How to Tell Vintage from Repro Halloween Decorations

Recently Patrick and I were at one of the antique malls in town and I saw a cute Halloween die-cut of a cat sitting in a moon, excited, I looked closer only to realize it was new. After vocalizing that it was new to Patrick, a woman came up to me and said “Excuse me, but how did you know that was new?” After explaining this, Patrick said it would be a good idea to do a blog post on this! So, here we are. First off, I should mention I am by no means a vintage Halloween decor expert, and not all die-cut Halloween decorations are created equal. Today I just want to highlight the differences between most new and old flat die-cut pieces. I chose two pieces for which I have both old and new versions of, and showcase the differences between them, so you can tell the difference next time you’re out.

First let’s look at this rather dapper black cat. Can you tell which one is new?

If you guessed the one on the right, you’re good! So, how do you tell? Flip over any die cut, and you’ll automatically find out.

You’ll notice the one on the right is double sided, while the one on the left is not. You’ll also spy a price sticker on the back of the vintage one, and it reads 8 cents. Pretty sure you can’t buy anything new for 8 cents anymore. Double sided printing for paper/card stock decorations really didn’t start happening until the 80s or so (I say this based on personal observations. All paper decor that was purchased prior to my birth, including into the 70s when my brother and sister were young, was single sided, and everything purchased after my birth, in 1988, was double sided). Additionally, you can see that the one on the left is embossed, while the new one is not. Take a look at an angle for a better look at the embossing.

Embossing was fairly popular and almost standard on holiday decor until around the 1960s. I have several pieces from 1960s and 70s that are single sided, but not embossed.

So, now that you know those tips, let’s take a look at another pair, shall we? Which one is new?

If you guessed right again, you’re correct!

Once again, you’ll notice the new one is doubled sided and flat, while the older one is single sided, and embossed.

I hope this was helpful, so the next time you’re out at an antique mall and spy a vintage looking piece of Halloween decor, you can tell if it is old or not. Of course there is nothing wrong with new or repro Halloween decor, as you can see, I own a few, which was because vintage Halloween decor tends to be very expensive! My collection has been built up over years of thrift store shopping, many visits to antique malls, and frequenting antique shows and flea markets. But if you don’t have the time or money for vintage decor, know the best in the paper Halloween decoration business, Beistle, is still in business and making the classics, which you can buy on their website! Happy hunting and happy haunting this October!

Organize It with Stocking Boxes

Recently Julie of V is for Victory Rolls was lamenting on Instagram about the difficulty of organizing many of her vintage accessories, and asked fellow vintage loving Instagram’ers to share their organizational tips. What is funny is that I had been thinking of doing a blog post on this very subject actually! I organize using a lot of different things, but today I’m going to highlight one of my favorite, and most used, things that I use to organize with: stocking boxes!

Stocking boxes are divided rectangular, often quilted, boxes.  They were originally intended for women to store in their dressers with their stockings rolled up in them to keep the stockings from getting snagged. But they can be used for so much more!

One place you can find stocking boxes in our home is in our bathroom.

I use these for my hair scarves and other hair accessories.  My scarves roll up nicely and tuck into the divided sections, and most of my hair flowers fit in just fine too.  I like having all of my hair goodies in one place, so these are stored in the same cupboard as my hairspray, hair dryer, combs, etc.

Another way I use stocking boxes is to help organize my some of my jewelry.

These stocking boxes fit perfectly inside my vanity drawers.  I have deep vanity drawers, so I stack the boxes two deep.  I won’t lie, I have a lot of jewelry. And this isn’t how all of it is stored.  I also store jewelry in a large, vintage, velvet lined jewelry box, bracelets hang on three T-stands, those spiral earrings racks, and I also utilize a vintage train case.

And then of course you’ll also find stocking boxes being used for what they were intended for…stockings!

I’ve snagged most of my stocking boxes at antique malls here and there, and they typically run $5-$12 each. But you can also find them on Ebay and Etsy.

Do you use stocking boxes? If so, what for? Is there anything you have a hard time organizing?

Beginners Guide to Vintage Shopping

In my numerous vintage shopping excursions I have observed many people coming into shops who are not familiar with vintage, and may be just starting out.  Some get overwhelmed, others confused, so I thought I’d offer up some of my personal tips that I know make for a better shopping experience.

Be Respectful

When you are at a vintage shop, most of the time, you are looking at items that have been hand selected by the person standing behind the counter.  Keep in mind that time and lots of consideration went into buying the pieces that fill these shops. So try to keep negative comments out of the conversation.  If you just popped into Starbucks before sweeping into the shop, and there is no clear “No Food or Drink” sign, be sure to ask if it’s okay to have your drink. Same goes for pets. Handling the garments with care (more on how to do that in a bit) also shows a sign of respect – you are respecting the garment and the shop owner’s hard work.

Know your measurements!

A lot of higher end vintage shops will have the measurements of their garments on the tags, and coming in knowing your measurements is going to make things a lot easier for you and for the shop owner.  While some shops may have a small/medium/large system, that sizing is relative and subject to the person tagging the garment.  What is small to one person may be a medium to another.  Bring a tape measure with you, so when you visit the shops that do not have the measurements noted you can measure the garment yourself to know if it is going to work out or not. This saves time, and avoids any likelihood of having an embarrassing moment of being stuck in a garment.  Also note that if you see a size 16 label inside of a vintage dress, don’t think it isn’t going to be your size. This is another reason why measurements are important.  Vanity sizing has skewed sizing over the years.  What was a size 12 in the 50s, is around a size 6 or so today.

Stick to your measurements!

While your bust and your waist may be a little squishy, it’s important to stay within one inch of your measurements.  If you’re a 28 inch waist, don’t try on a 24 inch waist dress! You may do harm to the dress, and that may annoy the shop owner.

If you get stuck ask for help

Even if a garment reads as if it will fit, you still might get stuck! I got stuck in a pair of pants once and could not, for the life of me, get them off! They were a pair of riding pants that were very tight in the calves. Thank goodness it happened at a friend’s shop, so her coming in wasn’t too terrible.  But a lot of shop owners are not phased all that much by seeing some skin. Asking for help means you are less likely to damage a garment too.

Handle with Care

Be careful when sifting through racks and when trying things on, as the items you are handling are 30+ years old, and some are going to be on the more delicate side. It’s best to move garments by the hanger, not by the garment itself. Tugging on the garment can cause seams to split or fabric to tear.  When you move by the hanger, you do not put any strain on the garment.  Be careful when stepping into skirts or dresses, as not to step into the hem, and be careful when pulling a garment off over your head, don’t yank.

If you damage a garment, let the shop owner know

There is nothing more annoying than a shop owner inspecting a garment after it has been tried on to see a busted zipper or ripped out hem.  But if you do damage something, let the shop owner know.  Many won’t have any repercussions, but it’s better to be honest, especially if you are planning on returning to that shop in the future.

Know your budget/It’s not okay to play dress up

If you’re wanting a dress for a special occasion, know your budget and stick to it. It’s not a good idea at any time to try on something you can’t afford.  You can hurt your own feelings that way, and you run the risk of annoying a shop owner by trying on something you cannot afford to buy.  Due to the age of some items, they may only have a few wearings left in them, and trying on with no intention of buying is an unnecessary risk, so try not to try things on “just for fun”. It’s also important to keep in mind that some of these shop owners are going to become pals of yours.  I am friends with numerous shop owners in Portland, and this friendship I have developed over being courteous has resulted in getting spectacular pieces and at great prices.

Buy what you like

Don’t let current trends affect how you buy vintage if you are going to turn yourself into a 24/7 vintage wearer.  Buy what you like. Buy what you feel good in.  Also, it’s okay to mix-and-match eras.  But you can also be a period perfectionist too. Once again, it comes down to what you want to do with your wardrobe.

When it doesn’t fit

One of the pluses to vintage shopping is also one of the biggest downsides: one-of-a-kind.  Yes, it’s wonderful to have something unique, but you are also going to come across items that are not going to fit.  You need to weigh your options when you find something like this.  Most often, the best option is to let the item go.  It’s important to check the seams of an item you think fits.  While it may appear that it fits perfectly, there is a chance that you are stressing the seams of a garment, and over time the seams will simply rip out, and the garment will then have to be made smaller to repair the seams.  If the item is too big or too small, alteration is an option, but can be costly if you don’t know how to do it yourself.  If the item just barely fits, don’t skip meals or diet just to get into one dress, that’s just silly.

Shop wearing proper undergarments

When I say “proper” I mean shop with your average undergarments.  I don’t know about you, but I have a few garments that require a “special” bra – meaning on that makes my boobs a little smaller, some of you may have one that makes your boobs a little bigger. It’s not a good idea to shop with these “special” bras on, as they will give you a false impression. Also in my Vintage Must Have series, I noted how the bullet bra revolutionized how I wore vintage.  For years I had fought with bust darts not being in the right place, but all that changed when I began wearing a bullet bra.  Keep this in mind when shopping for vintage.  Vintage garments were cut with the undergarment trends of the time, so 50s and 60s garments are going to feature higher bust darts.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

If you’re unsure about how to care for a specific garment, ask! Often shop owners are experts at cleaning items, and are going to know who to recommend in terms of dry-cleaning.  Many shop owners enjoy sharing their knowledge, and helping those who want to get more involved with vintage.  They are going to be able to offer all sorts of tips, from what jewelry may go with something, to what resources you have available with regards to vintage hair-dos!  They are also going to know of more vintage shops for you to check out!

Maintaining Your Vintage Wardrobe

Vintage is many things. On one side we love vintage because it’s unique, more flattering and of better quality than the majority of contemporary clothing on the store racks today.  However, vintage isn’t without its problems.  How many of us have suffered a stain or tear or lost a tap? Part of wearing vintage is maintaining your clothing to continue their longevity. So here are a few tips to help you keep that fantastic closet of yours looking good for years to come.

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Traveling Vintage

When vintage is all you own, traveling can be a bit of a burden in a way. Between getting folds in garments, worrying about damage on the road, not to mention all of the other travel anxieties, it can get a little hectic.

Your Suitcase

I travel using vintage luggage.  This is for a handful of reasons.  First they look awesome.  Secondly, if you are flying and you check your luggage, your suitcase will be much easier to spot when it comes out onto the carousel.  Additionally, hard suitcases prevent any extra pressure put on your clothes (causing more wrinkling) by other people’s bags being placed on top of your suitcases in travel.  And if you’re fearful of bed bugs, you really may want to travel with a vintage suitcase.  Bed bugs may find a new home for themselves (and thus possibly follow you home) in the crevasses of an upholstered suitcase, where as they will not with a hard suitcase.  I currently own a medium sized suitcase (which fits the carry-on size restrictions), a small day suitcase, a round hatbox and a train case.  However, for most trips I only take the medium sized suitcase and the train case.

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Manly Mondays: Hair

When I started styling my hair with a side part about a year ago I used molding paste, a thin hair gel that went in easy, but couldn’t hold my thick hair, and hairspray which would lock the style into place. The combination of the two worked but I had to wash it out and redo it everyday. I also hated the smell of hairspray and the fact that it made my hair feel rock hard.

Enter pomade.  For the uninitiated pomade is often made of a combination of oils, waxes and petroleum products that were the way to style hair from the 60s on back. There are a huge number of varieties, which vary by the amount of shine, hold, and stiffness. When I started, I used Murray’s Brand pomades, which are nice and light but lacked the hold I was looking for. I finally found Bees Knees which is made by a Portland barber who wanted something with a really strong hold without any petroleum products.

Why use Pomade?

  • Pomades are really easy to work with has a great hold even on really, really, thick hair
  • Most pomades have some kind of nice smell, Bee Knees has a great peppermint scent
  • Because pomades are not water based they are not affected by water or sweat
  • You don’t need apply more pomade everyday. It stays in your hair and you can just spend a minute every morning brushing it into a new style
  • A little pomade goes a long way a $13 tin of Bees Knees will last me about 2-3 months
  • Pomade adds a nice healthy shine to your hair

How I Style My Hair

I usually apply pomade right after I get out of a shower. I towel dry my hair and then get to work.

Before doing anything else, I comb in my side part and clean up the rest. This helps me get a good idea of where all the pomade needs to go. If you are doing a part, try to get the line as clean and straight as possible.

Quick Tip: To set a part, just drag the comb long ways along your hair where you want your part. Then comb your hair away from the line you just drew.

Start softening up the pomade with a blow dryer (or in my case the hose from Janey’s bonnet dryer, since she refuses to purchase a blow dryer) until you can build up a quarter size glob on your fingers (use less if you already have some left in your hair). Spread your glob around on your fingers and then work it evenly into your hair. Over time you will learn that some places need more then others, for me my bangs and right side often need a little more then everywhere else.

Once you have it worked into your hair start styling. Use your blow dryer to soften the pomade up in a particular area and then comb it.

And done!

Washing and Maintaining

I’ve started washing my hair every 3-4 days just to keep my scalp and hair clean, this doesn’t totally wash out the pomade so afterward I apply a little more (if I want to wash the pomade out thoroughly, I use common dish soap such as Palmolive in conjunction with my normal shampoo and conditioner). In between washings I just wake up and comb my hair again with the help of the dryer or a run my comb under hot water. It’s really easy to restyle.

Other Brands

There are loads of different pomades on the market with different levels of shine, thickness, hold and scents. Just because I love Bees Kness doesn’t mean you will, it would probably be terrible for someone with finer or thinner hair. The Rebel Rouser does regular reviews of pomade on his blog to give you some idea of the variety you can have. Here is a list of some of the best.

You can buy most of these at The Grease Shop and check out Rebel Rouser’s pomade reviews for some more ideas of what to buy.

What’s Next?

This wraps up all seven of the posts I had pre-planned to do. However next week I’ll pull together a lot of links and lists of items you might want to be on the lookout for.

What do you want to see next on Manly Mondays?

Manly Mondays: Shaving

Let’s face it most guys hate shaving. I used to. It’s irritating and the razors cost an arm and a leg.

Around 8 months ago I started shaving with single bladed safety razor, and all the annoyances of keeping clean shaven have went away. If you haven’t shaven with a real razor before I highly suggest you try it out. Using a single bladed razor, shaving mug, a block of soap and a brush is one of the best things I have done to my morning shave. And here’s why…

Less Irritation and a Closer Shave

The biggest difference from moving from a five-blade razor to a very nice single blade razor is that my skin is much less irritated after my shaves. Five-bladed cartridge razors would leave my whole neck red, irritated and dry feeling for the whole day. In contrast the single bladed razor leaves almost no irritation.

This is because when you shave with a fave-blade cartridge you are actually shaving your face 5 times! When I used cartridge razors I would usually go over everything twice which meant that at the end of my shaves my whole face would have been exposed to 10 razor blades. With a single bladed razor, I can get a close shave with only 2 passes, which means much less exposure to the blade and much less irritation.

The fastest way to a close shave is to shave against the grain of your whiskers. This is tricky with a longer and more unwieldy cartridge razor and which is also light weight meaning you have to apply more pressure (increasing irritation) to get the same close shave.  In contrast my single bladed razor is very short and quite heavy meaning I have more maneuverability and can apply less pressure and get a good against the grain shave with less work.

If all of that doesn’t convince you, Janey thinks that I get a much closer shave with the single blade then my old Gillette cartridge razor. Which is really the only metric that matters.

Costs Less Per Month

In addition to the irritation, I also was tired of spending an arm and a leg on new razor blades. When I started out shaving I bought everything at The Art Of Shaving so I am using their prices here.

  • Pre-Shave Oil: $25 – Lasts about 3 months
  • Shaving Soap: $30 – Lasts 3-4 months
  • Aftershave: $40 – Still haven’t run out after nearly 10 months
  • Razors: $1 each – These are sold in packs of 12 and I use 1 a month

You can get loads of different soaps and pre-shave/aftershaves for about half of these prices online. A good source is  Classic Shaving which has a pretty complete inventory.

There is a fairly high upfront cost to starting to shave this way. You will need a nice badger hair brush, which will run at least $40-$50 (trust me it’s worth it) and a good razor. I use the Merkur HD 34C which runs about $50 on Amazon and everywhere else.

Once you get over the upfront investment the month to month cost if quite low, and for the quality of shave it’s really excellent.

How To

There are lots of good tutorials and videos out there on the internet on how to do a good shave so I’ll give you a few links and then a quick step by step. Put This On has a great video and Art Of Manliness has a good article with links and another step by step guide.

  1. Get a hot very wet wash cloth and warm up your face. This opens up your pores and gives you a close shave with less irritation.
  2. Apply your pre-shave oil to stand up and soften your whiskers
  3. Wet your shaving brush (using hot water) and put a tiny bit of hot water in your mug and build up a lather.
  4. Lather your face up this should go on thick, not watery
  5. Shave using short strokes with very little pressure with the blade about 30 degrees to your face go with the grain or you beard for the first pass
  6. Repeat 3-5 one or two more times going against or across the grain
  7. Wash your face with cold water. This will close your pores and redice irritation.
  8. Pat your face dry and apply your aftershave.

Tips & Techniques

If you are coming from shaving with a regular cartridge razor here are a few good things to keep in mind.

  • Keep the blade of you safety razor at about 30 degrees to your face.
  • Use short strokes with light pressure. Using too much pressure was the #1 reason I cut myself early on.  The razor has just the right weight and balance you need to get a close shave. Trust it.
  • Don’t shave it all in one go. It takes 2-3 passes (lathering between each) to get the best shave go slow and don’t worry about getting it perfect the first time.
  • An Alum Block is your best friend. When you do cut yourself (not if) this handy block an aluminum sulfate is a natural way to stop the bleeding fast. Buy one from Art of Shaving.

Shopping List

  • Brush – Whatever you do don’t get a boar hair brush. Stick with badger hair (about $50) or splurge an get silver tipped badger (about $150)
  • Razor – Look for something with good weight.  The Merkur HD 34C is generally regarded as one of the best you can buy
  • Pre-Shave Oil – This helps soften and standup your whiskers
  • Shaving Soap – Look for something that is all natural and has a good scent (or no scent)
  • Aftershave – Helps cool down your face after you shave
  • Alum Block – Closes up cuts and stops irritation

Downsides

There are a few downsides to shaving this way. My biggest complaint so far is that the FAA doesn’t allow these kinds of blades in your carry-on bags, meaning if you want to shave this way on the go you are checking a bag.

The other is that is much, much easier to cut yourself. The blade is much more exposed to your face and the wrong angle or too much pressure will make you cut yourself. Although it doesn’t take to long to learn the right way to avoid cuts.