Head- to- toe Tips on How to Dress for a Summer Clearance sale

Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

When I was a kid, my Great Aunt Ella introduced me to the wonders of big city sale shopping. She’d don hat and gloves, prepare her purse with chocolate treats to dole out at intervals, and take me on the streetcar to some of her favourite fashion haunts in Montreal. It was summer in the 60s, and for Auntie Ella, shopping was serious business. We’d spend the day elbowing our way through hoards of like-minded women and girls looking for the best deals and return to the 3rd story flat she shared with two sisters, exhausted but happy, with our multicoloured parcels and hatboxes.

The chocolate thing has stuck with me. Many times that bit of sugar and caffeine has kept me from fainting during an all-day buying spree; but, times have changed since Auntie Ella took me to those 1960’s cathedrals of shopping, and I’ve picked up a few pointers along the way.

Whether you’re shopping for funky vintage at spots like Vintage Soul Geek’s semi-annual garage sale or culling the overstuffed racks at Forever 21 on a 50% off  day, you’ll want to dress for maximum ease, speed, and efficiency for trying stuff on – in the change rooms or right in the aisle. Here’s the Hat Show Lady’s head-to-toe guide to dressing for the occasion:

Go Hatless: Even if the sale is outdoors, this is probably the only time I can be found without a hat. At the type of sale that I’m talking about, where other economy-minded fashionistas jostle and grab for those one-of-a-kind marked down treasures, a hat will get in the way. If you wear one, it may get knocked off, and if you put it down, a precious fashion hat may get crushed, lost, or stolen. Perhaps even sold! You need your hands free to dig for those bargains, so ix-nay on the chapeau.

Abandon the Sunglasses: I know you want to look cool, but you will need clear vision to spot stains, fabric flaws, and colour variations.

Wear Inexpensive Stud Earrings: This is a must if you plan to try the clothes on. As you yank items on and off over your head, an expensive earring can inadvertently slip off in the frenzy and be forever lost. A dangling one can snag a desired garment.

Leave your Lipstick at Home: Just Google how difficult it is to remove a lipstick stain from fabric, and you will see the wisdom of leaving your lips bare.

Wear a Simple Choker: A short collar-style necklace won’t get caught in a garment and will help you visualize the potential of any garment you try on in the mirror.

Dress in a Simple Shift: If you don’t have a dress you can pull on and off over your head without fiddling with zips or buttons, get one. This will save you dressing room time and energy.

Slip-on Shoes are a Must. You don’t want to fiddle with laces or shoe buckles when trying on pants. Again, this is a dressing room time and energy saving tip.

Strap Yourself into a Fanny Pack or Purse that Converts to a Backpack: A traditional handbag will get in the way and risks being stolen if placed on the shop room floor.

Bonus Tip: Pack a snack; if the sale is as good as you hope it is, you will need to keep up your stamina.

What are your marathon shopping tops? Please post them below.


Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Those Crazy- Popular Red Hatters

When Red Hat Queen Eleanor Rollinson asked me to perform my Retrospective Millinery Fashion Show at her district branch convention, I was thrilled and a little intimidated. In a room full of 200 red-hat, purple dress-wearing women, would my various millinery museum pieces be noticed? Even Evelyn had her concerns; she asked me to cut my presentation time by half as she was concerned that her audience of red haters might become bored.

Bored? At a retrospective millinery fashion show? In my 19 years of presiding over Mobile Millinery Museum events, it’s never happened. I was confident of my ability to hold these hat-loving women in thrall as six of their companions modelled beautiful couture hats from each iconic fashion decade. These fun-loving red hatters did not let me down.

Here are the top 5 reasons why I love those crazy- popular Red Hatters:

1/ The Red Hat Society identifies itself as a “play group for women”; and true to their tagline, hanging with Red Hatters makes you feel like a girl again. Dressing up is iconic girls’ play, so why should we give it up when we’re grown. No one does dressing up better than these purple-dress-wearing women who top their outfits with the zaniest red confections possible.

2/ The Red Hat society is bringing hats back, albeit one colour at a time. Since the Red Hat society was founded in 1998, the group has done much to boost the manufacture and sale of red hats and have now designated pink hats for members under the age of 50.

3/ Nothing stands out like black in a sea of red and purple. As I travel to present the Mobile Millinery Museum’s signature Retrospective Millinery Fashion Shows, I try to wear a different hat on each occasion, and I am partial to black.

person woman model vintage
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


4/ The red hatters can take a joke. I never tire of telling members that it wasn’t always easy to find a red hat; in fact, it was rumoured in Victorian times that a woman in a red hat might not be wearing any knickers. And sometimes, our Red hatter models raise their skirts to prove the red hat/no knickers rumour wrong.

5/ You have to love the irony. Though not licenced to the Red Hat Society, the poem “Warning” (an ode to non-conformity) by Jenny Joseph was the inspiration for thousands of women worldwide to dress alike in red hats and purple dresses.

Did you Spot the Royal Wedding “Vintagey” Hat?


A CNN reporter interviewing Vogue Magazine’s Style Editor this week remarked on Oprah’s Royal Wedding hat, describing it as “vintagey”. What a great word! It is high time that the word vintage, as it applies to “fashion”, was redefined. Perhaps in the interim, “vintagey” will do.

Sort of like vintage, but more important in its own way. I contend that the word ‘vintage’ has lost its caché. With so many vintage stores and thrift shops selling unremarkable pieces that have nothing to qualify them but their age, it’s time to take a new look at the concept of vintage, hence:

VINTAGEY  (Blue Apple dictionary definition)


  • Being or appearing to be an iconic or high-quality costume artefact distinct to a previous season or era.
  • A costume artefact produced in a particularly distinctive fashion season.
  • A costume artefact crafted to resemble that of an iconic era.
    1. “It has the vintagey feel of the 1940s”

Oprah’s “vintage” hat, which caused a stir at the

source: Glamopur.com
Oprah hat choice for the Royal Wedding. Source: Glamour.com

Royal Wedding, was identified as a 2005 Philip Treacy. That’s not so long ago; and strictly speaking, the topper might be more correctly referred to as “retro”.  According to thefactshop.com (Sept. 8, 2016):

“Retro clothes don’t refer to a specific time period during which they were created. Instead, ‘retro’ relates to the style in which the items are made. Clothing which has been made recently with the intention of imitating the fashion of the past is considered retro.”

By this definition, there were a number of retro pieces worn at the royal Wedding:  Doria Ragland’s beret (a classic style reproduced in different fashion decades with subtle variations), Gina Torres’ fedora (a 1930 & 50s women’s favourite originally designed for men), and Silver Tree’s reproduction lampshade (the much maligned ’60s hat designed to offset beehive hairstyles).

gina torres
Gina Torres’ fedora. Source: Ian West/AFP

So, what makes Oprah’s high crowned Philip Treacy “vintagey”? If you were thinking that Oprah dug into her closet for a hat she has had around since 2005, you would be mistaken. Rather, Oprah’s high, sloping-crowned straw hat was a flattering selection, particularly suited to her silhouette, and iconic of 2005 Philip Treacy styling. Indeed, her hat was created by internationally renowned milliner Philip Treacy.

A distinction can be made between costume and millinery when it comes to dating style. Throughout most of the 19th and 20th centuries, period fashion silhouettes and style details for women’s costume generally prevailed for a decade before major shifts in hem length, waist elevation, and workmanship was altered.  Millinery, on the other hand, which is highly reliant on trims or the lack of them, can show significant season by season alterations. An argument can be made, therefore, that the dating of vintage millinery can be accelerated, and perhaps referred to as vintagey.

For a decade by decade look at bridal fashion, shoe styles, and millinery see Accessorizing the Bride: Vintage Wedding Finery Through the Decades, In Step with Fashion: 200 Years of Shoe Styles, and 1,000 Hats, respectively.

1950s Swimsuits, a Feature of our Frantic Fashion From the 1950s Travelling Exhibit


Swimsuit styles of the 1950s are worth taking a second look. We’ve pulled them out of the archives in readyness for our travelling exhibit of iconic 1950s fashion. Here’s what makes them so interesting:

At a time when suburbia was in its infancy and backyard pools promised a luxury lifestyle, swimsuits were not only structured with hidden corsetry, but were fully accessorized with straw hats, beach bags, rubber bathing caps, bold sunglasses, cabana jackets, and sarong cover-ups.

During the 1950s, swimsuit designers ensured that fit was key, and flattering styles could be found to enhance every figure. How could they not? Bathing suits rivaled evening gowns and sundresses with their glamorous styling and meticulous dressmaking details. Designers like Tina Leser, Orry Kelly, Edith Head, Travis Banton, Mary Ann DeWeese, and Netty Rosentein achieved hourglass silhouettes through the use of boning, inner corsetry, padded bra cups, elasticzed tummy panels, and careful seaming.

In addition, dressmaking details were used to draw the eye away from figure flaws and toward figure features with techniques such as bustline embellishments and petal skirts.

Buttons and bows, rikrak and ruching, smocking and tucking added impact to all suit designs whether they be the one-piece maillot style, the two-piece bathing suit or the bikini. In 1952, for example, swimsuit bodices boasted pompon fringe and wing-dings — contrast fabric bustline flaps which would be tilted up to minimize a large bust or slanted down to enhance a small one. These flaps mimicked the tailfins which characterized the cars of that era.

While brightly-colored plaids, polka dots, and prints were popular for cotton bathing suits, glittery metallics like gold and silver lame also made the scene. Swimsuits of the 1950s are especially popular with vintage fashion collectors and are easily identified by their sturdy fabrication, inner corset-like construction, and modest bikini-line coverage. Most were cut in a straight line at the bikini line, shortening the leg but emphasizing an hour-glass silhouette. Removeable straps and/or halter necklines, which could be untied, aided sunbathing.

Swimsuit advertising posters of the 1950s — which are also highly collectible — embody the spirit of the times and exemplify both the male and female silhouette, iconic of that fashion period. Magazine ads and cardboard posters promoting high fashion swimsuits by Janzen, Gantner, Cole, and Hollywood present an idealized image of the 1950s lifestyle. Brylcreemed male models in boxer-style lycra swim trunks worn high to cover the navel, lounge poolside, while sleekly coiffed pin-up girls in red lipstick and dark eyebrow pencil strike alluring poses in their highly structured pool and beachwear.

The 1950s was an age of television beauty contests. Swimsuit competitions which highlighted these events, did much to further the popularity of the high fashion swimsuit and were the genesis for specialized swimsuit glamour photography.

One advertising newsreel ca. 1952 featured suits by Cole and Hollywood touted “ Heavenly bodies” bathing suits in the new gold lastex, 2 piece skirted petal suits and mother-and- daughter matched suits. A Janzen’s tagline boasted the “most beautiful, beautifying swim suits in the world.

Collectors looking for authentic 1950s swimwear should look for petal suits, and skirted bikinis, with features like halter neckline, strapless or removeable strap maillots, elasticized fabric, ruched tummy panels, pointy bra cups, metal zippers, elastic gussets and belts.

There is still time to book our Frantic Fashion from the 1950s vintage costume exhibit for your location.

Happy Nurses’ Week

Happy Nurses’ Week from the Mobile Millinery Museum & Costume Archive as we add vintage uniforms and caps to our Nightingale collection. Hats off to the Montreal Children’s Hospital, the Lakeshore GeneralLakeshore General, Chedoke, St. Peter’s Hospital, and Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital  nurse's weekwhere I learned much in my 18-year nursing career.

Mobile Millinery Museum Hats & Fascinators headed to Parkland for a Royal Wedding Celebration

Although much of the media focus May 19th will be on Prince Harry and his bride, there will be plenty of attention devoted to hats. We’re taking our best Special Occasion hats & fascinators to Parkland for our own celebration. parkland1

Titanic era Dresses Headed to Mississauga

In between studying for two psychology exams this week, I’ll be pulling some pieces from archives and packing them for a presentation of #EdwardianFashion. The Mobile Millinery Museum & Costume archive will be returning to Parkland on the Glen Retirement Residence April 14th our ‘Unsinkable Fashion from the Titanic era’ show, An exhibit of authentic Titanic era fashion, much of it as ethereal as the fog that surrounded the fated ship itself.  

These are the days that give me joy, so, I’ll be putting on my white gloves and thinking of our foremothers in their elegant silks and wide brimmed hats. I know it wasn’t all lace and tea cakes, (there was suffrage, and war, and tragedy), but we’ll be looking at beauty on the weekend and marvelling at the talent of those who created it. Parkland on the glen.jpg What treasures have been handed down in your family?



What’s YOUR Favourite Easter bonnet?

Judy Garland hat

Every day is hat day for me, but for you more conservative types, tomorrow’s the day you can cast aside your inhibitions and don the most glorious chapeau you can find.

This is also the weekend to watch that classic feel-good movie, Easter Parade.  You will be inspired to buy a fabulous hat if you don’t already have one – or even if you do. The sun  is shining, April is almost here, and tomorrow we get to eat chocolate. Do we need another reason to celebrate?

Well…tomorrow we can say “He is risen, He is risen indeed!” and I’ll be going to church in a hat.

What will you be wearing? Send me a pick.

%d bloggers like this: