Happy Birthday America!

For those of us in the United States it is a day of celebration. It is the 243rd anniversary of the day we became a nation, the day our first Congress came together and stood up to King George. But I’m not going political with this post, I’m going to reflect a bit on change and how we’ve celebrated over the years.

Let’s face it, this happens in the summer here in the United States and summer is a time for us to enjoy getting outdoors. Up here in Michigan we’re at the peak of summer and we do go all out to make sure that we have soaked up plenty of sun before we have to face another winter! So how have Americans celebrated this day over the last 243 years? Picnics and Barbeques have ALWAYS been a favorite way to gather and celebrate summer happenings. But those picnics have changed over time. Not the least of which was how people dressed. You knew I’d connect this to my favorite topic of fashion didn’t you? In the late 1700s men were still wearing knee breeches, wasitcoats, and cutaway style coats. Ladies, would have shown up with skirts to the ground, overskirts, and rather closely fitted bodices – or redingote. Hats and parasols were a must as well. I’ve included a photo of a fairly typical look of the time for summer below. The practicality of serving “picnic” food reflected that. Chairs would have been scattered about under available trees or any other available shade. Long tables and benches would have been used for large gatherings but these benches were NOT attached to the table.

As we moved through the 1800s towards our 100th birthday fashion changed but in reality did not change that much. Americans still wore many layers. Women wore long skirts and men waistcoats and jackets but there trousers now extended to the knee. Ladies strove to protect their complexions from the sun – so there were those hats, parasols, and looking for shade again.

This is a reproduction 1840s gown I wore for my son’s August wedding. I “only” had a corset and 2 petticoats on under it. However, as would have been typical of the time period, it was made of very lightweight cotton and had elbow length sleeves.

It wasn’t until after WWI that fashions began to relax a bit more and women became less concerned about sun exposure. But a summer picnic would still have seen women in dresses and men in layers. Below are typical “casual” summer wear images from the 1930s. What do you think? Want to head out today in any of those looks?

So let’s fast forward…when did fashions go more casual? It was after WWII and reflected social change in the country. Women had done men’s work during the War Years and got used to wearing “slacks”, hosiery wasn’t readily available so they started to get used to going bare legged, and the idea of having a tanned complexion was no longer seen as a social faux pax. I remember heading out for breakfast gatherings at the beach every summer holiday as a kid. Yes BREAKFAST! My paternal grandfather and his siblings began this tradition somewhere in the late 1940s or early 1950s when their children (my dad and his siblings and cousins) were little. I suspect it also meant they could get the “good” spots and tables at the beach parks, have a fun day, and still be home for evening chores (at least one farmed) and be ready for work the next day! By the time i was part of the festivities it was the early 1960s. Imagine 5 or 6 picnic tables placed end to end covered in a variety of red and white checked tablecloths. The “aunts” as we called them would be laying out so many kinds of baked goods it was mind boggling. All the moms would be unpacking the picnic hampers and stacking the plates near one end of the tables where a couple of the “uncles” were manning camp stoves where bacon and scrambled eggs were being cooked. They were experts at placing them so the wind was not blowing sand into the pans! Meanwhile, the kids and dads were playing in the sand and down by the water. When the call went out everyone ran to the tables, slid onto the benches, and eagerly dug in. Oh right….what sort of looks were we all wearing? While I don’t have any family photos of these outings on hand below are images that would have been typical. Bathing suits with terry coverups, shorts, tshirts and button front shirts, pedal pushers that would be very much in style today (think capri lenth skinny pants!), and I’m sure some of the aunts were still wearing lightweight casual summer dresses.

So there you have it! Picnic attire throughout the years. You know how modern clothing works – sundresses, shorts, skorts, tshirts, etc. Whatever you are wearing, wherever you are gathering I wish you all a safe and fun day. Oh, and for those working be safe out there! Final note – this is the first 4th of July in nearly 40 years that my husband is not working! We thought there might have been one other somewhere about 20 years ago but are not sure – the party we were remembering may have happened on another day NEAR the 4th!

Vintage here, Vintage there, Vintage everywhere

What exactly IS vintage? Generally a vintage item is anything that is at least 20 years old. Yep, 20 years old . How many of you are now saying to yourself but I have stuff in my closet that is “only” 20 years old? Raising my hand here as I definitely do! Not only do I have it but I wear much of it. Especially some of my sweatshirts. Interest in vintage clothing, home decor, collectibles, and so forth tends to ebb and flow but for the last decade or so it has generally been on the rise. Not just to possess and showcase but to wear, to use. Sometimes it is as simple as a piece of jewelry to perk up a lapel that is different from what everyone else is wearing.

An example of an “apprentice piece” – it was common for jeweler’s apprentices to make up approval pieces for high end clients in silver and stones other than gem stones before the custom piece was made in platinum, white gold, or another metal and diamonds or other gems. These pieces allowed the apprentice to perfect techniques and provided higher end costume jewelry for the jeweler to sell.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are people who want the look head to toe. One of these groups are women attending classic car shows and want to rock the era of the cars. Sometimes called Pin Up Girls, although these ladies are very focused on the looks of the 1940s and often do photo shoots in full kit including hair and makeup. Others just like the look and find it fun!

One of my clients in Europe in full vintage for a night out.

Most of the time I find that my clients are picking up a piece here and there to work into their wardrobe to add a pop of something unique. Yesterday I was photographing a group of “new” pieces and had a friend stop by, ask about one of the pieces and claimed it! Love when I don’t have to go through the process of writing up a listing. To that end….we are starting to use Instagram a bit more to highlight pieces as they are photographed. Interested? You can follow Patten’s Attic Treasures at pattensattictreasures on Instagram.

So you might be asking….how does one get into the world of SELLING vintage items? In my case it started with a friend that had closed her business and was moving. One day I received a phone call from her letting me know and saying sooooo if you can come over in the next couple days you can have what you want. Three days later and several van loads later we had gone through the space front to back, top to bottom, and it was ready to move. We packed a few things for her to move, sent a LOT to several charitable organizations, put a fair bit out for the trash collection, and yes I brought tonnage home! Much of that collection was fashion accessories such as sewing patterns, trims, jewelry, and plenty of linens. I started researching and that is when I started the branch of the company that sells under Patten’s Attic Treasures via Etsy http://www.etsy.com/shop/PattensAtticTreasure Several years later we began the process of sorted through the massive costume collection of Muskegon Civic Theatre. That process is now complete 6 years later! Well the sort and clean is done. But we have thousands of pieces yet to list! So if you’re looking for anything in the line of fashion and fashion accessory you’re looking for just ask! Who knows I may have it.

Well I’m on a bit of a time crunch today so that’s it for now. Have a great week!

What’s Old is New Again

This morning I made a quick run to my local “sewing & craft” store for a couple of small things. Generally I am not over in the jewelry making and paper crafting area but I needed some small cardboard gift boxes to ship a jewelry order. I’d run out and really didn’t feel like ordering another gross! While there I stumbled across this interesting item – with a sign about how it is the “latest innovative tool” for a variety of paper crafting hobbies.

Description from the website ” The Typecast Retro Typewriter by We R Memory Keepers is the perfect retro typewriter for the modern maker. Quickly add journaling to layouts, cards, and other crafting projects. This typewriter is built to last as it is made with top quality internal metal mechanics. When not in use, it serves as an attractive and unique home décor piece. A large selection of colored inks and coordinating typecast paper accessories are available (sold separately). “

In taking a look online (don’t you love Google?) I not only found the description in the caption above but a couple of videos. From those videos I see that it is essentially a manual typewriter and those “colors sold separately” are good old style reel to reel ribbons impregnated with ink. The one in the video had black on the top and red on the bottom. Now who remembers those? And manual? Even my typewriter from college was electric! Just saw it in a storage cupboard the other day and was wondering why I was still hanging on to it. Guess this could be a reason.

I’m not bashing or making fun of those who might use this product. However, as it retails for nearly $170 if I were in the market I might haunt a few garage sales or thrift stores first! But it did start me thinking. Thinking about all of the things that at one time were considered essentially obsolete.

Like the corset for example. The arrival of the bra and girdle signaled the end of the corset industry, or so many thought. A few artisans remained to craft pieces for period piece movies and tv shows but other than that who wanted to wear a corset? Fast forward to today. While corset manufacturing may not be the widespread industry it once was, there is plenty of demand for corsets. To the extent that there are several sites online that sell a wide variety of styles at quite reasonable prices. Then there are the artisans. Redthreaded (@redthreaded) is one that I’ve followed for many years now, collaborated with, and who made a specialty piece for my daughter in law to wear with her late 1800s style wedding dress. You can find more about Redthreaded at redthreaded.com.

1880s era style gown made in candlelight Duchess satin and beaded Alencon laces has a paneled skirt, bustle drape, and off the shoulder bodice that closes in the back. Underpinnings include a corset by Redthreaded, lobster tail collapsible bustle, and lace edged petticoat. As part of the techniques used the interior of the hem was edged in a wide velvet ribbon to make cleaning easier. (@snowleopardcreations)

If you are a fan of Project Runway then you know one of the final 3 is a skilled corset maker who incorporated some form of corset into practically everything he made – sometimes as interior pieces to a garment’s structure and at other times as accessory pieces or accents. Yes, women are wearing corsets again. Not every day but for a special occasion, cosplay, as re-enactors at various historical locations, and so forth. In fact some people just find it fun to create and wear historic garments while visiting places around the world. One of these that I follow online is Dames a la Mode (@damesalamode). While a jewelry maker specializing in 18th & 19th century reproduction pieces, she is also a devotee of historic fashion and often posts photos of her and like minded friends in full period regalia at various places around the world. Recent postings have included a trip to Europe including Venice and an event at Colonial Williamsburg. All of which points to a resurgence of the “obsolete” corset. By the way you can find her work online at http://www.etsy.com/shop/damesalamode.

However, those corsets are being worn UNDER something and that something is historic garments. Which is one of my specialties. In addition to the wedding gown pictured above I created my own gown for the wedding. I’m also creating and shipping historic reproduction items for clients and theatrical productions on a regular basis. One of the big differences in making these pieces today compared to 100 years ago or more is the way we are making them. Yes, for those who want (and are willing to pay for) totally hand sewn bespoke pieces that can be done. But more usually a combination of machine and handwork is used incorporating historic approaches such as backing a hem with velvet ribbon. One of the more ingenious and practical “tricks” I’ve uncovered in my research is a “housewives tuck” in the back bodice of a mid 1800s gown. Skirts were extremely full while the bodice of gowns tended to be more fitted. When thinking of this era we often visualize the very fitted ballgown. But this technique was used in the more every day dress. The tuck was placed at the center back just at the waistline seam. It allowed the dress to be let out or taken in as needed while simply adjusting the fullness at the skirt back as sizing changed due to any variety of reasons. Below is a photo from a client in a dress of this type.

And that brings us back to my initial thought of the day – how much that was old and obsolete is being seen and used again. Another time we might explore the resurgence of fashion and home decor from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. But for now…take a look around and see what you’re enjoying from “days of old”!

Redesigned and Ready to Go!

Today I’m launching my newly redesigned website and blog. I hope you will take a moment to bookmark my site to visit often and follow the blog. My passion in my professional life is to create unique and personalized fashion for people and their homes. Along the way I am able to work with traditional techniques, often blending those with more modern methods. But never short cutting quality. There is the distinct pleasure of taking a client’s vision for a special item and turning into reality. To take a stash of t-shirts, baby clothes, or a loved one’s garments and turn them into a special quilt. To bring buried treasures from “the attic” to a new home. Travel with me on this journey! There are stories to tell, questions to answer, and pictures to share. If you have always wondered about something in this world drop me your question via the contact link and I’ll try to answer it in a blog post!

This is the detail for a 18th century reproduction gown. The embroidery was done by machine in collaboration with Snow Leopard Creations. Then darker metallic thread was used to highlight the veins. Finally the caps on the acorns were beaded using clear thread and seed beads in shades of silver and purple.
Today is also the day that this custom quilt created for Muskegon Civic Theatre to celebrate their 2018-2019 season will be raffled off at their annual volunteer picnic. It was so fun to create! #muskegoncivictheatre