Out and About: Laura Petrie at the AIC

“I have to stop objectifying Mary Tyler Moore!” I told B the other night.

We’ve been watching a lot of the Dick Van Dyke Show.

The jokes are great, the show is often very forward-thinking in it’s early sixties way, and the cast is just stellar. Though I love dark comedy, there’s something refreshing about a show where everyone is funny, basically decent, and trying to do the right thing.

I mean, look at her!

Things I’m digging:

  • Rob and Laura have a loving marriage, and the comedy is never based on disrespecting each other.
  • Rose. Marie.
  • I think I’ve always had a crush on early sixties Dick Van Dyke.
  • All of the main characters are smart.
  • Male and female non-romantic friendship is featured prominently.
  • Holy. Cats. Mary Tyler Moore’s body was amazing. (See? I need to stop!)

So when the mister and I decided to take advantage of a free night at the Art Institute of Chicago, it’s no surprise that my sartorial inspiration quickly ran to Mary Tyler Moore’s incomparable Laura Petrie.

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Spring Inspiration 2017: A Pinterest Board

The weather is turning, and soon (one hopes!) it will be time to turn over my closet.

I’m thinking of lighter fabrics, things that flow and swing. And so, I made a Pinterest board to organize the kinds of vintage styles I want to wear. Take a look at the shapes, colors, and types of vintage garments that are inspiring me this spring:



1930s Bias-Cut

I’ve got a new sewing pattern, along with a couple of sweet thrift store dresses that center on that distinctly 1930s bias-cut shape. I’m really feeling those slim 1930s lines lately.

Tap Pants

It will surprise exactly no one that a good deal of my board is full of old-timey lingerie. I’ve been meaning to make a ton of tap pants for awhile. The advantages of these sweet little undershorts are spelled out very well over at Flashback Summer, but I will chime in to sing their warm-weather praises: Less chafing! Easier for biking while wearing a skirt!

1930s and 1940s Wide-Leg Trousers

I love the Wearing History Smooth Sailing Trousers–I’ve made them several times. For spring and summer, I have a black twill and a khaki cotton pair. Perfect for feeling like Kate Hepburn, and for a casual look that is still a little elegant.

Shirt Dresses

Shirt dresses are so easy, and adorable. I plan to get a lot of use out of mine this season.

I think the blur makes it look like an old picture.

Does a seasonal change make you want to change your wardrobe? How are you feeling this spring?


Mad Femme Skills: On Empowered Femininity

I took a poll on Facebook last spring about skills that have been traditionally been assigned as “feminine” and found that lots of us, all across the gender spectrum, feel like we missed out on some of them.

Thus, a new series here on Retrofitting Vintage: Femme Skills! A collection of tutorials on various “woman” skills that can be useful for anyone who wants to learn them.

Donna Reed Domestic
Donna Reed has nothing on us.

Gender expression is sensitive territory for a lot of folks, and femininity is a strange space. It is not my intention to be proscriptive, or tell anyone how to express their gender. There are many ways to be a feminine person, and this series just breaks down skills for some of the tasks that are traditionally given to women.

Note: This is not the kind of femininity I’m talking about:


What I’m most interested in is celebrating the feminine. Too often the traits and activities which are most valued and considered the most important and “real” are those that have been ascribed masculine realm. In this great piece on “empowering femininity,” Julia Serano writes:

“Of course the reason why it is particularly easy to ridicule the idea of empowering femininity is because we (all of us, as a society) already harbor dismissive attitudes toward anything considered feminine. And the very point I was trying to make is that we should move beyond this knee-jerk tendency to dismiss and demean feminine gender expression.”

I am much more interested in the how-tos of feminine activity than I am in any “here is how to be a woman” kind of post. Be a person however you want to be, whatever your gender and how you choose to express it. If you’re interested in traditionally feminine activities, this series may be interesting to you.

I’ll be here with some how-tos and zero judgement. Upcoming posts include: How To Wear A Dress, How To Be Welcoming, and How To Talk To A Child.

What kind of feminine skills remain a mystery to you? 

Wardrobe Wednesday: Sunday Go to Meeting

I don’t go to church.

There are many reasons for that, none of which I’ll get into at the moment. My readership is full of lovely people of various theological persuasions, and as an essentially private person, I don’t feel a need to explicate my deepest convictions in a post that is really about my stockings.

However, there are a lot of elements of religion that are pleasing, whether they’re attached to any greater meaning or not. Community, singing together, learning something deeper about one’s values, these are nice. So occasionally I’ll make the Sunday morning meeting of the Ethical Humanist Society, or as we call it at our house, “Atheist Church.”

Please note: “Atheist Church” is a pretty inaccurate description of the Ethical Humanist Society. For one, it’s not strictly atheistic–members have a variety of opinions on the God question. You can learn more about what the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago is about here.

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1920’s Home Ec Homework: Granba’s Sewing Book

It’s the little bits of everyday history that I like most.

Recently, I received a small treasure: my great-grandmother’s home economics class notebook. IMG_20160630_100351_177 (1)

Dating from the early 1920s (we think somewhere around 1923), it is a showcase of the sewing techniques she mastered in ninth grade.

“Granba,” as the family called her, was known as a talented seamstress, knitter, and general maker, and it was really neat to see early examples of the characteristics that would be her hallmarks: absolute precision, knowledgeability, and talent. Sadly, I know her only by reputation, as she passed away while my mother was still a child.

The book is a combination of demonstration and composition. It’s a fascinating sampler of things a high school freshman was expected to be able to accomplish in the 1920s.

At this point, she was nobodys Granba.
At this point, she was nobody’s Granba.

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