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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Entries in thifting (19)


A good day

Today was a good day. After a productive day of work, I went out to do errands and meet a friend.

Just up my street, I found these blue glass candleholders with etched stars on the sidewalk. I guess I’ll start a ‘trash finds’ tag. 

Then, I saw a cool bike – painted gold with a burgundy seat -- on my street.

I went to the thrift store and found one great item (more on that in a bit).

I then walked past the natural foods co-op and saw that, in preparation for a move to a location across the street, everything in the store was 50% off. Inside, it was a madhouse, teeming with shoppers frantically grabbing items they’ve never bought before off the near-empty shelves (I got laundry detergent, 3 boxes of graham crackers, some Lara bars, some cream of tartar, a chocolate bar, 2 packages of Liz Lovely cookies, and some pudding mix – not my usual assortment of purchases). Given the long waits and the general euphoria over such deals, the lines at the registers had a bit of a party atmosphere with folks comparing purchases and generally having a good time.

This diversion led to my being late to meet my friend Karen at Life Alive Urban Oasis & Organic Café, one of my favorite veggie places in the neighborhood.

I can't wait to check out the Peter Max fashions inside.After a long visit with Karen, I walked home to discover that my latest eBay purchase, the April 1970 issue of Seventeen magazine, had arrived in the post.

Sorry for the bad photos. It was dark and I had to use flash.I then tried on my thrift store purchase. I’ve confessed my fashion obsession -- scooped necklines combined with short puffy sleeves over long sleeves -- before. Add to that a wild print and this late 60s/early 70s ribbed knit top with a scoop neck and puffed sleeves at the top made of a vibrant print fabric proved itself to be the holy grail of thrift store finds.

Jordan Marsh top, $4.99. Antique Indian and stone pendant strung on a cord (had as long as I can remember). Lac bangles given to me by a friend's mother in Mumbai, 2004. H & M denim mini, purchased in mid 90s. Blue thrifted tights, 99 cents. Clogs painted by me.This top is 100% acrylic and was made in Italy for Jordan Marsh, a Boston department store. I can’t imagine an acrylic knit top nowadays lasting more than a few months. This top was very well-made. It’s obvious from some repairs in the seams that it was worn frequently, but yet it isn’t pilled or stretched out – after 40 years.

I hope you had a good day!


Finders keepers

Moving 54 boxes from storage to a one-bedroom apartment makes one less enthusiastic about acquiring new stuff. So I haven’t been thrifting lately. Well, not too much.

Today I bought a couple items of clothing that need to be re-fashioned. Sorry, for the lack of ironing, but they're going to be cut up soon.

This top is made of soft, lightweight block-printed cotton with mirrorwork. It appears to have been stitched in India and doesn’t have a label. It’s huge so I’ll probably re-size it to fit me. $4.99 at my local Goodwill.

I love the wild print and bright colors of this homemade 1970s smock-dress. It was either made for a child with very long arms or is an adult dress gone horribly wrong as the armholes are miniscule. There are some holes in the sheer fabric of the sleeves, so this will be made into a skirt. Also $4.99 at Goodwill.

Walking home from the thrift store, I happened upon two pieces of furniture abandoned on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building.

This 5-foot long early 20th-century mirror from a long dresser or sideboard will make a great topper for a 6-foot long low bookcase I was just given. The bookcase is now sitting on the plastic in the middle of my living room floor, waiting to be painted.

With the mirror was this vaguely Aesthetic Movement-looking shelf from the top of a cabinet. I have no idea what I am going to do with it.

I’m always finding interesting things in the trash or abandoned on the sidewalk in my neighborhood. There is a fairly transient population here and the last and first weeks of the month, when people are moving in or out, find the sidewalks littered with books, furniture and all manner of things. It’s better than thrifing ‘cause it’s free and serendipitous.

Have you ever found anything wonderful in the trash?

I think all of these finds qualify for Lakota’s Ta-Dah Tuesday!


Sun, moon and stars

Do you find yourself drawn to the same motifs over and over?

I have always had a thing for sun, moon and star motifs (as witnessed here and here).

At a little antique show A. and I stumbled upon in Wanstead a couple weeks ago, I found an enamel moon brooch. When I unpacked it after returning to the States, and put it with the rest of my jewelry, I noticed that I had a number of other pieces of the sun, moon and star variety.

Top row, left to right: silver band with star cut-outs, purchased in the 1970s or 80s; enamel sun face brooch, found on the side walk here in Cambridge; metal moon face pendant, purchased in the 1970s; silver moon face pendant with amethyst and pearl beads, purchased in 1980 in Providence, Rhode Island. Bottom row: my new enamel crescent moon brooch, purchased in the U.K.; cut metal and enamel earrings from Turkey, purchased at a street fair in Washington, D.C. a couple years ago; Victorian crescent moon and star brooch set, have owned forever.

I purchased the cloth with the stars and stripes at a thrift store and use it to cover my turntable. Only later did I realize that it is the state flag of Arizona. I just like the design.

I noticed that I store things in boxes with stars on them, too.

Bottom to top: 1930s fabric covered box purchased at the antique fair at Alexandra Palace, London in the 1990s; a Christmas box pulled out of my neighbor’s trash a few years ago; and a 1950s box that contained a powder compact. I had some moon and star fabric that I used to make a tea cosy.

Nothing special about it, but it works well, and looks good with my recent thrift store find of brightly colored mugs. My favorite color combination is red, gold and purple—so that’s 3 out of the 4 mugs!

Linking to Ta-dah! Tuesday for the moon brooch and mugs finds and the made-by-me tea cosy. I’ll also throw in tonight’s dinner.

Brown rice with caramelized vegetables and ginger. The recipe calls for orzo, but I didn’t have any, so I substituted brown rice. The ginger and garlic give it a real kick. I’ve made this recipe several times and can safely say that you do not need to segregate the vegetables as you cook them; you can allow them to mingle in the pan. More inexpensive varieties of mushrooms work instead of shitake, too.


More Biba

Here are more pics from the original Biba catalogues that I had the pleasure of seeing recently.

Wonderful puffy sleeves with tight, buttoned cuffs.

Fashionable ghouls

Fabulous Cossack coat and shirt, middle right.

It’s hard to see but the trousers on the right have a horizontal stripe pattern.

Normally, prices in London charity shops are prohibitively expensive. A couple weeks ago I went to TRAID in Camden Town to make a donation, not even expecting to find anything to buy. And, lo and behold, there was a sale -- all clothing was priced at £2.

In addition to a couple dresses, I picked up a 1970s knit fabric in a horizontal stripe. Actually, someone had sewn it into a caftan of sorts, but had hacked at the neckline so that it was all uneven. I scooped it up (£1) with the idea that I wanted to make a pair of trousers (like the pair in the 6th image above and like Vix’s recent Biba find).


These boots were made for walking

Given that it has been cold and rainy in what is supposed to be summer here in the U.K., I was able to wear my new red boots straight away -- walking for about 6-7 hours -- and they were very comfortable.

Top half too awful to show. Cotton patchwork wrap skirt sold by a non-profit that trained former sex workers to sew, bought at a fair trade bazaar ages ago, $15; purple tights from Sainsbury’s supermarket in the U.K. at a price far cheaper than I could get them in the U.S.; bag made by me.The boots first day out included a visit to the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch.  The building was originally an almshouse in the 18th century and now houses decorative arts in period room settings. It was a nice day so we spent more time in the walled herb garden behind the museum than in the museum.

Sweet woodruff, Galium odoratumLamb's ear, Stachys byzantinaSheep and lambs rescued by Farm Sanctuary Funhouse NYC stretch ultra suede dress, $6.99, Goodwill; Cha Cha Vente shirred sleeve and waist blouse, $4.49, Goodwill; Fleur boots, Vegetarian Shoes, gift.And worn again the next day, when A. and I had dinner at the veggie, organic, Italian restaurant, Amico Bio near the old Smithfield Meat Market.

Ironically, there are two of my favourite London veggie restaurants a stone’s throw from the old Smithfield Meat Market. In addition to Amico Bio, there’s The Smithfield Tavern, a pub with a veggie menu.

Harkening back to its meaty days, the exterior has golden cow heads on either side of the sign. The interior has the dark and cosy ambiance with deep red walls and vintage photos and prints. Animal-friendly sentiments are written on chalkboards throughout. In a 6 week period, A. and I ate there 4 times. 

The first time we had the Portobello burgers (with the arms of my 1970s yellow floral Adrienne Vittadini t-shirt in the background).

Then we had the lunch buffet (all-you-can-eat for £6.95) special featured for National Vegetarian week.

Gee, this post sort of meandered. Feel free to leave comments on anything from red boots (do you have some, want some?) to your favorite veggie restaurant (anywhere, as who knows where I'll travel to).


"Living in the past is a full-time gig"

Credit: Karsten Moran for The New York TimesLove this article, slideshow, and video about a man whose lifestyle is inspired by the 1920s. A couple of his comments really resonated with me -- "There is a lot of craft living the way that I do" and "You've got to to create your own party." Watch and enjoy!


Green garb for the London Green Fair

On Saturday, A and I went to the London Green Fair in Regent's Park. I realized as we were headed out that virtually everything I was wearing was 'green' – thrifted, made by me, or upcycled.

Corduroy jacket, Goodwill, Gaithersburg, Maryland, $3.00; 1970s peacock print blouse, Sue Ryder charity shop, $6.00; Gap striped corduroy jeans, Goodwill, Somerville, MA, $4.99; fabric flower brooch made by me; bag made from late 1960s Indian-print jacket; 1990s shoes painted by me.I tend to dress by picking my shoes first, based on how much walking I'll be doing. I picked the 'sensible shoes turned snazzy spectator' shoes I had painted (thank you to those who left such kind comments on my last post!).

Then I loaded up on the prints. I had been looking for a pair of striped jeans for years. A few weeks ago, I got out of a dentist appointment earlier than expected, so I went to a thrift store that I rarely go to, but which was on my way home (uh, sort of). As I was about to leave the store empty handed, I spotted something striped in the bins at the front of the store where people leave donations. You're not supposed to shop in those bins but I was excited by the prospect of finding my long-searched-for striped jeans. And there they were, a pair of Gap corduroys in my size. I didn't even try them on. I was going to will them to fit -- and they did. With stripes in reds and browns, I am getting a lot of wear out of these!

I paired them with a 1970s Art Nouveau/peacock feather print blouse I bought at a charity shop the last time I was in London and a 'raisin'-colored cordurory jacket. On the pocket of my jacket is a fabric flower brooch that I made at the London Green Fair last year. They had a crafts tent with scraps of fabric and supplies for making brooches and such. I have kept this one pinned to my jacket since then. (In this photo I had a purple clover blossom from the garden stuck behind the brooch). Of course, I took the bag I made from a vintage jacket purchased at a thrift store. So – 'green' from head to toe!

Linking to Not Dead Yet Style's Visible Monday.


Adventures in shoe painting, part 3

I love the look of multi-tone, spectator-type shoes from the 1970s. And I wear a lot of purpley-brown (a color I call ‘raisin"). Inspired by the colors of the bag I had recently made and the following shoes I saw on Etsy, I transformed a pair of old black leather shoes that I no longer wear.

As with the previous pairs of shoes that I painted, I wiped them down with alcohol first to remove any coating. If shoes are non-leather, I’ve read that they should be wiped down with acetone (nail polish remover).

I then painted a couple sections with a gold color that I mixed from Jacquard Neopaque paints. I don’t know if yellows don’t cover as well as the metallic colors I had painted with before on the clogs and sandals, but it took about 6-7 coats to get fairly good coverage. The photos below show the shoes with one coat, then two coats, then about 5 coats.

Then I mixed red and green Neopaque (adding a bit more red) to make a raisin-brown and painted the remaining sections of the shoe. I tried to copy the rounded double-pointed shape of the red and blue shoes in the photo above. Since I was painting it free-hand, it had a sloppy camel-toe look.

I decided to just go with a straight line across the toe and added dots of gold around the front top of the shoe, and for fun, larger dots on the side.

The big band of gold around the back wasn’t appealing, so I painted a vertical stripe of the raisin color, and when that was dry, painted a row of gold dots on it.

Even the gold dots required 2-3 coats.

I was so eager to wear them, I didn’t wait long enough for the paint to cure. Given the many coats, I should have waited at least 4-5 days. The first time I wore them there was slight cracking in the gold section across the toe. I am not sure if the paint would have cracked even if I had waited, just because there were so many coats. Since I didn’t like the shiny effect of the sealer on the metallic blue clogs I painted earlier, I chose not to seal these.

Sorry for the very bad indoor photo (it has been raining), but this was what I wore for my new shoes' first outing. At least the shoes are in focus.

1970s polyester jacket, Goodwill, $6.49; 1970s peacock print blouse, Sue Ryder charity shop, $6.00; 1990s black jumper dress, Goodwill, $6.99; 1960s goldtone leaf brooch, 1990s shoes - painted. ,

I'm a day late, but am linking to Faith Hope and Charity Shopping's Ta-dah! Tuesday.


Scarf score

I scored a great batch of 1960s-70s scarves at the thrift store. When I find a whole collection of a certain type of item, I usually scour the store in the hopes that I'll find something else the same person donated. In this case, I just got the scarves.

The bright, almost acidic, colors jumped out at me. The one in the middle with the orange blocks on a dark blue background is my favorite and I wore it right away. Four of them are long tie-shaped scarves. I'll try to find a dog-earred or white collared dress to wear them with.


The hordes at the thift stores

My local thrift store is always crowded. The other day I waited in line to make my purchase behind FIFTEEN people! And prices for certain things are only slightly cheaper than they are at H & M or Target. Of course, I am glad that there are lots of people buying used clothing and other items instead of buying new. I just read a couple articles that back up my impression that the thrift stores are getting busier.

"Hard times have brought in hordes of new "thrifters" — one in six adults now shops at the stores," according to the article, "Save and Schmooze: Today's thrift stores offer more than bargains." In areas where there are lots of retirees, thrift stores are like community centers.

As far doing a booming business, it's the same in the U.K. -- "Sweet charity: why second-hand clothes shops are thriving" was on The Guardian website today.

That being said, it's still possible to find a bargain and to find things you can't get elsewhere. I'm always on the lookout for vintage patterns and haven't found any at my local place. Until last week.

I got this for $1.99. I've no idea yet if there is a single complete pattern amid the pattern pieces, instructions and envelopes. 

And for $4.99 I found a vintage skirt of paisley-patterned cotton velvet which I will cut up to make a bag.

I just hope that none of the hordes at the thrift store want the same stuff that I want.


From jacket with a past to bag with a future

This post is about my re-fashioning a vintage jacket into a bag using a vintage pattern. But stay tuned for the surprise ending.

Sabrina of India jacket, Boomerangs, $8.00 As I wrote in a previous post, I bought a late 1960s/early 1970s long jacket of nice-quality, hand-block printed, and hand-loomed cotton, made in India and originally sold at Bergdorf Goodman in New York. It was too worn to be saved as a garment so I decided to make a bag.

Since I don’t buy leather bags, I use fabric bags. I wear them out fairly quickly and rarely find ones that function exactly as I would like.

Although I probably could have figured out how to make this bag without a pattern, I used Simplicity 9553, dated 1971, which I had bought on Etsy for the spats.

Both bags from this pattern are featured in a 1972 Simplicity magazine I recently bought (that I owned in 1972, too). The pattern has just two pieces – a long rectangle with a semi-circular end and a strap. The rectangle just folds at two points to make the back, front, and flap of the bag and the lining.

I whipped the bag up in two short evenings. The hand-loomed cotton has a loose weave so I lined it with a medium- weight cotton.

I love this bag. It came out exactly as I wanted. It is the perfect size and shape. And color. My favorite color combo is aubergine, dark red and gold. The fabric is gold and aubergine and I added a vintage-looking trim of red embroidery with tiny silver sequins. I had bought this trim at an Indian shop in East London with no specific purpose in mind.

The lining fabric is fairly new; I got it for free at a craft supplies swap. Stars are one of my most favorite motifs, and were used a lot in the early 1970s.

I made the following changes to the pattern.

  1. Because I wear bags across my body, I made the strap longer and wider. I used the cotton lining fabric on one side of the strap to give it more body.
  2. I had to cut the long rectangle in 3 sections since I was using a directional pattern. That way the “buffalo tortoises” or whatever the creatures are, weren’t topsy-turvy. I had to do the same with the strap.
  3. I made the bag less box-like by making shorter seams at the bottom corners of the lining.
  4. I added a closure. I used one of the fabric button loops from the jacket and a vintage wooden button. I used another vintage button on the inside of the bag to add support.
  5. I like a little pocket inside my bags, so in order to preserve the “history” of the jacket I cut a pocket from the back neckline with the labels intact.

The Bergdorf Goodman label that had one of the previous owner’s name (obliterated in the photo above) was moved and sewn into loops to hold pens.

As mentioned before, I had done an online search for the name of the previous owner that is hand-written on the Bergdorf Goodman label. I found that it had belonged to a young woman who, like me, is vegan.

This past week I was planning to attend the monthly social gathering, Boston Vegan Drinks. When I checked the list of attendees on Facebook, I saw the name of the woman whose name is on the label! Although I had started the bag, I now had incentive to finish it quickly.

Sorry for the headless body, I was on the roof of my building and the wind had whipped my hair across my face so I looked like Cousin It. At Vegan Drinks, I started chatting with a woman I hadn’t seen before. She told me that she had just moved back to the area after being abroad for two years.

What happened next, I couldn’t have planned better. She was telling me about her time abroad and her eyes kept moving to my bag. After a bit she said, “I’m sorry, I’m distracted because my grandmother had a jacket of the same fabric as your bag.” I said, “This is your grandmother’s jacket.” She was understandably confused. I then showed her the label with her name on it inside the bag. She was stunned.

Turns out she had given the jacket to her mother to donate before she left the country two years ago. When and where her mother donated it is unknown right now. 

Now I have a new bag and a new friend. I read somewhere that it takes being observant to notice coincidences, that they happen more often than people are aware of. If it weren't for the museum curator in me -- and my interest in the history of vintage items -- I might never have made this connection.


Confessions of an Art History Nerd: Rogier Van Der Weyden

Two recent thrift stores finds helped me concoct a look vaguely inspired by one of my favorite Northern Renaissance artists, Rogier Van Der Weyden.

Rogier van der Weyden (Flemish, c. 1400-1464), Mary Magdalene, Detail from Braque Family Triptych c. 1450

Funhouse NYC stretch ultra suede dress, $6.99, Goodwill; One World long-sleeve T-shirt, $4.99, Goodwill; tights from Cambridge Clogs; purple paratrooper boots from Vegetarian Shoes, Brighton, UK; my trusty moon face pendant purchased in the 1970s; bangles from India.

Guess I should have made the pattern in my tights line up. Oh well.

One World long-sleeve T-shirt as above; short-sleeve T-shirt, Goodwill, Cambridge, $4.99; 1970s jeans free from a clothing swap. And it works well for my uniform (see here) of short-sleeve top over long-sleeve top.

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Back to black?

I used to wear a lot of black. About 10 years ago, I embraced color. After experiencing the overload of color, noise, smells and general liveliness of Indian cities, Boston seemed to be a ghost town in black and white. (A friend moved back to Boston after several years in Spain. Used to smartly dressed Spaniards, he told me that it looked like everyone in Boston was wearing pajamas.)

I picked up these two black dresses at the thrift store the other day. I’m not sure if they’re keepers.

Here I look like a prim governess. This late 1960s was made by a local dress shop. It has a hand-stitched label: Signed by Gertrude Frank, Brookline. Of black polyester crepe with princess seams, the style is flattering. But even with the white ruffles at the collar and cuffs, I’m thinking it's too severe. Granted I only accessorized it with an Arts and Crafts, Ruskin-style ceramic and silver brooch (marked ‘Kensington Art Ware') and Victorian gold and black enamel bracelet.

And what is with tight sleeves in vintage clothes. My arms are probably the thinnest part on me, but the sleeves from the elbow down are so tight I can barely move. I noticed with my vintage Wallis jacket that the buttoned cuffs are quite snug, even though I have freakishly tiny wrists with a circumference of 5 inches. Luckily this Victorian bracelet fits me perfectly.

The other dress is a maxi dress with a black knit bodice and a brown and white polyester skirt and belt. The high collar and cuffs have black and white snowflake-pattern trim. Even though the dress fits beautifully, I don’t why the maker (it’s homemade) combined the brown and white floral and geometric patchwork print of the skirt with a Nordic black and white trim. Kind of ugly, no?

I'm not sure even the right accessories will save either of these dresses.


Channeling Susan Dey

I bought this vintage (I’m guessing 1973-4-ish) Leslie Fay knit dress with cream-colored collar and cuffs because I liked the print. It has a floral pattern in heathery teal, raspberry, purple, green and peach on a black background. I also have a thing for full sleeves and collars and cuffs in contrasting colors.

However, the “secretary” style of the dress, with its yoked bodice and self-belt, really didn’t suit me.

1970s Leslie Fay dress shortened into a shirt, $6.99, Goodwill; 1990s Max Mara vest, purchased in the early 90s, Filene’s Basement; 1970s flared jeans, free from a clothing swap; 1980s Fiorucci studded belt, $1.99, Goodwill. So, I shortened it into a shirt and ditched the ribbon and belt. Now it sort of reminds me of something Susan Dey would wear in The Partridge Family.

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Recycled Fashion