Thursday, May 27, 2010


I found a great new (to me) vintage store,  Raspberry Beret in Cambridge last week.
While I was there, listening to the banter between the employees and the customers, I had an insight, that a vintage clothes shop is the female equivalent of a vintage record shop.  Not that vintage record shops are exclusively male (God knows I've spent enough time in them)  but if you look at the collector's specialty vintage shop, as personified in High Fidelity, it's kind of a male bastion of top 5 lists, and import singles with alternate B sides on vinyl.

The staff of a good vintage shop may have multicolored hair, or be wearing a 1940's suit with matching gloves, or both.  They will offer candid advice about fit and figure and what works and what doesn't that go beyond the fashions of the moment, and speaks more to your personal style and attitude.  They really love clothes and can see value in all kinds and eras of fashion.  Replace the word "clothes" with "bikes" and you could be describing the ideal bicycle shop.

A lot of vintage stuff, you need to be able to do a bit of DIY sewing to make work.  You hem it,  you patch it.  If you're ambitious you take it in or let it out,  you raise the seat, you change the gearing.
Unlike bikes, which are mostly mass produced, many great vintage finds were hand sewn by someone, specifically for someone- they're one of a kind.  At Raspberry Beret, I bought a skirt that someone had sewn their initials and the date in the waistband. However  mass produced, though, bicycles are so simple mechanically,  that it's fairly simple and common for them to be customized- new fenders, different saddle, added basket, dinosour horn, flowers.....
Removing the 17T sprocket from Minerva's hub in a vintage eyelet dress.  I don't normally do bike work in white dresses, but I thought this would just take a moment, and the Scientist caught me.  The dress was a size 14, but I just couldn't resist the 50's silhouette and eyelet  (My weakeness for textural patterns rears its lovely head.).  I took it in an inch in the width of the bodice.  I probably need to take an inch out of the straps too because it's still way too big on top.  

There's something great about taking something old, and giving it a new life, whether it's an old skirt, and old bike,  or an old building.  It's partly nostalgia,  but I'm not really a collector.  For me  it's more about taking useful things that have stood the test of time and extending their lives.


  1. I love eyelet fabric with a mad passion!

    The bike/clothes adjustment comparison is interesting, though for me the processes seem totally different. I find it fairly easy to alter clothing, and doing so feels visceral and intuitive - I simply make the folds/cuts/extensions necessary for the fabric to fit my body. Working on bicycles feels more abstract, making me painfully aware at how weak I am at physics and math. As I cycle more and more, my "feel" for different parts of the bicycle grows stronger, and that's helping me understand its workings more than anything else. But it's a slow process.

  2. I only just discovered Raspberry Beret last fall, despite walking past it on a regular basis for the previous two years. I just wasn't paying attention because I assumed that storefront or thereabouts had been occupied by one of those kind of upscale-ish, older lady stores (linen palazzo pants, wrinkle-free traveling clothes, "funky" silver jewelry, etc.), like many of the others along that stretch. But I asked them, and they said they'd been there for several years. Who knew? I was pleasantly surprised at how reasonable the prices were, too. I've found some really nice silk scarves for under $10 and have been meaning to see about consigning a few things...

    And working on the bike in white eyelet? Fabulous!

  3. Velouria

    it's funny, I never thought of bike repair in terms of physics and math.
    To me, sewing and bike repair use the "how things go together" part of my brain- spatial relationships more than actual numbers.
    Of course, I'm not a "gear inches" calculating, effective length spouting bike person- more of a something feels like it's rubbing/ loose/vibrating; what might it be kind of mechanic.

  4. "There's something great about taking something old, and giving it a new life, whether it's an old skirt, and old bike, or an old building. It's partly nostalgia, but I'm not really a collector. For me it's more about taking useful things that have stood the test of time and extending their lives."

    wow, great statement. i feel the same way about bikes, cars, buildings, interior furnishings, and consumer goods and appliances(cameras, watches, telephones). although, i do collect for the sake of collecting; for me it's not entirely a functional/usefullness thing. there is something painfully nostalgic to me about these things, even if they don't always work as well as their modern equivalents.

    cycler, i'm impressed that you work on your bikes in your good clothes, and on your good floor. i'm always dropping greasy parts and generating metal shavings from cutting and filing, and i'd destroy our rugs if i attempted to work on my bikes in the house!

    i would *love* to learn more about tailoring me own clothing, but like bike repair seems abstract to velouria, tailoring and seamstressing/tailoring seem too abstract to me. i would have no idea how to custom tailor clothing.

  5. I was in that store a month or so ago as well. I like the Hi fidelity comparision.

    I wish I was able to DIY with bikes. I am clueless. I can't sew a lick either...

  6. The store sounds fantastic! We're lucky to have several really great vintage stores here. But even more exciting (for me) are the number of great vintage finds in the regular thrift stores around town. Granted I stalk them with a passion that borders obsession, but it's totally worth it when I make a score. And all the not so special, but perfect finds in between the great vintage finds carry me through.

    I'm going home in a couple of weeks to help my mom get 50 years of stuff packed from my childhood home to prepare it for sale. My mother saves everything and was quite the fashion plate in the 50's and 60's. She's told me about a few things she's found and I'm already drooling, sight unseen! I. can't. wait!

  7. You're braver than I am - I've never tried this in white clothes. I'm also amazed that virtually every DL1 I hear of came with smaller sprockets than the 26" Sports models. My DL1 came with a 16T sprocket - the 28" wheel already increases the gearing without using larger chainwheels and smaller sprockets.

  8. Love the white eyelet! I'll have to make a point of visiting Raspberry Beret, though at this point I have more vintage projects than I can handle. It's worse than with a bike because they fold up so neatly and tuck away for ages... though we have a black tie event and another wedding this summer and I've found the perfect garment for each among the vintage things I already own. I feel a tiny bit guilty but... no, actually, I'm pretty thrilled and excited.

    Hurray for well-made items that stand the test of time.