Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vintage Fashion Expo Recap

This was just one half of a booth.
Imagine hundreds of these booths in a giant hall.
Two Sundays ago, I got to drop by the Santa Monica Vintage Fashion Expo, thanks to a tip from one of the ladies from the 1912 project. I meant to write up my experience earlier, but life (and Sew Grateful Week!) intervened. So here it is now!

I went into the expo not entirely sure what to expect, but also pretty sure that I wasn't going to buy anything. I was mostly hoping to get a chance to examine some Downton Abbey-esque clothing, since museum pictures don't really give one an idea of actual construction. When I walked into the Santa Monica Convention Center, I felt like I had just walked into Comic-Con, but for vintage was amazing! Although, for the record, more people are dressed up at Comic-Con. I did wear my Pan-Am dress, it being the most obviously vintage thing in my wardrobe; several ladies there commented on it and one even thought it was an actual vintage piece! She was very sweet when I said that I had made it myself, although I didn't tell her I made it from a poly-cotton bedsheet for less than $3.

[Incidentally, if you're planning on going to Comic-Con, ever, either paid or as a volunteer, you need to sign up for a member ID. It's not a commitment to go, but more to streamline registration. *end PSA*]

There were a ton of vendors selling clothing (mostly more modern vintage, think 1930s and on, but there were some Edwardian things a couple of absolutely lovely Victorian pieces), accessories (hats! gloves! belts! jewelry!), notions (lots of lace trims and appliques and crocheted pieces!), and shoes (not especially interesting to me). I did see a couple of stalls with sewing patterns, but they were frankly not that special and kind of overpriced ($8+, when normally I get them for less than a dollar each).  Unfortunately, most of the clothing was waaaaay out of my price range, even if I'd been interested in buying. I did snag a few pictures, courtesy of kind vendors, but the lighting was quite bad and I only had my iPhone.

The front of an Edwardian era blouse. Note the high neck, lace insertion, tiny decorative buttons, and amazing embroidery. Try not to note the fact that it's out of focus. This piece was $125.

I love the look of white on white embroidery. Pintucks and lace insertion seem to be common design features. This more elaborate piece was $250!

The back of these blouses mostly closed with tiny buttons or snaps. Another thing they all had in common was the relatively short back, with a much longer front, presumably to get the poofed-out pouter pigeon look.

Beautiful 1930s dress with a pink slip and a pale pink embroidered net overdress. This piece was $400. 

The bottom of the dress. Love the glorious drapey skirt.

I really need to learn how to do this whole bias-cut gown thing.

I loved the back of the gown. I also didn't even bother trying to find out how much this piece cost.

The highlight for me was getting to try on a couple of actual corsets from the famed San Francisco company Dark Garden. Their corsets are extremely well-made, but well out of my price range, unfortunately. It was still a treat, though, to see what a steel-boned corset should feel like: very supportive, like a tight hug, and nothing at all like the cheap, plastic-boned one that I used for my steampunk costume. The kind lady running the booth laced me down to 23", which looked a little too exaggerated an hourglass for my taste. And while I can't imagine Scarlett O'Hara's 16" waist, or Ma Ingalls' "when-I-was-married-Charles-could-put-his-hands-around-my-waist," I can see how some of those extreme-looking, old-timey photos of women in corsets weren't actually that extreme; the women were just smaller to begin with.

The only things I brought home with me were a pair of white 60s-era gloves for $5, as well as an assortment of trims, which I'll hopefully utilize in the 1912 project.

4 yards of the wide lace, 4 yards of the mint beaded trim (do I see a Lady Mary-esque evening gown in my future??), and 4 yards each of the other crocheted lace trims; all of these were from the same vendor, for a total of $14! That's not bad, right?  I'm hoping to make a blouse with lace trim like the creamy one Lady Mary always wears with that belted, slightly flared skirt.
Let's just hope that the 1912 project drawings are in my favor!

The Santa Monica Antique Mall and the Rose Bowl Flea Market are still on my list of vintage-y things to check out, but I don't know when I'll be able to go. Hopefully their prices will be better than the ones at the expo! Does anyone know of any other sources of vintage clothing in the LA area?


  1. Hey! You won my giveaway- please send me your address and I'll try to get the pattern and the fabric in the mail to you by the end of the week. (I can send you a nice hand-traced copy of the pattern or the pdf... Let me know which you prefer. :))

  2. I LOOOOOOVE that bias cut dress! The Vintage Pattern Lending Library has a few fancy dress gown patterns cut on the bias that are to die for! You should check them out.

    Also, I gifted you with the Liebster Blog Award. More info about this award can be found on my blog, Down the Retro Rabbit Hole.

  3. You're kidding me. First Madeleine L'Engle, and now Ma Ingalls? You haven't been breaking into my personal library while I'm sleeping now have you? Own up!

    PS. What a lovely vintage treat! Wish I could've gone too!

  4. lucky thing! I'm so envious when I hear about all the stuff in the states.

    I feel a little better when you tell the prices though - it looks like antique fair prices in the US are as ridiculous as antiques fair prices in NZ. You'd pay half those on Etsy, even less from an auction. But you do have to know your stuff to buy there.

    The trims you bought are fab. I wish I'd gotten into the 1912 project in time.


Thank you for taking the time to tell me your thoughts! I appreciate reading them and I try to reply to most, if not all, comments, especially when they are questions. I ask that you keep your comments polite, and if you're a spammer, don't bother because your comment will just be deleted! Also, if you're commenting on a post that's more than two weeks old, it will be moderated.