Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Elbow Grease and Paint Pants: True Vintage

I've been working on one of the fourteen auction finds discussed here, but I'm not quite ready to share it with cyberspace.  Next week, people.

I promise.

One of my favorite things about auctions is that you never know what you're going to find that might fill a need you have--or that you adapt somehow.

Evie has a darling, petite chair in her room that I had reupholstered a year ago.  I love this little chair--small enough that she can climb into it and rock her babies, but big enough that I can sit in it and sing "You Are My Sunshine" before bed.

I share a similar issue with the Nester.  Last week she disclosed her struggle to find things she loves to hang on her walls.  I agree.  Many of my walls remain bare due to my hangup with mass-produced art--I attribute my snobbery to one too many art history classes in college.  When you earn a degree evaluating art, then I guess you punish yourself, right?

I was previewing the auction a few months ago when I saw an antique--true vintage--doll dress, probably made in the 1860s.  It was in terrible condition:  Wadded in a ball, it had not fared well through the aging process with buttons missing, holes in the skirt, and stains in multiple places.  I had no idea what I'd do with it, but I instantly felt a bond with this little dress and the lives it had touched and the little dolls whose bodies had been dressed and undressed by generations of girls.

I placed a low-ball offer of $12.50 on the dress, and for some odd reason, no one else wanted this shapeless ball of fabric and thread.  When I got it home, however, I realized what bad condition it was in--had I made a mistake?

I decided there really was nothing else I could do to the dress in its current condition, so I did the unthinkable--I threw that baby into the washer, on hand wash, then hoped for the best.  I took it out and it looked so much better!  I carefully stretched it out while it was still wet on the laundry counter, blocking its shape and folds, then I let it dry.

It was a miracle!  I had rescued the dress!  Now what could I do with it?  The wall above Evie's chair would be a perfect spot to display it, but its dimensions rebelled against any standard shadow box.  I stewed about it for a few weeks, then an idea occurred to me.

I measured the dress against a few old frames, found one that the proportions were compatible, then I tacked the dress to the wall (yes, tacks) and nailed the empty frame around it.

Finally--art with meaning.  Art that is unique.  Art that will mean something to my little darling as she grows up with that dress hanging on her wall. I hope it triggers her imagination just as it has mine.

All for less than $20.  Now that's a bargain. Here it is in color:

When I think that every stitch of this little dress was done by hand, it reconfirms my evaluation--yes.  This is art.

Until next week,

Going once, going twice . . .  SOLD!
Linking to Tuesday's Treasures and Take-A-Look Tuesdays.


  1. Great buy and great execution, too!

    So unique and appealing, Jen.


  2. Am loving this weekly installment, Jen!

    And, the dress. . .oh my, wonderful!!

  3. Are you sure that's a doll dress? It looks HUGE! Like it fit a little child. But, I LOVE what you did with it. I have Maggies blessing dress on the wall for the same reason...I think it makes great art.

  4. That is adorable. Man, I wish I were in AZ just so I could go to these auctions with you (and take your finished projects off your hands)

  5. What a great idea!
    I am an auction addict too - it can be wonderfully cheap fun.....and then again, it can cost a bundle!

  6. So cute. Again, I am wishing I could go to auction with you!

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