The Captivating Allure of Vintage Bar Soap

image-851I am a big fan of old-fashioned bar soap; those hard milled, dense bars that smell of  some strong floral combination.   Yup, love it!  The trend now is for liquid body washes to be used with those ghastly nylon scrubber things.  It’s rare to see a bar of soap in a soap dish in the bathroom anymore.

There are still bar soaps out there, to be sure.  But most times they are some gelatinous brightly colored glob that dissolves almost instantaneously.  It’s hard to find the old time stuff; the kind that was always present in every vintage bathroom soap dish.

I love the vintage ’40s and ’50s advertisements for bar soap in women’s magazines.  Such charm!  Such hope!  “It will leave your skin softer, smoother…flower-fresh and younger looking!” claims Cashmere Bouquet.  “For velvet-smooth Beauty Lather that caresses your skin, leaves your body glowing with a warm blush of fragrant loveliness, enjoy a beauty bath with Bath Size Palmolive”.   Or, for the ultimate prize of ‘catching a man’ using Woodbury facial soap, “Jim wed his Woodbury-beautiful bride at majestic St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.”

I mean, really…who wouldn’t want to try bar soap after all those promises, vintage or not?  Just wash your face or take a bath with it, and presto…instant allure that no man will be able to resist!

I’m always looking for the old-time soap, and find it from time to time in interesting places like rummage sales and thrift stores.  I recently found a box of vintage thick, sturdy, tuberose scented French milled soap.  No doubt it was probably given as a gift, and then donated (I’m always grateful to those who donate).  The bars are just so solid, and the scent is divine.  It really makes taking a shower a lovely experience, and the bars seemingly last forever.

The scent of these vintage soaps is what gets me.  Such poignancy that touches some memory in the recesses of my mind.  The feel of the delicate lather gently cleaning, the softly scented skin as a result.  Just lovely.  Maybe those vintage ads are true!


Dressed to the 9s: Working With Live Models

My friend and fellow vintage eBay seller, Bobbi, dressedtothe9s, uses live models for her auction listings; something that I’ve never done!  So I am going to let her tell you, as a guest blogger, how she does it so fabulously.  Take it away, Bobbi!


The discussion has been held, many times, about the benefits of taking pictures of your clothes on a live model vs. a mannequin. Everyone has an opinion, and when it comes down to it, the choice is yours. Personally, I have a mannequin named Goldie that I love! I use her almost exclusively for my older, more classic vintage from the 30s thru early 60s. She has a gorgeous figure, doesn’t talk back, is always on time, stays still when I tell her to, and most importantly: she never has a blemish! However, I prefer to use live models when I am photographing trendier items from the mid 60s thru late 80s. A model can show the movement and flow of an item, but more importantly, she can make a personal connection with the buyer and showcase your item to its higher potential. Ever tried to show the beauty of a kimono sleeved jumpsuit with palazzo pants, on a mannequin? So, if you are interested in the ins and outs of working with a live model, I would love to share what I know.

Where to find a model: The first thing that I do is post an ad for a model. Be as specific as you can, in regards to height, weight, size, hair color and age. Give a brief description of the job (example: online vintage clothing sales) and ask that they send their information along with at least 2 pics to you via email, including full body and face shot. Ask for unedited pictures! When I am ready to start my search for a new model, I post on craigslist, do a model call on my myspace, and print off flyers and post them at local coffee shops, junior colleges and community bulletin boards. Its always nice to ask neighbors, friends and family. I keep business cards on me at all times to pass out, and found my last model working behind the counter at Office Max.

Meet and greet: Once you have narrowed your search down, I set up a day to meet with potential models. For this first interview, I invite either a parent or friend to come along, just to make the girls feel a bit safer. There are many predators advertising for models and it is important to let them know that you are on the up and up. Have your camera ready to take a few candid shots of each gal and I like to keep a notebook handy to jot down comments once they leave. Chemistry is so important! No matter how pretty a girl is, if you don’t like her personality, or she doesnt take direction from you, it will not be a good working environment. Remember… this is supposed to be fun!

Compensation: What to pay? I know quite a few sellers who use models and we all do it different. You can pay by the hour, trade, or pay by the piece. I pay my girls “per-piece”. It is good incentive for them to change quickly, take direction and move onto the next piece. Trade is always an option with my girls too, but I do it at the Per Piece ratio. X amount of value on a dress, means she owes me X amount of pictures.

Model releases: Whether you are a part time housewife who sells online once or twice a month, or a Powerseller who works at this hard every day, it is very important that your protect yourself legally with a model release form for each person you use. This gives you sole ownership of the pictures and allows you to modify, manipulate, merge and publish the pictures online. It is MANDATORY for you to get a signed release if you are dealing with a minor, and I suggest that you personally meet with the guardian/parent and see them sign the document. Many a young girl has forged a name, in order to see herself in print. Here is a general contract, that you can modify to your specifics:

The Shoot: I like to work with 2 models at the same time. My gals have been together for a long time and we all have a great time! We spend about 15 minutes going over the items, and then we divide the items between them. While one of the girls is shooting with me, the other one is getting ready. As soon as one girl is done, the other model gets in front of the camera. I never leave my spot and the inventory is constantly rotating and changing. When they are getting paid per item, they appreciate how fast things move along.

Organization: This is probably the most important issue to have a productive/fun shoot! I categorize my shoots with different racks, each one with the appropriate boots/shoes. I do all the dresses with black shoes first, boots next, flats, etc. Keep a box of accessories close at hand, with belts and clasps that may be needed to pin an item to a model. Bottled water within reach is necessary for the models. It gets hot having so much fun!

Picture Review: This is especially important for the first few times that you use a new model. I find myself saying “give me right shoulder”, “stomach in”, “kick back your leg”m, “pivot your knee”, alot! You want a girl that can take direction, but more importantly, you need to SHOW her WHY you want specific shots. Sit down at the computer after a shoot and you will both end up giggling at the funny faces, bad posture, flailing arms, etc. A constructive critique between the two of you will make her understand what you want. I try to focus on the GREAT shots and point out the things that I like, and they listen and learn.

Editing: After my pictures are edited, I upload them to my pictures on my myspace, into the models specific folder. They are welcome to copy the pictures and to use them on their own sites, be that facebook or myspace. I also have small Moo photo business cards with pictures of my models, and I present all of them with a card holder that has pictures of them on the front, and my business information on the back.

In closing: Working with a live model is so much fun! I have become best friends/den mother with all of my models and am still in contact with every single one. I hope that my influence in bringing out their beauty and showcasing them, along with positive motivation from me as an older woman has enhanced their lives. I know that their connection to me, has enhanced mine!

Bobbi sells wonderful vintage clothing and accessories through eBay under her account name Dressedtothe9s and from her lovely website. You can also find her MySpace page here

Adventures in Cold Water Washing


I am the ever-practical environmentalist; doing all that I can in my daily life to keep the earth a little greener.  Most notably in my laundry practices.  I’ve been air-drying exclusively now for about four years; ever since my dryer refused to heat.  It makes my life easier (really!), my utility bill is down about 15%,  and I don’t have the added worry of a possible dryer fire.

While I could feel some smug satisfaction with the energy and environmental saving aspects of using a clothesline, I still continued to regularly use warm, and sometimes hot water to wash my laundry.  I think it was a combination of  “it has always been done this way”, and the thought that my clothes would not get clean in cold water.    I think it’s been pounded in our collective brains over the years through advertising, and yes, from mom, that warm and hot water washes are “the way” to go.  You don’t want creepy crawly bacteria or other horrifying creatures crawling on your clothes do you???

This summer I decided to “Go Cold”… all the way, baby!  The temperature setting on my washer is now set on cold, and hasn’t budged.  I wash everything in cold water.  Yes, even sheets, towels, and underwear.  Amazingly, everything comes out extremely clean.  The whites are brilliant, and the colors aren’t faded.  I am almost convinced that there is some kind of super power in cold water!

No heat at all is used in my laundry practices.  Cold water wash, and then straight to the clothesline or drying rack.  I rarely, if ever, iron – so no heat from that either.  Hang-drying leaves clothes perfectly pressed.  The life of my clothes will probably be extended indefinitely!  This is good because I love my clothes, and wear a lot of vintage clothing too.

These days I guess I could feel a bit smugger, knowing I’m about as green as you can get in laundry practices.  But I’m not a smug person.  I do get a feeling of satisfaction and yes, joy, from doing things this way.  Now THAT is a good feeling!


Autumn Blue

autumn vintage 2

The weather is glorious today, and is supposed to continue throughout the week.  My laundry is outside hanging on the line, one of the last weeks I’ll be able to do this I’m sure, before the sunny rays fade and the cool rains set in.  Soon it will be back to drying my laundry inside on a drying rack.  I’ve lived so long without a dryer that it would be weird to use one again.  But the transition from outside drying to inside drying is a bit wistful to me;  I so enjoy the sunshiny contentment of hanging my clothes outside.  Inside drying is fine, but comes with the minor annoyance of finding space for the drying rack, and having wet stuff draped over every drapable fixture in my small house.

I haven’t turned on my furnace yet either.  We’ve had pretty nice days, but cold nights and I’ve been able to resist turning it on by letting the sun shine in the windows all day, and wearing layers.  I have this strange compulsion to see how long I can go into the season without turning the heat on.  I’ve made it to October 5th at least!

Even though the days have been warmish, there is still that cool undercurrent of nip in the air.  I have been wearing socks, shoes, and my beloved cashmere sweaters.  There is just no denying that we can’t hang onto the sunny warm weather forever here in the Pacific Northwest.  It makes me feel sort of blue; poignant and reflective.  My emotions seem to change with the seasons too.

Now comes the time to transition into doing more ‘nesting’ things.  I’m reading more novels, cooking homemade dinners, and plan to start knitting again.  It is time to get in the rhythm of fall; slow down the pace and enjoy the season.


Perchance to Dream

sleeping juneI’ve always been a bit of an insomniac.  Even as a child, I would lay awake at night trying mightily to go to sleep.  I’ve always been envious of people who could fall asleep as soon as their head hit the pillow…simply amazing to me!   The amount of hours that I’ve spent laying in bed trying to go to sleep must be staggering….probably in the thousands.  The cause of my insomnia is just plain thinking.  I think and think and think.   Sometimes I wish I could just turn my brain off at night to allow it to rest.  But yet, when I do fall asleep, I dream wildly.  My brain just does not know how to quit.

I am coming to the realization that perhaps I really don’t need that much sleep.  I read all the articles about the dangers of not getting enough sleep; how we need it to look beautiful, feel terrific, and to even lose weight.  Maybe it’s all a bunch of hype – at least for me?  I function okay, look okay, and am an okay weight, despite never getting enough sleep.  So maybe what I need is to get over is my worry about not sleeping much.  When, on the rare occasions I do sleep for over 8 hours, I usually feel sluggish, even more tired, and slightly hungover.  I feel as though I wasted so much time in repose.

I’ve been taking a number of natural supplements to try to help me get to sleep.  Melatonin, magnesium, GABA, and 5-HTP are good ones that I use in different combinations.  They are helpful in the fact that they help relax me (and my thoughts).   I still don’t sleep that much, but at least they help to calm and take the edge off.

The best part of sleeping is my dreams.  I love to dream.  Wildly realistic, sometimes stressful, but always interesting.  The best part of waking up is remembering my dreams.  A dreaming insomniac am I?  So be it.


The Beauty of the Written Word

lettersThis week I got three letters in the mail.  Yes,  three actual hand written letters from friends sent via snail mail.   One of the letters actually contained 3 photos and a newspaper clipping.   It was so charming to receive hard copies and have letters written in their signature style.  I love seeing people’s handwriting, I think you can decipher a lot from it.

Years ago this wouldn’t have been unusual in the least, I used to send and receive letters with great regularity.  But now, with the internet, email, Facebook, discussion boards, blogs and websites, I do it in a different manner.  To me, it is still the written word though.  And I love the written word.  I love reading and writing words, no matter the format.  There is such permanence in getting the words down.  Such finality of the statement of what was being felt at that time.

I have a box of saved love letters sent to me by former beaux;   letters of undying love, passion and longing, all there in black and white.  I remember receiving the letters in the mail and reading them with heart pounding.  Proof!  Evidence!  For time immemorial!

Sometimes the written word can be too overwhelming for me.  I once ceremoniously burned a whole cache of an ex-lover’s letters when he devastatingly betrayed me.  It felt really satisfying and vindictive, at the time, to see the letters go up in flame in my fireplace.  But now, in hindsight, I really wish I had saved those letters too.  My passion takes many forms.

I will always have a love affair with words.  Such strength, might and meaning in those silly formations of the alphabet.  I am glad for everyone who writes, be it professional writer or avid texter.  Getting the words out there takes thought, even if it’s an unintelligible one.  It speaks volumes, and I like it.