Haunted Vintage: 2015


Over the years, I've shared some of my own personal spooky stories of haunted vintage around Halloween:

 I've run out of ghost stories to tell but luckily, my friend, Katie volunteered to contribute a ghost story to Va-Voom Vintage readers this year! Katie blogs at  and she's here to share two true stories of her adventures in haunted vintage....

haunted vintage items true ghost stories of haunted objects

Ah, Halloween. Hello, you sexy beast. I realize it has become cliché to say, “Halloween is my favorite holiday,” (I hope you read that in a total valley girl mental voice) but it really is mine. Quite specifically, the ghost stories. I have had an inexplicable fascination with the paranormal for as long as I can remember, so when Brittany asked if I would do a little ghostly guest blog, I was like, “Um, YEAH.” Just to throw my credentials on the table, I am the co-author of such delightful gems as Scare-Izona: A Travel Guide to Arizona’s Spookiest Spots, Tucson’s Most Haunted, Finding Ghosts in Phoenix, and Paranormal Pandemic. So, you can say that I have been in my fair share of haunted places.
For me, it never gets old.

I could tell and hear ghost stories every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of it. I am particularly enamored of stories that I hear through the vintage grapevine. Creepy objects acquired at an off-the-beaten-path thrift store, estate sales that give you goose bumps, a dead bicyclist standing outside your car window, you get the idea. Luckily, I come to the blog armed with two of my own creepy tales just to share with my fellow vintage vamps!!

Princess Dybbuk
Recently, my family took a cross-country road trip to Pennsylvania, making lots of fun stops along the way. One such stop was St. Louis to visit Ms. Vavoom herself, and to do a little thrifting. 

 At our very first stop – A Salvation Army – if I recall correctly, I found a Marwal-esque bust that I immediately scooped up and put into my cart. I was smitten with her from the get-go. She was beautiful with her dark skin and turquoise scarf. The very next thing I put into my cart was a Virgin Mary planter. This becomes relevant later. Almost instantly, sh*t started getting out of hand. Everyone got sick from breakfast (Salvation Army does *not* have a public restroom). My faux pearl necklace became inexorably stuck and, even with my hubby’s help, would not unfasten. I had to break it to get it off my neck. The air dam on our Prius fell halfway off the car and my son ended up having to cut it off with his super-fancy survival knife. Our air conditioner stopped working in the car. Our washing machine sh*t the bed. Our house flooded. It was a ridiculously torrential sh*t storm, and I am sure I am leaving out other things that happened, but I am sure I hit the finer points.

 I had placed her on a dresser at the end of my hallway, and I was never altogether comfortable with that arrangement. On the day that I was standing ankle-deep in water, I realized that I was tired of her judgy face and her clear disdain for my family and my home, so I pulled off my hoops and gave them to someone to hold, and took her down from her perch, quickly replacing her with the statue of the Virgin Mary. As quickly as the crapnado started – it stopped. Things began to right themselves. A sense of tension was gone. We were provided the means to fix the things that had broken and we have not looked back. Princess Dybbuk – as I dubbed her – is now living a new, fresh life with parapsychologists who have found no conflict.

The Treasure House
Working for an estate sale company has afforded me the luxury of being able to go through peoples’ things, and to regularly be in the homes of the recently deceased. One recent home was beautiful. Just filled with mid-century deliciousness. Gobs of it. I was literally running through the house with unbridled glee. I turned the corner of the hallway and entered the master bedroom (where I would do the bulk of my work at that house) and immediately felt like I wasn’t alone. I even told my coworkers the same. When I entered the room, I could smell perfume. The ceiling fan was swinging in a particularly aggressive way, and one of the slats from the vertical blinds that had been propped on the window sill flew from the sill and landed several feet away. As such, and given my experience with ghosts, I immediately began addressing the deceased homeowner by name and assured her that I would treat her belongings with respect and behave only in a way that honored her. She had the most beautiful clothes and purses, some dating back to the 40s (I know, right?). I began the process of sorting her things, and almost immediately found a box containing a stack of cash – a little over a hundred dollars. We all had a good laugh and the money was turned in. The following day, while sorting her belongings, I found a mirror that was in a plastic sleeve. It didn’t seem to fit quite right, so I pulled it out and looked inside. In the bottom was a small blue plastic bag. I opened the bag, reached in, and pulled out the fattest stack of cash I had ever seen in my life. Hundred dollar bills fell into my lap in clumps, and I just sat there looking at it. I was alone in the room, but I felt a great sense of urgency that was not my own. I counted it. I showed everyone. I took pictures. I stopped short of making it rain. I turned it in and went back to work. A short while later, I opened a forgotten medicine cabinet to find that it was filled with denture cream and tongue scrapers and let out an audible sigh at having to do it. I began pulling the items out of the cabinet on the bottom shelf and worked my way up. The last two prescription bottles I pulled out were dated from 1969 and 1972. In retrospect, they seemed to have been placed there rather deliberately because hidden behind them was a very large diamond ring. I pulled the ring down from the highest, furthest corner of the cabinet where it had been hidden and looked upon it with shock and awe. I immediately felt like this ring was for me. I turned it in, but couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was the most unique and lovely diamond ring I had ever seen. By this time, I was pretty emotionally drained because honesty mocks good sense and leaves you wondering why you had to find it in the first place. I could have easily shaved a few hundred off the top and no one would have been the wiser, but I am not a thief and even thinking about it now feels like a crime. Anyway, I was told that if no one else bought the ring at the sale, I would be allowed to buy it. The sale came and nobody bought it. When my supervisor handed me the ring, I was so relieved. At lunchtime, I couldn’t wait to show my hubby the ring (he also works for the same company). We went upstairs to an empty room where no customers were allowed. As I showed him the ring, we both suddenly heard a music box begin to play Somewhere My Love. 

We looked at each other and smiled with a puzzled look on both our faces. We hopped up and started looking around the room. The room was completely empty save for us and a few empty boxes. The din of the shoppers could be heard coming from downstairs, but the music box was loud and emanated from the center of the room, and it sort of bounced around the room before stopping. After lunch, I asked a coworker who was in the room beneath us if there had been a music box. There was not. No one had seen or heard a music box. We had initially gotten a later-than-usual start on this house because the daughter of the homeowner couldn’t bring herself to leave. I found out after the sale – it was because she felt like her mother was still there.
Now, let me hear your story! If you have ever gotten something weird at a thrift store or an estate sale that gave you chills, I wanna know. Who knows – I might be writing a book. 

Friend me on Facebook or hit me up on Instagram (@coolshitithrifted), and be sure to download my e-book –Thrift Stories: Cool Sh!t I Thrifted.

Kitschmas Crafting with Va-Voom Vintage E-Book


All summer, I've been working on Christmas crafts for my new e-book, Kitschmas Crafting with Va-Voom Vintage! I know it's a little too early for the holidays but I just wrapped it up this week and I'm too excited to keep quiet till its official release next weekend!

In Kitschmas Crafting with Va-Voom Vintage I teach you how to craft a very retro Christmas in your own home with her kitschy step-by-step projects for your tree, dining table, mantle and holiday wardrobe. Deck your halls in lights and tinsel, 1950s style. 

This glittery guide of over 100 pages, complete with vintage holiday photos and full-color instructions includes ...
  • 26 step by step holiday craft projects from bygone eras
  • Upcycling and decorating secrets for an authentic vintage look on a budget
  • Printable templates and patterns included
  • My guide to retro holiday fashions with accessories that you can make
  • Plus 4 printable full color holiday cards from the 1950s
  • tips on how to find original vintage holiday décor to mix with your handmades.
Projects range from expert-level to kid-friendly, perfect for scouts, youth groups and creating wonderful holiday memories with your family.

a peek at a few of the projects inside:

kitschmas crafting with va voom vintage ebook preview

Buy Kitschmas Crafting with Va-Voom Vintage in my etsy shop!

The 10 Piece Vintage Wardrobe: Fall Edition


10 piece vintage capsule wardrobe for fall with Modcloth, Unique Vintage and Collectif

You don't have to have a bursting closet for a complete 1940s inspired look- which is something I wish I would have learned before I started buying vintage! These days, I'm trying to narrow my closet down to dependable favorites. Most of my closet is vintage but if you like practical, machine washable and easy-to-find pieces, here's a little guide to building a classic vintage style closet for fall.

I picked 10 of my favorite basics from Modcloth, Unique Vintage and Collectif including 2 knit tops, 2 button up blouses, one cardigan, 3 skirts, 1 pair of pants and one killer dress. Solids are easy to mix together when you stick to a favorite color palette that all looks good together. Accessorize with jewelry, purses, shoes and hair things that you already have and 10 pieces takes you a long way! I mixed these pieces to create 24 looks.

10 piece retro capsule wardrobe for fall- shop the look at

*this post contains links to my affiliates*

Making a Too-Small 1950s Skirt Fit Perfectly


 plus size retro 1950s skirt and pendleton 49er jacket

A few weeks ago,  I took my little sister to the Red Racks thrift store to pick out a new outfit for her for an upcoming job interview. I love the Red Racks! They're so well organized, with things sorted by size and everything they carry is really nice, quality stuff. Some of my local thrift stores stock some pretty questionable thing that probably should have ended up in the trash but I knew we'd find her some classy things at the Red Racks.

While we were shopping for her, I passed by the skirt rack and saw this retro fabric peeking out. It's a 50s cotton skirt! I desperately need more skirts and although it was a bit small for me, I brought it home anyway.

 I removed the waistband, zipper and pleats and re-pleated it to fit my waist. Since it has a deep hem sewn in, I pulled a little fabric out of the hem to lengthen my waistband. Reattached the zipper, waistband and it's perfect! Don't ever pass up a too small or too big skirt with pleats if you love it. It's an easy adjustment! I wore it that weekend for a breakfast picnic by the river.

plus size retro 1950s skirt and pendletn 49er jacket

vintage picnic basket

plus size vintage  1950s skirt and pendleton jacket

Pendleton jacket- warehouse sale
tee- Wearing History
50s skirt- thrifted
snood- Wacky Tuna

Memory Book Monday: A rather hilarious letter from 1935


Oh hello again, it's been a long time! Today I have a wonderful letter to share with you from my Great Grandma Alma's teenage memory book but first a little catch up of where the heck I've been all this time!...

I turned 30 on September 30th. Celebrated with dinner at my mother in law's house. A few days later, Olivia turned 6 and we had a big Halloween themed birthday party at our house, our first with school friends! A day later, Pj and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary and it's been a wild month full of Halloween parties and I'm a girl scout leader s we've been selling nuts and candy for our fall fundraiser and I've been spending every other Tuesday night partying with my group of wonderful and hilarious Kindergarten girls! It's been a big adjustment, having my first kid in school but I'm loving time at home with my little guy and I'm excited to kick off blogging again! Anyway, on to grandma....

Before she started dating my great grandpa, Great Grandma Alma dated a boy named Don Gross. Her memory book is full of little notes about him, places they went together and I even found a couple of photographs in a separate album.

 I remember a story that Great Grandma told. After she graduated high school, she was awarded one of two scholarships to send her to college.  In her eyes, the scholarship really should have gone to another student but she believed that she received special treatment because her daddy was the superintendent. She went to the scholarship office and made a stink until they decided to award the scholarship to the boy instead. She told me that without the scholarship, there was no way that he would be able to go to college. Because of her good grades and family's financial situation, she would have gone to college regardless.  I wonder, was Don the boy that she gave her scholarship to?

Summer, 1935

Don Gross, Grandma's beau, summer 1935

friends, Lyn and John "Jay" LaRue, writer of the letter below

 In the memory book was an envelope addressed to Don Gross from one of the boys in these photos. He did not go to college. He got a job working at the Ligett and Myers Tobacco Company in St Louis. You can see photos of the tobacco company building as it stands today at St Louis Patina.  The letter's contents was surprising to all of us, since the Alma we knew was always so serious! She didn't joke around often, she didn't hang around with certain types of people and, as an English major, she had perfect grammar and writing skills.  I've typed out the letter exactly as written below, misspellings, underlines, inside jokes and racism included, as it was back then:

                                                                                                  St. Louis, MO
                                                                                                  November 6, 1935

Dear D.F.G. (Dog Face Gross) and A.F.L (Awful Foolish Leaver).

        I can't see why a big tobacco maget like me should spend his time writing to a couple of school kids, but I find it my duty, as I always try to be polite even to the scum of the earth.   

          I hate to see you too waste your time in a school of learning. You all should join me and attend the "School of Life." (it took me a half-hour to think that up). But don't let this get you down you still have a hope. After you two have been flunked out of school you can come to St. Louis and by that time I'll have Liggett & Meyers well in my clutches. You, Alma. I'll give you a job picking the stems of tobacco with the rest of the Dagos (Wops) (Whatever Joe Castello is) and you Don. I'll give you a nice job as a porter, cleaning out (gaboons), (spitoons) (cusjidors) or something. 

        While you two are studying English I am taking a straight course in Cuss-ology from the members of the old school at Luggetts (Putting all foolishness aside Ah la L.E.S. (you know. Your old man.)
My work at liggetts is very interesting. I work on Granger Rough cut pipe tobacco. I operate 3 machines (All at once). A machine that wraps the tobacco in tin-foil and weighs it-one that put on the Gout and one that puts on the labels. Not so hard but very tedious. Of course you book-Worms (mostly worms) wouldn't understand tho.

I get paid on the number of thousands of pkgs. I turn out in a day. I make good money but not enough of it. 
         As for that crack about my basketball playing. Tom Barry of the Celtics (worlds Champs, (basketballers), tried to sign me up the other day to play with them but I refused. Or was that Art Lewis and the Pacific town team. Well it don't make much difference anyway. I would have turned either of them down. 
          Did you ever try writing with a Buzz-saw running in your ear. Well thats what I am doing. I think. Oh pardon me- that's Bill snoring * How could I stood it. 
As for you getting a couple of gals for me if I come to Columbia.  Nertz. All I can say is that when I start home from Columbia you better have all means of transportation from Columbia to St. Louis stopped or you will notice a great decrease in the feminine population of said fair city. 
          Sometimes at work when everything is running smoothly I think of what fun we had in school last year and wish I was back there. Sniff-Sniff. I got myself crying again.  I shed a bitter tear. 

Pardon the pencil and the awful unpardonable writing. I am writing on my lap. Be sure and write right back at me and tell me what you thought of these 5 pages of senseless drivell.
                        Love + Kisses

I wonder what happened to Don and Jay. Did Jay ever get to school or did he work in the factories in St Louis all of his life? Did he ever get back to visit Columbia and get his hands on the ladies? Did Don get married and have a family of his own? I bet his great grandchildren would love a peek at their grandpa in his crazy teenage years!  By the spring after this letter was written, Grandma and Don didn't see each other anymore. Grandma was dating Lawrence Vaughn, my Great Grandpa. More on him next time!

The Vintage Barbie Project


Lately, I've been posting on my facebook and Instagram feeds about my vintage Barbie project. I'm sewing the entire 1959 Barbie collection for Olivia for Christmas this year! I don't know who will have more fun, myself or her. I've had a lot of questions about it so I thought I'd share some great resources, patterns and my completed outfits so far.

how to sew retro Barbie clothes
Fabric remnants and a small bit of an old tee shirt made the Barbie resort set. She just needs her hat and a little white trim

I've never sewn doll clothes before and although I've sewn clothes for myself since I was about 12, this has been a real challenge! Barbie clothes are sewn mostly flat until the last minute when you sew up the side seams, otherwise hems would be impossible! There's some really great tips on how to sew Barbie clothes from Sharon Sews. Be sure to read through the comments section for smart ideas and time saving tips.

The Doll
She's 6 years old and I hate to give a little kid a wonderful vintage treasure that could end up wrecked so I found the 90's reproduction Barbie on ebay for $10! They generally go for between $10 and $20 or a little more, depending on the condition of the box. Her box had a few dings and creases so it wasn't great for a collector but perfect for a little girl. I carefully took Barbie out of her box so I could use her for a model as I sewed the outfits. She'll go back in and get wrapped up before the holidays.  Something to note about the repro Barbie is that if you do decide to take yours out of the box, the rubber bands in her hair will likely be crumbling, so you'll need to replace those but that's easy enough! This doll comes with the swimsuit, black shoes and sunglasses.

how to sew vintage Barbie clothes
Ugly vintage curtain fabric was perfect for this outfit. The vintage fur trim came from an old, shabby collar.

The Collection
I spent several weeks reading all about vintage Barbie clothes, studying up-close photos on ebay and taking notes of what kids of fabric I would need. You can find everything you need to know about the first Barbie outfits and accessories by year issued on Doll and Fashion Doll Guide. There's some really interesting history information and beautiful photos of original Barbies and clothes. 

how to sew vintage Barbie1950s  lingerie from Va Voom Vintage
vintage embroidered fabric scraps made perfect lingerie for Barbie

 The Fabric
Since I'm sewing my collection for my little girl, I'm not worried about getting everything perfectly accurate so I've found most of my fabric at JoAnn Fabrics, Walmart or in my stash of scraps and vintage fabrics. Most fabric stores will cut a minimum of 2 inches at the cutting table so if you only need a tiny bit and don't want to pay a lot of an expensive fabric, you can still use really beautiful materials for little money. I found some great remnants too and since JoAnn marks remnants at 50% off the regular price per yard, I paid less than $2 per dress for most of these.

vintage barbie make your own retro lingerie
I had a vintage pink slip with some damage so I cut the trim off the bottom and made a baby doll for Barbie with some matching lace-trimmed panties

One of my facebook readers commented that her mother used to trade fabric scraps with other ladies in the neighborhood, which is a fantastic idea if you have some local friends or family who sew. Check thrift stores for discounted garments that can be cut up and re-purposed.  Some fabrics could not be found like the fabric for the apple print sheath dress so I made my own. I bought a remnant of black cotton and used pencil erasers as circular stamps for the apples. I already had the acrylic paint so I stamped away and dotted each circle with a black spot once it dried.

DIY vintage Barbie apple print sheath make your own fabric
Almost finished! The fabric for this dress was hand painted using pencil erasers as round stamps.

The Patterns
Some of the patterns that I'm using are from Aileen's Petite Fashions. Some of your grandmas or aunts may have some of these patterns from way back when but they are still in business and you can buy the patterns from their website. They have many of the patterns needed for the 1959 collection as well as recent years. For the vintage outfits that you can't find on their website, there are also loads of free Barbie patterns on Pinterest, Picasa and Flickr that you can change up as needed.

DIY 1959 vintage Barbie picnic outfit with jeans and gingham top
These jeans were not fun to sew. I recommend keeping a bottle of wine in the fridge.

I haven't made many accessories yet but I did find very inexpensive Barbie shoes from Doll Clothes Superstore. I checked Ebay and Amazon but most of the shoes that I found were too modern or too expensive. This site has Barbie shoes for about 75 cents per pair, which is all I want to pay for something that will most likely end up under Olivia's bed!

vintage Barbie compact Roman Holiday
Vintage Barbie Compact from the Roman Holiday set via Land Collectables

The 1959 Barbie collection had some incredible accessories including woven baskets, straw hats, a fishing pole and the most coveted- the brass Barbie compact, which has sold for up to $1,500!  One of my clever readers suggested using a tiny locket to make the compact, which I thought was genius! I'll be making my own tiny cardboard diary, knitting basket and things like that.

how to make a vintage Barbie fur trimmed hat for the 1959 Evening Splendour set
Check the recycling bin for Barbie accessories. Here, a rim from an empty bottle gets some fur and pearl trim and is snipped open on one end for a hat

Follow my vintage Barbie project on Instagram and Facebook and I'll post some more here as I get them finished!

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