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Archive for Vintage

Born in the USA

It was introduced “with great fanfare” in 1936 at the Pittsburg China and Glass Show in five colours and was an immediate hit!  After 37 years of production it was retired in 1972. In 1986 it was resurrected by Bloomingdale’s and made tougher, lead free and better than ever. Chances are your mother or grandmother collected it. It is still a top choice among brides today and a leading brand in casual dinnerware. What am I referring to? Why, FIESTA, of course!

Manufactured as always by the Homer Laughlin China Company of West Virginia, this American company has produced over one half billion pieces of dinnerware since its inception 78 years ago during the Great Depression. As the leading producer of restaurant china,  Homer Laughlin uses the same ceramic glazes and durable materials for their domestic housewares as they do for the restaurant trade. In fact, the dishes are guaranteed chip-proof for five years and have proven to be reliably durable for families. You will see them in diners and restaurants or in the movies. Currently available in 16 colours, the sets of dishes are designed to be mixed and matched. And that is where the fun is! Some people like to collect one place setting of each colour for a rainbow effect. Others like to mix 3 or 4  or more colours. It is enjoyable to combine different colours according to holiday, occasion or mood.

Finally it was time for me to purchase some new dishes. The last complete set of dishes I had was from Eaton’s and they’ve been gone now for fifteen years! After some online research I ordered eight sets of Fiesta from Macy’s. Macy’s was featuring a buy one, get one free sale, with an additional 15%off. Even with duty, taxes & shipping I was pleased with the price. The eight sets arrived (only one plate broken) and I’m having a blast combining the dishes with each other and with my linens.

I chose scarlet, marigold and cobalt (the three primary colours) as my base colours. I’m collecting additional pieces in colours that coordinate with these. So far I have pieces in white, flamingo, periwinkle and sea mist. Vintage Fiesta can also be mixed with modern pieces as the sizes are consistent. Homer Laughlin has pledged to introduce one new colour each year and to retire colours. Flamingo is currently being retired and poppy is the newest addition.

When I invited my mother to see my new dishes, she laughed when she saw them! During her engagement, she collected Fiesta from the local grocery store. If you spent a certain amount on groceries you earned a stamp. Collect enough stamps and you could  trade it for dinnerware. My parents used it during the early years of their marriage.  I don’t  I probably ate off them as a baby, but don’t have a memory of them. Thanks to my friend Cindy for giving me my first FIESTA  pieces – two vintage sea mist bread and butter plates.

By the way, Lemongrass is the colour of the month!

Author’s note: Thanks to the Homer Laughlin China Company official website and Bruce Springsteen.

Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline – Book Review


This book will change the way
you think about clothes!

I was looking for Alexa Chung’s new book, It. The public library didn’t have it. The next best bet was Indigo. They had It, but as I thumbed through the book I quickly realized I would not be buying it.  Browsing the stalls in the fashion section one book title did jump out at me – OVERDRESSED the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion. I picked it up and a quick flip-through revealed not a picture in sight. A fashion book with no pictures? Hhhmm, this must be something more serious. The front cover boasts a quote by Katha Pollitt “OVERDRESSED does for T-shirts and leggings what FAST FOOD NATIONS did for burgers and fries.”  That’s quite a statement! Intrigued, I dropped a few hints and received the book as a Christmas gift.

When I finally sat down with it, I devoured the book! It was fascinating reading right from the first page, and were it not for a night’s sleep, I would have finished it in one sitting. Elizabeth Cline has done her research and knows her facts. From shamelessly opening her own closet to visiting clothing factories in China, she brings into question our values as a nation with her insights into our shopping habits.  Today’s society has been brought up to clothing shop for entertainment, purchase clothes they don’t need or wear and to amass wardrobes with hundreds if not thousands of pieces. Cline discusses the  impact that today’s disposable clothing has on the environment, how it virtually eliminated the garment industry in North America and how it is affecting the global economy.

Normally a book about economics would not interest me but I found this book easy to read and accurate in the conclusion it draws. Clothing (unlike some consumable items) has gone down drastically in price over the last hundred years. So has its perceived value. Consumers are now accustomed to buying clothes at the grocery store (thanks Joe Mimran) and seeing stores change their entire line-up of clothing every 4-6 weeks (thanks Gap). Clothing is manufactured cheaply in countries such as China, India and Bangladesh. Consumers refuse to pay higher prices for items of higher quality, content instead to purchase shoddily made clothing of inferior fibres that languish in closets unworn. Interestingly, with the ready availability of cheaply priced clothing, the price of hand made/couture/designer  or non mass-produced clothing has gone up. This has also driven up the price of vintage clothing.

People today have 3 – 10 times as many clothes as their grandparents did (just look in the closets of an 80 year old home). I find it hard to believe that my grandparents both hung their clothing on one one rail in one tiny closet. (That was before the days of California Closets!)

I am so glad that I read this book. It has made me realize that I should no longer settle for cheap clothing. Clothing is something that should be loved, worn and valued. When our wardrobes consist of cheap polyester items from H & M or Forever 21, we are not making wise and mindful choices. Armed with Ms. Cline’s knowledge I am more determined than ever to have fewer pieces of higher quality clothing. For more information buy or read the book or check out the website at



Mirror Mirror!

Everyone remembers those famous lines from Brothers Grimm’s Snow White “Mirror, Mirror on the wall – Who’s the fairest one of all?” Snow White’s stepmother, The Queen liked looking at herself in the mirror (mainly for confirmation – I think she was insecure!). Narcissus was another character from Greek mythology who liked his own reflection so much that he wasted away. Decorators love them! They capture light, visually expand spaces and reflect beauty. A huge, heavy framed mirror leaning against the wall is a classic and beautiful way to enhance your home’s surroundings. Ah – the mirror – who can resist them?

Courtesy of

Who can avoid them? Many of you, it seems! I consider myself fortunate that people trust me to come into their homes. I see their possessions, lives and values all around me. For that reason, most of what I see is confidential. But a common thread among the homes I’ve been in no matter what degree of organizing they need – is a lack of mirrors. I discussed this with a client and she said very insightfully, that people living without a full length mirror are not living in their bodies. It follows that an organized home (i.e. organic) should contain several mirrors at varying heights. Feng shui consultants can advise you on mirror placement in home or business for best results.

Organized closet dressing room with mirror.
Courtesy of Pottery Barn



1. Front hall – near the door – to check your hair, teeth and makeup. Smile as you go!

2. Bathroom – this room is usually small. A mirror can make it feel bigger and brighter. Mirror as much as you dare. A lit mirror with magnifier is a nice additional touch for facial closeups and shaving.

3. Bedroom or dressing room – two at least! A mirror to check your top half (accessories and hair) and VERY IMPORTANT – a full length mirror. 

4. Front hall (again!) – a full length mirror.

5. Other exit doors/additional bathrooms – a mirror please.

6. Garden – some people enjoy the addition of a mirror to a garden or patio area.

7. Anywhere – a starburst or sunburst mirror is always classic.

8. Over the mantle – antique or vintage – bevelled is nice.

9. In your purse – for a salad check after lunch.

10. Your car, locker, desk or workspace – another good place to stash a small mirror for checkups.

Why two full length mirrors? The first is so you can check your outfit as you get dressed. Its much easier to see if your top goes with your bottom if you can see the whole picture. The second one in the hall where you leave is so you can check your coat and footwear with your outfit.

Personally, I have a very hard time leaving the house if I can’t check my full reflection. I need to know there’s  no toilet paper, that my slip isn’t showing and that those pants don’t make my butt look big!

Please take care hanging your mirrors. Make sure you anchor them to the wall and use strong enough nails and wire. Enjoy the reflection!


Who is your best friend?

While some may answer that question with  ”my spouse”, “my mother” or a friend’s name – if you’re a Fashionista you need to be best friends with a tailor or seamstress. If you are fortunate enough to shop in very nice stores they will provide alterations for you (usually included in the price). Those talented with a needle and thread may wish to attempt hemming and small adjustments themselves. The rest of use must choose from malls that have  a shop or two that offer alterations. Those stores may be hit and miss – or may be fine for sewing buttons and replacing a zipper – but you really need a seamstress or tailor when you want your clothes to fit “just so”. Experiment cautiously, one garment at time or ask your friends or a shop owner for recommendations until you find someone who does a great job and you trust.

Red threads by Gutermann

In the olden days people’s clothes were bespoke (my new favourite word) or made to fit them. There weren’t stores with pre-determined sizes that you had to fit into – clothes were custom made to your body. It was only in the last 100 years or so that pre-made clothing was even available. Today, finding a garment that fits you off the rack is practically an accomplishment and something to be celebrated! Most of us need things tweaked to get the perfect fit – a waist nipped in – sleeves shortened – the bust darts let out, etc. Those small fixes are the things that can make a garment go from fitting you okay (good)  - to looking like it was made for you (preferable).

I knew I had found a great seamstress in Ranka Dabic, owner of Fine Threads in Jackson Square 905-667-1113 (near the Sheraton entrance) when she had me try everything on, mark both sides of the garment (we humans are lopsided) and was able to alter both mens and ladies wear expertly. This was confirmed for me when Oprah was in Hamilton for a speaking engagement earlier this year – and her team asked Ranka to alter Oprah’s dress!  Quite an honour and Ranka says they were a very nice group of people to work with!

Shop around until you find someone good and your clothes will never fit you better. A good shoe repair shop is another gem, and perhaps another blog topic!

Why I love Dresses!

Dress by Desigual

I am a new convert to dresses and I’d like to win you over too! Until recently I’d always been a separates girl. When I had an office job I always wore a skirt or pants and a jacket. Dresses were something from the fifties to me – something my mother wore, kind of formal, something you couldn’t move in, something I avoided. Granted, dresses can be tricky - especially if your upper half and bottom half are very different in size. I think dresses have had a resurgence in popularity, partly due to the popularity of the Mad Men series. Banana Republic has done several collections inspired by the costumes worn by the ladies on the show. Vintage dresses were in abundance at the Vintage Marketplace at the Hamilton Convention Centre in April. And White Elephant on James St. North just featured a special collection of vintage dresses brought in for a Trunk show in May. Some of my favourite dresses are from Desigual and preloved.
Here’s why you should give dresses a try!
1. A LBD is your best friend. You can wear it to both formal and sombre occasions. Choose something knee length, not too low cut with not too many details. You will look appropriate and will not stand out in a bad way. The same little black dress can take you from weddings to funerals with the right shoes, jewellery and accessories.
2. A LPD or LWD (little pink or little white) can be your second best friend. Again, the accessories are key to creating the look you want – be it business like or for sipping lemonade in the back yard.
3. Dresses are slimming. Why? Because they form a clean visual line and generally don’t chop you across the middle like some separates can.
4. Dresses don’t need to match anything. In fact – a really great dress often looks greater with shoes or a bag that don’t exactly match. Think same colour family – or opposite the colour wheel for a real pop!
5. Dresses are cool. In warm weather I don’t think anything is cooler than a long cotton maxi dress and sandals. Don’t forget the sunhat, sunscreen and sunglasses.
6. Dresses are feminine. In our North American culture you will never be mistaken for a male if you wear a dress. Even if you are not a “girly girl” a dress can make you feel more feminine, which in turn makes “him” feel more masculine.
7. Dresses are comfortable. No tops coming untucked, belts to unbuckle, pants that are too tight, tops to match to bottoms, etc. Just put it on and do it up and you’re practically ready to go!
8. Dresses are forgiving. They can hint at a silhouette and show a woman’s shape without being skin tight. Dresses can glide over areas that aren’t your favourites.
9. Dresses show your legs. You can control how much, but a woman’s lower leg is a pretty safe way to show a little skin.
10. A jacket over a dress looks business like and conveys a sense of authority.
Oh, and one last reason – they swoosh! Yeah, they move a little when you walk!