what’s that fabric? duramesh!

{1930s Whiting & Davis purse}

Do you ever come across a fabric or material at the thrift-store and think “What the heck is this?” I sure do. So, in an attempt to get a bit more educated about the vintage I buy (and resell), I thought I’d start up an irregular series that defines and illustrates materials I often see (and wonder about) at the thrifts. Today, let’s talk about metal mesh, also known as duramesh!

Although mesh handbags have been around for ages, it wasn’t until 1909, when A.C. Pratt of Newark, New Jersey invented the mesh-making machine, that these slinky accessories became widely available. When you’re out and about thrifting, look for these three brands: Whiting & DavisMandalian Manufacturing and Duramesh. Some Mandalian bags, like the one below, also bear the Lustro-Pearl mark, so keep an eye out for that name too.

After WWII, Duramesh became a major competitor to Whiting & Davis in the mesh purse game. Duramesh focused less on the artwork applied to outside of the bag (popularized in the ’30s), and more on shape and style of the purse itself. Here’s an ad for the brand that ran in the October 1955 issue of Handbag & Accessories, a trade magazine for buyers, inviting them to visit Duramesh showrooms in Chicago, Dallas and L.A.

It’s common to find accessories and jewelry that are made out of duramesh at thrift-strores and estate sales, including…

belts!

necklaces!

cigarette cases!

Other items to look out for include brooches, scarves, bibs and makeup bags.
THRIFTING TIPS!
 When thrifting duramesh bags and accessories, check the links over carefully to see that they are all connected and secure. The texture should be smooth—nothing should be poking out or catching.

Denting is common in duramesh purses. Hold the bag at an arm’s length and check the exterior.

 Examine the lining, making sure it is free from holes and discoloration. If you’re looking at jewelry, make sure the clasp is in good shape.

Read the label/product details! Lots of Etsy sellers tag items “Duramesh” when it’s really not. (Take this halter top for example.) If you’re looking for vintage duramesh, you need to check the label!

Here’s what a vintage Duramesh label looks like…

Whiting & Davis purses can be identified by their stamp inside a bag’s frame…

or by their tag.

Modern Whiting & Davis labels will look more like this…

 To get a feel for judging the era, rarity and resale value of duramesh pieces and styles, window shop online. A quick search for Whiting & Davis on Etsy turns up thousands of goodies to sort through! Since duramesh bags and products have been mass-produced since the early 20th century, it might take a while to get the hang of knowing what’s vintage and what’s not…don’t stress, that’s part of the fun!

CARING FOR VINTAGE DURAMESH!

Once you’ve found a piece you love, avoid contacting it with sharp or abrasive surfaces that might pull, poke or dent the mesh.

Avoid exposing duramesh to hairspray, perfume or alcohol, too. If you do spill your drink on your bag (been there, done that!), wipe it up promptly with a soft cloth.

Buff your bag occasionally with a clean, soft cloth to remove dirt and restore it to its original dazzle. Use a light hand; elbow grease isn’t required when cleaning this delicate material!

Now that we’ve tackled duramesh, I’d love to hear from you. Is there a fabric or material you wonder about when you’re at the thrift store? If so, please drop me a line!

xo,

Meghan

pro tips for surviving super sale days

Hitting up the super sale days at thrift stores comes at a price. The odds that the stores will be overrun with fellow bargain hunters are great, and without proper preparation, you might go a little bonkers. (Goodness knows I sometimes do, and I thrift all the freakin’ time.) So, if you’re planning on hitting up any of the 4th of July sales this weekend (here’s my round-up), here are some awesome tips from experienced friends of mine you might helpful.

RAE SAYS…

1. Bring beverages! I start my morning with plenty of coffee and bring along a water bottle. Hydration is important.

2. People get super aggressive on sale days—don’t let rude people bum you out! Be prepared with an arsenal of smiles and “excuse me’s.”

3. If you can avoid a cart, do it. Trying to maneuver your cart through crazy people, stray children and thrift-store employees can be a drag.

4. Focus! This may not be the best day to peruse every section… stick to what you are really looking for and bee line for that area of the store first.

HOLLY SAYS…

1. Know what you are getting yourself into. Think Black Friday openers for the newest toy fad plus people who are even more into deals than the average shopper. This makes for an intense bunch of rabid treasure hunters. As I see it, you have two choices—to embrace the crazy and become one yourself OR attempt to float above it all, untouched by the seething anger that tends to erupt when you find yourself fighting over a treasure with another, less enlightened shopper. If you take the latter route, do some meditation in your car before entering the store.

2. Watch out for small children. Despite store’s best intentions with their loudspeaker reminders that your children must be by you at all times, mega sales at thrift stores tend to be crawling with unattended children. You will feel really bad if you accidentally hit one with your cart, even if it is their fault.

3. Keep an eye out for potential competitors. Thrifting brings together people from all walks of life. Upon entering the store, and during your shopping time, look for people who look like they have similar tastes as you. Hit the sections they aren’t in, before they can get to them Note: this sort of action is fitting if you are taking the “embrace the crazy” mindset described in tip. No. 1.

4. Don’t allow yourself to be blinded by deals. Mega deals tend to warp the brain, causing thrifting judgment to go out the window—when deciding on your final items, resist the tendency to buy whatever you have gotten your paws on and ask yourself if you really, truly want/can’t live without the item in question.

5. Have patience. If you hit up a sale later in the day, chances are items will be rather picked over. The plus side to this is that you can shop in a less intense environment. No matter what, don’t give up—I once unknowningly stumbled upon a 50% off sale at Value Village to be sorely disappointed, that is, until I found one of the most amazing/strangest pieces I have found thrifting—a business casual drunk Mickey Mouse short-sleeved sweatshirt style t-shirt. Had I given up after the first twenty minutes, I would have never found this gem.

ROSE SAYS…

1. Be kind to your fellow thrifters. It can get pretty nutso in there and sometimes the worst of human nature comes out while wrestling for a deal. Just remember that you are all in it together, equally gripped by what I like to call the thrift “fever.” Don’t forget to smile, move your cart out of the way and congratulate someone else on their great find (even if it makes you green with envy).

2. Get there early…or get there late. As with most big sales, the early bird gets the worm. However, there is something to be said for taking it easy, enjoying a leisurely brunch and arriving later in the day once the frenzy has died down. You can browse more thoroughly and calmly. And remember, not everybody is looking for the same things you are and they have probably left some great treasures behind.

3. Hit the road, Jack. The thrift store right down the road is easy pickings for everybody in your hood. If you’ve got the time, pack the cooler and hit the way out-of-the way spots on the edge of town and beyond.

4. Hydrate. Thrifting is a competitive sport after all and summer is in full swing.

JILL SAYS…

1.  Don’t bother with a cart. Make a couple trips out to the car if need be, but a cart is just going to slow you down…and every other shopper too.

2.  Wear light layers (skirt + legging + t-shirt) for quick, easy, and perhaps public try-ons. Comfy shoes are a must. A hands-free purse is also a must.

3.  Relax and have fun. The environment can get a bit tense and over-stimulating. Mentally prepare for the crowds, the unintentional bumps and shoves, the waiting, the dodging, the body heat.

4.  Be polite.  Smile at your fellow-thrifter.  No need to be rude over saving a few bucks.

5.  Watch your stuff!  IF you do choose to take a cart, beware of those around you who might snag an item…or worse —your wallet!

WHAT I SAY…

1. Before I go, I think about the worst-case scenario—packed aisles, screaming children, pushy people, picked-over racks, no good finds. If I’m still psyched to thrift, I’ll go. If, after mulling it over and I’m not up for it, I don’t leave the house. I have gone to crazy sale days when I’m not feeling it and have never, ever, ever had a good time.

2. Unlike some of the gals above, I always grab a cart, because I know there’s a good chance I’m going to load it to the gills. There’s also been plenty of times I’ve almost had my arm fall off from trying to carry an insane amount of clothes without a cart. If you do choose to get a cart, mind that sucker! Don’t leave it in the middle of a crowded aisle to go find your friend, don’t block peoples’ way or hurry them along pushing the cart at their ankles—all of that sh*t is annoying. If you wind up in someone’s way (you will!), smile and politely move. Respect your elders and moms with kids.

3. Pull everything that catches your eye and put in your cart. Even if you don’t plan on buying it, there’s no harm in pushing it around and thinking it over. Sale days are not the time to leave something on the rack you’re on the fence about, unless of course you feel like having your heart broken. Before you check out, go through everything you’ve pulled and sort through it (in an out-of-the-way corner).

4. After I’ve hit up my must-shop sections (vintage, dresses, purses, shoes, housewares, art work) and feel like I’m almost ready to go, I make a round of the entire store, paying attention to the racks near the mirrors and dressing rooms. I can’t tell you how many gems I’ve found in odd places due to people having second thoughts or finding stuff doesn’t fit. Also keep an eye out for staff restocking the racks. In sum, keep your eyes open all the time!

5. My final word of advice: Pushiness is a highly unattractive trait; one that’s exhibited far too frequently on sale days. As someone who literally thrifts for a living, take it from me: There’s not a dress, purse or paint-by-number on earth that’s worth acting undignified over. When you see someone who’s scored big, smile, compliment their finds and go home knowing that your day will come.

A huge thank you to Rae, Lisa, Rose and Jill for sharing your hard-earned pearls of wisdom! I <3 you girls!

Have great holiday weekends all…

xo,

Meghan