Archive for the ‘Vintage’ Category

qKBCeTOLKJwC… as luxury became available to the mass market, the more luxury became devalued. It was a sign of status not to have an expensive bag, but a new expensive bag every season. The notion that luxury items endure was abolished. Status came from being able to discard luxury goods as if they were high street. What was left of real worth was either the difficult to obtain (the Hermes waiting list) or the ostentatiously, obtrusively flashy, such as Cate Blanchett’s $100,000 stolen bag with the black pave diamonds.  

Linda Grant, British author. Quote from The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasure of Shopping and Why Clothes Matter, (Scribner, 2010).

This quote reminds me of a recent trip to the Dollar Store. I was standing in the checkout line behind a woman who was dressed in unbranded shorts and sneakers. Dangling from her wrist was a thin Louis Vutton  pouch. As we stood together in this slow-moving line, I began to wonder if it was the real thing or a fake. Would this woman spend over $600 on a small piece of luxury? Would a woman who can afford such a splurge bother waiting in a long line at the Dollar Store?

louis-vuitton-daily-pouch-monogram-small-leather-goods--M62048_PM2_Front viewThese days who knows. Maybe it was a gift. Or she saved up. Or she bought it second hand. Or maybe she’s loaded and enjoys bargains like the rest of us, so she’s willing to shop at the Dollar Store.

Lucky for me, since I can’t afford it anyway, I’ve never been attracted to branded luxury. Although I appreciate the quality of a Chanel or a Hermes or a Louis Vutton, I prefer my own monogram. Plus, I’m not going to spend that kind of money on something that someone else might assume is a fake. Ms. Grant is right, luxury has been devalued. What used to be aspirational is now achievable.

I find luxury in quality and uniqueness. I don’t want what everybody else has – real or fake.

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Wearable Art by Kaisik Wong featuring metallic checkered fabric. Photo: Wong Family.

You need a certain confidence to carry off a major piece of clothing so that you are wearing it, instead of it wearing you. 

Melissa Leventon, curator, professor of fashion history, principal at Curatrix Group.

This quote is from an episode of the PBS show Craft in America, which features craft in California. Quite a bit of time is spent on wearable art and wearable artists based in California. Ms. Leventon spoke to this subject.

When any garment is its own thing, whether that be wearable art or a vintage piece, even something off the rack, it can be challenging to wear. What makes it its own thing might be a particular color, an unusual silhouette, or a funky fabric. I say, tailored clothing is hard work. A pencil skirt shortens your stride. A fitted jacket limits your arm mobility. How about stilettos? To pull those off you better step gracefully. Hats? I love them but often you can’t just plop on a hat and not expect to rise to the occasion. (If nothing else you’re going to have to respond to nice people commenting/complimenting you, so there’s no hiding beneath a hat.)



Ensemble designed by Louise Brown. My mother pulled it off.

My mother has a dress and coat outfit that was designed by my grandmother back in the 1960s. Oh my gosh, I can only imagine what a task it is to wear that piece. For starters the dress is made of plaid wool and has 62 buttons. Small ones up the back and along the sleeves. It’s fitted and therefore, requires foundation garments. Then there’s the burnt orange wool coat, which is large and boxy and has no shape. The combination is actually quite fantastic, but you have to be up for it, or as Ms. Leventon says, it’s going to wear you.

Even just everyday items of clothing that are comfortable, still might require some energy. I was recently reading a middle-grade novel (The First Rule of Punk, by Celia Perez) in which the 12-year-old protagonist is the new girl in school. She’s into punk music (no one her age knows anything about punk) and all things edgy so she decides to show up for her first day dressed in ripped jeans, a t-shirt with something punk on it and … heavy black eyeliner circling her eyes. OK, we know where this is going. She was immediately labeled a “weirdo.” But she made those sartorial choices and she stood up in them with confidence, like any good heroine would.

When I don my vintage clothing, I know that part of the look is going to be me and my attitude. I have to stand a little straighter, move a little more precisely, wear my ensemble with intent and confidence. Otherwise, it’s not going to have the right effect and for sure it won’t feel right.




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If you want a pair of cowboy boots or anything else western style, Christesen’s Tack Room in Downtown Pleasanton has got you covered. I have never seen so many variations on a theme! But I must admit that I don’t frequent tack shops.


This place feels very small town, old-school in a most charming way. It’s large and stocks Western and English riding attire for men, women, and children: jackets, pants, shirts galore (long and short sleeve), and hats. I don’t think you need to ride a horse to sport the look. or incorporate one piece. That could make for some very interesting fashion.


Christesen’s Tack Room stocks many brands including Pendleton.

I’m attracted to western style shirts, which would be cute paired with a pencil skirt and rakish vintage hat. How about cowboy boots with crop pants?

A classic cowboy boot must have a tall shaft but there is what’s called a roper, which has a shorter boot shaft. I have a pair of shoes by Guess from the 90s. In black suede they have the classic cowboy boot look with a pointy toe and swirly cutouts but no shaft. They hit just below the ankle. I call them my “faux cowboy boots” and it turns out they’re great for Irish Set Dancing. (The dancing is long gone from my life but not those faux cowboy boots.)


I enjoy adding unexpected pieces of clothing to my usual style and western wear is a great way to really get creative.

Christesen’s Tack Room is located at 633 Main Street, Pleasanton, CA. 925-846-2169.

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Barbara Parkins, Sharon Tate, and Patty Duke in Valley of the Dolls.

OverDressedforLife is starting something new – to mix it up a bit, once in awhile Fashionable Quote will be replaced with Fashionable Word.

Our very first fashionable word is … composed. As in, “She is very composed.”

The definition of composed in the Webster’s New World Dictionary is: calm; tranquil; self-possessed.

I’ve been thinking about this word since I recently heard it used to describe Anne Welles, a character in Valley of the Dolls.

Valley of the Dolls is a 1967 film based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Jacqueline Susann. Starring Sharon Tate, Patty Duke, and Barbara Parkins, it’s the story of three young women in NYC and Hollywood living the roller-coaster life of showbiz and prescription drug addiction. At the time, the film and story were taken very seriously, but its melodramatics have since turned it into a campy cult classic.

I watched Valley of the Dolls a few weeks ago and was surprised by the strength of the cast, which also included Susan Hayword and Lee Grant. I enjoyed the very specific 1960s production values and the costumes by William Travilla, who is best known for designing the white halter dress Marilyn Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch.


Barbara Parkins in Valley of the Dolls.

There’s a lot to say about Dolls, but let’s get back to our word. The character Anne Welles, played by Barbara Parkins, is a college educated ingenue from New England. She carries with her a certain reserve, or composure, that gives her an attractive mystique. Up against the other characters, particularly Neely O’Hara (Patty Duke) who is quite over-the-top with rage, Welles always remains calm, keeping her emotions in check. She is composed.

I heard that Travilla designed Welles’ costumes to reflect her reserve and that Parkins didn’t care for the “buttoned-up” look. Really? I did!




Barbara Parkins and Susan Hayward in Valley of the Dolls.

I like her stylish yet simple costumes, her fluffy, backcombed hair … and her composed demeanor.

In today’s world dominated by social media, we are all overexposed. Too many loud voices. Too many opinion shared. Too many pics posted. I find a little composure refreshing.

Since style is just as much about behavior as it is about clothing, being composed might make a great new trend.



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On a recent sunny Saturday, my partner and I spent some time in Downtown Pleasanton. What a charming area with restaurants, a farmer’s market, and quite a few boutiques that were packed with shoppers. Who says retail is dead?


Custom aprons from Estrella Designs.

I love it when I turn a corner and find something completely unexpected. We turned off Main Street onto Division Street and discovered a tiny shop inside the garage of a large brick house. Tucked inside was a teenage girl trying on the most fabulous gown in red lace. Well, turns out this was her senior high school graduation party dress that was getting altered by the shop’s proprietor, Agustin Estrella.


Estrella learned how to sew from his mother and he opened his shop, Estrella Designs in 2010. He sells custom aprons, cotton dresses, and he does alterations.


I loved Estrella’s clever approach to decor – he uses zippers and spools of thread to trim lampshades, drapes fabric from the ceiling for a makeshift dressing room, and his sewing machine is front and center, like a prized piece of art.

Thank you, Agustin Estrella. Running into your shop was a highlight of the day.


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While at the Costume Society of America symposium in Seattle last month, as part of the symposium we had the opportunity to view the exhibit, Seattle Style: Fashion/Function before it opened.

Exhibiting at the Museum of History and Industry, Seattle Style is a collection of what best reflects sartorial choices, past and present, in this Pacific Northwest city. One might expect to see a lot of outdoor gear and we did, but also included are evening gowns, ball gowns, summer dresses, hats, coats, beaded handbags and more.

I’d say, just like in San Francisco, Chicago, and New Orleans fashion is not a priority for current Seattle residents. But that was perhaps not the case in the past and the intent of this exhibit is to feature the crossover of style and practicality. Given the climate, there’s a lot of layering, wool, and protection from rain. The exhibit draws manly from the museum’s own clothing collection, which has increased with donations from some of the city’s socialites. Also included in the exhibit are pieces on loan from local designers.

Pictured below are some of my favorites of the exhibit:


Tired of having to cover up a interesting outfit with a drab raincoat, Clear Coated founder Miriam Rigby designed a coat that would keep her dry and show off her creative outfits.


Blue Morpho gown. Luly Yang is a Seattle couture designer known for her elegant and nature inspired motifs for evening wear. 


I’m a sucker for a shirtwaist! This one was designed and manufactured by Foster-Hochberg for the 1962 Seattle Worlds Fair. Sold at the fair and in stores around the city, the fabric depicts the Space Needle and other highlights of the fair. LOVE. IT.


Salish Pattern wool blanket by Eighth Generation. Seattle based Eighth Generation makes Native American inspired blankets, which can be worn as a cape. 

Seattle Style: Fashion/Function is on now through October 14, 2019 at Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, WA. If you’re there, check it out.





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Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with five of their eventual nine children. 

… the one outward sign from which people can and often do judge the inward state of mind of a person, and it’s of particular importance in persons of high rank … we do expect that you will never wear anything extravagant or slang because that would prove a wont of self-respect and be an offence against decency. 

Queen Victoria (1819-1901)

This quote is part of a letter written by Queen Victoria in 1851 to her son, Prince Edward, who would later become King Edward VII.

She uses the word – slang – which meant casual.

May 24th marks the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth. What might she think of today’s royal family? (And the name Archie for the latest addition?)

Fans of Victoria, the PBS television show, might be interested to know that there will be a season 4 and perhaps a season 5 but no one is sure beyond that. Another tidbit – the actors playing Victoria (Jenna Coleman) and Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) are dating in real life.

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