It's a rare enough phenomenon to stumble onto a blog where you instantly feel a connection to the writer and after scrolling a few pages are already incredibly inspired. Even more remarkable is coming upon such a genuinely warm hearted, generous, and beautiful person behind the keyboard as well. Jessica Cangiano, of the much loved blog Chronically Vintage, embodies both of the two together! She is one stunning vintage loving gal, inside and out. I don't think I have ever before had the pleasure of meeting someone so sincerely kind and welcoming from the word go.
Back when I was a tiny newbie blogger, just starting to play with vintage style again after a few years long hiatus, I decided I needed to get the word out that this little blog of mine even existed. I invested in a few banner adds on some blogs I admired and hoped for the best. Never did I expect to feel so welcomed, so encouraged, as I was by the lovely blogging maven behind such a popular blog as Chronically Vintage. What began as my little e-mail asking about banner ad's has turned into a genuine friendship across the internet airwaves. I feel the same today as I did then, so lucky to have encountered such a kind and beautiful individual!
All this is to say that when I decided I wanted to start interviewing some of my fellow bloggers, I knew exactly who I wanted to reach out to first! Luckily Jessica agreed to be my very first interviewee, and I hope you all enjoy the result of our delightful back and forth about inspiration and vintage shopping!
We know you are a queen of vintage, it has even been officially verified! I hope I can ask a few questions that are a bit different than the norm, starting with a bit of pop culture. Do you have any favorite films that you turn to for fashion inspiration?
That is immensely kind of you to say, Bianca, thank you very much! Truth be told, I've always found real world photos and illustrations of "everyday" vintage folks to be my biggest source of vintage fashion inspiration. That isn't to say though, that I don't turn to Hollywood on that front as well, because I certainly do.
A few mid-century films in particular that always turn my knees to Jell-O when it comes to the costuming included in each of them, are: The Women (1939), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Father of the Bride (1950) - and really, anything Elizabeth Tailor made during her early years of acting, Roman Holiday (1953), White Christmas (1954), Rear Window (1954), and Guys and Dolls (1955).
|Screen-cap from The Women, MGM 1939.|
Ooohh, I definitely enjoy period films (and TV) shows. There are so many that I love, it's hard to pick just one favourite. Hmmm, I think I'd have to go with A League of Their own though, which is set during the early 1940s. It was one of the first period films that I remember seeing as a young child and it played a pivotal role in the development of my lifelong passion for the 1940s and the fashions of that era (a topic that I covered way back in this 2009 blog post: http://www.chronicallyvintage.com/2009/07/league-of-their-own-one-of-my-greatest.html).
Another thing to add to my watch list then! Speaking of period films, and as this is The Closet Historian after all, if you could dress up in full historic dress for a day (pre-1920) which era would you choose and why?
Another toughie!!! Soooo hard to pick...I think it's a two-way tie for me between an upper class circa Revolutionary War look and an 1870s or 1880s Victorian daywear ensemble. The Victorian era has always been one that fascinates me immensely and I spend untold hours studying it as a child (and still love learning more about it to this day). I've never owned a true vintage dress or repro dress from that time period, so I think having the chance to finally wear such a look would be a dream come true. I'm especially fond of the fashions of the 1870's and 80's, so a look from one of those decades would be the icing on the historical fashion cake.
I have a deeply rooted love of mid to late 18th century fashion, too, and find that my passion for colonial fashions only deeps as time goes on, so there again, having never worn such, I would relish the chance to do so.
Your own outfits are consistanly inspiring and I am always struck by the beautiful color combinations you come up with. Have you always had such a wonderful eye for color?
Thank you so much! I'm touched to know that you think so. While, like any talent, those skills are certainly ones that I've honed over the years. Yes, I have always had a natural eye and knack for colour combinations and successfully accessorizing an outfit. I feel very fortunate that such is the case and never take it for granted. I always like to continue to expand my expertise there and enjoy coming up with successful new (on me) colour combos that continue to showcase that there is no limit to the array of such (colour pairings) out there.
It is definitely an aspect of your blog that continues to inspire me, I am trying to expand my "eye" when it comes to pairing different accessories with my wardrobe staples. Speaking of color, you have shown your excellent rainbow collection of gloves on your blog before, but as I happen to be a hat lover, please indulge me and tell me about some of your favorite vintage hats?
It's true, I haven't (somewhat intentionally - I like the excitement and fun of sharing them periodically) rounded up all of my vintage hats into a single post yet. Maybe one day, but again, I really like weaving them into my outfits on an organic basis.
Some of my favorite hats are my bespoke 1940s style winged tilt hat the uber talented Australian milliner Tanith Rowan made for me (see it here), my c. 1940s dusty rose straw hat that my husband gave me after I fell in love with it with a vintage shop that is no longer in business (see it here), my 1930s/40s wide brimmed green straw hat that I picked up from a small nearby antiques store (above, and also here), my c. 1940s black straw carwheel hat (here), and my delightfully quirky 1940s/50s navy blue double bow hat (last seen here).
In general, I find myself drawn to both small tilt hats and, conversely, wide cartwheel/platter hats, which is great, because thankfully both of these styles tend to look flattering on me (which is not true of all hat styles; cloches, for example, usually look frighteningly bad on me). I love styles with colour, whimsy, and great details. I wear vintage hats all year round and rarely go more than three or four months without adding at least one new hat to my old school wardrobe.
I love a good tilt hat, those are also my favorite hat styles! Speaking of shopping, what is the best vintage item you have ever found and was able to purchase/bring home?
That's hard to say in a lot of ways, because over the years, due to both the lack of vintage/antique stores in the areas where I've lived and also the fact that my health often makes leaving the house a real challenge, I've bought most of my vintage items online. No all, of course, but certainly a larger percentage than those I've picked up in person for vintage/antique stores, thrift shops, yard sales, flea markets, auctions and the like.
You know, nostalgist that I am, my blink answer to this great question is to say that it's actually the first vintage item I ever remember buying.
Each summer there's a swap meet held at Chute Lake, a very rural lake + campground that's way off the beaten path and up a super bumpy road. The first time I ever attended it, I was barely nine years old, but already more than a little smitten with vintage.
At the time, I wanted to be a nurse or a doctor when I grew up and a spent many a childhood hour playing "hospital". As such, when I saw a little 1930s metal first aid kit with many of its original contents intact, I knew that I had to have it (I should clarify that I wanted it as a collectible item, not to play with).
The seller, a real curmudgeonly older man, wanted $20.00 for it. I think that I offered something like $15.00 and at first he wouldn't budge. Here I was, this small (I was always very small for my age), cute little blonde haired girl with a handful or coins and he was sticking to his asking price - could you imagine! Well, after some spirited back and forth, I think I got him down to $18 and I felt like I was on top of the world.
I'm not sure if that First Aid kit is still in our family (it would be at my mom's house, probably, if it was), but I sure loved it as a child and collected a few other antique and vintage medical items back them, too (mostly books), to accompany it.
That memory stands out not only because it was the first time I purchased a vintage item for myself, but because, from that day onward, I was never afraid to politely bargain in an appropriate setting and that has served me extremely well as both a vintage collector and a vintage seller.
That is an adorable story! Good for tiny you not being afraid to bargain! I wish I had gone to such markets as a kid, I really enjoyed summer street fairs, but mostly for the snow cones. How about the best find you had to leave behind?
There's so little vintage to be had around here that, again, most of the pieces that "got away" were online. If we're speaking strictly in person though, there was a stunning late 19th century studio camera at an antiques mall in Calgary, Alberta that we saw while on a trip there in 2013.
It wasn't per se rare or that well priced (I think it was about $1,200 Cnd, if memory serves me right), but goodness was it stunning. If I'd had the means, I would have bought it in a heartbeat, as both my husband, Tony, and I are passionate photographers and I've always wanted a camera like that as a display piece in our home. That one got away in the sense that I couldn't afford it, but hopefully one day another will come along that I can budget for and I'll finally make that vintage related dream come true.
That camera sounds awesome! I have definitely encountered antiques that just call to me while out perusing real antique markets, mostly antique clothing (I remember a very pretty 1880's dress for example...) that I end up having to leave behind. Have you ever had a truly devastating loss on ebay? I missed out on a gorgeous black lace wiggle dress once and still haven't recovered!
There have been many for me over the years, but two that really stand out are a c. late 40s/early 50s very wide brimmed aqua hued straw cartwheel style hat and a 1950s Mexican circle skirt that had bunches of grapes painted all over it. The hat would have gone sublimely with a 50s novelty print dress that I have (and no doubt other outfits, too) and the skirt reminded me a lot of the local wine growing region where I live, as well as Tuscany and Italy in general, which is where my husband grew up. I find that I'm really attracted to anything vintage that even remotely looks like it could, or flat out does, relate to Italy for this reason. Both items were BINs on eBay (the hat about three years, the skirt in 2013) and in each case I was trying to quickly save up for them, but someone with deeper pockets beat me to them (they were both well priced, but not bargain basement, so to speak, by any means). The hat, even more than the skirt, gets to me because it's quite rare to find a big straw hat in aqua/turquoise, which is one of my favourite colours ever, and I know that I would have worn it frequently. Oh well! Whenever a great piece gets away, I just try to take a zen approach to things and tell myself that it wasn't meant to be (and who knows. maybe I'll find similar items to one or both of those pieces some day - you just never know what's waiting around the corner when it comes to vintage).
I have yet to accomplish the ebay zen, which is why I mostly stick to Etsy where I strangely feel a bit safer things wont get bought by someone else before I can snatch them up! What would be your "holy grail" vintage find?
I know that it is epically unlikely to ever happen, but a late 40s/early 50s Dior New Look style (Bar or otherwise) suit in my size for a song would be the epitome of the ultimate vintage find for me.
I think all vintage lovers could agree with you there, midcentury Dior is definitely the dream! Finally, speaking of other vintage lovers, living in a town where vintage style and interest is a rarity can be a bit isolating, what is your best advice for people who don't have a local vintage community?
Wonderful question! I have tons of experience here and would say that connecting with folks online is one of the best things you can do. Whether it's a blog, social media, a forum (like the Fedora Lounge), or anywhere else, make your presence known and delight in the camaraderie of the vintage community.
Another suggestion is to look for people locally who may have an interest in history, but who may not themselves be vintage wearers/bloggers/social media users/etc. For example, local historians, museum employees, librarians, antique store owners, folks who sell old items on the second hand market, theater costumers, authors who write about historical topics, classic car club members, and similar categories of folks. They'll usually have some degree (if not a ton!) of interest in the past and you may find that you bond well with them over this mutual love of days gone by.
Author's note: She's 100% right you know, becoming an actual participant in the online vintage community has been so rewarding! I feel so lucky to have connected with Jessica and other vintage enthusiasts here online, as here in my suburb in Colorado no one understands the joy of snapping up a great 40's picture hat for a song!
I would like to thank Jessica for being my first interviewee, and for being just an awesome and endlessly encouraging vintage loving friend as well. I think there is no better endorsement for becoming a part of the online vintage community than for the chance to meet someone so lovely as she. I was a "lurker" for a long time online, reading blogs but never commenting, thinking about starting a blog, but never following through. What a wonderful surprise for me when I started to come out of my shell online to discover such a welcoming member of the online community!
For more about Jessica, check out her blog of course Chronically Vintage, her YouTube channel, and to snap up a piece selected by her discerning eye visit her etsy shop here!