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Jan 18, 2014

Flea Market Finds of the Week, or "Why I Will Never Be High Fashion"



I hate to open with an image that evokes the 1947 Black Dahlia murder case, but can you believe this dress form (one of a pair) I saw in the trash two weeks ago is still out on the street?  (I passed it on my way to the flea market this morning.)

Somebody call NYC Sanitation!



I'm not sure if that was the strangest dress form image of the day, however.  I also stumbled upon this:



I haven't been in the sewing mood this week, but I did find some good accessories at the flea market and the Salvation Army.

Knowing what I know about making newsboy hats, I couldn't resist this one for $1.99 at the Salvation Army.  I'm not cutting it up; I really like it.  It was made in Ireland, and what's most interesting about it is that the brim is soft rather than stiff.







As someone who has thrifted for more than three decades, I can say that the general quality of the merchandise at places like the Salvation Army has plummeted, particularly in the last decade, due primarily to the spread of fast fashion -- there's less quality stuff to give away -- combined with a larger number of people looking for "finds."  How dare they?!

Something as basic as a men's shetland wool sweater, which used to be plentiful, is rare; it's mainly cheap fleece and cotton.  Which is why I grabbed these two Scottish cashmere scarves, not that I really need them, but can you have too many accessories?  I've already hand-washed and pressed them; for $1.99 I'd willingly pick lice larvae off them.  The brown scarf goes well with my brown tweed coat and the red plaid coordinates with my gray toggle coat.



My best flea market find today was an umbrella.  Would you believe I have never owned a full-size umbrella?  This one is solid wood and was made in the USA (!) for The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Since my research reveals that the only ones the Met sells today are collapsibles, I'm guessing this is at least ten or twenty years old.  The pattern must be from some textile in their collection; I'm going to guess William Morris but maybe somebody knows for sure.  I just love it.









Which leads me to why I will never be a high fashion person: I get too excited about stuff I see for a song, or in the trash, just to leave it there; I want to bring it home whether it works with what I already own or not.  Take the umbrella.  Audrey Hepburn would have purchased only umbrellas that matched her bags and shoes; I can't be bothered with that.  I'm so proud of my $5 find that I'll wear it with anything and everything, whether it goes or not.  

I do try to coordinate my accessories, but I think of my wardrobe more like a costume shop.  If I need something that goes with brown tweed, I want to be able to pull it from my collection, not have to go out and buy it.  I'm not a minimalist.  No, really, I'm not!

Meanwhile, the best thing about iTunes is that everybody seems to be junking their CD collections.  More cheap music for me!





My Issey Miyake pattern arrived today,  but I still haven't received my 1940's strapless panier gown and I hope it wasn't lost somewhere between here and Portland, Oregon.  We shall see.



Do you think this design could be a credible men's coat  (maybe with a hood instead of collar?) or should it be a Cathy coat?  (I  think my mother, who's 5'2", would swim in it.)  I may make a muslin in the days ahead.





And that's all for today, folks.  Other than shortening my mustard pants, I didn't sew at all last week but I'm hoping my mojo returns shortly.  My class begins the week after that!

Readers, are you the disciplined type who will let some great thrift store find get away because it doesn't coordinate with what you already own, or are you more likely to take it and store it until you own stuff it does coordinate with -- which means you'll just have to keep thrifting and dumpster-diving till you find those things?

Have you ever owned and/or invested in a good quality umbrella?  

Have a great day, everybody!

40 comments:

  1. I agree about opshops, even here in NZ they are not what they once were. When I come across a project that requires a felted sweater (or two or three) I just roll my eyes because those things are rare as hen's teeth! My brother gave me a Met umbrella about 5 years ago, so their decline in quality has been fairly recent. I love mine, it has a blue sky with fluffy white clouds underneath so it's always a nice day :)

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  2. Hi Peter,
    I love your new umbrella but William Morris designs were much more controlled. Perhaps an Indian Paisley design from the Met's collection, or some kind of riff on it.
    I think you are walking a slippery slope when you set up Audrey Hepburn as a straw man for your "matching" argument. By all accounts she was just people, and it is well-documented what a huge and tireless humanitarian and philanthropist she was. I think I know what you mean, though: your're referring to Audrey the composite of all the elegant characters she played, not Audrey, the real person.
    Hugs, Tina in San Diego

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  3. What fabulous finds! I'm waiting for some patterns from Australia to the US that I purchased just after Christmas, Not sure how long shipping takes from there, but I'm getting antsy to see them!

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  4. If I see a good quality thrift item (e.g. pure wool or silk) which fits and in a colour I like, I'll buy it at once even if it doesn't go with anything I already have. And I love your umbrella - something that beautiful will transcend mundanities such as co-ordination! Also - it's raining, who's going to notice?

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  5. Great finds! Love that second 'strange' mannequin. I'd always wondered how the designer that made a dress for me several years ago was getting on with my growing tummy. Now I know what she must have been using ;-).

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  6. I won a great quality golf umbrella (the huge size) about 15 years ago. I use it every winter and it lives in the back of my car year round for just in case.
    I will thrift if what I'm thrifting is high quality and will match my wardrobe easily. Quality is everything.

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  7. My rule is to never leave a great find behind! I would rather have it live in the back of my closet until I find a use for it then to change my mind and run back to the shop only to find it gone. That is the surest way to guarantee that I will spend the rest of my thrifting days looking for the one that got away.
    I think that every umbrella I have ever purchased is black and collapsible. I would spend a premium on one that was sturdy enough not to blow inside out in the wind and that wrapped up small enough to fit in that little pouch they come in, but I have yet to find one.
    Great read, thanks for sharing!

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  8. Love your finds. We thrift like you - are ecclectic. Rarely do we leave someting spectacular behind....I think of clothes as costume pieces. To-day I am Pre-raphaelite, and love it. Another day the same black dress will be in another era.... Love the Irish cap. I have a similar one, and enjoy it backwards too. Just a thought....Cathie in Quebec

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  9. I recently got myself one of those pagoda style umbrellas and I'm very proud of it. Sadly, I haven't needed to go out in the rain since then.

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  10. I have a collection of antique umbrellas, and a couple useful, modern umbrellas. Do I ever manage to use one while it's raining? Nope.

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  11. It's gratifying to know that the sewing mojo comes and goes for you too. Sometimes I will go for MONTHS without sewing a single stitch. Fortunately, I think the inspiration has returned and I'm back on track. For the record, i'm crazy about the new hat and the new umbrella!

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  12. I agree that thrift stores can be disappointing. I was in one yesterday and there were very few things that I found interesting. I did get a leather jacket though, just for the material, which is stamped all over with a gorgeous scrolling floral pattern. That's one thing that thrift stores seem to have plenty of, leather jackets. Actually, they have quite a few wool coats too. But all the pants are way too low cut. Ick.

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  13. Do those giant jumble-sale "antique" malls count as thrifting? If so, I've found some pretty fab 50s Rebajes copper jewelry and a Schiaparelli women's fedora by nosing around. As for Audrey, she had a pretty deprived upbringing during the war years, so part of her matchy-matchiness probably comes from general post-war European thriftiness, which required making do with a few things of quality that could be worn a lot.

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  14. I grew up in Vancouver and used to lose an umbrella a week, or at least it seemed like it.I just couldn't seem to hang on to them. Then I found one I really liked (and it was expensive), and I never lost it. I actually had it long enough to wear it out. The moral of the story is: buy an umbrella you like, and you won't lose it and it will last and last. I love a nice umbrella. I would have bought yours if I had seen it.

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  15. I don't thrift shop anymore because most of what is in the store is really crappy. I often found things ridiculously priced, and could get a better item new at a sale. I loved all the deals I got years ago. However, I have to admit, I have to walk pass these shops really quickly. I have noticed that our neighborhood has had a good selection of trash, never had that before, furniture etc. We have people driving around snapping up really good deals lol.

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  16. Hi again, Peter,
    I have to apologize for not having followed MPB lately, due to a ghastly plague/flu ... so I totally missed that you are in an Audrey-Obsessive-Adulation (AOA) phase. Yes, I'm also a fervid partisianne. Anyways, yes, she was perfect walking around Rome, wasn't she. But, especially later in life, I'll bet she would have worn and rocked your fabu new umbrella with simply "any old thing " Hugs, Love, and get a flu shot,
    Tina in San Diego

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  17. Oh dear, as soon as I read "lice larvae" I had to really focus to read the rest of your post because I couldn't get that out of my head. Though I do buy things at Goodwill all the time, don't get me wrong. Re the coat, I think you would need to shorten the sleeves for a man, but otherwise, why not? What great lines on that coat!

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  18. That poor forlorn dress form makes me so very sad . . .

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  19. I too pick up thrift finds of good quality even though I miht not know what to use it for. My husbond has a saying: This is NOT going to live with strangers - and that suits me too.
    Regarding the Issey coat: I have sew mysels a coat by that pattern and it is very loose fitting in deed but with lots of wonderfull details. I think it would be great for a mans coat too.

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  20. maybe shorten/narrow sleeve hem a tad for a man's coat? Can't tell about the neckline, should be great with cashmere scarf, however.

    Ceci

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  21. Peter, I understand what you mean about thrifting. Its funny I think sometimes we like the "Hunt" . I haven't every purchased used clothing for my self, but I love a bargain, who doesn't. I wore a fake Rolex watch for years and years that I bought on the street in NY, when I turned 50 I bought a real one. I hardly ever wear that real Rolex, and when I do I am very self conscious of it. I am protective of it, too careful with it. The faux Rolex brought me more joy and use than the real one. Odd right ? I bought a old singer 1872 at a tag sale for $20 last summer, some threads on ebay, some notions at the $1 store and found your blog ..... I think Im hooked, I purchase a singer 534 for $9.99 at the Salvation Army last month, why ? Im not sure . I am working in Florida for the winter and miss playing with my machines so I went to a local pawn shop and purchased a almost new Singer 7470 for $100.00 I like the hunt too. Michael

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  22. The quality of stuff in the charity shops in the UK has really plummeted whilst the prices have gone up. I suppose that everything is now "vintage" or "antique" and people sell it on eBay, even 90's clothing is turning up as "vintage" online. Also the economy here is very depressed so perhaps people are more likely to sell things that to donate them. You can still get some great old sewing machines quite reasonably and I always buy them when I see them.

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  23. I never find good deals like that newsboy cap in Alabama. Sigh!
    My best ever full size umbrella was a gift from the EMA.

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  24. Wow, great finds! I especially like the umbrella. Though the newsboy cap is very cool as well. :)

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  25. I really wish I could find nice things in thrift stores. You are right - things have gone down hill. Now, what ended up in the thrift store, are found in "antique stores" or malls, with exhorbitant prices. Also, I honestly find it hard to consider shopping most thrift stores because of the musty smell of the material - I wore so many hand-me-downs as a kid that smelled like that it is rather repulsive. Still, I have found sheets for making muslins and towels for rags, both of which are washed with hot water and bleach.

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  26. This post is the validation I needed this week! I live smack dab in the center of no where and I thrift every couple of weeks minimum (my addiction). And no one seems to be picking up these high quality vintage pieces in my regular thrift haunts. I collect and slowly list them as I have time. The other shoppers in my thrift stores get excited over a Target or Ann Taylor tee new with tags. I slip in and pick up the 1960's lambswool sweater right next to it and everyone goes home happy. Thank you for the boost today, Peter. Many times I feel like I might just be turning into an old lady with a hoarding habit! But I know what I'm purchasing will only become more and more scarce as time goes on. Better to adopt it out to a loving new owner for the coming decades!

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  27. I am a long time thrifter, agreed quality is harder and harder to find these days. I don't think that I could ever be high fashion myself, just because of my love or diy and vintage I don't think that I could ever pay the crazy prices of some labels. I do have a very nice burburry umbrella that was a gift, and I must say it is nice to have a thing of quality. Your umbrella find is wonderful!

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  28. I envy your finding cashmere scarves. I look all the time for them and have never found one. To get 2 in one day, you lucky, lucky bugger!

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  29. Peter I've got to know where you saw the maternity dress form at? Do you know what they were selling it for?

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    1. It was on the lower level of The Garage at the Chelsea Flea Market on 25th St. I have no idea what it cost though.

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  30. Oh, that maternity dress form brings back so many memories when I was a lowly design-room assistant for a missy/maternity design house (we did private label for JCP). I was the plus-size maternity fit model since we didn't have one of those in a size 18.

    and I love your new finds today! What's gonna get tossed in their staid?

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  31. Hi. I am a new reader, thanks to reading GOMI one day.

    What you said about thrifting and dumpster diving, " I get too excited about stuff I see for a song, or in the trash, just to leave it there; I want to bring it home whether it works with what I already own or not." is exactly my philosophy on thrifting and dumpster-diving. I can't stop. See: http://littleshoulders.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-boy-and-girl-have-taken-to-walking.html Too bad I live in a small house with 3 kids and a husband who don't always share my taste or fondness for the free.

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  32. The last really good things I found at the thrift store were years ago now - I don't even go anymore either, as the prices are sky high even for used stuff from Target. Admittedly, the last two good things I found were doozies - a genuine Chanel coat in black cashmere that actually fit me (and I did pay $40 for it, the most I've paid for anything in a thrift store in my life) and a beautiful, amazing garnet duchesse silk satin New Look evening coat made by a Paris dressmaker - it has a detachable back belt feature which either reigns in the pleats or lets them flow into a New Look vortex. It's easily the most amazing thing I've ever thrifted, and I used to find truly dazzling, wonderful things.

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  33. Will that pregnant maniquin give birth to a maniquin baby? My third grandchild was born early this morning in Portland - Josephine Grace 6.5 lb. three weeks early. Another little girly to sew for - Oh, happy day! N

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  34. There is, or used to be, an umbrella repair shop on West 57th called Uncle Sam's. If still in business, they might know about your new umbrella. Or perhaps the MMA?

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  35. Oh the joys of thrifting! Best find for me - Singer Featherweight for $27.00! It's my my favorite machine and it sews like butter. I take it everywhere.

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  36. that hat is gorgeous, love all the color woven in,
    I would never, never leave behind a cashmere scarf,
    I wash in cold water in a garbage picked porcelain wash basin, hang up to drip dry, in the winter hang up outside to kill any hitchhikers, in the summer bag in black plastic and leave in the sun, never had a problem bringing pests home from thrift stores or alleys

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  37. Once out of diapers, my father took me with him to farm and household auctions in the midwest. Once able to manage a needle and sit at a machine, my mother patiently, meticulously taught me to sew. Once I moved to a modest sized city, I discovered thrift stores and visit thrift/antique stores and estate sales all the time! Here you can still find a LOT of vintage patterns, and one estate sale last weekend had three gorgeous vintage sewing machines (1920's Singer, a White and a fab 60's Kenmore) all in their cabinets. Not one got the opening bid (half of the asking $75). I REALLY wanted to buy another machine, but really where could I put another one? Blissfully, one of my friends found a Featherweight at auction yesterday. I just found your blog and am totally swooning!

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