Brace yourselves, my darlings. It’s that time of year, again.
It’s swimsuit season.
I say “brace yourselves” because we women seem to do a mighty fine job of beating ourselves up when it comes to what we’re wearing in the pool or at the beach.
It’s just a pool, people.
Ditto for the beach.
No cause for that sheen of sweat and feeling of desperation in the pit of our stomachs, now is there?
Especially when we could wear this vintage beauty:
My kindred spirit friend Anne-Girl sent it to me a while ago.
It came through the real-for-true, old-fashioned mail, the way all vintage things should.
I have to admit, I was slightly taken aback when I opened the package and found a blue, crocheted bathing suit — sized about four decades too small for me–to boot.
But maybe some of you get bathing suits through the mail all the time, because you buy your swimsuits online.
What, what, what?
I can’t fathom it. You see, I’ve always gone for the tried-and-true way of buying a bathing suit: the festival that is the fluorescent-lit mall or big box or even boutique store change room. I am accustomed to the usual view of acres of me, unflatteringly lit with row upon row of fluorescents as I attempt to corral bits in with only the thin sheen of some kind of high-tech fabric.
Not high-tech enough, however, to hold up that which needs holding.
Or squeeze in that which needs squeezing.
Oh sure, we can send people to the International Space Station in suits that let them breathe in zero atmosphere but we can’t manage to conjure up a single swimsuit that will hold bits or squeeze bits the way I’d love them to.
I think I miss corsets.
Or what about these pantaloon bathing costumes – weren’t those great? Let’s ask some Hollywood/Fashion Week style dictator to bring those back. please oh pretty please. I think I could love a bathing suit that covered me from ankles to earlobes.
I sunburn easily and am always cold.
Anne-girl’s mother obviously loved this blue beauty because she wore it and loved it enough to emigrate to Canada with it, save it for half a century and pass it down to her daughter, who–knowing a wacky vintage-loving woman across the province–passed it down to me.
I love it. I love the buckles, I love the crochet, I love how the bottoms come up All The Way to the belly button (or higher).
On someone four decades smaller than I, of course.
Yep, love this bathing suit.
Being a woman brought up in the times when we were taught to constantly criticize our bodies, it has occurred to me that I can’t say “I love it” very often about a bathing suit in my possession. In fact, the last bathing suit I loved was at the age of four. I inherited a “bikini” from a more sophisticated five year-old friend and gleefully pranced about in it all summer, belly un-corraled.
My belly hasn’t been un-corraled in quite some time. On account of, I don’t have any core strength, as evidenced by the fact that I recently started doing core exercises (again) and didn’t notice their effect in the slightest during my regular waking hours until I went to bed and Practical Man informed me in the morning that I had groaned each and every time I rolled over in the night.
It turns out, I roll over a lot. And, apparently, if you exercise your core, it hurts to roll over. But, then, hopefully, after a few months of midnight groaning, your rolly bits don’t roll over your waist band quite as much as they used to.
At least, they better not.
Well, unless you count the times while I’m in the change room, trying to corral all the bits of my (apparently un-used) core, hold up that which needs holding and squeeze in that which needs squeezing, with only thin pieces of man-made fabric at my disposal.
Which, I don’t.
Anyway, run away from the fluorescent humiliation that is the bathing suit change room.
Run away, I say!
And, stop skulking behind that beach towel.
Wear your suit proudly because you’re already a bathing beauty.
Just like this one.
We’re having enchiladas for supper tonight.
They use up our leftover tortillas, grilled chicken, tomato sauce, veggies and such, so they are fairly regular fare for us. While enchiladas are certainly not fancy, we do eat them in the dining room and pretend we’re grown-ups, tra-la-la.
Tonight though, is no regular supper.
For, if I squint a little, I can see that the glasses are crystal goblets, from the 1920s. Just the kind of heirlooms that are magically filled after each course. I can imagine that our enchiladas are sitting on delicate china and that I am wearing satin gloves that cover my aristocratic elbows. I blink and there is Carson, the butler, standing over by the drinks cabinet.
Of course, Carson is glaring at our choice of food and lack of footmen. In fact, I can already hear his remonstration about how we are not “keeping up Standards” with those “foreign”, tex-mex morsels and laissez-faire attitude towards our cutlery.
Worry not, darling Carson:
At least I have my purse.
If you have ever seen the television show, Downton Abbey, you’ll know that it is terribly important for a lady to dress for–and carry one’s purse–when she goes down for dinner. Never mind that the lady has heard the dressing gong ages ago and is still wearing yoga pants and a hoodie instead of Downton-dinner-appropriate jewels and tiara:
At least she has her purse.
I mean, I do.
And a very Downton-esque specimen it is.
Practical Man (who reminds me a little bit of Carson, sometimes, but more often of Bates) found it at a local thrift shop. Like Bates, Practical Man is full of honour and penitence (and the resignation and shoulders to be able to pull off the requisite suit of that era). Case in point, Practical Man not only spots treasures like this purse among the fray, but actually shows it to me, instead of burying it deeper on the thrift store shelf in the hopes that I will never find it.
He’s the Bates to my Anna, really.
Anyway, this lovely, beaded bag was CDN$6.50 and looks as if it has never graced the dinner of an enchilada eater (no tomato sauce stains) or an aristocrat (no diamonds inside). I’m not sure if it’s truly vintage or merely a reproduction, but I love it all the same.
Sure, I’m still wearing yoga pants and a hoodie.
But, with this flapper-inspired beauty beside me, our enchiladas have never looked so good.
My husband, Practical Man, often has to pry a book out of my snoring, sleeping fingers. I know fingers don’t usually snore but, I’m sure mine do.
It can’t be my adorable nose making all that racket.
Ever since I learned to read, it’s been the same story. Me and a book, in a dimly-lit room, my nose literally squished against the pages as I strained and squinted to see the words from my secret spot beneath the covers. I probably would have needed glasses at some point, but I may have hastened the process just a tad with my voracious attachment to 1970’s six-year-old’s I-Can-Read literature, like Pickles the Fire Cat, The Adventures of Jimmy Skunk and The Strange Disappearance of Arthur Cluck.
Not much has changed. Right now, I’m reading Penelope Crumb (funny and touching children’s chapter book), and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (a wonderful book for grown-ups and ’40s vintage fans).
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that my left eyeball hurts today. What with the habitual reading before sleep ‘n all.
It’s been hurting on and off (mostly on) when I move it around recklessly–as in reading, driving or checking out Practical Man’s form on a tractor–since February. Doctors are mystified but I don’t appear to be going blind, growing a brain tumour or developing Multiple Sclerosis.
In other words, it’s all good.
It just hurts. But I can still see, for which I am grateful, since I have needed glasses (badly) since the age of seven.
And Practical Man looks darn good on that orange Kubota. It might hurt my left eye to look, but I’d hate to miss that. So I’m grateful for the vision provided to me by glasses and contacts.
But, like many, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with them. After all, it was said that Boys Don’t Make Passes At Girls Who Wear Glasses.
At first, my affair with glasses was all good. In fact, it started out rather glamorously.
Behold my Great Grandma Hildegard’s snazzy, sparkly horn-rimmed glasses when she held me as a baby in 1969. They match her equally snazzy, sparkly earrings and brooch, of course. Don’t you just love how eyewear gives an instant snapshot of an era?
But after that, things–spectacle-wise–started taking a definite turn for the worse.
My parents bought me fancy (and no doubt, expensive) glasses that darkened automatically in the sun but this was the mid-70s, so they didn’t lighten back up very well. As a result, I had a vaguely Annie Sullivan look about me…even though with that haircut it was hard to look like anyone but a young Shaun Cassidy.
And then there was puberty (bad perm and worse glasses). Still look like Shaun Cassidy. Remember the phase where the arms of the glasses started at the bottom of the lenses and then swooped up over your ears? Apparently, I thought that was a good look (stop laughing).
In high school, I didn’t love the “four eyes” teasing or the fogging up the instant I set my foot on the first step of the bus to school when I was busy trying to plan how to nonchalantly plop myself down next to Graham Gorgeous, the hunky guy who had just moved back from New Zealand.
But, it was all good.
I had worked out that if I entered the bus backwards, my glasses didn’t fog up. It’s very challenging to bat your eyelashes at Graham Gorgeous when steam has obscured his view of your beautiful baby blues.
Yep, it’s a real mystery why I didn’t end up as Mrs. Graham Gorgeous.
So, I should have known better by the time high school graduation rolled around. Apparently blue eye shadow was my thing. Not that you would notice on account of the gigantic, red glasses and ’80s bangs.
Despite that, all these years later, I am thankful for glasses ‘cos I can’t find a thing without them.
For example, I can’t find my glasses without my glasses.
How cruel is that?
I haven’t found snazzy, sparkly vintage glasses like Great Grandma Hildegard’s, but I’ve started wearing this modern-day, reasonable facsimile:
And, every night, when Practical Man pries the book out of my snoring, sleeping fingers, I’m sure I am smiling because I finally know the truth:
Boys DO Make Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses.
It’s all good.
In our household, we often joke that we have a role reversal going. Case in point: I spent one sunny, Saturday afternoon rummaging through a junkyard with my friend, Trevor.
When I returned home, dusty, with a heart and camera full of rusty, tree-entwined vintage vehicles, the glorious smell of baking bread wafted out to greet me…as did my amused husband who had been home slaving over a hot oven all day. If that doesn’t describe a perfect day, then I don’t know what does.
My husband drew the line at wearing one of my fun, vintage aprons though.
I find them in second-hand stores or at yard sales and often, can’t bear to leave them behind. They’re usually homemade (and for much tinier waists than I possess) with kitschy vintage touches like rick-rack, scalloped edges and even, smocking. They evoke a time of beautiful, rounded fridges (not a fingerprinted, stainless steel front in sight), one grainy TV channel and the advent of margarine, pastel-coloured marshmallow “salads” and other foods not found in nature.
I’m happy to don one of these sartorial time machines and spend an afternoon baking another vintage-turned-fashionable treat: cupcakes. I find them manageable, for one who sometimes needs a life preserver when wading into the stew that is cooking and baking.
I stumble through the measuring and mixing, put up with the plopping into pans and baking parts…all so I can get to the hypnotic peace of using a pastry bag to pipe icing on their little, rounded tops.
It’s like Thai Chi, piping is. Seriously. You should try it.
I believe it’s how those women-of-a-certain-era managed to welcome everyone home in Leave it to Beaver fashion day after day, even when life in bouffants and polyester chafed.
Piping icing: it’s probably why they didn’t need yoga.
Even though I may look like the picture of vintage domesticity, working in my kitchen, apron apparently tied to the stove, I know the truth: my modern vintage life is about zen-cupcake-making and a partner who loves bread baking and future junkyards to explore.
Now, if I could just get my hands on one of those great vintage-inspired fridges!
I watched the movie Julie and Julia today, for what must be the 12th time, weeping over the sweet, supportive husbands (and counting myself lucky to be in that club) and the idea of people’s writing/publishing dreams coming true. Julia Child’s ’50-’60s Paris is a feast for the vintage lover with its short gloves and cloche-inspired hats and raw silk dresses cinched at the waist and billowing like very elegant souffles at the skirts.
And, of course, there is the never-ending parade of butter. Very vintage.
But, in between salivating over the butter, I was reminded of my Lucy Dress–even though in the depths of a Canadian January, it’s not something I have a hope of wearing for at least another 5 months. Right now, it’s all about the winter wear:
-fleece (guaranteed to make me so full of static electricity that I can snap, crackle pop my way through the house)
– tights that are inevitably too short for my legs
– clothing items that accidentally have too much wool in them because I forgot to check the label or was overly optimistic about how much wool I can stand in the name of warmth, before I brought their itchiness home with me
– turtleneck (I only have one)
This sexy wardrobe seems to be my (not to mention my husband’s) lot from October until May. Today, for example, I was wearing a very un-vintage-y down coat and rubber boots to help my husband unpack supplies to build a shed. It was a good day because my clunky, it’s-a-temperature-outside-that-guarantees-my-long-ago-frostbitten-toes-will-start-aching-without-them-in-3-minutes Sorel-style boots weren’t required. It was “warm” today at 1 degree C but still a long way from a Lucy Dress Day.
I call it the Lucy Dress because when I tried it on, I immediately felt like Lucille Ball. It has that classic 50s dress shape to it, is a luscious shade of red and it makes me want to voop. Y’know, hold the skirt out from my body with the tips of my fingers and swish and twirl and bat my eyelashes…and there you have it: voop, voop. Oh, and maybe eat a little something slathered with beurre blanc and have the classic song, “Time After Time” playing in the background, just to complete the vintage illusion.
But, it’s not time for the Lucy Dress just yet. So, when the next snow storm arrives, I’ll have to content myself with vooping as the snow falls while I try to catch the snowflakes on my tongue. Luckily, that’s pretty fun too.
So yesterday was Saturday, one of the best days of the week for a vintage hunter. In our house, we’re not die-hards, rising before dawn to scope out the best sales or anything, but we sometimes saunter out, usually around 9:00 or 9:30 and meander our way down the country roads near (and sometimes not so near) our house in search of treasures.
Sometimes we don’t find much.
Lots of clothes for children we don’t have and knick-knacks for dusting I don’t do. There are some ambitious vendors ($80.00 for the tiny child’s chair) and some people whose interests or tastes just don’t give me that “oh wow look at THAT!” feeling. But there are also the estate sales from houses that haven’t changed in 50 years and church sales where everything seems to be 10 cents. My excited butterflies start before I’ve even left the car.
Yesterday, I spent $8.75 on a few fun finds (some of which had my husband rolling his eyes). There was the vintage tolle-painted, metal garbage pail with foot pedal (red) and only slightly broken. Luckily I live with the handiest of handymen and he assured me that “with a little coaxing with a hammer”, it would soon be sitting pretty in our ensuite bathroom.
There was the antique jam jar which had long ago lost its wooden lid but which was still charming and a steal of a deal since I don’t care enough about junk pedigree to worry if it’s the real thing or not. And a Fisher Price doctor’s kit (a great addition to the Operation game I put on my promotion table for my medical school admission business). Of course, there were the requisite children’s books to add to my collection but it wasn’t until after we’d munched our way through a country garlic festival and were returning home, sighingly satiated and stinky of breath in the afternoon, that we stumbled across the aforementioned eye-roll-provoking treasure.
The seatbelt belt. Yup. You’ve probably seen them in your travels. You take an old car seatbelt and fashion it into a belt and well, being a car girl as I am, it struck a chord with me. It was humorous and whimsical and slightly ridiculous: the very definition of something I usually want to own. The owner didn’t even barter (possibly because she was being bombarded by our garlic festival breath and just wanted to escape) and I had to have it…even though it did cost me the princely sum of 50 cents.
There was much eye rolling as we made our way back to the car, me grinning from ear-to-ear. And I know that a seatbelt belt is possibly stretching the “retro” theme of this blog because maybe it’s not retro, but rather, simply weird. You decide.
Me, I’m too busy smiling about my belt.