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Do You Muumuu?

9 Jul

It’s July in Texas once again, when the ultimate goals in dressing for the day are:

A. avoid having your thighs stick to the blistering black leather upholstery in your car.
B. figure out how to wear that cute halter maxi dress without a damn bra.
C. resisting the urge to run to Target in your bikini and cut-offs because you need more limeade for the margaritas*.

Yes, we know the people of Wal-Mart show us daily that there are far more major fashion faux-pas than wearing a bikini to Target, but seriously, we are better than that. I once caught my husband coming home from a quick grocery store run after we had been out at the pool all day in his fluorescent Hawaiian print swim trunks and a Tshirt with the sleeves cut off so the armholes went down to his waist. “Seriously? You wore that out of the house??” I was mortified. He was amused, and that Tshirt went in the rag bin the next morning. Who wins now??
So, I bring you, the muumuu. Not the loud, floral, housedress that can double for a tent muumuu, but the classic, true Hawaiian muumuu that will soon become your summer staple.

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The word “mu’umu’u” in Hawaiian translates to “cut off” because originally they were made without a yoke. They were long, simple dresses made from tropical printed fabrics that mirrored the Polynesian feel of the islands. When tourism to Hawaii began to boom in the 1960s, at the top of every woman’s shopping list was an authentic Hawaiian muumuu, and, if she could convince her spouse to oblige, an “aloha” shirt for him in the matching fabric.

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The most coveted muumuus were made out of bark cloth. A cotton/linen type fabric made from the bark of trees common in Asia and the Pacific. Popular brands included Hawaiian Casuals, Malihini, Ui-Maikai and Hilo Hattie, but any brand made in Hawaii is a real treasure.

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So, embrace the tropics and the heat wave, make yourself a mai tai and keep cool in your vintage muumuu. Mahalo!

*bonus! Best Margarita Recipe Ever
1 can frozen limeade
tequila
ice
orange liqueur (optional)
blender
Dump can of frozen limeade in to blender. Fill can to the top with tequila, dump in  blender. Add 1/4 can of orange liqueur. Fill blender with ice. Blend to desired consistency.

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Did You Miss Us???

6 Jun

Yes, we are still alive over here in Vintageland. Forgive us for the extreme lapse in postings. We initially blamed Lindsay Lohan*,

Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor

but then that excuse got to be too old and then Christmas came and Kalen went to NYC and had loads of great material to write about, but then it was FWSSR time (Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo) here in the Fort and we were selling boots as fast as our little stuffing, polishing, pulling on and off hands could handle. Then it was kinda slow and we really didn’t have anything compelling to write about, and we kinda thought you had given up on us ever writing anything interesting or witty or fashionable again so we just let it go.

So, I’m sitting here inhaling nibbling on a J. Rae’s sugar cookie, aka crack with glittery frosting, and my afternoon cuppa tea feeling inspired once again to write. I’ll start with sharing my adventures in NYC in January. I went by myself, which can be a refreshing thing to do every once in a while.
A. You don’t have to share the hotel bathroom with anyone
B. No one rolls their eyes at you when you want to walk the 20 blocks back to the hotel
C. Spending 6 hours at the Flea Market bothers no one except the vendors that I continue to haggle with until I get the price I want
D. I don’t have to stop at every H&M looking for “that skirt” in my size
E. Avoiding travelling in large groups where someone is inevitably walking around with their jaw dropped at the sights and sounds of Times Square makes it a lot easier to get around and might actually get you mistaken for a local (oh yeah, I was asked for directions. Sweet!)

The Garage Antique Flea Market

The Garage Antique Flea Market

I did spend 6 hours at The Garage Antique Flea Market in Chelsea and it was like walking in to the best episode of Hoarders ever; minus the dead animals in the freezer and non-working plumbing. The flea market is housed in an old parking garage (2 levels!!) which is great because it is open EVERY WEEKEND YEAR ROUND! Vintage clothing (obviously), jewelry, furs, African art, housewares, handbags, furs, furniture, and luggage; everything you can imagine is here. And yes, if you are EVER in the market for a vintage fur, those dead, rich, NYC society ladies had closets full of them and you can get your hands on just about anything for a steal. Sadly, I did not come home with a new furry friend, but did find some amazing jewelry and a suede poncho. Most definitely a successful trip, I can’t wait to go back!

This is just ONE level!

This is just ONE level!

One of the best vintage shops in NYC

One of the best vintage shops in NYC

Copper Garden Statue

Copper Garden Statue

Scary Baby Doll

Scary Baby Doll

Another thing that surprised me on this trip was how friendly everyone was. An older gentleman at the flea market overheard me tell a dealer that I was from Fort Worth and he immediately told me that he also was from The Fort. He went to the same high school that my daughters attend and although we didn’t know anyone in common, it seemed he was happy to have a bit of Texas brought in to his life that day. Or maybe he was just flirting, who knows. Later that day, as I was waiting to cross the street, a group of cool, hipster dudes commented on my coat. Why yes, it IS vintage, 1970s Bill Blass! What’s that? Oh, thanks, it’s just something I threw on. I am wearing that coat every damn day. You New Yorkers with your puffy down coats got nothin’ on this Texas girl stylin’ in vintage. Seriously, it’s not even that cold.

Need a fur??

Need a fur??

Keeper of the furs, on his own Persian Lamb blanket, of course!

Keeper of the furs, on his own Persian Lamb blanket, of course!

If you can't afford the WHOLE fur...

If you can’t afford the WHOLE fur…

So, we promise, we are back. There’s a lot of Mad Men to catch up on and those always fun awards show red carpets. If there’s anything you’re curious about or would like us to write about, please let us know! We missed y’all!!!

For more info on NYC Flea Markets, go to http://www.hellskitchenfleamarket.com/home/

*Lindsay Lohan starred in the TV Movie Dick & Liz about the life of Elizabeth Taylor back in December. Our post was going to be about the fabulous outfits in the movie and how they made it almost worth suffering through the horrendous “acting”. Alas, after trolling the internet for 2 days looking for images of such fabulous outfits, we gave up and hence our 5 month long blogging sabbatical.

Lusts and Loves from the Dallas Vintage Show

3 Nov

First off, apologies for my highly sporadic posts lately. Last week we were prepping for the Dallas Vintage Clothing and Jewelry Show, and this week we have been, well, recovering. It was a great show, and it’s always so nice to meet other dealers and see some of the amazing treasures they have discovered. Here are a few of our favorites:

This vendor took great pride in presenting the most unique and unusual items for sale. Our favorite pieces included this chain-link vest. A little Jean-Paul Gaultier, a little Medieval, a LOT Madonna. Which, I guess goes without saying when you mention JPG. I’m not sure who wears this, or to where, but there’s something so fabulous about it. Oh if only I were a bit more daring!

Chain Link Vest

The same vendor also had this great armadillo handbag. Now, we have had a few 1940s Cuban baby alligator bags come through the store, but never anything as disturbing and wonderful as this little guy. Definitely not a purse snatcher on the planet that would come close to grabbing this off of your shoulder.

Armadillo Handbag

One of our favorite dealers is Ken Weber, owner of Vintage Martini in Carrolton. His collection is to die for and when you have amazing pieces, you can create amazing displays. We are visiting his store soon and I have a feeling I will never want to leave!

Vintage Martini

Ken’s mother, Janet is also in the business with her online shop Woodland Farms Vintage. They tend to travel together on buying and show trips and never, EVER fight over who gets what in their picks. Janet has a collection of 1920s cloche hats that are truly works of art. Probably not hats that you would actually wear, given their age and fragile nature, but beauties to look at!

1920s Cloche Hats

Just as with the cloche hats, anytime you find a garment from the 20s that is wearable, it is a true find. This beaded silk dress was appropriately put up on a mannequin high out of reach of hands itching to touch. Including mine!

1920s Beaded Silk Dress

Finally, there were two booths of jewelry across from mine. Normally, I’m so overwhelmed by the massive amounts of rhinestones and bling that I tend to stay away from these booths. But, there is always down time, and boredom and curiosity drive you to wander and check out what everyone else has. The one piece I did fall in love with was this snake pin. Of course, we are all about snake jewelry in any form so it’s no surprise that this caught our attention. However, at $225, a bit out of our price range!

Snake pin

The next show will be in March. If that chain link vest is still there, I am SO buying it!

We Won! Sort Of…

9 Oct

We recently found out that we won the FW Weekly’s Critic Choice Award for Best Place to buy Cheap Threads. While we are honored to receive any “Best Of” award, I can’t say that this is the “Best Of” category that we were striving for the most. Best Jewelry, Best Vintage, Best Cowboy Boots, bring it on, we are totally ecstatic. But when your award comes with a caveat, it doesn’t quite feel as genuine or as exciting. The caveat, it appears for this award, is our clearance rack. As worded in the copy, “This is a vintage dress shop that’s only cheap by comparison—unless there’s a rack of sale outfits out front.” Cheap by comparison to whom, we are not sure. In comparison to ourselves? To our non-clearance priced merchandise? In comparison to any other non-vintage boutique? If that’s the case, I beg you to tell me where you can find a hand beaded wool sweater for $60 or a Neiman Marcus fur collar cashmere coat for $150.

1960s beaded wool sweaters

Cashmere coat with fur collar

Yes, the items we sell have been worn before. But they have also stood the test of time and are still around after 40+ years. I can’t say that will be the case with the “trashion” being procured today at places like Forever 21 and Old Navy. If you want “Cheap Threads”, go there because in 2 years, they will be just that, threads.

For far too many people, “vintage” is the same as “thrift”. It is cheap, possibly stained or ripped, and you have to spend hours digging through piles of not so great items to find that diamond in the coal. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good dig. But the intent of Bess & Evie’s is to do all that work FOR our customers so you are presented with only precious stones, no coal. Anyone who knows me knows I am one of the most frugal shoppers ever. I NEVER pay full retail price for clothing or shoes from major retailers because I know how much the markup is. Knowing that, I am very conscientious about how I price items in the store so that my customers feel like they are getting a fair deal. I have to make money to survive just as much as the next person, but my integrity as a fairly priced retailer is far more important. Maybe that’s not the smartest business practice but it’s the truth.

Picking vintage at a rag house

As far as the clearance rack goes, yes, every once in a while I make a bad buy, and something I loved when I bought it is still sitting around 6 months later. Or a vendor gave me some coal mixed in with some gems, and when they don’t live up to my standards, out they go. When that happens, those items end up on the infamous clearance rack. But I still hope that someone finds that great 80s beaded cocktail dress for $5 and are thrilled that they found the deal of the year, just like someone else finding that fabulous leather trench for $75 and thinks they found the deal of the year.

The infamous clearance rack

At the end of the day, the adage “there’s no such thing as bad press” still is true. I had a customer come in just today who read about us in the FW Weekly and had no idea there was a vintage store even in Fort Worth. So, for that I am thankful. I guess even back-handed compliments can pay off in the long run.  But I hope that people will look beyond the clearance rack to see all of the carefully selected items in the store and find that treasure that’s been waiting for them.

Flea Market Adventures

6 Aug

I have a friend at church whose daughter Lauren is going in to the 6th grade. She is cute and freckly and you can see the emerging fashionista in her with her copper metallic Sperry’s, friendship bracelets and hair bows. She also apparently loves to shop and when my daughter told her recently about our trips to the Flea Market on Sunday afternoons she thought there could be no better way to spend a Sunday. So, even though it is August, and 847 degrees by 10am, I decided yesterday that we’d brave the heat and go check out our favorite Sunday afternoon shopping sites. We invited Lauren to go with us and before I could get the words out of my mouth, she was nodding and grinning bigger than Christmas. I told her to dress cool and bring water and we’d come by and pick her up after church.

Flea Markets are one of my most favorite places to shop for the store. You just never know what you will find. The Cattle Barn Flea Market has its regular tenants, so at the least you can count on a few great jewelry booths and know the $5 parking fee wasn’t a total waste. But aside from the tried and true vendors we always stop at, it’s worth the time to roam the aisles looking for treasures. Our first stop was at Sue’s, the biggest jewelry booth at the Market. Lauren thought she had died and gone to accessory heaven. She has her $5 bin, her $3 bin and then the major fabulousness locked up in jewelry cases across the aisle. I try really hard not to look in those because I usually can’t afford her prices. We dug in the $3 and $5 bins and through the cufflinks and found some good stuff.

My 14 year old daughter that went with me is in a “I want to redo my room” stage. I swear, I think I hear that every 8 months. It seems every third time she opens her mouth to speak, the words that come out are, “I saw this thing on Pinterest…” and now she is all Martha Stewart. Regularly I’ll get texts during the day with random supply lists for her latest project. Thank you Pinterest and Craft Wars for creating a DIYer with a list of projects I now have to fund. In any case, she was looking for anything she could repurpose in her new and improved room. She came across an antique cylinder shaped tin grater on a “50% OFF” table that she thought she could spray paint and use as an earring holder. Pretty clever, I thought. However, it was still tagged $20, and even at 50% off that was more than she wanted to pay.

 

We proceeded on our hunt and came across a booth with some vintage clothing on a rack. I start flipping through and the owner of the booth came over and said that all the clothing was $2. $2?!?! It’s probably all crap, I thought. But no! Some seriously good pieces! It got even better when we found the $.50 boxes of belts and scarves. We cleaned up there, spending a whole $16 and filling our tote bag. Lauren snagged a cross necklace for $2 at another booth, and as we were now sweaty messes, we made our way to the exit. Allison still had the grater on her mind so I asked her how much she wanted to pay for it. $8, she said. Then go over there and tell him that is all you have. She shyly walked up to the booth owner and he told her it was 50% off the $20, so $10. She showed him her money and said all she had was $8. He held out his hand to take the money and the grater was hers. It is now expertly spray painted and holding the vast collection of earrings we bought at our next stop.

As we got in to the car, we told Lauren we were going to Junker Val’s. She sweetly asked if it was air conditioned and we assured her it was. Junker Val is antique/junk dealer who recently opened a shop on Bluebonnet Circle. She is only open Fri-Sun, and it is a treasure trove of all of her estate and junking finds. The biggest draw, for us anyway, is her $10 and under jewelry table. Again, Lauren’s eyes lit up like fireworks. She planted herself in front of that table and it was a good hour later before her I finally had to drag her and Allison away. Finding matching earring sets was highly rewarding and Allison left with 4 or 5 sets. Lauren got 2 bracelets and I found some great cuff links and an awesome turquoise cuff bracelet. All in all, a highly successful day. I promised Lauren we would do it again soon, but maybe wait until it got a bit cooler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Vintage, Viking Lady

17 Jul

It’s no secret that I’m a little obsessed with vintage. Since my current fascinations have turned from my wardrobe to my soon-to-be little girl’s wardrobe, my gears have switched for the moment. Nothing fits me and I’ve resorted to finally buying maternity clothes. In order to satisfy my fashion cravings, I’ve gone on the hunt for little girl clothes, beyond that Carter’s brand, quintessential, pink crap that every other little girl wears, and sometimes wears badly. I thought we talked about this people!

I have this favorite store of mine in Minneapolis that I HAVE to go to every time we pass through. Last stop, they were closed, andI didn’t feel like waiting around or coming back. It had been a long trip. This vintage store known as Blacklist Vintage is easily one of the most organized vintage stores I’ve visited besides our own. The best part about this place, they sometimes carry vintage kids clothes. There isn’t always a lot to choose from, and its mostly girl things, but every once in awhile you find the perfect petticoat, or sundress. Even better, they are usually around $20 a piece. I once found the most perfect navy blue winter coat with brass buttons. It was about a one year old size and in amazing condition. Unfortunately, that day I’d also found a bag I just had to have, lost my mind, and left with it. I’ve been kicking myself ever since.

Finding vintage kids clothes is like hunting for gold in the desert. I don’t remember the gold rush being mentioned in the Nevada desert, so I imagine it’d be a pointless search. For some reason, vintage kids clothes are almost nonexistent. I’ve only ever run into that one shop that had a regular display for the wee ones. Kalen hit the jackpot a few months ago when she went to Miami and found some girls sundresses, but those lasted about a minute, as you can imagine. What’s the saying? Snatched up like hot cakes.

I’ve recently been introduced what I’m sure will be the death of my bank account: Janie and Jack. While taking the kids to the mall for some fun indoor activities, my friend and I wandered into one last week. She calls this store, ‘the one my mother in-law shops at, where my daughter can’t wear a single thing’! I loved this. I didn’t realize what it meant until I saw the $45 cream silk blouse. Yep, couldn’t ever wear that for more than the click of shutter. Heck, I’m 31 and I can’t be trusted to wear white, or silk, or a blouse without guaranteeing I’ll crave pasta with marinara that day. Upon further inspection, the prices were not unreasonable, but definitely reserved for a special occasion. However, then there is the clearance rack! I found the most adorable spring coat, that was very vintage-y looking, with the big buttons and rounded shoulder cut. It reminded me of something from the 50’s. I also found they carried girls shorts that have a cuff on the leg, giving them an adorable shape on those skinny little girly legs, all little girls have. It reminded me of hot pants from the 40’s, but I could be totally off on this. I’ve also been planning a forties inspired kids shoot, and found the perfect outfit for my little 6 year old, aka my son’s newest girlfriend. She will look like a tiny, Great Gatsby lady, minus the cocktails.

It’s tough out there, trying to find look for your kid that isn’t like every other kid’s look. When it comes to boys, they are easy. Girls are a whole new ballpark. I’d like her to have a style all her own that all the little girls in her Gymboree class aspire to. I’d also like her to not show up to her first one year birthday party in the same outfit as another attendee. Talk about self esteem killer. Can’t even talk yet and she’s already running to hide in the bathroom from the embarrassment. I’ll have to make sure I bring a backup outfit for just such an emergency. I would love to find another shop, maybe not so far from home, that carried vintage kids clothes so I could add to her “collection”. Believe me, this tiny tot’s closet is already a collection of who’s who, and ‘where did you get that?’ I’m already jealous.

Junkin’ in Houston

10 Jul

While I still count myself a New Yorker, I spent most of my adolescent life in Houston. First living in southwest Houston, and then north Houston, and now I’m pretty sure I’ve lived in just about every part of this large, thriving city. People always ask where you are from, and once you tell them Houston, they want to know what part. There are about a thousand parts, and a dozen new, hopping neighborhoods popping up every few months. The trendy parts are ever changing and adapting to the hipsters that want to be where all the action is. My mom, aka the original-hipster as I have coined her, swears she was cool before cool was cool. She has always been a “thrifter”, and says she used to go “junkin”, as her friends called it, way before it was cool to do it. One of my girlfriends had mentioned an amazing resale/vintage shop in Houston, in one of those trendy parts of town, of which I don’t remember the name. I decided last Friday that I needed a girl day. Too many days at home, in the summer, with MY child, lets just say it wears on you. I made a few calls, mom promised to babysit, and the day was planned. We were going “junkin”, just us girls.

For some reason, this shop closes at 2pm on Saturdays. Coined the “best resale experience in Houston”, The Guild Shop may be the largest store of “junk” that I’ve seen in a LONG time. And as big as it was, filled to brim with patrons as well. Apparently, this is the Saturday shopping hot-spot. My friend being the expert that she is, took me on a tour of the store before we found a section to begin in. The store is broken up into housewares, a room full of dishes, bowls, mugs, etc, a smaller room of just silver and brass, a large room full of large furniture, the showroom has clothing, bags, and a jewelry section, for which you need to take a number and it closes before the store closes itself. Now, being the daughter of a “professional thrifter”, I’ve been dragged to a lot of thrift/resale stores. This one topped them all. Of all the resale stores I’ve experienced, not including ones that carry strictly clothing, this was the most organized and thought out, well planned resale store I’d ever seen. They were a well-oiled machine. There must’ve been 50 people working in this store for the five hours it was open. I was thoroughly impressed, and I’m rarely impressed by much these days. The phrase, “customer service is dead in this country,” must come out of my mouth several times a week. But these people…These people knew what they were doing.

So not only was I impressed with the lay-out, the staff, the organization, but also the price points. Each tag has a starting price on it with the date it was brought in. A month from that date the price goes down a certain percentage, something like 20-25%. It may vary per type of product. Two weeks from that date, the price goes down again. Two weeks from the above date, the price goes down to its lowest price point. For most products this is $1, unless it’s something like furniture or other big ticket items. From what my partner-in-crime has experienced, it never usually makes it to its last and lowest price point. This place is serious business. If you see it and you like it, you better get it before the person walking in behind you does. This stuff is priced to sell and does. I found a dresser that would be perfect for us to take home refinish and repaint and add to our baby room. My husband comes home this week. Hopefully it’ll still be there when I get a chance to go back. Fingers crossed!

 

 

Needless to say, The Guild Shop will be a frequented destination in the years to come. What did I come home with you ask? Well, let me brag here: an shiny orange bowl, two Fire King mugs that were a set of four that I split with my friend, and a set of six New York theme dinner plates by Homer Laughlin. Total spent: $34. A mere drop in the bucket for the amazing finds and great quality items.

The next place we wanted to stop was Bluebird Circle. Bluebird Circle is a charitable organization, started in 1923, helping womens organizations and childrens charities, they are one that has left there mark on this city for many years. My mom remembered visiting their resale store as soon as I mentioned it. Unfortunately they also closed at 2pm and we were unable to make it this time. Because of its reputation, I know we’ll be back to visit soon.

If there is one thing Houstonians take seriously, it’s their resale shopping. I’ve never been to a city that has more resale shops than Starbucks, and I think that says a lot. I’ll definitely keep you guys updated on all the great spots to hit up, and all the stores that take the word “vintage” to mean “expensive”. What’s the point of green-shopping if you can’t afford it?