Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Junk Love: Caped Crusader

Our shop
We recently acquired a huge haul of vintage clothing, and among the group was a fabulous 1970s cape, which I immediately had to try on (sadly, it didn't fit right, and gave me T. rex arms). It instantly brought back memories of my childhood, when I was given my mother's hand-me-down capes from the 1960s to wear to church. I loved them, especially a wool plaid one with metal buttons. Not only did it make me feel elegant, like a 1950s movie star, but you can do all sorts of things with your hands under the cape, like tear the church program into tiny bits of confetti, and nobody can see your shenanigans.

When I wore that colorblocked cape in the driveway, it suddenly made me want to add a cape to my legendary coat collection. The universe listened, and a few weeks ago, I came across a 1940s wool nurse's cape, navy with red lining and a monogram on the left arm, for an outstanding price. Here is a similar one for sale on Etsy:
Buy it here

And even though I got my own cape, I haven't been able to stop thinking about them. There is nothing like putting on a pair of bracelet length gloves, a vintage cape, and sunglasses, to make a girl feel like Hollywood from head to toe. So, here are some of the greats that Etsy has to offer right now. Who knows, maybe some of these will come to live with me, like this super groovy 1970s number:

Or, if it's got to be plaid....




Or fluffy!

Or just plain cool....


But here is my favorite. Sequins and cashmere, anyone? And, maybe a date with Rock Hudson?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Bonus -- A Cabin Christmas

As previously discussed, the Christmas windows are never usually our favorites.  Mainly because we have parameters that are set by someone other than ourselves.  We're not divas -- we promise.  It's just that we like to challenge ourselves to approach each window differently, and make every one special in its own way.  But with the Christmas window, we know that the tree goes there, there must be presents under it, and it needs to look "rich and full".  (Don't ask.)  But it also needs to feel a certain bit of tradition, coziness, and usually, a fair amount of sparkle.

Well, we skipped the sparkle this year.

This year we decided to do a New England cabin/camping/fishing theme, based on our love of Rock Hudson's movie, Man's Favorite Sport?.  Made in 1964, Rock is a published fishing expert who actually doesn't know how to fish.  He works at Abercrombie and Fitch, and when his boss enters him into a fishing tournament, he gets outfitted with all of the coolest gear.  It's a feast for Blackbird eyes between the sets, clothes, and camping gear!

Our other inspiration was my obsession with Hudson Bay blankets.  I wish I could have stacks and stacks of them.  I recently found a red Pendleton one at an antique shop, and I thought the other Blackbird was going to have to drag me out of the store.  I wanted that blanket to live with me -- and since I couldn't afford it, I almost decided to just stay there and live with it.  It was a red Hudson Bay blanket, people!  And made by Pendleton!

Anyway, we used the stripes and the colors as a jumping off point for the rest of the window.  We found a great wrapping paper with trees that made for an interesting background, but wasn't overpowering.  We had the brilliant idea to make our own ornaments -- it's expensive to buy new ornaments every year, but it's very limiting to use the same ones over and over.  So we went to a thrift shop, bought some ugly 1980s glass balls, and spray painted them in green and cream.  We then painted the cream ones with Hudson Bay stripes.  The tree needed a garland, so we made a traditional paper chain, but updated it by using brown craft paper cardstock, and making the loops a little skinny and more delicate.  We made wooden plaques with animal figures cut out of scrapbook paper, and little wooden house cutouts got painted with houndstooth and plaid patterns.  We raided the fishing section at a discount store, and got all kinds of brightly colored lures and spinners.

We created the artwork on the fireplace mantel with a spare canvas we had at the house, found at a thrift shop for $1 and stashed away for something like this.  Several layers of cream paint went down first, and then we taped off stripes and painted them the Hudson Bay colors.  We needed a few more decorations, so we made a wooden plaque with a deer cutout in bright scrapbook paper, a string art monogram, and a lovely scrapbook paper covered wreath with handmade paper feathers.

The presents under the tree were themed as well.  We included fishing gear, toy boats, a tiny folding sling chair with a teddy bear, a vintage plaid flannel shirt, flashlights, and a sled.

We had been stashing away cabin merchandise because we knew we wanted to do a cabin window.  And we love the way it turned out.  Rock Hudson would be proud!

As a final note, we also decided to make our window charitable for the holiday season.  Collector's Antique Mall is hosting a food drive, and we've donated 50 handmade ornaments that coordinate with the window.  While supplies last, for every 5 cans of food you donate, you can pick out one of our ornaments to take home with you.  It starts today, November 29, 2013.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

On the Radar -- Botanica Mania

Traditional botanical illustrations are a classic.  And we can appreciate a classic.  However...what we really love is when classic becomes modern, especially by presenting the classics in a new or unexpected way.  The Blackbird girls love fun design, and the best new take on classic botanicals is to make it fun, whether by color, context, or through surprise.

The first example we fell in love with is some of the newer pieces from our favorite potter, Leanne Pizio.  We talked about her sgraffito pottery in this Junk Love post.  We don't own a piece like this -- yet -- but don't worry, we will. We love the color, and we also dig the playfulness of the hand carving -- it's not traditional, by any means.  It feels modern.

The we started seeing vintage botanical pull down charts in Country Living and Martha Stewart.  We love pull down charts, but we're more fans of the map and medical variety.  Educational tools as art is always modern, and we had never really though of charts with flora --

from The Impatient Gardener, here.
From Bonnie and Bell on Etsy, here.

They are dynamic, but pull down charts are expensive.  You can get the same feel with a vintage or reproduction print.  This example has great colors, and it's under $10!  Plus, I also liked how this print was displayed on a vintage clipboard -- it's quirky, and you could easily change it out with the seasons or with your mood.  Imagine a whole line of them along your wall:

From BonnBonn on Etsy, here.

This is more traditional, but I think the large scale and bright colors of this one makes it fresh:

From here.

And what about using color photocopies of prints as wallpaper?  This is stunning!

And if you want to wear your botanical print, check out these vintage goodies:

From Crush Vintage on Etsy, here.
From wildfellhallvintage on Etsy, here.

Or carry a 1970s botanical needlepoint handbag, available from our shop, here!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Turkey Time

I once showed up to a Thanksgiving costume party dressed as an Indian. I was the only one sporting braided pigtails and beads in a sea of starched black and white. I'm pretty sure we used this pattern:

When my fully pilgrim-ized second grade teacher asked me why I didn't dress like a pilgrim as she had requested, I rolled my eyes and said "How else will the pilgrims get corn for Thanksgiving if there aren't any Indians?" [I have a thing about corn.] How could somebody persecute an Indian at a Thanksgiving party? (Ha.) So for the majority of my childhood, I had a sort of anti-pilgrim thing. But really, how can you hate on pilgrims that look like this, especially when they have a Native American pal with really cool pants?
Gurley candles, Etsy

At Thanksgiving, I have always loved turkeys the most, though. Nothing excited me more in elementary school than painting my hand, pressing it firmly on thick construction paper, and making the world's cutest turkey out of it. Or cutting bright construction paper feathers and gluing them to a vaguely bird-shaped blob provided by my teacher. As an adult, I like cowboy turkeys:

 And turkeys in hats:

 And turkeys who tell jokes:

Turkeys and funny violence:


And you know I can't resist turkeys driving a giant ear of corn!

Ahhh! Corn. And turkey! I can smell Thanksgiving already.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Skinny: Remington's Brilliant Plan

We love typewriters, regardless of the manufacturer, but I recently came across a cute story about Remington that made them just a little more special. The machine was invented in the mid-1800s, and Remington, who manufactured guns and sewing machines, was asked to put it into production. The first typewriter was debuted at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where a man named Sam Clemens fell in love with it. It wasn't long before he dropped a chunk of change--$125--for his very own machine, a Remington No.2. By today's standards, that's a $2400 typewriter, and it didn't even have lowercase. (It did, however, have the QWERTY layout that we  know and love today.)

Remington No. 2;

That man, known to most of us as Mark Twain, spent his first blissful weeks with his typewriter writing letters about how much he hated it. And yet he submitted the first-ever typewritten manuscript, Life on the Mississippi, and continued to use (and verbally abuse) his typewriter afterwards. When Remington found out that he owned one of their machines, they asked him to be a spokesperson. He responded with the following letter:

Gentlemen--Please do not use my name in any way. Please do not even divulge the fact that I own a machine. I have entirely stopped using the Typewriter, for the reason that I could never write  a letter with it to anybody without receiving a request by return mail that I would not only describe the machine, but state what progress I had made in the use of it, etc. I don't like to write letters, and so I don't want people to know I own this curiosity-breeding little  joker. Yours truly, Saml. L. Clemens

Mark Twain

Remington turned around and printed the letter in its entirety, effectively allowing Mark Twain to out himself. When people read that the famous author, by his own hesitant admission, owned a typewriter, it was  just as good as any other ad campaign that Remington could have planned. If you knew that the great Mark Twain was clattering away on those keys, wouldn't you want one, too? Of course you would.

And, Remington got him again, decades later, when a portion of his autobiography was released containing the delightful confession that he not only used, but fondly remembered, his Remington typewriter. So, in 1905, they ran this ad:


Even though they later sold the typewriter branch of their business, the new machines still bore their name and are probably being used today by hipster writers in loft apartments across the world. We Blackbird girls just think they're cool to look at. Check out these beauties from NeOld on Etsy:

1930s red Remington

Turquoise cursive Remington
*Information obtained from The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean and

Thursday, November 7, 2013

On the Radar -- A New Vintage

a 70s dress on the left, a 50s circle skirt on the right

In lieu of the traditional trend post today, I wanted to highlight a fab photo shoot I did this week with two of my vintage-loving design students.  They illustrate (perfectly, might I add) how to wear vintage right now.  Both of them are stylish -- I admire the way they put together outfits, and most importantly, they get their style.  They know their aesthetic.  It's a rare thing, and something I tend to preach about sometimes.  You need to know your style before you design anything.  Now, I'm not saying people are limited to just their style.  I just feel that you need to have a solid foundation in what you like and don't like before you start trying to sell a client something.

left, an 80s shirt and 50s suit jacket; right, a 50s blouse and 40s jacket

I was going for an Anthropologie-meets-Etsy type look.  I asked them to bring their staples -- shoes, jeans, or anything else they can't live without from day to day.  Then I let them play with the racks of clothes, choosing what they wanted.  I love that they were fearless with their decade mixing, taking a 1950s Lilli Ann green and turquoise wool swing suit jacket and pairing it with a striped 1980s button up.  Or a 50s Pat McKay lacy blouse under a claret 1940s wool jacket.

left, 80s blouse and 50s jacket; right, a 60s cropped shirt and plaid jacket

They had a great time, and so did I.  I think the pictures turned out amazing! 

1950s Gigi Young dress
1970s dress

Items that are already available in the shop have links attached.  Be on the lookout for the other pieces -- they should be in our Etsy shop within this month!

left, 60s coat and dress; right, 60s dress with late 40s coat

left, 1970s dress; right, late 60s Neiman Marcus maxi dress

left, 60s Mr. Dino dress; right, 60s dress and coat; 60s umbrella