Monday, November 21, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide--The Singer Shop

Sewing is making a real come-back as folks (women AND men!) learn that it's a fun, creative, and useful hobby. Of course, many have always known this; and many don't do it as a hobby, but out of necessity.

There's nothing more fun to sew with than a really good machine. This doesn't mean a bunch of bells and whistles, just solid performance and dependability. Singer isn't the only sewing machine, and may not even be the best (although I love mine!), but it has been around a long, long time.

This, from 1941 McCall's:

"Pl-ease fill my Christmas stocking at the Singer Shop!"

I love the fact that this ad has a "Dad's choice":

I'm not quite sure if he is supposed to use the sewing maching to sew or just to keep his writing paper in, but hey, whatever he wants!

And of couse, there is the perpetual encouragement for little girls to learn how to be future wives and mothers:

That might be a small machine, but it's a serious one! We used to trust our kids with stuff like this...and they learned to use it (OK, there may have been a little blood shed here and there, but lessons were learned!).

And by the way, when did we stop making such beautiful sewing machine cabinets? Again, I really quite love my Singer that I got for Christmas last year.'s not exactly heirloom quality like these. Even the matching benches! Just gorgeous!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide--Booze

A classic gift is a nice bottle of something. That never really goes out of style, does it.

Now, Old Taylor may not be the most special of whiskeys, but this ad is great. This from October 25, 1954, Life:

In case you can't make out the text below the picture: "Inscribe your decanter gifts in 23 carat gold. With every carton of the Old Taylor Presentation Decanter, you will receive a leaf of genuine 23 carat gold. With it you can write your personal greetings directly on the decanter. Old Taylor in the Presentation Decanter costs no more than the standard bottle which is always available."

How cool is that? This certainly makes a bottle of whiskey quite special, doesn't it? Not only the pretty decanter, but being able to write on it in gold? Pretty nifty, I'd say. Of course, you'd have to buy a whole case to do that, but that would take care of a bunch of nice individualized gifts.

There are vintage bottles (regular bottles, not decanters) on Ebay with the whiskey in them, if you so choose. There are also a couple of old decanters (empty), but they don't look quite as nice as the one in this ad. Of course, you can always choose your own tipple of choice and make it a signature gift. Craft stores sell gold leaf pretty cheaply, so a plain glass decanater could be dressed up nicely.

I love Maker's Mark, if anyone's asking!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide--Roseville

This, from 1941 McCall's:
This is a tiny little ad at the back of several of my old magazines. Roseville pottery, of course, has become highly collectible and thus quite valuable. As a vintage gift, it is a really nice one. While online prices can be in the hundreds of dollars, Roseville turns up in estate sales, auctions, and yard sales all the time, so keep an eye out for real bargains.

Not all Roseville is to my taste, I have to say. If you are going to seek out Roseville as a gift, keep in mind the taste of your giftee, for sure! This site gives a history of the company, which would see its demise just 13 years after this ad ran. And here are all the patterns Roseville made. Some of it is stunning, and all patterns certainly are not easy to find. If you're going to invest in a piece of Roseville, do your research so you know what you're looking at/for.

Happy shopping!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide--Pendleton

I dedicate this post to Fuzzy Lizzie over at The Vintage Traveler. She can tell you far more about Pendleton than I can, and if you look through her blog, you'll learn a lot about... well... a lot of things!

This, from 1957 Sports Afield:

I've always had a soft spot for plaid and for Pendleton. Talk about a quality clothing line (until recent years... as so many, they've moved production overseas... Again, see The Vintage Traveler for more!). If you think you want to give Pendleton to someone for Christmas, by all means, start looking sooner rather than later, because I highly recommend you seek out some vintage Pendleton. It is abundant because of its high quality. This stuff lasts and lasts, and it's as cozy as the day it was made in most cases.

There IS only one Pendleton (unless you're talking about my best college friend's family, in which case there are several "unique" Pendletons!). And it IS a hearty way to say "Merry Christmas"! I mean really...can you be any cozier than his-and-hers plaid wool robes? Now, I can't say what's with the heels and robe on herself up there...but whatever!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide--These are NOT Good Gift Ideas!

There is just no excuse for anyone thinking this is a good Christmas gift for one's wife (or, apparently, daughter). From 1953 Good Housekeeping:

There are no words to describe the wrongness of this ad...

And then there's this one, same magazine just a few pages later:

Now, there's nothing inherently wrong about a Bissell sweeper. They're really kind of neat. And I even have a daughter who would have loved a kid-sized sweeper when she herself was kid-sized. And that is one fancy scale. Even comes in "decorator colors or all chrome." Nice. Really, really nice. Light-up dial and everything.

But these are not... I repeat, NOT... Christmas gifts. Not for your spouse. Not for your children. Don't even think about it...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide--For the Boudoir

"Because every woman treasures the hours she spends at her dressing table...

Because every woman wants her dressing table to be smartly luxurious...But practical, too...

Because Du Pont asked noted artists to design correct accessories for every style of boudoir...

And because they are priced so reasonably despite their perfect craftsmanship and authentic style...

Make someone (how about yourself) very happy with one of these modern ensembles."

From 1930 Good Housekeeping:

Monticello [top] in Continental Blue, Buff and Gold, or Colonial Rose and Silver effects. $15 to $30 (depending on articles selected). [Today's prices: $180-$360!!!]

Trianon--In Spring time Green or in Peach Antoinette. $16.00 to $33.50 (depending on number of articles selected). [$192-$402!!!]

Sonya--Pearl-on-Amber Pyralin in Jade, Rose, Maize or White. $12.50 to $25.00 (depending on number of articles selected). [$150-$300!!!]

Madelon--Obtainable inJade, Rose, Maize or White. Pearl on Amber Pyralin. $10.00 to $20.00 (depending on number of items selected). [$120-$240!!!]

Wow! Were these really affordable by too many people in 1930? No wonder my 83-year-old mother always thought "a nice brush set" made a good gift. These are so cheap and taken for granted today, we don't realize that once upon a time, these were true luxury items. Also, of course, you still see these around (again, check Ebay and Etsy!). They've lasted for a very long time, and most of them are stunningly beautiful.

These sets include nail buffers and files, combs, brushes, mirrors, boxes, scissors, and button hooks. Rarely today can you find matched sets of "boudoir" items, and I don't know why we stopped doing that. When you have a set of something, it all seems far less disposible, doesn't it? And you also feel less inclined to hide it all away...there is an aesthetic value to it. I can't really say that about my modern brushes and nail clippers!

And here's page 2:

To help in shopping, there is a guide to taste:

"...for her whose boudoir suggests the Early American  period. Monticello, named after Jefferson's home in Virginia, is the ideal pattern."

" admirer of the Louis Quatorze period will prize the Trianon ensemble, with its delicate scroll of bell flowers, so beloved by Marie Antoinette."

"...the woman whose boudoir is furnished in the contemporary manner will perhaps prefer Sonya, so modern in shape adn so classically chaste in design."

"...the girl who wishes to add a touch of brilliance to her room will appreciate Madelon in flashing pearl-on-amber, with four beautiful pastel shades from which to choose."

Sigh... it all sounds so romantic, doesn't it?

The ad gives some "famous artist" names as designers of these lovely sets. A little research turns up some really interesting information.

Verna Cook Salomonsky, according to this site was a well-respected architect. She wsa born Verna Cook Shipway October 19, 1890, in Spokane, Washington. She attended the Ecole Speciale d'Architecture in Paris and the School of Architecture at Columbia University, where she met and married Edgar Salomonsky, also a student of architecture. Together they opened an architectural firm in 1920. When Edgar died in 1929, Verna continued to run the business on her own, specializing in Georgian, colonial and English style homes. She published a study of American furniture entitled Masterpieces of Furniture Design (1931).

Shipway designed homes built in numerous New York suburbs including Berkley and Scarsdale. In 1936, she was selected to design the first "Ideal House" for HOUSE AND GARDEN. In 1939, Shipway designed a model home for the New York World's Fair that was practical and affordable for the American family in the suburbs. Her home designs featured abundant closet space, natural light, circular staircases, bay windows, large hallways, and light-colored walls to make rooms appear larger.

In the 1940s, Verna Salomonsky married Warren Butler Shipway, an architectural engineer, and moved to California in 1947.

During a tour to Mexico, the Shipways met a builder who encouraged them to write a book on Mexican architecture. Warren documented the construction of homes and took photographs, while Verna noted the planning and design and drew sketches. Together they published five books on Mexican architecture and design. After the death of her husband in 1972, Shipway moved to La Jolla, California, where she died in 1978.

Ethel Parsons (later Paullin) was known for designed church windows. This article from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in the 1950s talks about her designs for playing cards (even though she didn't play cards!). She was commissioned, at the beginning of World War II, to design a series of triptychs for service chapels and ships by the Citizens Committee for the Army and Navy. She is quoted as saying she didn't so much care about subject matter as color and design (even designing a stock certificate!), so I guess that made her a perfect fit for designing a boudoir set!

Robert Leonard is a mystery. I could find nothing on him, so I can't imagine him designing boudoir sets! Anyone know anything about this artist?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide--The Economical Refrigerator

Again, this seems perhaps a bit odd for a Christmas present for one's wife...a refrigerator. But notice the little something in hubby's pocket there, so I'm sure it's all good. And just imagine the ease this fancy contraption brought to a housewife, once upon a time.

This, from 1930 Good Housekeeping:

"Why hesitate to suggest to your husband the gift you long for most? It is true economy to own the Refrigerator with the money-saving Monitor Top."

Look at the daughter holding her doll up to "see" the new refrigerator, the wreath on the fridge door, the beautiful kimono on the wife. And I love how the ad says the refrigerator is "Silent as the night before Christmas." This may be seen as a boring, even insulting, gift today, but as the ad says, this baby took over several jobs from the woman of the house, including watching temperatures and foods carefully, dealing with ice (solid and melted), or in many cases, saving steps by not having to go to whatever cold spot (basement, well house, dug out, etc.) where food was stored.

We have so much today, it's hard to appreciate how meaningful something we take so much for granted could be.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide--Yardley

I have always had a soft spot for the scent of Yardley lavender. Yardley has been around since the 1700s, and that makes it one of the oldest cosmetic companies in the world. Yardley started exporting to the U.S. in 1879 and began its U.S. branch in 1921. If this isn't vintage, I don't know what is!

Yardley has provided perfumes and soaps to the royal family for generations, and has had as its spokesmodels such important faces as Twiggy and Linda Evangelista. And oh how I wish I could go back in time and get my hands on some of these, from Life, December 6, 1943:

"Wish good cheer this year with Yardley."

"Bond Street" Perfume, favorite of charming women the world over. $2.50, $4.50, $8.50, $13.50.

Handsome harvest! Men's Shaving Bowl, Invisible Talc, Lavendar Hair Oil, Shaving Cream, After Shower Powder, Lavender Soap. $5.

Yardley English Lavender in a lovely array of 3 tablets of Lavender Soap, Talc, and Hand Cream. $2.35.

Beloved "Lavender," as young as next year. Bound to be on every one's list! $1, $1.50, $2.50, $3.75.

Yardley's Shaving Bowl has no match for pleasing men. In the familiar container, $1.

Present perfect for him: Yardley's Shaving Bowl, Invisible Talc, famous Lavender Soap, $2.55.

Duet to delight men of any age...Yardley's Shaving Bowl and popular Invisible Talc, $2.

Grand gesture gift. "Bond Street" Perfume, Bath Dusting Powder, Toilet Water, Talc and "English Complexion" Powder, $10.

Now...remember 1940s prices are about $10 to our $1, so some of these are quite expensive, especially in war time! Talk about a "grand gesture"! And imagine the men's sets... they must have smelled divine!

As I'm sure you know, Yardley is still around. Most drugstores in the U.S. have the lavender soap for a pittance. has a couple of varieties of soap, some talc (in a great vintage looking tin), and some lotion. But if you really want to drool over the lovelies, check out Yardley's U.S. Web site or U.K. Web site. Prices seem to vary wildly, so shop around! Or, for some really vintage gift ideas, do an Ebay search for vintage Yardley. Some of these very sets in the ad can be found!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide--Teenaged Boys and Swingers

Wow... that title really doesn't mean the same thing as in this ad!

This, from Life, December 15, 1967:

Today, everyone (nearly) has a camera with them all the time on our mobile phones. For better or worse (mostly worse) we can record everything all the time--and share in an instant--to millions of people in some cases. So I wonder if today's young generation realizes just how magical cameras once were...

This little cutie, although HUGE by today's standards, was just the thing for a teenager--black and white pictures in 15 seconds! Wow!

Check out this commercial:

When it comes to cameras, I have mixed feelings. I love my iPhone and its high quality snaps at the touch of a button. But we don't have actual pictures anymore, and that makes me sad. Even if we print out our photos (but really, who does that?), the photo paper will fade away to nothing in just a few years. I treasure all the old photos I have, and I wonder what the next generations will have to remember today. So why'd we stop having tangible things? (don't even get me started on MP3s!)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide--Make it a Sterling Christmas

There's nothing like a blatant hint!

This from 1930 Good Housekeeping:

I love how this is headlined, "A Page for Husbands"! Now, giving one's wife silver for Christmas does seem a bit odd to us today (and maybe then, too!). After all, everyone would be using it. But if a woman really took pride in the setting of her table, I suppose this would be a great gift.

I wouldn't mind a sterling tea set, for sure!

Prices are given for the "Lady Diana" pattern and the "Louis XIV" pattern. I'll include a modern equivalent in parentheses. Of course, I'm not taking into account the value of silver as a commodity, which may make these vastly more expensive today!

Lady Diana: Plate--for sandwiches, cake, etc. $25 ($300)
Coffee Pot: $135 ($1,620)
Sauce Bowl $22 ($264)
Salad Forks--6 for $16.50 ($198)
Sauce Ladle--$3.25 ($39)

Louis XIV Bowl--for berries, vegetables, etc. $35 ($420)
Coffee Pot $75 ($900)
Butter Spreaders--6 for $13.50 ($162)
Pie Server $5 ($60)

Well...I suppose a sauce ladle would be nice, too!

Why did we stop investing in nice silver? Yes, stainless steel is easy to take care of, but it's not exactly something to hand down to your kids and grandkids. And it doesn't gain value as time passes. What beautiful things do we invest in today to have forever and/or be an inheritance for the next generation?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide--Spare Us the Details!

This from 1953 Good Housekeeping:

Just look at this wife and mother. Angelic. Beautiful. Fashionable. 19-inch waist! Sitting on the floor surrounded by the perfect gifts for all and wrapping them beautifully! With a smile!

The text reads:
Part of the charm
Of a wife is that
She seems to pull rabbits
Out of a hat.
Tackle for fishing
That we craved for
We're stunned to find
She somehow saved for.
And where does she hide
To secretly knit
Sweaters that are
A miraculous fit?
Gifts not to be found
From here to Capri
She'll blandly arrange
Beneath out tree.
She works small wonders;
It never fails.
(She also spares us
The details!)

So, why'd we stop doing that? You know, skating through gift buying and wrapping with such poise?

Yeah... we never did that!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide--A Little Too Vintage

To be fair, I don't love everything about vintage gift giving. One thing I do not want to find under my tree--or anyone else's tree either!

This, from 1949 Sphere magazine (UK):

There are tons of old cigarette ads touting the suitability--the sheer desirability--of giving cigs for Christmas. Some almost make them look good! But this ad shows children giving cigarettes! Yikes!

Why'd we stop doing that? Because it's wrong on so many levels...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide--"This Fateful Year"

This from December 1941, a truly fateful year for so many, the gift guide from McCall's:

In case you can't make out the text, it says: "Christmas gifts, in this fateful year, seem somehow more precious. So I say, choose them with an eye both to beauty and usefulness. The cosmetic houses have made kits that are sleeker, more tailored. Boxed sets this season are more decorative and feminine. Find out 'her' preferences as to perfume and shade. Or let her pick her own scent or make-up harmony. You can't make a mistake when you give gifts of beauty--whether for the pigtailed miss of fourteen or the dear lady of seventy-five!"

So, suggestion number 1 is: "A sleek case that looks like red kid, holds 8 cosmetics, with room for more, $5."
2. A bargain at about $1--bouquet-scented dusting powder, matching eau de cologne.
3. A big box of pan-cake make-up and 4 beauty aids in 4 facial types, $4.55.
4. Manicure case with all needed items, including scissors. Red or blue leather, $3.50.
5. A dainty setof popular beauty aids, 6 good-sized ones for $1.
6. Another $1 bargain of full-sized box of face power, flacon of eau de cologne, morning-glory box.

7. A "duffel bag" in plaid fabric with removeable platform of 4 manicure aids, $2.
8. Weathercock turns around over 4 flacons of famous perfume, to suit any mood, $5.
9. Another plus value. Well-known fan box of powder, bottle of cologne, jar of face cream, $1.
10. Make-up kit hold tri-color compact, rouge, lipstick, $1.95.

The article even has some wrapping tips: "Leftover yarn ties a pastel paper box. The little woolen doll gives it that extra touch. Brown paper for big boxes covered with pasted stars. Red stars tip the red cord ends. From scrap bag, a trim of fabric, cut out and pasted on; make tassels of the fabric, too."
Now... more gifts:

And on closer inspection:

For him:
11. Cotton gabardine rain coat, about $19.
12. Wool sweater, $8.95.
13. Moccasin slippers, $5.
14. Wrinkle-proof dollar ties.
15. Silver tie clip, $1.50.
16. Cuff links, $3.50.
17. Manicure packet, $3.95.
18. Seamless billfold, $5.

For her:
19. Water-proof velvet carriage boots, $5.50.
20. Sweater matches "his," $8.95.
21. Slippers match "his," $5.50.
22. Scissors set, $3.95.
23. Scarf matches "his," $1.95.
24. Clip-on silver pencil, $3.
25. Billfold matches "his," $3.

And on closer inspection:

26. A bargain at 50c. Colored gabardine kit holds nail necessities: liquid polish and remover, cuticle remover, cotton.
27. De luxe comb and brush set in colored plastic, jewel-like and transparent: crystal, sapphire, ruby, or emerald hue, $2.
28. Called the "Quints" package, here's a set of 5 bottles of fine-grained bath salts, assorted scents and dainty colors, $2.75.
29. Clensing tissue boxes in pastel quilted satin make ideal gifts. Cover, containing a box of 200 tissues, costs about $1.
30. Rosemary is the name of this pottery jug of a freshly scented cologne from a well-known house. Rose, pale blue, $1.
31. Three soap babies in spicy fragrance with early American names and quaint bonnets. A cunning surprise gift at only $1.
32. Cute ug set of eau de cologne in scents reminiscent of old southern plantations: spicy, sweet, or a mixed bouquet, $1.
33. Gift box made like a basket witih wire handle holds 3 bottles of cologne in different types of scent. Good choice for $2.

And finally,

34. Two creams, two lotions, rouge, powder, in this travel kit of simulated leather. Comes in black, dark blue, brown, $3.50.
35. Bath gift set from a famous English lavender line: big bath soap, dusting powder, "lotus" eau de cologne, $3.50.
36. New kind of hand lotion leaves hands soft even after washing. Nice gift at 50c. Crackled atomizer, $3.
37. A gift kit covered with a gay print holds nail items and a new nail lacquer in bottles make like Chinese vases.
38. The Santa Claus box with its realistic beard covers a supply of famous dusting powder in "blue grass" fragrance, $2.
39. Ultra-feminine with the garland on its lid, this set holds a lightly scented talcum, toilet water, extra atomizer top, $2.
40. Elegant-looking gold-finished compact from a famous Fifth Avenue house has costume lipstick to match. $2.75 boxed.
41. It's called "the commuter" because it's such a handy packet with mirror, famous lipstick, rouge, and face powder, $1.50.

So... what would be on your list to get or give? I love the #3 set, the carriage boots (19), and the commuter (41). I also love the matching ladies scarf and man's tie. Not too cheesy when it's subtle like that. My daughters would take almost anything here, especially the nail polish in Chinese-style jars. I'm not sure if my husband would like the slippers... or the sweater!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide--Teasmade

I can't help but think of that great Irish movie "The Commitments" when I think about this gorgeous Teasmade. Jimmy Rabbitt, dealing with the hoodlums, asks for some instruments and "Oh, me ma would like one o' those tings that wakes ya up wid a cup o' tea."

But back to Christmas shopping... I would be over the moon to find one of these amazing things under the tree. From 1950 The Illustrated London News:
Makes the tea! Lights the room! Wakes you up! Tells the time! My goodness, that would be like Christmas Day every morning! I love how the add emphasizes that it tells THE CORRECT TIME. Was there some kind of problem in 1950 with getting the correct time?

Most Americans have never heard of these. But in Britain, this is a famous oldie. And they still make them! Check out this article from the Daily Mail a few years ago. I'm American, but I've been a tea drinker since, well probably birth. I didn't have a dad to bring the tea to my bed like the article says, but my mother did well into my adult years. I even once had a friend whose mom, when I would spend the night at their house, would bring me tea in bed! (What ever happened to her anyway?)

I must say, though, my husband is generally the tea maker these days (being from the British Isles, perhaps!), but I don't like it brought to me in bed anymore. I prefer to pour my own, hot from the pot.

So if you've never heard of a Teasmade before, check them out. There are some to be had on UK Ebay, and there are modern ones at and John Also, the Guardian newspaper (UK) did an article as well.

If a Teasmade's naff, well then call me naff! I don't care... I want one!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide--Cannon Gift Sets

Towels for Christmas? Well, if they're pretty enough, why not?

From 1952 McCall's:

Great as a sweet feminine gift or as a hostess gift for all those Christmas parties (makes a change from bottles of wine or flowers...). And towels are always handy, aren't they? I must say, my favorites are the Fleurette and Clover sets (top and bottom). The gifts may have been fairly inexpensive, but just look at the attention to detail in the presentation. I think these are just so pretty.

Search for "vintage towel sets" or "vintage towel gift sets" on Ebay, Etsy, and the other shopping sites. There are a fair few out there, still in their pretty little boxes. Of course, most of them cost a bit more than $1.98! I could not find a modern equivalent to these sets... just golf towels and tea towels. So, why'd we stop doing that?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide!

I know, we're barely into November. But as far as I'm concerned, it's Christmas shopping season. We'll take a brief break for Thanksgiving, but it's at least time to start thinking about what to get those near and dear to us.

Of course, most of these will be distinctly along the lines of "why did we stop doing that?" If you're looking for a vintage style gift, check back often.

This, from 1948 Collier's:

I would take any of these lovely pieces. Why did we stop making appliances something so beautiful (and well made) that you want to keep them forever? Unfortunately, the centerpiece of my living room is a black plastic TV sitting on top of a DVD player and a cable box. Not beautiful. Not attractive.

Check out this living room centerpiece. It's a piece of furniture made of real wood. And that baby's probably still working somewhere! But what I really love is that adorable little "Zenette" at the bottom! How cute is that? It comes on when you raise the lid, and it goes off when you close it! How snazzy!

Furthermore, I love the simple and slightly straggly looking Christmas tree in the background and the great arrangement on top of the radio. And look at those sweet figurines. But most importantly, look at the clothes! The little boy's gret two-tone shirt, and Mom's long sweeping skirt and wide red belt. Love it!