About Joyatri

Avid thrifter and vintage clothes wearer. Love 1960s and early 1970s styles. Partial to Art Nouveau, Pre-Raphaelite, Victorian, Renaissance and Medieval art. Former art historian. Current packrat. On a continual quest for good-looking, comfortable vegan shoes. Bhangra dancer since 2002. Fascinated by all things Indian. Vegan and animal advocate. 

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Words I like:

"She was dressed, as usual, in an odd assortment of clothes, most of which had belonged to other people." 

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym (1913-1980)



“I said "Somebody should do something about that." Then I realized I am somebody.”

 Lily Tomlin




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« Guilty pleasure: polyester | Main | Reporting for duty »

Austere tea party, anyone?

In honor of Woman’s History Month, a local vegan café held a Ladies Tea Brunch this past Sunday. When I read that hats and tea party attire were mandatory, I reserved a spot right away. Seeing as we just had a few feet of snow (and I had just watched two episodes of Land Girls on Hulu), I opted for the sober colors and warm fabrics of the 1940s.

First I had to revive this red velvet cap that I used to wear all the time in the 1980s. I removed the ratty netting and the ornamental buttons that were missing rhinestones. I then steamed and pressed it on to a mannequin head to get its shape back.

That accomplished, it was time to check on the dress, a donkey-brown wool number from the early 40s, again something I bought in the 80s and haven’t worn since.

I love the details: the gathers on the top and the pin tucks in the lower part of the sleeve, the tiny gold studs on the shoulders and triangular pockets, the gathered bodice and flared skirt.

And, ta-dah!

The dress, hat, brooch on hat, necklace, gloves, and shoes are original 1940s. I've owned all of them for decades, except for the shoes, which are a recent acquistion.

The bag was made in India and purchased on the street in New York in the 1990s. I just tucked the handle inside to use it as a clutch. The stockings are the wrong color, but I was relying on what I already owned. The eyeglasses are new prescription ones, for which the jury is still out. They did work well with this outfit though.

I had worn this 1940s coat to the point of near disintegration in the 1980s and have been on the verge of throwing it out many times. I’m glad I hadn’t. It needed a few repairs to make it wearable for an afternoon, though. I teamed it with a scarf bought new in the 1980s.

The 1940s shoes were recently thrifted from Goodwill.

The label inside reads “Wilbur Coon.”

Wilbur Barry Coon (1870-1926) and a partner began making baby shoes in 1891 in Rochester, New York. By 1912, Coon had struck out on his own and founded what was to be a phenomenally successful company manufacturing babies, children’s and women’s shoes. After his death, his son Wilbur Levis Coon took over the business. The company sold shoes under their own label to more than 6,000 retailers. An online search has turned up ads for Wilbur Coon shoes from the 1920s to 1940s, but I haven’t found any information that would indicate when the company went out of business.

I have a hard time finding shoes that are comfortable. Turns out that comfort and fit were the two major selling points of Wilbur Coon shoes. One of their slogans was “A Made-to-Measure Fit in Ready-to-Wear Shoes. Sizes 1 to 11. Widths AAA to EEE.” According to a newspaper ad from 1935, there were special in-store fitting days (probably with a traveling rep from the company) and 149 sizes were available.

As you see from all the numbers inside the fit measurements were fairly complicated.

from The Pittsburgh Press, October 30, 1930  The baby’s foot is a perfect foot. And you don’t find foot troubles in adults in tribes that live barefooted. Foot troubles come from shoes that don’t fit.

The fault is only partly yours. Most shoes are made to fit the foot at two points only – length and ball. That method is as old as shoe-making. But, why keep on wearing a two-point shoe on a five-point foot? Wilbur Coon Shoes are made to fit all five points – length, ball, instep, waist, heel?

Another sizing innovation (although I don’t know if it originated with Wilbur Coon shoes) is that samples in children’s sizes were made in clear vinyl so one could actually see if the shoe fit properlyt.  A pair sold on Etsy recently.

There are a number of advertising postcards for the company here.

I wish shoe companies offered a similar level of customization in sizing. With 149 different sizes, I was lucky to find a pair that fits as well as they do. The Wilbur Coon shoes I see currently for sale online are listed at anywhere from $40 to $169, so I was even more fortunate to find mine for 10 bucks.

The shoes alone deserve to be linked to Ta-dah! Tuesday.

Reader Comments (12)

Darling, you look out of this world gorgeous, and perfect for a Ladies Tea Brunch!!!!
I would have been all over you, examining all the heavenly details! Swoon.
that's put a smile on my dial! XXX

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHelga

Oh this makes a change to see you in - great outfit and you've totally nailed the ladylike vibe. I love the details on the dress especially.

What an incredible outfit, each individual piece is stunning and on you it looks amazing. That dress is beautiful. x

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVix

Joyatri- how wonderful you look! I love that your 40's vintage was well worn in the 80s- I remember loving that era then. You rock it. That dress fits you like a dream, I am swooning over your hat and jacket. Glorious tea party it must have been. Lovely as ever you.

Jo, a tea party - LOVE! I want to go to one! This is such a pretty look for you, different, but lovely. The dress and the jacket rock. Neat story on the shoes, and quelle deal for ten bucks! I am the comfort queen these days when it comes to footwear, so I can appreciate the comfort as well as the history. :)

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGrunge Queen

What a perfect 1940s outfit, Jo! You look the epitome of wartime ladylike chic! The dress is beautiful and fits you perfectly, and the little hat is lovely.
I am so impressed by that shoe company, how's that for fabulous service, taking such care to get the fit just right? As someone with increasing foot pain, I could do with them being around now... xxxx

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCurtise

Your 1940s outfit is stunning! I love the velvet hat and the dress is a beauty. I was really interested in the shoes, I've never heard of a ready to wear shoe company taking that much trouble with fit. Wouldn't that be wonderful to find today? You were so lucky to find them - they are gorgeous.

March 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNorma

The hat looks great and so do you. I'm beyond impressed that you are wearing a dress that you wore 30 something years ago. And can you imagine 149 different sizes being offered today? I have a hard time just finding my 5.5 B's!

March 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLizzie

Oh darling, I love the shoes! They remind me of my grandmother, who was very tall and had size 10 feet, so had to special order shoes in her size in her small town. I have a back injury so am always trying to find new ways to wear flat shoes with dresses and skirts. Here's my latest go at it, 40s blazer and lace-up shoes with skirt included:


March 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte Issyvoo

What a delightful occasion, and you look utterly perfect. I love vintage clothes but unfortunately many of the ones I had collected in the '70's and '80's are gone, due to upheaval in my life. Oh well. At least I can feast my eyes on your glorious pieces!!

March 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJean at Dross into Gold

Ahhh, you stepped into the way-back machine and came out looking perfect in that ensemble. Every piece is spectacular. And I love tea parties.

March 31, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpao

Love all this old glam stuff. It's very Hollywood. Thanks for posting the photos and feel free to drop by me too when the spirit moves you.

April 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMbF

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