Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Vintage Fashion and My New Etsy Model

There's a whole new look to my shop these days with the arrival of my new model:
Here she's photographed wearing a lime green silk sheath dress from the 70s. A great dress, but her presence among the pictures in my shop adds a real buoyancy to all the listings. This is a story about how her arrival came to be:

Figuring out how to present vintage fashion has, up until now, proved to be a real challenge for me. It's a challenge because you have to find an attractive way to display the dress or skirt or whatever it is that you're selling--not an easy task, believe me. At first I thought I needed a mannequin, so I set about trying to locate one. But the online prices were daunting--normally over $100 plus shipping. Next, I called around to local thrift and antique shops to see if I could find one there. I even drove quite a distance to check some out. But nothing was what I wanted--or if it was, the price was too high.

Finally my daughter found a scruffy mannequin languishing in an art studio storeroom, no longer used. She brought it to me and I set it up in my little stairwell studio where I take photographs (see a recent post here about my studio). The mannequin was wobbly, so my husband made a sturdy base for it and I pulled out a bunch of beautiful vintage dresses I got from an elderly friend who wanted to clean out her closet and get rid of as many possessions as she could. (Since they were all gorgeous and from the 1970s, I was happy to take them off her hands!)

So I set up the mannequin and tried to slip on a pink silk dress. But the mannequin was too fat! I tried on another dress that wasn't so fitted--a handwoven Guatemalan cotton dress by Las Manos--and came up with this photograph:

Definitely not a great picture! But it was hard to get back far enough to get a good shot of the whole dress, so I resorted to using that as one of the listing pictures as well as a series of closeups like this:
Later I tried dressing it up with scarves ~ the sold listing can be seen here ~ but it languished in my shop for quite awhile, suffering several price drops before someone finally hit the purchase button.

I decided that trying to sell vintage clothing would have to wait, so I packed away my friend's dresses and continued putting up for sale my home decor and collectible items.  I thought that if some day I had a space large enough to hang up a dress on the wall and photograph it that way, on a hanger, I'd rethink dealing with vintage fashion.

Then one day an artist friend went away for a week and loaned me her huge, to-die-for studio with lots of light and white painted walls (I wrote about it here). Finally I had a chance to take some killer photographs of my vintage dresses!

I hung up several and came up with pictures like these, which (although the exposure is not good in the first one and I couldn't edit it any better), did show what the dress looked like:
Most of the dresses I put up from that shoot sold fairly quickly. But then it was back to my little stairwell studio again, so I put the rest of them away.

Until recently, when my granddaughter came back from college for Christmas break. Most days she was busy with art projects and seeing friends, but one day I asked if she could do some modeling for me and, since she had a free afternoon, she agreed. Not only is she tall and beautiful, but she wears a size small (6-8) like my dresses, and when she tried a few on it was clear they fit her perfectly. Finally I had come up with the best way to photograph vintage fashion: on a gorgeous model!

Even in my little stairwell studio I was able to get some great pictures that were both closeup and full figure (or almost). She also modeled some vintage hats I'd had (another problem to photograph without a good model!):

And even a pair of gloves:
Yesterday I found out that one of the pictures I took of my granddaughter wearing the black dress above was included in a blog post titled "1970s Vintage: 50 Fabulous Finds" in "I Heart Vintage"--check it out here. She's also been included in a bunch of treasuries, which can be found here and here and here  and here and here and here.

I hope she comes back home on break soon, because I have lots of other hats and dresses for her to model!

A little postscript to this story: because I'm a grandmother, I think I'm entitled to a few bragging rights. Not only is this lovely young woman a great model, but she's a super talented artist and a 4.0 student. Because she's also a math and science wiz (our family is mystified at where this came from), she's enrolled in an Engineering program at her college. She's also hoping to do some modeling in New York City this summer to earn some money for college.

Think she has a chance? I'm betting on it!


  1. Your new model is lovely!!! How sweet of your granddaughter to help you out.

  2. Thanks, Bruno and Betty ~ I'm one lucky grandmother and Etsy seller!