Saturday, August 08, 2009


Yesterday a man came into my shop and told me he had a hat in the car he wanted help figuring a date on. He brought in an exquisite gold 20s cloche with velvet flowers worked in between the layers of fine mesh. After talking to him about the hat he told me it was his Mom's and he planned to give it to a granddaughter. He mentioned after that that there would be an estate sale and when and where it was in case I was interested.

He left, without telling me his name.

Tonight I got the email from the estate sale company, opened it expecting to see the things the gentleman had told me would be there. What I did not expect to see was the name. I knew this woman....spoken with her several times over the years. As I sat stunned I remembered the last time we talked on the phone shortly after her only visit into my shop and remembered that I documented the conversation, I was so moved by it. I revisited this tonight (grateful I hadn't deleted it in the last 2 1/2 years) and I find myself feeling as moved by our exchange right now as I was back then. I only wish I'd made more of an effort to keep in touch with her....she was a wonderful woman.

Conversation 1/23/07

If I don’t type this now I will forget what we talked about.

Maureen & I had spoken by phone several times over the last few years, but not in the last one or so…..she originally had responded to an ad I placed a back then (likely the 1st I ever did to get vintage to sell on eBay). She was articulate then and spoke of collecting and selling vintage textiles over the last 50 years…..also clothing. I remember her describing an apricot coat with a standup collar, but somehow we never got together for me to look at it. She mentioned then that her daughter had passed away when she was young, and something to the effect of decorating her daughter’s old bedroom with these textiles. I remember sending her a Christmas card with a poodle on it, and her calling a few times after that now & then….but somehow we never got together.

This last Saturday a woman and her granddaughter came in. The girl was about 25…..the grandma stooped & using a cane. She spoke eloquently about collecting and selling vintage in St Louis & San Diego (Play it Again Sam?)…….of having a lot of things over the years that she had gotten rid of, and of things she still had that her granddaughters loved. She had her granddaughter (Ana) try some things on that the girl clearly liked, and chatted with me while I dealt with a buy from a woman who came in with some estate things. She never gave her name. Ana bought a yellow sheer 50s to early 60s blouse with embroidered detail, cap sleeves with lace trim. Her grandmother said to her she was glad she bought it, that it would be a nice memory of coming to see her in Des Moines. I was moved by that…..having been a part of making that memory, quite inadvertently, but part of it nonetheless…..that it was because of MY love of vintage, inspired by my own Grandmother, that the place that created a memory for them even existed.

We spoke about the designer Lily Dasche, whom she mentioned having a hat designed by….and strangely I had just had one come in that morning. I showed her & we chatted about it briefly.

She took my card, and called today, leaving a message. I just called her back and we spoke for at least a half an hour….I reminded her of our past conversations…..she talked about the things she still has and what she may want to sell….where she got them, where she’s worn them. A dress to the Val Air 30 or so years ago when she used to go dancing….a peach silk lounging piece from the 30s she got in St Louis. A Valentino coat she still wears that gets attention every time from all ages of women. A black lace dress Ana tried on when she was here over the weekend, she called “very Dinah Shore”. She said it was longer, tiers of lace, but she took off the bottom 2 to make a halter style overblouse for the dress.

She said coming in my shop had inspired her to go back through her albums of pictures of her textiles….she is an avid collector of them. She felt like it was things like interacting with me, seeing the shop….had reminded her of her passion for it and regretted that people think that elderly people don’t “do” much with their lives….that even she herself had fallen into that way of thinking. She was pleased to reacquaint herself with the things she loved.

She talked about her Mother, graduating from college in the early teens….teaching, living on a farm, of how adaptable, intelligent & strong her Mother was. She said she remembered her Mother quoting poetry to her while they did the dishes together……told me her son had interviewed her Mother for a Public Television program in a pinch when the scheduled guest got cold feet, that her Mother “just put on her wig & did it”.

We talked about technology alienating us from each other, and more so from ourselves, an observation her granddaughter made while her last week. I can’t help thinking that not only do I not quote poetry to my daughter….but that due to technology, I don’t even have to really “do” the dishes.

Hearing her talk about textiles, I was reminded of my Helen Bond Carruthers sweaters….appliqued with antique Asian textiles, yet also vintage fashion. I asked her if she knew of Carruthers, and she didn’t think she did…….I described the sweaters and we talked a bit about MY big find when I found those. I told her the one I have on layway is here and I would love to show it to her….I do think she would appreciate it! She told me of a find of her own at an estate sale years ago, an original drawing by a cartoonist for the New Yorker…..she tracked down the artist’s agent & sold it to her for a very nice profit! We talked about keeping a poker face when finding great things at estates or auctions.

She told me a little more about her granddaughters…..there are 2, Jessica & Ana…..and they were her daughter’s children, and thus have never known their Mom as she died when they were very young. She told me about a piece of art one of them gave her for Christmas…..with 3 women, sort of ethereally floating but with definite prescence. She said one of the girls said it was like the 3 of them, and the power and connectedness of women. Then she said there was also a smaller face off to the bottom…..and that one of the girls pointed it out and said “that must be Mom”.

I barely know this women, Maureen. But I have to agree with her granddaughters…..there is a power, a connectedness among women. And I have been shown tonight that we need to reach out to each other more….we have so much to teach each other. Tonight I discovered how in pursuing what I love, I have touched another family. I learned about several wonderful women…..and in turn was reminded that I am one too.

It’s time to do the dishes.

~Rest in peace, Maureen.



elena said...

wow! i could sit and listen to stories like that for hours! every vintage piece i own...i often wonder what stories they could tell! how wonderful that you had a chance to meet such a lovely lady...
reminds me of the talks i used to have with my own grandmother...over tea...she would tell me of all the events she had gone was her love of color that stayed with me...she never blended into the crowd...loved that about her!
great post!
elena @ fabulous finds

Ang said...

Thanks Elena! This kind of thing is really what makes me passionate about vintage clothing. Its the perfect blend of a love of fashion and respect for the importance apparel plays in the lives of women (and sometimes men!). Everything has a story.

You've inspired me to revisit my first big buy, from the estate of a woman named was her and her husband's entire wardrobes along with boxes and boxes of photos and family correspondence. I blogged it here but some on MySpace so I need to reorganize and re-publish it I think!


elena said...

i agree whole heartedly!

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