Millay in vintage_7956

The petals and I love all things vintage. If you happen to be in Los Angeles, then the only vintage place that counts is Shareen Vintage, a store-slash-warehouse so unimaginably fabulous it needed its own Eleven O’Clock post.

We discovered Shareen’s place a couple of years ago when we ran into a young woman wearing a vintage dress so truly (say it with me . . .) fabulous, we had to stop her so we could tell her what we thought of it. It was this little brocaded number, very fifties, a buttery yellow.  As we were dying over it, she thanked us for our compliments, then told us we had to check out Shareen’s.  “It’s girls-only,” she clarified.  “No men allowed!”

I love Shareen’s for more than just the amazing vintage finds, though.  You see, Shareen herself is Someone Special.  Here’s the story.  Miss Lavender and I made the trek into L.A. one day with the express purpose of talking with Shareen, who, once we had her attention, was so fully present, so in the moment with us, you would have thought we were the oldest of friends.  To my surprise, she looked right at Miss L, took her by the shoulders, and pushed them back.  Gently but firmly, she said to my five-foot-ten inch daughter, now standing straight and tall, “Don’t . . . ever . . . slouch.”  As Miss Lavender processed this injunction given from the Vintage Maven of Los Angeles (and New York, for that matter), Shareen continued.  “Your shoulder blades–they’re your wings,” she explained, “and you want them to touch.”  Then she illustrated, showing us the way Miss Lavender, with her shoulders back, could have been touching her imaginary wings together.

I loved the metaphor:  shoulder blades as wings, always meant to be touching.  But I loved other things, too–the way Miss Lavender had instantly become not just a customer but the Pupil Of The Moment.  And the way drawing herself up to her full height seemed to give her a vision of herself as someone strong, elegant, empowered.  Do you know what that kind of carefully given–and poetic!–advice is worth to a mother anxious to give her daughter reasons to believe she can all but fly if she chooses?

When they fell deep into conversation about vintage, another side of Shareen’s character revealed itself.  As she talked about her passion for helping every woman find exactly the right dress, no matter her age or body type, she recounted how a woman who had decided to throw herself a quinceañera party for her fiftieth birthday had left the store just a few days earlier–before Shareen could properly attend to her.  “She left discouraged,” Shareen remembered as she explained that this woman had decided there was no point in trying to find a party dress that would flatter her.  “We could have found the right dress,” Shareen said with conviction, “but the store was busy that day, and I didn’t get to her in time.”

In the year and a half or so since our visit with the proprietress of L.A.’s most beloved vintage store, I’ve thought about how much she gave my petal:  a charge to stand up straight, always, and–equally important–an expressed belief that every woman deserves to feel beautiful when she decides she wants to dress up.  That’s part of what makes clothing exciting, after all:  the opportunity to play a part, and to make a statement about who you understand yourself to be.  With vintage, every piece already has a history that the new wearer often consciously deploys as part of an effort to communicate her sense of identity.  When Miss Zinnia dressed up for her “Gatsby” shoot on our terrace in Barcelona one afternoon several months ago, she saw herself as a character right out of a book or a film.  Her dress:  Shareen’s, of course.

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After our afternoon with Shareen, I wrote her, to thank her for her words of wisdom.  And she wrote back, telling me she’d wondered about me, about who I was.  “And here you are,” she said in her reply, thanking me for acknowledging the gift she’d given a clothes-loving teenage girl.  That’s what makes Shareen a force not just in the vintage realm but also–and probably more important–in the realm of Girl Power.  At Shareen’s place, every woman learns quickly that she deserves to stand up straight and to feel at ease in her own skin.

(Photo:  a Gatsby-esque Miss Zinnia, in BCN.)


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Item:  one brown dress with white polka dots, probably homemade (all the better), too big, but oozing potential.  Original location:  an oddly groovy secondhand store in Orange, California.  Mission:  to create a thoroughly unique flamenco impression meant to be styled by a very tall teenage girl, name of Miss Lavender.  Craftswoman and miracle worker:  Maria Jesus, tailor extraordinaire and gentlewoman, and so pleasant I wanted to pick out curtains with her after all the measuring and chatting was over.

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Result:  a simple piece, sheath-like, to the knees, with peppy white dots and faaaabulous flamenco sleeves, now proudly hanging in the closet of a certain teen I know.

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Moral: thrift often, look for the stuff others might scoff at, and use your imagination.  Note to self:  there must be a Maria Jesus back home.  (All that remains is to find her!)

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Levitating at cemetary in Carcassonne_1986

What if there were angels in the graveyard and they wore pink wool coats, suede mary janes, and moved with the alacrity of a seventeen year old on her way to a hot sale at Indie & Cold?

I mean–what if?

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Miss Lavender, she of the floral print skirt and polka dotted tights, appears to be on her way to get something.

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Perhaps it’s her pink coat?

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Found it! Hooray!

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And her scarf, too.  Teal and pink. Works fine on a gloomy afternoon.

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Below:  Miss Lavender does ‘Studied Insouciance’ better than anyone I know.

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In·sou·ci·ance: nonchalance, lack of concern. Word for the day.  But who wouldn’t feel appropriately insouciant in a pink, wool coat?  Like anything else really matters.  (At least for the moment!)

Miss Lavender’s outfit:  denim top, Crossroads Trading, a consignment store in Costa Mesa, CA.  Skirt and shoes, Anthropologie.  Tights, Calzedonia, in Barcelona.  (Very) bright pink coat, Kling, also in Barcelona. Just so you know, we are sale stalkers, bargain lovers, and deal hounds. I seldom pay anywhere close to full price for anything! With four kids, that’s the way Eleven O’Clock Mom rolls.

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Millay in vintage_7956

No mother wants her daughter to become a Daisy Buchanan.  Let’s just get that out there.

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But when Miss Zinnia ended up looking like a Daisy, well, that was a different story.

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Gatsby-esque is a perfectly acceptable look for a girl experimenting with finger wave curls and revisiting a party dress unearthed from Shareen Vintage, the legendary vintage store in Los Angeles, California.

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Sure, it took a thousand bobby pins. And sure, half a can of hair spray.

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And a touch of make-up, too–that was a given.

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But oh my!

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Barcelona never looked as vintage as it did yesterday, from our terrace, when it played background to Miss Zinnia’s Daisy-fied foreground. A girl’s gotta be able to dress up once in a while, right?

(Sidebar: Someday, when her braces come off, remind me to keep her away from men with wandering eyes and old money.)

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Last fall, the mustache was everywhere–here on the continent as well as back home. I thought I’d revisit Miss Lavender’s Mustache Phase. The pin she found at our favorite market, Els Encants. It’s vintage. The tunic, also vintage, is from Shareen Vintage, in Los Angeles. The ribbed leggings are J. Crew, the shoes (maroon Mary Janes, hard to see here) from a boutique in Bamberg, Germany, the glasses from a vintage store in Vienna, Austria.

I love vintage. So did my grandmother. Once, when my mother picked up a floor-length, dark green velvet skirt at a garage sale–thinking maybe my grandmother could do something with it–my Grammy came over, measured me, and took the skirt, along with (respectfully given) instructions that she work her seamstressing magic and turn the thing into a pencil skirt. As thrifty as they came, she knew the value of a buck. A designer, she also knew real velvet when she saw it.

She did indeed make me a gorgeous pencil skirt.

Where that thing is now, I don’t know. I’ve been scolding myself for years for not hanging onto it tight enough, as it would have been a brilliant addition to the petals’ closets.

Miss Lavender doesn’t much care that mustaches may not be the trend du jour forever. Her pin belonged to someone else once and therefore already had a story when she lucked onto it. She is, however, rather infatuated with pencil skirts at the moment. We picked up two the other day at Kling, in Barri Gotic. One is heather gray, the other raspberry pink. That they fit her was a miracle of Biblical proportions. That they were nearly seventy percent off was another.

Hooray for vintage, for sales, for Grammys, not necessarily in that order. Isn’t it fun to play dress-up??

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Day Of The Kings. Day Of The Sales

by Becky on January 8, 2013

in Fashion, Fun, Traditions, Travel


Sunday, January 6th, was Dia de los Reyes–Day of the Magi. Much like our Christmas holiday in the states, Dia de los Reyes is big. Really big. A huge event. That’s when the children receive their big gifts. That’s when families have their big reunions. (Are we hearing the word “big” in all its grand significance here??)

For us, in contrast, it was a quiet day.

Then. Monday, January 7th–yesterday–was day of the sales. As in, big sales. A huge event. Like after-Christmas sales back home, but on steroids. So the girls and I headed out, and I can tell you that it was not a quiet day. All of Barcelona went shopping. By 3 pm I was done trying to muscle my way through stores and along the boulevards, and we took off for home.

You have not ever properly shopped during a sale until you have competed for space in a small boutique with many well-heeled, smartly dressed Catalan women who would just as soon see you deported as give up their spot by a sale rack. I mean no disrespect. I was rather in awe of them, I have to confess. I thought I was good. Back home, I can work the sales like a pro. Here, it’s a blood sport: if you don’t know what you’re after and how badly you want it, forget it. I plan to begin practicing the art of “the move aside,” where a stunning Catalana, for example, will put her (well manicured) hand on the small of your back and literally move you out of her way while offering a coolly polite “Perdon,” which, though it literally means “Excuse me” or “Pardon me,” in this case means “If you know what’s good for you, you will move aside, NOW.”

We did score a few great things: lots of highly unusual, patterned tights and knee-highs, definitely the rage here, and half off. They’ll work brilliantly for Miss Lavender, who will be attending college in a mighty cold place next year. And a brick red, Edwardian style felt hat for Miss Zinnia, who adores hats almost as much as she adores delighting us with her cathedral songs. A few other sundries as well, great deals, all. What we did not get on sale was our (I say “our” because we’re sharing them) new pair of Kokua ballet flats, handmade here in Barcelona. Dark grey with a chartreuse toe, they are about the happiest, coolest things you’ve ever seen, and I will no doubt slide them on next year when I am back in HB and cannot find a medieval city in which to roam or a Mediterranean beach on which to hunt for beach glass, just so I can remind myself that yes, I lived here.

The trick with January 7th sales: since everyone’s out “disfrutando las rebajas” (enjoying the sales), you’ve gotta act fast . . . or it’s gone!

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Tessa blue background with leaf up to eye_3546

Remember Miss Lavender? Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, she likes to dress up.

Clothes?–she loves them. If they’re vintage, so much the better. If she can sport them while playing to the camera on a nearby street in the Sagrada Familia District of Barcelona, brilliant.

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But if we assume she’s merely a clothes horse, we miss the point. For her, it’s about personal expression. And about combining the old with the new, the on-trend with the totally unexpected.

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Her outfit, for instance. The animal print blouse and the boots, snagged from my closet. The sweater, a consignment store find. The locket around her neck, a gift from the uber stylish Auntie Deb. The silver ring, a beautiful relic from my grandmother’s jewelry box.   The knit skirt, Anthropologie.  Most folks might not have thrown an ensemble like this together. But Miss Lavender puts it over for two reasons: 1) the combination pleased her, and 2) she delights in experimenting.

Whether vintage glasses will be in style a year from now will make no difference to her. These frames, which she grabbed from a vintage store in Vienna, Little Joe’s Gang, were fitted with prescription lenses. She’ll wear them until her prescription changes. And beyond.

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Miss Lavender likes clothes with stories, recognizing that by choosing to inhabit an outfit a certain way, she likewise gets to craft her own narrative about who she wants to be. To that end, vintage opens up so many possibilities! You want to style yourself as a . . . librarian-gypsy?–your black, horn-rimmed glasses marking you as bookish while your wild colors add vibrancy and flair?

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Then do it!

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Love the breezy smile?  She makes it look easy.


Don’t be fooled, though.  Behind that smile was a girl so desperate for a haircut she’d have done something criminal with a pair of scissors just to hasten the process.  But what do you do when The Trusted Stylist is back in Cali?

You take a chance on a charming woman named Lola, who did in fact cut and style Miss Lavender’s hair with such effortless brilliance you’d think we landed just a few doors down from her salon in Barcelona on purpose, that it was the fault of our happy stars and not just an accident. (Lola is now my friend.)

And look! New hair. New girl. New smile. Not that the old one wasn’t working. Not at all. Just that, from a mother’s perspective, the new smile’s fresh.



(Did I say Lola was my new friend?)

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Friends! For several weeks I’ve been thinking about gift possibilities for teens. Seems like when my kids were little, they were so easily made happy! Legos. Pollies. Books. A trampoline. But with bigger kids, it’s a little trickier, isn’t it? I’ve narrowed my ideas down to eight and included them here for you to take a look at. (One requires some serious budget, but I was in love, so I had to include it among the items that made the cut.) I particularly admire two of the companies whose products I featured. You’ll see which ones I mean. I just love the idea of being nice and doing good at the same time. But most of all, I think the Eleven O’Clock Goods have that je ne sais quoi–that ineffable something that’ll make one of them a good fit for the teen in your life.

BTW: this is not a sponsored post. This is simply me doing a little curating and a little sharing with other Eleven O’Clock Moms. Have fun!

  • Buckyballs. Do you know a teenage male who needs an (extraordinarily) absorbing outlet? If so, then these (crazily) addictive magnetic balls are screaming his name!
  • Lomography. from Lomography, dedicated to analogue photography. Everything old is new again, including these fabulous 110 cameras, For the teen photographer/purist in your life, this is the ticket.
  • 31 Bits. Crafted from recycled paper, these pieces are deftly beaded by Ugandan women seeking to reinvent their lives through their jewelry making.
  • Be Hive Style. State scents!? Naturally I chose California, my home state. I love that the fragrances incorporate notes a native (like me!) would resonate to.
  • Freedom Footbags THE ultimate footbagger's footbag. Made in the USA. For guys (or girls!) with fancy feet and serious coordination, this is the ultimate stay-busy-for-hours gift.
  • Public Bikes. Function. Beauty. Public. The ultimate set of get-around-town wheels. If you've got serious budget, this is a serious gift.
  • Krochet Kids International. Warm up. Look good. Do good. Better yet, do all three. Ugandan-based Krochet Kids International is serious fashion with an equally serious mission. "Buy a hat, change a life," is their motto.
  • Vaho Trashion Bags. Repurposed street posters from downtown Barcelona become satchels in this totally fresh incarnation of "trashion." Colorful, sturdy, and super hip.

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