A few weeks ago I cleared everything out of my mother’s Lane cedar chest.  We have had the chest for about three years,  but I didn’t feel like sorting through it  until  now.  It is a traditional hope chest with mahogany veneer.  My mother stored her best table linens, my baptismal dress and baby slippers, her mink pill box hat and detachable mink collar, and other things she treasured in that chest.   My parents were solidly middle class, but mom had a few really nice things that she kept in that chest for decades.  I felt that I took a trip back to the 1950’s as I sorted through everything.

My parents didn’t entertain very often. Mom would have ladies over for sewing club or coffee occasionally,  and the relatives, of course, but nothing that she really dressed up for. I was surprised to find this apron in  the chest.  It is clearly an apron a woman would wear at a gathering as she served the ladies the elegant luncheon she had prepared. The photo doesn’t do it justice, and I am not wearing the requisite full skirted dress it should go over.  It is made of a very heavy linen/cotton fabric. It is very long and  full, with a wide waist band and wide ties in the back that are meant to create a lovely bow.


The insets on the pocket, on the ties, and near the hem look like this.

The apron appears to be hand made.  The hemming stitches are extremely uniform and perfectly spaced.

The bands of insets were also attached by hand onto the fabric with perfect, even stitches.

Someone went to a lot of work to make this apron.  When I took it out of the chest it appeared to be  carefully ironed and the fabric did not seem to ever have been washed. I don’t remember my mom ever wearing it. She wouldn’t have spent good money on a fancy apron like that, so I assume it was given to her as a gift.  I wish I knew its history. I have decided to wear it. That apron has been in the chest too many years. I feel taller and quite elegant when I wear it.

I kept most of the things mom had in the chest but I will try to use them when I can. I kept the  mink hat and collar, but I don’t think I will ever wear them, though. Our kitten thought the hat was the best thing and I had to retrieve it from her several times after she dragged it down the hall.

Have you ever worn vintage clothes? What era of vintage clothing would you like to wear? What is the oldest article of clothing you own?



58 thoughts on “Vintage”

  1. A toga but the circumstances are a little vague.
    I still have a cowboy shirt that I wore when watching Howdy Doody. Red on top, blue at the bottom with gold tassels. It no longer fits.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. This probably doesn’t qualify as vintage, but I realized the other day that I’ve been wearing a sweater that I got at a garage sale at least 25 years ago. I probably got it when my two oldest kids were less than 5 years old and my oldest turns 30 this year, so my math says I got it at least 25 years ago. It’s not from the 50s or even 60s, though, so not really vintage. It’s showing its age now – holes in the elbows and threads hanging here and there. I went to the thrift store this week in search of a sweater to replace it.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Renee, I can imagine a sequel to this post that involved a cat knocking a hatbox off a closet shelf, rather high up..

    I’ve worn vintage mostly for costumes – I had a great mauve colored dress, 1930s style, that I wore to a “Murder Mystery” party that took place on a “train”. I have a pair of 40s vintage pumps with kind of chunky heels, again for potential costume, but I can only wear them for about 5 minutes at a time. Wore a pillbox hat when I sang “Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise”…

    I wish I still had this muslin tunic I wore in the early 70s, with big wide (think snow angel) sleeves. Oldest thing I own is probably my swim suit.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Faggoting is a general term for that kind of openwork. Some of it is done by machine. This is clearly handwork on the apron.


    1. I think it’s called hemstitch. “a decoration used on woven fabric, especially alongside a hem, in which several adjacent threads are pulled out and the crossing threads are tied into bunches, making a row of small openings.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You may be right, PJ. I’m not clear on the distinction, but I seem to remember that faggoting actually involves cutting away some fabric between the stitches to create the openwork. Hemstitch apparently does not and the threads on the apron are bundled with no evidence of fabric removal.


        1. In hemstitching you don’t cut away fabric, but you do pull threads out of the woven fabric. I have done lots of hemstitching in my time.


  4. I think aprons were part of the outfit for a while in the 50s – women had several, to match different outfits when they entertained. Another item that goes with this scenario is the set of glass luncheon plates with a ridge to hold the cup in place… thousands of them in thrift shops.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. So did my mom. We used them for 4-H meetings and luncheons. Balancing that cup on the plate with the ridge was a bit easier than a plate without the ridge.


  5. This is ground I think I’ve covered here before, but when Robin and I were involved with a living history group, I had Civil War era-style frock coats, sack coats, waistcoats, shirts and trousers. I even had a black wool overcoat with capelet, cut from a military-style pattern and a Russian-style Persian lamb hat. Of course, they weren’t truly vintage since I made them all myself.

    When we quit the group, I donated them to a business that provided costuming for movie and video productions. Robin still has some of the garments she made and also, I think, a couple of original nineteenth century items.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I have a couple organza aprons, and a “dotted Swiss,” that we found in my grandmother’s cedar chest after she died. She had a pile of them in there – our guess was that they were thank you gifts for serving at teas and luncheons at church (bridal showers, anniversaries, etc.). One has a tiny little bible charm sewn onto the pocket. They may or may not pre-date the lovely charcoal grey wool suit I stole from my mom. She had it made when she was in Norway in the 1950s and, along with a few of her American Fulbright Scholar classmates, was invited to meet the crown prince (I believe that would have been Olav, father of the current king). The jacket has a lovely nipped-in waist creating a short peplum. The skirt never quite suited my taste (or figure), but I wore the heck out of the jacket (at least until I got to “full figured” for it). In my slimmer days I loved to wear vintage stuff – found some great cocktail dresses here and there that I would wear just for fun, men’s suit jackets (with a skinny tie – it was the 80s after all), drummed up an “Ike Jacket” at Ragstock and that became my fall/early winter coat for a couple years…I’m sure there were people my current size back in the 1940s and 50s, but clearly their clothes all wore out before the could be preserved and sold as “vintage.” Sigh.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Robin has raided Ragstock for “everyday” cotton or silk kimonos and short overjackets. In some cases, she’s modified them to wear. It’s impossible to know how vintage they are, but it’s not the sort of clothing commonly worn in Japan anymore. Unfortunately, Ragstock seems to be phasing out of that stuff.


    1. My daughter’s Ragstock is not the Ragstock I knew (and loved). I adored digging through those big round bins for treasure or combing the racks in its ols warehouse days on Washington. Its sketchiness was part of the charm & fun. Ragstock at MoA or Southdale just isn’t the same.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a lovely apron, Renee. It looks similar to one I made in a sewing class in high school. I wonder if the one you have was the result of a similar school project?

    In Denmark, all the girls had to take classes in “husholdning,” housekeeping, back in the fifties. The classes included lessons in knitting, sewing, cooking and miscellaneous skills needed to run a household. One memory from these classes that stands out was the lesson in doing dishes, including the detail of wringing a dish cloth. I kid you not, there’s a right way and a wrong way to wring a dish cloth. I know the right way as a result of that class.

    I knit my first cotton sweater (with short sleeves) in third grade when I was nine. By the time I was in high school we had graduated to sewing clothes for ourselves. I recall being required to make a god awful blue gym suit with “bloomer” pants. One of the projects for my senior year was a maternity top!

    The corresponding boys’ class was “sløjd,” what you’d call shop here, I think. Basic wood working skills. I don’t know if they were taught anything else since I wasn’t a boy and wasn’t allowed to take that class.

    I have no idea if American kids were similarly indoctrinated? For us though, there was no confusion about what our respective roles in a household would be, that’s for sure. Ironically, the woman who taught these classes as my school was an old spinster.

    Sorry for another lengthy post. I just couldn’t resist.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Another bader meinhoff moment! Just today I was chiding Husband for the half hearted way he wrings out the dish cloth, leaving it sopping and cold on the dish drainer.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. When I was in junior high school, the boys could take wood shop and metal shop and, interestingly, a class on typesetting by hand and printing on platen presses. The printing class was my favorite but it was already an antique skill by that time so I’m not sure what was the point.

      Boys were not offered the domestic arts classes and girls were not able to take shop. That changed by the time my daughters were in school as my younger daughter took wood shop, I remember.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. it was home economics for girls at my school
          boys got wood shop, metal shop, electrical, small engine, drafting, forging,
          i loved shop but was too busy getting ready for my multiple options in my college choices to take shop in high school
          my good friend knew vo tech was for him he took woodworking and gourmet cooking. he learned electrical plumbing and carpentry working as a plaster patcher stucco guy and sheet rock hanger and taper
          he taught me what i know about that stuff fixing up my places and his rental properties
          i’d love to learn wes’s specialty flooring lessons
          i’d love to learn to be a luthier
          i love working at a craft like that
          my friend the sheet rocker made an art of solving the challenges you find in dealing what appears to be ordinary stuff until you’ve gotten to anaylize it fully


    3. In my high school (late 1950s) boys took shop and girls took homemaking. Shop introduced boys to drill presses, electrical circuits, woodworking and similar stuff. Righty tighty, lefty loosey. The only day I got to watch a homemaking class they taught the girls to turn skillet handles toward the center of the stove because if the handles stuck out they could cause an accident.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve been trying to teach Hans that, but he’s a slow learner. Either that or obstinate. Yeah, that’s it, he’s obstinate.


  9. Funny that you should ask this question, Renee. Just yesterday Hans and I were talking about the oldest pieces of clothing we each own.

    For me it’s a traditional, red felt, Sami hat. It’s rather fanciful, decorated with green, white, and blue rick rack. It was a Christmas present from my Finnish pen pal, Monika Bergstrøm, when I was thirteen years old. I doubt that it qualifies as “vintage,” but I’ve had it sixty-one years.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. i found the old hat i wore when i was 16 , a stetson whippet which was and is a classic. i had goo taste without knowing it
      i have a top coat i bought in 67 or 68 that was at an estate sale at the masonic home retirement sale of stuff left when people died and left their clothes. it is a wonderful gray tweed with a belt in back from the 30s or 40’s the weight was made for minnesota winters of the day in pre down attire, i’ll bet it weighs 20 lbs. it is so warm. my dog chewed the hem when the dog and i were both pups. i got some great shoes at that sale that are possibly in a box in my life somewhere waiting to be rediscovered and worn.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Morning all. I don’t think I’ve ever worn anything “vintage”. The few times there has been an opportunity (like two years ago when my department dressed up as Mad Men for Halloween), I just can’t bring myself to commit my cash to a one-day outfit. I do keep my clothing until it falls apart so I do have things that I’ve had for years. Just a couple of weeks ago I threw out a sweatshirt that I bought in Maui in 1990. I wore it for years as a “comfort” item but it was in too sad a shape to be worn outside the house. I realized a couple of weeks ago that I haven’t worn it for a couple of years, so out it went.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. OT. Anna made me aware that I have neglected to update the Blevins page – apologies. Next Blevins is:
    Sunday, February 12
    2 p.m.
    Occasional Caroline’s

    Who Will Run the Frog Hospital
    Laurie Moore

    Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas

    Tom Robbins


        1. The Eagles fans trashed our fans in the game at Philly two weeks ago. Swearing, tossing beers at them, shoving. I have this un-Minnesota Nice fantasy that they’ll somehow get locked out of the stadium and suffer frostbite in tomorrow’s predicted -30 windchill temp. Barring this, and since I want neither team to win, I’m hoping for an endless overtime. Five hours maybe.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. My parents were married for 15 years before I was born, and had no other children. Mom told me she spent her money on really nice clothes before I came along, but that all changed after I was born. She had a couple of lovely merino wool cardigans from that era that I wore when I was in college and grad school. I also remember wearing my paternal grandfather’s old barn coat for a couple of years in high school. It was denim and came down mid thigh and had a striped wool lining. Grandpa had a stroke by that time and couldn’t farm anymore. He got such a kick out of my wanting to wear his old coat.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. i guess it’s up there too

          word press is a bit off on my phone these days

          phone challenges are part of the deal and word press is part of the phone challenge

          i miss clyde and remember his challenges when i am feeling a frustration with my own


  13. In 1979, my mother hand made a floor length, cream colored dress for my wedding. She spent days embroidering intricate flowers around the neckline and hand-sewed little Xs down every seam of the dress. She even sewed “From my heart 1979” in a little handmade tag inside the back. If I wanted to have an open-casket funeral, which I do not, I’d ask to be buried in this precious wedding dress. I’ve been able to separate this work of art from the marriage which followed.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. maybe it should be like a egyptian crypt where you enter the afterlife with the things around you that you love

      if you’re being creamated never mind. if you’re going in a box maybe consider it


  14. im kind of like kramer on jerry seinfeld.
    we are vintage guys.
    i wear lots of 40’s and 50’s stuff.
    my suit coats are mostly 50’s and 60’s but my dress up is likely newer. armani and ralph lauren a couple of nordstrom’s designers make stuff i like
    i was taking my son to look at cars a couple of years ago and we went to see an old friend at the volvo store. it was october31 and the volvo guy asked if i was dressed up for halloween? the look or response i have made him feel like he’d stepped in it. i didn’t know whatcha was talking about until i realized i had on a wonderful 40’s full length topcoat with the little geometric weave orange thingies in the pattern and a perfect 40’s wide brim fedora ala jimmy stewart in the philadelphia story or one of the old classics
    i’ve come to realize the special nuances make all the difference
    a 2 5/8” brim on a 5” crown vs a 2 1/4” and a 4 1/2”crown is night and day in presentation

    i have discussed with fashion folk about how mickey rooney and andre the giant should have the same dimensional looking hats and shoes but they make pretty much the same just bigger
    an extra large cowboy hat with a 4” brim and a 6 1/2” crown looks just right on hoss cartwright and would make mickey rooney look like he was wearing a pool on his head

    big headed guys don’t wear hats because they are hard to find and when you do find it it doesn’t look the same as it does on joe average

    renee i love the apron
    i think you should search out some linen slacks and a katherine hepburn blouse to serve in, that stuff on etsy is reasonable and plentiful

    i ship the goodwill store on the minnetonka/wayzata end of town and the beautiful donated articles from dead grandmas is amazing

    i stick to men’s because if i branched our to women’s i would be there all day

    men have shirts coats and sweaters

    women have rack after rack of fashion on a hanger

    the new style in men’s coats is distressing to me

    my rule of thumb is that a sports coat should be as long as if you let you arms hang by your side and curled your fingers inward. where the fingers curl is how long it should be
    i started noticing with stephen colbert that new style dictates tight fitting clothes with the coat length exactly the same as the cuff length which leaves 1/2 your ass hanging out of you jacket rear view and lakes anyone larger than brad pitt or johnny drop look fat assed. what an awful trend but it does sell new tailored fit to the movers and shakers2” max lapel back to dick van dyke days

    ladies vintage is so killer it’s unbelievable

    tuesday is 75% off yellow tag or bluevtagvorc1 of the 4 rotating colors
    if it’s been there through the cycle they want to move it
    sometimes as i am flying through suits and top coats i will stop because the touch of cashmere or lambs wool or camel hair or linen is distinctive and retail is 8-10 dollars before markdown on a sports coat and 19 on a top coat
    i got a nordstrom’s cashmere ralph lauren never worn and had to suck it up for the whole 19 bucks
    vintage shirts are my favorite. the 50’s men’s shirts were wonderful i also wear vintage ties almost exclusively

    i was at a garage sale a couple years ago and the lady in her 80’s saw me and said “oh my children live in new york city and they dress up in costume every day just like you”
    i looked and i was wearing normal every day stuff
    that’s when i realized i wear vintage

    Liked by 6 people

    1. tim – “a 2 5/8” brim on a 5” crown vs a 2 1/4” and a 4 1/2”crown is night and day in presentation”… you could write a blog post about how to correctly wear hats, etc. – as you’ve shown us about coats…


      1. there is no correct way
        there is just your way
        and your way for the moment
        it’s too bad sometimes you have to pick one way
        the other is so interesting in a different way

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    I don’t wear vintage clothing, except for a few of my own decrepit items that I just cannot give up. It can be a great look and I kind of wish I did wear such things. If I did such things, I would wear a Katherine Hepburn get up from the 1940’s, with the broad shoulder pads and pleated pants. But then, I am simply not built like Katherine Hepburn so it would not look the same. I can wish for such a look, though.

    However, I do occasionally take my Grandpa’s Stetson hat off its hook and give it a sniff to catch a whiff of Granpa’s hair oil, circa 1960, and see his fingerprint (cigarette ash) for a trip down memory lane. Then I put it on for a few minutes before it goes back on its peg. I love that hat.

    So Renee, I think the apron looks great with the jeans!

    Liked by 4 people

  16. I have a vintage Boralba faux fur coat that belonged to my mother. Albrecht’s sold them in the 50’s. I was in touch with the Minnesota History Center awhile back when they were looking for a Boralba coat for their collection. I offered my mother’s, but they didn’t take it. They got one from someone else, apparently.

    I have all kinds of old clothing. I buy a lot of stuff from garage sales and thrift stores. Maybe half of what I have is 20 years old or older.

    Liked by 2 people

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