Sunday, April 27, 2008

Finding Vintage Clothes that Fit Well

Finding vintage clothes that work for your body isn't difficult if you keep a few things in mind:

1. Ignore the size on the label inside the dress. As recent as the 1970s, clothing sizes were labeled larger than they are today. A 1960s size 18 or 16 would be a size 8 today. Some labels even list half sizes (for example "16-1/2"). These sizes were "women's" sizes and had a little more room in the bust and hips.

2. Different years of vintage clothing tend to suit different body types. Clothing from the 1950s tends to fit best on a woman with a small waist and narrow rib cage, but with a definite bust and hips. Clothing from the early and mid-1960s, on the other hand, often best fits a woman whose waist measurement isn't hugely different than her hips. (1960s dresses can look especially good on a woman with a shapely derriere, by the way.) 1940s clothes expect that you'll have a waist, but they're more forgiving than 1950s clothes. If you're not sure what decades suit you best, come in to the store and try on a few things. That's really the best way to know.

3. Vintage shoe sizes are generally true to today's sizes, but many more shoes were narrow than is true today, especially the 1950s and 1960s shoes. Check inside the shoe and you'll often see the handwritten size with "AA" written next to it.

4. Vintage hats are often small, too. Sometimes, though, they're small because they're meant to perch on a head rather than settle completely over the crown.

Don't worry if you're not a size 2 or have large feet or aren't particularly busty. At the Xtabay we have clothes to fit every size of woman. We can show you that a bombshell is a bombshell no matter the size of her waist.

--posted by Angie

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sporty? Classic? Romantic? Who Cares?

When I was in my teens I spent hours pondering fashion quizzes in Seventeen magazine. You know the ones I mean, the quizzes that asked multiple-choice questions to figure out if you were sporty, classic, romantic, or trendy. Xtabay attracts a lot of women who have a firm grasp of their style, but other shoppers, like me, still spend time pondering the style quiz we keep in our minds. We hold up a dress, look at ourselves in the mirror, and say, "It's nice, but is it me?"

After working at the Xtabay a few seasons and spending more time with clothing and talking to women about style, I think I've even drifted further from a cohesive "look". Last week I dragged up from the basement two boxes of summer clothes. I emptied a box of Hawaiian print dresses on the bed and refilled the box with plaid wool Pendleton skirts. How is that for consistent style? The lumberjack hula dancer.

But what I've lost in consistency I've gained in love for a wide variety of styles. I'm just as likely to wear a 1940s sage green linen suit as an early 1960s kelly green shift. Around my neck could be a 1970s Vera scarf or maybe a mid-1950s strand of Austrian crystals. Somehow my friends are still able to pull a coat from a rack in a thrift store and say, "This looks like you." Go figure.

Now when I see a woman turn in front of the mirror trying to decide if a dress is her style, I ask her, "Do you love it?" That's really all that matters.

--posted by Angie

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Paper Treasure Trunk Show April 25th!

The Xtabay is proud to announce it will be hosting a trunk show of Paper Treasure jewelry on Friday, April 25th, at 7:30 pm. You're invited!

Liz first met Jess McCloskey, the artist behind Paper Treasure, at a Crafty Wonderland show. "Her jewelry looked different than all the other stuff at the show," Liz says. Those of you who have seen the Paper Treasure necklaces and earrings that Xtabay carries knows what she means. Jess scours thrift stores and garage sales to find bits of old jewelry, beads, and charms that she puts together in delicate combinations. Many of her pieces have lockets, too--even the earrings.

Each Paper Treasure necklace is named after a shipwreck. "I used to make jewelry while I watched t.v., and OPB had a series of shows on underwater excavation," Jess said. She liked the idea of hidden treasure and found objects, and a Google search of "shipwreck" turned up all the names she'd ever need for naming her work. Right now, for instance, at the store we have the Joliet (named after a steel propeller ship that wrecked on Lake Ontario in 1911); the Aletha B (a fishing tug that sunk in Lake Michigan in 1974); and the E.S. Catlin (a wooden schooner-barge that wrecked in a storm on Lake Erie in 1976).

Paper Treasure will be part of the Mercury's fashion show next week, and Jess will bring the jewelry that she'll have in that show to the trunk show at Xtabay. She said that she's experimenting with making bigger pieces, and she'll bring some of those, too.

For a look at Paper Treasure jewelry, go to or, or--of course--stop by the Xtabay.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

In Praise of the Dressing Gown

Over the decades, certain items of clothing have been dropping away. Hostess gowns, dinner suits, and bed jackets, for instance, are nearly extinct. Some items, like girdles, I can live without. But other types of clothing I miss. Near the top of the list is the dressing gown.

A dressing gown is a lightweight garment, usually floor length, and often with a zipper up the middle. They're usually cotton, silk, or rayon and patterned with anything from flowers to Chinese water bearers to flamingos. Dressing gowns are made to get into and out of easily so that you can step into one to wear once you've put on underwear and a bra (and maybe a slip, if you're going to wear one) but aren't quite ready to get dressed. Wearing a dressing gown you can make coffee and eat breakfast or put on make up without worrying about getting your clothes dirty.

A dressing gown isn't a bathrobe. Bathrobes are made to keep you warm and dry after a shower. Some robes, including wool Pendleton robes, are for layering over nightclothes to keep you warm as you raid the refrigerator in the middle of the night or step into the garage for more firewood. Of course, some people use robes as dressing gowns, but why wear a heavy layer of terrycloth (probably with threads pulling off it and a little damp from last night's bath) when you could be firing up the coffeepot with a full skirt of silk swishing against your legs?

I have three dressings gowns: a rayon gown from the 1940s, a cotton pique gown from the 1930s with soft, puffed sleeves, and a ribbon-fabric gown from the early 1950s (all purchased at the Xtabay, naturally). I love them all. Sometimes I delay getting dressed so I can prolong the glamour, or I'll even wear them when I work from home, layered with long underwear and a cashmere cardigan in the winter.

Liz has stocked the Xtabay well with dressing gowns. We have a 1930s gold silk charmeuse gown, two 1930s flowered cotton gowns (one of them a comfortable, larger size), and a gorgeously-patterned 1940s gown from the old Charles Berg department store. Add a pair of gold slippers--or, better yet, black silk mules with maribou trim--and you're set to start any day like a movie star.

--posted by Angie