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.