Monday, January 27, 2014

A Look Inside My Studio: Behind the Scenes at Chronologie Vintage

It’s always fun to see how other people work, especially when that work is creative or artistic.  Looking behind the scenes at someone else’s workspace offers ideas and inspiration to borrow. It also lets us be peeping Toms in a way that’s not creepy or weird.  And that’s always a good thing.

In that spirit, today I’m going to show you the studio where I do most of the work for my vintage clothes shop. This is where I mend and sometimes alter pieces before taking photos of them. 

I’m lucky enough to work in a fun, funky studio in an old downtown hotel.  Well, actually it used to be a brothel, so I am continuing the tradition of woman-owned businesses here. Or something like that. 

In any case, here’s what my studio looks like: 

studio 005studio 003

This is on a clean day—in fact, the day I moved in. It’s looking a little more like this most days, now. 

cute indie clothes december 2011 036

The east wall of my studio is a clean white backdrop for my photo shoots.  The artist who used the space before me left quite a few nail holes in this wall, but mostly they don’t show up. Someday when business slows down and I find myself twiddling my thumbs, I might paint it. But so far, that hasn’t happened. 

Photos are a huge part of making an online business work. I’m not a photographer, and my first photos were awful. One reason is that light in my studio is pretty scarce. The windows face north, and the light that does come in is kind of cold and blue—you can see this in all the photos above.

These days I use extra “daylight” lights and they help immensely. I keep working to improve my photography, and I think it’s a lot better than it was at first.

When I first started selling on Etsy, I went to our local mall and got a free display mannequin from the Eddie Bauer store. That’s it below. It was good for starting out in my business, especially since it was free.  

Studio shots November 2010 110may 5 053

The manni had some issues, though. It’s made of paper mache and looks like a reptile in close-ups (maybe that’s why it was free). 

Also, it’s super small and regular-size items look weird on it.  Third, it’s made for shirts—and I sell a lot of dresses.

I really struggled with how to show dresses on this manni. In the days before I got my studio, I tried to do dress photos as my house. What do you think—is hanging it from a plant hook in my living room (photo on the right) a good option? I don’t think so, either.

Finally, about a year after I opened my shop, my kind mother bought me two new mannequins. One is female and one is male.

Studio shots November 2010 105

Because my mom bought them for me, she got to name then—she chose Archie and Edith.  Archie and Edith are wonderful. They’re easier to use than the first one and I think they look more professional. Here are some examples of how they look in clothes.

Dancing Queen 70s Chiffon Party or Day Dress / Orange Peach / Secretary Fitted LMen's Western Shirt with Pearl Snaps / Rockabilly Striped Cowboy Shirt

Finally, I started taking pictures with models in addition to using my mannequins. These models are my daughter and her friends. I’ve learned two key tips for working with these teens:  have snacks and beverages around, and expect them to be silly. 


One of the things I love most about having my own small business is how much I learn every day. It’s so rewarding to face problems and figure out solutions that work.  

Thanks for joining me on this little journey into my work space and process.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Winter 2014 Fashion Trend: The Big Coat

the big coat

As a vintage clothes seller (and girl who loves to be cozy), I’m thrilled that one of this winter’s top runway trends is the big coat.

Seriously. As a I write from my kitchen table in western Montana, there’s a howling wind outside and the National Weather Service is warning us about something called a polar vortex that’s descending on about half the country. It’s approximately one degree Fahrenheit outside. So…umm, yeah, I’m into a big, warm coat right about now.

But beyond my personal chill factor, the big coat is a trend that’s totally  suited to vintage shopping.  For one thing, most of the current offerings are retro-inspired or even very close copies of vintage styles. So by shopping vintage, you’re pretty sure to find something that looks on-trend.

Second, you can get an actual vintage big coat for way less than you would be able to buy a new one. Most actual vintage big coats are wool or wool blends, and they tend to be extremely well made.  For a similar piece made brand new today, you’re looking a many hundreds of dollars, if not more.

To show you what I mean, I’ve rounded up some cute, cozy, and affordable vintage big coats. They’re all from vintage shops on Etsy, including my own.

Oversize Coat / 1960s Wool Plaid / Pink Orange / Medium Large INCLUDES SHIPPING

Wool Pastel Plaid Oversize Coat, Size M-L, $79.

Plaid Pendleton Wool Coat Jacket / 60s 70s / Big Collar Beautiful Colors M-L

Plaid Pendleton Wool Big Coat, Size M.  $79

Big Band Mustard Yellow Swing Coat // 1990s I. Magnin Swing Coat

Big Band Mustard Yellow Swing Coat, Size 8, $148.

VINTAGE Wool Swing Coat / L / Purple / Burgundy / Pink Lining / Big Glitter Buttons / Alex Catalano

Vintage Swing Coat, Size L, $132.

I love the colors of these big coats. Where I live, we pretty much have five gray months a year. These crayon-box colors would warm up the spirits as well as the body.

Honestly, I don’t know what’s not to love about these coats.  What about you….are you feeling warm yet?

Monday, January 13, 2014

What is Vintage Clothing, Anyway?

photo: Google’s Life fashion collection.
There’s no denying that vintage clothing is hot today, and shows no sign of losing its appeal. 

But do you know what exactly is considered vintage? If you’re considering stepping into this incredible trend, it will help to know what you’re shopping for.

As a vintage clothes seller and student of the field, I have two rules for what qualifies:

  • Twenty years old
  • Have relevance and value beyond being “old”

Let’s look at these in more depth

If you want real vintage clothes, most sources say they must be at least twenty years old.  There’s some disagreement about this, but it’s a pretty good rule of thumb.

The first thing to remember is that not all clothes sold as vintage (especially online) are actually this old.  Sadly, a lot of people sell their old stuff from last season and call it vintage just because it’s used. Nothing could be more misleading.

Second, even if something is old enough to qualify as vintage, it should have some lasting value beyond its age. More about that below.  

photo: Google’s Life fashion collection.
Used clothing is not the same as vintage. 

In fact, some vintage clothing has never been worn. You could run across a fabulous mini dress from the 1960s with the original tags on it. Modern retailers often use the word “vintage” to describe clothes that are brand new but have retro styling. And on some online shopping venues, people clean out the stuff they bought last year at Forever 21 or Old Navy and sell it as “vintage.” Watch out for these if you want real vintage. 

Most definitions of “vintage clothing” range from 10-30 years. At Etsy, items have to be 20 years old to be considered vintage.  As I said above, this is my rule of thumb. But some vintage sellers who really know their stuff draw the line at about the 1980s.  For example, the Vintage Fashion Guild timeline for vintage fashions stops after the 1970s.

Now, when you get into really old clothing—say, 75 years to 100 years old—they are considered antique.  Again, definitions are not hard and fast but in general, if you find something more than 75 years old, you could safely call it “antique.” 

(For help dating your vintage clothing, visit this page.)

Finally, another confusing term used to sell modern clothes is “retro.”  This usually refers to clothes that are not actually old, but are vintage styles.  Modern manufacturers like ModCloth and eShakti fall into this category—they use words like vintage and retro to describe their items, but they are not true vintage because they are made right this minute. 

photo: Google’s Look fashion collection
Vintage clothing should also have special value beyond its age. 

This is a vague rule, but the idea is that vintage clothing that you buy to wear and use today should be more than just old enough. It should be special.

Think about it. There’s a lot of junk from the past that no one would want to wear today. Think cheap, poorly made stuff that wasn’t very attractive or special even when it was new.
The best vintage sellers will curate collections of well-made, relevant pieces that you can really use and enjoy now. 

They will be high quality and add real value to your style and wardrobe. Their value lies in their special designs, excellent workmanship, beautiful natural fiber fabrics, or other features that make them desirable.
So look for pieces that are old enough and have real relevance and modern value. Oh, and most importantly, look for things you love
That’s vintage!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Review: Vintage Wedding Style--More than 25 Simple Projects and Endless Inspiration for Designing Your Big Day


This post is a review of a beautiful, inspiring new style book for vintage weddings—full of ideas you can use for any party or event.

I’ve been married a while now, but I still adore weddings and beautiful craft books that inspire my creativity.

With the new year, what better time to review this recent wedding style guide: Vintage Wedding Style: More than 25 Simple Projects and Endless Inspiration for Your Big Day. It’s by Elizabeth Demos, and it’s just over a year old.

This author knows her stuff.  She runs a design studio in Savannah and, before that, owned a successful home furniture shop.

Living and working in historic Savannah would have to make a person develop an eye for beautiful vintage things! Elizabeth has contributed to Country Living, Country Home, Southern Living, Southern Living Weddings, Better Homes & Gardens, and Flea Market Style.

Okay…so on to the book.  If you like beautiful photography, this one will give you plenty of eye candy.  It’s organized around twelve fresh, vintage-y themes like “Airstream Elopement,” “Schoolhouse Rock,” “Industrial Revival,” “Flea Market Charm,” and “Vintage Glam.”

Just those names get my creative juices flowing….

The book features stories of actual weddings that the author styled around each theme.

In addition to the gorgeous photos, Elizabeth shares lots of how-to guides for DIY projects you can adapt yourself for each theme (examples:  paper-covered boxes and vintage fabric napkin rings). 

These projects are easily customizable. You could easily adapt them for birthday celebrations, dinner parties, anniversaries, or any special occasion using your own color schemes and favorite materials. 

What I especially like is that the instructions are thorough. Elizabeth includes tips like all the supplies you’ll need and how long before your wedding you should start the project.  This kind of detail is really helpful, especially for brides with tons of things on their mind.

Vintage Wedding Style isn’t a complete guide to planning  a vintage wedding. You should not expect it to cover everything you need to plan your special day. But if it’s visual and creative inspiration you’re after—even if you’re not getting married—I think you’ll like this book. 



Monday, January 6, 2014

How to Wear Vintage Clothing in 2014: Fresh Advice from the Pros

about page main photo smaller file

Ready to make your mark on 2014 with beautiful vintage fashion? Yay…me too!

Let’s start the year off right with some recent advice and ideas about how to make vintage clothing work in your current wardrobe.


I really like this article from The Guardian UK. Among other ideas in it, a vintage dealer says wearing vintage well depends on making it look modern. 

This seems obvious, but I don’t think it is to a lot of us. It means that we should be careful about dressing in head-to-toe vintage, especially if we’re older than about age 20.  Too much is too much, and can look costume-y. But a gorgeous, well-made vintage piece can look almost like a work of art if it’s the focal point of an outfit, and surrounded by more contemporary elements.


Next, take a look at this entertaining post from Bustle Magazine. You know, as much as I love vintage clothing, I’ve never thought of it as strictly practical. But Maria Southard Ospina, the author, makes a great case for why dressing in vintage is easy, fast, and practical for right now.

Why is this? First, vintage fashion is all about dresses—after all, this is what our mothers and grandmothers wore almost every day.  And what’s a dress? It’s one piece of clothing, that doesn’t need any thought to put on. You just throw it over your head or step into it, add shoes, and you’re ready.


Marie also claims vintage-style makeup is a practical idea for the modern woman.

Really? Well, it makes sense if you think about it. Red lipstick and cat-eye eyeliner are a combination that’s fast, pretty, and flattering on just about everyone.  Another great point…I’m going to try it! 


Finally, I really enjoyed this post about an upcoming book by Dawn O’Porter about the magic of vintage clothes. 

Clothes that others have owned and worn come with stories, and this makes them more meaningful and rich in experience than something brand new—especially when that new thing come from a “fast-fashion” outlet like Forever 21 or H & M.

If you love vintage clothing, you already know that vintage tends to be much better made than a lot of what we find today. There are gorgeous, natural fabrics you just can’t find anymore, as well as tailoring and design details that are almost impossible to find in modern mass-produced clothing. That’s because modern manufacturers just can’t afford to create that kind of garment and make money.

It’s not that I have anything against “fast fashion” per se—I go to that kind of shop for certain things—but for women who really attach personal value to their dressing (and who can’t afford couture), it’s hard to beat vintage. 

As the author of this article points out, vintage clothes have an aura, mystery, and depth of meaning about them that comes with their personal stories.  It doesn’t matter that we don’t actually know what the story is—we know that these pieces have them.  They are clothes “with a past,” and we can make their stories our own.

In our increasingly fast-paced world, full of “instant this” and “disposable that,” I find it comforting to wear clothing that’s neither instant nor disposable.


Since it’s still winter, let’s end our list of ideas for 2014 with a peek at this winter’s big coat trend. This article from Fashion Insider has the full scoop on the history of the look and how we can enjoy it in 2014.  I’m all about a big, warm coat…how about you?

Okay, I think we’re ready to knock ‘em dead in vintage for the New Year. Let’s get going!