I have a Wall of Fame. Or maybe it’s the Wall of Infamy. Here at the shop, the wall behind the counter is covered with hats, purses, bodices … and Women with Bad Attitudes.
How it came to be was purely accidental. I had come across a modern decorative tile that depicted a Victorian woman giving the proverbial “look that could kill” with the inscription, “Everyone’s entitled to a hissy-fit now and then” and it just seemed to address my … shall we say, state of mind … at the time. I hung the tile on the wall behind the counter.
Not long after that, I added a wonderful hand-tinted photograph of a Victorian lady in a beautiful gold oval frame to my inventory. Being too lazy to haul out the ladder and out of space near the floor to hang the photo, I put it on the wall behind the counter. One day, I realized that the lady in the oval frame looked like she could have been the woman on my tile! Evil stare and all. I call them Patience and Mercy.
As happens in a vintage store, more and more things accumulate. Occasionally, an item comes in that just SPEAKS to me. A particular chalkware statue of a girl called to me. Chalkware (really plaster of paris) was commonly given as an inexpensive prize at fairs or carnivals between about 1910 and 1940. This particular piece is fairly common – she stands about 16″ high and wears a cute pink jacket and wide legged, cuffed pants with a matching cap cocked at a rather sassy angle and a green striped (with glitter!) turtleneck. Her hands are in her pockets and she has a sort of pouty “don’t mess with me” expression painted on her face. Since she came to live here, I’ve mentally compared her to others I’ve seen out and about and no others have this pouty expression! She sits on a shelf on the wall behind the counter – I call her Bonnie.
Back in 2006 the dear lady, Nedra Beebe, who owned the building my shop is in passed away. I made a copy of her obituary that included her photo on pretty paper and put it on the wall. Nedra and her husband had a very successful and well-known antique store here since May 1, 1940. She was LEGENDARY. I could do an entire blog about her. She was quite the lady and one heck of a good businesswoman with a loyal following. Countless of her customers have come in and the stories they tell … oh my. She had THE attitude! One story that has been told quite often was that occasionally a customer would invoke her ire. Consequently, if that customer attempted to purchase something, it was no longer for sale!
About this time, it occurred to me that I had unintentionally covered this wall with photos of Women with Bad Attitudes. And yes, my photo was already there.
Some years ago my husband and I had one of those old-timey black and white photos taken where you “dress up” in costumes. Yeah … we did Bonnie & Clyde (don’t get me started on everything wrong with the styles portrayed there!). That photo also hangs on that wall. Now you know why I’m qualified to ascertain “attitude”: It takes one to know one.
So what does all this have to do with vintage clothing? Since realizing that I have this absurd collection of Women With Bad Attitudes, I’ve consciously collected a few more photos of Women With Bad Attitudes to study and admire the hairstyle, the dress, the hat, or some other fashion attribute. I find that old photographs are an excellent window into the past that, over time, becomes a learning tool that helps us understand a lot of the whys of fashion, such as how hairstyles affected hat styles and how certain types of jewelry were worn during a particular time period. I’ll be posting these photos soon with some thoughts and comments and, hopefully, some information about the fashions depicted.