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Beyond the FAQs
By Luna Lark
Google 'vintage blog' and ChronicallyVintage.com will appear within the first five results. Depending on your browser and location, it may even appear as the very first. That is because creator Jessica Cangiano has turned her blog into a shrine--a shrine to old clothes, old books, and old culture. It is a place where bygone beauty is celebrated.
Intrigued by Jessica's musings, her carefully orchestrated style, and the photos taken of her by her husband, Tony Cangiano, we decided to get in touch with her. But before we did that, we did our research. We scrutinized her 'About' section and her FAQs. After all, redundant questions are only interesting if the answers changes. But Jessica seems so confident in her tastes, that we guessed that her answers regarding shopping and fashion have not changed much over the years. We guessed right. She's been paying homage to mid-century looks since her teens.
So, we posed a few new questions for Jessica. Here's how she replied:
• Can you explain why you typically gravitate toward the 1950s? What distinguishes that decade from the other mid-century decades?
While I'm the first to admit that I do veer toward the 1950s a little more, I embrace the 1940s with the same passion and sport fashions from that decade quite often, too. Both decades, though certainly marked by distinct differences, also shared much in common, including some of their fashions and a general attitude towards ladylike beauty and taking pride in one's personal appearance (two things which are near and dear to my own heart).
The 1950s was an era of hope and prosperity, rebirth, growth, social change, legendary stars, amazing fashions, and a general sense of positiveness with, for entirely understandable reasons, hadn't been present for much of the 1930s (due to the Great Depression) and 40s (due to WW2 and its aftermath). It's easy to look at the 1950s through rose-colored glasses and gloss over its less than stellar elements, but I try never to do this with any period in time and fully acknowledge that the decade had its fair share of problems, too.
Ultimately though, I believe that the 1950s represented the last vestiges of a time and way of life that began to change (not always for the better, to my mind), and in some ways vanish forever, in the ensuing decades. There was a wholesomeness, a sense of family and community, of right and wrong, of morals and standards, and respect for oneself and those around them to the 1950s that has always appealed to me so deeply.
When you couple these points with the fact that 1950s clothing, which I've loved for my whole life and have been actively wearing since my teen years, makes me go weak in the knees, it's no wonder that I can never get enough of this intriguing, inspiring decade.
• You describe Chronically Vintage as a 'visual scrapbook.' Where do you find many of your images? Do you have any inside tips for our readers about the best places to find old photos and illustrations?
The vast majority of the images that I use in posts on my blog come from Flickr, which is a true treasure trove of vintage (and antique) images ranging from people's family photos to snaps of yesteryear celebrities, found photos to thousands of scans of vintage magazines, book covers, and ephemera. Not all users there have their accounts set to allow use of the images they've posted, but many do and I've rarely had trouble tracking down the right image (or images) I was searching for from amongst these such Flickr pages.
Aside from Flickr, I sometimes turn to sources such as the Life Magazine photo archive, Wikipedia, Pinterest, fellow bloggers, and general Google searches, and highly recommend all of those sources (plus Flickr) to anyone looking for vintage photos to use as inspiration in their own life.
In terms of finding vintage images and magazines, eBay, etsy, thrift stores, yard sales, estate sales, local auctions, and grandma's attic are all excellent places to turn to if you're looking to build a personal collection of old school images. I have a modest collection of vintage magazines and books, oodles of old cookbooks and recipe booklets, and a super tiny (at this point) collection of vintage photographs that I've purchased over the years, and which I'll likely share more on my blog in the coming years.
• In your 'About' section, you talk about how you dabble with different vintage styles, but that you always look for "femininity, romance, and good tailoring." What are some of your shopping hotspots?
Living in a relatively small Canadian town located hundreds of miles away from any of the really major Canadian cities (the closest is Vancouver, which is about a five-hour drive away), there aren't very many sources of mid-century vintage fashions to be had around these parts, so, while I do routinely hit the local thrift and consignment shops and try to get out to tons of yard sales during the warmer months, the key place I source my vintage clothing is online.
Etsy is, far and above, my number one source for vintage clothes, followed fairly closely by eBay. With very few exceptions, most of the vintage clothing and accessories I've purchased online to date have come from these two sources.
I have no qualms with wearing well made, period appropriate vintage reproduction clothing, and, again, have bought the vast majority of repro clothes that I have online. In this case, so far, I've mostly shopped from UK sellers, including Freddies of Pinewood (their high waisted vintage jeans are pretty much the only jeans I wear anymore), Big Beautiful Barbara Brown, and Heyday Vintage.
When it comes to my vintage appropriate pieces (vintage appropriate being a term I coined to describe modern garments which, due to their timeless tailoring, color, fabric, etc. are entirely suitable for a mid-century wardrobe and which can easily be mixed and matched with genuine vintage and/or reproduction pieces), the sky is the limit!
While some stores are more likely to offer up vintage appropriate pieces (such as classic cardigans, elegant pencil skirts, and timeless shoes styles), I view just about any shop I go into that sells ladies fashions as being a potential source of clothing that might work for my wardrobe.
I love a good bargain and get a fair bit of my clothing from local secondhand and consignment stores, but also shop at the (ultra!) small mall here, as well as at Wal-Mart. Don't dismiss Wal-Mart too easily; I've picked up a few thoroughly lovely vintage appropriate cardigans and tops there over the years.
Both including and also venturing outside of the limited shopping here in my town, some of my favourite sources for vintage appropriate pieces here in Canada are Forever 21 (you might have to shift through a ton of trendy/teenager-y pieces, but there are major jewels to be found there a lot of the time), Old Navy (love their classic cardigans), Reitmans (good for blouses), Suzy Shier, Melanie Lyne, Laura Petites (I'm 5' 2"), Sears, and Payless (for shoes and occasionally even accessories like handbags).
I'm the furthest thing in the world from a clothes or price tag snob, and never exclude any potential clothing source when it comes to building my wardrobe, so you're just as likely to see me in a high end department store as you are out at the crack of dawn hitting a yard sale in the hopes of finding another pair of $0.25 vintage gloves or a great 1950s hat for a buck.
• So, your favorite color is dusty rose, a shade of pink. Where in your wardrobe or around your house can you find that color? Where can readers find things in that very specific shade?
Pink in general is definitely my favourite color, with dusty rose being my favourite shade. I don't own too much dusty rose hued clothing or home décor items at the moment, so I'd say that you'd find the most about of this sweet color in my closet, where I have a dress or two and a cute sweater in this color. I have a lot more pink (in different shades) than that in my wardrobe though, and you'll also find pink in spots around my house, especially my kitchen (some of my small appliances and kitchen tools are pink), master bedroom (there's pink in my vintage looking floral duvet cover), and downstairs in my craft room where numerous things (such as storage containers) are pink.
I've always been a massive girly-girl, so I suppose it's just natural that pink is my favorite hue, and that I'd be drawn to dusty pink most of all, as it conjures up everything from rose gardens to Victorian clothing, Valentine's Day decor to antique china patterns.
If you're looking to inject your home and/or wardrobe with a big hit of dusty rose (or really any specific colour), aside from the paint and wallpaper shop, I'd recommend online sources such as etsy and eBay, and in the case of dusty rose, vintage and antique shops, where one frequently encounters this charmingly pretty shade.
• You've posted several vintage recipes on Chronically Vintage. How often do you dine according to the ways of bygone days? What are some of your favorite old-timey dishes?
Vintage recipes have been a really important part of Chronically Vintage for a long time now and foreseeably always will be. Though celiac disease, food allergies, and the need to eat around some of my (other) chronic medical conditions means that I'm not always able to partake of the recipes I share there myself anymore (or that I may need to alter them from their original state to make them safer for myself), there are certainly some that I've posted and partaken of over the years.
Beyond those specific recipes, I frequently turn to my collection of vintage recipe booklets and cookbooks (most of which are from the '30s, '40s and '50s), as well as a handful of cherished family recipes (some of which have appeared on Chronically Vintage before) that have been handed down through the years (such as my maternal grandfather's stroganoff and spaghetti sauce recipes) when planning my meals (holiday meals very much included).
I'd say that at least a few of the recipes I make each week (I adore cooking and make the vast majority of all our meals from scratch) are either from vintage sources or based on vintage recipes I've gathered throughout my life from my travels, family, friends, and other lovely folks I've encountered who shared my passion for the culinary arts.
Food is as much as part of life as the air we breath and I've loved cooking since I was a small child, learning from my mother (an excellent home cook) and grandmothers, as well as some beloved elderly neighbors we had when I was growing up, and then teaching myself further from cookbooks and good old-fashioned experience over the years. I love that I now have an opportunity to merge my passions for cooking and history together on my blog, and it warms my heart like a fresh-from-the-oven-pie when one of my wonderful readers reports back to me that they tried--and adored--one of the vintage recipes I posted.