an ode to grandma’s dressing room

mary & haroldToday over on the Etsy blog, I shared a few pretty ideas for building a vintage-y vanity area, inspired by my beautiful Grandma Mary (pictured above) and the nook where she used to get ready. With inspiration coming equally from Naples, Florida, circa 1977, and femininity’s golden age of the 1940s and 1950s, the curated collections of dress, decor and details were SO fun to put together. If you have a minute, please do check it out!



heads up: christmas clearance sale at Arc’s Value Village

tumblr_meoo1bcdRQ1qlirlwo1_500Starting today, all blue-tagged holiday items at Arc’s Value Village stores are 50% off. This special sale runs all the way through December 22, and includes ornaments, cookie tins, serving ware, linens, candles, trees, wreaths, lights, clothing (anyone have an ugly sweater party coming up?) and more. You can read my original review of the Merry Thriftmas boutiques at Value Village here and find the store nearest you here.



Photo source: Vintage Penny Lane

a (little) weekend revelation

While I was doing the old keep-toss-donate routine around the house this weekend, I had a “why didn’t I think of this forever ago?” moment. After sorting through some bags of clothes and boxes of miscellaneous stuff I’d been ignoring for ages, I realized there were a fair number of tidbits leftover that were A. too nice to donate to the thrift or B. purchased with someone special in mind. Like, for example, an exquisite silk scarf I found for my mom for $1. A precious dress I picked up at a church rummage sale for a friend’s little girl. And these cute 1950s “his” and “her” drink coozies that would make a super adorable bridal shower gift.

They had potential, these little odds and ends, but without a home, I knew they would never be connected to the person they were intended for. So I gathered them together and threw ’em in a bin, along with some basic wrapping supplies, and am calling it my gift bin. I figure it’ll come in handy when the holidays roll around and the need for impromptu hostess gifts, White Elephant fodder and stocking stuffers all arises in the same week. It’s a little fix, and an unoriginal one I’m sure at that, but still, I feel good about it.

So dears, tell me, how were your weekends? Did you all have any big (or small) epiphanies, housekeeping-related or otherwise?



friday night finds

Growing up Baptist in a predominantly Catholic small town wasn’t easy come autumn. Why? Because by the time September rolled around, so did our local parishes’ fall festivals. Festivals I could never go to because there would be BEER and GAMBLING. (Never mind the fact that all the money raised went to the church!) Fast-forward a decade or two and the allure of a quintessentially Catholic fall festival still hasn’t diminished. And in fact, many of them offer thrift- and vintage-loving folks like me really wonderful shopping opps.

On Friday, I had the good fortune of attending St. Helena’s Autumn Daze festival with my friend Phil, Mighty Swell‘s Mr. Fix-It + all-around awesome dude.

I got there around 6 p.m., right when the massive rummage sale started. It was really packed, but the prices were great and Phil was there to help me carry my stuff, so I soldiered through. (Next year, I’ll be bringing a huge IKEA tote or my grocery-getter!)

Starving after combing the sale, we hit up the fish fry tent. Seven bucks for a hefty plate of fried walleye, fries and the most delicious fresh coleslaw I’ve ever had. (Price included coffee + homemade cookies too!) It was so good.

After that, we ventured inside the church to scope out the book sale and bingo situation, with a few pit stops along the way to look at the Country Store and bid on some silent auction items.

I really wanted to stick around to play quilt bingo and see the fireworks, but after working all day, I was pooped, so I headed home, arms heavy with my treasures. Speaking of treasures, here are a few of the things I found.

Vintage decorating books to add to my collection. The Better Homes & Gardens guide is from 1956 and the condition =  mint. I can’t wait to dig into the Betty Pepis one, too—it’s from 1965. All the hardcover books were $2 each.

I found a half-dozen or so records, including this Linda Ronstadt one. I’m not a humongous  fan of hers but I was charmed by the photo on the cover. How sweet does she look? I just love her smile (and her hair). All the records were $2 a piece.

This “No Smoking” cross-stitched magnet was all of 10 cents. Y’all already know about my love for plastic canvas so picking it up was a no-brainer. (Side note: Did you know that social scientists can determine how much clutter there is in our homes just by looking at the number of magnets, pictures, calendars, etc. on the front of our fridges? It’s scary and true!)
And last but not least, yet another sentimental cross-stitched sampler to add to my bedroom collection, bring the total up to four. (!!!)

Anyway, if you’re curious about parish festivals and want to check one out for yourself, here’s a fairly comprehensive run-down of events coming up in the Twin Cities area. I’ve already got my eye on the Touch of Lebanon festival up in Northeast. Perhaps I’ll see you there?



behind the scenes at mighty swell’s summer sneak peek shoot

Just a few behind-the-scenes snapshots from yesterday morning’s Mighty Swell sneak peek shoot. We shot about 15 looks in the very overgrown garden behind our shop. It was such a gorgeous morning for playing dress up! Many thanks to our models Megee and Karin, and of course, to our wonderful photographer Kate Sommers.

Have lovely days all!



giveaway: win this set of vintage styling manuals!

Morning dolls!

How ’bout we start this week off with a fun giveaway? This gorgeous set of Style Me Vintage books is chock-full of handy tips, tricks and how-tos for creating authentic vintage looks from head to toe. And the winner of the giveaway is going to receive all three!

♥ The makeup manual walks you through creating iconic looks from the 1920s through the ’80s, and uses muses like Marilyn, Madonna, Audrey and Twiggy as guides. The photos are just lovely and the tutorials are clear and easy to follow. I love the bonus section on how to do period manicure styles at home!

 The hair guide breaks down styles like ’40s-era Victory rolls, Marilyn’s hot roller set and Brigitte’s classic beehive with step-by-step instructions. There’s even a section on accessorizing your hair with scarves—for cute!

 And last but not least, the clothes guide is an educational gem that drops all kinds of knowledge on dating vintage pieces, reading labels and buying for quality. Chapters define what shapes, influences and looks dominated each era, ranging again from the ’20s to the ’80s. Outfit photos that illustrate “informal” and “formal” looks from each decade are supplemented with shopping lists, which I found super helpful for shopping my own closet. I also found the accessorizing guides useful when trying to identify what time period some pieces of thrifted jewelry I own was from.

To enter to win all three books, simply leave a comment on this post telling me who your vintage style icons are. (Bonus entries awarded for tweets!) I’ll choose a winner on Thursday night and alert them before I leave town on Friday.

Best of luck dearies!



beginner’s tips for shopping at mighty swell

Mighty Swell opens for the weekend in just a couple short hours (10 a.m. to be exact) and as always, I’m really pumped. We have some great new vendors for this sale including Honey Bunny and Spano Vintage—both gals brought in some truly drool-worthy pieces, along with some old reliable standbys like Pink Vintage, Bourbon & Lace and of course, me! Since I’m sure not all of you have visited the shop, I figured today would be a good time to share some tips for Mighty Swell first-timers.

Come early! This is a no brainer really, but if you want to shop the biggest selection, come today, and come in the morning. Besides getting first pick and everything, you’ll also be able to  enjoy complimentary coffee and donuts from A Baker’s Wife. We typically get four to five dozen and holy smokes, do they go quick.

On the flip side, if you hate feeling crowded, come later in the day (or tomorrow) when the shop is a bit more cleared out. It may be a bit picked over, but you’ll have plenty of elbow room to take your time going through the racks.

Wear underthings you won’t be embarrassed being seen in. Our dressing room is a group one, and honestly, sometimes it can get pretty packed. And while some ladies don’t mind stripping down to their skivvies in front of strangers (more power to y’all!), if you’re on the shier side, rock some boy shorts or a slip or whatever makes you feel comfortable.

Ask for help if you’re new to shopping for vintage or if you’re looking for something in particular. Rae and I know our inventory pretty well, and adore helping our shoppers find what they’re looking for. We also have tons of back-stock downstairs (and at home), so if you don’t see what you’re looking for, tell us so we can check our inventory!

Bring a friend and make a day of it! There are so many lovely restaurants in our neighborhood including Colassal Cafe (home of the most delicious Brie-apple pancakes and biscuit breakfast sandwiches), Buster’s (great burgers and beer/cider selection) and of course, our next-door neighbors, Chris & Rob’s Chicago Taste Authority, known for their Chicago-style dogs, although I personally love, love, love their thin-crust pizza. Come shop with a friend and then enjoy a meal in the ‘hood!

I hope to see y’all there! For details on sale hours, visit the Facebook event page.



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…



cigarette cases!

Other items to look out for include brooches, scarves, bibs and makeup bags.
 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!


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!



gettin’ pretty with soraya hatfield

Today over my lunch break , I cruised down the street to BANGbang Salon to meet Soraya, owner of Pin-up Stylings by Soraya Hatfield. After months of exchanging emails, it was such a delight to finally meet her in person! While she whipped my hair into shape, we chatted about everything from thrifting (of course) to the differences between Minneapolis and Kansas City, where she recently relocated from. During our time together, I learned that she’s been doing hair since elementary school, and her natural ability is apparent as soon as you sit in her chair. She busted out these badass (or should I say huge ass?) victory rolls in mere minutes! Don’t they look sweet?

I’m really excited, not to mention honored, to have Soraya be part of tomorrow’s sale.  She’ll be at the shop from 5 to 8 p.m., offering retro hairstyling on a first-come, first-serve basis. Styles are a flat $30 which is a total steal considering the average salon style costs upwards of $60. Plus, you’ll be able to shop our collection of pretty lingerie, nibble on cupcakes from Sweets Bakeshop and sip champagne while you’re there. It’ll be a great way to start to a girl’s night out or a fun way to get prepped for a hot date. We’ll be open until 9 p.m.!

I hope to see y’all there!



recently thrifted

Just popping in to share some small finds from the past few weeks…

How precious are these delicate little bow earrings? I can’t recall where I thrifted these, but clearly, I didn’t spend more than 50 cents on them.

I got this deadstock bag at the Burnsville Salvation Army during a yellow tag day, so it cost only $1. (It was from a collection of clothes and accessories Target did with Hamilton Wood Type.) I put it to good use the week after I thrifted it when I was running late and needed to wrap up a belated birthday gift.

On that same trip to the Burnsville Sal Val, I found a vintage sheet set from Stevens Utica, still in its original packaging. (On Etsy, just one used sheet in this pattern sells for around $17!) These I believe will wind up at the store…they’d be great material for a sewing project!

These (blonde) matryoshka dolls are from the Value Village over in Saint Paul. It’s likely that they will wind up in one of Mighty Swell’s grab bags.

Have you been out thrifting lately? Did you find anything wonderful?