Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday Melodies: Sway versus Quien Sera

So many of the great Cha Cha Cha and Mambo hits of the 50s and 60s were translated from the original Spanish to English before they were sung by singers like Dean Martin, Julie London and Rosemary Clooney. Sway (Quien Sera) is one of those songs. Although I love the Rosemary Clooney version, I think the original Spanish version is even cooler. And you?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Thanks German Grandmas!

I don't know why exactly it is that you can find such amazing vintage in Germany. Perhaps it's because people really suffered shortages after the war and learned to preserve rather than modernize and constantly renew (there was enough renewing going on with re-building as over 80% or Berlin alone was destroyed by bombs). Perhaps it's because German culture is generally of the "waste not-want not" strain. Whatever the reason, all I can say is "Vielen Herzlichen Dank" to all the German "Omas" out there who kept their things in pristine condition. Like this 1930s muslin and crocheted lace blouse.

Personally, I'm not much into wearing white because when I do it just doesn't stay white for very long (we inherited a white couch from some friends and now it is kind of polka dotted with brown coffee stains....) But it certainly is beautiful and it's previous owner did a great job of keeping it as pure as freshly driven snow for seventy years (there is only one extremely faint dot of yellow discoloration on the left shoulder.) Someday it will find a lovely new home in the closet of a romantic, white-wearing, size medium girl. Click here to take a closer look: 1930s Blouse

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sometimes You Just Need To Open The Darn Door

Since I am an avid photographer myself, taking photographs for both of my etsy shops is definitely a large part of the fun. I try to take nice shots that highlight whatever I am offering for sale but that also have some similarity in style to give my shop an overall "look". I take the gray close up shots of my vintage clothing in the second stairway of our apartment building (yes, I do think my neighbors think I'm a little strange ;) ) because the walls are a nice neutral gray and light comes softly through the windows. The shots from the front, side and back I have usually taken in front of one of the set of double doors in our apartment:

My intentions are probably pretty clear: I wanted a lighter background to offset the clothing. Two problems almost always occurred though. Problem a) light is seriously hard to come by in Berlin, especially since I opened my shop in the winter. Often the white ended up looking dingy or yellowed which meant extra time on photoshop to make the pictures presentable, something I'd rather not have to do. Problem b) the pattern on the door often made the photographs look crooked even if they actually weren't, another issue that meant photoshop. But then, a few days ago, Eureka! I thought, why not just open the doors. Here is an example of the results:

Having light from the back definitely helps with the darkness issue. I also like the warmth added by the floor and that you can see the lovely pink tulips my husband bought for me to cheer me up because I was super grouchy that this has been the coldest, grayest and wettest May in Berlin ever (I can't help it. I grew up in California and Arizona where "weather" comes in about three varieties and is generally dependable, i.e. warm, clear and gorgeous...) I also like that you can see the place where the clothes is from which would definitely always peak the interest of a curious soul such as myself. Anyway, I would love any thoughts or feedback, so please do fire away. :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Once Upon A Time In An Analog World...

Forget about iPhones and electronic books. Think about how difficult it was just to learn to use a rotary telephone back in the day. "What, I have to dial the darn thing myself?" grandpa might have said (though I suppose there's a good chance he even actually swore. Gasp!) Thank goodness they had these handy instructional films made to help out the old and the slow:

Good thing they eventually came up with touch tone phones. Think of all the time wasted on ye ol' rotary dial. Three cheers for the glory of old school technological advances! ;)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

First Dress From the Fabulous 1940s

Although most of the vintage clothing I currently have in my shop is from the 60s and 70s (these are the eras of vintage I wear the most of myself) I definitely am on the look out for well-preserved pieces from the 40s and 50s. I'm so happy my first 1940s dress is the one pictured above, a beautiful dark navy voile embroidered dress. This lovely number is looking for a new home in the closet of some vintage fanatic who wears a size 4 to 6. Click here to have closer peek.

p.s. two little black party dresses (one sleeveless from the 50s and one with long sleeves from the 40s) and two lacy blouses from the 1930s will be posted soon, so please come by often. :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Vintage Wedding

I've actually already been married twice. The first time it was for practical reasons (i.e. green card) and I knew even on the day we got hitched that it was a bad idea because we had a very stormy relationship (that is, if you think getting in at least one fight every single day is stormy...) The second time was to my husband Jasper with whom I now have two lovely daughters.

I love an excuse to dress up, so although my first wedding was an elopement I still wore a sheer navy and white polka dot dress and yellow satin 40s style peep toe heels. For my second wedding I wore a black Asian style dress with buttons up the shoulder. We got married at the gorgeous main hall of San Francisco City Hall. My whole family was present including my father which was special because he passed away four months later.

Although both of my wedding dresses were vintage inspired, neither one of them was actually a vintage garment. But Jasper and I are in it for the long haul, so I doubt I'll ever be having another wedding. If I did, I would most definitely wear the vintage 1950s beige silk and linen dress pictured here and above that I now have for sale in my shop.

I could never really do the big foofy white lace wedding dress thing, but this dress is perfect because it's simple yet elegant and beautifully handmade out of quality cloth. And it's beige instead of white because I'm also not really a big fan of "white."

With the dress I would wear these shoes (which just happen to be my size, 8.5) from Allen Company Inc.

...and this necklace from Hawaii Beads 2.

...and I would carry this lovely little bag from Vintage Surplus.

What the heck? Maybe I can talk Jasper into a second wedding, this time one thrown in Germany for all our local family and friends. Of course I would need this "new" 1930s diamond engagement ring. While we're at it, he might as well also present it to me in this lovely turn of the century silver plated box. Husband, get shopping! ;)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Living Vintage In Berlin: Claerchen's Ballhaus

Although it's in the middle of the tourist circuit in Auguststrasse, Clärchen's Ballhaus is still really a special place. A ballroom built in 1913, the building is still wonderfully run-down (they have a tendency to sometimes overly renovate old buildings in Berlin to the point where they loose all their old charm; Tod saniert they call it which is literally "renovated to death".) On the bottom floor is a restaurant (you can also eat in the garden if the weather is nice) and dance floor where they often have a live band.

There are certain dance theme evenings like cha-cha-cha and tango as well as a Tanz Tee (teatime dance) every Sunday afternoon. If you don't know any of the standard dances, they also offer dance classes to help you break in those vintage 1940s dancing shoes....

I've actually only been there once but what I loved about the place was how mixed the crowd was, everything from tourists, to hipsters to old timers decked out in vintage duds.

Upstairs is also the deliciously dilapidated Spiegel Saal (Mirror Ballroom) where they sometimes have concerts. You can also rent the room for private parties. Jasper and I looked into it once. I don't remember what the price was exactly, but I do remember it made my eyes bug out of my head. Not a bargain perhaps, but a night in that room would certainly be one to remember.

Claerchen's Ballhaus, Auguststrasse 24-25, Berlin-Mitte

Open daily from 10 a.m. til whenever

Website: Claerchen's Ballhaus

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Prizes For Pounds

For most of my adult life I've always been between a size 10 and 12. But after having two babies only 18 months apart in age (the oldest being 1 and a half), my size these days is between a 14 and a 16. This is a really strange size to be. Technically you are definitely in plus size range, but you can still shop at "normal" stores. Things often don't fit right. Forget about button up blouses (at least any with a feminine cut) or anything a-line or tight around the hips. This summer I want to loose some weight. It will definitely be a challenge because I just don't diet; I'd rather be pleasantly plump then give up butter and chocolate. I also don't really like sport, or at least any that requires you to actually sweat. However, I am starting to eat more in moderation and have discovered how much I love yoga, so there is definitely hope. If I do loose the weight I'm definitely going to treat myself to some fabulous vintage shopping. Here are a few things I would buy in a flash if I were 25 pounds lighter:

Vintage 1970s Mini Black Wrap Dress (I love, love, love this one!) from bO Mode

Vintage 1970s Pleated Dress and Vintage 1950s Magenta Silk Dress, both from Nod to Mod Vintage.

Vintage 1950s Fallen Leaves Dress, from Dear Golden Vintage

Vintage 1950s Lace Skirt and Vintage 1950s Dress, both from 13 Bees. Actually, I'd have to loose a lot more than 25 pounds to fit into the dress as it is a size xs/s, but it looks a lot like a black, less swanky version of this dress worn by Peggy Lee as she sings Why Don't You Do Right? How cool is that!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Living Vintage In Berlin: Hula Hoop Cafe In Charlottenburg

For any fan of Rockabilly or the 1950s, Hula-Hoop in Charlottenburg is definitely the place to be. Decked out with original kidney tables, cocktail chairs and pastel-colored tulip lamps lends the cafe an overall fab-50s-vibe.

Run by a husband and wife team who have been avid 50s rockabilly style collectors for years, the cafe has been put together with lots of love and care. You can sip a nice, frosty banana milk shake while listening to Peggy Sue Got Married on the vintage 1960s jukebox.

There is also a shop attached to the cafe, so if you've ever wondered how you might look in a poodle skirt, this is the place to finally give it a try. They also sometimes host concerts and, if you come in a petticoat, you get it for free. Golly gee, Hula-Hoop is simply out of sight! ;)

Hula-Hoop, Mommsenstrasse 42, Berlin-Charlottenburg
Open: Tuesday to Saturday from 1 to 6, Sundays from 2 to 6, closed Mondays
Website: Hula-Hoop

Saturday, May 1, 2010

New Baubles On the Way

Besides carefully selected vintage clothing and accessories, I also sell handmade jewelry in my shop Curious Knopf. Each of my pieces is made from vintage materials and most are one of a kind. I also use almost exclusively a round black chain for my necklaces because it is high quality, very light weight and has a simple elegance.

The good news is I just got three large packages filled with goodies such as celluloid charms from the 1930s and lots and lots of Bakelite. Lots of new lovely baubles to come, so please stop by soon!