Thursday, January 3, 2013

Starting My Education

When I set a goal, I pursue it with vigor and enthusiasm.  This attitude explains my quick education in vintage fashion.

Learning about a subject requires effort and, at the beginning, we know only generalized ideas gathered passively from our environment.  Often, this information is wrong. 

For example, many non-bikers think Harleys are the best motorcycles.  In fact, they're close to the worst.  Harley uses outdated technology.  Non-riders, however, see Harley's pervasive advertising and, without any analysis, often believe that information.

There is a parallel between Harleys and my first vintage stockings.  Before studying vintage lingerie, I knew seamed stockings existed but I didn't know any more than that.  I assumed, incorrectly, that all seamed stockings are the same.  I was wrong.

When sheer stockings were introduced in the 1920s, they were made from silk.  Silk doesn't stretch.  Authentic early stockings sag due to the material used in them.  A sharp-eyed reader observed that the seamed stockings in my last post are stretchy and she's right -- they are reproductions using contemporary materials (nylon and lycra).  To a vintage purist, this is heresy.  To me, I had no clue.

The original style of vintage stockings is called "fully fashioned stockings."  The term refers to stockings made of non-stretch material with a seam where the material is sewn together.  There are only a small number of manufacturers making stockings in this style today.  Modern reproductions of seamed stockings usually use stretchy materials and add seams as decoration, not as the integral sewing junction of real fully fashioned stockings.

There is an old Zen expression, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."  I've found it to be true several times in my life.  Right now, two mentors have suddenly emerged to teach me about vintage fashion.  I'm grateful to them and, even more, I like them as friends.  Having a fun subject to share with them is a nice means to strengthen our friendships.

Coincidentally, both of my mentors are named Jessica!  The first Jessica has a terrific blog which focuses on vintage fashion and is an enjoyable read.  It's called Chronically Vintage.  Jessica has steered me in good directions for learning about this subject on which she's an expert.

The second Jessica used to have a fashion blog but she closed it a year ago.  (Some of you may remember it: I profiled her blog here).  I'm currently in touch with Jessica by e-mail and we've been chatting about vintage clothing.  She's very knowledgeable about old lingerie, like silk slips, stockings and girdles.  I'm hoping to learn lots from her.  She has an extensive collection of authentic lingerie from the past.

So, starting from scratch, I have two Jessica's in my corner!  Mentors accelerate one's learning curve and I'm lucky to have these two sweet gals advising me.  I'll pass along what they teach me to you, so you can join me on this journey.

Do you have any interest in vintage fashion?

21 comments:

  1. Happy New Year, darling!!!
    O, yes indeed, I love vintage fashion, but am still not terribly knowledgable! There's SO much to mearn about! Vinatge lingerie would be a fascinating subject to study,actually.
    My man has a Norton and doesn't think a lot of Harley's! They're very popular here in NZ, but mostly with an older, moneyed crowd!
    XXX

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  2. How exciting to learn new things! Admittedly, the deepest my interest goes is a passing love of 'retro' shapes and a stronger love of the "hyper modern" 60s. The past ideas of what the future held. I'm sure I'd be a horrible clothing historian, but I'm pretty good about fabric knowledge and recognizing content based on handfeel.

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  3. Wow! You're learning fast & I'm loving that you're passing on your knowledge!
    Have a fab weekend Hun xoxo
    http://www.intotheblonde.com/

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  4. I love vintage fashion. Those early stockings had to be sewn to mimic the shape of the leg (thus, "fully-formed"). Sometimes you see new nylons that echo this out of the package, with 'feet.'

    Did you know that in WWII when they used all the silk for parachutes, that women would paint their legs to look like stockings, including drawing the seam up the back of the leg?

    Enjoy your journey, Ally!

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    1. Yes and yes! The early, non-stretch stockings were made to different shoe sizes because the foot area didn't stretch either. And a few months ago I did a post (with pictures) on the practice of painting one's legs to create a faux-seam.

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  5. Ally, thank you so much for including me in the post, I can't begin to tell you how touching that is. It's a true honour and joy to know that I've helped inspire you and your interest in vintage. I'm always here to help if you have any questions or just want to talk shop. As well, I love your enthusiasm and how you throw yourself into a subject that interests you, I'm precisely the same way.

    Another huge and truly heartfelt thanks goes out to you for your comment on my post about wearing wigs. It is so comforting to have a friend who has first hand wig wearing experience in my corner. It struck me that you said only two out of the eleven wigs you've tried so far worked for you. I suspect that few people have great luck with all the wigs they buy and while I wish all yours had worked for you, it is reassuring in a way to know that I'm not alone in having struck out with my first wig (which was a high end synthetic that cost about $250 US - so hence why the second one, Pin Up, was a lot less pricey - the first tapped out my wig budget for a while, but I'm already starting to save up again, so no huge worries on that front at the moment). I appreciate your insight and knowledge on this subject so much and really look forward to discussing about this subject in the months to come.

    ♥ Jessica

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    1. Ditto! Friends share and help each other.

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  6. Very interesting - are there also any fashion museums where you can visit and perhaps look in the archives, to pick up generalist knowledge? Sometimes you don't need to be a student, just a polite person with ID!

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    1. Yes, there are several in NYC, none of which I've visited. I went to one in San Diego two years ago and was amazed. We can learn a lot at those places and enjoy the pretty clothes.

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  7. So cool that you are taking an interest in vintage fashion. I think vintage clothing is so cool. My favorite time period would be the 40s and 50s pieces. Looking forward to learning more from you now! Heather

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  8. Way to go, Ally, great team!

    Solanah at Vixen Vintage is a favourite of mine - she's posted some really excellent how-tos:

    http://www.vixen-vintage.com/

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  9. I love stockings and proper undergarments. They're so very sexy! I'm looking forward to learning from you.

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  10. I just love vintage fashion and what's more important I'm always eager to know more- about almost everything. So I'd be very interested if you shared your new mentor's suggestions with us :)
    Life is a romantic poem

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  11. I like vintage, it's fairly popular here in MN, we have a few fun vintage shops. My favorite thing is trying to incorporate something vintage with something newer to create a unique and new look.

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    1. That's what I plan to do. I don't want to look like a person from the past; just a more interesting dresser in the present.

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  12. I loooove viewing vintage things. Clothing, household items, jewelry, etc...but I don't buy it to wear. I live in a house that is 100 years old but everything in it is pretty much new except for one piece of furniture. But, I do love vintage motorcycles! And I'd NEVER own a Harley. ;)

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  13. I love vintage clothing, I never really thought about vintage stockings or undergarments and the like. This was an awesome post and I am so glad that you were able to get info from friends instead of just reading it up on the internet. I feel when we learn things from conversations with ones we like, we retain the knowledge more efficiently. So awesome!

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  14. I hate Harleys. Nobody looks classy in a Harley and they are way too noisy.
    On the bright side, I do love vintage clothing.
    The closest so far i have gotten to wearing lingerie was when I repurposed a robe as a dress and wore it a few years ago and it was a hit!

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  15. It's always great to continually educate yourself, I think more people should, especially regarding fashion. Sometimes what folks call vintage is not. I used to work with vintage buyers and 18th/19th Cent. costume house, and although I love & know about period dress, I am always learning new things. Happy new year! :)

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  16. I love that you dove right into the new resolution within just days of the start of the new year! I adore vintage clothing, but I'm not so much of a purist that I'll deny myself the benefit of modern materials when a reasonable substitution can be made. I'd say the stockings are a perfect example; I'd never try to wear fully-formed stockings when the nylon kind are so much more comfortable and practical. The same goes for shapewear -- I'll go in for Spanx any day over vintage foundation garments.

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    1. I agree, buddy. It's the retro-look I'm going for, not any sort of historical accuracy.

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