Spring Dreaming

Painted tulips of different colors from 1870s garden book

This is the first day of March, and it’s neither lion nor lamb. What does it mean when March comes in like a slug?

It’s gray and cold and damp, and I am turning my thoughts towards spring.

This is foolish.

While the first day of spring is technically in March, this is the Midwest, and there will no doubt be some False Springs, Winter Agains, and One Nice Day Followed By Snowstorms, before all is said and done.

But I’m so ready.

Here’s a little Pinterest board full of springy dreams. It’s full of short-sleeved sweaters to knit, and seeds to plant, and skirts to wear without long johns-tights-knee socks.

What are you planning on?

This Week’s Old-Fashioned Pleasures: June 2-8, 2018

Time for some old-fashioned good stuff…

This week, I’ve been enjoying:

  1. Rhubarb

    Rhubarb close up
    It is the queen of fruit-that-isn’t-a-fruit, and I cannot get enough.

    At present, I have acquired 11 pounds of rhubarb, and I’m not done. Eventually, I’ll can it, but it’s tucked in the freezer for safekeeping. I discovered I have a bit of a hoarding problem, as there was still a quart of cherry-rhubarb pie filling in the back of the freezer, which I rather sheepishly made into a cobbler.

  2. My secret garden

    An impressionistic view of my little fire escape spot. 

    Our fire escape, like many in Chicago, is almost a porch. There’s room for a chair and some flower pots, and I’m very pleased with my little collection of impatiens, petunias, coleus, and begonias. I have vastly improved the view out of my kitchen window.

  3. My actual garden

    Kale, chard, thyme.
    A small harvest of greens and thyme, with promises of more to come.

    A few blocks away, 4×8, full sun, and all mine, my little community garden plot is doing quite well this year. I’m regularly harvesting greens and radishes, and everything else is looking good, for the most part.

  4. Composting

    Keeping food out of the trash (Photo by Thomas Dils on Unsplash)

    I finally have a compost bucket and derive a truly astonishing amount of joy from putting food scraps into it.

    What old-fashioned things are soothing your soul this week?

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.

Continue reading “Out and About: Laura Petrie at the AIC”

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?