The Ration Project

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I swear I have been meaning to write about one of my favorite podcasts, but since they just gave me a shout out (about my scarf project) on their most recent episode, I just have to talk about them!

The Ration Project is two fabulous, smart, funny ladies who have created a  one-year adventure in living history.  They have dedicated an entire year of their lives to eating ONLY the food rations that would have been available during World War II.

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Here’s the rules:

  • Each family participating in the project will be issued rations according to time, household size, and assigned location (U.S. or U.K.) and will purchase groceries for one year based on these provisions.
  • Items commonly available locally and not subject to rationing (i.e. local fruits and vegetables in season) may be purchased throughout the year in small amounts and in quantity when in season. This includes additional fresh eggs for those with space and knowledge sufficient to raising backyard poultry.
  • Each family member has the option to choose one “black market” item that they feel they cannot do without.

They discuss World War II grocery lists, menu plans, and recipes from the home fronts of Great Britain and the United States.

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My favorite part of history has always been the everyday realities of people living in a different time. Perhaps that’s why I have been so interested in handcrafts and historical fashion my whole life. So hearing these ladies try to live within the challenges of rationing on what people would have eaten during the war is fascinating. They also open each episode with the historical context of the war. Essentially, each week of their lives, they live with whatever rations were available during one month of the war, and along the way, they infuse the discussions with fun anecdotes as well as profound musings of the realities of war on the home front.

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Not only have I learned that rationing wasn’t necessarily about reducing the food people ate, but rather, making sure that everyone had enough to eat, but I have become fascinated with the other implications of rationing on everyday life.

One of my favorite anecdotes is due to the unavailability of nylon and silk for stockings, women used eyeliner to draw a line down the back of their legs to mimic the back seam of stockings. I have also read that this was done during the 1920s and 30s when the Great Depression made new stocking an unattainable luxury for many.

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They also have “bonus rounds”, where they take on challenges for a week that reflect some of the things people would have dealt with on the home front, such as clothing/cloth rationing, growing your own Victory Gardens, and 1940’s home and beauty routines. I can’t wait to start my own Victory Garden this spring!

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Check out their Facebook and their website, and of course, the podcast which is available online and on iTunes.

If you’re into history on the home front, I have a feeling you’ll be as addicted as I am.

xo,

Jaime

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Vintage, antique or thrift shopping: what to bring with you

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There is a serious strategy to what you bring with you on these kind of shopping trips.

What to wear?

Outfit: the best things to thrift in are comfy, slip on shoes, leggings, some kind of tank, and another layer if needed. Because some shops don’t have fitting rooms, you can throw things on over your leggings and tank top. You don’t want to wear your Sunday best (things can get dusty), and you want to be comfortable.

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What to bring with you?

Here’s what I bring in my “thrift kit”:

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Cross body purse: for hands free shopping. There’s nothing more annoying that carrying a giant, heavy purse (my default bag is basically giving me back problems) when you’re flipping through the racks.

Small change purse or wallet: downsize to only what you need: ID, cash, and credit cards

Student ID: thrift stores often offer student discounts, just ask. (Luckily for me, this usually includes graduate students!)

Cash: many stores don’t take credit cards, so bring cash. This is helpful when setting a budget for yourself as well- only bring as much as you want to spend. Sometimes the deals can be intoxicating and you’re prone to overspending. A $5 Brooks Brothers top is only a good deal if you actually wear it.

Foot liners: those little things you get for free at shoe stores, for trying on shoes that you won’t want to wear socks with, but don’t want to try on barefoot

Tissues: sometimes these stores can get dusty. Also handy for seeing if a stain will come out (see below).

Antibacterial hand gel: this is KEY. If any stores feel skeevy, this is always nice to have. However, this has a much more important function: helping determine if an ink stain will come out. People often donate clothing if it has a small defect like a hole/tear (great if you have even the most basic sewing skills) or a stain. If you see something that’s otherwise great but has an ink stain, rubbing alcohol-based things will remove most inks. Dab some antibacterial gel on a tissue, press it onto a small part of the ink stain for a few seconds. If the ink lifts off onto the tissue, you’ll be able to get it out in the same manner.

Tide to go pen: same as the antibacterial hand gel- you can determine if a stain is likely to come out by putting some of the stain stick on a small part of a stain and dabbing it with a tissue to see if any of it lifts.

A drink and snacks: this kind of shopping is a marathon, not a sprint. Easy to eat snacks like granola bars and almonds are perfect. There’s nothing worse than getting hangry in the middle of the hunt.

Earbuds: sometimes I like chatting with other shoppers (they can be great resources for info about sales, others places to shop, and they’ll sometimes share great finds they’ve decided not to buy), but other times, I just want to zone out. Podcasts or an upbeat playlist can keep you company while you sift.

Reusable shopping bag: I love these foldable ones that tuck right into your purse.

A few other things that might be helpful…

Hair bands: for fuss free shopping

Measurements: if you’re keeping your eye out for home décor or furniture, write down the measurements of your space. You won’t remember it off the top of your head, trust me.

I actually keep a little zippered case with my “supplies” ready to throw into my bag if I decided to go shopping.

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Do you have any strategies for what to bring while bargain hunting?

Church tag sale= gold mine

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After 10 years of living in NYC, most recently Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the hipster capital of the world, the bf and I decided to move to the suburbs and commute into the city (35 minutes on an express commuter train that has a quiet car!). Not only do I have a walk in closet, a spare bedroom, a parking space and the ability to sleep at night without constant noise, I’ve found thrifting to be much more fun than in NYC.

Thrift store shopping is quickly becoming destigmatized, with people realizing the fantastic finds and prices to be had. The downside of that is things in NYC tend to be either picked over or ridiculously priced for thrift. It takes a pro to know where the best spots are in the city these days. (Shout out to fellow thrift bloggers- Looking Fly on a Dime and Tales From the Thrift are two fantastic thrifty fashion blogs that find and report the best thrift spots in NY!)

I recently started to venture past the typical Goodwill shopping trips and look for church tag and rummage sales in Westchester County. SO. GLAD. I. DID. Not only do well-to-do parishioners donate to their churches, but they’re also only held once or twice a year, so the amount of merchandise tends to be huge and not as outrageously priced.

Some of my crowing achievements from 2 visits to a week long clothing sale at a nearby church (St. Barnabas in Irvington, NY for you locals!) :

2014-11-14 14.46.41 Westchester Country= Brooks Brothers capital of the world. A suede blazer, cashmere sweater and a cable knit sweater.

2014-11-14 14.47.45Tap shoes! I’m a dance teacher and take classes for fun and exercise when I can. Can’t hurt to have an extra pair on hand.

2014-11-14 14.55.14An Erdem jersey dress. That retails for $800. I got it for $12. Will be selling it on ebay soon…for much less than $800.

2014-11-14 14.45.11More cashmere, cable knit, some 7 jeans.

2014-11-14 14.48.22Some MK flats.

2014-11-14 14.43.21Those boots are vintage Gucci and sadly, a size 6. I begrudgingly sold them on ebay since my size 9 feet wouldn’t come close to fitting into them.

2014-11-14 14.43.23I was so proud of myself, I had to take photos of all I bought. I wasn’t even planning on starting a blog at that point.

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Here’s everything. It came to $190 all together. I came home with:

  • 3 belts (one was Bottega Venetta with the tags still on it!)
  • Vintage Gucci boots
  • Nearly new tap shoes
  • Character dance shoes (used for ballroom type dancing, or can be turned into tap shoes)
  • Light pink rain coat
  • A brand new in the packaging Nicole Miller bath robe
  • Vintage Diane Von Furstenberg flats
  • 2 pairs of Michael Kors flats
  • Insulated gloves
  • A few dressy tops
  • Cashmere and cable knit sweaters from Talbots, Ann Taylor and Brooks Brothers
  • A black knit circle scarf
  • Bean Boots! That were sold out for months since they’ve become trendy
  • A small coach purse
  • 7 for all Mankind dark wash skinny jeans
  • A colorful, retro looking dress
  • A jersey Erdem dress

One hundred and ninety dollars for all that! The church sale is held yearly and the money goes to support local charities such as the Humane Society. They even had some of the older ladies selling baked goods and lunch! I had so much fun digging and chatting with the lovely people running the sale.

I’m going to stick to haunting my local thrift stores, but now I’m on the lookout for tag/rummage sales.

Here’s some tips for finding similar sales in your area:

  • Check churches, synagogues, or organizations like the Junior League in wealthier parts of town. They’re more likely to receive high-end donations
  • Don’t forget the less-wealthy parts of town too, though- this is where I find the most vintage, funky, and unique clothing and home items
  • Check Craigslist, the local classifieds, or the newspaper
  • Do a Google search for local churches and look on their individual websites for upcoming sales- sometimes they aren’t advertised on Craigslist or in local papers
  • Churches are modern now too- look up their Facebook pages! They tend to post info about sales there
  • Join a local community Facebook group- organizations often post sale info here too
  • A good old Google search with the following key words: church rummage sale, tag sale, attic sale, thrift sale, fundraiser sale, etc [name of your town/area/zip code]

Shopping these sales

  • Bring CASH! Most sales don’t have credit card machines as they can be very expensive
  • Unless there are signs indicating that bargaining is ok, assume the marked price is what you’ll pay
  • Wear a bag or purse with a cross-body strap so your hands are free to rummage.
  • Some people can be really, really pushy. Thrifting is like that unfortunately. Just let them go and don’t push back. It’s not worth getting into a fight with people…there’s plenty of deals to be had.
  • The last day usually has markdowns. The sale I went to marked EVERYTHING down 50% on the last day. If there’s something that’s a little higher in price that you like, it might be wise to wait a bit…
  • …but on the same token, if it’s a busy sale, it might not be there when you go back. If you can’t live without it, snap it up. If you are on the fence, take a chance and check back towards the end of the sale.
  • Bring a big bag. Most sales don’t have carts or baskets, so bringing a big shopping bag, like the notorious big blue bags from Ikea to tote around your finds.
  • Some sales have fitting rooms, but often they don’t. If you want to try things on, I suggest wearing leggings and a tank top with a shirt or sweater over the tank so you can try things on over your pants/tank.
  • Take some time to chat with the people running the sales. They’ll often be great sources of information about when new merchandise will be placed on the floor, when markdowns are, and future sale dates.
  • Don’t be put off if you walk in and the sale looks pretty lame. It doesn’t hurt to take a look around. There might be a few hidden treasures among what seems to be a lot of junk.
  • Sometimes these sales are specifically just clothing, but are often general sales with household items, kids stuff, books, etc.
  • The final rule, which goes for all thrifting, is be patient. The things I bought above were side by side with some pretty ridiculous 80s sweaters, old-lady blazers, and so-not-my-style mom jeans. Plan on spending a while searching and you’ll most likely be rewarded.

xo Jaime

Vintage clothing measurement and sizing guide: how to buy online

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Buying clothing online can be daunting, but I find that vintage clothing is almost easier to buy than modern clothes once you know your measurements, since in modern sizes, one company’s 4 is another company’s 8. Vintage sellers generally list measurements when selling a garment, so once you’ve written down your own, you can easily check if something you’re looking at will be a good fit. An inexpensive measuring tape will be your best friend.

Vintage sizing

Vintage tends to run a bit smaller than contemporary sizes, and sizing varies between companies. I have vintage and modern clothing pieces ranging from size 4 to size 16 that all fit me! Sizing has always been pretty arbitrary. The key to success in buying vintage (or any) clothing online is by knowing your actual body measurements. No vintage clothing sizes are standard, and the only way to know for certain whether an item will fit is to compare the measurements in the listing with your own. Vintage garments were often custom tailored after being bought off the rack or made by home seamstresses and can come in all shapes and sizes.

Why are vintage sizes so different from today’s sizes?

Today’s women’s clothing size scale starts as 0-2, depending on the brand, but beginning in the 1930s when ready made clothing became more popular, most clothes started sizing around 8. Dresses from the 1960s and 70s are similar but a little bit less drastic- usually around 6 sizes larger than contemporary sizes. You’ll probably wear a size about 4 sizes larger than normal. 1980s and 1990s dresses might be one to two sizes larger than your modern size.

Most plus size vintage dresses used to be called “half-sizes” and therefore you see the “half-size” with the number, (ie. 20 1/2, 22 1/2) They do fit a little larger, so the spread might be more like 7 sizes larger. Again, this is a rough estimate.

Find your measurements based on something you own:

  • Find a similar item already in your wardrobe, in both fit and material.
  • For example, if you are interested in purchasing a fitted pencil skirt, try to measure a skirt without stretch in the fabric that is similar in shape and that fits you well.
  • Compare the measurements you have with the measurements given to you by the seller.
  • Measurements are often listed with the term “up to”, as in “bust: up to 40 in.” This means the item’s fit is flexible enough to work on all busts under 40 inches.
  • Always keep fabric in mind when purchasing. Woven fabrics, especially structured or thicker wovens won’t have as much give as knits, so take movement into consideration when comparing measurements.

How to take your clothing measurements:
Bust:  Measure fullest part of bodice (dress, jacket or coat), usually just under the armholes. This measurement is ‘taken flat’ this means that the dress (or shirt, or sweater) is laid on a table and measured across. If the dress has darts (or a formed bust) you can assume it will fit about  1-2 inches larger than the measurements.

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Torso (Bodice) Length:  Measure from the top of the shoulder down over the bust to the waistline.

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Waist:  Measure around the waist seam where the bodice attaches to the skirt. If there is no waist seam, measure the narrowest area below the bust and above the hip.

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Hip:  Measure 7-9” below the waistline at the fullest width. This is the maximum allowance for hips

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* Bust, waist and hip measurements are taken across and then doubled, since you’re really measuring around the body, both front and back of the garment.

Skirt Length:  Measure from waistline to hem.

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Pants Inseam:  Measure from the crotch seam down the inner leg to cuff.

Dress Length: This is the length from the top of the shoulder to the hem. If you used a measuring tape you could see exactly how long this dress would fit on your body

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Shoulder:  Measure between the two shoulder seams.

Sleeve Length:  Measure from the shoulder seam to the end of cuff.

TAKING YOUR BODY MEASUREMENTS:

When you use the measuring tape, make sure it is not too tight or too loose. There should be no gap between the tape and body, but the tape should not sink into the skin.
Neck:  Measure around the largest part of the base of the neck.
Shoulder Width:  Stand in a relaxed position and measure across the upper back between the two shoulder bones at the upper arms.
Bust:  While wearing a bra, measure around the fullest portion of the bust.
Torso (for bodice measurement):  Measure from the highest point of the shoulder (near the neck) down over the bust to the waistline.
Waist:  Measure around the smallest part of the waist.
Hip:  Measure 7-9” below the waistline at the fullest part of the hip. Stand with your feet close together.

Shoes

Shoes are measured usually with a measuring tape from the inner tip to the inner heel.

Width is measured at the bottom of sole at the widest part if the ball of the foot.

Vintage shoe sizes may differ slightly from modern sizes as well, so your best bet is to measure a pair of shoes you own and compare them to the measurement listed here. I find vintage shoes tend to run narrow, and I can’t seem to figure out why.

I hope this a helpful guide!

xo Jaime