Feis Fashion

Updated February 2017 Anyone who’s been even slightly exposed to the world of competitive Irish dance knows how important feis fashion is–especially the solo dress styles. From really fancy to simple and traditional, each dress is unique and beloved to the dancer who wears it. Just like runway fashion, Irish dance dresses are constantly evolving in style.

Take a look at feis fashions through the decades, as told by what Etsy sellers have to offer in the way of vintage Irish dance dresses. All the dresses in the photo are for sale as of February 2017–just click the photo to go to the seller’s page.

Mid-century Irish Dance fashion

This is being sold on Etsy as a 50s-era child’s Irish dance dress. I’m not totally sure if it’s really from the 50s, but if it is we can say that it was a simple style with generally “Irish” motifs.

60s Irish Dance Dress Styles

Very traditional embroidery motifs and a sleeveless design. It almost looks like you could wear it as an every day dress, don’t you think? I definitely would. Here’s another (more recent style) solo dress someone is wearing as street clothes!

1980s Irish dance costumes

The 80s and 90s were full of lace collars, full skirts and traditional knotwork. And the fabric: velvet. As anyone who remembers dancing in a velvet dress will tell you, this was hot and sweaty.

2000s Irish dance style

This was a decade when the traditional styles of knotwork were replaced with a stylized, geometric pattern. Glitterball fabric was huge, and colors like hazard cone orange became popular. Waists were still high and three panel skirts were the thing.

Current Irish dance dress trends and styles

Irish dance costumes had a resurgence of traditional motifs and knotwork since 2010, followed by a trend of extreme intricacy of embroidery that’s still seen today. Waists dropped, skirts softened, and mandarin collars became popular. Lace has seen a resurgence, but it’s used in different ways than the traditional crochet collar of the 1980s. Hairstyles have changed too over the years but that’s an entirely different post! The biggest change since the 2000s is Swarovski crystals! Hundreds of dollars of crystals can cover a single solo dress (and shoe buckles). Here’s an example of a more modern dress style. I took this pic at a feis, on the used sale dress rack so it’s not the most current style but still a good representation of recent trends:

Irish dance dressHave a favorite decade of Irish dance style? I want to hear your opinion in the comments section!

Help Make Prom Dreams Come True

Ever After GownsIf you’ve read my about me section, you’ll know that I love raising awareness on causes I care about. I’ve been a volunteer for Ever After Gowns for the past four years and am still so honored to be part of this great organization. And guess what time of year it is? It’s prom season! I’ve put together a post on how you can get involved in helping prom dreams come true.

Minneapolis Volunteer Opportunity

What really sets this organization apart is that it’s entirely run by volunteers with no paid staff members. The biggest volunteer opportunity is at the annual boutique event taking place this weekend. Right now volunteers are needed for set up on April 11th for the following set up shifts: 12:30-2 at The Lock Up Storage in Bloomington, 3-6 at Richfield High School and 6-9 at Richfield High School. Interested volunteers should follow the instructions on the sign-up PDF. (You can ignore the listed deadline since shifts are still open.)

And if you’ve volunteered with an organization like this in the past, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section below or on Facebook.

Donate a Formal Dress

Maybe you read about the 40 hanger closet or are just doing some spring cleaning and you’ve realized how much space that beaded ballgown is taking up. Congratulations, making the decision to donate is the first step toward helping others and clearing your closet clutter! Donations can be brought to a number of locations around the metro area year round. The drop spots are local businesses who contribute their own space and time to be a convenient collection point for donations so make sure to give them a big thank you! Not from the Twin Cities? Donatemydress.org will connect you with another deserving organization in your area.

What to Donate

Dresses that are of current style (bought within the last 5 years) and in good shape make the best candidates for donation and underrepresented sizes (0-6 and 14+) are especially in demand. Shoes and jewelry are also really needed! Last year I volunteered in the shoe station during the boutique event and there was an astonishing demand for pretty, glitzy flats. Some of the young women Ever After Gowns serves either can’t wear heels for medical reasons or opt for a comfy dancing shoe (I can’t blame them. I love flats!).

Donate Your Prom Shoes

If you know a student who could benefit from the organization’s services, Ever After Gowns takes referrals from the students’ school guidance counselors based on financial need. Boutique guests are treated like royalty and get lots of one-on-one personal shopping and styling. Now go take a look in your closet and see if you can make a difference!

Minneapolis Must-See: Macy’s Flower Show

Macy's flower show brochureEvery spring, the downtown Minneapolis Macy’s partners with local floral giant Bachman’s to create a themed flower show that attracts thousands of visitors. And every spring, I think about going but never actually do. This was a milestone year, however, because my family happened to be hosting some out of town guests. Since they were from afar (Switzerland) it was a pretty good excuse to see some sights in the city that we don’t usually see.

This year’s Secret Garden theme lent itself nicely to little themed gardens within a garden. There was a little English garden, a German garden and a Japanese garden. The Pièce de résistance was a flower-bedecked sculpture of a women in a dress of red roses.

If you can’t make it to the show, here are some photos to give you a taste of Macy’s interpretation of the Secret Garden. It’s certainly an excursion to put you in the mood for spring, even though an April snowstorm is on its way.

Macy's Flower showMacy's flower show rose dressIf you go: The entire show takes place in one room on the sixth floor of the Macy’s building, accessible from Macy’s by escalator and elevator. The show continues through April 6 during store open hours. I was there on a Sunday right before closing and there was no wait, but a coworker of mine waited in line for 45 minutes to get in the day before. The lighting doesn’t lend itself well to taking pictures AT ALL, so bring a good camera and a lot of patience.

Caro Nan Basket Purses: Mid-Century Treasures

Caro Nan basket pursesUpdated January 2017  I found out about Caro Nan basket purses while I was having lunch at my favorite little co-op last week, lamenting my lack of inspiration for blog posts. As I ate my free range, organic soup, a woman sat at the table next to mine and took out a little picnic basket. As she ate her free range, organic soup, I eyed up the little basket. I’d never seen anything like it. It was very obviously vintage and had clearly seen better days, since its little painted houses were chipped and the wooden lid worn. I summoned up the courage to approach her and interrupt her lunch (which is pretty uncharacteristic of me, but anything for the sake of blogging).

The woman told me that it was a Caro Nan basket and she’d bought it at a local vintage store. She showed me a penny with the year of its manufacture glued to the top. I let her return to her lunch and ran home to research this adorable new discovery.

History of Caro Nan Basket Purses

Very little information exists on Caro-Nan baskets, and the information I did find was anecdotally sourced from people who remember buying the baskets, or whose mothers had one, or were friends with the basket makers themselves. Piecing together this information, it appears that they were created in the 1960s and ‘70s by Carolyn McDaniel and Nancy Steele out of Jacksonville, Mississippi. The two friends started making purses as a hobby which then grew into a business that employed local housewives. Nancy’s daughter had the job of gluing  the pennies to the top of the baskets. The baskets enjoyed wide popularity in the South and soon were sold throughout the U.S.

One distinguishing feature of Caro-Nans is the village painted on the sides. Many of the baskets were customized for the places they were sold, and the paintings depicted actual shops and buildings in the town. Other designs were custom painted for the owners and include motifs of animals, mushrooms, insects, fruit or flowers. Decoupage elements were sometimes added to the lid or rim of the baskets, and a floral lining covers the inside.

Caro Nan basket purses with pennyHere’s the top of a 1968 Caro Nan basket purse and the close of up the penny. Find similar styles for sale on Etsy.

One distinct characteristic of Caro Nan is images of streets and buildings, but they can have other designs as well, such as this one of flowers.  As long as the signature is there, it’s a real Caro Nan.

Buying Caro Nan Basket Purses

Caro Nan basket purses sell for $10-40, depending on the condition. I’ve seen them even higher, in the $100+ region. This whale Caro Nan is an example. If you want a pristine basket you might have to look harder since these were created to be used as purses and naturally sustained wear and tear. If you’re just looking for a unique lunch box to have passerby admire at the co-op, you’re in luck as they are relatively easy to find online and at vintage shops at a reasonable price point. I know I’m definitely going to be keeping my eye out for one so I can eat my lunch in vintage style. If you see any for sale, let me know.

If you have a story about Caro Nan basket purses or have more information about the history of the baskets, I would love to hear from you!

Updated 3/2016: A reader kindly informed me of an article in her local newspaper about the founders of Caro Nan and an upcoming show at the ESSE Purse Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas. Thank you so much for keeping up informed on information on this subject!

If you’re interested in Caro Nan and other vintage finds and vintage-inspired style, follow along on Facebook!

Love basket purses? It looks like some designers are bringing out updated basket purse designs for spring.

Photography/Vintage Moving Sale in Northeast Minneapolis

vintage dressesOn my walk to the coffee shop today, I stumbled across some signage with the magical word “sale.” Being up for an adventure, I followed the signs into one of the buildings in the old Grain Belt Brewery complex. Upstairs, a beautiful artist’s loft with exposed brick and high windows was filled with props, photography supplies and vintage items as photographer Christopher Grey is downsizing his photo studio and putting his stuff up for sale. If you’re a Minneapolis vintage collector, photographer or just an urban adventurer up for a little eclectic shopping, hit up this sale right away as he’ll be gone in a week.

Vintage saleThe sale continues through this weekend. Find it at 77 13th Ave. NE Suite 202, Minneapolis, MN 55413. Contact Chris to check on the status of the sale before you go.

DragonGame of thrones fan? Chris is selling a $400 dragon.

star wars cupsAnd, on the more affordable side, Star Wars cups for only $5.

I love bringing news of vintage sales, pop-up shops and local store and shopping events to Minneapolis fashion shoppers. Know of a current or upcoming sale or event? Let me know!

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