Sunday, September 4, 2011

NY skyline skirt detail

NY skyline skirt detail, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

I just had to add a detail pic of today's find. Check out the Chrysler Building at top left!

NY skyline skirt

NY skyline skirt, originally uploaded by retrogemkitty7.

I can be a snob about antique/vintage reproductions. Many are dumbed-down in design & quality, usually with the excuse that they've been "updated", but it always looks to me as if the manufacturer just didn't want to put in the effort to make a good copy of the older item. When J & I stopped in our favorite antiques mall this afternoon, I found this skirt on a rack & gasped. I was sure it was "the real deal" - from the 50's - but in amazing condition. Was it dead stock? I looked inside the waistband for a tag & nearly fell over when I saw a label that read "twenty one". Yes, as in Forever Twenty-One, the mall store. I've found some cute things in there over the years, including an embroidered satin cocktail dress that some of my friends still insist is D&G, but this is the best retro-repro piece I've seen them produce. Even if this isn't a copy of an older garment, it's brilliant IMO; nothing ersatz about it. The fabric is nice, the colors & pattern are true to the era it's trying to evoke, & it's got enough of a sweep that I can definitely wear a crinoline under it. I have no idea when this skirt was in stores & our clothing dealer friends weren't in their booth today, so if you're after it for yourself, my advice would be to check F21's website & then eBay. Snagged this baby for $18 - a steal, even though it's several inches too large in the waist. I know a very good alterations lady, but I may have to belt this baby & wear her once before surrendering her to needle & thread.

Jet parure, probably mourning jewelry, circa 1860

More fabulously unaffordable goodies from last weekend's antiques show. This is probably the nicest complete parure of jet jewelry that I've ever seen. If I'd had $4500 to spare, it would have come home with me, but alas, we had to give it back to the dealer after he was kind enough to let me take a pic. J loves this sort of set, too, as much for the case (original & bearing the name of the Regent Street shop at which it was originally purchased) as for the contents. Every single piece in this group was in amazing condition, no mean feat given its age & the fact that many women wore mourning clothes & accessories for four years or more after the death of a spouse or child.

The aesthetic beauty of antiques is only part of their appeal, at least for me. I'm not interested in collecting for reasons of status, either. I love the social & cultural significance behind the objects, even when, as here, they were most likely purchased during less-than-happy times. I wonder how I would have dealt with wearing mourning? The nonconformist in me would have been appalled at being expected to wear only certain styles & colors due to societal expectations lest I be accused of not grieving sufficiently or having loose morals. Both men & women wore mourning attire during the Victorian era, but standards were stricter for women. The feminist in me bristles at that, as at many things, but I must admit I'm glad beautiful objects like these were created & that some have survived for us look at & ponder.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A diva can dream, can't she?

Last week was pretty weird. First we had an earthquake, then the entire eastern seaboard anxiously awaited the arrival of Hurricane Irene. I'm pleased to say J & I only lost power for about 30 minutes, & overnight at that. Many of our friends & colleagues weren't so lucky. Our sun porch roof also leaked a bit. but it's been known to do that in far smaller storms.

In the midst of Mother Nature's drama, I paid 3 visits to the Baltimore Summer Antiques Fair. I saw lots of friends, including some European dealers I only get to chat with once a year, & of course I had a chance to ogle all sorts of fabulous old stuff. At this point, our house is pretty well-stocked with furniture, china, glassware, etc, although you'll never catch me admitting that around J ("But we don't have *green* wineglasses yet, honey!") I'm still on a budget, too. So, the show was primarily a social event/learning opportunity for me, as it has been in some years past. I've been attending this temptation-packed show for over 15 years & have learned to set my budget before leaving the house. If there's nothing truly amazing in my price range, I leave empty-handed.

Enough maturity, sense, & good financial judgment for now. Time for a trip to Fantasyland. In this pic, I am wearing the most amazing necklace I have ever seen. I often go for elaborate designs - think Moderne pieces from the 1940's or delicate-but-not-cutesy Deco filigree - but here is photographic proof that simplicity need not be bland. Not if you have big enough rocks, anyway. I can't even remember the total carat weight, but yes, those are diamonds - big ones - all the way around my neck. They're set in gold topped with sterling silver, which was common practice before white gold & platinum came into use. The necklace dates from the Victorian era & I would love to know who has owned it over the years. It's obviously been lovingly cared for, & who wouldn't treat such a spectacular piece like the work of art it is? I hung out at this booth for a long, long time - two days in a row - just so I could enjoy the sensation of having all this gorgeousness around my neck. Okay, the fact that the dealer was hot & all of his merchandise was spectacular didn't hurt, either. I think he actually believed that J & I were going to buy this fabulous bit of bling, which is too hilarious for words given its price tag: $130,000, a/k/a more than we currently owe on our house. Yes, you read that correctly. Most reluctantly, we gave the necklace back to the jeweler.

I know there are people who love to moralize about expensive wearables, especially the kind that sparkle. "There are people starving", "No one NEEDS that sort of thing", blah blah blah. That's very true, but do most of us *need* our of-the-moment tech gadgets, super-duper coffee makers, pricey jeans, or "good" bags? Of course not. We buy them because we like them. If J & I had the wherewithal, this necklace would have been mine in a second. We don't. We never will. We're both perfectly okay with that. There's more to life than obsessing over material things you'll never be able to own. Cool stuff enhances life - a lot! - but it won't make up for being in a career you hate or a soul-crushing relationship just to have a certain amount of purchasing power. Leave that to the Joneses & enjoy your life.