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Treasure Hunting

Posts tagged: Vintage clothing

Vintage Clothing: Collecting Mary Maxim Sweaters

I have a big vintage armoire in my bedroom. I found it at Roost Antiques on Main Avenue in downtown Spokane and it stayed there a month or more after I purchased it while I cleared a place for it in my small house. But finally, after I figured out where I would put it, the armoire was delivered just as the weather began to turn cold and I immediately filled it with sweaters. On one side are the sweaters I wear each day. On the other side, my collection of  “ranch” sweaters.

I started collecting the bulky handknitted sweaters after moving to Spokane in 1999. To me, they completely captured the outdoorsy ethos of the Northwest.  I work from home and I like to keep the heat turned down, so the sweaters are not only a collection, they have kept me warm and cozy on cold winter days. But I've been drawn to them, and continue to love them, primarily for the vintage look and the idea that they were made by women who took pleasure in the folksy design and the warmth of the finished product. In the last decade I've gathered a variety of sizes, all purchased at flea markets, thrift stores and antique shops across the Northwest from Oregon to British Columbia.

Earlier this month I traveled to Mantitoba to see and photograph the Northern Lights over the small town of Churchill. To reach Churchill I first had to fly into Winnipeg to catch another flight to the small town on the edge of Hudson Bay. I spent most of my day in Winnipeg  exploring the Manitoba Museum where I learned about the Innuit culture and the history of the Hudson Bay Company. There is also an excellent exhibit about the native flora and fauna. But, as I was leaving the building I passed a display of sweaters and recognized one of the patterns in my collection, a sweater that features an evergreen tree and what I always assumed was a moose or elk. Intrigued, I stopped to take a closer look.

The display included a bit of history about the Manitoba Sitton Mills and the Mary Maxim patterns that have been, and still are, so popular. Immediately, I knew I'd found the source of most of the patterns used to make the sweaters I've collected.

Debuting in the 1950s, the Mary Maxim sweater patterns and wool yarns, similar to the heavy knitted sweaters produced by Native Salish on Canada's western coast, were popular with knitters. Soon, the sweaters became iconic, even showing up on celebrities like Bob Hope and British royalty. Evenutally, to meet US demand, the company opened an office in Michigan.

I loved the Manitoba Museum and it was an added treat to learn more about the sweaters I've collected, especially one favorite pair of sweaters—both child and adult-sized— with a flying pheasant theme. I'm looking forward to the (brief) time my grandaughter will think dressing like her grandmother is cool so we can wear them together.

As always, while traveling, I found something useful and informative in the last place I expected. But, then again, that's usually the way treasure hunting goes.

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a journalist and travel columnist whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Bringing home vintage Versace

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

   Just off the Grand Place and not far from the iconic Brussels “Manneken-Pis”  (little man, peeing) fountain, the Hotel Amigo sits tucked into the corner of Rue de la Violette. And just a block or two up the Rue de la Violette, is one of my favorite treasure hunting spots.
    

   Episode (one of seven sister stores in Europe) is a long, narrow shop filled with second-hand clothing, big bins of vintage scarves, purses, accessories and luggage.  The music is loud and the clientele tends to be young and academic. And every time I’m there I find something wonderful.


    On my last trip to Brussels I had a couple of hours to myself and set out immediately up the hill to shop. After a few minutes I decided that while the people-watching was fun, I wouldn’t be bringing home anything fantastic this time. I poked around in the bin of scarves but everything seemed to be polyester, not the vintage silk I’d found in the past. I’d scored a beautiful worn leather satchel last time but this time the luggage was all standard roll-aboard bags. Nothing I couldn’t leave without.


    Finally, turning to leave, I stopped to take one last look at a rack near the door. There were so many items squeezed onto the rack it was difficult to get a good look at anything one in particular, but something caught my eye. It was a short jacket in a fine, vibrant, orange wool and I tugged and pulled and finally got it out of the crush of garments on the rack.


    As soon as I pulled it out, I laughed. I wouldn’t be going home empty-handed. I had my treasure.
    The short, aviator-style jacket was mint-condition vintage Versace, in a color that has become trendy again. Originally, it was probably part of a suit, but wearing both pieces would be a bit too orangy for me. The jacket was my size and, at 25 Euro, it was a still deal.


    Back in my hotel room, I folded it into one of the compression bags I always carry in my luggage to help me squeeze in “just one more thing”  and now it’s hanging in my closet.


    I haven’t worn the jacket yet, but with three daughters who shop my closet whenever they’re looking for something a bit different, I know it will have its day on the town sooner or later.

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Spokesman-Review Home Planet and Treasure Hunting columns and blogs and her CAMera: Travel and Photo blog, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

  

Profile: Jenny Stabile and Carousel Vintage Clothing

Since I started writing my Treasure Hunting column in 2003 (I started the blog in 2004) , I’ve written a lot about my fondness for vintage clothing. I dressed in silk Flapper dresses while in college and was married in a delicate 1900s cotton lawn  summer gown. What most people don’t know is that my first business was a vintage clothing shop. With my husband’s help, I took an empty storefront on the “arty” side of the city and turned it into a space that was equal parts store and artist’s salon.


Surrounded by racks of sheer Edwardian cotton dresses and bouffant tulle prom dresses from the 1950s, my friends and I - most of whom were actors, artists and musicians - spent happy hours talking, laughing and enjoying being young and free.  When my first child came along I closed the store and rented spaces in the more upscale antique malls in town.


So, in addition to a love of all things vintage and shabby, I have a sweet spot for vintage clothing. Which means I have a sweet spot for Carousel Vintage Clothing.  


This week, I decided to feature Jenny Stabile, owner of Carousel, as one of my Treasure Hunting profiles. I enjoyed getting to know her better and think you will, too.


How did you get started collecting/buying/selling vintage clothing?
“I started almost 6 years ago just thrifting for funky finds of any kind and I came across a couple of vintage dresses that just struck me. That’s when the dress-collecting started. I started selling a couple of years later when my bedroom apartment started to resemble a large walk-in closet! I was working full-time at a coffee shop and I thought I might be able to also make a little extra money from my hobby.”

You moved into the former location of Finders Keepers and purchased some of Deena Caruso’s stock and fixtures when she moved. It all happened pretty quickly, didn’t it?

“I opened on August 13th. It took me about a month and a half to negotiate my lease, get my licenses, paint and remodel, price and display merchandise, decorate etc.  All of which I did almost completely on my own! It was really hard but I'm pretty proud of myself! Thankfully I didn't have to take out a loan, I had been building a savings for this.”

Where do you get your love of vintage?
 “I think it’s just always been there! Really, I don’t remember not loving it or being influenced by it somehow. But I think I get a lot of it from my Mom. She was always telling me stories of how her mom dressed in the 50’s and 60’s. And she was always hitting yard sales and thrift stores, bringing home all this great stuff. I always felt like I was missing out on something if she went to a yard sale without me! She actually met the midwife who delivered me at a yard sale so I guess you could say vintage was born in me!”

Where would you like to take your business?
“I would love, down the road, to open a second store. Not necessarily vintage, but a boutique with a mix of some vintage décor along with recycled/repurposed clothing/accessories/décor. I love making something new out of something you wouldn’t expect. Like turning bottles into lamps or something. And I have a background in coffee so maybe throw a little café in there, too.”

What do these vintage garments posses that newer fashions do not?
“Oh my! Everything! There is so much attention and thought put into each detail, every seam. Every part has a purpose.”

Do you have a favorite fashion period?
“I really love the 1950’s and earlier the most. Mostly back through the 1920’s. The quality of the fabric that was used, the quality of workmanship and design just doesn’t exist anymore. You rarely see synthetics used and when you do it’s sometimes hard to tell them from silk or rayon, the quality is so fine.”

What unexpected problems/blessings have you encountered as a new business owner?
“I wouldn’t say problems, but maybe challenges. Probably the most difficult is just educating people about how vintage fits. A lot of vintage fabrics are woven, so there is very little or no give at all. I think we’ve become accustomed to everything having stretch, even formal wear. Not so with vintage. If it looks small, it is. If it looks large it is. Also, women were wearing ‘shapewear’ even under day dresses so the waists tend to be smaller than the rest of the dress. And lastly, clothing was often custom fitted to each woman (just one of the things I love about the past!) So it really is just about finding the right fit and style for you.”

It sounds like you love what you do.
“Having the opportunity to own my own business is a blessing. I feel like everything I’ve done the past few years since I knew I wanted my own shop has led to this. It’s everything I hoped for. Owning Carousel is the happiest and surest about what I’m doing that I’ve ever been. I can’t imagine NOT doing this!”


Carousel Vintage Clothing

110 S Cedar
Spokane, WA, 99204
Hours:
Tue-Sun 10-6
Mon 12-5

For more info call: 509-838-2877

  

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About this blog

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes about antiques and collectibles and the love of all things vintage. Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement, and she is The Spokesman-Review's female automobile reviewer. She is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. Cheryl-Anne is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

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