; she became more enthusiastic about it than I'd predicted...

The living room was always a little dark, but it and the bedroom were the only rooms we really put a mark on.  I'm not sure if we somehow sensed it wouldn't be a long-term home, but we didn't settle in completely.

See also: storage bins as side tables.

I originally moved to Baltimore for a year-long fellowship, just after completing my Master's degree.  Towards the end of my fellowship I met Kate, I wore a yellow dress, and I decided to stick around Baltimore, where Kate had a job, to see what might happen.  Kate and I fell in love; I fell into an employment rut.

It's been a hard few years.  I realized not long ago that in the time Kate's known me, I've never worked fewer than two jobs.  For most of our time together, I've had three.  I worked as a bartender, a waitress, in cosmetics retail, as a script reader, a theater usher, a crepe maker, a temp receptionist, and took a couple freelance theater gigs, emphasis on Free.  I looked for real, sustaining work in the Baltimore/D.C. area in any field I could for about two years and turned up nothing.  In all that disappointment, the home Kate and I made became a kind of sanctuary.  We adopted a cat; we bought records; we made breakfasts.  But a home isn't much use if you can't pay the rent or fill the pantry, and though we loved this apartment, I hated Baltimore.  Baltimore beat me up and kicked me around.  Baltimore felt unsafe and isolating.  Baltimore burst my post-graduate school naiveté and brought me down to earth, and I carried its weight in anger around my neck.  It was suffocating me.

The first job I applied to in New York, I got.  I believe in signs, and this was a Sign.  Though New York hasn't been what I expected (is it ever, for anyone?), it's slowly confirmed the change in focus that my time in Baltimore forced.  I'm not sure I'll do the same work in theater moving forward--I still haven't figured out how to make ends meet, and I cannot turn 30 this year without some stability--but it's given me space to breathe and much-needed perspective.

Kate and I kept this apartment when I moved to New York because she does have employment here, and her security is why I tried so long to make that city work.  We're not really sure what comes next, and for two anxious people, it's a little scary.  But to make room for a new possibility, we have to let go of what we know doesn't work.  And along with it, we're saying goodbye to this place we've loved, and thanking it for being exactly what we needed for as long as we needed.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sunday Snapshot: packing and storage

This weekend I'm in Baltimore to visit my girlfriend and to pack up our apartment. I'm hoping to get some shots of the place tomorrow, to remember it by. We've loved living in this apartment; if it was in another city, I don't think we'd leave for a long while yet. But, onward and upward!

While Kate's at work I've been doing packing prep--cleaning porcelain, washing clothes, and sorting books-- in anticipation of the storage unit we'll be getting while we're in a bit of limbo. I'm a liiiiittle anxious to put my clothing in storage, so I'm going big with the precautions: cedar, padded hangers, cotton garment bags, and a good pre-storage cleanse, all of which are the best ways to ensure protection against moths. If I can't specifically remember cleaning it, it's going in the tub for a soak. It's really time consuming, but for me, it's part of what you sign up for when you collect vintage clothes, or really, when you invest any amount of money in quality clothing. In any case, seeing and handling my warmer-weather clothes is also a really welcome reminder of the coming spring and summer, as winter drags on. 

I've never been fully confident in the detergent I've been using to hand wash, neither from a cleaning perspective nor from a delicates perspective. So while I was doing storage shopping I decided to go for a nicer soap, and I'm really, really pleased. I think I may be the last person to discover it--The Laundress--but it cleans beautifully, it smells great, and my clothes are sparkling! Seriously, they look better than when I pick them up from the dry cleaner. 

Actually that's making it that much harder to put them away...