Monday, June 8, 2015

Granny's Closet

When given a choice, I very nearly always pick old over new-- used, loved, and classic over shiny and trendy.  My apartment is filled with antiques and thrift store treasures.  The absolute best books I read as a child were those written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I still gravitate towards historical books, movies, and TV shows.

I routinely use vintage fabric or repurposed antique tablecloths, curtains, etc. to make new things like aprons and purses.  I don't blog about it much, but you can see one example in this post, or you can visit this page to see more.

Twice in the past two days two different people joked that maybe I was born in the wrong era.   I don't doubt God's providence, but it is fun to romanticize and look for the best of past decades.  I do think that sometimes in the simplicity of the past, we can look back and see the beauty that has endured over time.

So, it probably comes as no surprise that I am acquiring a vintage clothing collection. :)  My grandmother passed away earlier this year.  She was 92, and left a legacy of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren.  As the family has worked to clean out her home and share belongings amongst her descendants, they found a stash of old clothing in the back of her closet, dresses and coats, many of which she had sewn herself.  My mom brought a bunch of them home, and awesomely, we discovered that many of them fit me!

Wearing vintage clothes isn't quite as simple as picking up something new off of the rack.  Here are a few things that I have learned:

1. Cleaning vintage clothing or fabric can be interesting.  Stains can be set in, and often times there is a strong, stale, old fabric smell that is hard to shake.  I washed the clothes on gentle settings with cold water.  Sometimes, I let them soak for a while, and I almost always ran them through the washing machine twice.  I also always air-dry everything.  This prevents further damage to possibly weak or stained fabric.
2. I also had to repair some of the clothing.  Sometimes a seam needed to be sewn where thread had rotted away, zippers needed reinforced, or buttons needed replaced.   I also tried to creatively cover up some...problems.  I tried to fix a white coat that was completely discolored by dyeing it tan, and unfortunately it didn't take the dye evenly.  However, I was able to fix this navy blue dress with some dye and a little bit of...white paint.  I literally painted some of the polka dots- but it worked!
3. Wear it!  The best fashion advice I've ever received is to find what you like and wear it with confidence.  There was clothing that I could have taken but it wasn't my style and I knew that I wouldn't be comfortable in.  I wear a lot of skirts and dresses, and the dresses I have usually fall into the 1950's high waist, full skirt variety.  Going through the clothes from my Granny's, I picked out things that I liked and knew that I would wear. 
4. And finally, accessories.  Sometimes, you can take vintage clothes and wear them with a modern twist.  Other times it is really fun to match up the clothes with retro accents like these fabulous shoes that I got here or an antique clutch purse.  Like dress up, only better. :)

So, I've worn these dresses to work, and to church, and to a wedding.  I love them, love that they help me remember my granny, and love the story they tell.

Would you like to see more of the clothing :)?  I am not a huge fan of having my picture taken, but I did want to have some photos of these dresses.  And I have a sister who is an awesome photographer.  She has been insisting that I get updated headshots.  And my brother-in-law and my friend Kayla wanted to practice some of their photography skills with someone who would stand still and pose as long as they needed.  So the four of us met up in downtown Peoria and took some very fun pictures.

And, for the record, this was my view for the afternoon:
Me, vintage dresses, an antique suitcase, downtown city, and three photographers.  It's no wonder we got some funny looks!

Want to see more of the pictures? You can see Steph's post and the rest of the photos here.

What do you think of vintage clothes?  Any favorite tips for pulling off styles from another era?


This post is part of my Why Make Beautiful Things week.  You can read my original post here.
-Wednesday, come back for Emily's story about the beauty of homemaking and hospitality in military family life.
-Friday, Steph will write about the importance of taking, printing, and displaying beautiful family photos.
-AND on Sunday, I'll be hosting a special giveaway with seven beautiful items that I know you are going to love from Kayla Phillips Design, Steph Zimmerman Photography, and [un]common workbasket.  You don't want to miss it!


  1. Fun!! :) You look beautiful!

  2. As always, you blow me away! Love you Katie! -Ashley

  3. You look amazing and carry off the look so well!

  4. That polka dot dress looks awesome on you!!! Vintage clothes are so beautiful. I would love to acquire some 50s dresses (I love the clothes from that era as well!), but I haven't found any in-person at a store, and the online shops (unique vintage, mod cloth, etc.) are way out of my budget haha.

    1. Thanks AnneMarie! I too love looking at ModCloth clothes, but have only splurged on shoes, no dresses. Ask around and see if there are any great second hand stores that have an eye for vintage in your area. Some people complain that they are more "expensive," but I think it is pretty awesome to find a skirt for $5 or a dress for $10 :)

  5. You look oh so lovely in your grandmother's dresses and coats! Think of all the memories she made while wearing some of the clothes, and now it is your turn to do the same! :-) By the way, I too like older styles of dresses, skirts, etc. Enjoy!