As 2018 comes to a close- I found myself reflecting on some of my favorite vintage purchases this year. In an effort to encourage my own gratitude- I decided to compile my “top 10”. As an unexpected surprise- choosing the items that were my favorite items of the year gave me insight into my buying patterns. Overall I have learned that I love an object with a story- a bargain, a rare find or (most special) the generous share from an antique loving friend. Strangely none of the wearable antique clothing made the list- perhaps a good reminder in future to put my money where my heart is.
I’d love to hear about your favorite buys and finds of the year- comment below!
#10 Antique Victorian hot pink and black silk corset
Without a doubt this corset is absolutely incredible. Made of pink and black silk- it is the perfect shape and in fairly good condition for its 120+ year age. It even maintains the original label and name (“Lillian”) from John Wanamaker department store. The wear to the silk and slight tearing to the machine made lace doesn’t take away from it at all. I like to imagine a tightly buttoned up Victorian lady was subversively wearing this incredibly sexy number.
A dream piece- the only reason it is ranked “so low” in my top 10 is that its cost reflected its rarity- (and I prefer a bargain most of all).
#9 1860s handmade chantilly lace shawl
Nearly 9ft wide this handmade Chantilly lace shawl is by far the nicest I’ve ever seen. The shading and design are so intricate it makes my other lace shawls look positively amateur by comparison.
Found at a vintage sale- the shawl was folded neatly into a plastic zip bag. In my rush to shop- I never even opened the bag before buying. It was priced at only a few dollars- and I knew it was antique lace so I took the gamble. No one could have been happier than me when I opened the bag. Instantly it has become one of my most prized possessions.
#8. Flea market find
Shopping at a flea market in France- I approached a booth overflowing with antique ribbons - and run by a woman who, by her demeanor, clearly didn’t want to sell any of it. (Not that I blame her!!) The booth was stacked to the gills with closed bins and after some effort I convinced her to let me look through them. Among the many wonders that grabbed at me- this one was an instant win. Folded up completely I didn’t realize how big or amazing it was until I opened it. I refused to even put it down to look in other bins- lest some other antique aficionado wanted it.
This is deadstock Victorian beaded skirt trim. Each bead is meticulously sewn by hand to gimp. It has the original price tag (illegible) and of course the bow motif just about kills me .
#7 1840’s hand stitched corset
It was a strange summer. In the period of just under 6 weeks- I found 3 very early (1820-1840s) corsets at bargain prices. I’m confident that the universe knows I have met my quota and will never send me another.
There are a few special things about this piece- first I absolutely love the intricate detail of the cording. It absolutely is the finest in my collection. The corset also came with the original (plain) busk. Though damaged- its rare to find these pieces with the busk still included. Perhaps its simplicity is what kept anyone from removing it for 180 years. Finally- I love the size of this piece. It is proof that not everyone was extremely svelte. Its original wearer clearly was petite but her measurements are in line with what we would expect in modern proportions. (as a bonus this will make an excellent study/copy piece)
#6 1920s ribbonwork supplies
There is a vintage dealer in a Parisian flea market whose booth I always love. My trip this June was no exception. In it I found the mother-load of 1920s metal edged ribbon. Perfect for 1920s ribbonwork. I’ve dreamed of finding these once very common ribbons in large enough quantity for my work. Of course I bought all of it. Now I have hundreds of meters- and am still and wishing for more- in different colors and patterns of course.
#5 19th century does 18th century
It is obvious in my own work how much I love anachronistic fashion. While I would never suggest reusing 240 year old fabric today- I won’t complain if it was done over a century ago. This skirt hits all of the marks. I believe it is a late 19th century skirt made of original 18th century silk. The metal woven into the fabric is just incredible- as is the silk floral motif. Hello skirt. Welcome to your new home.
#4 Box of metal trim
I’m not sure if this one is really cheating because it is many objects instead of just one. I’m saying it counts. I have a penchant for old trim made with real metal. I cannot explain but it is what it is. I was walking (ok racing) up the stairs to the attic of this insane estate sale of a former vintage dealer and there was this box sitting there with a truncated label “Metal trims”. At the bottom of a huge stack- I grabbed it as quickly as I could- peeked inside- and slammed it shut. Yep. The real deal. Happy Dance.
#3 1850s evening cap
I was boarding a plane from a long and stressful business trip when a vintage dealer sent me a photo of this cap. She said she didn’t know much about it- but it made her think of me.
Exhausted and not thinking straight- (and worried my bank account might have a seizure) I initially told her I would think about it. Luckily- just before take off -I changed my mind and told her I’d take it (even though at that time I wasn’t quite sure what it was). From her images I thought it might be a 20s burlesque cap. The entire flight I thought about it and just before landing realized it was 1850s evening wear made of bullion and blown glass. Many of the seemingly impossibly thin glass beads are broken but what remains is still an amazing part of mid 19th century fashion.
#2 18th century Red stays
I am 100% convinced that my dear friend Abby of SwampYankeeVintage has a time machine. She calls me up one day and casually asks what I’m doing before telling me ‘oh I have a red pair of stays you might like ’. Whhhhhaaaattttt. The rest is history.
The stays are that of a working class woman- and a very wearable size (my mannequin will be the only person to wear them). I love love love the paneled red fabric that is only center front. I suspect these may have been worn in a way that the red showed under the gown. Perhaps by an aspiring virtuous courtesan :)
#1 Bow corset
This corset is number 1 because it combines some of my favorite things = bows, corsets, bargains and good friends
A friend found the piece at an estate sale and sent me a photo asking if it was even old. It is - and of course nearly fell out of my chair. Entirely across the country- she drove hours and waited two more for the opportunity to snag it for me. Fortunately the estate sale itself didnt recognize the piece and it was priced “to move”. I’m floored by her generosity- and hope only to be able to return it with antique objects of her own desire.