Saturday, March 31, 2007

Today I'm writing about something more personal. My youngest daughter is making her communion in a few weeks. As I waited outside the door at her religious education class the other day I overheard a group of 3 mothers talking about the parties they were having for their children after the service.

One mother was having a DJ, videographer and sit down dinner at a local restaurant. She kept going on and on about "her party." She spoke of the $300 communion gown she purchased for her daughter. Another mother spoke about having "her party" the day after her son's communion so she could combine his communion party with her daughter's baby shower. Still another spoke about the "open bar" and "buffet" for "her party" and reserving "the mansion" at $34.95 a head and she had to have at least 50 people.

I continued to stare at the wall ahead of me waiting for my daughter's class to be dismissed and wishing I could get the heck out of there. Then one of the mother's asked me, "So what are you doing for your daughter?" I turned and said, "I'm making her dress and then we are having dinner at RIMBY's (a local family restaurant)." She looked at me and said, "That's all? You're not doing more?" I said, "No, that's it." A look of horror crossed the 3 mother's faces. The mother then said, "You are not doing enough for your daughter."

My response was, "My daughter is making her communion. That's what the day is about. Not a fancy party, not people drinking all day and not about my party." They looked at me like I had lost my mind.

Later that night I talked to my husband. I asked him if I was crazy for keeping things simple for what is a big step in our daughter's religious life. She is very excited about making her communion. She has been blessing herself with holy water several times a day. She actually understands that it's about receiving the Lord in a miraculous way. She is so happy and serene. My husband said he has no doubts that we are doing things the way they should be done. Our memories of communion are making our communion, having a few simple family pictures taken and spending time with our closest family members at a small intimate family party with people we see all the time.

He said if I was so concerned over if we were doing the right thing to talk to Kiera, our daughter. So I sat her down and asked her if having dinner with our closest family and the restaurant was still okay with her. She said, "I love RIMBY's and we'll have a great time there." I asked her if she still wanted me to make her dress. She said, "I'm glad you're making my dress because you are making it with love."

So out of the mouths of babes I have my answer.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Today we take a walk into the vintage twilight zone. Eighteen months ago I happened upon a 1960s suit made by Elaine Starkman. What attracted me to the suit was the fact that Ms. Starkman had her boutique on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, NY. My dad had grown up in the Italian section of Greenwich village. Here was something from my dad's old neighborhood. I bought the suit and brought it home.

Over the next six months I researched Elaine Starkman. I found out on the internet that Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary fame had worked at Ms. Starkman's boutique in the village. Ms. Starkman also made Mary Traver's wedding dress when she married for the first time. I also turned up information that Ms. Starkman was one of the first art gallery owners in Soho. But there the trail ended.

Fast forward six months. Every so often I would type in the name Elaine Starkman and do a google search. However, this time something turned up. It was an auction for a pair of custom made leather sandals from back in the 1960s. Evidently Ms. Starkman was also known for her beautiful leather work. Several weeks later I again googled Ms. Starkman's name and found an auction of jewelry that Ms. Starkman had made. Slowly I was finding out that Ms. Starkman was quite the artist in many mediums.

The last thing I found out about Ms. Starkman from a friend who told me that Ms. Starkman had moved her business in the mid 1960s out of the village and up to Lexington (between 64th and 65th Streets) in 1966 or so because most of her client base lived in that vicinity. Leather goods were a Starkman specialty.

So two days ago I received an email from a young lady. She said she had seen my listing for my Elaine Starkman suit and wondered if I had anymore information available on Ms. Starkman.

I answered her email and told her that everything I knew was in the listing for the suit and then I asked her what her interest in Ms. Starkman was.

She told me that in the late 70s her grandmother had gone to New York and had an art show at Ms. Starkman's gallery and that to this day they are still friends and live in the same retirement home. Since Ms. Starkman isn't able to talk to her about times past, she was trying to find out more about her grandmother's friend because she seemed like such an interesting person.

And so a piece of vintage clothing that I purchased because of personal sentiment led to me connecting with someone across the country. This person was looking for information to learn more about her grandmother's friend's life in the past. Two people, one suit, one degree of separation. What a very small world we live in. And all it took was this suit.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Spring has sprung and Born Too Late Vintage has the finest in swimsuits and the finest in Easter bonnets, cocktail hats and Sunday go to church hats you've ever seen!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Today I have a guest writer for my blog. Her name is Mary Mcintosh. I found out about Mary from a friend named Chris that sells vintage clothing. Chris and Mary met when Mary purchased a picture from Chris that had at one time been Mary's father's. Mary then sent Chris this wonderful story. Some people may compare this with Erin of Dress A Day, however, Mary wrote this years and years ago, lone before Erin was even born. With Mary's permission it is appearing in my blog. For anyone who loves vintage and wonders about it's past life I guarantee you are going to love this.

REUNION written by Mary Mcintosh

My life began on a board in a hot, steaming cutting room in Manhattan’s garment district. I was created from a deep brown and beige herringbone tweed off the expensive bolt, high on the topmost shelf. Only the better quality cloths, covered with a white sheet to keep off the dust, were kept there.

I heard from other less-fashionable materials that I was carefully cut and sewn together by a young girl named Emma. She seemed much too young to be working here, but she needed the money to help her sick mother. They lived in a crowded tenement, so I was glad she had stitched me. It made me feel special to be able to help them.

After I had been tailored and pressed, I was hung on a rod with many other coats and suits, and pushed down 10th Avenue to a large warehouse. As I rode down the avenue, I felt very debonair with my wide lapels and double-breasted look. What magnificent sights I saw with so many tall buildings. Would I someday enter one of them, I wondered? What kind of a new life would I then have? It would certainly be more exciting than sleeping on that top shelf, as I had done for so many months. I was ready for a new experience.

Like many other fashionable coats and suits, I only remained in the warehouse for a short time. One day, a bunch of us were placed on a rack in the men’s department of Saks Fifth Avenue. Men now began trying me on. Some were portly, and I was too tight for them. Others were thin, and I was too large for them. Finally, on a crisp day in October, Mr. Higgenbottom purchased me.

Since I’d had very little contact with humans, except for Emma who had put me together, I had to rely on my own good judgment about Mr. Higgenbottom. He looked like a nice man, for he smiled as he tried me on and said to the clerk, “I’ll take this herringbone tweed coat, for it fits me well.”

Mr. Higgenbottom and I had a wonderful relationship, and were almost inseparable, except in the summer. I accompanied him to the opera and the theater, to horse shows in the country, on long walks, and on chauffeur-driven rides. As president of a large corporation on Wall Street, I felt proud each day when I entered his plush office with him.

In early summer, a maid would carefully put me into a large zipper bag, and add some mothballs. I did not particularly care for their smell, but I knew they kept me from being eaten alive by these insects. Then each fall I would be brought out again to Mr. Higgenbottom.

I stayed very close to Mr. Higgenbottom for a long time. Eventually, however, I was replaced by a haughty navy-blue serge, and pushed to the rear of the closet. I was crushed!

One day a maid came into the room and picked out several coats and suits. I wanted to stay, hoping I might be worn again someday, but I was also anxious to start a new adventure, whatever that might be. I realized Mr. Higgenbottom no longer had a use for me, for even though I still felt very chic, it was obvious I was now too shabby for him.

All the clothes the maid gathered together were dumped into the back of a station wagon and sent to a church rummage sale. Many people felt me, and then dropped me back onto the table. At the end of the day, when we had not been bought, we were placed in boxes, and put in a dark closet, then carted out again at the next rummage sale, several weeks later. Occasionally someone would try me on, and that made me feel hopeful they would want me. Finally, one day, when the first snow covered the ground, Mr. Swenson bought me for $2.00.

I could see this would now be a very different environment for me. Mr. Higgenbottom had always been surrounded by family and friends, and gave many parties. Mr. Swenson lived alone in a tidy cold-water flat on the east side.

At first it seemed a letdown from the mansion I had once lived in. I knew there would be no trips out to the country, or invitations to banquets where the Mayor of New York City might be in attendance. But Mr. Swenson was very nice, and he did take me to his job every day—not a large Wall Street corporation—but a small grocery store, just around the corner from his flat, where he was a clerk.

Each day I hung on a rack in the corner of the store. As I looked out of the window onto the busy city, and watched people walking by, the snow blowing all around them, I hoped they had someone like me to keep them warm. Somehow they did not seem very happy as they shuffled along in the wintry weather.

It was so cold that winter Mr. Swenson took me to bed with him. He really wore me out.
Even I got cold, and I was 100 percent wool!

I stayed with Mr. Swenson for two years, until one Saturday when he was home, a man from the Salvation Army knocked on the door and asked, “Do you have any donations of old clothes?”

“I’m sure I do,” replied Mr. Swenson, who walked quickly to the closet, reached in and pulled me out.

I knew I was still wearable for Mr. Swenson, but he was a kind man, and wanted someone else to enjoy me. I felt dejected, for it appeared every time I got to like someone, I was sent somewhere else.

It was nice and warm at the Salvation Army Hall, where I found myself piled on a table with all kinds of pants and jackets and coats. Many of them smelled. It was awful, for I’d always prided myself on being clean.

As I lay there suffocating, buried underneath piles of clothes, I listened to what was being said. I heard stories of terrible things that had recently happened—things that caused men to stand in long lines waiting to be handed a bowl of soup. I heard about people jumping out of tall buildings, and killing themselves. I did not really understand what this meant, but I remembered Mr. Higgenbottom worked in a tall building, and I hoped this hadn’t happened to him.

When I had just about resigned myself to the idea I was going to have to spend the rest of my days bunched up on the table with all the other coats, a pair of gentle hands reached around and pulled me out of the pile. A kind voice said, “Here’s a nice brown coat that might just fit you, sir.” The man reached out and put his arms into me.

It was Mr. Higgenbottom.

It was the winter of 1929. I had come home again.

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Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania, United States
We are the owners of Mod Mary's Vintage on Etsy.