Monday, November 30, 2015

The Rest of the Barrel

I've been keeping you waiting for so long on this final entry. I'm sorry about that. I hope it's worth the wait. Besides the dolls and clothing, there was vintage children's clothing ranging from toddler to age four!

The things I liked best were the light-as-air linen baby gowns. They hadn't held up particularly well over the years, but the exquisite handiwork was astonishing -- especially when compared to modern sturdy cotton baby clothes. Look at this one: seam joins are all by embroidered join work, and the smocking and wee embroidered flowers -- oh, so dainty!

And this one with the pintucks and pulled-thread work, decorative finished edge, and impossibly tiny buttons. See the little label that reads "Hand Made"? How much would you pay for something like this today, I wonder? I tried to find old catalog pages on Google to determine the approximate original price, with no success. 

"This was a dress I made for Elizabeth when she was 4 or 5. It was very becoming -- made her eyes look bluer."  
Elizabeth was hard on her dresses; this one was patched in several places. The hem had been made very wide so it could be let down, and it had been -- about three times! Look at all that smocking.

Each dress had a little note pinned to it with a personal comment.

"This dress Ruth Grove gave Carolyn for her 4th birthday. This color was very becoming."

"I made this dress when Carolyn was about 3 yrs old. She always looked so cute in it."

I could go on and on with those, but how much smocking does one blog need?

Now, hands up if you know who Shirley Temple was!

That's right! "America's Sweetheart", Temple was a film and television actress, singer, dancer, and Hollywood's number one box office star from 1935 through 1938.  Mothers nationwide wanted their little girls to look like Shirley, and her fashion line of dresses was very popular. There were two "Shirley Temple" dresses in the barrel that had been washed so many times it was hard to read their labels, but they had managed to stick to their accessories: the first one here has a vest that fastens at the front with two heavy round brass buttons on a cotton cord. If this had been my childhood dress, I assure you those buttons would have been lost the first time I wore the outfit out of the house.

The second dress has applique flowers around the buttonholes, a matching pocket square, and a Shirley Temple medal pinned to the pocket.

 I couldn't find a pin like it on the internet anywhere to determine its value, and I sold it along with both dresses to a dealer for $40. Just my luck if it's incredibly rare and worth hundreds -- or even thousands, haha. Ah well, it'll make someone happy and in another generation, no one will remember who Shirley Temple was.

As you look at the pictures, you'll see these aren't museum pieces. Most were in pretty poor condition -- not because of the way they'd been stored, though that was certainly no help, but because they'd been so loved and worn and played in and torn and mended. Purely sentimental keepers, which is what made the pinned notes so nice. I contacted a few local museums to see if they wanted any of the pieces, but condition was a factor and so the answer was no. Antique dealers told me the same thing: vintage clothing only has value if it can be worn or displayed, and buyers don't want holes, stains, and patches.

Finally I called up a friend who does art with vintage things, and she took the items off my hands to use for ... well, something. So away went the little stack of dresses, washed and folded and with their little notes pinned to their fronts.

Next time, back to stuff I've made! Stay tuned for that. See you then!


  1. I think film history will preserve the memory of Shirley Temple for future generations - I occasionally see clips of her dancing in montage videos about other things. Also, there's a drink named after her - surely that will help?

  2. You're right, but I was speaking more to nostaglia than memory, I guess.

    My grandmother used to talk about Shirley Temple, and my mom knows of her, and so I do, though I've never seen one of her movies. If you were to ask my son who Shirley Temple was, he might know. But like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Jerry Lewis and the like, I don't think the average kid in America recognizes those names today.

    Movie star memorabilia value is determined by just that -- memory. Collectors who remember the actor and have a strong emotion connected to their works. With each passing generation, more and more nostalgia for ST will die out, and then items like that little brass pin will have no strong emotional connection to anyone, and little monetary value. It will still be an antique, but just because an item is old doesn't mean it's valuable -- at least according to dealers.

    1. Seriously? You've never seen a Shirley Temple movie? I'm sure I've seen The Little Princess on TV several times. Actually, sort of ahead of it's time in many ways, it deals with racial discrimination pretty head-on.

  3. I've read The Little Princess by Frances Hodgsen Burnett, does that count? =)