Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How to Go Antiquing (A Survival Guide)


(Photo taken in Sugar Chest Antique Mall.  Pompano Beach, Florida)


Antiquing is one of my favorite hobbies.  I love searching for items for my MCM-themed home and rockabilly myself.  I am always on the hunt for mid-century wares whether it's online (Etsy.com) or in brick and mortar stores like the Sugar Chest Antique Mall.  My mother-in-law lives in Boca Raton, Florida and every time my husband and I visit, I make sure to spend one afternoon browsing the aisles in this huge place!  Navigating the vast rows of cases and shelves displaying antiques from various eras can seem like a gargantuan task.  If I do not have a plan or even know what I am looking for, I get sensory overload.  In many antique malls, you can find stacks of vintage postcards, political memorabilia, lamps, furniture, china, costume jewelry, fine jewelry, statuary, clothing, prints, paintings, ceramics, electronics, chandeliers, pianos, and Barbie dolls.  Let me tell you, there have been times I have left stores empty-handed simply because I was overwhelmed.

There are a few factors that can contribute to what I call, "antique meltdown."  Here are some circumstances that can lead to a lackluster antiquing experience:

1. Lots of cases in one storefront.  Many antique malls are a large, single space with several square footage.  The owner of the mall rents out sections of his floor space and/or cases to various dealers/sellers.  The individual seller (renter) pays the owner rent and the owner also gets a percentage of each seller's sales.  There is typically many sellers in one storefront.  Navigating/browsing from case to case can be a challenge.

2. Poor organization of displays.  Some, but not all, antique malls have so many cases and displays in one space so they are almost smooshed together.  "Clutter" would be the key issue here. Not to worry, I will help you figure it out.

3. Treasures galore and "what on earth is that?!   This is not usually a problem but expect to see a lot of weird and funky wares amongst vintage treasure.  This can be a fun aspect of your shopping experience and yet it can add to your frustration.  Again, I will share my secrets to finding that lucite dream in the pile of velour sweaters.

Here are some fun pictures depicting a few of the wild things I have found while antiquing:

So, how does a gal figure it out?  How can an afternoon sifting through the immense layers of vintage history and mystery lead to shopping nirvana?  Here are my tried and true methods.  After years of trial and error in the aisles, I promise these suggestions will help!

1. Go with a plan.  Have a basic idea of what you are looking for.  Need a table for your MCM kitchen?  Looking for that gravy boat to match your dishes? Want a Sputnik light for the dining room?  Desiring a pair of ceramic cats for your shadow boxes? Pining for a carved bakelite bangle to add to your collection?  Before venturing out, make a list. You may not find EXACTLY what you are looking for but if you ask the staff, their renters/vendors may know.  Finding your dream piece can be as simple as a phone call or getting a business card.  Vintage through networking is a beautiful thing.
2. Ask the staff for help.  If you find yourself feeling the beginning twinges of "antiquing meltdown," stop.  Breathe.  Relax.  Ask for assistance.  The staff are very familiar with  the layout of the mall and they usually know where to find various items.  Just ask.  For example, the very first time I visited The Sugar Chest, I was in search of Bakelite bangles.  I am always collecting. I am an addict.  Nevertheless, I had been walking up and down the aisles peering into case after case.  I couldn't find any bakelite and I was like, "Forget it. I will wait until I go back to DC so I can just look on Etsy."  Then, like an angel, one of the amazing staff members appeared and she kindly and promptly took me over to this glorious case of color-blinding bakelite.  It was like I found my shrine. I ended up buying three pieces that day:
3. If you find funky wares, have fun!  Part of the allure of the antique mall is all the funny and wild stuff for sale.  I have seen nude male paintings, Leather Ken Barbie dolls, velour hats ala Dr. Seuss (see above), and tacky holiday sweaters.  Sure, you may encounter a beige,  1980s Members Only Jacket or a pair of cracked, unwearable shoes but just keep looking.

4. Be patient.  This is very important.  When it comes to antiquing, do not rush.  Get lunch before you go and make an afternoon out of it.  Enjoy the day browsing and taking it all in.  I was once at a flea market and I found a basket of various plastic and wood bangles.  Each bangle was listed as 6 dollars.  I almost passed it by because there were so many bracelets jammed in that basket.  But I decided to patiently sort through the bangles and lo and behold, I found an orange prystal bakelite spacer.  I quickly (and sneakily) did a friction test and yes, it was the real deal.  I nearly missed out on scoring bakelite for 6 bucks.  See? PATIENCE.

5. Ask about that price tag.  Sometimes you may find something you have been looking for but the price is insane.  I once saw a simple red bakelite bangle listed for $110.  It was about 1/2 thick, smooth, and had no special carvings.  Yep. Way too high for a bangle like that.  I kept on going.  If your gut is telling you a price is too high, go on instinct.  Do not buy if you think you can get a better deal somewhere else.  Remember, patience.  If you wait and stick to your budget, you will find your treasure.  However, you may encounter a situation where the staff is willing to negotiate a better deal or try to get you 10-20% off.  They will offer to call the vendor and ask for a lower price.  This is especially true if the item in question has been on display a long time and thus, hasn't sold. 

So, those are my tips for surviving the antique mall!  What are your methods?

Monday, October 20, 2014

For the Love of Accessories (Rediscovering and Outfitting the Rockabilly Gal!)

As I was getting ready for work this morning, I realized that it has been 8 years since I have been wearing vintage and/or a rockabilly style every day.  In 2005, I lost 33 pounds and as a result, I had a 'clean slate' to revamp my wardrobe and update my look.  After a nearly year of wavering between Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Gap, and Banana Republic, I decided to return to my 'vintage roots.'  In junior high school, I fell in love with vintage clothes and 50s rock and roll.  By my 11th grade year, I began incorporating 1950s cardigans, pencil skirts, and seamed stockings into my daily look.  I got odd looks from my mall-clad classmates but I didn't care.  I felt and looked amazing.

As college came and went, I wore vintage less and less.  My beloved vintage treasures were put in a donation box and replaced by Gap denim overalls and striped turtlenecks (sorry, it was the early/mid 90s).  By the time I was 30, I was carrying a Louis Vuitton "Alma" monogram bag, donning Prada sunglasses, and 'strutting my stuff' in my Citizens of Humanity jeans.  What happened to the vintage girl?  She was lost in a sea of Neiman Marcus receipts and Burberry scarves.  The girl who once pined for saddle shoes, platform heels, chiffon scarves, and boiled wool cardigans traded her style in for couture accessories, Chanel lipstick, and Gucci G's.

When I lost my weight, I discovered my vintage soul and I "cleaned house."  I sold most of my designer wares on eBay and made a nice 'chunk of change.'  My ski trip in 2007 was partially funded thanks to the sales.  My fancy clothes were donated and I was left with an empty closet and a wish list that contained beaded cardigans, bakelite, Re-Mix wedges, Polly heels, snoods, vintage denim, wool pencil skirts, lucite bags, Hawaiian dresses, house coats, and girdles.

Over these eight years, I have started collecting various "must-have" clothing and accessories that can truly give a vintage look to even the simplest, modern made pieces.  For example, a simple black tee from Target and a pair of  Levis 501s (cuffed) will come to life with a Pendleton 49er jacket, black engineer boots, and a studded belt.  You can also get a cropped, black leather (or pleather) motorcycle jacket, throw on the same black tee and complete the look with a leopard hair scarf and skinny jeans or pencil skirt.

Here are a few of my favorite, must-have rockabilly gal essentials:
1. Warpath Leather Goods! Matt Strickland's belts just incredible and he is super nice! I have this one in tan and another in black.
2. A good-fitting motorcycle jacket that sits above or just at the waist line. This one is by Michael Kors:
3. Trophy Queen Bags! I just got my first Trophy Queen and I LOVE it! I carry all of my daily and work essentials in this bag and not only it is cute, it is well made and sturdy!
4. 49er jackets. They are warm and made any jean outfit look instantly vintage!
5. Engineer boots! (See photo above). These are by Frye and I bought them last September. They took a while to break in but they feel like butter (sorry, "buttah") now! I wear mine with skinny jeans, cuffed jeans, and some skirts in the dead of winter.

So, what are your vintage style accessory musts?

My, What a Long Time It Has Been (A return to the blogging world)

It has been eight months since I have been active on my blog. Wow.  I have never been away this long.  I admit a part of me feels weird (and a bit guilty) writing something not work-related.  I am a technical writer so 'writing' should come easy.  The words should be flowing but my thoughts, addled with awkwardness, are undermining me.  No,Tara, staring at the screen with your nervous fingers hovering over the keyboard is not going to prove fruitful.  Like a chilly pool on a hot summer day, I cannot slowly ease my way into the water one step at a time.  I have to jump in and get it over with quickly.  Here I am, jumping back in the world of blogging without hesitation (albeit with some reservations).

In the months previous, I had my birthday, went to Viva Las Vegas 17, visited my husband's family in Pennsylvania, traveled to South Florida, got a new tattoo, became one of 'those people' with a FitBit, rediscovered my love of running, visited with my parents (many times), bought some vintage goodies for myself and my home, worked, got a promotion (even though my pay grade is still the same), and began the process of removing my two+ years of black hair color.  I want to go back to my red hair but it is going to be a while before I reach 'color nirvana.'

Viva 17 (the 5th to the 8th of April) was probably my favorite year so far.  Not only did I have three Whirling Turban dresses in my wardrobe, I had an amazing time hanging out with friends, enjoying Las Vegas, dining, dancing, shopping, staying up way too late, and single-handedly helping to increase the stock value of Belvedere Vodka.  Some Viva-goers drink PBR, some enjoy Sailor Jerry Rum, but this girl loves her vodka and tonics.  Yes, indeed.  Pass the lime wedge, please.

Viva came and went (always too quickly it seems) and before I could say "Shaheen," summer was upon us.  Despite the fact the calendar read "June, July, August," the weather in the DC area was a far cry from the iron grip of humidity and stagnant heat that cripples the traffic-clogged, surburban metropolis.  Instead of  summer in DC, the cooler-than-average temperatures made it feel like a 'weekend in Maine.'  I felt cheated while my co-workers and neighbors celebrated a break from the heat.  Luckily, I got my 'heat fix' in August when I visited Boca Raton to spend time with my husband's family.

Before I went to Boca, I got a new tattoo from my amazing artist, Liaa Walter of Cirque du Rouge Tattoo in Washington, DC.  As of this month, Liaa has been my one-and-only artist for two years!  Liaa is not only talented, she is kind, sweet, intelligent, and wonderful to talk to when my skin is getting jabbed. Here is my new piece:

This is a maneki-neko to celebrate the love of my father and to honor him.  My father, who is about to turn 75, has Alzheimer's disease.  This month will mark three years since his official diagnosis.  Daddy has good and bad days along with moments that can be very unsettling.  I try to visit my parents often and I have learned in these last few years to just be there and love each moment.   I cannot fight this process.  I am powerless to stop the progression of Daddy's mental decline.  However, I can keep up my visits, help out whenever I can, call Mom and Daddy everyday, and know that each day Daddy is with us as a gift.

Here is me and Daddy a couple of weeks ago:
Daddy was having a good day.  He was happy, smiling, and we were having a beer after a long walk.  Let me tell you, moments like this make me so filled with joy.  I want to cry but I must find the joy right now.  I have to. I need to.

In addition to traveling, getting a tattoo, family time, and work; I have decided to go from black hair:
To a red shade:

In early September, I started the process to remove over two year's worth of black, 1evel 1B, hair color.  I enjoyed my dark hair but it is time for something new.  Since I was born a redhead (even though most of the golden red tones have naturally faded), my new color is easier to maintain because I will be able to go six weeks between salon touch-ups instead of four.  My next appointment will be in two weeks (last one was on the 19th of September).  I am excited to see how my hair will turn out!

I am all caught up and I got my 'blogging legs' back.  You know what?  It feels good to be back.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hair Did Done! (How I do my sets!)

In the four years I have been setting my hair (before it was air-dry or blow dry then flat-ironed), I have tried several methods i.e. foam rollers, ceramic curling iron, pin curls (disaster), flocked velvet steam rollers (eugh), hot sticks, and hot rollers.  After much experimenting, I have come to discover that hot rollers are the best way for me to set my hair and have it last for three days.  My  hair is naturally very fine and my scalp is very oily so despite my best efforts, I simply cannot make my set last longer.  Things just get limp and icky.

Nevertheless, this is how I set my hair:

I wash with Pureology Hydrate Shampoo and condition with Pureology Hydrate Conditioner.

After towel-drying, I use a blend of Surface Bassu Oil Gold and Surface Trinity Protein Cream on my ends and my blond highlight section. Then I apply a quarter-size dollop of Ouidad Moisturizing Curl Gel to my hair. I comb through, section my bangs, apply my Rogaine, and then let things air-dry while I do my makeup.

After the face is done, I roll my bang section in grippy rollers, spray them with Layrite Grooming Spray, and then I finish drying overall with my hair dryer. I concentrate my dryer on my bang section to set the curl. The Layrite Grooming Spray is activated with heat. 

While I am blow-drying my hair to ensure it is totally dry before setting*, I plug in my Remington Tight Curls hot rollers. There are 21 in a set but I wish there were 24. Anyway, once I have achieved completely dry hair, I roll my hair in sections with the hot rollers. I spray a tiny spritz of Layrite on the very ends of my hair and roll up. Finally, I secure the curl with a clip (from a 12 pack from Sally. I bought two). The U clips that came with the rollers were crap. My fine hair would just unroll and the roller itself would fall out onto the floor.

Here I am with my natural hair texture. Can we say 'fuzz ball?!' My bangs are set with the grippy rollers and I am about to set the rest of my hair:


I leave my rollers in for about 30 minutes. While my hair is cooling, I make the bed, do laundry, feed the cat, read CNN online, make lunch for work, and then get dressed.

Then, I unroll my curls, remove the grippy rollers, and I finger style my hair with a touch of Layrite Original Pomade. On my bang section, I use the husband's heavier type of Layrite Pomade (the darker colored jar). I shape my bangs, roll, and pin.  Then I spray curls into their final shape with Aussie Instant Freeze Hairspray.

When I go to bed at night, I simply wrap a chiffon scarf around my set. The next day, I apply a light amount of TiGi Catwalk Dry Session Series Dry Shampoo to fluff curl and give it a refreshed look and feel. I re-pin my front roll and I may use hair combs. On the last day of my set, I will re-apply the dry shampoo spray and put my hair into a ponytail.

I like to set my hair because not only does it give me the vintage style I want, I look like I have more hair! Let me tell you, my hair is so thin and fine. I have had stylists in the past give me a blow-out and then flat-iron (standard for modern salons), and I hate it!!!! Sure, my hair looks silky but it also showcases how little hair I have. I feel so bald! Oh what I would do for more hair.

Anyway, all pouting aside, I love to set my hair because I can make my style last longer, I wash my delicate hair less, my hair is vintage-looking, and I look like I actually have a good head of hair! Curl = volume!

So, what is your "tried and true" hair routine?

*Please, take it from me, never EVER use any type of direct heat from rollers, curling irons, flat irons, etc on damp hair! Even slightly damp hair will be damaged. Doing so causes your hair to be boiled and your cuticle destroyed.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Dreaded "F" Word - Fakelite!

In the last 4 years I have been collecting Bakelite, I been duped a couple of times with "fakelite" posing as Bakelite. One of those purchases took place in an antique mall in South Florida.  I bought a heavy, smooth rootbeer bangle that was listed and priced as Bakelite but it was in fact, fake. I was just starting to collect and still unaware of how to properly tell if a piece was real or not.

What is Fakelite? Fakelite is imitation Bakelite that can have the same look, weight, feel, detailing, colors, marbling, and carving style as real, authentic Bakelite pieces. I have heard from others that a few fakelite pieces can even smell like Bakelite!

I wanted to add pictures showing examples of fakelite but I do not want to get in trouble. Most of the Fakelite I encounter has been found on Etsy and eBay and if I post someone's listing pictures, I may find myself in hot water.

So here are some pictures of REAL Bakelite from my collection to familiarize yourself:

Notice the carvings are basic, not super crazy detailed? See the marbling on the end-of-day pieces? See the colors?

Sadly, I have been finding A LOT of fakelite on Etsy recently.  The fakelite typically in question is usually a bangle with overly ornate carvings and the colors are too marbled.  The bangles are too thick, way too heavy, and the colors are odd. A while back, I saw a bangle that went from red, yellow to green! So fake! What really tips me off when a bangle is fake is the type of carving. I have seen carved dolphins with big bubbles and sea life!

Real Bakelite usually has more simple carvings. You may find real pieces with cut-outs, rhinestones, round grooves that encircle an entire bangle (like a record), leaves, rose petals, etc. But dolphins? FAKE!!!

What burns my biscuits about fakelite is that some sellers will claim a piece passed all the tests (friction, 409, hot water, simichrome, etc) and they will charge Bakelite prices. However, if a piece is listed as 'fakelite' and the price reflects that, then great! I may even buy it if it's cute! But when fakelite is passed off as actual Bakelite, that is wrong!

I recently found a few links for helping distinguish fakelite from Bakelite:



And here is a fabulous post from 2012 by amazing vintage blogger, Brittany, of Va-Voom Vintage:


I wrote this post in the hopes of helping others who may be in the infant stages of starting their own Bakelite collections.  If I can give just one bit of advice, I would suggest looking for Bakelite in person especially before venturing online to buy. Many antique malls, antique stores, car boot sales, charity shops, and swap meets will have a few bits of authentic Bakelite for sale. Familiarize yourself with the colors, the smell (do a friction test with your fingers and then smell your fingers), the weight, the sound (Bakelite should have a heavy clunk not a light "tink tink"), marbling, and the carvings. Also, the inside of a real bangle or the back of earrings, brooches, etc will be seamless. There will be no pour marks or branding.  The surface may have a patina or age spots. Learn the proper characteristics so when you shop online or visit the antique mall, you will have a better determination of what to buy and what to avoid.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Shaheen Dreams

What is about Shaheen dresses that make my heart sing? It is the lush fabric, the figure-flattering designs, or the vast variety of brightly colored, mid-century, tropical prints? It is all of those things and more! I recently purchased my first two Whirling Turban dresses and I simply adore them! They are worth every pretty penny! I know I will enjoy them for many years. The quality and attention to detail are bar none.

Even though one of my 'vintage must haves' on my list has been fulfilled, I am still lusting for my very own Alfred Shaheen creation. Every time I see one in person at Viva or online on Esty or eBay, I heavily sigh with unrequited want and desire. Whenever I spot a girl Viva in her Shaheen and part of me wants to run over to her and ask, "where did you get your dress?! How much?!"  But, I would feel weird about doing so. I mean, how rude would that be!

First and foremost, Shaheen's designs are expensive.  I often see prices on Etsy range from $190 to $500. I have also seen items listed for $900 or more.  I have been fortunate to find dresses in my size (36-27-38) but not in my price range or not in good condition. I sometimes stumble upon a great deal in lovely condition but it is usually too small. Either I need to lose weight or keep looking! Since I refuse to give up my addictions to Starbucks latte and dark chocolate infused with sea salt caramel, I need to keep looking.

I think the phrase, "all good things come to those who wait" is going to be my mantra in my search.  I just need to be patient.

In the mean time, I have this gorgeous website to inspire me and whet my appetite:



So, do you have any Shaheens? How many? What era is your favorite? 50s? 60s? 70s? Where is a good place to buy/search?

The Latest Round of Body Art

Back in late October, I visited my tattoo artist, Liaa Walter of Cirque Du Rouge, for new tattoos and touch-ups.  As soon as I completed payment at the end of our session, I made an appointment for early January for more-touch ups and additions to current pieces.  (Liaa currently has a 3 month wait).


In October, Liaa was going to add snowflakes to the cherry tree on my back but she wanted to plan them out as stencils instead of drawing them directly on my skin.

My January 10th appointment involved a lot of additions, touch-ups, and of course the snowflakes. Normally, I just have one area done at a time. However, this visit we did multiple sections.  Let me tell you, sleeping for the first few days afterwards was very difficult!

Nevertheless, at the end of our session (2.5 hours), everything was done and looked amazing!

Here are the photos!

Liaa touched up the yellow in the center of my Colorado Columbine and intensified the lavender tones in the white section.

Here are the new snowflakes. Liaa also added the small, pale blue dots throughout.

On my left arm, a cherry blossom was added on the end (closer to where my arm bends).  More small blue dots were placed and some of the blooms were intensified with color.

This blue purple lotus was added to my lower right arm. It is just stunning! The colors are incredible!

Of all the work I had done that day, the red-pink cherry blossom touch-ups on my upper back hurt the most.  I thought my lower right arm (near my elbow) would be more painful but alas, it was my upper back.  I asked Liaa why the same areas she tattooed in October seemed easier to tolerate the first time around and she said, "I think the body remembers. And we just did those areas recently."

Further, during my aftercare, I noticed the lower areas on my arms seemed to heal slower.  I asked a good friend of mine (who happens to have an impressive body of work) and she said those spots were slower to heal on her as well. Maybe the closer to the elbow is more sensitive?

When it comes to getting new pieces, I think I am done for a while. However, I do want the rosy paintbrush flower on my lower left leg/ankle touched up. The colors are light pink and I would like them to be more of a vivid magenta, like the real flowers.

In the end, I am loving my body art more and more!