Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Made In America? Well...Think Vintage!

      A couple of weeks ago ABC Evening News did a weeklong series on finding Made in America products.  (Go to and look for "More on Made in America")   As was pretty much expected, the average home...and a lot of what we made just about everywhere else!

      The underlying current of the project was to show how much we buy and use is made in other countries, showing in a very real way what has happened to a lot of American jobs.   In addition to this we've become quite a throwaway society!   We know's become a habit without our thinking about it.  From tossing fast food wrappers to casually discarding last season's styles, we think very little of cherishing today's clothing, or books, or jewelry.  Good grief!   In another generation there might not be anything old at all!

     Since we love and promote vintage items, it was easy for us to look on the up side...think vintage, of course!

      If you've ever watched the Keno brothers on Antiques Roadshow go absolutely euphoric over a lovely old piece of furniture made in long ago Philadelphia or Boston, if you've ever heard the appraisers sing the praises of an antique quilt, or listen to the respect they show for handcrafted items for our American past, you realize that we have so much that we should cherish!

     A few generations ago it was much harder for people to replace what they used.  Clothing and linens that wore out were re-purposed into quilts, rag rugs, and such to make use of what fabric was still viable.  Leftover food, if any, was made into casseroles or a huge pot of soup.  Shoes were re-soled; clothing and shoes alike were passed down to a younger child (woe be to the youngest one!)

     Anything that was made was done with more had to be made to last.  With that in mind, we can certainly thank our craftsmen/women from the past for making things that way; otherwise we wouldn't have the beautiful pieces we cherish today!  When handwork was done on clothing, that part of the garment was quite often carefully removed and saved to be adapted onto something new.  Whether it was beading or embroidery, it was done with pride...and made to last.

     There is a definite charm about a tiny baby item, lovingly stitched by a mother or grandmother.  Have you ever wondered how so many of them have survived with all the things that a baby can do to get them dirty?  Those mothers didn't have pre-soaks and automatic washers either!

      I've been fortunate enough to acquire some ladies' clothing from the late 1800's, fragile at best, but it's an education to look at on the construction! 

      It's the first time I've been able to observe how they did all the boning, how a bustle was made, how complicated it all was!  I'm not sure I would have had the patience...but they did!

     Vintage jewelry has to be one of the most beautiful elements that has survived.  America was so fortunate in that the artists who fled Europe during the wars there came to America to start again.  Their very souls and skills were put into their incredible designs and workmanship; it was just the way they did things.  Because of that we still have their pieces today.   Once you have seen and held them, you realize you have a small work of art...and you'll be hooked!  


     When you have vintage pieces...whatever they are..don't put them away in a drawer or on a shelf.  Make them a part of your life; use them.  Work them into your surroundings; enjoy them each and every day!  Am I advocating giving up our modern way of life?  Not a chance!!!!  I'll be the first to admit I'm spoiled on things we take for granted...long list there!

     Instead, develop your eye for combining these treasures with something new: find a new use for great-grandmother's platter, fasten that gorgeous vintage brooch onto jacket or purse, make a charming tableau with a well-loved doll.  You'll encourage others to enjoy these pieces of the past as well, and think of the stories you can share with your children!

      Lots of things have been made in America for a very long time...let's re-use, re-create, and love again all those treasures from yesterday.  Let's enjoy yesterday's Made in America too!