Of petticoats and crinolines

Detail from a Sears catalog, Summer 1959

Detail from a Sears catalog, Summer 1959

I’m not a professional stylist, nor am I a professional historian. I do not work for any fashion publication, large or small. I have no formal education in costuming.

What I am, however, is a dedicated historical fashion hobbyist. And, at least according to the curious number of people who have mentioned it in the last few days, I’m well-dressed. It’s flattering, and quite a feather in my cap. It’s also the background upon which I make this plea:

Please, PLEASE stop jamming full crinolines underneath quarter- and half-circle skirts. In your quest to look “period appropriate,” you wind up looking sloppy and/or uncomfortable.

1956 vs. 2013 trying to look period

1956 vs. 2013’s interpretation of 1956

On the left of this image we have a photo, taken by LIFE photographer Yale Joel in 1956, of actress Betty Furness wearing a black dress she wore while doing Westinghouse commercials on CBS that year. It is meant to appear both fashionable and accessible, and succeeds. If you look very closely at her hem (click on the image to enlarge it), you can just barely make out the lace edge of a petticoat beneath. The petticoat provides some shape and support, but notice that the skirt still falls in gentle folds. You can almost picture the waves of fabric swaying as Ms. Furness would walk across her Westinghouse set.

On the right we have an anonymous participant in a “1950s-styled” wedding, circa 2013. I’ve blocked out her face to protect her identity, but I assure you that she is every bit as beautiful as Betty Furness. The skirt of her dress is cut with a similar fullness to that of the dress worn by Ms. Furness. But here is where we diverge: someone involved with this fashion fiasco decided that all of the bridesmaids should wear a full, multi-layered crinoline under each of their dresses. On the positive side, they were ordered in a length that is correct for the length of the skirt (yes, petticoats come in different lengths. We’ll get to that in a minute). Unfortunately, the dresses are so stuffed so tightly that the skirts are riding up, and showing the bottom inches of the crinolines. Why not complete the look and pull your bra strap out while you’re at it? These overstuffed skirts do not move with flowing grace, but rather like dinner bells with legs for clappers.

I call this look on the right "The Drop-Off."

I call this look on the right “The Drop-Off.”

Subset A: Petticoats come in different lengths! It’s true! When shopping for gen-yoo-wine vintage, you often take whatever you can get. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can always wear whatever you got with whatever you have. In the example shown here, we have the L.L. Bean Signature poplin dress styled two different ways: on the left is L.L. Bean’s version, and on the right is a photo from an eBay listing advertising the dress as a “vintage 1950s style.” I don’t mean to infer that the seller is being dishonest; he or she does state in the listing description that the dress is near-new L.L. Bean. The seller has merely styled the dress in a way that L.L. Bean didn’t consider, or didn’t consider appealing to their target audience. And the possibilities are certainly there to give this dress a retro feel. The problem with this look specifically is that the crinoline used for the photograph is both too full and too short for this skirt, resulting in a steep cliff at the hem. It is not a very full skirt, and you’d do better leaving it alone or wearing a less voluminous petticoat or a slip with a pretty, ruffled edge. In those instances, the length is less of an issue because they’re providing minimal volume and not supporting the weight of the skirt.

Petticoats and crinolines are easy to find online, and while actual vintage can be far more difficult to locate in your desired size/color/length/fullness there are still options for brand-new petticoats/crinolines/prairie skirts made either en masse or even to your own specifications. A basic, brand-new, 35-yard petticoat should run you under $50 online, while custom orders can cost considerably more and take longer for delivery.

I’ve been lucky enough to acquire all (5) of my petticoats locally and don’t have personal experience with many of these retailers, but here is a list on online sources (all U.S. based, sorry) where you can buy your very own:

Hey Viv (ready-to-wear)

Malco Modes (RTW, many options; U.S.A.-made)

ReSashsay (RTW and custom; consignment)

Theda Bara’s Vintage Boudoir (vintage; availability varies)

Have fun, and look good doing it!

 

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Plans of Planning

NOTE: This post inspired by Pippin & Pearl’s post from this morning.  The opinions expressed are my own, but have been influenced by every wedding I’ve ever attended (or was unable to attend because the couples in question eloped to Las Vegas with little-to-no notice. Aherm.)  

Don't freak out; I was just modeling it for a friend. This was so long ago that I didn't have a mannequin available for such purposes.

Don’t freak out; I was just modeling it for a friend. This was taken before Tiddleywink Vintage had a mannequin available for such purposes.

Someday, I’ll get married. That’s the plan, anyway. And with each wedding at which I’m present, I make mental notes. Band too genre-specific/DJ hiring too stressful: use an iTunes playlist. Awkward, cliquish socializing: invite only your closest friends/relatives. Starving vegetarians: serve at least a 70:30 ratio of meat-free food. Disappointed parents who missed the event due to surprise elopement: just don’t do that. The most down-to-earth, smart, sane people I know getting caught up in the spiral of wedding planning: keep it simple. No, not etch-your-own-beribboned-mason-jars simple, but REALLY simple. Still, it’s a special event, and should be treated accordingly. I think I found what I’ll eventually be looking for in a book I recently enjoyed reading called Let’s Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By, by Leslie Blume. She writes:

MORNING WEDDINGS The typical American wedding used to follow along these lines: a ceremony in the morning, followed by a wedding breakfast or luncheon at the bride’s parents’ house. The guest list: relatives and intimate friends. The couple would then leave for their honeymoon in the early afternoon. Compared to the expensive fanfare of today’s circus-like weddings (the average American wedding reportedly costs upward of $20,000), the simplicity of this old ritual is very appealing.

The book also includes a “Small Wedding Luncheon” menu taken from the 1966 edition of The New York Times Menu Cook Book. Punch, an assortment of chilled salads, rolls. Cake, coffee, and strawberries served in sparkling wine. Now, that’s more my style. Assuming I get married in this neck of the woods, I already have a cake bakery picked out. Given my careers-slash-hobbies, I’ll still stress over the perfect dress and invitation. But hopefully not much else.

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How many toothpicks?

Rain Man: Toothpicks

The Boyfriend is a bit of a savant when it comes to Things Automotive. What others have to study and work to memorize, just comes naturally to him. Need a chart to figure an accurate bore dimension? No, all he needs is a caliper reading and the Pythagorean theorem. And a few seconds to calculate. Care to hear a list of the differences between a ’39 Ford De Luxe and a ’40 Ford standard? He can rattle those off in his sleep. Thankfully, he doesn’t. Or I sleep through it. Just last week, he had me pause a DVD we were watching so he could explain that the steering wheel shown in a Car: Interior scene could not possibly be from the car our characters were just shown getting in to in the previous Exterior shot. When he does things like this, which is frequently, I mutter “246. 246 toothpicks.” It’s in reference to the scene from Rain Man, linked above, in which Raymond is able to calculate at a glance precisely how many toothpicks had been knocked out of a box.

Fire King “Candle Glow” (1967-72) casserole dish with lid. This particular example is currently available from VintageLoveJunk

In the kitchen last night while I was serving dinner, The Boyfriend said that he liked the dish I’d put the mashed potatoes in. Without glancing over (because I knew what dish I’d used), I said “Thanks. It’s Fire King. The pattern is called Candle Glow.”

To which he replied, “How many toothpicks?”

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It couldn’t be a lily or a taffy-daffodilly…

…It’s got to be a rose ’cause it rhymes with Mose.*

logo-collage

Holy smokes, it’s already been a week since my last post? And I promised you then that I would try to clear up some confusion over my assortment of online names. Taking a chronological trip in Ye Olde WABAC Machine… ::insert wooblie soundtrack and WavyVisionâ„¢::

Once Upon A Time, circa 1998 or ’99, I unofficially name my freelance company Ampersand Ranch. Technically, the full name is Ampersand Ranch Graphic Design and Prairie Dog Refuge. Which is a teensy bit funnier if you, like me, are living in Boulder, Colorado during the Great Prairie Dog War of the late ’90s.

It isn’t until 2006 that I officially register Tiddleywink (consciously misspelled to avoid run-ins with duplicate names, HA-HA) with the State of Colorado, to encompass both my freelance work and my first Etsy store.

Thanks to the gentle shoving encouragement of my techgeek friend Dave, I join Twitter in early 2007 (pre-SXSW). This is back when all Twitter users combined post an average of 20k tweets a day. So you see, I can have just about any username I want. And, since Twitter is purely social, I go with my now-purely-social name: AmpersandRanch. The frequent mistyping by a Twitterfriend of my username leads the change to Ampersandwich shortly after (obviously, before a Reply To shortcut becomes a feature) so Bryan should get all of the credit for that bit of portmanteau genius.

By 2009, Twitter is more business-friendly. I decide it would be a good time to switch my username to Tiddleywink to encourage my clients and customers to find me socially as well. Except that, however unlikely, someone has by this time registered my misspelled name! The account is inactive: no tweets, no followers, and following only 1 account. I send a message to the account holder, asking if she’d mind letting me have the name. I don’t hear back. I put in a request with Twitter to get the name switched over to me—they’re still small enough then that they will do this if you can prove cause—but I’m informed that there is a backlog for the service. Before my position in the queue (ticket #600496) comes up, Twitter has stopped assisting with inactive-account-name-takeovers.

Instagram comes along in 2010. It and Twitter are very good friends, sharing user lists and all, and having a common username between the two is logical. Tiddleywink is still being squatted upon at Twitter, so I open my IG account as Ampersandwich. I briefly change it to Tiddleywink but, fearing confusion between followers, I change it back.

Present Day: Instagram and Twitter are no longer friends. I rarely post to Twitter anymore, and while I have half as many followers on IG, the IG community is much more interactive. I decide it’s safe to change my IG username to Tiddleywink…only to discover it’s been taken. The account is private and the user photo appears to be a blurry, 1979ish snapshot of Prince Charles in a trenchcoat, but at least the account has posted some photos so I don’t feel as though my “rights” are being squandered.

As for ShoesAndPie and Winkorama…well, this post is already too long. See you next week! Maybe with a post about pie!

*If you don’t already have this song stuck in your head, you can watch the movie clip (a loose a-rose-by-any-other-name reference) here.

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Checking In

Whoooo-ie, it’s been a while since I’ve had a day “off” to check in with all y’all! I’m not dead. Or even ill. I have been suuuuper busy. I can’t promise that I’ll get back to writing with frequency, but I have made a concerted effort in the last 24 hours to dust off (figuratively) the inventory at Tiddleywink Vintage.

Speaking of Tiddleywink Vintage, some items have been noticeably stolen from the Shoppette. This does not bode well for the continued existence of said Shoppette, so if you’ve been putting off a visit—and the rare ability to try on items—then you’d best get over there before the current lease expires in August. I expected there would be some theft, but it has averaged, dollar-wise, about 30% of actual sales, and that’s more than I’d allowed for.

Speaking of Tiddleywink Design (close enough), good things are afoot. One regular client has given me an unexpected raise, which is flattering, inspires confidence, and is also so very useful. Raises make an excellent gift. And then there’s a brand new client (potentially; contract in the works) that is in for an excellent design piece, should they decide to go ahead with the proposed project. The ideas are flitting around in my head like butterflies. Beautiful, silky, sleepy butterflies. I know I typically focus on the production end of things, but print design still tickles my fancy when the client has, or at least desires, a vision beyond “I don’t know, what does everyone else do?” You would not believe how often I used to hear that, and that is one reason why it’s important to choose clients as carefully (hopefully) as they choose you.

Related: I was chatting with a colleague yesterday, and she put forth an idea about visually testing interviewing clients before accepting a job. She was joking, but I think it’s an excellent idea. Not only will it red-flag designer/client head butting far in advance of any actual disagreement, but it also acts as a way of sussing out the visual style of a person who may have difficulty speaking in terms that us artsy-fartsy types use. I frequently ask clients to send me samples of what they like, even if unrelated to their specific needs, but I think many non-creatives feel overwhelmed by the request or quite frankly don’t know what they like and just send a random assortment of stuff in hopes of earning an imagined good grade. I’m paraphrasing here, but part of the discussion with my colleague went something like “I’m looking at a client’s submitted “mood board” and it makes me want to stab myself in the eye.” If we, as designers, take control of that task and ask the (potential) client to simply check boxes, it has the potential alleviate some undue stress on both ends. Maybe.

Also Related: I need a traffic manager. Can work remotely. Salary paid in baked goods. Or homemade ice cream.

Unrelated: I have TWO GALLONS of mango nectar, in two 1-gallon bottles. I’d intended to use them up making a series of delightful rum-based tropical drinks, but I don’t drink much and so haven’t gotten around to that. I asked (on IG and Twitter) for recipe suggestions, outlining that: I’d like to use up a GALLON of mango nectar before the open container goes fuzzy or vinegar-y, and I also noted that my household consists of only two people. The suggestions that I got, while all sounding tasty, mostly neglect to meet these confining restrictions. For instance: I’d have to make 448 mango-lemon cupcakes to use up the gallon. I’ll experiment today with a mango sherbet (creamier than sorbet because, well, dairy) and some mango iced tea. That should neatly use up a quart, anyway. The best suggestion was to donate the nectar to a food bank, and I think the second gallon jug will go that route.

Still Unrelated: I reached the 1,000 follower mark on Instagram, and so am running a giveaway contest. It’s Instagram-only, though, so you’ll have to take it up over there.

Upcoming Somewhat-Related Blog Post: Why I’m @ampersandwich on Twitter and IG, and @tiddleywink just about everywhere else.

Until next time!

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Withering Heights

Old leeks: don't look so bad once they're trimmed and washed

Old leeks don’t look so bad once they’re trimmed and washed

I love a pun. That doesn’t mean I’m good at them.

S’anyway. It’s Sunday night and the scheduled dinner is ham but The Boyfriend and I spent all weekend indoors watching the 55th annual March Meet via the live stream on BangShift.com (thanks for providing that coverage, BangShift guys), while I read from cover to cover a huge, 1940/41 Montgomery Ward catalog which really did take two dedicated days to get through. This means that not only have I not planned the week’s menu, but I certainly haven’t gone grocery shopping. I did, however, make some pressure-cooker chicken broth from a leftover roasted chicken carcass.

Well, what else is in the fridge? Among other things, some leftover mashed potatoes and two withering leeks. A-ha! I bet I can combine these items into a satisfying soup while simultaneously clearing out the fridge and feeling all thrifty-like!

Without further ado, the recipe:

IMG_0536

Withering Leeks Soup served with Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread

Withering Leeks Soup

2 Tbs salted butter
2 large leeks, sliced thin, darker greens removed
2 cups mashed potatoes
6 cups chicken broth

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed 8-quart pot over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften and start to brown. I didn’t time this, but probably 5–7 minutes. Add the mashed potatoes and broth, and cook until heated through—about another 5 minutes—stirring occasionally. If your mashers, like mine here, start cold from the fridge and as a fairly solid lump, it may take a few minutes longer. Longer still if your broth is also cold from the fridge. Once heated through, purée with an immersion blender* or, lacking one, purée in batches in a blender.

This is what you want the leeks to look like before you add the potatoes and broth

This is what you want the leeks to look like before you add the potatoes and broth

You can easily substitute vegetable broth to make this vegetarian, and if you prefer vegan recipes, also substitute olive oil for the butter. Make sure those leftover mashed potatoes are dairy-free!

Makes approximately 8 cups: 8 servings as a starter, or 4–6 as a main course with a leafy salad and some crusty bread.

Shown with: Jim Lahey’s original No-Knead Bread recipe. Which I baked in the same (hard-anodized) pot in which I had previously boiled the potatoes, and later cooked the soup. Simpatico.

Gratuitous Pyrex photo. This is my container of leftover mashed potatoes.

Gratuitous Pyrex photo. This is my container of leftover mashed potatoes. It’s a Hospitality Casserole (443 Cinderella bowl with 624 lid) made in 1959.

*If you don’t have an immersion (stick) blender, I promise that they really do come in handy. They’re inexpensive, clean easily, and save you from the hassle of—for instance—awkwardly pouring approximately a half gallon of soup into a blender in batches.

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Town Crier Flour: Lucky Low Cost Prize Winning Recipes

I have approximately a bazillion* vintage and antique cookbooks, and sometimes within the pages of those cookbooks I find hand-written recipe cards or mass-market pamphlets that have been printed up by a company encouraging the use of their special ingredient. Today’s post focuses on one of those pamphlets: Lucky Low Cost Prize Winning Recipes, promoting Town Crier Flour which was made by The Midland Flour Milling Co. in Kansas City, Missouri. There is no date on the pamphlet, but because it mentions that these recipes are part of a group of 100 “that were chosen from thousands”—and Town Crier published a book of 300 of these recipes in 1938—we can assume this predates 1938 by at least a few years. I love that the pamphlet includes tips for washing ink out of cotton bags. Flour sack towels (or dress), anyone?

It’s a small pamphlet, so I’ve scanned it in its entirety. Because the previews are so small (click on the images to see (and print) more legible versions), I’ll tempt you to click on the images by telling you they include recipes for:

  • Dutch Peach Cake
  • Pineapple Cookies
  • Graham Clover Leaf Rolls
  • Quick Brunch Coffee Kuchen
  • Lemon Fluff Pie
  • Baking Powder Biscuits
  • Golden Caramel Cake (with Caramel Syrup)
  • Bread
  • Bacon Muffins

…and of course, the previously mentioned Three Methods For Washing Ink Out Of Cotton Bags. None of these recipes have been personally tested by me (yet), but I encourage you to give one or two a whirl and let us know how it turns out!

Lucky Low Cost Prize Winning Recipes

Lucky Low Cost Prize Winning Recipes

TCF_in1

TCF_in2

The back of the brochure

 

*rough estimate

 

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