This month's blog of the month is one of my old favorites that I've been reading since I first started reading blogs, Chronically Vintage. Chronically Vintage is written by Jessica Cangiano, who is just the sweetest, most inspiring person. I swear, if I ever find myself in Canada, I'm going to have to meet her in person! Yesterday was her birthday- Happy Birthday, Jessica!!
Can you tell me a little about yourself. What made you decide to start your vintage blog? What inspires you to keep it going through chronic illness?
There hasn't been a time in my life when I wasn't interested in, and passionate about, history. I find myself completely enamored with the past and love not only sporting yesteryear fashions, but also studying and preserving history in whatever ways I can (for example, I'm my family's primary genealogist on both sides). To this extent, in the spring of 2009, I decided that I would create a blog dedicated to my mutual loves of vintage clothing and history (specifically mid-twentieth century history in this case). I didn't really give the idea a great deal of forethought, nor was it spurred on by one specific event. Doing so just seemed appropriate at that moment, and thankfully that feeling was right, as now more than three years later, Chronically Vintage is still going strong and continues to grow and evolve in terrific ways constantly.
I won't lie, it can be very hard sometimes to juggle an active blog with the daily ups and downs, struggles and stresses that come with having serious chronic health problems, but it is that fact itself actually, that often fuels my fires. There are times when it feels like my medical issues are winning, consuming all of my energy, health, and resources, but there are still days when I get to triumph over them in some regard, and running Chronically Vintage is one of the ways I'm able to do that. I usually find writing and doing research for my posts to be a relaxing, fun, even cathartic experience, and a tremendously important way to for me to step away, if only very temporarily, from the realm of focusing on my illnesses.
Like many of us within the vintage blogging community, I'm also inspired both by history itself and by my fellow bloggers. Over the years I've gleaned a lifetime's - several lifetimes' - worth of inspiration and knowledge from other ladies like you and I for whom embracing history and vintage fashions is as natural as the air we breath.
You have been wearing vintage for ages. What remains your favorite piece through all of the years that you have been collecting?
While it's true that I have been wearing vintage clothing for most of my life, the vast majority of my present day vintage wardrobe only began about three years ago (which I'm sure my come as a surprise to some). Prior to that I'd been dealing with a number of circumstances from moving overseas (and back; each time with just one suitcase and carry-on bag in hand to house all my worldly goods) to holding off on purchasing many possession until we knew if my husband (who's from Italy) would be granted the permission he needed to do so from the Canadian government to stay in Canada, for a number of years. So as a result I'd not really given myself free reign to collect and buy nearly as much vintage as I'd like (as I didn't want to have to potentially part with most of my collection again, as I'd done three times earlier on in my life).
In 2008 and 2009 a number of positive things fell into place and we were finally able start settling long term down roots as a couple in Canada. We moved homes, and various other circumstances continued to improve (earlier this year we moved again, this time from Ontario to British Columbia, where we are now blessed to have a beautiful two story condo on a wildly peaceful street that is a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Toronto and Europe we'd previously be living amongst), so I finally felt like, in my mid-20s, I was able to start cultivating the vintage wardrobe I'd always dreamed of.
It's exceedingly hard to pick just one (or even five!) vintage pieces, but I'd have to say that some of my very favourites are my black 1950s quilted circle skirt (I hunted for one in my size and price range for years before finally finding one for a total song on eBay late last year), vintage German dirndl dress (a recent etsy acquisition earlier this year that I'm saving to reveal to my blog readers until Oktoberfest time rolls around next fall), a beautiful dark blue and white 1950s polka dot summer dress (also found on etsy) which has wonderfully feminine tailoring, and then all of my vintage (40s and 50s) hats and gloves.
I really loved your recent post about vintage fashion for people with chronic pain. Through sharing that part of your life, you have been a major source of strength for others. What inspires you and gives you strength to get dressed, blog and pull through on rough days?
Thank you so much. I feel like that article was one I'd been writing in my mind from nearly the first day of my blog, but which it wasn't until this past spring that I put down on (virtual) paper. It was well received within the vintage community and beyond, and I hope it will continue to help people with all sorts of chronic health problems and disabilities for many years to come.
There are plenty of days when I'm not able to get dressed or even out of bed. It's been this way for me since I was 18 years old (though things did take a notable nosedive in 2008), so at this point I'm very accustomed to living with the fact that sometimes, no matter how much I might want to, I won't be getting all dolled up and wearing my beloved vintage fashions, hairstyles, and make-up looks.
When I can however, I draw inspiration from a multitude of sources. From vintage photographs of stylish real world women (I've always felt I could relate better to gals whose lives were more like my own than with starlets and celebrities of the past, though of course I'm also influenced by famous folks' looks, too) to the vintage garments in my own closet (though like most of us, I have pieces I turn to time and time again, I make a conscious effort to wear as much of my wardrobe throughout the course of the year as possible).
Sometimes I'll buy a new vintage, reproduction, or vintage appropriate item, and then run into a rough health spell for a few days or weeks at a time, and as a result I don't get to wear that new piece for a while. During this time I often envision how I'll style it and sometimes, if I feel well enough, will play put together outfits (on the hanger) with that new piece, to store away for inspiration when the delightful day does come that I get to wear it for the first time.
My strength likewise comes from many sources, and though some days I feel woefully lacking in energy or vitality, no matter how depleted I may feel, my husband's undying love and support of me through countless ups and downs is a pool of strength from which I know I can always drink and take comfort in. We've been together for over eight years and this coming October will mark our eighth wedding anniversary. We're both romantics and thoroughly consider one another to be each other's soul mates. Though Tony doesn't wear vintage himself, he adores it when I do and is my biggest supporter in all of my vintage related endeavours (he's also the photographer behind most of the vintage outfit posts on my blog).
Your vintage recipe posts are some of my favorites! Do you often cook vintage recipes at home? What is the best thing you have ever made from an old cook book? What is the worst or most bizarre?
How wonderful to know! Cooking as always been a lifelong passion of mine. In fact, as a youngster and teenager (prior to becoming chronically ill and having to do a complete 180 with most of my life goals at the time) I planned on becoming a professional chef and one day running my own restaurant. While that dream wasn't able to come to fruition, even though some of my medical conditions have a huge impact on what I can and cannot eat (the pool I can pull from for my own meals is ridiculously small), I never lost my love of cooking and learning about anything and everything related to gastronomy - especially food history. It was this love that lead me to start posting both vintage recipes and beloved classic recipes from my own repertoire on my blog quite early on.
If we factor in recipes that are technically vintage because they're been handed down for generations now, then I would say that I do cook vintage dishes on a fairly regular basis. I love foods and recipes from ages and locations though, so my kitchen (and cookbook collection) is a joyful mashup of past and present cultivated from around the world, my own life, and my ancestors.
Great questions! The best thing vintage recipe I've made actually didn't come from a cookbook, it's my maternal grandpa's (Arnold Schill's) recipe for beef stroganoff which was handed down to him from his German-Russian mother and grandma (and possibly further back still). I grew up with my mother making it and think that it has to be one of my favourite foods of all time. Though nowadays I'm only able to eat it if I use gluten-free ingredients and white meat (I'm not able to eat red any more) such as chicken, I can still create a version that instantly whisks me back to my childhood and the aroma's of when grandpa (who passed away when I was six years old) was busy in the kitchen.
Thankfully I haven't run into too many train wrecks on the vintage recipe front, but there have been a few eyebrow raising dishes for sure. Sometimes vintage recipes seem bizarre from the get-go because of how they were styled for the accompanying photo and that alone can scare potential cooks off, but so far I don't think I've had that happen yet. I like to think of myself as a fairly adventurous cook, so there really hasn't been one dish that stands out for me as being the absolute most bizarre yet (though perhaps this is because I usually draw the line at recipes which combine seafood and gelatine!).
I know that you find most of your vintage clothing online. Do you have any advice for newbies?
Indeed, the vast majority of vintage items (and quite a lot of the reproduction and vintage appropriate) in my wardrobe we found online. This stems from a couple of main reasons. One is that as I'm often not well enough to go out and spend a day shopping, having the internet at my fingertips is a like a godsend for me. There, from the comfort of my own bed or couch, I can search for whatever vintage garment or accessory I'm currently on the prowl for, without putting much stress on my health (in the way that a day spent going out and shopping would). The second reason is that, by and large, Canada does not have an abundance of vintage clothing sellers (especially in my town of about 30,000 people, where's there's internet at my fingertips is a like a godsend for me. There, from the comfort of my own bed or couch, I can search for whatever vintage garment or accessory I'm currently on the prowl for, without putting much stress on my health (in the way that a day spent going out and shopping would). The second reason is that, by and large, Canada does not have an abundance of vintage clothing sellers (especially in my town of about 30,000 people, where's there's thrift and secondhand shops, but currently only one small vintage clothing shop), and those that do exist are sometimes located hours (or even days by car) away.
Yard sales, flea markets, estate sales, thrift, consignment, and antique stores can help to make up for this lack a bit, but even there I find that (excluding some antique shops) unearthing vintage treasures it getting trickier and trickier.
If I think back to my early teen years when I first started buying vintage clothing and compare then to today, it's like night and day. I used to scoop by 30s slips, 40s blouses, and 50s dresses for a dollar or two (maybe $5.00 if something was extra fancy or beautiful) on my lunch hours from the thrift shops located down the street from my high school, and could easily find similar pieces at local yard sales and flea markets. Today, about 14 years on, it can take weeks or even months to find pre-1965 wardrobe pieces from those same kinds of sources, and when you do they almost never sell for such astronomically low prices any more. These days (where I live) few vintage garments or accessories are available (off line) for less than $25.00 and many run well into the hundreds.
Like a lot of us, I shop on a strict budget, so I'm always looking to find a stellar deal (be it online or off). Over the years I've found that patience and creativity are very important keys in this regard. While sometimes you'll luck out and encounter a great bargain on the first day (or even within the first hour) of looking for something, often such is not the case. I keep a running list of most of the vintage items I'm looking for (be they wardrobe staples or flights of fancy) and routinely do a search for each item on sites like etsy and eBay.
I employ creativity in my searches by using imaginative and alternative keywords (think "frock" instead of "dress", "jumper" instead of "sweater", etc), as a means of trying to find the broadest spectrum of results that's realistically possible.
Though vintage bargains are getting harder for most people to find wherever they live in the world, there are still some out there, so the be sure to constantly keep your eyes peeled whenever you go online or off for that special treasure someone (kindly or unknowingly) opted not to charge an arm and a leg for.
I just want to say thank you very much, Brittany, for featuring Chronically Vintage and I on your truly stellar blog. It is a joy and honour to know you and share in your mutual love of vintage together, dear gal. Thank you for inspiring me - and countless others - with your awesome site every day.
Aww, Thank you, Jessica! You are such an inspiration as well. It was a pleasure having you, sweetie!!
See more of Jessica on her blog, Chronically Vintage