Monday, June 7, 2010

History Lesson

I've hit the blogging "doldrums"....... or maybe my life is just getting boring? Anyway. In an attempt to string my two or three readers along and keep things somewhat amusing around here until creativity strikes once more, I am going to resort to telling stories. Stories probably nobody is interested much in hearing about, but I am going to tell them anyway.

Story number one is this: A brief history of my Vintage interest and my shop on Etsy.

I think what sparked my early interest in vintage fashion was old movies. My parents let my 6 siblings and I watch very little TV, but what we did see was a lot of old movies and new movies about old times. So from the time I was a very little girl, I was exposed to old-fashioned looks.
Which didn't mean much to me until my late teen age years, when school friends and I attended "Colonial Balls" where families from our circle of school and church friends would gather together for evenings of good wholesome family frolics in period costume.
My girlfriends, sister and I all owned a couple historically inspired frocks, which, looking back, were not nearly as period correct as we thought they were. Ball gowns styled to replicate Colonial American dresses but with Antebellum full skirts large enough to accommodate huge hoop skirts - they were a mix of periods, but we felt elegant in them, and that is all that mattered. We would sit around and design all manner of lovely new concepts for gowns; visit fabric stores and spend hours sewing and embellishing them; and dolling ourselves up in a period manner. My mother actually made me a pair of frilly Victorian "bloomers" which I adored, and still adore to this day.
The guys we were all friends with were persuaded to don tights and short knee britches, also, and we hit the dance floor, twirling to the tunes of a three piece band and the dance caller who called the contra dance steps out. Some of us, one year, learned some more complicated dances and did exhibitions at retirement homes and once at a Independence Day festival in my historic home town in North Carolina.

Eventually I got sick and tired of the hoop skirts. To this day, I despise my hoop skirt, which I very pointedly left in my mother's walk-in closet when I moved away two years ago. So one year, for one such period costume dance party, I shunned my hoop skirt frocks and went with a black velvet 1940's jumper and ivory satin blouse from my Mother's stash of old family things. I wore a black velvet beret that I dressed up with a vintage silver buckle and ribbon doo-dad, black velvet Mary Jane shoes, curled and styled my hair after a 1940's fashion, and showed up on the scene as the only person in attendance not in a hoop skirt that evening.

Around that time I began collecting old hats and handbags, just as a "thing" to do. I didn't go digging for vintage fashions, but when I happened upon them in shopping trips with my mom, I would pick them up.

I started working in an antiques store in 1999, I think it was. It was also around that time that I got my own room after my third oldest brother, Noah, got married and moved out. My mother let me decorate my new room however I wanted. So I chose a rosy, vintage theme, and purchase little accents to go along with my Grandmother's bedroom set was allowed to use. I also started buying little trinkets for my future home and stashing them in the 1930's cedar chest passed to me by my Grandmother; which is in my home today.

My work in the antique store inspired me to learn more about old things; so I knew at least a little something when customers asked questions. I read books and searched the Internet, learning everything I could about "old stuff" and what it was worth. It was, and still is, amazing to me that some people think their stuff is just old junk and donate it to charities, and all the while it is worth something to someone else out there who happens to collect it.

When I got married and moved to my husband's 1920s farm house, I already had a huge collection of "stuff" - stuff I had bought and packed into boxes and stored in my parent's barn on the farm. I had every inch of space in my little room stuffed with stuff - mostly vintage fashions and accessories. My closet was jam packed with it.

But now that I have a whole big house to "play" with, my collecting has taken on a whole new level. Sadly for me, though, our budget does not allow for me to collect the pieces of antique furniture and rugs on my wish list - so I collect smaller items, and occasionally pick up a piece of furniture I am lucky enough to snag for a modest amount of money - like the 4 poster bed with carved rails in our bedroom I picked up one afternoon at the Salvation Army for $30.00.

For a year or so, I displayed my vintage clothes in the Antique store (I still work there), but nothing much came of it. I sold a few dresses and hats. Finally I packed up all my stuff into plastic bins and took it home, deciding that an opportunity would present itself for me to sell it down the road. My big dream is a vintage clothing boutique - but it is an impossible dream in my rural locale.

Then one day my friend Elisa told me about this site called Etsy. She said it was primarily a "handmade" site, but that they had vintage items there also. I looked it up and thought it was interesting - but I have always been timid about using the computer and I didn't think much of it. She was also prompting me to start a blog - which I decided I wanted to do , but only after I got a newer computer and Internet in our house. For the first months of our marriage, we didn't have Internet, and I used my parent's computer for emails and such.

Then, all at once, we got the computer, and wireless Internet via our cell phone company, and I started this blog. That was a little over a year ago. My next goal was to start "Etsying", but I was terrified of that, also. I didn't even know how to get decent photos of my items. But one day Kevin and I switched banks, to a bank that actually had debit cards, and then we set up a pay pal account. This was the first time I had done anything with my money on line and I was a mess about it. Fraud, you know. Identity theft. I was - and am still, I guess - a huge big chicken when it comes to things like this.

We set all that up in the spring, and all summer, I collected more and more vintage things, and browsed all over the Etsy site, seeing how people did it, how they took their photos and wrote descriptions, and tagged, and all that stuff. My photos still stank, and my ever patient friend, Elisa - who is more a part of this whole thing than she will ever truly realize - was helping me with photo tips.
Finally in late September, I chose the items I was going to start with on my Etsy, and got some photos out in a field on our farm. I signed up for an account, and set up my shop one night. I listed a couple of dresses and some hats - and in less than 5 minutes, 2 of the hats had sold to my first customer in Hong Kong. I was elated, as I had read that it can take weeks for a first sale! Mine was less than five minutes! I have been selling steadily ever since, to customers all over the world.

Of course, my goal is to do better - good enough, in fact, to quit my day job. day. The fun thing about all of this is, I get to do a lot of shopping for "new" items all the time; which I will write about later.

So that is how I took my collecting habit to a whole new level and actually make money at it.

PS - just a note about my shop's name, Carolina Roses: I had originally wanted to make it "Sophie Rose", after my great grandmother and my grandmother. And my sister; who is named for them both. But "Sophie Rose" was already taken by another Etsy user. So I decided on "Dorothy Rose", for my Grandmother. That, too, was taken. So, annoyed and irritated, I decided on either "Virginia Rose" or "Carolina Rose". So I took a poll among my close friends and my mom. Everyone said "Carolina Rose". But "Carolina Rose" was taken, also! So now I was really annoyed, and stuck a "s" on Rose, and went with it. I am from North Carolina, and love that state, and dream of a day when I can move back there and live on a old farm surrounded my my horses and gardens. So that is how I chose my shop name. Since then, I have thought maybe I should have chosen something more cutesy and clever, but don't want to go through all the trouble of changing my name.

Later I will describe how I choose items, where I find items, etc. etc. It is not an easy task. Fun - not easy.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

Catherine said...

Good story. :) I remember the colonial balls. I wish they still had them...