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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"Hat of the Week": Vintage Trims and Liars on eBay

Olive Straw Cloche
This week's "Hat of the Week" is an olive toyo straw cloche. As usual, the sale is until next Monday with no coupon code needed. Not as usual, this hat is the biggest discount I've yet offered: 40%. But it will go back to full price as of Monday.

And this week I want to talk about supplies, supplies-hoarding and vintage trims.

What's "new" on this hat? The body (made of toyo straw), the head size ribbon, the brand label and thread. Everything else, all of the trims are vintage.

I started buying and collecting vintage trims only about 3 years ago, and I have learned a lot in the process.

Vintage supplies come in two main forms. New old stock — also called NOS or deadstock — is old/vintage/antique but has never been used (therefore "new"). Reclaimed or rescued vintage components were used for another project, perhaps a dress or a hat, and later removed.

You would assume that NOS is in better condition than reclaimed. That's not always the case. "New" vintage materials can have damage from moths, dust, mold, etc. They can have foxing (the brown spots you see on old paper). Ribbons on the roll used to be sold with paper in between each layer. That might seem like a good thing, but the acid from the paper can cause the ribbon to weaken or deteriorate. That's especially important to know for listings where the ribbon hasn't been unrolled to check its condition or verify yardage.

Three types of vintage trim.
This week's hat has three types of vintage trim, so I thought it would be a good week to talk about vintage supplies.

First up, the band: I'm pretty sure this trim was reclaimed, because it had stray threads along the edges that indicated it had been sewn onto something else. (I bought this from ShopOlga on Etsy.) It was a pretty short piece, just 25". Some of the pale parts were a little dingy, so I gave it a wash before using it. And there are a couple of flaws in the weave, which I think are due to weaving errors (though possibly age).

It's a fascinating geometric pattern. The seller listed it as 1920s to 1930s, which I have no reason to doubt.

So here's the first caveat about vintage or antique trims: Lots of sellers try to suck you in by labeling something as older than it is. Sometimes there are clues such as "antique-colored" or "vintage style." And sometimes they'll straight-up lie. That's why it's good to take advantage of buyer protection on eBay or Etsy.

Part of the reason I know this ribbon is genuine vintage is because it has a high metal content. That means the bronze threads are actually metal! Modern metallic ribbons are just metal-colored, not made with metal. And you can tell (same as with steel beads vs. glass beads) just by the feel. Real metal is heavy. 
My favorite part of this hat is the pompom. I bought this set of five NOS pompoms on Etsy a couple years ago. The one at top left had a couple of spots I wasn't able to get out, so I used that one on a personal hat. The others are just beautiful and fabulous and fun! They don't make supplies like this anymore. It is fluffy and soft.

Finally, the ribbon used to bind the brim and make a small bow under the pompom. On the positive side, it matches the metal trim perfectly, and the texture is a perfect complement to the paper straw. On the downside, here was an example of a seller being quite inaccurate in a description. I refuse to pass the deception along, so I don't call it silk, rayon, satin or millinery ribbon. It is genuinely vintage and came on the original roll. 

I bought this trim more than two years ago. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't have purchased it. I have become much better at identifying ribbon styles and quality from listing photos rather than just believing the description. Or I might have returned it for being "not as described." It was labeled as: 160" NOS Antique Silk Satin Rayon Copper/Gold Millinery Ribbon Spool. It was 160" of NOS ribbon on a spool. The color wasn't copper, but it was what I was expecting from the photos. Antique? Maybe. More likely vintage. (Vintage items are 20 years old or older. Antique means at least 100 years old.)

I don't know whether the seller was just ignorant and using certain words because she thought they rightly applied or whether she intentionally lied to make her item sound better. (In any case, I am the one who made the choice not to return it, so I can't blame her totally.)

This is not a satin ribbon. Satin does not mean shiny fabric, contrary to what many people think. It is a certain type of weave. This ribbon is a twill weave. It is also not a millinery ribbon, and that's probably the most misleading part of the description. This was most likely originally used and sold as gift wrap ribbon or floral ribbon or for other disposable purposes. It feels thin and stiff and papery. It's a lovely brim binding on a straw hat. But it couldn't stand on its own as a trim around the crown.

I don't know what this ribbon is made out of. It might be rayon. It probably isn't silk. Oh, silk! I love real silk, but that's one of the number one things to watch out for in vintage trim auctions/sales. Sellers love to list things as silk, even if they're not silk. Sometimes they'll call an item "silk" in the title and then later just call it "silky." Sometimes they'll say "silk ... made of polyester," which is baffling to me. And then sometimes they'll just sell it as 100% silk, when it's not. (I bought a vintage silk dress on eBay and returned it when it turned out to be acetate.)

As with most of my trims, I bought this bronze ribbon without any specific project in mind. So the inaccuracy didn't derail any grand plans I had for it. And I ended up finding a perfect use for it: accenting the edge of this hat! Despite my grumbling about the inaccuracy of the description, I kept it and discovered a lovely way to use it.

Questions about vintage supplies or my process in making this hat are welcome!

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