Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

The Secret Life of Clothes, Part 2

Here is the next installment of  a little series I’m writing about the backstory of  vintage pieces in my shop.

The phone call that started me on this treasure hunt came from a young couple who had purchased a ramshackle farmhouse, an old wood-frame Florida cracker house had been the home of one couple for over 60 years.

The new owners walked into an absolute time capsule; the entire contents of the house stood virtually unchanged, just as it had been in the mid 1940’s. From the pretzel shaped rattan love seat to the Asian inspired lamps, this house sat frozen as if under a spell.

Most amazing to me were the clothes. The lady of the house, whose name was Willamae, had saved what appears to be all the pieces in her wardrobe for decades. Fashions changed and she kept up with the times but she never got rid of her old clothes!

I hyperventilated just a little when I saw them.

And this is how I ended up sorting through piles (piles!) of dresses dating back to the late 1930’s just before a massive hurricane headed our way. As the storm was  touching down into Florida, I was setting up plastic bins on my deck to soak the clothes. As the storm raged, Willamae’s dresses soaked. When the sun came out, her treasures went up on the line to dry in the sunshine. cleaning and prepping vintage clothes

I’m still working through the wonders of Willamae’s wardrobe piece by piece, zipper by button.

She was a woman of style in each decade. In the montage below, starting at the upper right, the black dress with the checked panel dates from the 30’s. Below that, two tailored 40’s suits. Bottom left is a playful 1950’s jumpsuit. Upper left, a 1960’s western shirt in a mod paisley print.

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Here are four wonderful mid century day dresses from the 30’s through the 50’s. The lilac print, bottom right, still has it’s crinoline attached. The cotton print, bottom left, is handmade from flour sacks. Flour was packaged in nicely designed fabric that resourceful women saved and  sewed with during the depression. This one has some nice wide rick rack trim.

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All of the pieces in Willamae’s wardrobe are of a generous proportion, about a modern size 14.

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This glimpse into more than 35 years of one woman’s closet is a rare find that will take months to fully explore. Thanks for following along!

Author: Winters Past

I am a vintage clothing shop owner living and working in rural north Florida. I believe in adding a little vinegar and molasses to my greens, having my coffee outside whenever possible, and mixing something vintage into every room and every outfit.

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